Thursday, February 28, 2008

My New Watch

My Garmin Forerunner 305 arrived Monday and it's everything I thought it would be and more! I spent most of the night Monday going through the owners manual trying to figure out all of the cool features. Man, I love this thing!! The price of my new toy was justified for me on Tuesday; I've always wanted to accurately map one of my favorite paths through the woods (Marie Hickey Trail). However, I've never been able to it for obvious reasons (it's "through the woods"). Well... I'll let the detailed map below do the talking. :)

Not only can I import these GPS coordinates into Google Earth and other mapping software (ie. and others), but I also get lots of other valuable information too. This thing records my heart rate, speed, pace, elevation, distance, detailed course map, calories burned, % grade, and more. The best part is, I only have to plug it into my computer and push a button!! The watch came with a Garmin Training Center application that lets me analyze every detail of my workouts (biking, running, walking, any activity really). I also found out tonight after installing this application that it's much easier to use the software to configure my watch than it is to use the actual watch. The watch UI works well, but it's painful using the little buttons on the side, especially since there are so many things that are configurable on this thing.

Not only can I analyze previous workouts, but I can also setup workouts and upload them to my watch too. Tonight, I configured a 5 mile run I'm doing tomorrow (speed work) that consists of the following intervals:
- 1.25 mile warm up
- 1 mile @ 8 minute 30 seconds
- 1/2 mile jog
- 1 mile @ 8 minutes 30 seconds
- 1.25 mile cool down

Basically, my Forerunner will beep at me each step of the way. No longer do I have to go to Licking Valley high school's track and count laps as I keep track of my splits; I just run!

Bottom line: If you are a runner (especially a trail runner), then you need this watch (hint: Rob)... Ok, at least that's what I had to tell Jennifer. :)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Garmin ForeRunner 305

She let me get it!! I'm waiting on the shipment now! :D

If you don't know what this is, check out the specs: Garmin ForeRunner 305

I'd love to blog more about this, but I have to do the dishes, fold the laundry, and mop the floor now...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Back on the Farm

I made it home safe and sound around 5:30pm last night. The flight from Novosibirsk to Moscow was very easy and I maybe got 1 total hour of sleep on it. My time in Moscow was MUCH easier than my first visit through there. I wasn't able to find the free shuttle from terminal 1 to terminal 2, but I was able to take the public bus instead. This time I knew my destination and I knew enough Russian to get me where I needed to go (ie. "Sherametyevo d'vah!?") and it paid off. At one point, I was on the wrong mashrutka and the driver had to put it in park and let me out (refunding my rubles of course). I'm happy I spoke up, otherwise, I would have probably ended up in downtown Moscow with all my luggage and a pocket full of rubles.

Needless to say I made it to the second terminal and had about 7 hour to kill. I literally dozed in and out of consciousness in a seated position with my head on my luggage sitting beside me. It was not a fun night, but I made it. I was able able to board the plane to Munich around 5:30 am and I got about 2 hours of (decent) sleep on there before we landed. There was only a 2 hour layover in Munich and I basically just kept myself awake figuring I'd get all the sleep I needed on my long flight to Chicago. Yeah right.

This Lufthansa flight had individual touch-screen television systems on the back of each seat. It goes without saying that I did not sleep for the entire flight. If I wasn't watching a movie, I was watching the live tracking system of the flight details. Before we landed, I had watched The Bourne Ultimatum (a must see), Across the Universe (really good), The Last Legion (ehh...) and a 1 hour movie about the New York Marathon (just killing time). By the time we were getting ready to land, we had to actually do a few loops around Chicago because the weather or something and I was in some major pain. My legs were cramping so bad and I could not sit still. It felt like we were flying around Chicago for 30 minutes and I was ready to scream. Of course, it didn't help that I had the flight information screen up and saw us getting closer, then further, then closer, then further... it was killing me. When we finally landed in Chicago, I was so happy. I avoided all escalators and automatic walk ways and refused to sit anywhere.

The worst part of all this flying and crappy sleep is that I was literally keeping up with the sun since Moscow. It was basically the same time for me as I kept moving further west. I took off in Moscow at 6 am, and landed in Munich at ~7 am (4 hours later). I took of in Munich @ 9 am and landed in Chicago at ~11am (9 hours later). This has basically turned into one huge day for me and I needed to let the sun catch up with me for an hour or two.

After flying half away around the world and back, I avoided delays through some pretty bad weather, all flights seemed to be right on schedule. Of course, I was one stop away from home and my luck had ended. The flight that I was supposed to take was delayed by 1 hour and it was the longest, most annoying 1 hour I'd experienced in a long time. The weather wasn't even that bad! I just came from a blizzard (by Americans terms) in Siberia and the plane was on time and no problems. In Chicago, it was just a slight snow and the whole terminal was backed up, canceled flights, late flights, etc... I couldn't believe it. After 45 minutes of waiting with no good news, I was pretty upset. I had called Jennifer and told her that my flight was ontime and that I'd see her in Columbus in a little over an hour... of course, this was a little over an hour ago. By the time we actually took off, I should have already been reunited with my family in Columbus.

