Friday, December 27, 2013

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Dear North Florida/Jacksonville-

Why is it, if you don't mind my asking, that when I'm out of the country, the only time I hear about Jax or NoFL it's because of stupid shit?

Last year, some dumbass was trying to smuggle a sandwich into a movie theater in St. Augustine and someone with quite an overactive imagination dropped a dime on 'em.
Told the po-po there was suspicious moviegoer who might have a gun, or words to that effect. Result: World-wide ridicule about "Dumb Florida rednecks."

This year it's a 600 person riot on the Northside being reported in the Austrialian press.

Jeebus Pete, I leave you guys alone for a couple weeks and everything turns to shit.
It's getting so you can't trust people in North Florida/South Georgia with a burnt-out match or a bucket of piss.

Fer chrissakes, you  people better get your shit squared away or we're never going to get invited anywhere.



Thursday, December 26, 2013

Getting Talked About

Notoriety - I doesn't need it.

I was getting some fresh towels down at the front desk last weekend...
(They don't service the rooms on Sunday. Go figger.)
Front Desk Clerk One: "For 708? Right."
Yours Truly: "Yep."
FDC1: "You're with TennisAustralia, right? What do you do for them?"
YT: "Just IT stuff- network, phones, internet..."
FDC1: "Oh..." She had a puzzled look.
YT: "Is there something wrong?"
FDC1: No...Um...You don't look techie."
YT: "I'll take that as a compliment. I think."
 - - -
Today, talking to a different FDC about an issue in the laundry room:
FDC2: "...we'll take care of that. You're in 708- You're the techie with TA?"
YT: "Yes Ma'am." She knows I'm a tech? Hmmm.
FDC2 gives me an over-the-glasses look. "Really?"
YT: "Yes... Why?"
FDC2: "Oh, no reason."
My turn for the over the glasses look.
YT: "No, now, why does everyone keep asking what I do for TA?"
She looks around, checking for eavesdroppers.
FDC2: "There's been discussion that you are a policeman."
YT: "How's that?"
FDC2: "Just speculation. No reason."
YT: "Hmm. Nope. Not a cop. Just a tech."
FDC2: "Okay... If you say so."
YT: "Seriously. You want me to come back there and configure a router for you, or maybe crimp you a Cat-5 cable?"
FDC2: "No... I believe you."
YT: "I should hope so... But seriously, why do folks think I'm a cop?"
FDC2: "No idea. That's just the chatter."

Hmmm. Chatter about the Big Guy in 708.

I think I figured out why...

I had brought along an old issue of Concealed Carry magazine on the trip just to have something to read in case I needed a break from my iPad. I threw it on the nightstand when I cleaned out my backpack the other day looking for some odd or end in the bottom of the pack.

Mystery solved...

This brings up a new idea.
I will definitely pick up some other similar reading material for my trip to Sochi;
Maybe it will make the housekeeping staff give the room a little more attention...
(Them or the Russian NSA-analog. They're probably one in the same anyway.)


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

From the Mail Bag

While researching CC Moore's "A Visit From St. Nicholas" I came across some versions I hadn't seen before, some which I sent off to various friends that I thought might find them interesting...

I got one back (thanks RC!) that I don't remember reading before. Based on it's vintage, some of you might have seen it before... If not- please read and take to heart the message.
Merry Christmas, My Friend
(a perennial military favorite)

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one-bedroom house made of plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney with presents to give,
And to see just who in this home did live.

I looked all about, a strange sight did I see,
No music, no presents, not even a tree.

No stocking by mantle, just boots filled with sand,
And on the wall pictures of far distant lands.

With medals and badges, awards of all kinds,
A sobering thought came to my mind.

For this house was different, so dark and so dreary,
The home of a soldier, now I could see clearly.

The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in this one-bedroom home.

The face was so gentle, the room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured a United States soldier.

Was this the hero of whom I’d just read?
Curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed?

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.

The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.

The soldier awakened and I heard a tough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry. This life is my choice.

“I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more,
My life is my God, my country, my corps.”

The soldier rolled over and soon drifted to sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.

I kept watch for hours, so silent and still,
And we both shivered from the cold evening’s chill.

I didn’t want to leave on that cold, dark night,
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.

The the soldier rolled over, with a voice soft and pure,
Whispered, “Carry on, Santa. It’s Christmas day. All is secure.”

