KTamas' Blog

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Travel Plans and Dreams for 2019

· 452 words · 3 min read

My sister came over last night, and we had a good time. We cooked what we pretty much always cook — fajitas — and watched a movie, as well as started planning a short summer trip to Estonia and Finland. I’ve been there, but she hasn’t, and I like both places, so I’m happy to go with her and show my favorite places there, as well as explore new ones. Right now the plan is to spend a day in Tallinn, at least a day and a half in a nearby national park, then take the ferry to Helsinki and visit the woods near Espoo before heading home.

The 9th Boring Conference’s date was just announced (May 4th), and I’m definitely going, even though it’s about a month after Brexit and who knows what’s up by then. I was there last year with a few friends, and we had a blast. It’s a day of extremely interesting and fun presentations about seemingly boring topics, and the whole thing costs about 25 GBP or so to attend. I highly recommend it.

A week later there’s !!Con in NYC as well. I really want to go, because they have really fun talks, but it’s harder to get a ticket, and they release them pretty late, so by the time I would get a ticket it’s possible that getting a flight there would be pretty expensive. Plus XOXO is returning for 2019, but it’s always a toss if you get in or not with their lottery system for the tickets. Two trips to the US in one year gets expensive pretty quick, so I have to consider my options and do some budgeting.

Then there’s also ITP Camp going on in NYC in June, and while timewise I could do it, it’s $1400 plus all the costs that come with staying for a month in one of the most expensive cities in the US.

In an ideal world, I’d leave early May for Boring, then go to NYC for !!Con, stay for ITP Camp, then meet up in Estonia with my sister before arriving back to Budapest, about two months later. Spend July and August back in Budapest, then come early September I would take another trip to Portland for XOXO for about ten days.

It’s fun to dream, but doing all of the above would be really expensive, so I’ll have to come up with a more realistic plan. I will definitely go to Boring, and XOXO if I get in as well as do the trip with my sister. !!Con is a big question mark, and ITP Camp is, unfortunately, a very likely no.

It’s gonna be a good summer, in any case.

My Recent Media Diet (February, 2019)

· 489 words · 3 min read

Here’s a bunch of television I’ve been enjoying recently.

Russian Doll: This was the highlight of recent times: 8 episodes of pure fun, with a proper ending. It’s best watched not knowing anything about it but here are the first five minutes: Nadia leaves her birthday party, and on the way home gets hit by a taxi, and dies. The next moment Nadia is back where the episode started, alive and well, on her own birthday party. It’s up on Netflix.

Star Trek: Discovery (Season 2): I’ve only seen three episodes of the new season so far but all of them have been great and I very much like this new take on Star Trek. The fact that it’s a prequel to The Original Series bothers me, though, because they could have had a lot more creative freedom and do less retconning if it would be set in another universe. It’s also up on Netflix or CBS All Access if you’re in the US.

Hanna (pilot): This is based on the excellent movie of the same name. Hanna is raised in the forest by his father in isolation, training her to be self-sufficient and strong, because someone in the CIA is hunting them for Reasons we don’t know yet. The pilot shows a lot of promise, but we’ll have to wait until March to see the rest. It’s up on Amazon Prime Video.

Strike Back (Season 5): A big, dumb action series about Section 20, a black ops group of MI6, saving the world, or at least parts of it. The writers’ contract mandated at least two machine-gun fights per episode. It’s… okay at best, I won’t be watching Season 6.

Counterpart (Season 2): Just before the end of the Cold War, scientists in East Germany discovered a parallel universe, a clone of theirs. In present day, Howard is working as a low-level bureucrat at the UN, overseeing the connection between those worlds, too low on the food chain to know what his actual work is about. Until one day, his “other” shows up, demanding to speak with him…
Season 2 has one episode left but so far the series shows no signs of getting boring or tired. Highly recommended.

The Good Place (Season 3): This has been quite a ride, huh? The first part of the season is a bit disorganized but it gets better as they go along and boy did they put on hell of a season finale. Can’t wait for Season 4. If you haven’t seen this series, check it out and don’t read anything about it, because spoilers can ruin at least half the fun. Should be up on Netflix in Europe.

