Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for February, 2006

Googling for Hungarians

Posted by Andy Hockley on 16 February, 2006

When I was in Kiev a few months back, I realized that all web addresses are in Roman script. Now this may not be much of a revelation, I’ll grant you, but I was intrigued to imagine that while I’m guessing much of the older generation in countries that don’t use the same alphabet as I do have very little understanding or recognition of the Roman letters, the younger, Internet savvy generation, probably have to have. And not just the ones who have learned English either.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was searching for something on Google, but unusually (in fact maybe uniquely) I was looking up something in Hungarian. It was then that I realized that the way Google works in English may not be quite as successful in Hungarian. If I type an English word into it, I know Google will find all the instances of that word in its database. Exactly that word. But in Hungarian, a word will vary in its spelling depending on its role in a sentence and whether it has suffixes stuck on it. If I type in “tojás” (egg) for example, it will presumably return all instances of the word tojás. But, if tojás is the direct object of a verb (as in “I boiled an egg”) it will be “tojást”, or, as far as a search engine is concerned, a completely different word. And that’s just one possibility. For place names the range of possibilities is endless. Off the top of my head the name of this town could be rendered as Csikszereda, Csikszeredán, Csikszeredában, Csikszeredára, Csikszeredába, Csikszeredát, Csikszeredához, Csikszeredával, Csikszeredábol, Csikszeredárol, and almost certainly loads of others depending on whether you’re in the town, going to the town, coming from the town, or just hanging around in the general vicinity of the town.

I checked this out on Google, as I suspected that they may have worked something out for this – after all even in English you get plurals which are in essence different words – and it seems they have. They claim to use something they call “Stemming technology” (isn’t that what George Bush wants to ban?) to ensure that different variants of the same root word are recognized when you search. I wonder if this only works with English or it somehow crosses languages. Or if google.hu uses a different Magyar version of stemming technology? If not I fear there are a lot of searches that may miss their targets. But how does stemming technology work – is it a piece of software that guesses which words have the same roots? So if you type in station you might get hits for both stationary and stationery? And if not, then presumably the groups of related words have been programmed by someone.

If not (or before the miracles of stemming technology) I’m guessing use of a search engine is/was quite a different skill for a Hungarian than it is for me, for example. Thinking about it occupied my brain for a few minutes anyway, and now, thanks to the miracles of the internet, I’ve shared that inner monologue with all of you. My generosity knows no bounds.

Some new favourite Hungarian words: Kinel, which is a question word meaning (something like) “at whose place?”, and which is amusing because, well it sounds like “kinel”. It may be only British readers who see why that’s remotely amusing to my puerile mind, but if you are really interested I’ll explain it in the comments. And Prezli, which means “breadcrumbs” and is amusing basically because it is pronounced exactly the same as the surname as the singer of Heartbreak Hotel, and one or two other songs. It amuses me to think of Elvis Breadcrumbs. Not sure why, but there you go. Hungary even has it’s own Elvis figure, a bloke called Fenyö Miklos (Nicholas Pine-Tree), who is very big on the rubbish variety programmes shown on New Years Eve circuit.

Posted in hungarian, language | 8 Comments »

Googling for Hungarians

Posted by Andy Hockley on 16 February, 2006

When I was in Kiev a few months back, I realized that all web addresses are in Roman script. Now this may not be much of a revelation, I’ll grant you, but I was intrigued to imagine that while I’m guessing much of the older generation in countries that don’t use the same alphabet as I do have very little understanding or recognition of the Roman letters, the younger, Internet savvy generation, probably have to have. And not just the ones who have learned English either.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was searching for something on Google, but unusually (in fact maybe uniquely) I was looking up something in Hungarian. It was then that I realized that the way Google works in English may not be quite as successful in Hungarian. If I type an English word into it, I know Google will find all the instances of that word in its database. Exactly that word. But in Hungarian, a word will vary in its spelling depending on its role in a sentence and whether it has suffixes stuck on it. If I type in “tojás” (egg) for example, it will presumably return all instances of the word tojás. But, if tojás is the direct object of a verb (as in “I boiled an egg”) it will be “tojást”, or, as far as a search engine is concerned, a completely different word. And that’s just one possibility. For place names the range of possibilities is endless. Off the top of my head the name of this town could be rendered as Csikszereda, Csikszeredán, Csikszeredában, Csikszeredára, Csikszeredába, Csikszeredát, Csikszeredához, Csikszeredával, Csikszeredábol, Csikszeredárol, and almost certainly loads of others depending on whether you’re in the town, going to the town, coming from the town, or just hanging around in the general vicinity of the town.

