Wednesday, 31 January 2007

The rise of vegetarianism?

Through the past year I've been having ups and downs in my vegetarianism. A few nights back I went to see 'The fast food nation' and it put me right back on track. I think this was the first movie I've ever seen that used the images of animal treatment on big screen and well, it worked. I support some cases of animal activism, but have always avoided looking at the pictures and videos they display in the streets - I've seen them once and don't really need a repeat. Having been 'forced' to see them again last night put me back in touch with some of the reasons why I used to be more strict about my diet.

I think everyone should read the book 'Guns, germs and steel' (or see the movie, as I lazily did). The author, Jared Diamond, sets out to explore the roots of inequality in the world's distribution of wealth today and I think has a some good points to his thesis. He starts his analysis at the point before the rise of the great civilizations and walks the reader through the development of human societies around the globe. In his thesis a society's success boils down largely to 'geographical luck' - lands that were home to most nutritious crops and most easily domestic-able animals had the winning card in the history, as they were able to produce enough food to allow a percentage of a community's individuals to not farm the land, but develop new technologies, skills, philosophies and culture. From then on, the colonization came with Euroasians' technology, animals, foods, and their immunity to diseases acquired from their long cohabitation with domesticated animals - their attributes made colonization a relatively 'smooth' process. Diamond's theory sheds light into histories of lands like Africa and societies such as the native Americans and Australians. This is not to say that his arguments fully explain the phenomenon of the rise of the modern-day West versus say China or India, which is altogether a more complex issue and perhaps depends more on cultural, economic and technological advancements.

In the developed countries, food is no longer a problem. Agricultural technologies and widespread distribution on the market has led to an ease in both providing and acquiring nutrients. True, humanity got where it is largely because of how they harvested animals, but you would think that at least in the highly developed parts of the world, societies will soon reach a level in which they can substitute meat nutrients with the variety of foods they provide. The shopping cart is one of the easiest ways to send a message to the providers around the world - a consistent message on what people want can steer production and marketing around the world. Also, through human history force and violence has become less and less acceptable in most societies - both towards other nation states and to members of the same communities. Penalties such as cutting off thieves' hands are no longer in the books, except in certain fundamental societies. Perhaps this lessening in accepting of cruelty not just to humans, but also to other creatures such as the animals we farm is going to be the way to go a 1000 years from now. Maybe in another 1000 years (if our lovely kind is still there) people will look back at factory farming and think of it as today we think of stoning women for adultery?

p.s. I don't want to send another bulk email about this, but my photo site is actually supposed to be at rather than at the link i sent out in the 'just making sure...' email...sorry for the confusion everyone.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Voila! is where you can see it all!

I have finally published the photos site, though a couple of things are still missing from it. I have put a link to in the 'links' section on the right side of the blog, so you can check it out without having to go back to this post in the future. I haven't figured out how to make it possible for everone to leave comments or send comments through the site without giving out my email address, so please let me know if any of you know how to do that. Anyway, enjoy the site and let me know if you have any suggestions!

On the weather side of the blog, winter officially took over the city yesterday as the first snowflakes appeared in the morning. I'm still missing gloves in my winter attire, though trying to protect yourself from the gusts of wind traveling through the wide streets of Budapest seems pretty futile these days anyway.

Friday, 26 January 2007

New Post it is

I know I haven't been writing, but that's just because of the time sacrifice I've had to take in order to create yet another thing online, this time a web page that'll be a collection of pretty much all my pictures. To nerd or not to nerd, that is the question, I guess, but you should be able to see the effects pretty soon. Oh yeah, does anyone know how to put a feed from a blogger blog onto a .Mac site?

My life in Budapest has settled back into its little routine from before I left for the U.S., only that now I actually have to make sure I dress well enough, since the global warming deal seems to have been cancelled temporarily. Puddles have frozen and it has now become officially too cold to sit outside anymore, therefore the Budapestians huddle yet closer together in their even smokier cafes.

