Thursday, July 6, 2006

Lake Placid

Lake PlacidOne more long weekend is behind. This year we don’t waste them. ) Lake Placid was our choice. When Danya and Eldar started looking for a nice place withing our reach, they could find nothing. 4th of July weekend is a busy time of the year and New York is a big city. So honestly I thought that we will have to stay in our apartment and try to entertain ourselves somehow without being upset about a missed opportunity. But luckily Daniel found a vacant room in Hilton hotel on lake Mirror (it’s just by Lake Placid). And what is more – this time we stayed for free. The deal is that we signed for the Hilton HHonors American Express credit card about a year ago, and every time we used it we accumulated some amount of points. Most of them (140,000 out of 164,000) we successfully used on this stay. )

Motor BoatI really enjoyed our little trip. The most fascinating moment for me was probably when we rented a motor boat and were breaking the waves on Lake Placid in it. Danya and Eldar took turns operating it, while I was sitting in the comfy seat on the front of the boat. At some points I felt as if there were just me, wind and splashes of water. When our little boat was picking up speed, I realized why seats have to be soft. If you think that “landing” on the water at high speed is easy on your bottom you are mistaken! ) Danya was brave enough to leave the boat for a quick swim. We had to turn off the engine, but the boat was still slowly moving, so it’s a good thing that he is a pretty good swimmer. If that was me chasing the boat, our one hour trip could have ended up being a little bit more extensive and exhausting.

AlenaAnother water activity took place on Mirror Lake. We rented a couple of kayaks. It was a second encounter for us, although the first time we were swimming in a single person kayaks, whereas this time we decided to try double kayaks. I was getting in Danya’s way all the time – paddling with my right hand more then with my left hand, messing up his rhythm and so on. It was not intentional. I suppose I’m just a bit clumsy and inexperienced at this. But it still was fun. )

On Lake PlacidWe visited a little public beach. Once. Spend much more time in the hotel’s pools. Our hotel has one outdoor and one indoor pool and an indoor jacuzzi. Eldar is such a water creature! I think if it was up to him, we would sleep in the water, eat in the water, watch TV in the water and even swim around the town instead of just walking. )

We took a little tour on a boat to get acquainted with Lake Placid. Our guide was mostly pointing out multimillion “camps” on our sides and telling us who lived there and how they earned enough money to have those properties. “All you need is to invent something small”. Those were the words of our tour guide in concern to our impetuous enrichment.

Sports IconsLake Placid is famous as a host for Winter Olympic games – in 1932 and 1980. I wasn’t aware of this fact prior to our hotel registration, so Daniel enlightened me. The village and the lakes (Placid and Mirror) are located in Adirondack Mountains. It’s cooler and less humid there during the summer then in NYC.

All in all we had a great time and even were lucky enough not to get stuck in the traffic on our way back on the Independence Day.
In: Travel
Time: 08:21   Comments: 1 Comment   Post a Comment  
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

World Cup 2006

World Cup 2006With the recent completion of World Cup 2006 I wanted to say a couple of words about football (better known as soccer for Americans). I’m not going to claim to know or understand much, since my soccer fan career is only one month old. This was actually the first time that we watched anything sports related.

Initially we started rooting for Ukraine, and they managed to get quite a bit farther then anybody expected, but I guess everyone realized that they were bound to get kicked out. After that we started rooting for Brazil, which got kicked out by France in the very first game after we became their fans. I guess that was quite a big surprise for many people. I felt bad enough for Spain losing to France as it is. Then after that we became Portugal fans, which was promptly kicked out by France too! I think we’ve caused a lot of bad luck to some of the teams. )

In the final we decided that we were going to root for Italy, since Mike was and is a huge Italy fan since, I think, he can remember himself. We invited him, Eldar and Maruks to watch the game with us on our big screen TV. Maruks couldn’t make it since they had already invited their parents to watch the game at their house. We bought ourselves some beer, corn chips, some salsa and lots of sunflower seeds.

All in all it was a fun game, and finally somebody who we were rooting for won. Mike would jump up every time and start jumping on the floor clapping hands after the goals. I thought that he was bound to end up on the 5th floor eventually (we live on the 6th), but luckily the floors took all the punishment without any problems.

One of the strangest things was a very foolish way that Zidane chose to end his career. No matter what that Italian guy has told him he should’ve restrained himself. Scoring another goal would be a much bigger punishment for Italians then bashing the guy in with his head and getting removed from the field.

