Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Vail, Rocky Mountains

VailOn Sunday we went to Vail. It’s a small village in Rocky Mountains (elevation is above 8000 ft). It’s very nice and cosy, even though because of the off season there was a lot of construction going on. I believe Vail is a major ski resort, but as I mentioned, season is over and at the moment hotels are very inexpensive (we paid $80 for a luxury room in 5 star hotel). The girl who checked us in called Vail a “Ghost town” ) It was raining Sunday night , but we still had a lot of fun – bathed in Finnish sauna (mmm, I loved the experience) and then we jumped into the outside hot tub and soaked there for some time under the rain. Later we had dinner in a fancy restaurant called “Terra Bistro”. Delicious food and very intimate atmosphere (I got pasta with tomato-lobster sauce, Eldar ordered lamb and Danya went for stake as usual ) And we got some appetizers as well).

On Monday (it was very warm and sunny day) we took a walk though the village and then headed back to Boulder.

The road itself is very beautiful. It’s interesting how weather changes with the increase in elevation level. We even ran into micro snow storm. I was pretty scared for a moment, because we couldn’t really see the road ahead. Interesting thing that speed limit on the mountain road is 65 mph (in NYS its 55 mph on regular highway). We made couple of stops on scenic view points, one of which was waterfall, took many pictures. Daniel was really fascinated with the tunnels going through the mountain (we encountered about 3 of them) )

In Boulder Eldar’s parents prepared delicious dinner for us. Gussein really knows how to cook meat!!! I think I ate my weekly dosage of red meat ) Because of the beautiful and calm weather we ate outside on the porch, and it was so peaceful and quiet there… Eh, sometimes moving out of NY sounds like a good idea )
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Saturday, May 6, 2006

Not Flying and Lots of 7s

Planes.This one is going to be about us actually flying this time around, and not the vacation itself. This time around we had way too much happen to us and the damn planes that we had to take.

First flight from JFK to Denver went without a single hitch. We were flying JetBlue. All the people working for the company were very pleasant, the flight took off on time, and landed on time.

However our second flight was where it all started. We were going from Denver to Las Vegas and we booked a flight on Frontier Airlines. Our pilot greeted everyone with the following words: “Welcome to the lucky flight 777 going from Denver to Las Vegas.” The plane started moving 5 minutes before the scheduled flight, so we were all pretty happy that we’d get to Las Vegas fairly early. That’s pretty much were the good things ended.

After moving for 30 or so seconds the plane stopped. We thought nothing of it yet. 15 minutes later the pilot informed us that they were unable to test some system so they had to wait for the maintenance crew to come over. After waiting some more we were informed that everything was great and they they were going to run a test again. The test failed again. The plane was moved back to the docking port and the maintenance crew was called in yet again. After everything was “fixed” the test failed again! This kept going on for a bit more then an hour at which point everyone started getting pretty upset. After some more testing the pilot informed us that we’re going to switch planes! That’s something that we haven’t gone through before. They had to bring out a replacement plane, and then board everyone by checking all the boarding passes by hand. You can imagine how quickly that moved. By the way, the raw that we were sitting at was number 17.

After all of that we’ve ended up in Las Vegas. Very much late, but we did get there. Eldar mentioned that we do not want to have anything to do with 7s anymore on this trip. This is about the time when we got the taxi wait line. “Car number 7″, said a guy distributing people at the line. We had a good laugh.

At the hotel (HGVC at Flamingo) we were told that they have a great room for us, 1047, but it would be ready in 15 minutes. In 15 minutes we were informed the room was going to be ready in an hour, but they have a nice one available for us: 327. So we figured that we should wait and agreed. When we go to the room, all the windows were overlooking an ugly roof with a lot of ventilation pipes sticking out and nothing more. We went back and asked for 1047, which ended up being a nice room after all.

But all that is nothing compared to today. We quickly check out of the hotel and got into a cab. Mid way to the airport I noticed that the cab number was 327. Funny, we thought. In the airport we went through the check in, and were in front of our gate well ahead of the departure time. Since we didn’t eat any breakfast we decided to go to a near-by Burger King and grab something. At about 15 minutes to departure we were done eating and started walking back to our gate.

You can imagine how much we were pissed when we saw the doors locked and the walk-way to plane moving away. They decided to depart earlier, even though there were check-in people not on the plane yet and 15 more minutes to go!! Hence the last time we’re doing any kind of business with American West (or US Airways that AW merged with). So they moved us to a flight to Phoenix, which should’ve connected us to JFK. Interestingly enough that flight got canceled all together. Then we were put on stand by to another Phoenix flight. However there were no empty seats for us! So they moved us to a JFK flight which is 5 hours later then our original one! All because those @#$%s decided to take off early! Anyhow, we’re sitting in an air port right now, waiting for our flight. We have a long flight ahead of us (hopefully) and our baggage is gone on the first plane, on its way to NYC. It better still be there when we get there.

