We’re Going to the Austro-Hungarian Empire

Three unrelated facts send us to Budapest and Vienna for a working holiday next week.

  • Julie’s Hungarian heritage.
  • We’ve always wanted to see Vienna, but have never gotten around to it.
  • My PowerBook is dying.

I must confess that I made a miscalculation when abstractly considering travel options from Malta. I figured if we’re close (from a North American perspective) to places like Morocco and Israel, then it must be easy to fly there.

There are direct flights, but inexplicably they fly at the most heinous times of day. For example, we could spend four nights in Morocco, but we’d have to take flights which leave more or less at midnight each way. The same goes for Israel. The alternative is to fly to London, which just seems ludicrous, particularly for a long weekend.

We’ll get to those places sooner or later, but for now we’ve picked Budapest as next week’s destination. Not only is it an engaging cosmopolitan city, but it also has several vendors of Apple MacBooks. I spoke to a couple of them today. Their English was Boratesque, but it was far better than my Hungarian.

My beloved PowerBook is almost exactly four years old, and has been ridden like a Pony Express stallion. I’d hoped it would last until our return to Vancouver, but alas, it’s on its last legs. The hard drive sounds like an angry bee hive, and I’m spending more time staring at the Gay Spinning Pizza of Death than working.

We could get it repaired, but the money is better spent on a new Hungarian MacBook.

So, next week we’ll be working in and wandering around Budpaest from Sunday to Wednesday. Then on to Vienna by train for Thursday and Friday nights, and back to Budapest for the flight out on Sunday.

We’ll read the guide books and surf around online a bit, but I’m always open to top tips from those who have gone before me. Any favourite spots in Vienna or Budapest?

How Screwed Up Will My Keyboard Be?

UPDATE: Derek raises a good point in the comments:

Are you going to end up with a wacky Hungarian keyboard of some sort?

Good question. There’s two levels of ‘wacky’ here–the aesthetic and the functional. I’m a touch-typer, so it doesn’t actually matter to me what’s written on the keys. In fact, I might like the exoticism of having some weird symbols on some keys. Resale value isn’t an isssue, as I tend to use computers until they die or get antiquated. This blog post makes a kind of cryptic reference to this:

Hungarian layout keyboard has too few signs on it.

Presumably there will be minor differences in how some of the secondary keys are mapped. For example, in Ireland, the ‘@’ sign lived somewhere around the question mark.

Assuming that I’ll need to, can I remap a MacBook’s keyboard? It looks like I probably can, thought it’s not immediately apparent how to do so.

Ah, hang on, I found it under System Preferences –> International –> Input Menu. That allows me to choose keyboard layouts for any number of countries, including both USA and Hungary. So presumably I’ll just chose my preferred layout there.

UPDATE #2: If all else fails, The Unofficial Apple Weblog indicates that I can use this keyboard layout editor to make my keyboard play nice.


  1. Hey Darren – since we all know discounted mac hardware is pretty much non-existant, why not go to the source and simply order one from apple direct?

    You could either have it shipped to someone in Canada who could forward it on, or (not sure how remote you really are) even have it shipped direct to Malta?

  2. Dunk: I did consider those options, but time is of the essence. Both of those scenarios will take longer than buying one in Budapest next Monday. Plus, I’ll save CAN $200 by not buying Malta. Hungary’s price is higher than Canada’s, but the additional shipping costs would eat into that difference.

  3. Are you sure that Hungary is cheaper than Austria for Macs? I’m just guessing here. What I can say for certain is that between Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Germany – the latter has the cheapest option.

    How that has anything to do with choosing between Austria and Hungary except that in Austria they speak German too is anybody’s guess.

    Enjoy your trip… Budapest is lovely.

  4. Can’t you ask the Mac store to put in an English Keyboard for you? I just bought my MacBook in Japan a couple of months ago and they did it for me for free. Try checking it out.

    I still had to change my language preference to English but the keyboard is fine for me.

  5. Go to a Hungarian bath. Some are men only, or women only, or only open certain days. But that’s part of the fun, as are the husky exotic Hungarian lifeguards.