When we landed I basically ran to the security check point to see them! When I saw Lizzie she lit up like a light bulb and they all came running to me. I put my things down and squeezed them all like crazy. Mommy got some extra strengthy hugs of course. Daizi just stared at me for the longest time, she didn't know what to think. I was away for almost a month and then now all the sudden I'm back..? She wasn't too sure what was going on. It took a while, then she came around. Lizzie and Jazzy and Mommy were very excited. They couldn't wait to get home so that they could all see what I got them. This is what I missed; all the little things. :)

We all went to Red Robin and I had a good 'ol American greeseburger. :) It was awesome, though my stomach is a little confused by all this. Today we all slept in and Mommy treated us all to an egg breakfast. I spent most of today catching up on my rather large honey-do list. I got the truck running, got a load of hay, fixed some light bulbs, shoveled the walk, etc... Lucky for me, Lizzie had school canceled today, so I got to hang out with her and Jazzy all day. We all played in the snow and I taught them how to make a snow wall to hide behind for snow ball fights (city boy stuff). Basically, my life is back to normal and I'm very happy for that.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Novosibirsk - Day 20 (The End)

This post will be a recap of my time here in Novosibirsk. It will be long and will conclude my impression of all the wonderful people I've met while here. Sure, cheesy, but well deserved. This is the trip of a lifetime, so I'm going to use my blog as my outlet to share my feelings with those that may read this. And believe it or not, I'm not using this blog only to share my experiences with you, but also to look back on them one day and read about each day that I spent here in Akademgorodok.

Before I close up this Russian trip, I must say that my next post will be about code, or running, or my family, or something other than Novosibirsk. So if you only kept up on my blog for my adventure in Novosibirsk, you're free to leave after this. :) Otherwise, I'll keep writing and you can keep reading. Of course I will not commit to writing every day... that's ridiculous and way too OCD. I'll probably write a post when I get home in a few days, maybe a week. It will more than likely take me a whole 5 minutes and will be completely meaningless. These daily journals are fun and interesting, but very time consuming. For example, this one kept me up all night last night. :)

Before I get started, please don't let the order of the names have any relevance to who I liked the most. That's too "high school" for me, I mean... we all totally know that I like Scott the least, and he's not last... so? :)

You were the first one to help me get settled into Novosibirsk off of the plane, along with Konstantin. I enjoy your crazy jokes, but not so much your taste in fish jerky. I had a lot of fun at my party watching you slam down your sissy pink cards from way up over your head. We'll make sure you are able to cut your hair before 2009! :)

Konstantin & Irina
You were at the airport with Oleg and it was your voice that brought me back to sanity "Lyookas". :) It was nice to actually meet you face to face after already knowing you so well over Skype; I feel as though we're close friends now. Irina is a great compliment to you. You two will always be "cute" in my mind. :) I can't tell you how much I love this Russian bib number!! Honestly! And I'll never forget your Russian soldier story! :)

Anna A. & Sasha
I'm very happy that I met you guys. Having you at my first Russian party really made for an extremely fun night. Anna, my first few days with you were great! My Russian and your English made for one hell of a ride to town. :) The first bad word that I learned in Russian was from you that first day, though I'm still not sure if it's "popo" or "grieshka". Maybe I'll look it up. :) Lieutenant Sasha (aka: Moy Ruskie Bradt), I'm glad I got to know you. When we see each other again, we'll start that fight in the streets! Keep driving like a mad man!! :)

To moy other Ruskie bradt. The one thing that we have in common is the happiness that the Chocolat gives us in the morning. :) You really need to switch up your breakfast choice though, man. The omelets are very good, though you continue to eat the same thing..? Sorry for making you late to your daily scrum meeting, but it was your choice. You still owe me a dinner at your flat! And always remember, everybody is crazy but me. :)

Ivan & Family
I'm embarrassed that I cannot remember your wifes name, but I remember that she was extremely nice and she complimented me on my "Russian-ness". You two made one hell of a cute kid too. :) You were a lot of fun at my party and your choice of raw fish was better than Oleg's choice. :) I enjoyed your company at the Chocolat and it was great taking the back way to work, off the main strip for a change. You can get that "Perfect Pushup" online actually if you get bored of the same old "old school" pushups. I hope to see you again soon. :)

Thank you for everything! It was a great decision on your part driving us to downtown Novosibirsk that day. I really enjoyed your company, but not so much your driving. :) No, you're a great driver, it's everybody else on the road!! Seriously though, you made a great tour guide; if things don't work out for you in computers, consider that as an alternative. I still plan to send a post card to you so that you can see that people really do this. Thanks for hanging out with me over here and taking me out to eat all of those times! No matter what anybody tells you from this day forward, your banya leaf smacking skills are stellar. My back is still sizzling with welts. :) THANK YOU SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER!!

Alex S.
You have got some crazy skiing skills my man! Thanks for letting me use your poles after I broke mine; I wonder if they ever found the broken ones. ;) Also, how does it feel to be the producer / director on the most famous video in blog world. Everybody loved that video back home. :) And since nobody did this for you, here goes: Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Aleeeeeeeeeex. Happy birthday to you. :) The link is a bit different, but you get the idea. Next year, you have to force everybody sing!!! Not just me. :)

Julia P.
Thanks for taking me out and showing me how the locals have fun at the "live band" scene. I enjoyed listening to you pick on all the guys in the Apache room. You are right, they are sissy's! Don't tell them I said that of course. Wait a minute...? Seriously though, maybe you should switch to using words like "clouds" and "sky" when they give you a new bug, it's better for everyone that way. Keep growing those booger scrapers and take care of that tooth. Oh yeah, stay away from those Russian toothpicks too!! They're bad for you. ;)

Oksana & Scott
Thanks for showing me around. It was fun eating at the pizza place that first night. It's amazing to see Scott knowing so much Russian. Even though I'm tearing him up with my learning curve (or lack there of). I'll miss your English lessons Oksana, it was fun to follow along in the audio lessons, you have some very good students and it's obvious that you are a great teacher. Maybe you could teach Scott some Wii Tennis while your at it? OHH! Just kidding, keep practicing man... I look forward to see you both together in the fall. Thanks for making me feel welcome over here.