The Punisher (Season 2): I loved the first season, but I quit this season after four episodes. The antagonist of Season 2 is just really, really bad. If you can get past that, it’s on Netflix.

What have you been watching lately?

On Living Alone, Living With Flatmates and Having the Best Apartment

· 396 words · 2 min read

I signed the new contract for my apartment a couple days ago. There has been a change: my youngest sister is moving in with her boyfriend, so one of my friends is taking her place.

I’ll miss my sister. We get along well and enjoy each other’s company. In practice, she’s been gone for more, than six months now: spending the majority of her time at her boyfriend’s place and coming home for only a couple days a month. I’m happy for her, but I still miss her. So I’ve been living alone for a while now.

I’ve lived alone on and off during the last decade or so. I’ve been privileged enough to be able to pick my flatmates. I have an aversion of living with strangers, so I always picked people I know, friends or at least acquaintances.

Of course, just because you know the person moving in with you, does not mean you know how it’s like to actually live with them. I got lucky with that as well so far; all my flatmates were great, and we got along well. I’m hoping for the same with my new one.

I could have looked for another place to live when I got the news from my sister, but this is one of the best apartments I’ve had so far. It’s the right size, it has a big kitchen with a gas stove and a lot of working area, there’s a decent amount of natural light and most importantly, it has AC — something that’s rare in Hungary — for the humid 35°C (95°F) summers we have in Budapest. There are two big, separate rooms, perfect for two people. It would be nice to have an additional living room, but still, I really can’t complain. And it’s affordable, especially for the area it’s in: the rent is 440€, with the total being around 490-520€ per month, the latter including utilities and Internet. All of that gets divided between two people, of course.

The location is excellent, well-connected, with major metro and tram lines closeby. It’s not quite in the heart of Budapest, but everything is still pretty close.

(I feel like I’m writing an ad for the apartment here, but no, you can’t have it.)

It’s gonna take me a while to adjust to living with someone again, but I’m hoping for the best.

On Giving Free Hugs

· 621 words · 3 min read

A bit more than a year ago, a couple weeks before Christmas an event popped up on my Facebook timeline. “Free Hugs in Budapest”, it said. Intrigued, I clicked on the “Interested” button, the universal bookmarking feature. I didn’t think much of it afterward, but a few days later a photographer friend visiting from Sweden contacted me and asked if I’m planning to attend. So we ended up going together, our cameras in hand, to take a few pictures; seemed like an interesting enough topic. I ended up bringing a wrong camera (hint: don’t bring your old mirrorless camera that has shitty autofocus for fast-moving subjects) but did get a few good shots.

Besides being a good subject for photography, the idea appealed to me: a bunch of people at one of Budapest’s busiest square, filled with tourists, giving out free hugs for an hour once a month on a Sunday afternoon. That’s all there is to it, really.

I was intrigued, so I went for the next two events as well—learning from my mistakes, I took my trusty DSLR—and took more pictures. After three times, though, I was itching to put down the camera, take the leap and start giving out free hugs myself. So I did.

Since then I’ve been to almost all the events and became one of the very few regular volunteers. I enjoy it a lot: I like giving hugs, but it’s not something you do too often in Hungary. And there is something pure and deeply satisfying in standing there for an hour, sign in your hand, waiting for strangers to walk up to you for a hug. It’s an opportunity to have a momentary connection with a lot of people and to—excuse the cheese—spread some love in the world. We only have one rule, one we take seriously: we offer the hugs, never force them on people. For me it’s like going to Church; I do that too, but this, this is also Church, a gathering of people for a common cause, to make the world just a little bit better.

The Free Hugs Campaign was started in 2004 by an Australian guy, though I’d bet he wasn’t the first one to do this since it’s hardly a unique idea. The phenomenon has spread all over the world ever since, and by far and large is an entirely grassroots movement, unaffiliated with organizations or religions.