Oh, and by the way. Our flight number was 22 and we were sitting in row 22. Then Phoenix flights were going from gate 11 and 14. The one that we’re waiting for now is at 17. The seating assignments given to us was row 7, which we did exchange for another row since they were not placed together.

What’s next?

This concludes my lengthy rant about American West. If there are alternatives to the flights that we will be taking in the future American West will not be our choice. Wish us luck, we want to get home!
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Tuesday, May 9, 2006

KA

KAOne of the good things about Vegas is that we actually go to shows there. I mean, we live in NYC and there is obviously a great deal of activities of that sort – from concerts and musicals to classic plays and comedies. But we only went once to a musical “Moving Out”, created by Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp. I wasn’t impressed at all, even though it won a Tony Award and was recommended to me by a friend, who loved it.

So back to Vegas. This time we went to two shows – Carrot Top‘s comedy show at Luxor and Ka by Cirque Du Soleil at MGM Grand.

Carrot Top was pretty funny. Even though some of his jokes were beyond my comprehension because of cultural and language differences. God, he talks fast!! I think Eldar had the most fun, but Danya seemed to enjoy the show as well. It wasn’t just a stand up comedy – he was pulling out different stuff from a bunch of trunks on the stage to assist his jokes.

Ka was our (mine and Danya’s) second experience with Cirque Du Soleil. I think the show was just spectacular. The theatre itself puts you in a special kind of mood, makes you feel like a child in anticipation of a fairy tale. I was expecting more marshal art scenes and was surprised to see some comedy elements (which were my least favourite in the show). Was amazed by acrobats. Some tricks they performed without any safety ropes are astonishing. I remember sitting there and thinking that I would never want my children (if I ever have any) to have a risky job like those people. Although I can’t but respect the art of manipulating and controlling one’s own body to that extent.

I also loved the costumes and the music of the show. They complement each other and help the perception of the story.

One more thing that added greatly to the show is the stage itself. During the performance it was floating in the air, moving from horizontal to vertical position, turning at different angles and so on. Never seen anything like it before.

Another thing about the show is that it actually had a continuous story, which linked all the episodes into one great canvas (which IMHO is unusual for a circus performances).
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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Vacation Dining

Mesa Grill, Las VegasOne of my favorite things about Vegas is the fact that there is a large concentration of really upscale restaurants on the Strip. Which of course we end up going to while we’re staying there. And even thought I can not consume large quantities of food, I do love good food. Who doesn’t?

Our daily Vegas regime usually includes 2 meals a day: a good all-you-can-eat buffet in the morning, and a good restaurant of choice in the evening.

Last time when we were in Vegas, we tried to get into MESA Grill several times, and every time we would get there we were told that the wait line is about 3(!!!) hours. Before I start, a couple of words on MESA Grill. This is a series of restaurants opened up by a famous chef Bobby Flay. He has 4 restaurants, 3 of which are located right here in Manhattan, oddly enough. Of course we end up in the only one not in NYC.

We were set on getting there this time, so Eldar called them up and made a reservation a day ahead of our planned attendance. Since we were flying in to Vegas on Tuesday, this is the day we made the reservation for. In the evening we got in after a short wait. Ordered a small appetizer and I got myself a Black Angus New York Steak. The appetizer was really nice, but the steak was awesome. Not often do you get a piece of meat that pretty much melts away on its own. Throw in a couple of Bloody Marys with that and you’ve got one hell of a meal. We ended up paying $114.55 for me and Alena, but it was worth it.

On our second night we decided to pick some Italian restaurant. Valentino in The Venetian Resort is the one we ended up going to. I picked some pasta with meat balls, which was not the best choice. I better stick to steaks!

Chef Pui Hui, Empress CourtWe did go to the only restaurant that we keep going to every time we are in Vegas: Empress Court at Caesars Palace. I’m probably not looking hard enough, but I do not know of any really good Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn. So we go to one every time we’re in Vegas. And our traditional choice is Imperial Peking Duck by the chef of the restaurant, Pui Hui, with some vegetables. It was as good as ever. $110.52 for me and Alena.

And on our last night we figured we’ll go for something different, and went to Gaylord India Restaurant in Rio. The food was pretty good and a nice alternative to all the steaks that I’ve eaten, but in the long run it caused us to cancel our planned trip to a club. Hot spicy Indian food just doesn’t go well with dancing.

