Archive for the ‘Chronicles’ Category

More of the same, as in nothing

November 8th, 2012

As I am limping towards a milestone of 1000 posts (still over a dozen to go), I realize how many obvious topics come up around me every day that I could use as blog fodder. And yet, as has been painfully obvious for quite some time now, I just cannot work up much interest for doing this writing thing. Too many other things in my life demand attention.

There was Sandy. Posting my own local pictures of fallen trees, damaged houses, blocked roads, or remarking that we came through relatively unscathed, or recounting our delightful impromptu weekend getaway to the DC area that we would not have taken if not for lack of electricity in our house – I could make a whole week of posts out of that. A month, more like.

There was the election. Although I long ago forsworn any political discourse on these premises, this year’s ballot marked a significant occasion for my eldest child: Her first trip to the voting booth. Just that by itself should have given birth to at least one blog post. The slightly amusing laid-back set-up of the voting precinct in our backwater suburbia could well be another.

There was the Nor’easter. Tons of snow, more damage to the trees, more power outages just a week after the famous perfect storm – perfect inroads to some diatribe about upcoming apocalypse.

There is Cryptonomicon. I’ve been struggling with it for a couple of months now – not in terms of finding it hard to read, but in terms of finding time to read, period. It touches on seemingly every intellectual subject known to humankind and I have quite a few thoughts on those. A whole recurring category of deep thoughts, veritably.

And yet, I can’t force myself to spend time on composing any of those. I am likely beyond the point of no return for reviving my erstwhile blogging output.

It’s probably to the best.


A movie, a play, a time stuck in traffic

December 29th, 2011

This stay-at-home vacation thing is unexpectedly working out in a way that my top-priority sizable project for the week (in the “home video” category) remains untouched on the to-do list. And there is only one formal vacation day left…

I suppose going for a matinee movie showing one day followed by a mid-day theater outing followed by long-distance chauffeur duties were bound to kill enough time over the course of a few days to make it feel that I am actively occupied on what I thought would be a very lazy week.

The movie I watched with Becky was the latest Sherlock Holmes, which was both entertaining and somewhat disappointing. I am not a Holmes purist to any degree, I was familiar with the first movie and calibrated my expectations accordingly, and I appreciate the high entertainment quotient and directorial skill found in the latest installment. And I actually think the second movie went to greater length to showcase Holmes’ deductive reasoning than the first one. But in the end, it felt as if it was mostly about guns, explosions, well-placed acts of sabotage, hand-combat skills and a fortuitously positioned cannon than about, you know, brains. Downey Jr and Law do play off each other fantastically, though.

The next day it was musical theater’s turn. A friend recommended a play running at the NYU’s Skirball Center and we went for a city outing alongside several families. Started with a nice lunch at Café Español, then moved on to Washington Square so that the younger kids could have some fun on the playground, and finished the day’s itinerary with a play.

Called Shlemiel the First, it is Jewish-themed and theoretically was supposed to appeal to our crew of folk music lovers. But I ended up thoroughly outnumbered when attempting to craft a positive review afterwards. The prevailing opinion ranged from Kimmy’s diplomatic “I did not like it that much” to the blunt “It sucked” voiced by several people in the party. It is not that the music was too Broadway-ized to be readily identifiable as Jewish. It is not that the plot was silly and its resolution was dumb. It is not that the lyrics were mediocre and the jokes were mostly unfunny. It is not that the actors were, charitably, unremarkable as singers. It is, frankly, all of that combined together that created an overall impression of something that should have been, in hindsight, avoided.

Least of all I understood why we brought children along (kids, actually, comprised a large portion of the audience). There were a couple of mildly risqué scenes, but not a single children-level joke. Given the buffoonery overtones of the proceedings, the play could not be called educational in any respect either.

My attempts at finding positives about the show stopped at appreciating the choreographed open-scene transformations that were well worked into the flow of the performance. Becky agreed that it looked really neat, but refused to give the show any other props.

Driving into Greenwich Village in the late morning went along considerably smoother than driving into Midtown Manhattan in the early afternoon. Today I had to pick up Becky’s friend from the Penn Station as she arrived for a few days’ stay with us, and my composure was sorely tried. Too many cars, too many pedestrians, too many “you can’t turn here, go straight” prohibitions. On the bright side, I did spend considerably more time than expected on the round-trip, further reducing my idle existence on this boringest of vacations.