There is really not much more I can say about it all besides the fact that we’ll probably be watching the next time World Cup comes around in 2010. On an interesting note I should say that Mike has made plenty of bets throughout the tournament. First he and Eldar made a bet about a winning team. Eldar said that it would be Brazil and Mike said that it would be some European team. So now Eldar owes Mike 5 dinners. Then Mike made a bet with his barber about the fact that Italy will win, so he gets a free hair cut. And he also made the same bet with someone on the free lunch. He’s got a lot of collecting to do now. Maybe now is a good time for him to go to Vegas and bet on something else. )
In: Life In General
Time: 16:44   Comments: 3 Comments   Post a Comment  
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Thursday, July 13, 2006

To Green Or Not To Green?

Different color of the eyesWhen I think of an image of a modern woman, I can’t but wonder – how much of the appearance depends on the means of different beautifying products? I mean we dye our hair, we put make up on our faces, we do nails, we wear high heels, etc.

Eye without a lensI’m not an exception (well, we can exclude the high heels part for the most of the time). So naturally I fell for another trap of marketing. Maybe, if I didn’t use contact lenses on a daily basis this thought would not cross my mind, but alas! So, yeah, I got colored contacts. Sea green (now I wish I had a bright red wig). ) My natural color is grayish. Shade depends on the mood, make up, proximity to the water, clothes – I’m sure you know the drill. Contacts Green Contact Lensdidn’t do any radical changes, perhaps, just made the eyes brighter and, well, greenish.

Comment to the pictures – they were made at midnight, so my eyes are tired and artificial light sources were used, which IMHO made colors look a bit darker. We used a macro lens, which we borrowed from Eldar and a big flash.
In: Life In General
Time: 00:35   Comments: 2 Comments   Post a Comment  
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Friday, July 14, 2006

Alena’s Singing

AlenaThose of you who know Alena personally probably have spent quite some time listening to her sing. I, for one, enjoy it very much, and was very surprised when I heard her sing for the first time. So do my parents and my friends. My dad usually doesn’t say that he likes something when he doesn’t. Him and my aunt (his sister) saying that they like her singing really does mean something. Their father worked all his life as a director of an orchestra, and played a violin professionally. My aunt worked as a music / singing teacher for quite some time as well. GuitarMy dad used to play in an orchestra as well when he was young. He can still (35 years later?) play some things on piano, accordion, saxophone and violin.

A while ago we bought Alena a new guitar and some recording equipment. We bought a professional microphone (Shure 58), a pre-amp for the microphone and various cables and software to make our own recordings. We used Adobe Audition to record everything.

We recorded 2 songs with separate tracks. One for vocals and one for guitar. Then we sent everything to one of our friends who we’ve met while playing World of Warcraft – Jess. He’s done some major editing with reworking most parts of the musical tracks, adding his own stuff. It did not sound nowhere as good as it does after he spent a lot of time on these 2 songs.

Here are the results: Veter and Kacheli. Click on the names of the songs to download MP3 files. Enjoy! I know I am!
In: Life In General
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PhonesBack to my post that I ended up skipping a while ago: Palms. Yes, I’m crazy about all kinds of technological gadgets. Phones and handhelds are such gadgets and that’s what I want to post about now.

A while ago Alena posted that I wanted to buy the latest smartphone from Palm, Treo 700p. We actually went to the local dealer store that very day and did buy it. But before getting into the new Treo I wanted to post some history about this whole phone / PDA collection.

I’ve been spending the top dollar for the top of the lines phone since the day I could afford it. I can remember paying over $400 for now ancient Motorola V60 phone. Even though the old V60 is long out of service, the spending spree continues to this day.

My first PDA was given to me as a gift by my parents on my 21st birthday – Palm m515. Since that day I’ve got addicted to PDAs. Somewhere towards the end of 2002 my m515 was stolen, so I bought myself a new then Dell Axim (first version). As opposed to m515, which ran Palm OS, Axim ran Windows Mobile. I hated it, because of Windows and ended up selling it soon after. As a replacement I bought Palm newest at the time Tungsten T3. I managed to buy it from a store about a week before the official release. I still think that T3 is one of the best handhelds out there to date.