Lena B.
It was great to get to know you. Welcome to the family (ie. DataWorks / Data Dynamics) and I look forward to working with you in the future. You are a very fun person to be around and I had a blast with you each time we went to the city. :) Your English is awesome and your Russian is... very fast! It was quite fun to sit back and hear you and Oksana talk in Russian at such speeds. :) The ballet was amazing, but the hot chocolate, needed a little more hot and a little less... yeah. Anyway, if you ever come back to the states, be sure to stop by Ohio and visit! Thanks for the ping pong game and all the fun times in downtown Novosibirsk!

Sergey A.
NOO ZAA SERGEY!! Dude, nobody knows what this means... even your Russian compadres? I will use it for the rest of my life though. :) I had a blast with you at the sports bar. You sure know how to have a good time. :) That B52 was great especially after chasing it with a Captain Morgans! I'm anxious to take the Russian Standard Vodka back home and share it with the DD crew... Yeah you heard me DD Crew, I got some real Russian Standard Vodka headed your way, compliments of Mr. Abakumov. Sergey, hurry back to the states if I don't hurry back to Russia and thanks for the fun night with all that (hicc..) alcohol. :)

You are a "@#!$#@* FUN" dude! I had a great time with you at the bar and the pool hall. I'll always have this 10 ruble buck with all the signatures on it. Thanks for believing in me on the billiard table, for I'm sure it had something to do with my success. It was either that or the 27 beers you guys fed me. :) Either way, I enjoyed your rather drunken English and all your "bala-bol-ness". :) ANDREY TOLD ME TO WRITE IT!!!! Thanks for showing me a good time!... "Friend" :)

Andrey T.
I will never have a problem saying your name again. I think I said your name a total of 124 times and each time I know I had it right. :) It was great to get to know you. You have great English skills and I love the fact that you are so serious and knowledgeable about the products that you support. You're a great guy to have on our team! The ride from the bar to the billiard hall was a lot of fun because we got to pick on... you know who (the last guy I just wrote about). Hope that we can see each other again. You're a fun guy to hang out with... Adrrrey... Tsetsoho... :) That's an even 125.

Sergey R.
Again, nothing but good times with you too. It was great to put a face with a name. I was amazed at how much Heineken you ordered before we even got started on our first bottle; I knew right away that I was in for a long night. It was great to play you in a game of billiards and I also thought that it was very generous that you let me win also. :) Seeing you at the trade center that day was pretty cool too... That's the first time I'd seen anybody out in public "by chance" here in Novosibirsk. I felt like I was a local for a split second. The next time I drink Heineken, I'll consider ordering 3 more just for backup. It works rather well; no waiting. :)

Eugene & Sophia
You two are "tough" together. I enjoyed hanging out with you both in the bar that night. It was nice that everyone spoke English on my behalf. Eugene, even though you didn't say much at first, I knew you were just waiting for the right time to crack. Finally at the billiard hall, you did and I got to talk to you a bit before the night ended. You're a very fun guy to hang out with. Sophia, it was very nice to talk to you as well, you have very good English skills and I was pleasantly surprised when I first met you and you jammed out some English like it's your native language. Sorry for blinding you guys in this picture, but it made for a great photo of you two. :)

Sergey P.
It is because of you and only because of you that I had internet at the office. My super encrypted password will never be hacked and I'm sure you'll never be able to remember it when I go. :) In my next band I'm going to rewrite "Pinball Wizard" to "Pingpong Wizard" and dedicate it to you. I've never been so afraid of a tiny ball in my life. I wish I had known you better when you visited the states; all the guys said you were a lot of fun and I see that now. :)

Anna M.
Thank you for a great time at the Nee-Kooda bar that night. I still have your autographed drawing of a "chiburashka" in my planner, so it goes everywhere I go. I plan to pin it on my tac-board at work when I decide to go back. It was so fun for me to walk around the office and guess where I was going to see you and Anna A. hanging out together. "The Anna's". Take care of your family and tell your husband that I said thank you for letting you hang out with me, it made for a memorable night! Lastly, don't get so mad at yourself for not knowing English. :) I don't know Russian, but it's amazing, what hand gestures and sound effects can do. :D

Sergey T.
"Que pasa eh casa" or whatever the hell Scott says to you. You got some crazy Wii Tennis skills my man; I'm glad I was only ever to play against you one time. Your serve is all kinds of nasty. :) It was nice seeing you each day, cause you were always smiling. Maybe you were putting Vodka in that coffee cup, I don't know, but it was nice to see. Your Mexican plate comment was hilarious. I think it was even more funny when the joke was turned around on me... Neighbor. ;)

It was nice to meet you. I don't know how you work in that break room with Scott. It's like a coffee shop; people in, people out, doorbell!! Anyway, more power to ya. I can't wait to see you play Wii Tennis. From all the times that I've been in there playing and you just sit there and watch all the secret moves. Of course, there are some other "regulars" that you probably see more than me. When it's your chance, you're gonna be the DataWorks man to beat!