I checked this out on Google, as I suspected that they may have worked something out for this – after all even in English you get plurals which are in essence different words – and it seems they have. They claim to use something they call “Stemming technology” (isn’t that what George Bush wants to ban?) to ensure that different variants of the same root word are recognized when you search. I wonder if this only works with English or it somehow crosses languages. Or if google.hu uses a different Magyar version of stemming technology? If not I fear there are a lot of searches that may miss their targets. But how does stemming technology work – is it a piece of software that guesses which words have the same roots? So if you type in station you might get hits for both stationary and stationery? And if not, then presumably the groups of related words have been programmed by someone.

If not (or before the miracles of stemming technology) I’m guessing use of a search engine is/was quite a different skill for a Hungarian than it is for me, for example. Thinking about it occupied my brain for a few minutes anyway, and now, thanks to the miracles of the internet, I’ve shared that inner monologue with all of you. My generosity knows no bounds.

Some new favourite Hungarian words: Kinel, which is a question word meaning (something like) “at whose place?”, and which is amusing because, well it sounds like “kinel”. It may be only British readers who see why that’s remotely amusing to my puerile mind, but if you are really interested I’ll explain it in the comments. And Prezli, which means “breadcrumbs” and is amusing basically because it is pronounced exactly the same as the surname as the singer of Heartbreak Hotel, and one or two other songs. It amuses me to think of Elvis Breadcrumbs. Not sure why, but there you go. Hungary even has it’s own Elvis figure, a bloke called Fenyö Miklos (Nicholas Pine-Tree), who is very big on the rubbish variety programmes shown on New Years Eve circuit.

Posted in hungarian, language | 7 Comments »

Vote for me

Posted by Andy Hockley on 15 February, 2006

I have been nominated for two (count em) awards in the 2nd Annual Blog Awards at “A Fistful of Euros” – Go to this page and vote for me (or vote for someone else if you prefer). (I’m entered in the categories “Best Expat Weblog” and “Best Southeastern European Blog”)

A Fistful of Euros (or AFOE as they tend to refer themselves) is a pretty big deal out there in the blogosphere*, so I am dead chuffed about this.

Oh, and since I’m highly unlikely to actually win, here’s my acceptance of nomination speech:

I’d like to thank all those who nominated me for these prestigious awards. I’d like to thank Erika for her tireless support and my children, step and non-step for allowing me to type things once in a while. I’d also like to thank everyone who reads this blog and has helped to make it what it is today – a rambling, incoherent, mess of half formed opinions, rumours presented as fact, thoughts on the human condition as it pertains to life in a small town in the Carpathians, and generally random observations – without anyone actually reading this thing, I may have given up long ago. So give yourselves a hearty pat on the back, and let that be a warning to you all. In addition, I’d like to thank anyone who has ever put up with me in person.

[*Frankly I have no idea whether AFOE really is a big deal in the Blogosphere, but it does seem to be a fairly heavily visited website and at some stage, all hyperlinks lead to AFOE. What I know about blogging, the blogosphere and such like things can be summed up in the fact that I have absolutely no idea what RSS is. Or why something called Moveable Type is infinitely better than Blogger. Or many other well known facts to the more savvy blogger.]

Posted in the blogosphere | 3 Comments »

Vote for me

Posted by Andy Hockley on 15 February, 2006

I have been nominated for two (count em) awards in the 2nd Annual Blog Awards at “A Fistful of Euros” – Go to this page and vote for me (or vote for someone else if you prefer). (I’m entered in the categories “Best Expat Weblog” and “Best Southeastern European Blog”)

A Fistful of Euros (or AFOE as they tend to refer themselves) is a pretty big deal out there in the blogosphere*, so I am dead chuffed about this.

