Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Year 2016

Our kids and us.Good-bye, 2015! Hello, 2016! Be Happy! Be healthy! Be the best year yet!

We celebrated at Danya’s parents. Lina and Lёnya were at his parents’ this year, so it was just us and Alla — Danya’s mom’s friend, who lives in our building.

With dad.The kids got sick the day before. Anюta was more or less O.K., just mild fever, but Arosha had a moderate fever and did not feel very well. It kind of sucks, since he was just sick last week, but what you gonna do? At least he is fine now, not counting minor cough and runny nose.

With mom.I only cooked one salad — the herring under beets. It just so happened that it became my New Year specialty, so I make it each time. Danya’s mom cooked a lot as always. I am so grateful that we can celebrate with them each year (on many levels, including the fact that it’s much easier to be a guest than a host). Alla also brought a few salads, so there was plenty of food, and I could not even try everything. It goes without saying that everything was delicious.

Arosha.We drank Bellini to say good-bye to 2015 and Veuve Clicquo Champagne to meet 2016. I am not a big fan of sparkling wines, but those two I really enjoy.

Dinner table. Small portion.The children went to bed close to 9 after getting their presents a few hours earlier. We really ought to cut the number of presents we get them, because I think that due to sheer quantity of gifts, they appreciate each one less. We’ll see if we’ll be able to control ourselves more next year.

Illy coffee machine.I got a good number of gifts myself — winter hat, shampoo, t-shirt, jewelry box and a coffee machine. The latter one is a present from Danya. I like coffee, but I especially enjoy cappuccino. This machine makes a wonderful espresso and steams milk into a perfect foam. I’ve made myself a few cups since getting it, and they are delicious!

Tear-off calendar from our Instagram stream.Danya’s parents tried the coffee today too, and both of them liked it. The funny thing is that Arosha likes the cappuccino I make for him as well. I use very little espresso and add lots of milk, some sugar and sprinkle it with cinnamon. Yum!

Hermes Apple Watch strap.Danya got a new wrist band for his Apple Watch (he seems to like it) and UGG slippers, which are a bit small, so we’re exchanging them, and a nice pair of winter pants and a wooden bow tie (he picked it out himself, but it is partially sponsored by his sister). And of course Danya ordered a traditional page-a-day calendar with pictures from our Instagram stream. He got one for his parents as well.

Fraction of gifts for kids.I also got a chance to Face Time with my parents this year. We gave my mom our old iPad when she left, and now we talk almost every day. It is so nice! It was cool to not just wish them Happy New Year, but see their holiday tree and holiday table and holiday looks.

Arosha's globe.And on the January 1st Lina, Lёnya and Lёnya’s parents came over to Daniel’s parents. Us and Alla joined too. We had a nice dinner and played a few of Arosha’s new games. It was fun, although I know it was tiresome for Danya’s parents to host a party for two days in a row.

Huge wall map of the World.All in all, it was a nice, relatively quiet holiday. I hope that we all will enjoy 2016!

Us.
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Friday, October 2, 2015

Apple Watch

Apple WatchAt the end of June I have bought myself the Apple Watch. Now that I have lived with it for over two months I want to share some thoughts regarding my experiences with the watch.

Decision


There is no need to go and check back into my older posts with regards to the watch. Yes, I did say that I’m not going to buy the first generation. I do admit it. Two things really pushed me into it.

When the watch came out I’ve read numerous reviews and blog posts filled with mostly positive feedback. That’s factor one. Another thing came about when we visited a local Apple Store to pick up some accessories for my dad for Father’s Day. We walked into the store and there they were. Alёna looked at me and said — “You can get one if you want it.” How can a gadget lover like myself resist such an offer?

I tried a bunch on, picked out the kit that I liked the most and — they didn’t have ANY in stock at all. Sold out because of Father’s Day. So I came home and placed an order online — 3-4 weeks wait time. Three days later though I was checking for stock at the stores around the area and one had an exact thing that I was looking for. I made a reservation and two hours later I had a box with my brand new Apple Watch in my hands.

Picking The Model


Apple Watch. 42mm Stainless Steel Case Watch with Bright Blue Leather Loop.I had a pretty good idea of the model that I would like to get right after the announcement. I have confirmed it during my first visit to the Apple Store. And even though the watch starts from $350, the prices of various upgrades and options add up to a hefty amount.