One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
“Merry Christmas my friend, and to all a good night.”
                                   - Lance Corporal James M.Schmidt, 1998


Christmas Day

It's Christmas morning here in Sydney...

Been up since 5, reading my long-neglected newsfeed and replying to emails.

I did go shopping last night-
Tough choices...

Hmmm. Spiced rums are popular here.

These look tasty...

My local favorite - Old Bundy!

And for the breakfast entree?

Yeah, baby.

So- enjoying a cup of Bundy & Coffee, and grilling up some slices of meat product...
Hope your Christmas Morning is wonderful and fulfilling.


Dear Entitlement Idjits

Be careful of what you want. You MIGHT get it.


Christmas Eve

It's 4:30p here in Sydney-
I'm the last one on-site- time to split.

But first-
To all my Constant Readers- Merry Christmas, however you choose to spend it.
Working, playing, relaxing with friends & family...
Do it with the gusto of a hound dog digging into a charcoal-broiled sow's snout.

I'm going to get some dinner, then go grocery shopping to get fixins for Christmas dinner.
No doubt the hotel staff will get to enjoy the musical tones of the smoke detector in my room going off...
(Astute Constant Readers will wonder how one can burn a Rum and Ginger Beer...
I shall leave that one to your imaginations.)

Meanwhile- I will share part of my End of Day report with you- I usually try to inject a bit of humor - it's the only reason people read the damned things anyway-

So from Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Center Centre:

‘Twas the day before Christmas, and all across the site
Not a possum was stirring; The staff left for the night.
Most cabling was done and phones were put in
I just finished my report when I heard a great din;

From rack A1A there arose such a clatter,
I saw that a server had something the matter;
There was smoke coming out of the main hard disk drive -
“No problem,” I thought - “I’m sure its set with RAID 5.”

But I found out the system I thought was unstoppable,
Had disk drives that turned out completely unswappable!
“No problem,” I thought. they’ve tape backup to thank;”
And then we discovered the backups were blank.

The UPS burped, and its lights all went out…
I started to scream! I started to shout!
But nobody heard as I vented my rage –
Way down in the server room, that dark possum cage.

When no one at tech support answered the phone,
I was nose deep in trouble, completely alone;

When out in the carpark a mad ruckus began
Loud squeaking and banging and a rattling tin can.
I ran to the door, thinking 'What the hell now!?
Looked out by my car, and then I thought 'Wow.'

Guess what had shattered my crashed network blues?
But a rusty old Ute pulled by eight mighty ’roos.
The cheerful man driving was giggling with glee,
And I knew at once who this plump bloke must be.

With a hard banking turn the KRA he barely scraped by
But those eight kangaroos fairly soared through the sky.
Santa leaned out the window to pull at the reins,
And encouraged the ’roos, by calling their names.

“Now, Kylie! Now, Kirsty! Now, Shazza and Jane!
On Kipper! On, Skipper! On, Bazza and Wayne!
Park down by the creek and grab a quick drink,    
I’ll run to the server room, Be back in a wink!”

So down to the creek those eight kangaroos flew,
With the Ute full of toys, and some tech tools too.
His eyes had the twinkle of technical genius,
We met by the door, to avoid inconvenience.

“What’s your problem?” he asked. “Never mind, friend, I know...
I checked out your network 'bout five hours ago;
Your routers are screwed, their eproms all crashed,
The switches are hosed and the cables are trashed.

His eyes - bright as opals - Oh! How they twinkled!
And, like a goanna, his skin was quite wrinkled!
His shirt was stretched over a round bulging belly
Which shook when he moved, like a plate full of jelly.

He spread out his tools, and went straight to his work,
He jacked in and killed the apps that had gone berzerk
Uploaded some software, and smoothly rerouted
Upgraded some drivers and then he quickly rebooted,

"Cheer up, my good friend! Lose that mindset so tragic!
Technology often looks just like some magic."
Look at the protocols, check one or two,
Debug a bit, test a bit, presto! We’re through!”
The data was back! Every system checked out!
Tears of joy wet my face as I staggered about.

“How can I thank you? You must be Saint Nick!”
He said, “Really, my friend, it’s not such a great trick,
If you don’t give up hope, focus on what you’re doing,
Stop surfing porn, the sysadmin knows what you're viewing."

We strolled out to the park and found his ’roos chasing a possum;
He kicked the vermin a mile with a boot that was awesome.
He boarded his ute and went through a quick pre-flight check
Then they were off, all the 'roos and the red-suited Tech.