Oh, and since I’m highly unlikely to actually win, here’s my acceptance of nomination speech:

I’d like to thank all those who nominated me for these prestigious awards. I’d like to thank Erika for her tireless support and my children, step and non-step for allowing me to type things once in a while. I’d also like to thank everyone who reads this blog and has helped to make it what it is today – a rambling, incoherent, mess of half formed opinions, rumours presented as fact, thoughts on the human condition as it pertains to life in a small town in the Carpathians, and generally random observations – without anyone actually reading this thing, I may have given up long ago. So give yourselves a hearty pat on the back, and let that be a warning to you all. In addition, I’d like to thank anyone who has ever put up with me in person.

[*Frankly I have no idea whether AFOE really is a big deal in the Blogosphere, but it does seem to be a fairly heavily visited website and at some stage, all hyperlinks lead to AFOE. What I know about blogging, the blogosphere and such like things can be summed up in the fact that I have absolutely no idea what RSS is. Or why something called Moveable Type is infinitely better than Blogger. Or many other well known facts to the more savvy blogger.]

Posted in the blogosphere | 3 Comments »

A Statement from the Vice President’s Office

Posted by Andy Hockley on 15 February, 2006

There has been a lot of criticism of the Vice President’s actions in the shooting of his friend Mr Whittington. The incident was a regrettable one, but unfortunately this kind of collateral damage is an unavoidable consequence of The War on Game ™ . Those who are criticizing the Vice President would presumably be happy to see world literally overrun by quail and their ilk.

Others have tried to cast doubt on the hi-tech weaponry used in The War on Game ™. They have suggested that these weapons are not as surgically precise as we have said since Mr Cheney could not discern the difference between a grown man wearing an orange vest at point blank range and a small brown bird. Once again, it is clear that these nay-sayers are only out to give succour to the enemies of America in this time of great hardship for the nation as a whole.

Finally it has been reported that the Vice President had not actually obtained the necessary authorization for his brave and personal contribution to The War on Game ™. This lack of authorization in the form of a stamp issued by the UN Security Council Texas Parks and Wildlife Department does not in any way deligitimise the very vital mission that the Vice President had embarked upon. The suspicion remains that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department had members who were in cahoots with some, as yet unidentified, pheasants.

Once again the Vice President would like to remind the press that America is engaged in a battle for its very survival. If The War on Game ™ is lost thanks to the desire of a few deluded individuals who feel that exposing our tactics to the enemy is “in the national interest” , then he hopes that the American people will do their duty and rise up and refute their actions. The Vice President is a vital front line defence in The War on Game ™ and we would do well to applaud his actions rather than condemning him.

Posted in news, rants | Leave a Comment »

A Statement from the Vice President’s Office

Posted by Andy Hockley on 15 February, 2006

There has been a lot of criticism of the Vice President’s actions in the shooting of his friend Mr Whittington. The incident was a regrettable one, but unfortunately this kind of collateral damage is an unavoidable consequence of The War on Game ™ . Those who are criticizing the Vice President would presumably be happy to see world literally overrun by quail and their ilk.

Others have tried to cast doubt on the hi-tech weaponry used in The War on Game ™. They have suggested that these weapons are not as surgically precise as we have said since Mr Cheney could not discern the difference between a grown man wearing an orange vest at point blank range and a small brown bird. Once again, it is clear that these nay-sayers are only out to give succour to the enemies of America in this time of great hardship for the nation as a whole.

Finally it has been reported that the Vice President had not actually obtained the necessary authorization for his brave and personal contribution to The War on Game ™. This lack of authorization in the form of a stamp issued by the UN Security Council Texas Parks and Wildlife Department does not in any way deligitimise the very vital mission that the Vice President had embarked upon. The suspicion remains that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department had members who were in cahoots with some, as yet unidentified, pheasants.