Alex M.
I didn't really get to know you until the last few days, but realized very quickly that your a lot of fun to hang out with. Scott says you can run like the wind... but that's probably because Scott is slow as molasses. Either way, it would have been nice to have known you better earlier. Be sure to share the O Sweet Static bonus tracks with everybody, or don't. You could maybe sell them online for some big bucks, then pay me royalties... just send the check in the mail, that'll be fine. Thanks for turning me onto that iPod utility; I'll be downloading that for sure! Wow, that banya was HOT! You had a pretty cool move jumping into the barrel though; BONZAI!! Keep in touch and be sure to practice those paradiddles. :)

It was nice to meet you after months and months of emails. You're a very nice guy and I wish we would have had a chance to hang out while I was over here, outside of the office of course. The only times we did meet, we were talking business. See you in cyberspace my friend!

Roman S.
I know he doesn't work here anymore, but I thought about him while I was over here. He was at our company Christmas party two years ago and kicked my butt in arm wrestling. Just wait 'til I see him again. Roman, if you are reading this... "Here's a toast to you!!" :)

To the rest of the DataWorks crew:
I'm sure I crossed paths with you at the office during my visit here, but unfortunately I never got to really meet you or spend time with you. Maybe next time. :)

To my 4 girls:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Novosibirsk - Day 19

Today was an extremely great and glorious day. Ok, so I ran out of good openers for my posts and this is all I got tonight...

So, I woke @ 9am to a call from Konstantin. He asked me to meet him at the Chocolat in 10 minutes. I said... "It'll be amazing, but I'll try". Sure enough, I was out of bed and out the door in 5 minutes. It was about an 8 minute walk to the Chocolat (in the Siberian cold, mind you), so I didn't keep him waiting too long. Maxim met us there shortly thereafter, and we had a quick breakfast before heading to the баня (pronounced "bahn-ya"). For those that don't know what a banya is, it's a Russian sauna. It's different from an American sauna in that it uses wet heat (aka: steam) rather than dry heat. Anyway, when we got to the banya, we met up with Alex M. and Alex S... We were ready to sweat! :)

Over the last 2 weeks, I've heard many people talk about the banya, and it was great to finally see what it was. We basically had a 3 room hut that was laid out like an "old school" Russian banya made from logs. We had a blast, they told me Russian jokes, and I taught them all the "paradiddle", the "double paradiddle" and the "triple triple paradiddle" using a fork, a spoon, the table and some bottles. :) The first couple of times that I went into the banya, I got a little light headed, but otherwise I was fine. The more I got in and out of it, the more accustomed I became to it. We were all sweating like some banchies and it was great! :) The rule is that you should not shower or drink anything cold after going to the banya. It's good for the body to keep your pores opened up for the rest of the day. I must admit that I felt very good (and clean) long after we left the banya; highly recommended! I'm going to talk to Jennifer when I get home about building one outside... according to these guys, it's very easy to build. :)

From the banya, Maxim helped me buy some [secret gifts] at a local market and then dropped me off at my flat. When I got inside, I immediately called Anna & Sasha so that we could all hang out today. They had invited me to lunch and ice skating. Sasha came and picked me up at 1:30 and we headed back to their flat. As soon as we got up to their floor I could smell Anna's cooking. It smelled delicious!! Sure enough, it was! :) She made beef and potato soup and two sets of these potato cakes: one set had sausage in them, and the other set had apple in them. They were way tasty!

After lunch, they showed me pictures from their wedding and it was nice to see all of their family. Sasha looked like a total stud and Anna was very beautiful. Anna then showed me all of the medals from her father's military acheivements and I must say that he is nothing less than a true Russian hero. He had so many medals and what an honor it was to hold them while they explained to me what each one was. He had entered the military at age 17 and fought in World War II. He died 10 years ago, but he left a legacy. Thank you for sharing his story with me Anna. Hold onto those medals. :)

I was also able to meet their son, Maxim. He is 10 years old and is a very nice boy. :) He is learning to speak English and I must say he is very good. It is safe to say that he is better at English than I am at Russian. I introduced myself and he told me all of his important information in English to me: "Hi, my name is Maxim", "I am 10 years old", "I live in Novosibirsk, Russia", etc..). Very good!! He knew all about "Laizy, Jaizy, and Daizy" before I could even tell him about them. So it was clear that Anna and Sasha had shared my story with him, and I thought that was very cool!! He is a very funny kid and I think that Anna has her hands full with not only him, but also Sasha. I told her it is as if she is raising two boys. :) She agreed!

From their house, we drove around and did some sight seeing at the Botanical Gardens (this is where Scott and I ran my first week here). Also, I was finally able to see Obb Sea. They call it Ob Sea, but it's really a huge reservoir that is the largest man made lake in Russia called Novosibirsk Reservoir. Right now, it is completely frozen with 1 meter of ice... the whole thing! And it's huge! We were able to see many people ice fishing out on the lake from their car. Sasha stated that it is very cold to be down on the lake because there are high winds that pick up and (of course) it's very cold. I totally believed him and enjoyed seeing it from the warmth of my popo-grieshka. Oh, I can't forget to mention that Sasha talks to Hummers. :)

After doing some site seeing in their car, we headed to the ice rink and I was a bit nervous about getting on two razor blades and balancing, but I did surprisingly well. We were there for almost 2 hours and I didn't fall ONCE!? I looked like a newborn calf the whole time, but I didn't fall! Maxim was blowing me a way, he was skating very good frontwards, backwards, upside-down, etc... Anna helped me around the rink the first couple of loops, then I decided to try it myself and I was off and skating for the rest of the night. I commend my friends, Chapel and Phil for their months of training with Ice Hockey; I see now how difficult it really is. :)

To all those that got a kick out of my ski post, which was (by far) the most popular post from my journey to Novosibirsk... Eat your hearts out:

From the skating rink, they brought me back to their place for DINNER!?!? I couldn't believe it! I only ate mandarin oranges and drank water yesterday and today I'm eating like a king. Anna had fried potatoes and turkey prepared for dinner. I had no problem cleaning up my plate and was extremely satisfied... and what is dinner without ice cream!!?? Like I said, I ate like a king today. I turned and complimented Sasha with, "Your wife is a very good cook.", and (of course) I told Anna the same thing, over and over I think. Then, after dinner and desert, they took me shopping at the trade center so that I could get some last minute souvenirs for my family. When we finished, I said my good byes to them and we went our separate ways. It was so nice of them to let me spend the day with their family and welcome me into their home. It's clear that I have made some lifelong friends today.

