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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Anna — 10 Months

Us on grandma's birthday.Вот Анютке уже и 10 месяцев. Она такая славная и весёлая! Утром меня неизменно встречает её смеющееся лицо.

Анечка всё лучше и лучше ходит. Она часто пытается увеличивать скорость. Еще не бегает, но, думаю, скоро у неё получится. Она неплохо залазит на горки, поднимается ползком по ступенькам, ходит по наклонной плоскости вверх и даже вниз. Вобщем, умница. Все очень удивляются, когда узнают её точный возраст, ибо двигается она как годовалый (а то и старше) ребёнок.

Eating.Анютка очень любит каши, особенно овсянку. Гречку и пшёнку она тоже ест, но они более сухие, и, наверное, поэтому меньше нравятся. Еще она всегда с удовольствием ест чернику, бананы, варёную морковку. На днях она с огромной скоростью трескала помидоры и сладкую картошку. Вобщем, репертуар увеличивается. Я ничего не пюрирую, и покупное пюре из пакетика она тоже есть отказывается, за исключением мангового.

Arosha with flowers for grandma.Грудь Анюта стала брать намного реже, в среднем выходит около 3-5 раз в сутки. В идеале я бы хотела прокормить её до 1.5-2 лет, но не знаю как с такими темпами получится.

Mama with kids.Она неплохо говорит ма-ма-ма-ма-ма-ма-ма, но пока только когда хочет сама, а не по заказу. Но это явно относится ко мне. Еще, когда она чего-то хочет — например, чтобы Ароша угостил её мороженым — она издаёт громкое “аааа”.

А вообще она приносит мне очень много радости. Конечно, и Ароша тоже!

Anюta.Ароша, кстати, обожает играть в игру, в которой я делаю вид, что у меня нет детей, а он потерял маму и решил выбрать меня своей мамой. Ну и потом еще радует меня, что у него есть маленький братик Ари (или иногда он говорит маленькая сестричка Анюта).

Aroshka.Мы очень много гуляем на улице каждый день. По 3 с лишним часа утром и 1.5-2 вечером. Анюта, кстати, очень любит шарики с водой. Она их лопает. Надо отдать должное Ароше, он никогда не против, чтобы я надула первой ей, да и всегда готов поделится с другими детьми на площадке.
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Friday, July 25, 2014

State Capitals and Washington

Washington, DC. View from WWII memorial towards Lincoln Memorial.As a side trip(s) or objective of our Tennessee vacation was to visit some of the state capitals and their respective capitols and a capital of our country. Arosha hasn’t been to Washington, DC yet and we thought that it would be fun for him to see some of the National Monuments that our capital has an abundance of.

Harrisburg, PA.Our first state capital stop was on the very first full day of our vacation. We stopped at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We’ve visited this capitol complex back in 2010 during our first trip to Shenandoah. Arosha too was there. Only he was only 3 months old. Also this time we were able to get inside and it’s as impressive there as it is on the outside. Probably one of the best looking capitol complexes that we have seen.

Dome in Harrisburg.Also while Brooklyn was still asleep spring was all over the place in Harrisburg. It was a very pleasant stop of our trip. We also got a proper state capital stamp inside the capitol building. And Aroshka clearly seems to be afraid of heights in certain places. When we were on a balcony of senate assembly he really wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

Inside Pennsylvania Capitol.On our way home — after Great Smoky Mountains we made a pair of stops in two other capitals that we haven’t been to before. The first one was in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was a nice looking capitol and pretty nice people inside. We also got a stamp there.

North Carolina Capitol.The thing that stands out the most for me about this capitol is the fact that it burned down to the ground some time ago because of an accident that happened while they were fireproofing it. Doesn’t get any more ironic than this.

NC senate.Another stop was in Richmond, Virginia. Now even though the capitol building was unusual the thing that stands out the most about this experience is an extremely rude elderly woman in charge of tours. We’ve been to numerous numerous capitols and have never seen anything remotely like this.

Historic room.She was rude to the point that she made Alena cry. Sadly I haven’t noticed it at the time or I would’ve raised an issue and would’ve demanded to speak to her boss. Anyhow. We didn’t see the inside of this place.

By the capitol building.Outside it had a nice park with a lot of statues. We walked around, kids ran around and played in the grass. We spent a decent amount of time here and if it would’be be for a crazy lady it would’ve been a nice experience overall. Alas.

Washington in Raleigh.To Washington, DC itself we dedicated a full day. Thus we spent two nights there. We originally were looking to stop at a hotel right in Washington itself as we did many times in the past, but the prices were quite high and those hotels only had valet parking (which we hate) available, which was priced at $40 a night or so.