Want 42mm version instead of 38mm? $50. Want stainless steel instead of aluminum? $200. Want a leather band instead of a rubber one? Another $100. So my particular watch totaled out at $700. Another bracelet that I was considering was a steel bracelet, but it was another $400 instead of $100 for leather and it seemed a bit too bulky in person, even though it was much lighter than I expected.

I ended up picking out a 42mm Stainless Steel Case Watch with Bright Blue Leather Loop. I was actually thinking of getting either black or brown one, but Alёna thought that a blue one was much more interesting. Thinking about it I did agree. It’s a pretty dark blue (even though it’s called bright) and goes well with jeans that I wear on daily basis most of the time.

Experience


Heartbeat sensor.By now I have worn this watch from early morning to the late night every single day since I bought it. It has been many years now that I have worn the same watch for even seven days in a row, before this one. I like how it looks on my hand, but most of all I like the functionality that it gives me, and the killer app that I don’t want to be without — more on that later.

I like how the bracelet doesn’t have a fixed width and I can tighten it to my comfort. Sometimes I like it tighter, sometimes I like it looser. By the end of the day though my hand does kind of feel tired if I had it on tight setting all day long — but heart beat sensor seems to works better with the watch closer to the skin. The magnets in the bracelet are very strong and I haven’t had it come loose on its own a single time.

The battery life is perfectly fine. Yes, you do have to charge the watch every night (although I had days when went without an overnight charge just fine). I do however prefer to top off the batters on my phone and the watch nightly. Typically by the end of the full day use I’m at about 50% of battery reserve. So battery has not been an issue.

Software


The core software that comes with the watch seems decent enough. There is a number of decent looking watch faces — although a screen can’t really compare with aesthetics of a real thing. Most of the faces have a number of user settable complications — little gadgets with information. Third party software support is there, but it’s not usable. Only the UI shows up on the watch and everything else has to happen on the phone. This makes everything very slow and useless.

Apps.The only 3rd party app that i use at this time is Overcast to switch between podcasts when I’m on my bicycle or when I don’t want to pull the phone out. I would love to get good experience with Darksky and Fantastical but it’s not quite there yet because of watch OS limitations. All that is about to get fixed with watch OS 2. Really native 3rd party app support and 3rd party complications. This will open up a lot of possibilities.

Simple.Currently I use Simple watch face with four complications — Activity (fitness information), Date and Day, Calendar (shows next event) and Digital Time. Glances are simple screens that can be pulled out when in Watch mode. I use only three at this time — Settings (airplane mode, sound), Heartbeat (lets you have the watch measure your heart rate) and Battery (not really needed anymore).

Killer Apps


Workout goals.These are the things that I find very helpful and use on daily basis. There is only a handful of them, but here is where the watch excels over the phone.

Move goals for each day of the week.Activity and Workout — this is the pair that keeps me watching to wear the watch every day. Activity is a simple motivator app which makes you want to fill out 3 simple circles on daily basis — active calories burned (you can set your own goal), 30 minutes of exercise (anything like a brisk walk and above counts) and moving at least a little bit each hour for 12 hours or more per day. This actually seems to be a pretty good motivator for me to be active more.

Goals.I do try to achieve all these 3 goals every day. I get up every time it tells me to and run up a couple of flights of stares. I actually got out my bicycle out of storage and did some riding. And I walk a lot more than I used to. Strangely enough I would hate to walk now and not get credit for it — the watch must be on. Vacation do throw a wrench into those goals for me though. I lose my routine and have to make an effort to get back into it after one.

Apple Pay.Apple Pay is so much better with the watch. I love using Apple Pay in general. But with the phone there is a bit of an anxiety of getting your fingerprint being read right. People behind you are waiting, the cashier is waiting — not comfortable experimenting with your tech. With the watch you just have to double press the side button, credit card comes up on the screen, move the watch to the reader, fill a little tap on your wrist — done. Works every single time without a fail.

Communications.Communication encompasses in it several things. It’s great for an SMS to come in and show up on your wrist. You can respond to it with a bunch of pre-canned responses or send a message back via Siri — which by the way has gotten much better at understanding me. You can also initiate communication with a list of your favorites by hitting the side button once. You can start a call or send a message. Has been very useful to fire a short message to my wife without taking my hand of the top of the steering wheel.