To Konstantin, Maxim, Alex M., Alex S., Anna A., Sasha, and Lil' Maxim: Thank you for a great day!! :)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Novosibirsk - Day 18

I chilled all day today. What was supposed to be a mega-busy day turned out to be a total chill day, which I needed pretty bad to be honest. I'd planned to go cross country skiing again; this time with Ivan, Konstantin, and I think somebody else was coming. Then I had plans to go souvenir shopping before eating dinner with Semyon at his place. The way everything turned out though, I ended up sleeping in and lounging around most of the day.

Last night, I got home around 1:30am this morning and talked with my girls and posted yesterdays journal entry. By the time I got to bed, it was almost 5:30am, so I SMSed my ski crew one at a time and canceled the event. Had I not canceled, we would have all met at the ski resort place @ 10am, which would have given me maybe 3 hours of sleep. I felt bad for canceling, but I'm glad I did.

I finally woke up at 1:30 pm and I literally just lounged around my flat doing nothing for a long time; I caught up on some emails, ate some mandarin oranges, did some laundry, started packing, etc... Around 5pm I decided to take a run to get all of the cobwebs out of my legs and feet. This was the longest stretch I've had without running in a long time and I was getting too comfortable with it. I threw on my running gear and headed out the door. It was nice to be able to finally make use of all the reflective clothing that I brought too. I don't think I really needed to wear it, but at least it got used before I packed it back up. My run was surprisingly easy. I remembered why I love running so much once I got out and was doing it. I ran 2.5 miles to the office and came back, and it took me about 53 minutes. Not bad for taking almost 2 weeks off and partying like a mad man. :)

Oh man, I had a major icestache today! I'm kind of upset that I posted the icestache photo last night... I should have waited one more day, this one was huge. :) Unfortunately it had already started to melt (damn locks) by the time I got in and got my camera out. I actually had icicles hanging from my toboggin all around it. I'd never had that before! But I guess that's to be expected when running in Siberia.

When I got back home, I did some more packing and sat around watching Russian sports channel for the rest of the night while I organized my planner. Pretty boring huh? The good news is that tomorrow is supposed to be a fun day, so this ones allowed a short one. One boring one out of 17 others is fair in my opinion. It's Saturday people, go outside and do something. :)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Novosibirsk - Day 17

Today rocked! Literally.

I woke up at 7:30 and got ready to head out the door for the Chocolat. This place is gonna miss me! All of the waitresses know me by my face now and actually bring me a "menu engleski" as soon as I walk in the door. Honestly I don't know why really, because I pretty much order the same thing every time. I either order the ham & cheese omelet or the fried eggs. Of course, I always get the "fruncheski press", which is basically a small pitcher of water with coffee beans in it. The top has a stem on it that you "press" down on after so long... Ok, this isn't making any sense, I'm sure... Basically, they grind up coffee beans and put it in this small pitcher of water and the beans float on top of the water making it browner and browner by the minute (aka: making the coffee). The stem on the top actually has a filter on the bottom of it, and after 4 minutes, you slowly push down on this stem which (of course) pushes the ground up coffee beans to the bottom. At this point, you have a small pitcher of coffee sitting above the filter. I'll try to take a picture of it on Monday before I leave and post it to my blog. It's only fair since it's really all I've been drinking over here (along with water, beer, and chai (aka: tea)).

Scott and I decided to call Semyon to join us and he said to go ahead and order him the usual (fried eggs and a latte). I actually struggled with this order because it's not actually on the menu, but I order it all the time. Typically the waitresses know enough English to understand "fried eggs", but this waitress didn't speak any English, and I had to bust out the handy-dandy dictionary to assist us all through this process. We nailed it after looking up 3 words (ham, eggs, beans). :) When Semyon got there, we had a blast. We taught him a few English phrases that he had never heard before. We made sure to tell him that when he uses this phrase, he can NOT forget the word "with". :)

While we were sitting in the cafe finishing our coffee, Ivan showed up with his son and I was able to snap a photo of them together. It's unfortunate that I don't have a picture of him with his wife, but I'm very happy that I was able to get a picture of him with his son. Sorry Ivan, I forgot his name already! :( Please comment below if you read this. :)

So, after breakfast Scott and I took the mashrutka (a minivan with seats) to work and I stayed busy pretty much all day. Rather than giving Scott his daily "tennis lesson" on the Nintendo Wii, I was given a "table tennis lesson" by Sergey P... Man, this guy is good! It started out as a friendly game of table tennis (aka: ping pong) between Alex M. and I. It got serious when Sergey P. showed up with his ping pong paddle. I was able to play a few games with Lena, Semyon, and Alex M., before getting schooled by Sergey P. He litterally put the smack down on me. I wish I had video of this guys ping pong skills. He's damn good! I was able to steal a few points here and there, but it was mostly luck. :)