Virginia Capitol in Richmond.So we figured we’ll just stay somewhere close, but outside and will spend the money for parking when we go to visit destinations instead of overpaying for the hotel itself. Either way we would have to take the car since you can’t walk too far with two little kids.

Capitol grounds in VA.We picked a hotel right outside the city in Arlington, Virginia. It literally was 3 minutes away from Washington itself. In fact when looking for our hotel we missed an exit off the highway (they actually changed the roads a bit, so our GPS was confused) and ended up crossing the bridge over Potomac river right into Washington.

First of many fountains we saw during our hike in DC.By the end of this day we were quite tired as we drove all the way from Chapel Hill with two long stops at capitals I wrote about above.

Einstein climbing.On the next day we ate our breakfast and were on our way to tour the capital. Remembering how hard it is to get into the capitol we didn’t even try it. Instead we decided to visit open famous monuments such as Lincoln Memorial.

Vietnam War Memorial.We didn’t have much trouble finding parking, although we did make a couple of large circles trying to find a spot as close to Lincoln Memorial as possible. In the end we parked some where closer towards the middle of the National Mall and settled in for a longer walk. And a long walk it was.

Inside of Lincoln Memorial.We started with a visit to a famous statue of Albert Einstein done by sculptor Robert Berks. Even though Arosha doesn’t yet know who Einstein is he liked the statue because it is very climbable. He was all over it. Next we set course to Lincoln Memorial. Arosha was impressed by a giant statue, stairs, columns. We also walked through Korean War Memorial and Vietnam War Memorial.

Lincoln Memorial. The sun is too bright.Then we set course towards the middle of the mall again and on our way made a detour to see a new Marin Luther King Jr. Memorial. I haven’t seen it yet and it’s an impressive sculpture.

Korean War Memorial.We also got a whole bunch of National Park stamps for our passports. Arosha had many new additions and I got a few new ones too. And then we walked back to our car through World War II memorial.

MLK Memorial.We were quite tired after this gigantic circles and were yet again impressed by Arosha’s stamina. This is the point where we decided to buy him a hot-dog which he really wanted since the moment we parked near a street hot-dog vendor cart.

World War II Memorial.The funny thing is that when later when we asked him what was his favorite part about Washington he would reply — a hot-dog. Naturally.

Us at WWII Memorial. Lincoln Memorial in the background.We all were ready for lunch. At first we found some Greek place via Yelp, but then while we were circling in search for a parking spot we somehow got away from that place and ended up in Chinatown. We parked in the first spot we saw and went to eat our lunch in to a place right next to where our car was.

Our dinner in China Town.The place was called Chinatown Express. It was very cheap, but the food was made right there (we saw a cook spinning the noodles out) and it was really fresh and delicious.

US Capitol Building in Washington.We spent the day with a nice walk around the Capitol Building. Originally we planned to visit Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, but we were so tired that we decided to leave it for the next time.

Spring in Harrisburg.We just went back to the hotel and rested. In the hotel we actually made an attempt to visit a pool which resulted in a parental epic fail, but I wrote about that before. Overall it was a great day. Arosha was excited about visiting Washington all throughout the trip and hopefully he’ll retain some of the memories of that day.

Dome of Pennsylvania Capitol.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

MMO Keybinding

Young Lord Skaf.I’ve come to a realization that I’m a gamer after all. Took me twenty years to finally admit to it. But more often than not I’m playing something. Computer games are making my mind run amok. The more complex the game the more fun it is. I love the “theorycrafting” aspect of all gaming and MMOs will certainly have that — learning how things work, how to be more efficient.

Skaf's talent build.From all my close friends I probably spend more time with computer games than anyone else, save one guy. And that one guy who in my mind was a super-gamer all the time that I know him (close to 20 years now) has lately decided to “degamify”, therefore leaving me to playing all by myself. Come on, dude! Regamify! Yes, you.

Darth Skaf.Anyhow, long story short — after approximately a year long break I have reactivated SWTOR. Since the early days of WoW I’ve only been playing PvE — Player vs Environment. After I was left all alone in SWTOR I decided to try my hand at PvP — Player vs Player. And did I end up loving it or what? However I faced a big problem stemming from a fact that I’m a clicker — a person who keeps clicking on their abilities instead of using keybinds — keyboard.

Skaf.Clicking worked just fine in PvE, but at PvP everything is moving at a neckbreaking speed. At the same time I always gravitate towards melee characters. And by the time I would reach somebody and start executing my rotation by clicking my abilities that somebody would be long gone or I would be dead. So that didn’t work at all. My solution was to switch to a ranged class that had the longest reach in the game — Sniper.