Once again the Vice President would like to remind the press that America is engaged in a battle for its very survival. If The War on Game ™ is lost thanks to the desire of a few deluded individuals who feel that exposing our tactics to the enemy is “in the national interest” , then he hopes that the American people will do their duty and rise up and refute their actions. The Vice President is a vital front line defence in The War on Game ™ and we would do well to applaud his actions rather than condemning him.

Posted in news, rants | Leave a Comment »

Health and the lack of it.

Posted by Andy Hockley on 12 February, 2006

I started writing something about our adventures last week, but in all honesty it’s still a little too fresh in my mind, so I really can’t do so in a way that’s either funny or not traumatic (for me).

The long and the short of it is that last Thursday Paula was diagnosed with viral pneumonia. She and Erika had to spend five l-o-n-g days in the hospital. They gave her drugs, they took blood from her, they did loads of things which are difficult enough for a toddler (or even me) to cope with, let alone a 6 week old, and yet she did just fine.

So instead of writing of my trauma and fear and all that stuff, and hence reliving it, I thought I’d discuss the Romanian health care system. Now in the last 7 weeks Erika and Paula have spent a total of 10 days in hospitals – 5 days for happy reasons and 5 for the pneumonia. Thus I have also spent a considerable time in hospitals too. (I use the plural because Paula was born in Udvarhely (Odorheiu), but treated last week here in Csikszereda.)

Hospitals here really look like hospitals. I mean dingy, grey, concrete corridors lit with fluorescent tubes. No comforts (though there was a kind of torn up couch in the visiting area of the pediatric section of the hospital here.). The food is rubbish. At the hospital here, Erika and Paula shared their room with a small brown mouse. So, the initial impression is not exactly positive.

But there are good points too. The most obvious one (to me) is that there is no desperate profit motive driving most of the decisions. Paula was born perfectly normally and she and Erika stayed 5 days in the hospital. A friend of Erika’s had a baby around the same time in the US and despite having to have a caesarean (not a planned one either) she was in and out in two days. Now it’s nice to get home to your family and all that, but I reckon the system whereby money is not a factor in decisions related to health is a better one. A much better one. This time around the moment the doctor had examined her, they were admitted immediately (and there was no question that Erika would be able to stay with her in the same room), and she was kept under constant observation until she was really ready to go home.

Now there are some things in life that “the market” does a fairly good job of regulating and ensuring needs are met efficiently. But there are other areas, like health care and education where it really doesn’t. The US is a great example of this. It probably has the best health care in the world (in terms of doctors, equipment, modern well equipped hospitals etc), but has a terrible system of access to that great health care. And if people are being kicked out of hospitals two days after having a caesarian, there’s got to be some flaw in the system. There is a famously held belief that the best health care system in the Americas is that of Cuba. (I have no idea what this means – how do you measure best health care system? – to me the best health care system would be a public health based one in which fewer people got sick in the first place. And, since it seems to be necessary whenever you write anything on the internet, I am not therefore saying that Cuba has a better political system than the US. OK?).

Having lived in the States, I never had any major issues with healthcare, but I did spend days and days on hold on the phone trying to ensure that everything that insurance companies were supposed to cough up on my behalf was coughed up. There seems to be a suspicion of the idea of people actually getting the treatment they need. The insurance companies press doctors into shifting the sick out as quickly as possible. And when it’s all about profit and money and shareholders and all that, that’s inevitable. And when it comes down to it, despite the mouse, and the ugliness, I’d rather my family were treated in a hospital in which they will be kept under observation as long as is necessary.

In case this is seen as “yet another” Anti-American post, I think it’s pretty bad in the UK too. The NHS used to be the envy of much of the world, but then Thatcher came with her peculiar brand of anti-compassion, and then she was followed by that neo-liberal lying scumbag Blair, and now we have this half arsed system attempting to be “efficient” and “responsive” and (of course) offering “choice”, all of which seems to mean that once again people (sick people) are treated like figures on a balance sheet rather than being given the treatment they need.

The other major issue regarding healthcare around the world is the flow of qualified professionals from poorer to richer countries. British doctors go to work in the US. Hungarian doctors go to Western Europe. Transylvanian Hungarian doctors have gone to Hungary – they speak the language, and the money and conditions are better. I presume some doctors from other parts of Romania go to Germany or France or somewhere. And are replaced by Moldovans? The people in these wealthy countries who protest about immigration ought to have their bluff called. Don’t let the teachers and doctors and nurses in and see how they like it then.