Buffet at Mandalay Bay, Las VegasNow to the mornings. Our favorite buffet of all still is the one at Paris Resort. I’m not sure what it exactly is drawing us there, but it’s probably the fact that this is the only buffet that has crepes. Nothing better in the morning then a freshly cooked crepe full of blueberries. ) One our second day we went to Mandalay Bay’s buffet, just because we’ve never been there. It’s not better, nor worse then any other ones. And the last choice was Wynn’s buffet. It’s probably the most expensive one out there, but it offers the best selection of good food. Anything from Italian, American to Chinese and Japanese. We just liked it the last time we were there, so we decided to repeat our visit there.

Ribs at Ed's Cantina in Estes ParkIn Colorado I liked the ribs from Ed’s Cantina in Estes Park – good food for the fraction of the cost of anything in Vegas, really nice place in Boulder where we commenced in some serious beer tasting – the sampler contained 9 different kinds and a place in Vail that Alena posted about before. However on the top of all I enjoyed the steaks that Eldar’s dad grilled up for us on our last day in Boulder. Nothing like a good steak eaten outside in the fresh air with some tequila, and what’s most important – very good company.

And on that note, I’m getting very hungry, so I will stop typing and go raid the fridge.
In: Food & Dining, Travel
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Friday, May 12, 2006

Worc’s Big Day

WorcWorc had a very big day yesterday. He has finally received his Might shoulders. It’s been a long time.

It all started when we were raiding with Unforeseen Vengeance back in September of 2005. Molten Core was just too much for us at that point, and we have left the guild after winning 2 sets of shoulders – one for Zhah and one for Alona (our shaman and mage). At that point we figured that we’ll never get back in MC, and there is nothing more to do for our pair of 60s. So we made alts. I made a warrior – Worc and Alena made a pries – Vesna.

I remember walking around Orgrimmar being very envious of the lucky ones who were able to wear Pauldrons of Might. I was saying to myself, it’s OK, I’ll get myself a Valor set, and I’ll be happy with that.

Little did I know that starting from January we’d end up not only raiding MC again, but we’d end up leading the whole thing. It’s been over 5 months since our first UGH raid, and yesterday I finally have won the last visible piece of the Might set – the one I wanted the most – the shoulders!

All cheer for mighty Worc!
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Thursday, May 18, 2006

May 18

tulipMay 18th. I keep wondering if this day will always be associated for me with my Grandmother’s Birthday. She would have turned 82 this year. Лия(Liya) Удалова (Волконовская after the marriage). She was the daughter of Виктор (as far as I know he was a professor. He wasn’t Russian by blood, but Tatar) and Надежда (at some point she was an actress, but I think that wasn’t her main occupation through the life. I remember her pretty well – she used to teach me and my sister Krilov’s fables and I recall singing for her guests on one of her birthday parties, where I managed to embarrass myself by misunderstanding and thus altering some words of the song to the whole party’s amusement. ) She was also the one who bought us the piano so we can learn how to play).

Liya was born in Saratov and was the only child. This is pretty weird, considering that my great-grandmother was married numerous times after my great-grandfather died as a victim of the Stalin’s regime. I don’t know too much about her childhood and she didn’t like to talk about her youth. She used to tell me that she was very stubborn kid. ) She hated Stalin, because of her father’s arrest and death and used to tell me that when Stalin died she bought a cake and was celebrating.

I remember her smoking a lot. Always the same brand – Belomorcanal. I think she is the reason why neither me, nor my sister never tried to smoke. Grandmother picked up that bad habit during World War II and couldn’t give it up. She had 2 strokes and her left hand and leg were paralysed (she was walking slowly and was very good at using her right hand).

I think she was beautiful. Even after strokes, even when she aged. Her dark brown eyes always had that mischievous flame inside. Oh, I miss her so much. I still do.

She used to read a lot. One of her favourite books was … “Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas. When she was in pain it always seemed to lighten her up. One of the habits I picked up from her is reading while eating. She kept that special little book stand near the kitchen table and very often was reading something during dinners. And she also loved Gerald Durrell (as me and my sister do now).

She used to make wonderful yeast dough pies. Almost every time I was visiting her she baked a couple of open style pies with cherry plum or black currants preserves. Mmmmm… I never learned how to bake them myself. Maybe, I was too little (I was 12.5 years old when she passed away) to learn, maybe I just didn’t realise that we could lose her so easily.

Grandmother Liya was my father’s mother. He died when I was only 2 years old. She asked to be cremated and buried in his grave. She couldn’t talk about him without tears.

Her favourite flowers were Lilies-of-the-valley. We always used to buy them for her birthday.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Satellite Tour

I’ve seen Alena checking out somebody’s blog the other day, and that blog had several images from Goolge Earth. Google Earth is a software package which lets you view the satellite images of any place on Earth and the best part is that it is free.