Oh, don't let me forget to wish Alex S. a happy birthday. He turned 24 today! We had a party for him in the break room with cake. I was very surprised to learn that nobody sang for him!? I actually sang the song by myself in front of everybody as I was teaching it to Oleg and I'm sure they got a kick out of it. "They" being most of the DataWorks crew. :) The best part about the party is that we all at cake on "mexican paper plates", which was literally plates made of paper. In other words, they were pieces of paper folded in half with a piece of cake laid on them. :) Alex, I bet you didn't think I was going to use this picture, did you!? Happy Birthday man! :)

So the rest of the day @ work was busy / productive / fun, then I got a ride home from Konstantin. This is where I pause and explain how good of a friend Konstantin has become. Before I came over here, I explained to him over Skype that I wanted to run in a race so that I could get a "Russian bib number". A bib number (for those that don't know) is basically just a flemzy piece of paper that runners get when they run a race. Over the last year, I've been collecting them from the various races I've ran and I have a small bundle of them in my basement that really serve no purpose. Anyway, when I told this to Konstantin over Skype many weeks ago, he contacted his mom, and asked her to make me one. Well, today he gave it to me and I am so impressed by it. It is very... what's the word... PERFECT! I could not have asked for a better bib number, or a better (new) friend. Thanks again Konstantin!! You are what us Americans call "Good People!" Please don't forget to send me your mothers address in an email, so that I can send her a postcard... yes, that's right, I said a "POSTCARD!" :)

After Konstantin dropped me off, it was time for me to turn right back around and leave again. A few days ago I had asked the guys at work where I could find some live music before I left Akademgorodok in a few days. I was looking to see any live music really. Being a musician it's just fun to go see other musicians entertaining, and I wanted to see the live Russian music scene. As soon as I asked them, they immediately pointed me to Julia. I guess she's well trained in all the details of such places. Julia got on the case immediately and booked a table at a the Нии Куда (pronounced "nee kooda" which means nowhere). This place is actuall one floor below the "Prime Time" sports bar that the support crew took me to on Day 14. It ended up being Julia , "The Anna's" (Anna A. (aka: Ushanka Anna) and Anna M.), mysef, and Anna A.'s husband, Sasha. I was very happy that Sasha came along for the ride too. Not only is he fun to hang out with, but he helped me not be the only guy! :)

Tonight was "Irish Band Night"! I was elated!! I love Irish music. My sister turned me on to a few Irish bands over the years; namely Gaelic Storm and The Elders. Every year, the whole family goes to Dayton for their annual Celtic Fest. If you've never been to this, you really should go! We take the girls every year and will be taking them again this year... Check out one of the movies that I uploaded to YouTube from last years event: Dayton Celtic Festival 2007

Trust me, Irish music, Irish beer, and an Irish atmosphere make for a good time! Needless-to-say, I was excited for this night to get started. :)

When we got there, I ordered my "farst pint ah Guinness" as we got settled in right beside the band. Our table was in the back right corner of the club, which was literally... "right beside the band". The name of the band tonight was Fire Water Folks and when they came out, they immediately began with their Celtic music and I formed "perma-grin" (no, it wasn't the Guinness at this point). This band was awesome! They were a bunch of Russians, singing Irish songs, in English. I didn't care how weird the whole scenario was, I loved it! They are made up of an accordion player, a bass guitarist, a singer / guitarist, and the drummer. Of course, the drummer was awesome (you had to expect such a statement from another drummer). He had total control of his kit and really drove the band the entire time. The crowd was totally into it and I (personally) was having a great time!! There were even some Celtic dancers that got up and danced the famous "I have no arms, just crazy legs" Irish dance moves.

Half way through the show, some of Julia's friends joined us (another Julia and Nina); they were very nice. I learned lots of Russian tonight and shared lots of English in return. After tonight, Sasha is officially my new "ruskie bradt" (aka: Russian brother). I told him that when he and Anna come to the states, they have to come visit me on my farm and meet my family. He has cousins that live in Pennsylvania, so this is very possible, I hope. We all took turns yelling back and forth at each other over the music and had a great time.

One of the highlights of the night (then I'll wrap up my post, I promise :)) was getting to actually meet the band. Anybody that knows me, knows that I just don't care... Anna wanted to get a picture of the band behind the stage (aka: behind us), so I went with her and we got to meet them. They all spoke pretty good English and really appreciated our enthusiasm (aka: drunkenness). I commended the drummer on his skills and told them all that I really enjoyed their music. I was also happy to know that they had heard of Gaelic Storm. They asked me how their English accent because they really wanted to make it sound "authentic", to which I (of course) said it was awesome... even though... whatever. Anna's husband took some pictures for us with the entire band (including the sound guy) and I walked away with a night too remember.

Well, sorry for the short post!! What else is there to say? Thanks Julia, Anna A., Anna M., Sasha, other Julia, and Nina!! I had a great night!! :)

Russian Words
  • Egg = яйцо (pronounced "ij-tso")
  • Ham - Окорок (pronounced "o-korok")
  • Beans -бобы (pronounced "bop")
  • Drum - барабан (pronounced "ba-ra-bahn")
  • Shooah - Sure (It's actually English, but all Russians say it with the elongated "oo", including Julia) :)
I also found out that "Luc" actually sounds just like the Russian word for "man hole"... yes, the steal plates in the middle of the road.

And... lastly, here's my icestache (it looks like snot, but it'sss not):

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Novosibirsk - Day 16

Today was a great day. I woke up @ 9am and worked from home (aka: my flat). Nothing too exciting really... I was able to get some clothes washed and picked up a little, but mostly sat at my desk and worked. I drank water for breakfast and an afternoon snack. I was totally out of food and was anxious to head out the door for our trip to the pub / ballet, even if only to grab a bite to eat in route.