Friday, 12 January 2007

Home sweet home

And so I'm back, back from beyond it seems. Feels just great to be back, though I've got to say I had a blast throughout the past month. I want to say thank you to everyone who made my stay in the U.S. what it was - there was no way of me getting the texture of experience I got without my dear friends and family over yonder!

Budapest is great and it feels more lively than when I left it. The winter is nowhere to be seen and everyone seems to be getting a hell of a kick of what may be the global warming in central Europe. Well, bad as some say it may be in 50 years, for now I'm loving it!

Things are back to normal - I'm back to work, people still stand all over Hungarian metro escalators, and Russia is doing its gas-cutting charades. I spent last September and love Russia more than I should probably, but I've still got to say that country does not seem to ever cease feeding the world with more and more nonsense. I loved the title of an article in the latest Economist about Putin and the next election - 'Eanie meany miney me'...

By the way, all these pictures are from my trip to Russia, not Budapest.

Friday, 5 January 2007

La la la

I know I've been writing about customer service and bureaucracy for two posts straight, but I can't help myself from telling you how the Amazon story ended. After another call and another 24 hours they sent an email saying this:
'Thank you for writing to us at

I have reviewed this order and the item you returned and found that you are indeed due a refund in the form of a gift certificate for $89.99.

I apologize for the delay in processing this for you. You should
receive a gift certificate at your e-mail address in the next 3-5
business days. Please note that because this was due to our error,
we will not cancel the refund that was already requested to the
purchaser's account.We appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter, and look forward to seeing you again at'
So not only are have they issued a gift credit to me, and not withdraw the refund they've given to my friend, but also, acknowledged that the coffee machine gift has been returned to them. Well, the box with the coffee machine is still sitting in our kitchen. So, not only do I get a coffee machine, a 90 dollar gift credit at Amazon, but my friend also gets a 90 dollar refund for the gift! It must be Christmas.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Keep walking

Of course Amazon never called back within the next hour (as they said) or day for the matter. I'll just have to re-tell my story to yet another person on the phone tomorrow. Can't wait!

As yet another thing to boggle my mind, I finally got my new credit card for which I registered last week. My trip to the bank was short, but not because things were straightforward. The lady at the desk saw my passport and said she wasn't familiar with my passport and so asked if I had a Texas ID (which I don't have since I'm not an American citizen...). To continue the registration she took my name reading it out from my passport and somehow came up with Pamela Melinda for Paulina Marta. Once I corrected that and she printed the final documents my name was still Paulina Maria, so I retured the documents and pointed it out. Well, I got the letter with the card today and Paulina Maria it is!

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Through Amazon we go

You know, not many things in this world upset me to the point of wanting to jump out the window, but when I get on the phone with a person working for customer service, yet not knowing anything about it and speaking in an unfamiliar accent - well, that just about does it for me. And I sit there on the phone wondering - is what I'm saying unclear, is it my English, or is it just the people on the other end of the line not having a clue about what they're doing?

Two weeks ago, when flying from NY to DC, my grandfather-in-law calls Delta to find out what's happening to my flight - 'the plane arrived on time, sir'. This man is 81, waiting at an airport, and they're holding me on tarmac for 4.5 hours to get me into DC 8 hours late. No information anywhere - the flight ran smoothly according to all systems except that one thing was missing - the plane itself. In fact, not a single airplane had landed in DC or any other airport in that state that morning - the fog just wouldn't go away.

Today I attempted to return a Christmas gift, which was purchased through Amazon. I tape up the box, put the relevant stickers on, read the online returns policy and get ready to go. Before dropping it off I call the returns centre to make clear where the refund should go and that the person who purchased the gift should not be informed. Half an hour later I get an email from the friend who got the gift with an Amazon email to her 'your account has been credited with the return refund'. And so it goes, I'm still waiting for them to call me back - they're 'investigating'...