Modular.Other group of little niceties is also there. Using the watch as a viewfinder for your camera phone, getting walking directions via maps on your wrist, seeing Slack and other pre-selected notifications and actually picking up and having a phone call. I was surprised that I would ever use it, but it certain situations it has been quite convenient.

Activity medal.The next version of OS that is about too land will definitely expand the horizons with useful software and I’m looking forward to that.

In the Wild


I’ve been surprised by the number number of comments and inquires that I’ve gotten by wearing the watch. My most expensive watches don’t get nowhere near the same kind of interest that this little watch seems to produce. I was also quite surprised at the number of people that I’ve run up against with Apple Watch on their wrist. Close to 20 sightings in these months and for a gadget like this that’s a lot.

Activity.6In all my time before that I’ve seen only two smart watches or any other brand — one Motorola 360 and one Pebble watch. So by the standards of smart watches Apple seems to be doing quite well.
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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Swarovski Starry Night Watch

Swarovski Piazza Starry Night lady's watch.The first time I saw this watch — at Swarovski shop in Munich — I thought that it would make a great New Year gift for Alёna. I figured when I get to New York I’ll just go to one of the many Swarovski boutiques in the area and buy one. I wanted to do this as close to New Year as possible so Alena wouldn’t spot it on a credit card statement, as we share everything, including our finances.

On Alёna's wrist.To my dismay I found out that it’s a special edition item and no stores in the area had any. My only option was to order it online and it was too close to New Year at this point to get it delivered in time. I got a backup gift thinking that there was no way I will get it. The backup gift was another Swarovski watch, but it was nowhere as beautiful as this one. To my surprise, however, it got to our house on December 31st. Perfectly in time to go under the New Year’s tree.

The back side.And then there is a special bracelet. Alёna has a very thin wrist and I was sure that it would be too big. But I worried the most about the fact that there was a possibility that it wouldn’t be adjustable. And indeed that was true. Bracelet was too big and no normal watch place could do anything. Our local Swarovski shop said that they don’t do it either, but they pointed us to another Swarovski store that does have a special tool. It took several months before that place would actually get around to doing it, but finally it’s all done.
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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Zeppelin 100 Years German Watch

Zeppelin 100 Years German made watch.All throughout our vacation in Germany we kept looking for a replacement for my recently departed leather band watch. Obviously there are tons and tons of choices to pick from. We wanted something inexpensive and it had to come with a brown leather band.

Zeppelin watch on my hand.After having zero luck in finding something that would look nice I found one in the Sky Mall catalog on the plane back home of all places. I have never bought anything this way and to my surprise they had it all in stock. I really liked the watch for its retro design, its brand and the fact that it was made in Germany. A nice memento from our trip.

The backside of the watch. Sorry about the upside-down text.
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Kenneth Cole Fashion Watch

Kenneth Cole New York watch.I have a new addition to my watch collection — Kenneth Cole watch. At this point out of all my watches I typically wear 3 of them — Movado Museum Valor for dress occasions, Casio Pathfinder for sporty activities and Seiko Orange Monster for everything in between.

The watch on the hand.I wanted a more elaborate looking dress watch for some time now, as Movado started looking too minimalistic for my taste lately — not to say that I don’t like it. In fact, to this point, Movado is my most worn watch and the oldest one I have. I had it since my 2005 — my 25th, it’s the most expensive one I have and to this date it has ZERO scratches, dents or marks of any kind on the timepiece itself or the bracelet. That’s Swiss quality.

Back side.This Kenneth Cole watch is pretty cheap, but I think it does look good. I’ve grown fond of the brown color lately and while before I would never consider wearing a watch on a leather strap I can appreciate the retro-vintage look now. However only time will show how they will hold up as the years go by and sadly the strap itself is not replaceable.

Leather strap.One thing that makes me happy is that the actual movement itself is made in Japan. In fact it’s made by a well known and respected watch company — Citizen. What also makes me happy is that the watch is powered by a battery and is not an automatic. Don’t get me wrong — automatic watch is great when it’s the only watch you have and you wear it every day, but it’s a huge pain if that’s not the case — that’s the worst part of my Seiko watch.

