Archive for May, 2010

Singing in the woods, again

May 24th, 2010
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I enjoy our by now traditional semi-annual КСП outings. I happen to have a good time while I am there. Then I get back home, recognize the fact that I slept for probably 6-7 hours cumulatively over the course of the weekend, and fight fatigue for the next couple of days. It’s worse than a jet lag, honest.

A few other notes from the festival.

My personal playbook contains several hundred songs, of which I can play by heart – or by ear – roughly a hundred (the rest are complicated enough that if I want a smooth performance, I need to have the book in front of me; the playbook is a weighty folder 250 pages long – not exactly a handy object when you sit with your guitar on a log around a fire). You would think nearly a hundred songs should be more than enough to never get short on numbers to perform at any given point in time. And yet, after going through a dozen of my favorites, I always end up “forgetting” which songs I know. We alternate leads between three or four guitars, so now it’s my turn, and I can’t find an answer to “What else can I play?”

Something about spontaneity that my brain objects to. Good thing that I am almost invariably the weakest musician around the fire and others can play by ear practically anything, so if one of the listeners blurts out a request while I’m still searching for my next number, I can draw on my vast knowledge of lyrics and lead the singing, even if I can’t exactly keep up with the the accompaniment.

On a different note, it turns out to be quite important to stay away from elaborate knots if you know you’ll have to untie them. I ended with the primary responsibility for putting up the tarpaulin cover over our campsite on Friday, and I managed it splendidly, acknowledged by all participants as “the best tarp we ever had”. This was my first time at that particular job, and I emphasized securing the thing to the trees at the expense of simplicity. Then, Sunday morning, I entertained half the campground repeatedly balancing on the top step of the ladder and cursing the knots, “What cretin tied this damn thing this way? Oh, sorry, I think I did it myself!”

Finally, sleeping in adjacent tents with someone who loudly snores feels as if they are sleeping in the same bed with you. You try and tell me if there is any difference.

Must have contributed to my lack of sleep.

Repeat in the fall. Although I might skip the rainier/colder instance this year.


Not what it seems

May 18th, 2010
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This is a really cool optical illusion. You’ll see how your brain mis-interprets perspective about 35 seconds in.

Via Exler.

Idle Amusements

One of my favorite vistas

May 16th, 2010

This weekend, chauffeuring our guests around Brooklyn, I found myself for the first time in ages on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. In our early days in America, my Mom said on occasion that the view of Manhattan from there is worth coming to New York City all by itself. It is definitely one of my most favorite viewpoints in the world.

View of Lower Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights Promenade

Don’t forget to click on the picture for a larger view.

NYC Album

After rain

May 14th, 2010

After a short but intense rain at the end of the day, the street is saturated with brilliant colors. I’m not sure how well a formatted-for-web picture can relay it, but I figured I’d try. I only resized it, no other enhancing manipulations were performed here.

After rain in the evening


Stray Pictures, Suburbia


May 10th, 2010
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I’d like to think that I am long past having to come up with excuses for the absence of any blogging activity. I simply ignore the blog these days when I’m too busy. And I am very busy. Employment-related busy-ness aside, we are currently entertaining house-guests who’ve never been to the States before and whom we haven’t seen in a long time, not counting several converging creative endeavors of personal nature for which I have inflexible deadlines. I found inspiration for one literally at the 11th hour, and am still searching for a similar breakthrough for another, running out of time ahead of the next weekend. Thinking about writing a blog post is not too high on my list of priorities right now. Sorry about that.

At least, you now all know that I’m alive and kicking…


Commuter fare hike

May 4th, 2010
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When I first settled in New York City, the single public transportation fare was $1.10. Today, it’s $2.25. More than 100% increase over the course of nearly 20 years. Adjusting for inflation, however, it comes to only about 32% over that time.

At the beginning of this month, New Jersey Transit effected a fare hike. 25% increase across the board, for trains and commuter buses. The monthly commuter bus pass from my zone that used to cost $259 now costs $324.

I can appreciate the fact that in these days of state budget holes and continuing economic duress, raising the public transportation fares is one way to lessen the state’s financial pains. I also cannot truly begrudge a fare increase after it has remained unchanged for a decade. After all, adjusting for inflation, $259 10 years ago happens to be the equivalent of roughly $320 today, which means the prices are just catching up to the inflation.


I work remotely often enough that the most advantageous fare for me was not the monthly commuter pass, but rather the 10-trip pack. On my route, it was offered at 33% discount to the single fare per each trip. More importantly, it was priced at a 25% premium to the single ride cost as calculated against the monthly pass cost (assuming 22 work-days in a month; the premium was considerably lower in, say, 19-day February). In other words, I had to work from home as few as 2 and never more than 6 days in any given month – depending on the actual number of work-days – to make the 10-trip option the cheapest for me.

I work out of my home office easily twice a week nowadays. My bus ticket cost hovered around $200 for the last six-seven months.

With the fare hike, the equation changed. The 10-trip pack is still available, but its cost was raised by whopping 60%. It is now offered at a mere 17.5% discount to the single fare per each trip (whose price has gone up by 25%). The premium over a single ride cost as calculated against the commuter pass for a 22-day month ended up at nearly 60% as well, which theoretically makes the monthly pass considerably more attractive – 14 days of commuting a month and I spend less with the pass than I’d spend with the 10-packs. But given that that’s right about the number of days I come to Manhattan in a given month, no matter whether I continue to buy 10-packs or switch to monthly passes, my new commuting expense will be about the same – 60% higher than it was before.

Ouch! My share of plugging the state’s financial hole seems a bit disproportional. The gradual increase of the NYC Subway fare over the years pales in comparison…


My weekend

May 3rd, 2010
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Kept assembling the various piece of furniture that the wife had bought.

Wrote checks for ungodly sums of money to various home service providers.

Discovered a couple of inevitable future expenses related to the house equipment and services.

Cleaned the pool, worked on the backyard, drove back and forth for supplies…

This home-ownership gig is more demanding than I remembered from the past.

Oh yeah – officially opened the pool season. After all that hard work on Sunday, it was immensely refreshing.

I suppose it’s all good, on balance.