Archive for the 'Friends & Family' Category

Congrats to my brother!

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Kudos to my brother, Balázs Hargittai, for winning not one, but two campus-wide awards at his university this year! Seriously, even one would be a very notable achievement, but two? Wow!

My brother's award

The Gerald & Helen Swatsworth Faculty Award

My brother's second award
The Saint Francis University Honor Society Distinguished Faculty Award

Significant moments

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Marjorie and Eszter (in a rush as Marjorie boards a bus)I tend to avoid blogging random bits and pieces of my personal life, but this one is too much fun to ignore plus it made me think of something special from my past so here it goes. Over the years, I’ve had amazing luck running into people I know in the most random places from the streets of Paris to New York City’s subways. Such a fun encounter happened yesterday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, my home for this academic year. I’m going to give you a rather long version of the story to emphasize how incredibly random it was for this encounter to happen.

In case you don’t have time for the longer version, here’s the summary: I ran into a college friend of mine yesterday on the streets of Cambridge. I hadn’t seen her in probably over a decade (although on occasion we’d been in touch on email). But allow me to give more detail to emphasize the low chances of this meeting.

Having just gotten back from Europe, I was pretty jet lagged on Monday and had been up since 2:30am. I had planned on taking a nap in the afternoon. I had just finished a late lunch with a colleague and was extremely tempted to walk home for a nap instead of going to the office. I stopped on a street for almost a minute figuring out how to proceed. I rarely do that. I usually do contemplation of that sort while walking. But going home vs going to the office required very different routes so I needed to stop and make a decision. I finally decided to go to the office.

There I was, walking in Cambridge (crossing the Common to Massachusetts Avenue) on my way to Harvard Law School. I was about to cross a street when I saw someone I knew so I called out her name and stopped to chat with her. As I was talking to her, in the corner of my eye I noticed that someone stopped nearby. She was looking at me a bit puzzled. It took me about two seconds to realize who she was. Marjorie Victor. Marjorie is a friend from college, the year when we studied in Geneva, Switzerland together. I probably hadn’t seen her in about a decade (if not more).

Although Marjorie used to live in Cambridge, she now lives in Toronto and her work often takes her to Ethiopia. She barely comes to Cambridge anymore so what are the chances that this encounter would happen?! Wow. I was and am still overwhelmed by this wonderful coincidence.

This all reminded me of the last time I saw my very dear paternal grandmother. The day before she died, I was on my way home from school (eighth grade) and was deciding whether I would go stop by her place to show her my midyear report card. I was on a tram and was undecided. The tram pulled up to the stop where I would have had to get off if I was interested in going home rather than visiting my grandma. I was still undecided when the tram doors suddenly closed in front of me. That was it, the decision had been made for me, I was going to my grandmother’s. To this day I remember standing there thinking: well, that was easy. What I didn’t know at that moment was that this allowed me to see my grandmother one last time before she passed away.*

Although yesterday’s encounter doesn’t carry the same weight, it reminded me of that story. Of course, when we decide to take the route that doesn’t lead to such significant encounters, the moment is forever lost having little significance. But those few moments of this sort that lead to something special can stay with us for a long time.

* I posted three tweets on the 100th anniversary of her birthday this past summer that I’ll replicate here since Twitter messages disappear after a while:
1/3 Thinking about my amazing Grandma born 100 yrs ago today. Her husband was killed in a labor camp in WWII.
2/3 She herself was in a concentration camp with her sons & other relatives in Vienna. Then came other hardships back in Hungary.
3/3 But she remained a most amazingly kind & thoughtful person &although she died 20 yrs ago, to this day she continues to teach me so much.

I’d prefer an ordinary afternoon…

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Comparing the hills during and after the fire

Just this morning I was contemplating how horrible it must be for the people who suddenly lost their homes in the fire around Lake Tahoe. By the afternoon I was watching firefighters from my office window battle flames on Stanford’s hills.

I was sitting at my desk already unable to work having just received word about the death of Peter Marris, Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning at UCLA, dear husband of Dolores Hayden who was a fellow Fellow at CASBS this year. The two of them had to end their year at the Center early, because Peter was sick, but I don’t think any of us expected things to escalate so quickly.

Unable to concentrate on work, I turned around to look at the beautiful view from my office. I spotted some big red flames. Soon I realized that a large area around it was completely black with smoke and flames on the periphery. Eventually sirens and helicopter appeared, as did firefighters. Some of the smoke was now white not just black, apparently a good sign. But not all the black smoke disappeared and an hour later there was still much activity. I went to an event and by the time I got back to my office, another hillside was completely black (see the difference in the left area of the two photos above).

How quickly things can change.

Keeping track of friends’ whereabouts

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Not long ago I was going to post about the challenge of keeping relevant people posted of one’s travels. That is, the challenge of knowing who among one’s friends may be in the same location at the same time. It’s one thing to remember who lives at a particular destination, it’s another to try to guess who may be travelling there at the same time you are.