Since T3 had bluetooth in it, I wanted to get a good phone for it, to hook it up to the PDA. We ended up getting Motorola V600. However since since V600 was a GSM phone we switched to TMobile from Verizon (CDMA only). We only lasted with TMobile for a year, since the coverage and sound quality just doesn’t match to that of Verizon. Bought Motorola E815 phones and went back to Verizon. I managed to lose the phone about 3 months later in the snow. And at about the same time my T3 decided to die – some battery trouble.

I tried to activate my V60, but it was way too ancient at this point and it was no longer compatible with the networks. At this time Palm came out with Treo 700w – the one running Windows Mobile OS. I figured that instead of buying some crappy phone to replace my lost E815 and buying some handheld to replace T3, I’d do 2 things at once. Buy a smartphone. So I gave Windows another chance and was very disappointed as the first time.

Soon after Palm came out with Treo 700p which I ended up buying, and I’m very happy in the end. A great handheld, running Palm OS, built in phone and support for high speed wireless Internet through Verizon’s EVDO network. I can basically stream music from Internet to my phone without any interruptions.

Interestingly enough, my T3 came back to life soon after (I guess a good battery discharge fixed all the issues), and I got a call from Verizon saying that they found my lost E815 about 6 months later!

That concludes my “short” introduction into my world of gadgetry. On the picture you a see a pile of hardware that we’ve accumulated over the past years. The devices with screens on are my new Treo 700p and Alena’s Motorola E815 (which she, unlike me, never lost).

P.S. I do have Treo 700w for sale now. I’ve used it for a bit over a month and it looks brand new – not a single scratch. I have the original box with all the manuals for it. If you want it for a low price, leave a message in the comments.
In: Gadgets & Gear
Time: 15:32   Comments: 1 Comment   Post a Comment  
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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bye Bye Blogger. Hello WordPress!

Blogger vs WordPressIt’s been in the works for over a month, but today it is complete. Blogger was a nice place to start, but unlike most things Google it’s extremely slow and very buggy. However that was not the main reason for the move. WordPress has the following slogan: “Code is Poetry”. I happen to be one of those people who seem to agree.

With Blogger you can have your blog up and running in minutes. It gives you a bit of control in the template department, but that’s where it stops. I just could not bear not being able to change the underlying code and tweak it to my liking. WordPress gives me all that. In fact, switching over was an adventure on its own. By using Blogger for several months I’ve come to like many of it’s little nice features, and I’ve been at work making WordPress act the same way.

Also I wanted our blog to look exactly as it did. I was able to find an approximation of the same template, but it took a LOT of work to make it actually look exactly like it did on the other site. Perfectionism seems to be my weakness. I end up wasting way too much time for the smallest details.

But I’m happy with everything at this point, so bye bye Blogger, hello WordPress! Please don’t make me regret this choice.
In: Software
Time: 20:25   Comments: No Comments   Post a Comment  

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Heat and Cheese

DSC 8128  CustomIt’s been so hot in New York in the last couple of days. I don’t think the record was beaten, but we probably got very close. It’s so funny, how people always complain about weather – it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s raining, it’s not raining, it snowing, it’s …. But whatever - temperature, precipitation, humidity and such are our weapons when it comes to making small talk.

I’m literally sticking to the chair (it’s a leather computer chair), good thing that most of the time we have AC on.

My mom used to call me “Водохлёб”, which translates from Russian approximately as a “Water Gulper”. She was even afraid that i have sugar diabetes, because I love to drink water, and she wasn’t sure if the amounts I consume are healthy. ) When it’s hot those quantities double!! ) The only person from the people I know who can match me in this is Eldar. One day we should make a water drinking competition! Well, not sooner then we buy a house with at least 2 lavatories though.

DSC 8123  CustomLast week I discovered a nice place which sells a variety of cheeses which are normally not found in regular supermarkets, such as mascarpone, parmigano reggiano, sheep cheese and fresh goat cheese. The goat cheese is just so delicious, that I can’t stop buying it. Dan’ka refused to even try – his loss. I like all the milk products. My grandparents lived in the village Семерники (it’s about 120 km away from Minsk) and I spent a lot of summers in their house. They used to keep a cow and my grandmother could make different soft cheeses. For one of them she was boiling cottage cheese in milk for quite a long time, then butter, spices, eggs were added and cheese was put in a cold place for setting. Very easy farm recipe, I loved eating that cheese with honey.
In: Food & Dining, Life In General
Time: 18:51   Comments: 3 Comments   Post a Comment  
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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Skin Care Products: Photoshop CS2

SkinWe all know that in today’s world of digital photography things do not end with a click of a camera. All professional images that end up in the magazines go through one kind of manipulation or the other. One of the best tools on the market is good old Photoshop.