Kenneth Cole watch.The purchase itself was completely spontaneous. The watch caught my eye on Kenneth Cole website. Luckily their product photograph does it much more justice than multiple other photos of this particular watch that can be found on the web. Either way, at the moment I’m happy, I like them and I hope they do hold up as well as my other watches did.
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Orange Monster

Seiko "Orange Monster" SKX781K diving watch.It may be quite evident by now that somebody on this side of keyboard has developed a minor watch obsession over the course of the last month. This is yet another one of those posts.

While doing my watch research before the New Year one particular watch caught my eye — Seiko SKX781K, or as it is better known — the “Orange Monster”. This is a rather heavy, solidly built diving watch from Seiko.

The glow of a luminescent paint under a little bit of light. The reason that we ended up buying it is the fact that I stumbled upon a great deal on exactly this watch on woot.com1. A watch with a list price of over $400 was shipped to us for $138 with no tax or shipping fees. Granted it can be found for quite a bit less than $400 online, but this particular deal is impossible to beat.

Orange Monster glow in complete darkness.The watch has very few features compared to Casio Pathfinder, but I find it quite a bit more attractive from the aesthetic point of view. It is water proof for up to 200m, has a unidirectional rotating bezel and day and date display. It’s an automatic watch, which means it winds itself from the wrist motion when being worn. And the last but not least is the fact that Seiko used a very generous amount of phosphorous paint. I did not expect the glow to be as bright as it actually is.

Another view of Orange Monster.Overall I like the solid feel, build and the look of this timepiece a lot. I’m looking forward to wearing it as soon as I get the bracelet sized for my wrist. I also hope to test it for its main purpose on our next vacation. Seiko research says that orange is the best visible color under water.

If you excuse me now, I need to take a bath. mrgreen mrgreen mrgreen

  1. Woot.com is a site that normally has a very good deal on one item every day. []
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Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year Gifts

Shiseido Zen perfume. My gift to Alena for New Year.The New Year celebration flew by in an instance, as everything else seems to do. First thing we know we’re eating dinner and then hour by hour goes by and it’s time to count down the last ten seconds of the year.

Casio Pathfinder PAW1500T-7V. Alena's gift to me on New Year.At midnight exactly we pop the bottle of champaign open, shoot some firecrackers and poppers and then toast the new year. After a small desert my favorite parts starts — gift giving and receiving. We had a mountain of gifts under our Christmas tree.

Casio Baby G Sweet Poison BG2000BC-1 watch for Alena.We all got a lot of stuff. Alena got a perfume that she wanted — Shiseido Zen and a pair of sports wrist watches for mountain climbing and such. I got Casio Pathfinder 1500, the one with titanium bracelet. The watch has a lot of functions — compass, altimeter, barometer, temperature sensor beside other things.

Our full collection — Voyager, DS9 and TNG.My parents and Lina got us a whole bunch of Star Trek seasons of Voyager and The Next Generations. Now we a full set of each.

Some colorful pottery from my aunt.Linka also got us some towels with custom embroidered names. And my aunt got as some very colorful serving dishes. Good holiday with a lot of fun New Year is. My favorite. Too bad it is over so quickly.
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Friday, December 26, 2008

More Lightbox

Movado watch photographed inside the lightbox.Today I’ve done some more experimenting with the lightbox. Again — not perfect, but again — interesting.

Lightbox setup for the above shot.The setup is pretty simple. Color paper on the background, black marble for the bottom and simple paper as a reflector inside.

Black and white shot of Movado watch inside the lightbox.And after some more experimenting I came up with this B&W photo. Better reflections on the dial, but I think I like the color on the first one.
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lightbox

Bulova watch photographed inside the lightbox.With all the watch excitement lately I needed to come up with a good way to share with the readers of the blog. For that you obviously need good pictures. And to take good pictures of watches you obviously need a lightbox of some kind.

Lightbox in use. Desk lamps from the left and the top, remotely controlled Nikon SB-800 flash from the right. I used a simple guide posted on Strobist to build one without spending a lot of money. Borrowed a cardboard box from work, Alena bought some tracing paper and that’s pretty much it.

Construction process is very simple. Just cut out 3 of the sides and tape over the cuts with tracing paper.I need to replace one of the lamps with a regular bulb with a lamp with a tungsten bulb to get rid of the yellow light. And I guess a 2nd flash would do wonders too. But overall not bad of a result at all for a first try with this cheap structure.
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