Chronicles, Movies, Theater

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 😉


One of the benefits of having an iPad

January 23rd, 2011
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… is that I am suddenly cool again for my older children to hang out with Dad a bit. As in this case of watching a full-length movie trailer.



Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2011
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I hope that every one of you had smashing time greeting the New Year!

We did our usual thing with a group of our good friends, gathering around the table, eating, drinking, laughing around, eventually moving on to karaoke and movie-watching. We did this in practically the same company for years before moving off to England, and picked it up last year on our first New Year’s Eve back in the States. We will probably be celebrating this way for years to come.

Celebration lasted well into the morning, and then we picked it up after just a few hours of sleep with a post-celebration breakfast, followed up by more communal movie-watching. The movies we watch on these occasions are predominantly the ones that we have seen in the past and know quite well, providing for often-hilarious background commentary by every member of the party.

Good times! Hopefully, the year will be similarly filled with joy.

The year that ended was obviously an extraordinary one, our first full year back in the US after having lived in Europe for a while. We brought another child into the world, and that by itself marks the year as special. As with any other year, there were ups and downs, good happenings and things we may want to try to forget, so as is customary at this time of the year, we are hoping that the coming year will only be better. May your 2011 be better than 2010 as well!

I finished the year with two consecutive weeks of vacations, the first of which I spent entirely at home. It was the first such occasion in 3 years, but that previous one was when Natasha travelled to Russia without me, and I was playing housedad for the kids. This time around, I endeavoured to help Natasha at home, but mostly spent time in my study working on various computer issues. Sad, really. I never liked being type-casted as a computer geek (even though I am definitely one). And one my week free of work all I did was work on computers.

The second week, however, I took Kimmy to Orlando. She has not been to Disney parks since she was about 3 years old, and a family of our closest friends were spending a week in Orlando, so the stars aligned somewhat for me to get out of the house and focus on making my 10-year-old happy. We managed to visit 7 different parks, including all of the major Disney World parks, the Sea World, Universal’s Islands of Adventure with its newest Harry Potter-themed attractions, and the Kennedy Space Center. Each of them was impressive in their own right, even if we had to contend with enormous crowds of people. Going to Disney during school holidays is always a testing proposition. (Have you ever heard of a park closing for new admissions in the morning on account of being full? On the day of our arrival to Orlando, we fell victims to this arrangement at the Magic Kingdom, which we reached around noon. We were advised to come back after 2pm.)

No matter how well you plan and execute your visits to amusement parks, at the busiest times of the year you cannot avoid bumping into impossibly long waits at popular attractions. The FastPass system at Disney parks helps to mitigate it somewhat, but we had several occasions of coming to get the FastPass fairly early in the morning, and still getting it only for a late-afternoon time-slot. Plus, in a number of cases, even a FastPass does not get you directly to the attraction; you bypass most of the line, but still have to endure a noticeable wait afterwards (as, for instance, we had at the Toy Story Midway Mania ride at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios).

Your child may think it worthwhile no matter what, but I tend to dislike spending anything over 40 minutes in line for a ride that lasts all of 3 minutes itself. And with such long waits, there is practically no chance to go on the same ride for the second time during the day.

Which brings us to the excellent choice Kimmy and I made in regards to the Magic Kingdom. After our first-day fiasco (we went to the Animal Kingdom instead then), we decided to go there late in the afternoon and stay for as long as we could (it closes at 1am). We had multi-day “hopper” passes, so the sting of spending the same amount of money for “half of a day” as we would have spent for a full day was not as painful. We targeted less than a dozen rides as musts – and managed to get on every single one of them, with none of the waiting periods lasting over my arbitrary limit of 40 minutes and only one FastPass acquisition. There were still tons of people at the park, but between 5-6pm the crowds started to get thinner. Some of the most popular rides still showed 60-minute waits as late as 9pm, but practically none had a wait of more than a few minutes after the fireworks display at 10pm.