Agent Glaz.I was often able to be on top of DPS charts with my clicking. Those numbers could’ve been better and my survivabilty would’ve been better if I wasn’t clicking, but it worked. However the thing with Sniper is that you’re playing like a stationary turret. You just sit there and shoot. PvP game objectives often don’t revolve about being top in DPS and being a turret you’re not bringing too much utility to your team.

PvP match scorecard.I created a new character that I wanted to try for a long time now — Sith Juggernaut. Juggernaut is a melee class that can perform a role of a tank, but has a potential to put out decent DPS and has a decent level of survivability. But in order to be effective the clicking had to stop. So after all these years I’ve made an effort to teach myself to use a keyboard starting from level 1 with my new character.

Final look.Now being at level 55 I feel extremely comfortable with keyboard. I play blind without having too look anywhere at the screen and I do ZERO clicking as far as abilities go. Mouse is used for moving and sometimes targeting, although in vast majority of cases I target with the keyboard as well.

Juggernaut has incredible mobility and control of the situation with multiple jumps and defensive cooldowns. I can confidently go pretty much against any character and dish out a serious beating. For a change I feel in complete control in most situation.

UI, Keyboard and Mouse Setup

The first step for me to get comfortable with the keyboard I’ve redesigned my UI. I layed out my action bars as the 4 rows of the keyboard. This way I can easily monitor when my cooldowns are up and my fingers learned where to go because the layout of spells is exactly the same as the layout of buttons on the keyboard.

First UI attempt. Too much clutter.Second step was to unlearn turning with a keyboard. This is easily achievable by unbinding some of the default settings. The standard setup is W, S to move forward and back; A, D to turn; Q, E to strafe. I got rid of binds for S, A, D. If you are not used to strafing much yet, I would remap Q and E to A and D. But my mnemonic memory was already hardwired to Q and E, so I let them be. In addition to that I shifted them all by one key to the right to free up another easily reachable row on the left side of my standard hand placement.

Keyboard. Diagram built via WASD Keyboards site.I also did bind Shift+W, Shift+E, Shift+R (my movement keys) to some abilities that are not used over and over again. My standard defensive and DPS (damage per second) rotations are bound to the rest of the keys around those movement keys.

User interface. Final version.My standard damage dealing rotation goes in a circle around the movement keys. D, 2 is bound to starting of a fight. And then S, F, G, T, 5, 4. Defensive CDs are on A, C, Y, 3. Situation control is on Z, X, V, H, Shift+W, Shift+R. Utility spells are on 1, Q, B, N. Everything is extremely easy to reach and I do not have large hands. And everything gets used.

As I said earlier mouse is used for turning, by holding down the right button. I also mapped several key important spells with short cooldown, lots of damage and a little bit more reach to side buttons on my mouse. 4 and 5 from the list above are those spells. And I mapped one additional defensive spell to the 3rd most comfortable buttons to hit. It’s nice to see somebody casting something massive on you and reflect it right back to their face with a click.

Skaf. Another angle.A couple of words on the mouse itself — after some consideration I have bought a gaming mouse. (Spoiler: I didn’t like it.) I was picking between Razer Naga (12 buttons on the side) and Razer Naga Hex (6 buttons) — having Razer BlackWidow keyboard that I do like very much after getting used to it. I went with the Hex edition because there is no way I was going to use 12 buttons on the mouse. And button placement felt too crowded. Even 6 seemed like an overkill.

Razer Naga Hex mouse.After trying Razer Naga Hex for a week I hated it. My hand hurts, buttons are still not very comfortable to hit, mouse is not well designed ergonomically and it had a wire. I went back to my trusty Logitech and I love it. Four well placed buttons and the hand is relaxed and well placed. Razer Naga Hex went back to the store. This rarely happens to me — returning something.

And that’s pretty much it. Hopefully this a little bit of a guide will be helpful to somebody like myself. It definitely will improve your PvP performance. And I am truly enjoying playing my character.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Last Word on Hearthstone

Opening a new pack of cards.A couple of last thoughts on Hearthstone. At least for the time being. The game is enjoyable. I was able to amass a nice collection of cards and have achieved a rank of 12 (from starting 25). It’s not great at all by any real standards, but that was my best and is decent enough for my first TCG game.

Overall statistics.I’ve stopped playing it about 2 weeks ago. The main draw for me was opening new card packs and adding something new and nice to my collection of cards. At this point I’ve got a lot of good deck worthy cards. Most of them actually barring the legendaries. The only useful legendary that I actually did get is Ragnaros the Firelord.

My best Arena run.When you play Arena and at the end you open up a pack of cards and all of those cards are already in your collection you lose interest. At least I do. And when that happens time after time after time — well, you stop playing. Again, this is all normal and not a knock against Blizzard or anything. It’s just the way it is for a game of this type.