He bellowed out loud as they swooped past the gates -
Merry Christmas to all, and goodonya, Mates!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Surfer's Paradise

Only in Australia TBG- ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒE





Sunday, December 22, 2013


I'm wearing doggles.
Doggles are cool.

Ergo, I'm cool.




Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday: Operation Hydrate.

In my quest to hydrate after sweating out several gallons of perspiration on Thursday and Friday, Saturday was an R&R day.

I drove down the coast to Jervis Bay, about 3 hours south of Sydney, ending up in a little town called Currarong, on the north side of the Beecroft Peninsula. The wind shifted on Friday night so it was coming out of the south, so I figured this sheltered bay would be perfect for a little snorkeling...

You can see from this aerial there is a long rocky shoal extending to the northeast.

Perfect for a shore dive...
Lots of fish, particularly class Chondrichthyes...

I came across at least 8 or 9 small estuary rays (Dasyatis fluviorum) like this little guy.

Lots of these guys under the ledges and the kelp.

I also saw a beautiful specimen of Glaucostegus typus, a juvenile shovelnose ray.

He was only a foot or so long- As he gets older his nose will get longer and more pointed.

I saw a few small octopi, but they are quick to take off and hide under the seaweed.
I got a glimpse of a small shark, but he was too far away- just on the edge of visibility.
Since he was up in the water column, he was probably a black-tipped shark.
Most of the other common sharks native to this area are bottom dwellers. Nurse sharks, Bamboo sharks, wobbegongs, Port Jackson sharks are all little reef-Roombas- vacuuming up all the goodies on the bottom.

The onle cool thing I did get on video was a Longtailed Ray who had seen some trauma in his life...

I called him Stubby, for obvious reasons.

Even missing his rudder, he was still pretty graceful...
The snorkling was great- then I headed off to explore the parklands/weapons range just south of Currarong- detailed in this previous post.

It's Sunday- Laundry this AM- then back to the site this afternoon. Yay.


Radio Silence

Yeah- I know. I've been a little heads-down this week...
Lots to do and poor conditions to do it in.
(Hint: 102 degrees on Thursday, 98 on Friday. And I'm working in a tent without 'aircond' as they call it here. So basically I'm sitting in a huge canvas oven;
Hope these cat-5 connections can take having sweat dripped on them and still work.)

 So- needing a little R&R and to let me rehydrate I went walkabout driveabout (as opposed to last year's rideabout).

This year I've been graced with a car- a Mitsubishi ASX...
Which is awesome if your a 5'1" onesie-wearing hot chocolate drinker...
Not so much when you're 6'5".
I cut quite the dashing figure as I unfold myself from it.
(Seriously, there has been laughter. For a moment or two...)

I headed south this time- I saw a nice geographic feature a couple hours south of Sydney while perusing Google Maps...

It's really cool when you see that the 'shoreline' is actually pretty high cliffs.

Hence the name "Point Perpedicular"

I shot a little video... The wind was whipping from the south at about 20-25knots

The was a small sailboat- maybe a 30 footer, heading up the coast...
This should give you an idea on the height of these cliffs.

Running on a half-furled jib and hauling ass...

Near the edge, we have a nice reminder from Captain Obvious:

Half of the area is a still-in-regular use bombing range...
The have signage about every 100' or so running along the dirt track out to Point Perpendicular...

So... there are two takeaways from Beecroft Peninsula.
1. Don't fall off the cliffs.
2. Don't leave the road.


Monday, December 16, 2013

I'll Take Nerd Pick-Up Lines For $800, Alex

Tech systems concern, or 'Talk Nerdy To Me'?

"My thick pipe can handle a lot of bandwidth...
Can your storage media accept it all?"




...Not for any good reason, just want.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Two Wheels Good...

I think I have found a worthy bike...
(Not for me of course. I'm a frugal bastard when it comes to things like transportation and domicile.
Firearms, however- No Expense Spared is my motto.)

No... I think this should be Borepatch's new ride...

Oh yeah, baby. That's a ride.

That's a Confederate Motors X132 Hellcat...
It's only $55,000 USD... Payable in Bitcoin or Krugerrands...

I originally was going to suggest Borepatch pick up a Gurney Alligator, since he had some issues with keeping both feet on the pavement as full stops.
This seemed to be just the ticket...

Looks to be a pretty sweet ride...