My hands-down most favorite amusement park ride in the world is the Splash Mountain (sorry, the daredevils in the audience – I don’t do roller-coasters). We kept putting it off as one of our last targets, and it paid off spectacularly. At about 10:50pm, we basically walked onto the attraction without a single second of waiting and got into the boat to ride. After getting off, we immediately walked around to the entrance and got on it for the second time. When that second ride was complete, I noticed that no one was even waiting to get on at that moment, and asked the girl attendant if we could just stay in our boat and go on one more time. She waved us through. We probably could have done it the fourth and fifth and tenth time if we chose, but we decided that three times was just the right quantity.

Kimmy now professes that the Splash Mountain is her favorite ride in the world as well.

She had the greatest time, and I enjoyed the trip as well.

The added bonus was that we entirely missed the big snowstorm in the Northeast. Natasha and Becky managed to clear our driveway with an important assist from a good neighbor with a snowblower – a job that would be mine otherwise. Monday’s commute – and my walk to the bus – is still likely to be horrible. Sidewalks are not cleared, piles of snow are filling up shoulders which buses use during rush hour. I’ll chance it on Monday, but may elect to work remotely for the rest of the week if it gets too intolerable.

Let’s see how the New Year is going to greet me.


Holiday gifts

December 23rd, 2010
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For two days in a row, we’ve been the recipients of amazing gift baskets.

First, my brother and his family sent us an assortment of sweets.

Next, we found a fruit arrangement sitting in the backyard. It was actually addressed to the previous owners of the house, but we figured 15 months is enough of a statute of limitations not to try to pass it on to them. There was no sender information on the wrapping, I don’t know whom to contact regarding the delivery, so chances are, in 12 more months, they will still not know that different people live in this house…



Celebrating the season

December 12th, 2010

I am a fairly indifferent homeowner when it comes to decorating for holidays, even though the family customarily forces me to get out the ladder and hang icicles on the roof and other lights around the house. I do, however, enjoy seeing illuminated displays around the neighborhood.




Wednesday weekly post

November 17th, 2010
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My last three posts all happened on consecutive Wednesdays, and I feel a strange obligation to keep the pattern going. (Anyone who uses said pattern to check the blog exactly a week from today will be disappointed – I do not expect to be able to post anything next Wednesday. Will I break the pattern towards more frequency? It’s mysteries like this that keep drawing you back to this space, don’t they?)

Of course, another pattern, lasting over a year now, holds it that I actually have nothing interesting to say. Which continues to be true. At least, when it comes to spontaneous decisions to write a blog post.

Let’s see.

I implemented a complicated cabling-and-IR solution to share a single cable box between two TVs, thus realizing Natasha’s long-standing dream of having a fully functional TV in the kitchen… Actually, I paid a specialist to do that for me, even though I probably could have figured it out myself, saving a couple of hundred bucks in the process. So, technically, I can intelligently talk about the specifics, but there is little to be boasting about.

I started working on my next creative home project, which will be the long-overdue video compilation of the best of our European travels in 2007-09… if figuring out how much of raw footage I have to work with counts as “starting the project”.

I finally held my nerve and forced a loud cell-phone talker on the commuter bus to cut his conversation short… Oops, that did not actually happen, it must have been in my dreams… Although, truth be told, one of these days I am going to seriously unload on someone.

And that was your weekly news update!



September 7th, 2010

Each of our babysitters has her own technique for keeping the baby sister content. One lulls her with YouTube videos and then lets her sleep. The other carries the little person around in the kangaroo contraption.




Newest pool-goer

August 30th, 2010

The kid and Mom go for a first swim together.

First swim




August 23rd, 2010

My employer has this incredible 12-week paternity leave benefit.

Yes, you read it right, paternity with a “p”. As in, the father of a newborn child can get 12 weeks off work with full pay.

I know plenty of people who take advantage of that. In fact, I know one guy who seemingly takes advantage of that every other year or so.

Did I go on paternity leave when Emily was born?

Um… no.

For reasons that I will surely regret eventually, I decided that my complete absence for 3 months would place in jeopardy various projects that “need” me. Instead, I agreed with my management hierarchy that I will work entirely from home for the foreseeable future, take time to help Natasha with the new baby, but make myself generally available for all and any tasks in progress.

The result? Instead of bonding with my new daughter and letting Natasha rest when she is not nursing, I sit in my basement office for nine-hour workdays.