  6. As I read your next post in which you mention your love of debate, it reminded me of a question that this post raised in my mind. Why did you choose to use the word “Gay” to describe the “Spinning Wheel of Death” in this post? Exactly what did you intend it to mean? What feeling or emotion did you feel as you wrote it, or did you want your readers to feel? Is it appropriate to use gay in this context?

  7. Chad: I used the term ‘gay’ because the Spinning Pizza of Death is rendered in the colours of the rainbow. As I suspect you know, the rainbow is a global symbol of gaydom. Additionally, there was probably a double entendre there about the cursor looking so darn happy and festive, but that wasn’t a conscious inclusion.

    So, that’s what I meant when I wrote it. I might have used the word ‘rainbow’, but ‘gay’ makes the phrase a cheeky (if tiny) joke. Plus, of course, diction is a big part of one’s writing style. That sort of off-handed, oblique reference is, I think, in the vein of my written voice.

    Speaking of the rest of my site, that’s the context in which I wrote the phrase. You’ve been reading here for a while, so you’re probably aware of where else I’ve used the term ‘gay’.

    So I think it’s entirely appropriate to use the term ‘gay’ in this context. Most people who read this site (and, admittedly, know what OS X’s hourglassing cursor looks like) would immediately recognize my meaning.

    You may be concerned with the other, uniformly pejorative use for the term ‘gay’, as in “let’s go, this movie totally gay” (meaning generically bad, not homosexual).

    That’s a legitimate concern. However, I’m not going to stop using the term where it might be misconstrued because others mis-use it. That, in my view, is a sure way to lose the battle over a word’s usage.

  8. Make sure to visit the Opera House in Budapest. It’s absolutely beautiful. If there are no performances on you can still look around inside.

  9. Darren: Your last paragraph is at the core of my question. Word’s are often misconstrued or taken out of context. As a writer you lose control of the way that words are perceived once they are published. Someone who does not know that the cursor is rainbow colored or that you did not intend the word to be derogatory rather to be synonymous with rainbow, might take offense when none is intended.

    There is also a risk of perpetuating the negative use of a term if someone views your use of the word as condoning their use of the term. Is it everyone’s responsibility to minimize this risk?

    I recognize that we are not responsible for the actions of others, however I do believe that we influence the behaviors of others and we can be a positive influence through the choices that we make.

  10. Chad: Thanks for that. I think your argument largely ignores the context. A word (or a sentence or an article) doesn’t exist in isolation–it lives in a medium (I shall avoid citing hoary old Mcluhan here). And, in the case of this website and this writer, I think my diction is pretty clear.

    In a different context, I’d definitely not call it the ‘Gay Spinning Wheel of Death’, because that might be inappropriate or misinterpreted. I might call it the ‘Rainbow Wheel of Doom’ or even just ‘the worrying spinning mouse cursor’.

    In fact, I believe my use of the term may, in fact, make it less charged on all fronts. I’m not going to, uh, claim it as my own or anything, but I think there might be merit in a reader saying: “hey, that guy’s not gay, but he’s using the term in a jokey but appropriate way. Maybe I should use it that way too, instead of using it harmfully.’

    Okay, that reader’s a dork, but you get the idea. I’m not making myself out to be some kind of lexigraphical hero, but by using charged words appropriately, we reduce their power to harm. That’s the reason Chris Rock cites for using ‘nigger’ so frequently in his act.

    Yes, my use of ‘gay’ might be misinterpreted, but I’d rather use it and risk that than refuse to use it because others mis-use it.

  11. Vienna. Ah, Vienna.

    There are so many places you should hit in our old stomping grounds. We were there on a semi-weekly basis for almost four years. I love that city with a fervour I reserve for…well, Vancouver.

    Too many to list here, but nostalgia overwhelms me. At the very least, you must go to the Naschmarkt. Have a beer in the middle of the market (Julie). And try the Turkish flat bread. Eat Frittatensuppe.

    Also, on a nice day, there is not much nicer than a stroll through the Prater. The park part. There are one or two fantastic outdoor restaurants there with phenomenal chicken dinners (Darren…just the two legs, roasted in oh-so-tasty a fashion).

    Oh man…I could go on.

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