But that Hellcat. Mmm.
I had a mite powerful desire until I saw this:

It just took all the wind out of my sails when I saw that pic.
Oh well.

Maybe I'll just keep checking Craigslist for a R1200GS for the right price.



I just keep adding to the list of places where I'm not welcome back.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gender Specific Automobile

I just noticed that I got a girl's car from Avis...

Not that I spend a lot of time looking at the gauges anyway.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Saturday Afternoon Libation

The patio bar is open at the Sydney outpost of Casa Young...
Today's special: Dark & Stormy -
Rum and Ginger Beer.
Might need to toss a couple Barbies on the shrimp.
Or something like that.

An Addition To My Christmas List...

While up in Krasnaya Polyana we had a bovine encounter that gave me pause...
Young Ribeye here was pulling the old Black Knight schtick-
"None shall pass!
Only after I actually got out of the car and had a serious man-to-pot roast discussion did he mooooove along.
So this got me thinking about other possible critter encounters. Doubtful that they will have, oh, say, brush-tailed possums, but I'm damned sure there are bears in the area.
I'm wondering is the Dread & Awful Czar might have an old set of Russian bear armor sitting around Castle G, mouldering away in a crate next to the big box with the Ark of the Covenant, the bag full of fragments from the One True Cross, and the Blessed Slot Machine of St. Bernardine of Siena.

I wonder if they have one in XXL?


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Vehicle of Desire

Whilst waltzing around Krasnodar and Sochi, I came across a vehicle that tickled my fancy...

Now, to preface this missive- Uncle Jay is all about being unique (just like everyone else).
I prefer things a little out of the ordinary.
Hence the Blue Toaster instead of a Ford Exploder, the FJR instead of a Harley, a .44 Magnum instead of a .40 S&W.
You know...

So, wandering the streets of Krasnodar I saw a rather cool looking Microbus looking vehicle. Very utilitarian.
So I started asking questions...

To start with:
"'Dafuq is dat?!"
It's called a Uaz. (Oo-woz)
This was the first one I saw, but hardly the last. The damn things are everywhere in Russia.

I started to do a little digging...

And it seems like it is quite capable, if you spend enough on accessories.

(This is true of anything, from cars to trophy wives. But I digress...)

We saw them everywhere... Like at this checkpoint in Estosadok.
And yes, this picture is yet another example of Stupid American Tricks: Taking pictures of a security checkpoint...
Which can earn you a close encounter with a cattle prod.
Ask me how I know.

We started asking St.Ass questions regarding the Uaz.
He was understandably puzzled.
StAss: "Why would you want to buy zis piece of crap? Zhe ride is horrible because zey use shit springs, zhe brakes won't stop zhe car, and zhe steering is crap."
Yours Truly: "But St.Ass! It's so cool!"
St.Ass: "No, it izn't. It's crap."

He began to pontificate on how, basically, everything made in Russia is substandard and falls apart due to shoddy design and manufacture.
Of this, I am not sure...
I can think of one good example that disproves his blanket statement...
Is good example, no?
Reliable? Da.
Accurate? Perhaps, not so much.

Besides- getting a Uaz through all the EPA and safety BS would be a nightmare and probably be a show-stopper anyway, so I'm going to back-burner my dreams of having all the hipsters giving my cool ride covetous glances...

Maybe I can find this other cool ride I saw on the street in Sochi:
The Mitsubishi Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
"Hey- you got some of your station wagon on my sport car!"
"No, you got sports car on my SUV!"


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Krasnodar - Part 3 - Moving On

Back to the Krasnodar travelog for a couple quick notes-

Let's see... where was I? The last day in Krasnodar...
We had another get-together scheduled for Sunday before we headed to the airport...
It was a late breakfast/early lunch with St.Ass' mother's cousin or some such. Lots of tasty morsels including some caviar on toast and a several nice salads, and of course, wine or champagne for toasts.
No guns. Fortunately.
And no moonshine either. Fortunately.

For some reason, the booze the night before left me very dehydrated...
I would have been happy with a 2-liter of ice water, and I was having to be careful I didn't use the champagne to quench my thirst..
That would have been bad.

I got through this sit-down without making any faux-pas...
At least, I don't THINK I screwed the pooch along the way.

