Archive for July, 2011

Subtle re-branding

July 29th, 2011

We’ve been back on the home soil for two years now. I felt a tiny bit of re-branding of the site was due. The word “[back]” was no longer appropriate as the modifier of our local status.

So, welcome to “Burlaki on the Hudson”, all!

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On Netflix

July 27th, 2011

Along with uncounted others, I have been unpleasantly – to use a mild term – surprised by Netflix’s changes in the pricing structure announced a couple of weeks ago. Without offering me any additional services or perks, they decided unilaterally to jack up my monthly subscription 60%.

Noting the uncanny parallel with another 60% rise in costs that I had meekly swallowed in the past1, I have to admit that this is what I’m going to do in the end – meekly swallow it.

The reasons are simple. First of all, additional $6 a month are not worth getting too much worked up about, even as a matter of principle – if something breaks our family budget, it won’t be this. I like movies well enough and enjoy home-bound watching well enough to find the service valuable. With a single-movie-at-home plan, I probably get to watch between 4 and 6 movies a month via Netflix-mailed DVDs – and paying just $8 for that sounds like a pretty good deal no matter how you slice it.

Streaming – which will now cost additional eight bucks – is a slightly different matter. The available selection is not nearly worth the expense from my personal point of view. Since first subscribing to Netflix, I hardly watched a handful of titles from the streaming menu. I’m sure I could do without it, no problem. Except, my kids apparently like the availability of many seasons of TV shows – which are of no use to me – and watch something almost daily. It makes no sense to me to take that away from them.

I also cannot think of alternatives that offer everything that we collectively need at the minimum hassle and considerably more advantageous price overall. Streaming from elsewhere is subject to the same – or different – content limitations, with an extra cost attached to having more choices. Renting DVDs elsewhere either does not offer any savings in cost, or is less convenient, or both.

In the end, I grumbled a bit and I considered taking a principled stand against corporate arbitrariness, but all I’ll do is shell out those additional six bucks every month. “Sir, thank you, sir! May I have another, sir!?”

But don’t deceive yourself, Netflix. Another such stunt, and I’ll be leaving for sure!

Or not.

1Eventually, decisions of my corporate overlords helped me get back at NJ Transit for hiking their fares that much on me. As we moved to another office in a different part of Manhattan, I switched to an alternative bus route served by another company, stopped being a NJ Transit customer – and reduced my commuting expense back to reasonable levels in the process.


The summer is hot

July 22nd, 2011

The new hairstyle is more appropriate for the temperatures outside.


Family Album

Pictures from Spain

July 16th, 2011
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A selection of photos from our fairly recent trip to Madrid and environs is available at our Picture Gallery. Use link on the menu or go directly here.

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First of many

July 15th, 2011

Somebody turned 1 yesterday!


Family Album

Fitness reboot

July 7th, 2011
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Stop me if you’ve heard this before: I joined a gym and started exercising regularly.

If you haven’t heard this before, you must not have been a regular reader of this blog in its first couple of years. Don’t despair, I’ll recap: In late 2007, I joined a gym that was conveniently collocated with my place of work in London’s Canary Wharf. I lasted several months and, while the exact moment of when I stopped was not recorded anywhere, about a year later I was already musing on why I could never stick with the program in the first place.

Not sure if I mentioned anywhere then that it was not the first time I attempted to fit fitness into my lifestyle. And not the first time I failed.

These days, I am again conveniently located close to a gym. And, feeling all mid-life-crisisy, I have a new urge to change my perpetual out-of-shape existence. Plus, one of my best friends gave me an inadvertent push, while describing the benefits of his own exercise regimen that he has been following for several years now.

Long story short, I joined a NYSC across the street from my current office location. With the difference between single-club membership cost and that of all-locations membership fairly negligible, I opted for the latter, which allows me to go to a club within 10 minutes driving distance from my house.

It’s already been over a month now. The timing factor is still there (and nowadays, I deal with a 3.5-hours overall commute that was not in play in England). The boredom factor is there as well. The impatience for seeing results – which are not in a hurry to become obvious – keeps testing my resolve. But the monetary outlay is now significant enough that I just might use the desire to get my money’s worth as an added incentive.

I actually splashed on four “introductory” sessions with a personal trainer, each of which left me in a state of being barely alive. On one hand, having a trainer direct me for an hour definitely helped in keeping the pace and possibly having a more useful workout. On the other hand, I somewhat dreaded the third and fourth installments and almost tried to avoid them. The challenge now is to find the proper balance on my own, where I can keep up and feel the workouts’ worth, yet not run myself into the ground.

Somehow, I am blindly optimistic that if I see good results from my nearly daily trips to the gym, I will be able to stick with it for longer than on my previous attempts. You are all free to set up a pool for how long I’ll last.

I’ll be sure to let you know if I flame out again. If someone wants to ensure winning the pool, make me an offer 😉


Madrid notes

July 1st, 2011
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I’ve been thinking for the longest time that the only reason I have to keep this website going is that my expat musings from the years of living in England can be of use to friends and strangers alike. Only yesterday a couple of friends relocating to England for work have called us to express their gratitude, having found some tidbits in my old notes useful in their efforts to settle in a new land. If not for that, I might have pulled the plug on this enterprise a long time ago.

Then, there is my Travelog, which admittedly is no longer updated frequently enough to merit a designation of a travel journal. Still, I use it myself to refresh my memory before an upcoming trip, and it gives me a handy point of reference to direct acquaintances who heard that I’ve been to many places and want my opinion on things to do in Paris or Budapest. Despite our no longer numerous trips to Europe, I attempt to update our notes on a given destination in short order after returning. Which brings me to the point of this post – I updated our notes on Madrid and environs, for anyone who is interested.

We will now return to our scheduled programming of scarce new content.

Blogging, Travel Miscellany