Fortunately, just as I was about to post on this, I came across Dopplr, which is a site that addresses this precise issue. Once you sign up, you can let the system know about upcoming trips. You also link up with other people to share your itineraries and the system tells you when you’ll overlap. It’s in closed beta, but if you can think of a friend who has an account, you can ask him/her for an invitation.

Obviously, the value of such a service increases by the number of relevant contacts that join and keep their accounts up-to-date. I wonder if they will be adding the option of distinguishing among contacts. You may want certain people to know about a trip, but not others. And of course, if you prefer that people not know about a certain trip at all, you can exclude it from your list altogether.

I’m excited about this service, but the usual challenge remains: getting enough of my non-geeky friends to join and update their travel info.

Busy weekend

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Wow, the past few days were incredibly busy with lots of fun activities. Instead of writing lengthy descriptions, I offer you batches of photos if you’re curious.

First, my friend Olivia was graduating (Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude and prize for her thesis in history) and celebrations (e.g. Phi Beta Kappa ceremony) started already early last week. See photos.

Second, my dance club, Chicago Dance, was hosting the annual Chicago’s Crystal Ball ballroom and Latin dance competition. Given everything else, I only made it to part of it, but even those few hours were super fun! See photos plus a video. No, there are no pictures of me dancing since I don’t compete. Granted, I did dance one cha-cha.. in front of hundreds of people.. wearing sandals. Hah.

Making an Oink

Finally, the Custer Street Fair, also known as Custer’s Last Stand was on this weekend. That’s my neighborhood summer art fair and also provided plenty of entertainment including the opportunity to create an Oink entry for this month’s Flickr scavenger hunt. See photos.


Monday, June 12th, 2006

I wanted to send my parents something nice the other day (just because) and ended up playing around with One True Media. I wouldn’t spend too much time coming up with something elaborate as they hold your material hostage to a large extent, but it’s worth a try.

So here’s a little trip down memory lane.. a few images of my brother and me from a few decades ago.

Create your own video at One True Media


Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Smith Graduation
Ten years ago tomorrow (19th), I graduated from college. This weekend, I’m going back to reunite with fellow Smithies and see campus again. I’ve been back lots (last time in August) so it’s not as though I don’t remember the place. But it’s always nice to have a reason to visit.

In honor of the occasion, I have posted a few photos from ten years ago.

Flickrite meet-ups

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

John in downtown Chicago     Jeremy in his office

I have started a Flickr set dedicated to pictures I have taken of Flickr contacts (I’ll restrict it to post-Flickring meet-ups). Of course, a good chunk of my Flickr contacts are people I knew pre-Flickr so this is not meant to suggest a grand expansion in my social circles. I just thought it would be fun to dedicate a set to it. Plus I really did need to join the group of people who have pictures of Jeremy even though with just one image in his photostream he’s still a Flickr toddler himself.

Third Coast Festival

Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

I saw a great concert last night as part of the Third Coast International Audio Festival‘s events. The special guest for the evening was One Ring Zero playing music different from most of what’s usually on my playlist. As one of the members described it at some point: weird circus klezmer music. As silly or weird as that may sound, I think it was a reasonable description of at least some of their music. (If you don’t know what klezmer music is, you can check out the bit of discussion we had about the topic here on CT a while back or see what Wikipedia has to say about it.)

The group was performing pieces from their most recent album As Smart As We Are that has songs with lyrics from an impressive set of writers. See the Web site for some sample mp3s and the list of contributors to this album.

The concert also came with the special treat of watching Bob Ewards play the theremin. I had never seen a theremin played so this was interesting in general. In case you don’t know what a theremin looks like (or what someone looks like playing it), has a helpful animated image on its front page to give you an idea. (Needless to say blogs exist on the topic of theremins if you want a daily dose.:)

Thanks to my friend Ben – the trumpet player in last night’s performance – for alerting me to this event, it was definitely a treat. I’ve posted a couple of images on Flickr.

Nice article about my Mom

Saturday, May 21st, 2005

The Hungarian Népszabadság, one of the – if not the – most popular Hungarian dailies published a piece about my Mom today. The article includes a nice picture of her in a Japanese classroom where she visited a few weeks ago. The author describes her work and the difficulty women face in the sciences. In addition to pursuing her scientific research interests with great enthusiasm and success, my Mom has also interviewed numerous famous female scientists across the globe – including four female Nobel laureates – about their experiences. One day I would like to find the time to collaborate with her on a paper adding some sociological background to the analysis.

Hargittai & Hargittai: Candid Science V

Tuesday, February 8th, 2005

My father and brother team up to bring us the fifth in the Candid Science series published by Imperial College Press. They present conversations with famous scientists, many of them Nobel laureates.