Ok, saving over three hours of commute time every day is definitely helpful. I do take breaks throughout the day to give Natasha a breather here or there, I relieve her of chauffeuring-the-kids-around responsibilities, and on some days I do manage reasonable enough windows to keep pretense of being home for the sake of child-rearing.

Most of the days, though, it feels as though I plop down in front of my laptop at 8 in the morning, and stagger up the basement stairs with a headache at 6pm.

Nothing to complain about, really. Considering that I can jump into pool immediately following that…



July 30th, 2010

There is something decidedly strange in getting excited about receiving the social security card.

But when it comes to a newborn, and the card signifies the very first official document that the little person has, it definitely passes for another milestone.


DIY with a little online help

July 25th, 2010

A little house problem: The dryer suddenly starts leaving clothes damp after a full cycle. What do I know about dryers? Nothing. I’m only aware of the fact that this is a ten year old unit, that we did not want to extend “service plan” for it last year, and that a flat-rate service call costs $150 before any replacement part costs and additional labor.

I look through available trouble-shooting documentation. It tells me to check the exhaust pipe for blockage. I am useful enough with the tools to be able to do that. No luck, though. There is no blockage in the pipe or at the vent.

What’s the information-age guy to do when he needs DIY repairs? Use internet, of course. I go to the manufacturer site in search of additional documentation. Fail. I google the exact model of the dryer. There are dozens of links to sales of newer models, and one or two forum links discussing various issues, but nothing I can use for my specific case. Finally, I start typing more generic queries into Google, hoping to hit upon a general repair advice.

One of the search results is a link to a site called Just Answer. Clicking on the URL, I get a comparatively simple page with a promising subtitle of “Ask an Appliance Question, Get an Answer ASAP!”, a form asking me to type in my question, and a button that says “Get an Answer”.

It would be too easy if that was all it took to figure out my problem, of course. There is no free lunch to be had – in order to get a qualified help, I have to pay. A follow-up question asks me to identify how much an answer to the question is worth to me; the cheapest option is $14. I have to stop for a while to figure out how the site works.

It turns out that the concept is quite simple. I make a good-faith deposit via PayPal to an “escrow” account, get to ask my question and receive assistance from one of the registered experts (nearly a dozen of them are supposedly online, so the answer should really be expected nearly instantaneously). I then have an option to follow-up with additional questions on the same subject. If I am satisfied with the assistance, I can “accept” the answer, which will result in the escrow money being transferred to the expert. If I am not satisfied for any reason, the FAQ says my deposit is fully refundable.

The terms sounds reasonable to me. I obviously do not want to pay up front for something of unproven-to-me quality. On the other hand, $14 do not sound like a tremendous amount of money to part with if I can get a useful advice. Not in a general sense of things, but in comparison with the aforementioned service call fee.

So, I type in the detailed question, mentioning the already performed exhaust pipe check. My question is picked by someone with a nickname of “Dr Appliance” who comes back in literally two minutes with the following advice: It is possible that the blockage exists somewhere within the vent system, so I should try to run a cycle in the dryer with a disconnected exhaust pipe; lint will fly around the laundry room, but if the clothes come out dry, then the problem is isolated, and the service call will be not to the appliance repair but to a chimneys and vents contractor.

As I read the response, a light bulb goes in my head. Dryer vent comes right out on the patio directly from the laundry. I walk outside, and take out the outer grill from the vent. It is completely covered in tightly pressed lint. It takes me sixty seconds to clean it and put it back. In about an hour, as the dryer cycle finishes, the clothes come out of it as dry as they can be.

Something I could have easily figured out myself. But I didn’t. Whoever that Dr Appliance was, he steered me to the correct action. As far as I’m concerned, he earned his fourteen bucks. I “accepted” his response, and officially paid some stranger for an advice. The website allows for “bonuses” to be added on top of the fee, but I didn’t feel like further validating my general ineptitude with extra donations.

I have to say I see future use of this website for myself. Especially since it is not only specializing in appliances. I could get advice on computer programming. Or parenting…

Chronicles, Customerography

Baby milestones

July 21st, 2010

Umbilical cord fell off.