Wrapping the trip to Krasnodar I have to say it was a very pleasurable experience…

Except for the Airport Episode. (Or perhaps I could say “especially the airport episode.” But I am getting ahead of myself…)

3pm found us heading to the airport for our flight to Sochi...
Initially we were going to take an overnight train, but St.Ass found us $20 fares on Aeroflot. It was worth what we paid, but just barely... People that take $20 flights are exactly the people that can only afford $20 dollar flights- if that makes sense…
Not exactly the people you want to be rubbing shoulders with for 45 minutes.
I think the train might have been fun, but travel time savings was worth it. The mental scarring I got from sitting with the dude from Trashcanistan who smelled like a goat and had breath like Alabama roadkill, not so much.

Now, at the airport...
Regarding the Russian equivalent of the TSA...
The Russian Army girl working the Mag & Bag was rather stern but cute- very short white-blonde hair with dark eyebrows and when the metal detector went off she gave me a fun wanding, then a thorough and rather intimate pat-down.
People pay good money for less one-on-one contact in US massage parlors and tug-shops. After making sure I didn't have any C-4 and verifying the status of my circumcision, I was sent on my way to the gate...
I was tempted to go back two or three more times, just to get a good comparison- but I decided not to tempt fate.
I didn't check with St.Ass about how thorough she was with him, but I did see him sitting back and smoking a cigarette before putting his shoes back on...

About airports in Russia (and Eastern Europe...)
WTF is up with the jetways? I mean, they have them at the airports, but no one uses them. Vienna, Berlin, Sochi, Krasnodar... All of them use buses to get to and from the planes, which sucks when it's windy, cold and/or raining.
We have the technology, folks. Use it.
And speaking of that, there is a class of traveling asshole that I am seeing a lot on international flights- it's the guy/gal that gets up as the plane is making its way to the gate and opens the overhead and starts getting his/her shit down, or even more better- the one that runs to the front door as the plane creeps to it's final resting position.
Why, ferchrissake?
Especially when we are all just going to get on the same furshlugginer bus.
And the capper- a couple weeks back when we landed in Berlin and when everyone was standing, getting their stuff out of the overhead and waiting for the door to open and get on the bus- sumdood came pushing from behind with a muffled "pardon" to try to pass everyone.
Needless to say I was not putting up with that kind of impolite bullshit.
"Settle your ass down, Junior. We're all on the same bus. Just relax."
Man, I thought the 'survival-of-the-fittest, gimme-mine-fuck you' was limited to Asia... Alas, no...
So, I’m next to Goat Man, the plane is packed full and we were off to Sochi.


Sunday, December 08, 2013

Signs of the Apocalypse, Sochi Edition, Part 2

That's a funny place to keep a gun...


The Weekend From Hell

(We'll return to the travelogue about Sochi shortly-
Let me fill you in on my current nightmare.)

Chasing the Sun: Sochi to Jax to Sydney

Tech Rehearsal 2 in Sochi is over- Rain, snow, horrific traffic, biting cold, strange what-if scenarios, livestock encounters, lost creds, strange food, mystery booze.

For our part, things went smooth.
We did what we came to do, solved some outstanding port security issues, and generally made some great strides toward a successful performance come February.
Now, if all my equipment arrives intact and they finish construction in Sochi, it will be awesome.
So, now on to my next slice of fun... Australia, via the long way 'round. Why, you ask (Because everyone does) don't you go straight from Sochi to Sydney?
Well, we were only in Sochi a week to do basic testing and dressed for cold.
Now I'm heading to Sydney where I need completely different kit. Summer clothes, supplies, tools etc.
Besides, the FreqFly miles are almost worth the torture of economy class seats for 60 hours of travel on 7 different flights in 4 days.

Feel my pain: Friday 12/6 at 3:00am the fun starts...
I get to pre-game at the Raddison Blu in Sochi, trying to fix my bill as there are some odd charges in my folio.
Then the driver from NBC Ground Transport shows up and we head to Adler Airport.
First leg- Turkish Airlines, to Istanbul.

Ah, good times... A planeload of unwashed Eastern Europeans that have never seen soap and can't spell deodorant. They think an ounce of cologne is an adequate substitute for soap & water.

Phrase of the day: "Alright Aziz, get your unwashed ass out of the aisle and let others get to their fucking seats."
(Yeah, it was 4:30 am and I'm a little cranky.)
And the guy next to me, Jeebus. The BO could knock a buzzard off a shitwagon.
But... For an hour I can take the stink to get this show on the road.

Next - transiting Istanbul airport.

