Saturday, October 27, 2007

Home away from home

Budapest trip 055
Budapest trip 055,
originally uploaded by seemag.
This was our cabin in Budapest. It was a fully functional 6-person cabin, including kitchen, dining area, living room, and a nice patio out front with deck furniture. Of course, it was a little cold to sit outside and we usually left every morning by 8 am and came back well after 10 pm, so there was no sitting outside. In the background, you can see the leaves have changed color. It really was very nice and peaceful out here in the middle of nowhere. I really enjoyed it and could totally live there.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Fisherman's Wharf

Budapest trip 026
Budapest trip 026,
originally uploaded by seemag.
This lovely walkway is part of the Budapest Castle. They charge admission to walk along the walls, so I snapped this picture from the free part of the castle (all the while being solicited by women selling 'handmade' embroidered tablecloths).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Budapest trip 060
Budapest trip 060,
originally uploaded by seemag.
One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. In general, I found people in Bratislava to be extremely friendly and helpful. The old town was charming and easy to get around, and the food was delicious. The city sits right on the Danube and the bridges are architecturally interesting and modern. Overlooking the Danube is the medieval castle of Bratislava. I took this photo of the castle from the New Bridge. It's really quite lovely, and the hike up to the top of the hill is definitely worth it for the wonderful views.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Home sweet home

So I'm home again, and while it's nice to be sleeping in my own bed again after being away for 10 days, it's also a little bit of a letdown, because I had a super marvelous vacation. For those of you not in the know, in the past week or so, I visited Budapest, Bratislava (Slovakia) and Vienna. All three cities were amazing and I had a great time. Bratislava, especially, was a very pleasant surprise -- not at all crowded, relatively inexpensive (given the plunging dollar, which made Vienna and London really painful), and the people there were extremely friendly, and more importantly, lots of vegetarian food!

I managed to do the entire week in about $1500*, which was my budget. I was concerned given the weakness of the dollar, but managed to mitigate the damage by eating pretty cheaply, buying few souveniers, taking public transport instead of private tours as I have in the past, and only going inside of a couple of castles, and skipping museums and churches entirely (many churches now charge admission to go inside -- anywhere from $2 to $10 depending on the church). I bought a 3-day pass for metro in Budapest and that worked great, especially given how freakish Control is about checking tickets there. In Vienna and Bratislava, I mostly walked, though I did buy the occasional metro ticket when the cold or my feet defeated me.

I actually stayed in a couple of four star hotels in Budapest and Vienna, courtesy of Priceline. I highly recommend using Priceline for booking your hotels. I was absolutely stymied while making my hotel bookings because I couldn't quite figure out where to stay, how much to pay, currency conversions etc, etc., and ended up on Priceline. The result was getting two Marriotts for $120/night each, when the going rate in Vienna was $250 a night and in Budapest, $400. Both hotels were located in the city centers, and in Budapest, the hotel was sitting right on the Danube, with a gorgeous view of the Castle and Citadel. There is no way I would have been able to stay in such hotels without Priceline.

As for Bratislava, I stayed in the Hotel Kjev, which to put it kindly, was a dump (the ceiling in the bathroom was literally falling, the sheets and pillows were frayed, there was no shower curtain on the tub, and I had some doubts on when it had last been cleaned, and the whole place reeked a little bit of Nair). However, the Hotel Kjev was right next to the Old Town and had a great breakfast included, so that helped a little bit. Plus, after staying at the Kjev, I really, really appreciated the Marriotts. :-)

All in all, this was one of my favorite vacations of all time. It was very relaxing, lots of fun, and I consumed lots and lots of chocolate, including the famous Sacher Torte at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna. I didn't think about work once, and that was really good for the trip, but rather discombobulating when I came home because it was like, "Okay, now where did I leave off again?"

My camera died during the Bratislava leg of the trip, so I'm not sure when I'll have pictures to post. I'm hoping it's just a question of having the wrong batteries for the camera and all will be resolved when I get the correct ones. That probably won't happen until this coming weekend when I'm more awake. I'll post some of the highlights of the trip tomorrow.

* Includes hotels, airfare, all transportation including trains, boats, taxis, buses and trams, food and drink, admissions, and souvenier shopping

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hello world!