I’ve spent a lot of time playing with it some time ago, and I found all kinds of places, including the building where we lived back in Tashkent. So I figured I’ll post a very small tour of some places meaningful for us. But before I start a tour, go ahead, and download Google Earth, so you can look around the places that I’m going to send you to on your own.

First stop is Tashkent, Uzbekistan. This is the house where I have lived for the first 15 years of my life. You can see the school that I went to nearby as well. I remember it all pretty well still, even though I haven’t been there since we’ve left almost 11 years ago. My dad has visited it a while ago, and says that a lot has changed since then. The trees that were growing in front of our window are gone, and instead there is a cemented parking spot for a car now. There is some shopping center / restaurant behind our house – a place where we had multiple camp outs with fires – where we used to bake the potatoes. Either way, notice how many trees there are all over the city. A lot of people don’t even realize how green the city is.

Our second stop is going to be our home in Brooklyn, New York. This is our building and you see the mark on the place where our windows our. You can see that we live half a block away from the waters of Atlantic Ocean.

If you go a little bit to the north-west of our house you will see the magnificent Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that connects Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Next stop is Honolulu, Hawaii. We had a vacation in this paradise on earth during the summer of 2005. We stayed at the Hilton Resort, which is a great place. During the day we would swim in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, and when it would get dark we’d move to the jacuzzi in our resort that you can see on the satellite image. You can try turning the buildings on in Google Earth for this location – they all have 3D models.

And for our last stop we’re going to visit Las Vegas. You’re looking at the resort known as the Hilton Grand Vacation Club at the Flamingo. This is one of our most favorite places to stay at.

You can see all the pools that we have numerous pictures of, taken from the windows of the hotel.

If you go a bit to the south-west you can see the huge musical fountains of Belagio. We have multiple shots of that as well. Here is one taken from the Eiffel Tower that you can see on Google Earth as well.

I’m going to wrap this up for this time, and let you explore a bit more around those locations through Google Earth.
In: Software, Travel
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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Virginia Beach

Virginia BeachYesterday was a Memorial Day = Holiday = Long Weekend. We went to Virginia Beach, which was Eldar’s sister idea. Me, Daniel and Eldar went together in Eldar’s rental car (Lincoln Town Car – big and nice. I took a nap on the back seat, using our beach towel as a blanket). We left Brooklyn Friday night around 6-7 p.m. and it took us about 9 hours to get to the destination place (well, we spent some time for a dinner at Applebee’s).

Virginia Beach was a lot of fun. Even though the ocean was still not all that warm, we went to swim in there numerous times on Saturday, and on Sunday we were playing and swimming and laughing in the water for more then an hour. I guess that’s why I got a cold. ( Sneezing and coughing and have a mild fever now. But it was totally worth it. Like my boss said today – it’s good to be young!

We also went to see “X-Men: The Last Stand”. For one thing, I wasn’t bored. Lots of action, some story, development of old and introduction of new heroes- what else one could desire from the movie of such kind? We’re definitely planning to see the next one when and if it comes out.

This trip to Virginia Beach was mine and Daniel’s second visit to that area. We spent an entire vacation there couple of years ago (summer 2004). Back in the days we stayed in Comfort Inn, which is 2 blocks away from the ocean. This time Danya and Eldar picked a more fancy place – Courtyard by Marriott Oceanfront Hotel. A room was a bit overpriced IMHO, but we enjoyed a beautiful view from the little balcony. I love the sound of the ocean. It interconnects with the shrieks of the people – special beach noise.

We got burned by the sun. Was my fault mostly. I decided that I want to look like I spend a couple of days on a beach, so I didn’t use a sunblock lotion. Danya just totally forgot about it (he loathes the whole procedure of putting it on, so I usually do it for him). So we spend about 3 hours on the sun unprotected and even though Danya tried to cover his back with the towel and Eldar put his t-shirt on it didn’t help. I was proudly and mindlessly wearing just my new swimming suit and I’m still paying the price. My back and shoulders hurt!!! And in the last couple of days the suspicion arouse in my mind that bra was originally designed as a special tool to torture stupid women like me. ) Oh well, next time we’ll be more careful.

One more thing that I enjoyed is drinking Corona with lime on the balcony. I was surprised by the taste. Added a lot of lime slices (Eldar had to cut them with a plastic knife) and it just gave the beer the aroma and unmistakable bitter-sour lime taste. Yum! But I guess the view, sounds and warm breezy weather added to my perception of this beverage.

It took us about 11 hours to get home. Traffic was terrible. But we expected it and weren’t too frustrated. All in all – this was a good weekend getaway and we’re hoping to go somewhere else on the next 3 day off deal.
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