Around 3pm, Scott called and said he and Lena were at New York Pizza (aka: NYP - pronounced "neep"), which is literally right outside my flat. I met them there and ordered 2 slices of pepperoni pizza and a sprite. Lena asked me if I would like some help ordering my pizza, and this was very nice. I thought about it for a second and said... "no thanks, I think I got this." And headed toward the counter. Scott was excited to see me fail miserably at ordering my food, and I knew it. :) As I walked up to the counter, I held up two fingers and said "two. pepperoni. pizza.", because I knew that "pepperoni" and "pizza" were the same in Russian and (of course) my two fingers indicated that I needed two of these things. The guy said, "Ok, would you like anything to drink?". I said "Yeah!". :) I know that I lucked out. (Luc - 1 point, Scott - 0). Honestly, not many people in Akademgorodok speak English, but I happened to find one that did. He spoke very good English actually.

From the NYP, we headed to the Irish Pub in downtown Novosibirsk via Taxi. We got dropped off somewhere near the pub and went into a Levi's store. I was blown away at how much Levi's cost over here. There was a sign on the one stack that said "-80%" and I thought, "cool! sale!". I got over to them and saw that they had a 1,080 ruble price tag which is just over $40! You do the math for the actual price... Ok, relax... I'll do it, it would have cost 5,400 rubles or ~$220!!? We left.

The Irish Pub was pretty cool. It was laid out a bit like an old Irish pub, but not as cool as Claddagh's in Polaris (if you live near Columbus, go there sometime!). I (of course) ordered a pint of Guiness, mostly because that's the only thing you are supposed to order at an Irish pub (at least, that's how I was raised). Needless to say, it was very refreshing. From there, we went downstairs to another pub. This pub was an old Soviet Union pub with old remnants of maps and other pieces of Soviet history from the communist era. It's so unfortunate that I know nothing about "old school" Russia. Since my trip over here, I've really taken an interest in in though and would like to learn more about the history of this place ("this place" being Russia). I took a lot of picture and was very happy that we had ventured downstairs.

Ok, we were running late and had to chug our 2nd beer. We said our "spasibo's" and headed out the door. We got to the Ballet just in time. We literally checked out coats, and sat down and then the lights went dim. Perfect timing! Unfortunately I wasn't able to take my camera in this place. It was a beautiful opera house! Just like you see in old pictures from the "days of old". I really enjoyed the ballet; more so than I thought I would.

The show was called "Gissel" and was about a poor girl falling in love with a boy that lived near. But later she finds out that he was actually very wealthy and was engaged to the princess. When she found out, she died from a weak heart and then the second half was a bit confusing to me... Basically she danced around as a ghost near her grave site with the rich boy and then the curtains closed. I do not mean to do it any injustice by my description, but that is all I could really make of the second half. :)

Again, it was very entertaining and after this ballet, I can't wait to take my girls to a ballet. I can only imagine how much they would enjoy seeing "princesses" (aka: anybody wearing a pretty dress) and dancing around on stage. The whole time I was watching the ballet, I was thinking about how they would accept such a show, and it made me that much more excited to take them to one. The best part about it for me was the choreography and music. It was amazing to think about how much work goes into one of these things: the dancers have to know their parts, the stage crew has to setup all the props, the orchestra has to know exactly when to get loud, everything.

After the show, we got on a bus back to Akademgorodok and got off near Bellisimo's, which is an Italian restaurant squeezed between a Russian restaurant and a cafe. I spoke about this place on Day 10, but unfortunately it was closed... Moving on, we went to the Jelly Belly instead (I spoke about this place on Day 2 and Day 3). We drank Chai (aka: tea) and basically just relaxed. After we ate, I headed to the grocery and got some necessities (you know, more no-hassle yogurt, water, tissues, Tide (yes, I'm still fighting with this thing), and mandarin oranges).

By the time I got home, I was pretty well spent, but I was able to talk to my girls for a while before going to bed. Daizi was being a little pistol; Jennifer said that she's grown a molar in the back of her mouth, so she's been real cranky lately. I don't blame her! I would be cranky too. Lizzie has actually stayed home from school a couple of days because she's sick too. Of course Jazzy is sick as well, so Jennifer has been dealing with a house full of miserable kids. It probably doesn't make it any better when I tell her about all the cool places I've been and all the fun I'm having over here. Needless-to-say, I'm missing them all very badly, so I'm not totally disconnected from them.

The worst part for me is night time. It's so quiet in here (aside from my neighbors upstairs) and I'm not able to tuck my girls in, nor am I able to sleep next to my wife which is really eating at me. She's gonna have to pry me off of her with a crowbar when I get home. I was able to talk to them for about 45 minutes and tell them about the ballet. They showed me how small the "Daddy Chains" are getting, and we're all pretty excited that I'm coming home next week. We've agreed to have a nice "family dinner" when they pick me up on Tuesday... Man, I can't wait!!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Novosibirsk - Day 15

Wow. I just had an amazing night! Before I get into the details of it, let me first tell you about my day. I woke up rather early considering my condition of last nights (hiccup) events. :) My Tungsten T|X gave me the B'DEEEEE B'DEEEEE around 7:55 and I woke up rather willingly believe it or not. I scurried around, finished yesterdays journal entry and got out the door by 8:50 to meet Ivan (aka: Vanya) at where else?... The Gorodok.