First trip in the royal carriage around the neighborhood.

Other than that, standard fare: eating, pooping, not letting parents sleep at night.



Introducing Emily

July 14th, 2010

My meat-space friends have been aware of the fact that Natasha and I embarked on a serious new project roughly nine months ago. Now it’s time to announce the results.

Emily Sofia Burlak was born in the early morning hours of this fine Wednesday. She weighed in at 7 lbs 1 ounce and measured 20 inches. Both the mother and the child are doing very well.

Here is our perfect little princess.

Celebrate with us!!




June 29th, 2010

This is the tomato that we have grown in our own back garden. I personally had nothing to do with it, which may explain why Kimmy thought that it was the tastiest tomato she ever had.

Photography by Kimmy.


Coulda, shoulda…

June 25th, 2010

More than a week between posts is quickly becoming the norm, rather than exception, for me.

During this last week, I could have written about a number of subjects.

I could continue to opine on the World Cup – disallowed goals, inanity of soccer being the only sport where the referee is both allowed to “interpret” the rules and to avoid any accountability to the public for his bad decisions, unwarranted yellow cards that ruin the games, disappointing performances, maddening leave-it-until-late tendencies of the US team, the domination of South America, the comprehensive dud showing by African teams… But I recognize that most of my audience does not give a rat’s posterior about soccer – and an even-sided analysis would take too much effort to write up, in any case.

I could express my delight at learning that when Russian TV project called “National Treasure” (I once mentioned it here) concluded, the winning song was one that I would most likely call my personal top favorite. I long ago started to think that Russia and I have nothing in common anymore except the ability to converse in the language. Turns out, there is that small little bit where I can say Russia and I see eye-to-eye… But I already posted that song in the past (if you are interested, look for the last video in this post), and I did not want to go into a long rumination on why this song seems to appeal to people of diverging generations and walks of life.

I could reflect on the fact that my eldest child is now of an age where we not only let her travel to foreign destinations for holidays, but we even allow her to get on the plane all by herself (she was picked up immediately upon arrival by the lead of her study program, so in fact, she was only on her own between the time she boarded the plane and exited through the customs on the other end)… But that brings me too close to reflecting on my advancing age, and I am lately becoming a bit too sensitive about it, for reasons I cannot explain.

I could also express how it warms my heart that my children are keen on studying foreign cultures and languages, but I am pretty sure I already discussed that ad nauseam in years past.

I could even profess my envy that Becky is spending two weeks at my favorite place on Earth, but that would border on unseemly.

I could…

But I didn’t.

Doesn’t sound like you missed anything, anyway.


Random notes from O’Hare

June 16th, 2010

Either I am exceedingly lucky or I don’t understand at all complaints of other people about O’Hare airport. I flew there and back quite frequently in my pre-England years, and just made a second trip this year, and I don’t seem to ever get stuck going through O’Hare. Going in or coming back, flights depart on time and arrive on schedule (although, truth be told, we did wait almost half an hour for take-off on the way back – but, apparently, that is “built into the schedule”, according to our pilot). No long delays on my memory.

I suppose now I jinxed it. My next trip to Chicago will be nightmarish, no doubt.

Walking through the airport, I was momentarily surprised with seemingly overwhelming interest Americans pay to the soccer World Cup. Every TV in every O’Hare bar was tuned to the broadcast of the live game. The teams playing? South Africa versus Uruguay. Wow, I thought, if a game between those two opponents is being universally watched, then Americans must truly be soccer aficionados nowadays.

Then it hit me. The game was on ESPN. Likely, the default channel on in any bar.

I was overly cautious about the Chicago traffic and the ensuing security controls, and found myself at the gate with more than an hour to spare before boarding time. So instead, I went to one of the nearby eateries, procured a seat at the bar, and ordered a glass of wine. The bartender asked me for an ID. When I commented that I did not think I looked that young, my neighbor at the bar chuckled and explained that at this particular bar they seemed to be carding everyone. Over the next hour, quite a number of fellow passengers – almost invariably in their forties or beyond – stated their delight at being carded, only to have their joy deflated when someone would tell them they were not really special that way. Quite amusing.