In Budapest, we don’t even have a Facebook page or anything; it’s organized by one person who creates the event every month, invites everyone he can, and then it spreads organically. Sometimes we have as many as 20 volunteers giving out hugs; other times, only 4; it’s somewhat unpredictable. On occasion, people would walk by, and like the idea so much they’d spontaneously join in.

As I’ve written in the intro, the event is held at a touristy area of Budapest; by my estimations, about 85-90% of people we hug are not Hungarians. That can partly be explained by the location, but I myself attribute it to this country’s sometimes unwelcome, suspicious or cynical attitude towards these things. A surprising number of times people would walk by, and I heard them say some variation of “oh, yeah, they’re just gonna pickpocket you” in Hungarian.

I’m not saying this is for everyone. Some people simply don’t like hugs, are uncomfortable with physical touch, or worse, have past traumas connected to it. And it requires you to really put yourself out there, and be at least somewhat vulnerable.

But if you have one in your city, and this sounds intriguing to you, I highly encourage you to try it. It’s a good way to spend an hour on a Sunday afternoon.

Writer, Unblocked

· 300 words · 2 min read

I have no idea what to write today but I will start, and I am sure words will come.

I have a couple of topics floating in my head for longer stories. One is obviously continuing my memoir about my time in Sweden but I’ve hit a snag there: I got to the part where I arrived in Sweden, and now there are a couple of months where I am unsure what I should write about. It’ll come, though.

I have another thing to write about: the story of Turulcsirip, an early Hungarian Twitter community that was quite unique at the time. Part of me wants to make a real article of it, an oral history: interview the guy who created it, the earliest users, and so on. But I’m not sure if that’s a good fit for this platform. I can tell this story from just my perspective, and that would give you a somewhat good image of it as well, so I might just do that.

I am not yet sure if I want to write mostly multi-part stories (that you have to plan at least somewhat in advance) or more one-off things. For some reason, the former sounds easier for me, because if I just sit down to write something, I draw a blank. But that’s something I want to improve as well.

Then again, I don’t want to write just for writing’s sake, only to have my streak, like I am doing right now. I want to write meaningful things, things people enjoy and find engaging. I feel like I have a lot of stories to tell; there is enough material. Now I just have to do the writing itself.

This whole post is just a shameless thing to get my streak, look, 300 words exactly.

Birthday Party as a Social Experiment

· 317 words · 2 min read

I want to preface this that everything I write here may leave you scratching your head thinking “this is not unusual at all”. But it is for me.

I, like most people belong to different groups of friends, that function as bubbles. I have my online friends, my church friends, my friends from drawing class, my friends with whom I do free hugs every month and so on. And by far and large, these groups do not interact with each other at all, and that’s partly on me. For whatever reason that I still need to work out with a therapist, I (sub)consciously keep these groups separate.

I think that is at least partly because I behave in slightly different ways, show different parts of myself to these different groups. Again, this mostly normal, and a ton of people do this, but I also know people who, by far and large don’t do this, and furthermore they have no trouble whatsoever with their bubbles meeting – for them, they are not even bubbles.

Therefore a couple of years ago I decided to turn my birthday party into a social experiment: invite everyone from everywhere into one big party, and just see what happens. It was legitimately scary for me because, in that setting, I have to be myself, my real self, I can’t do much pretending.

I am happy I did that because it was a huge success. I had about a dozen people from 3 or 4 different groups, and it was great to see them get to know each other.

This Saturday I’m having a party again, with an even more diverse group. It’s still scary, but now it’s exciting as well. I’m cooking some Mexican food, because as cliche as it is, food brings people together.