To demonstrate, we picked a random photo of Alena and decided to do some minor editing. The only thing that we “touched” was skin.

Did you ever ask yourself how the models in the magazines manage to have a skin like they do? Alena says she did, and the answer is pretty obvious. But enough words, just look at the images and compare (click on the image to see it full size). Skin glares, dark circles under the eyes and all the minor skin imperfections are gone. Photoshop. It’s the best skin care product out there!
In: Software
Time: 21:37   Comments: 5 Comments   Post a Comment  
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Monday, July 24, 2006

Summer Camping

CampingLast weekend we spent camping in North-South Lake Campground somewhere near the Hunter Mountain. We do it about once a year, even though if you listen to us talking about camping, you can get a wrong impression that it’s much more popular activity in our midst. So for me it was a 3rd encounter of the sort in the USA. This time around we had the “inner circle” company, just 6 of us – Daniel, me, Eldar, Maruks (Ilya and Alina) and Moisha.

When I think of our little trip I suddenly feel like a frog – traveler (idiomatic expression which origins come from a fairy tale written by Garshin V.M.). ) Fog, rain, mosquitoes, heavy rain, lake, a little bit more rain – totally frogish, don’t you think? )

The decision to go was made on a short notice. It’s hard to accommodate a convenient for everybody weekend if two of the people wanting to go have to work some weekends, and one lives in Colorado (although Eldar spends much more time in NY this summer then in CO). Danya reserved a spot on Tuesday. We got lucky – not only it was the only one available at that point, but it was a nice site close to the bathrooms and showers.

North South LakeOn Friday me and Moisha bought food and some other supplies. Alina did some shopping too, but wasn’t able to join us in our noble mission, because she and Maruk went to see “Wicked” on Broadway. Anyway, I should say that I’m very proud of me and Alina, because it was us who planned how much food should be bought (when guys do it we buy too much) and very little was wasted. We should do it next time too – less headache for guys and better money and space managing.

Saturday quite early in the morning we headed out on 2 cars – Moisha’s mini-van and Eldar’s rental Cadillac. Moisha managed to take a wrong turn (haha, good thing nobody lets me pick turns, because with my sense of direction we would end up somewhere in Florida) and lost over and hour going alternative way. Ironically we had to make some changes to the planned rout as well, because one of the roads was closed. We didn’t want to take a suggested detour because according to the map it was too long. Instead we took the local road #16. Couple of locals whom we asked for directions warned us about it being very dangerous and right they were. Narrow mountain road without any protective rail on the cliff side. Brrrr. And it was very foggy too – couldn’t see far past our noses. Exciting in a way, but on our way back we decided to skip the pleasure.

CampAs I mentioned, our camping site was really nice. We though that because of the bad weather a lot of people would cancel. Apparently, people who wish to spend some quality time with nature are not scared so easily. But our spot was pretty much separated and even though we could see some of our neighbours though the trees, nobody really was getting in the way of our experience. Except, probably the park ranger, who asked us to stop playing guitar at 10:30 p.m.,and after we moved our asses to the tent and started playing cards came again and asked us to quiet our voices down. Oh well, that’s the price for the showers!!

RainSince the forecast wasn’t very favourable (and due to the fact that we already had a bad experience with rain on our last camping trip to the same campground), we took some precautions. We put a huge 20 * 40 ft piece of plastic cover over our heads, using a rope to attach it to the trees. Unfortunately, we bought not the strongest rope. So when it started heavily raining, rope broke up in some places. I wish we had a video of our struggle with the nature! ) It was totally crazy and totally fun! We were trying to release some pressure from the cover and ropes by helping to get rid of as much water as possible, as well as not let our site to turn into a little pond by digging drainage channels down the slope.

FireWe were seriously considering leaving, but fortunately it stopped raining. Guys managed to start a fire again and we changed from our wet clothes and snickers to the dry stuff.