Travel bullshit 1- unnecessary credential checks.
From the time I got off the Sochi flight until I sat in my seat on the next flight 8, count 'em 8 people had to check my passport. Several needed to see my picture page, one leafed through all the pages and made a mark on a sticker on the back cover. One looked for the sticker the previous guy put on. Showed my passport and boarding pass to the gate attendant and ten steps later a uniformed chick in the jetway (jetway?! They have Jetways!) wanted to see both again...
Except for the unnatural need to see my passport, only one other encounter was notable. Going through the transit security an overzealous Turkish TSA-analog agent got a bee in his bonnet about a pair of hemostats in my carry-on. Remember what I said about being cranky... This guy got a full "Well, fuck you motherfucker, take them!" when he insisted they were forbidden.
None of the 150 previous inspections I've had while carrying them did anyone say anything. I put my disassembled carry-on back together under his watchful eye and saluted him...

"Fuck you very much, asswipe," and lumbered off.
Kinda surprised that I didn't get invited to an attitude adjustment session after that... I've got a short fuse when I short of sleep, or hungry, or traveling, or when confronted with dumbassery...

Ok, yes. I almost always have a short fuse.

Istanbul to London was passable: bulkhead seat, seat-mate that had bathed within the last 48 hours. I got a few hours in the airline lounge in London, then off to EWR on an 8+ hour flight.
(Movies: Cabin in the Woods, Skyfall & The Interns)
I also put a good dent in my current read, Bester's The Stars My Destination...
EWR was good and bad;
yay for Global Entry.
And my bag arrived all the way from Sochi.
The bad?
They close all but one TSA Checkpoint after 7,
And the TSA PreCheck lane closes at 7?
What the actual fuck, TSA?
You can do one or the other, but not both.

I had one more segment- EWR-JAX, and of course, there was one fly in the ointment.

I made it to Jax, but my bag of course stayed in Newark.
Any other time I could give a shit, but this time I have a short turnaround- I need my stuff. I have laundry to do and to repack...
I kept my cool and tried to charm the Lost Bag girl...
The bag will be in at 11, then they have a 3 hour window to deliver it.

Never mind, I'll come get it in the AM.
Which I did...
So now, Sunday AM, and I'm heading back to the airport...
Then 2+ hours to IAH, and 3+ hours to LAX, then 653,863 hours to SYD.
This is going to suck...


Saturday, December 07, 2013

Who Didn't See That Coming?

When you only have a 24-hour turnaround between trips, what are the odds that your bag will not make one of your connections?
In my case, it's 100%.
Thanks United.

Sunday Music Words & Noise

I got nothin'...


Thursday, December 05, 2013

Herring & Moonshine & Shotguns! Oh My!

Here Comes Trouble

How did this calvados-swilling Capitalist Pig wind up with a 12ga Over/Under in a Cold War apartment building?
Read on, Constant Readers.

So, on Friday evening we were off to the birthday party for St. Ass's cousin, Svetlana.

After a fairly short drive from the Krasnaya ulitsa we arrived in the target neighborhood, a warren of partially paved streets, ditches, playgrounds and car axle-killing curbs with parking for only 10% of the cars in the area. Hence- finding a spot to park was a challenge.
We finally settled on a spot that blocked access to a children's playground and only partially blocked the through street.

The buildings were Cold-War era high-rises and except for the signs and posters being in Cyrillic, it could have been part of Pruitt-Igoe. (Big points for any Constant Reader that knows the reference without clicking the link.)
Lots of concrete, corners and walls chipped and streaked by the cold winters and hot summers. Virtually no outside maintenance... 
A tenement, for all intents and purposes.
We got buzzed through the big steel door and found an elevator. It might have been a dumbwaiter, but for our purposes is was tight and small, but still usable to go to the...something...floor. There were no numbers on the buttons, but Vakhtang counted the them and pushed one seemingly at random...
The overloaded box struggled to get us up, and when the door opened it was dark...
Why waste power lighting a foyer? If you are supposed to be here, you should know where the door is.
We were welcomed into the mudroom for the floor, shedding our coats and our shoes, and then entered Igor & Svetlana's home. Vakhtang, St. Ass and Yours Truly arrived in style, bearing flowers and goodwill.

In Kazan I had noticed that there seemed to be a flower shop on nearly every corner.
I asked about this phenomenon, and St.Ass said that if you are going visiting for nearly any reason, it is considered good form to bring flowers.
In theory, anything short of a forced encounter with the specific purpose of bodily injury necessitates bringing flowers to your host.