Super annoying murloc zoo Warlock.However I did build pretty decent fun decks for almost all classes. My big exception is Druid simply because I just did not get lucky with any good Druid cards. They are just not coming. My favorite classes in the long run are Mage, Hunter, Shaman and Paladin. My previous favorite Priest just doesn’t do very well with the way things currently are. Warrior can do really well, but it needs to have a ton of legendary cards to be effective.

Some Priest domination.The most popular decks in the current meta are Warlocks and “Miracle” Rogues. I don’t enjoy playing “Hand” Locks and “Zoo” Locks are just annoying. For “Miracle” Rogue deck to work you need a specific legendary which I do not have.

My highest rank.And that’s pretty much it. However there is a big expansion coming which is right on the horizon. Maybe I’ll give it another whirl when that comes around. Also Alena still plays some Arena games from time to time. I do still love opening new packs with her when she gets them.
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Monday, June 30, 2014

Anna — 9 Months

Anюta. 9 months old.Вот нашей малышке уже и 9 месяцев. Она уже ходит. Еще, конечно, не очень уверенно, но с каждым днём всё больше и лучше.

В последнее время я с детьми по будням часто хожу на Manhattan Beach. Идти туда примерно полторы мили в каждую сторону и занимает это у нас примерно 40 минут. Конечно, немного утомительно, но с другой стороны — это неплохое добавление к физической нагрузке. Ароша проходит такое расстояние без проблем, остановок и нытья.

Должна сказать, что они оба очень любят воду. Арошу невозможно вытащить из океана, хоть он и довольно прохладный. Анюта тоже как может быстро топает к воде и очень любит ходить по ней и шлёпать руками.

Они также хорошо играют в песке. Вообще на пляже весело — там обычно есть наши старые или новые (пляжные) знакомые. Мне можно поболтать, а для детей и компания есть, и дополнительные игрушки.

Brother and sister.Единственный не очень приятный момент, это мытьё под холодным душем. Но выхода у меня нет, потому что они под конец с ног до головы покрыты песком. Анюта плачет всегда (и трясётся от холода), а Ароша через раз. Я думаю, что от всей этой холодной воды они только здоровее будут.

Мы стараемся выходить на пляж пораньше, быть там в 9-9:30 и уходим с песка где-то в 10:30-11.

А вчера мы всем семейством ездили на Coney Island. Ароша очень любит кататься на разных каруселях и колесе обозрения. Всё прошло хорошо, хоть было и жарко. Анюта тоже прокатилась на колесе обозрения и на одних каруселях. Не могу сказать, чтобы это вызвало какой-то особый восторг, но и неудовольствия она тоже не проявила.

А на прошлых выходных мы ездили в зоопарк на Staten Island. Было неплохо. Ароше, конечно, там понравилось больше. Он стал вообще как-то больше замечать разных животных и интересоваться ими. Анюта, которая часто пищит от восторга когда видит собак или зверей на ферме, была к зверям в клетках развнодушна.

Strawberries.А еще неделю назад мы ездили собирать клубнику на ферму. Ароша набрал, наверное, фунтов 5. Он даже есть её на поле особо не хотел, а хотел собирать. Анюта тоже там ползала и пробовала ягоды. Я знала, что у неё после этого обострится диатез (что и случилось, но не в очень сильной форме), но не дать ей пожмякать и попробовать клубнику я не могла. Клубника, кстати, в этом году не очень сладкая, потому что было очень много дождей.

Анюта уже неплохо может пережёвывать пищу. Зуба у неё по-прежнему два, но это её не останавливает. Она пока не особо любит овощи и фрукты, а предпочитает хлебобулочные изделия и мясо. Еще Ароша её как правило угощает мороженым, которое он ест практически каждый день. Она, ясное дело, сьедает немного, но радости испускает на все 100 порций.

Picking strawberries.Вообще дни сейчас длинные и тёплые, так что на улице мы проводим очень много времени – 5-7 часов каждый день. Мне, конечно, тяжеловато это чисто физически выдерживать иногда, но на то оно и лето.

Книжки я Анюте читаю не так часто, как Ароше, но она слушает как я читаю ему, и, думаю, этого достаточно.

Спит она днём два раза — минут 30-40 на утренней прогулке, и часа 2-3 дома. Ночью просыпаетя 1-2 раза, но меня это не напрягает.

Анюта очень общительная, много улыбается и с удовольствием идёт на контакт и с детьми, и со взрослыми. Мнногие малыши на площадке любят её, делятся с ней игрушками и хотят покатать на качелях.

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