No idea where I’m going with all this (I bet you can tell can’t you?), so I’ll wind up by reassuring you that Paula is on the mend. Still coughs occasionally and has lost some weight through it all, but is improving daily. And we have the doctor’s mobile number in case we have an emergency. And she’s looking cuter than ever.

Posted in csikszereda, health, paula, romania | 1 Comment »

Health and the lack of it.

Posted by Andy Hockley on 12 February, 2006

I started writing something about our adventures last week, but in all honesty it’s still a little too fresh in my mind, so I really can’t do so in a way that’s either funny or not traumatic (for me).

The long and the short of it is that last Thursday Paula was diagnosed with viral pneumonia. She and Erika had to spend five l-o-n-g days in the hospital. They gave her drugs, they took blood from her, they did loads of things which are difficult enough for a toddler (or even me) to cope with, let alone a 6 week old, and yet she did just fine.

So instead of writing of my trauma and fear and all that stuff, and hence reliving it, I thought I’d discuss the Romanian health care system. Now in the last 7 weeks Erika and Paula have spent a total of 10 days in hospitals – 5 days for happy reasons and 5 for the pneumonia. Thus I have also spent a considerable time in hospitals too. (I use the plural because Paula was born in Udvarhely (Odorheiu), but treated last week here in Csikszereda.)

Hospitals here really look like hospitals. I mean dingy, grey, concrete corridors lit with fluorescent tubes. No comforts (though there was a kind of torn up couch in the visiting area of the pediatric section of the hospital here.). The food is rubbish. At the hospital here, Erika and Paula shared their room with a small brown mouse. So, the initial impression is not exactly positive.

But there are good points too. The most obvious one (to me) is that there is no desperate profit motive driving most of the decisions. Paula was born perfectly normally and she and Erika stayed 5 days in the hospital. A friend of Erika’s had a baby around the same time in the US and despite having to have a caesarean (not a planned one either) she was in and out in two days. Now it’s nice to get home to your family and all that, but I reckon the system whereby money is not a factor in decisions related to health is a better one. A much better one. This time around the moment the doctor had examined her, they were admitted immediately (and there was no question that Erika would be able to stay with her in the same room), and she was kept under constant observation until she was really ready to go home.

Now there are some things in life that “the market” does a fairly good job of regulating and ensuring needs are met efficiently. But there are other areas, like health care and education where it really doesn’t. The US is a great example of this. It probably has the best health care in the world (in terms of doctors, equipment, modern well equipped hospitals etc), but has a terrible system of access to that great health care. And if people are being kicked out of hospitals two days after having a caesarian, there’s got to be some flaw in the system. There is a famously held belief that the best health care system in the Americas is that of Cuba. (I have no idea what this means – how do you measure best health care system? – to me the best health care system would be a public health based one in which fewer people got sick in the first place. And, since it seems to be necessary whenever you write anything on the internet, I am not therefore saying that Cuba has a better political system than the US. OK?).

Having lived in the States, I never had any major issues with healthcare, but I did spend days and days on hold on the phone trying to ensure that everything that insurance companies were supposed to cough up on my behalf was coughed up. There seems to be a suspicion of the idea of people actually getting the treatment they need. The insurance companies press doctors into shifting the sick out as quickly as possible. And when it’s all about profit and money and shareholders and all that, that’s inevitable. And when it comes down to it, despite the mouse, and the ugliness, I’d rather my family were treated in a hospital in which they will be kept under observation as long as is necessary.

In case this is seen as “yet another” Anti-American post, I think it’s pretty bad in the UK too. The NHS used to be the envy of much of the world, but then Thatcher came with her peculiar brand of anti-compassion, and then she was followed by that neo-liberal lying scumbag Blair, and now we have this half arsed system attempting to be “efficient” and “responsive” and (of course) offering “choice”, all of which seems to mean that once again people (sick people) are treated like figures on a balance sheet rather than being given the treatment they need.