Rules of Thumb:
  • Birthday party: Flowers.
  • Stopping by for a drink before going out: Flowers.
  • Collecting on an overdue debt: Flowers.
  • Accosting a neighbor for parking in your spot: Flowers
  • Chasing down a local hoodlum for impregnating your 14 year old daughter: Tokarev 7.62x25
Enough said.

So- Social occasions in Russia differ from those in America in a couple ways...
For instance- In the US, a table or series of tables will be set with different foods to be enjoyed. Guests will fill a small plate or napkin or whathaveyou and circulate among the other guests, joining or leaving small discussion groups. A somewhat random method for people to socialize.
In Russia- social encounters are, as a rule, dinner parties. Everyone sits down at a single table and enjoys the offerings of the house, and the conversation is (mostly) a single discussion involving all the participants. (unless, of course, you are American, and only one or two of the nine people there speak Engrish, then hopefully one of the Engrish-speakers will indulge you and translate specific exchanges and discussion points.)

Alcohol flows freely, and long, detailed toasts are mandatory for all participants.

And the food... Oh. My. Ghod, the food!
Salads, pickled vegetables, baked salmon, a beet-fish-potato dish called 'herring under fur', baked chicken, slaw, olives, and the list goes on and on...

This picture does not do justice to the feast that Svetlana put on for us...

Now- I have been overindulging in pickles and fish (and pickled fish) over here...

On my first night at Hotel Terem in Krasnodar I had a pickled vegetable plate, salted herring and smoked salmon whilst being serenaded by the Violin Girls and it was marvelous.

The next day we went and caused a shortage of salmon and caviar in the Krasnodar region, due to sampling; Some might even call it oversampling.
(Those Saturday Morning grazers at Costco could take lessons from us.)

Then at this party there was the "herring under fur" which was awesome.

My indulging in salmon and herring continues here in Sochi, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let's talk about booze...
Svetlana's better half Igor started us off in style- he brought out a cut-class decanter of a homebrewed samogon (rus: самого́н) called sha-sha...
Relatively smooth but very warm, it reminded me of the Raki I had in Crete...
Igor then produced a recycled Tullamore Dew bottle filled with his self-distilled calvados- an apple-based brandy that was very fine - even smoother than the sha-sah.
I could tell we were in for a long evening.

Igor and Yours Truly

One thing about Russian get-togethers, there is a good amount of drinking...But it is done with style and grace...
Glasses are periodically filled and a guest will rise and say a few kind words about the birthday boy or girl, or the anniversary couple, or whoever. Some of these toasts were quite wordy, and when you don't understand all the words (nay, ANY  of the words) you can miss the point if you don't pay attention.
As Vakhtang gave his toast in honor of Svetlana's birthday, I watched the faces of the folks at the table... Lots of nodding in agreement and other forms of agreement.
I even took my turn and gave a short toast... Nothing memorable, and I'm sure St.Ass cleaned it up when he translated it, but it was all good.

Igor got a little into his cups and somewhere along the way St.Ass mentioned my enjoyment of shooting sports and Igor got a crazed gleam in his eye...
He rushed out of the room and came back in with a 12ga. over/under with modified chokes.
This, I was not expecting.
It was a beautiful gun. St.Ass explained that Igor was a hunter and that I should blow off going to Sochi and stay in Krasnodar and we'd go duck hunting.

First- Way cool. I had no idea that casual gun ownership was widespread.
Second- I was worried about the other guests and how they were feeling about us fondling this boomstick. But, no one ran screaming from the room, so, all's well.

Until he brought out his Browning .300 Winmag.
Holy crap! What a gun!
Surely this is not for casual plinking...

No, he trotted out his laptop and we scrolled though the pictures from his last bear hunt.
He and his hunting buddies- out in the wilderness hunting for Ursa Major.
And it look like they bagged 3 that trip.

More drinks! More toasts!
And more guns!
He then brought out his squirrel gun, a Walther G-22- complete with a suppressor.
Again, I was astounded.
We chatted gun stuff, with St.Ass translating Igor's increasingly inebriated speech...
He was pretty well in the bag- and I was feeling pretty good.
The crystal decanter was empty, the Tullamore Dew bottle was a dead soldier.
We wrapped up, Igor insisting I come to Russia again after the Olympics and we would hunt duck and bear and many other creatures, there would be sha-sha, calvados and all manner of good things.
Vakhtang and St.Ass took me back to Hotel Terem...
As I got out, St.Ass was passed out in the back seat of the car-
He'd been hitting the wine pretty hard... I hoped for Vakhtangs car's sake it wouldn't be a replay of TR2 in Torino...