Watching the World Cup

June 14th, 2010
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I finished Kimmy’s birthday movie with over a week to spare. Go me! It turned out pretty good, if I say so myself, but I’ll be sure to post here the raving reviews I’m certain to receive after its premiere this coming weekend.

Of course, I spent so much time focusing on that one project over the last three months, that a ton of other projects piled up behind it.

And as if I needed any more things to distract me, something really important and non-negotiable in nature sneaked up on me – The World Cup.

I recognize that most of my readers have little care for The Beautiful Game – feel free to skip the rest of this entry. I’ve been so neglectful a blogger recently that I deserve to be ignored when I finally find something I deem worth spending time on writing up.

Actually, it is a bit too early for any strong impressions of this Cup – 12 of the 32 teams are yet to take field for their opening games. I have to say that I am slightly disappointed by the quality of football that I’ve seen so far, but no major surprised have occurred, a few title favorites that have already played confirmed their claims, a few weaker teams were exposed as prime candidates for group stage elimination.

What I am mostly incredulous about is the quality of commentary and analysis on ESPN/ABC. I suppose I should not be complaining overall, with every single game available on prime channels live in magnificent HD. Furthermore, with British Sky network apparently not getting any broadcast rights for the Cup, ESPN/ABC hired several Sky commentators and talking heads to spice up the proceedings. I happened to like a number of those guys while I was a Sky subscriber.

Here in the States, they show immediate signs of degradation. Led by ESPN anchors who are all in love with the sound of their voice and can never condone asking a question that does not have several sub-questions and not take three time as long to ask as to answer, all of these commentators slide into meaningless platitudes, cliches and occasional sweeping over-dramatizations. They spend more time reminding the viewer of the upcoming coverage (ending each such reminder with the inane tagline: “Remember, one game changes everything!” – WTF?) than actually commentating. They try to sensationalize things as much as they can at the expense of the game analysis.

And what about those slo-mo close-ups of footballers’ grimacing faces every couple of minutes? Must be the next bright idea someone had about making football more appealing to an average American viewer: Inject emotions into the broadcast! Hey, this is not golf. You want to fill the pause in proceedings, show me a replay of the last key moment in the game, rather than what the broadcast director feels is the example of the players “feeling it”.

And the information graphics that comes up on the screen a la baseball stats is sometimes simply laughable. Every other fact is bound to be incorrect, from Holland listed as getting 4th place as their best result to-date (in fact, it was a runner-up not once but twice) to the names of clubs to which players belong misspelled or probably invented (how one misspells “Alaniya” to get “Kublan” for one Nigerian midfielder who plies his trade in Russia is beyond me).

It all looks so amateurish it is not even funny.

Reminds me of the Soviet TV coverage of the 1990 World Cup. Then, as one star player from each country would give a short immediate postgame interview, somebody in the TV hierarchy decided that it would be a grand idea to include those interviews in the broadcasts. The interviews were conducted in each player’s native language. For whatever reason, nobody cared to actually hire proper interpreters. Instead, the live sound stream would be sufficiently diminished to make the actual words coming out in Spanish, Italian, German, French, Portuguese, etc, practically indecipherable, overlaid with a bright young voice sounding as if it was translating.

One small problem. Football players have a habit of exchanging jerseys after completion of important matches. Hygienic considerations notwithstanding, a fair number of players would put the opponent’s jersey on when exiting the pitch – I suppose they want to keep their hands free for whatever reasons. So, an Uruguayan player puts on a jersey he obtained from his Italian opponent before coming on for his interview. Italy won 2-0. The behind-the-screen “interpreter” works off the sight of an Italian jersey and proceeds to talk about “elation”, “hard-won battles”, “scoring when we needed to”, “giving credit to the tough Uruguayan team”, etc… But anyone who’s just seen the game knows that the player in front of the camera is actually Uruguayan, and he is probably talking about “disappointment”, “missed chances”, “mistakes in defense”, “bad refereeing decisions”, “giving credit to the deserving Italians”… It was such a blatant attempt to deceive the viewers, exposed in such a simple but spectacular fashion. Every time I see an attempt at broadcast sophistication where incompetence is brightly shining through, I think back to that.

Just as with the Olympics, I have little choice in the matter. I want to watch – I’ll have to do my best to tolerate.

Chronicles, Sports

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.