The other major issue regarding healthcare around the world is the flow of qualified professionals from poorer to richer countries. British doctors go to work in the US. Hungarian doctors go to Western Europe. Transylvanian Hungarian doctors have gone to Hungary – they speak the language, and the money and conditions are better. I presume some doctors from other parts of Romania go to Germany or France or somewhere. And are replaced by Moldovans? The people in these wealthy countries who protest about immigration ought to have their bluff called. Don’t let the teachers and doctors and nurses in and see how they like it then.

No idea where I’m going with all this (I bet you can tell can’t you?), so I’ll wind up by reassuring you that Paula is on the mend. Still coughs occasionally and has lost some weight through it all, but is improving daily. And we have the doctor’s mobile number in case we have an emergency. And she’s looking cuter than ever.

Posted in csikszereda, health, paula, romania | 1 Comment »

Titbits

Posted by Andy Hockley on 7 February, 2006

Half way through a long and difficult to write post about the big health scare of last week. Maybe I’ll get it done tomorrow sometime.

So, to tide you over here are a few titbits of news (did you know, by the way, that the US word is tidbits which reflected a nineteenth century US desire to purge the language of what can only be described as rude syllables? You may have thought that the Victorian era of prudery was a British phenomenon, but it apparently was worse over the Atlantic. This is also the reason why a cockroach is a roach, a cock is a rooster, and nobody titters in the USA)

The final of the Romanian Ice Hockey Championship starts tomorrow. As I reported last year, the final is always between Sport Club Miercurea Ciuc and Steaua Bucharest. This year we have home ice advantage (meaning that if the match goes to the full 7 games 4 of those games will take place here). I’ll keep you updated on the outcome of an event which grips Csikszereda and leaves the rest of the country completely unmoved. Though these days they do show it on Pro Sport TV)

Last week JK Rowling visited Romania, presumably to help launch the Romanian translation of her latest book. There was a charity dinner to which parents could bring their children to meet the authoress – for 1000 Euros a ticket. I have no idea how any Romanian can come up with 1000 Euros for a dinner. (Aside from those members of the PSD who have suspicious relatives leaving them large sums of money in their wills). Just think if I’d known way back when when I knew JK (or Joanne as she was then) what having dinner with her would one day be worth. I even babysat her daughter once – that kind of insider stuff would fetch a small fortune these days.

It was -32 again this morning. When will this bloody winter ever end?

Posted in ice hockey, language | 11 Comments »

Titbits

Posted by Andy Hockley on 7 February, 2006

Half way through a long and difficult to write post about the big health scare of last week. Maybe I’ll get it done tomorrow sometime.

So, to tide you over here are a few titbits of news (did you know, by the way, that the US word is tidbits which reflected a nineteenth century US desire to purge the language of what can only be described as rude syllables? You may have thought that the Victorian era of prudery was a British phenomenon, but it apparently was worse over the Atlantic. This is also the reason why a cockroach is a roach, a cock is a rooster, and nobody titters in the USA)

The final of the Romanian Ice Hockey Championship starts tomorrow. As I reported last year, the final is always between Sport Club Miercurea Ciuc and Steaua Bucharest. This year we have home ice advantage (meaning that if the match goes to the full 7 games 4 of those games will take place here). I’ll keep you updated on the outcome of an event which grips Csikszereda and leaves the rest of the country completely unmoved. Though these days they do show it on Pro Sport TV)

Last week JK Rowling visited Romania, presumably to help launch the Romanian translation of her latest book. There was a charity dinner to which parents could bring their children to meet the authoress – for 1000 Euros a ticket. I have no idea how any Romanian can come up with 1000 Euros for a dinner. (Aside from those members of the PSD who have suspicious relatives leaving them large sums of money in their wills). Just think if I’d known way back when when I knew JK (or Joanne as she was then) what having dinner with her would one day be worth. I even babysat her daughter once – that kind of insider stuff would fetch a small fortune these days.

It was -32 again this morning. When will this bloody winter ever end?

Posted in ice hockey, language | 10 Comments »