Tomorrow- another get together, and a flight on Aeroflot.
I was looking forward to that.


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Signs of the Apocalpyse - Sochi Edition, Part 1


Obama Presidency in One Word

...and the word is "Under".

The entire "Chicago-style" administration is run as a textbook example of 'Underworld'.

Most of the administration staff (Holder? Jarrett? Emanuel?) fly UNDER the radar, and never endure the scrutiny of an honest media.

If one of these 'chosen ones' screw the pooch, it's all swept UNDER the rug...

But, if you are one of the more mundane peons in the O-ministration and you piss off one of the chosen few or even worse the Lightbringer hisself- well, you'll find yourself UNDER the bus faster than you can say 'redistribution'.


Krasnaya Polyana Protocol

So... Folks working at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, home of Snowboard & Freestyle Skiing events, have established some protocols to improve life at the site.

If you are too lazy to walk down to the porta-john, walk down to the end of the trailer before relieving yourself.


Really guys? 40 meters is too far?

TBG - Regretting that last cup of coffee...

Just A Quick Observation

I'm always trying to define parallels and differences in the various cultures that I visit over the course of my travels.

Over the last couple years I have noticed some things about police & politicians in different countries.

In the US, there is a tendency to take the police seriously, but by and large, politicians are a joke of the first order.

In China* the police not taken too seriously, but no one fucks with politicians of any sort.
That will get you disappeared, and a bill for that 7.62x54r round will be mailed to your next-of-kin.

I braced St. Ass about cops and politicians in Russia.
"You don't want to scroo wit' any of zem. In Russia, if a cop or any kind of politician comes after you, RUN! Run for your life!"

So... there you have it. Even with that clown that's occupying the office of the President in the White House, it could be much worse. Just be thankful your dog is getting enough cheese.

*well, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. I didn't have police encounters in Guangzhou or Shenzhen. Fortunately.


Krasnodar Invasion

The city of Krasnodar was originally named Екатеринода́р, in honor of Catherine the Great's gift of the land to the Black Sea Cossacks. Yekaterinodar = Catherine's Gift...

And in the manner typical of the period after the 1917 Revolution, a renaming was in order. The city became Krasnodar (krasno = Red, dar=gift - hence 'the gift of the Reds')

St.Ass and Vakhtang took great pains to introduce me to Krasnodar correctly...
First - a trip to the market.
Where, of course, I made a spectacle of myself.

I'm going to need a bigger spoon.

The salmon and caviar were amazing...
We procured samples of each, to be enjoyed later.

A photo op with Salmon Girl... She was a really good sport for letting us sample her stock. I think she was a little frightened at first, be she warmed up after we actually bought stuff.

Then we were off to the meat market...

"I'll take some of this Speck, some of the snausage...and that paprika-covered pressed beef...and..."

"Ooh! And the shrimp! And the squid salad! And the pickled salmon! Hell, just give me a big shovelful of each one!"

Jeebus, I had to get out of there!
We were getting a little bit of everything- and I wanted to avoid the candy and the bakery section.
That could only end in tears.

Ok... Let's see the city.
We took a long walk up Krasnaya ulitsa, starting at the Orthodox Church and the monument to Catherine and the Cossacks.

St. Cathrine Orthodox Church

Y'know... I'll bet this is an Ingress portal...
But, no 4G, so I won't know until later.

St.Ass and Yours Truly at Kate the Great's monument.

A statue inspired by a poem about the dogs of Krasnodar...
Its supposed to be good luck to pat them on the nose or head.

I like how they merge the double headed eagle (symbol of the Czar's patronage of the Black Sea Cossacks) and the all-seeing surveillance camera... Nice.
(The stylized E is the symbol for Ekaterina- Catherine to us unwashed barbarians.)

Monument to the Cossacks, in front of an old Soviet building.

Another monument to St. Catherine on Krasnaya ulitsa.
Seems like you can't swing a rat on a string without hitting a statue or monument.

After a long stroll down the boulevard, we headed to our next close encounter:
A birthday party for St.Ass's cousin...

They tell me there will be much booze. I can hardly wait.

TBG - (The Beverage Guzzler)