Just wanted to say hello. Full blog entry detailing the last week will appear probably Sunday or Monday evening. Type at you then.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The L word

I took this quiz to find out who I should support in the 2008 election. I thought my answers on the quiz put me middle of the road in terms of political leanings and that my likely candidates would be either Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama. Imagine my surprise when my first time through, my candidate turned out to be Mike Gravel, former Alaska Senator. I have never even heard of him. Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama were in my third tier of candidates, which I found really odd. Then I took the quiz again and my candidate this time around was Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel was second. Again, Clinton and Obama didn't even register in my top two tiers.

Maybe it's time to come to grips with the fact that I am indeed super liberal leftwing. Not sure why I'm reluctant to admit it; maybe because it's that I live in Very Red State, and don't want to stick out like a sore thumb, or maybe I'm just in denial. Still, no good reason to continue denying my leftiness (right down to my handedness!) so as of today, I'm officially disclaiming my claim that I'm a moderate Democrat and declare myself ultra leftwing liberal and goshdarnit, it feels good to admit it.

Monday, October 08, 2007


I'm blogging at you from IE because Mozilla crashed this evening and while I was trying to resurrect the browser made out of awesome, I was stunned to learn that the Mozilla suite's last release was in 2006 and ::sniff:: has now been entirely replaced by Thunderbird and Firefox. It's sad because I've been Mozilla-ing forever and I'm wary of these new!improved animals. Maybe in a couple of weeks, I'll switch over. It's not good to run around with old software...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Race for the Cure

This weekend, I participated in the Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure. It was my first 5K in literally years, and possibly the first time I was attempting to run 3 miles since probably high school when I was a competitive distance runner on a nationally ranked cross country team. Put in that perspective, the fact I huffed and puffed my way through the 5K is really a little bit embarassing.

The race was amazingly emotional. You get to the starting line and there are all of these people who have "In memory of" and "In celebration of" signs pinned to their backs. There are survivors running too. The statistics are sobering. But despite the emotional context of the race, it was also amazing to see that in Sweat Sock City, which is not known for being athletic, that something like 30,000 people showed up. I was a last minute registrant for the noncompetitive run, and my bib was in the 14,000s.

My goal was to be able to run 2 miles at the race. The course went right by my place and my goal was to be ablt to run to my street. This, I felt, would be a stretch, because the most I've run recently is one mile. My mile time is about 12 minutes right now, again kind of sad when I think about to high school when my mile time was around 7 minutes. So my secondary goal was to finish the 3.1 miles in 40 minutes. I was pretty sure that was doable. After all, I knew I could walk 3 miles with no problem.

The skies opened up just before the race and we all got completely drenched. This turned out to be a good thing actually as it was quite warm and the rain cooled us all down. The rain stopped during the run so that was nice. There were people cheering for us all the way and police officers had blocked off all the streets so that this ocean of human support could just roll its way to the finish line. It was actually pretty amazing to see just how many people had come to participate.

I felt really good at first mile and pushed to the second mile, and I was still feeling pretty good, except for the acknowledgment my knees aren't as young as they once were. I had a little trouble with the one gradual slope on the course, again embarassing considering I was a pretty good hill runner back in high school. I switched to the grass on the side of the road for the remainder of the course, and that helped out with the knees. The third mile was rough and I can't say my run was much faster than most people's walks, but hey, I didn't stop! I'm happy to report that I crossed the finish line at the 40-minute mark, running the entire way. (In high school, I did a 5K in around 22 minutes).

There's a 5-miler in December that I'm going to shoot for now. My goal for that is to run the 3 miles without looking like I'm about to pass out on the side of the road. I originally was going to try to drop my mile time to 10 minutes, but now my goal is longevity. I think the mile time will come as I keep working at it. After all, a month ago, I couldn't even run a mile, let alone finish a 5K. So all in all, it was a very good experience for a very good cause.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Hooray for Alex!

I got a lovely postcard today from our intrepid hiker, Alex, who spent the month of September tackling Kilimanjaro, which is completely awesome. She's gotten closer to the top of the world than anyone else I know and it's a super-human effort. Congrats, Alex -- 17,000 feet is an amazing feat worthy of many margaritas and poolboys (and girls!) galore! Check out Alex's blog over here for the full detail of her trip to Africa and Kilimanjaro.