Later on Danya, me, Eldar and Moisha went to the North-South lake (what a name!) and checked out the water (everybody except Moisha, who didn’t think to take his swimming cloth with him). Water was very nice and seemed pretty clean. It had kind of a rusty color, I think the red mud is to be blamed for it. We played volleyball after that (there is a couple of volleyball nets near the beach). Volleyball is my favourite sport game evAr!! I used to play in high school and in the university and was pretty good for a girl (well, I’m not talking about professionals here). Now skill is almost lost, but I still really enjoy it.

MarukLater on Maruk cooked some shish kebab. We bought marinated meat for it in “Vostochnii Pir” (little restaurant on Brighton Beach), but I give Maruk a full credit for putting meat cubes on the barbecue sticks and making sure that they are cooked with the right temperature for the proper amount of time. Oh, shish kebab (lamb and chicken) was just delicious! He cooked some more of them the next morning.

CardsOne more activity I enjoyed was playing guitar and singing. Camping is not camping IMHO without 3 things – good company, fire and guitar. ) We played some cards for a little while after were asked to stop making noise, and then went to sleep. Danya says that he Lakecouldn’t sleep well because of all the noise that our plastic protective cover was making. It was moderately raining at night and windy, so in the tent it seemed like some kind of storm was happening outside. So next time to avoid all those inconveniences we’ll just rent a cabin or something like that.

Sunday was much more sad, because we had to pack. I hate packing, but what choice did we have? The road back was beautiful, we even stopped to take pictures on some little lake with water-lilies. All good comes to an end eventually, but I’m glad that our weekend was different and memorable.
In: Photography, Travel
Time: 23:14   Comments: 1 Comment   Post a Comment  
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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

WordPress Template Redesign

RedesignIt’s been only a week since I’ve spent hours upon hours converting our old Blogger template to WordPress format, to be exactly pixel to pixel as it was, and it’s already history. Soon after the project was completed I started to really hate the look – after all, I think half the Blogger uses the very same generic template. I came up with a new task: full redesign of our blog template.

I wanted to have something custom, and not use some other popular template out there, and I wanted it to look good. I think I’ve succeeded, but we should wait for a week at least. Who knows what might happen.

BlogAnyhow, our little picture motto remains true: every single pixel in every single image that you see on this site was made by us. What do you think about the new look? I would like to hear some opinions.
In: Software
Time: 23:34   Comments: 2 Comments   Post a Comment  
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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Leaving New York

Dinner at PlataformaOn Thursday we went with Daniel’s family to Brazilian restaurant, I mentioned earlier in this blog, to celebrate Daniel’s mom birthday (the actual birthday was on Wednesday, July 26). We wanted it to be someplace nice for one more reason – Daniel’s aunt Lilya is leaving New York. Her son moved to Moscow and she just wants to be close to him. It’s very sad, especially for Daniel’s parents. They lived close to aunt Lilya for many years. But I from all people know that sometimes you have to make choices and leave someone dear behind. On the other hand  world has become a much smaller place with all those means of communications. So hopefully they will help to keep contact. I think that for aunt Lilya this transition could mean expansion of her social circle.

Даня и тётя ЛиляShe is very smart, well-educated, well-read woman with a great sense of humour. Unfortunately, when you move to another country after certain age it’s that much harder to pick up a new language. For many elderly immigrants the sacrifice that needs to be made is the lack of ability to express themselves in full extent. Basic vocabulary in foreign language can’t be compared to the extensive native language base. So in many cases people just think that you are not that smart or don’t have a sense of humour because you can’t understand jokes, or that you could be taken advantage of. I think most people who make that choice do it with their eyes open, but it’s still nice to be able to talk about music, literature, politics, any stuff that you wish to talk about without drowning helplessly in the voids in your stock of words.

I will miss her too, because she was nothing, but nice to me. I’ve come to think about Daniel’s family as if it’s my own.

On a different note, yesterday I got the 2nd dose of MMR immunization shot, required for college. MMR stands for measles, mums and rubella. Not sure if I was immunized for those when I was a child, but it’s much easier to get new shots than to find old records and translate them. I don’t recall needing immunization records for my college back in Minsk. One thing that was required though were x-ray results from the lungs check-up for tuberculosis. We were supposed to do it once a year or else would not have been allowed to take our final exams. I hope that I can skip the meningitis shot (seems that even though it’s strongly advised, it’s not a requirement).
In: Food & Dining, Life In General
Time: 12:31   Comments: 1 Comment   Post a Comment  
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