You’re all invited as long as you can make it to Hungary by 7 pm this Saturday. :)

Musings on Turning 30

· 335 words · 2 min read

Ten years ago I was working at a translation agency, being very enthusiastic about my job. I just started having a social life again after high school, finding real-life friends and community on Early Twitter, thanks to a Twitter client that auto-aggregated Hungarian users and connected them. (That’s a story worth telling in itself, another time)

A lot has happened since then. I worked there for a few more years, then I moved to Sweden for four years and then moved back to Hungary. Somewhere in the middle of that, I went freelance, which overall turned out to be a huge success. I started taking care of my mental health, getting diagnosed and re-diagnosed, finding a psychiatrist, did almost six years of therapy. I traveled a lot; I’ve been to most European countries by now as well as two trips to the US, both because of I got to be part of XOXO, but I’ve visited other parts of the States as well. I did a small pivot in my career that so far worked out well. I lost two out of my four grandparents. Built and ran a small link-sharing community. Grown a lot personally and professionally. Discovered running, did that for a few years. Found and lost friends and communities.

Right now I’m in a pretty great place. I have well-paying clients and hopefully picking up more freelance work soon. I’m part of a great church, one that I was looking for all my life. I have good friends, some old, some new. I’ve started drawing a few months ago, and I enjoy it immensely. Yesterday, after years of procrastination, I finally found myself a personal trainer and will begin working with her next week. Although my sister is moving out of our place, a good friend is taking her place in the room next to mine. I’m having a birthday party on Saturday where I’ll cook for my friends. I feel at home where I am.

Here’s to an even better 40.

My Recent Media Diet in the Last Days of 2018

· 312 words · 2 min read

I was planning to possibly dive into the YearCompass, I even put it on my todo list to print it out and take it with me to my favorite coffee shop, but I forgot to look at my todo list. Ah, the joys of ADHD. They do have a PDF that you can do electronically, but it’s not a great user experience.

I binged on the first season Condor yesterday, and I have to say it was a pretty fun spy thriller. I’m looking forward to Season 2.

Before that, I watched the first season of Impulse, which is, uh, I guess inspired by one of my favorite Sci-fi books, but they only took the fundamental concept of the book and made into a pretty good teen drama, with this season focusing primarily on sexual assault and its effects.

I got a kick out of the first season of Succession which is cut from the “despicable rich people prestige TV” genre (see also: Billions). Pretty much everyone in it terrible in their own different entertaining ways, with no real heroes and yet you find yourself rooting for people.

Do yourself a simple favor and check out A Simple Favor (sorry) if you haven’t seen it in the theaters: it was one of the most fun movies I saw in 2018. I hesitate to say anything about it as it is one of those movies that is best enjoyed going in knowing nothing about it; even stating its genre is a possible spoiler in my book, so you’re just gonna have to trust me on that one.

Oh, and the Big Fat Quiz of The Year 2018 is out, which is an annual TV event of mostly British comedians being funny while pretending to play a quiz. It has two-thirds of The IT Crowd and also Michelle Wolf, among others.

Onwards to 2019!

A Recap of 2018 and What's to Come in 2019

· 325 words · 2 min read

2018 was a strange year for me. I started it out sort of aimless, not knowing what to do professionally. Then, stealing a friend’s idea I simply put out a “Hey, I’m looking for a cool team to work with” message to social media and got a ton of different offers and I ended up with… a cool team to work with.

Since February I have essentially a very well-paid half-time job at a small but important hosting company as a sysadmin. I’m a generalist at heart but out of all the things I do, working with servers is probably my favorite bit and I feel privileged to do that once again.

I also continued to work with a few other clients on some ongoing projects, and I ended this year sending out a huge quote – one, if and if it works out, would keep me very busy in 2019, and that’d be great, so crossing fingers on that.

On a more personal note, I tried University this year and while I had some small victories, I pretty much dropped out already – It’s really not for me. And I knew that but I thought the prospect of having a degree and therefore better chances at immigration to the US would be motivating enough, but it really isn’t.

This year I also started drawing and it’s been fun! And I’ve also been to XOXO 2018, which was probably even better than 2016 and Portland already feels like a second home for me.

I didn’t plan to travel a lot this year and yet I count 10 (wow) different trips abroad, and most of these were for fun. I’ve been to Linz, Berlin, Gothenburg, Vienna, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Portland, Geneva, London.

I don’t really know yet what 2019 will bring. If the quote/job I mentioned above works out, I’ll be very busy, and that’s something I miss. If not… we’ll see.

Hey look, 300 words!