Earlier volumes in the series:
* Magdolna Hargittai & István Hargittai: Candid Science IV, Conversations with Famous Physicists
* István Hargittai & Magdolna Hargittai: Candid Science III, Conversations with Famous Chemists
* István Hargittai & Magdolna Hargittai: Candid Science II, Conversations with Famous Biomedical Scientists
* István Hargittai & Magdolna Hargittai: Candid Science, More Conversations with Famous Chemists

Pumpkin pie redux

Friday, November 26th, 2004

This on CT.

Who would’ve thought that discussing pumpkin pie would be such a popular topic among Timberites (and others as well). Here, I offer an alternative European perspective as there were eight of us around the table last night (with not an American in sight although some later joined us for socializing): three Italians, two Germans, one German/French, one Dutch and one Hungarian. First of all, I’m proud to say that you couldn’t have had a more traditional Thanksgiving meal including a mashed potato/sweet potato dish, bean casserole, cranberry relish, cranberry jello salad, squash, stuffing, plenty of gravy and, of course, a beautiful and delicious turkey. Other than the dinner rolls, ice cream and whipped cream everything was home made. But let me fast forward to the dessert portion of the evening.

After a walk out to the beach to make some room for the pies, we started a general discussion comparing European vs American pastries. Several people around the table thought that American desserts are just too sweet. This may explain why most people only took a small slice of my pecan pie (oh, and I cheated, I didn’t make the crust). However, I was happy to note that people were quite excited about the pumpkin pie (pictured here without the important whipped cream component). I relied on canned pumpkin pure, but used a special recipe that adds vanilla ice cream to the filling making it extra fluffy and yummy. To the skeptics who in the comments to Belle’s post wondered whether people just said they liked the pie versus actually enjoyed it, I can report that my guests were quite honest regarding their preferences. Everyone got to take food when they left and people did not seem to have any qualms about expressing their preferences (thus I got to keep quite a few peanutbutter bars given that several of those in attendance have not yet developed a taste for peanut butter). I should add that my friend’s Alsatian apple tart was a really big hit as well (and as suggested earlier, it was not as sweet as the other desserts). One more point about desserts: I never use vanilla extract, I use vanilla sugar instead. I think it works much better (the former seems to have an artificial taste I don’t like). Substituting one packet for one teaspoon seems to work well.

The evening ended with us reminiscing about European 70s music (that may require a separate post sometime) and playing around with the various toys on my coffee table (coffee table books are so passé, try putting some Rubik games out sometime). Of course, after that amount of food no need to get so technical as to introduce elaborate puzzles. I brought out my vintage Schwarzer Peter card deck my grandmother and I used to play with when I was five. There is a reason I used to play with it when I was five. After a few minutes of playing we started wondering how many PhDs it takes to figure out the quickest way to end the game (well, you know, without actually just calling it quits). (Keep reinventing the rules and working with the other players so someone can win.) What a fun evening, and of course, no need to cook for the next several days.

Hargittai: Our Lives

Friday, November 19th, 2004

The Nov 11, 2004 issue of Nature has a review of my father’s most recent book, Our Lives: Encounters of a Scientist. The review is by Henryk Eisenberg and the piece is called “The view from Budapest”. It’s a positive review so you now have one more reason to go out, get the book and read it!

Productive use of email (?)

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

I just heard a song on the radio that reminded me of the year I spent in Geneva my junior year in college exactly ten years ago (* gasp *). How could I forget the familiar lines we used to listen to all the time.. “I’m the lyrical gangster, excuse me mister officer.” (from Here Comes the Hotstepper by Ini Kamoze) Oh, the days…

I decided to email the group of friends with whom I spent that marvelous year. Within minutes I received a couple of responses with the full lyrics and someone even offering to bring the song to our upcoming reunion. These friends were also “thanking me” for getting the song into their heads to the extent that they can’t stop singing it now. I find it amusing to imagine these friends sitting in their offices across the globe, from the State Department to grad student carrels, from embassies to law offices singing “naa-nanananaa-nanananaa-nananaa-nanana”.

Thanks to email, the dissemination of that important little phrase took only a few minutes!


Sunday, September 19th, 2004

My good friends Marcy and Melissa visited me from the East Coast this weekend. I showed them Millennium Park (a really neat place!) and all sorts of other fun and beautiful places in the area. I also hosted a little party (is ~20 people still considered little?:) so they could meet my new friends. The theme of the party was M&Ms (Marcy and Melissa, get it?) and we probably gained several pounds trying out the new M-azing candy bars.

As if all this wasn’t exciting enough, my dear friend Darren was also in the area this weekend so I got to give two Evanston/Northwestern tours. That was fine, the weather was beautiful, it was the perfect weekend for visitors.

Marcy, Melissa and I talked about how easy it is to pull off such a weekend visit as long as one doesn’t obsess about travel as some major undertaking. (Sure, I realize it depends on all sorts of circumstances, but given certain parameters, it does not have to be a big deal.) It took Marcy five hours door-to-door to be back in her apartment in Manhattan. As she put it, “Chicago is local”.;-)

I’ve posted some pictures of the visit.