Oh yeah, I no longer call this place "The Gorodok", because a few days ago I learned that the name of the cafe is actually "Chocolat" (yes, it's French) and it is a building in which it is located is called Gorodok. For all the locals in Newark, this is like BW3's at SouthGate in Heath. The place is BW3's, but the location is SouthGate. To further complicate you, the name "Gorodok" is actually the short name of the town that I'm staying in. The full name is Akademgorodok (or Академгородо́к for all the advanced readers out there) and it is a part of Novosibirsk. I guess it is very much like how Upper Arlington is a part of Columbus, Ohio. Anyway, quick lesson about Akademgorodok and how it relates to omelets. :P

The morning was rather uneventful at work. I was able to participate in a daily scrum meeting and must say that I wish I would have attended more while I was here. I found them to be very useful (as they are intended to be of course). We all basically stood up from our chairs stood in a circle (under the JetBrains bulb) and each talked about what they did yesterday, problems they had, and then discussed what they had planned to do today. Todays daily scrum meeting was held in English (thanks guys). However, I'm sure that it gets much more involved on days that I'm not participating. Regardless, it was nice to see how it all goes down over here.

At lunch I went to a very nice restaurant / bar called "Republica" with Maxim, Julia, and Semyon. It was a very "Americanized" restaurant, so of course I felt very comfortable and enjoyed listening to the 80's & 90's hit rock songs. I think this is the place that we are going for "live band" night on Friday, but I'm not sure... more on that in Friday's post. Anyway it was maybe 2 blocks from the office and I was surprised that I hadn't been there until now, for it was very tasty and had a great atmosphere. We all walked back to the office miserably full. :)

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So nothing else really happened too exciting at the office except for Scott's daily "tennis lesson". Yeah that's right... :) OH YEAH, update on the post cards... they got sent today. Thanks, Oksana and Scott! Apparently if you know the right people, things get done easier around here. Unfortunately I put my faith in a bunch of guys (like myself) and we, of course, don't know much about anything. Oksana apparently knew somebody at the post office that was trained in "Postcardese" and was able to send them fairly inexpensively. As much as I'm sure Scott might want to take credit for this, I thank you Oksana for sending these. :) My family and friends thank you too... Ok, you too Scott! Whatever... 1,800 p.??

After Scott's tennis lesson, I made the cold walk home and got ready for my evening with the Novikov family. They were taking me to an Armanien restaurant called Cafe Anaet (aka: Кафе Анаит) and this is where my opening statement gets fully qualified: I had an amazing night tonight! This is the place where Konstantin and Irrena had their wedding party, almost two months ago. When we walked into the place, it looked like an abandoned grocery store or something, but then we walked through another door on the inside and was presented with a very small eating area with low lighting. There were only about 7 tables total, but only 3 of them had people sitting at them. At the front of the small room, there was this guy playing a Duduk in front of the few guests that were eating. I had never seen this instrument before, nor had I ever heard any Armenian music before. Please take a minute to watch this and really listen to the beauty of this instrument:

Irrena said it best when she said that he was playing with his heart; he really was! Of course, for all of those that are giggling about his facial expressions, you really could not believe how peaceful and beautiful his music was tonight. Honestly, I felt that the facial expressions and his swaying movements added to the music very well; I was actually hypnotized a couple of times. At one point, when he was walking back to his table (remember there were only 7), I stood up and shook his hand... Unfortunately, the only thing I could think to say was "SPASIBO!" which was (at that time) Russian for "That was amazing!" Konstantin is actually on the case (right now) to find me more of this music. :)

I totally wish I could have brought Jennifer with me to this restaurant tonight! As I was explaining to Konstantin and Irrena (sorry if I'm butchering the spelling of your name Irrena), this is the type of place that Jennifer and I would love find in Ohio and become regulars. It was the best restaurant that I think I have ever been to. I confessed this to them at the restaurant many times, and then confessed it to Jennifer when I got home. The atmosphere, the food, the music, the company, the service, the "hidden" location, everything... It may be worth the trip back to Novosibirsk if only to visit this restaurant and see this guy playing the Duduk again.

Ok, so maybe I should get into what I ate too? After all it was a restaurant... We began with cheese bread (shaped and cut like a pizza) and little roast beef rolls that were filled with some yummy goodness. I ordered barbecue lamb for my dinner, which was absolutely delicious. I got to show Irrena my "Yummy Face" which is actually a face of total disgust with a hint of disbelief thrown in. You almost have to see it. Basically, I would take a bite, make this face, and Irrena would say "What? You don't like it?". :)

Our waitress treated us like royalty and actually brought me some special dipping sauce for my lamb. Apparently we were the "special guests" because I was clearly a foreigner (camera, dictionary, english... the whole package) and after our meals, she treated us with free coffee on the house. Irrena and Kostya could not have treated me to a better evening; this is a night I'll never forget. Honestly! Thank you Novikov's!!

It goes without saying that if you live in Novosibirsk, and have never been to this place, go. If you plan to travel to Novosibirsk (BTW: I can say that now that I'm linked from jealousssss), visit this restaurant and tell them that the Novikov's and the foreigner sent you... they'll know who your talking about I'm sure. :) Just look! --->

Again, trust me... they'll know who your talking about. :)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Novosibirsk - Day 14

I'm anxious to see what these last 2 weeks of posts are going to do for my rankings when people search for Novosibirsk. I did a quick Google search for Novosibirsk and I wasn't in the first 3 pages, but I'm sure I'm in there some where (maybe page 30 or something). Somebody commented on yesterdays' post indicating that I'm linked from!! COOL! A foreigners blog linked to a major city Guide". :) I'll find the link and post it soon.

Anyway, today was a great day!! I actually slept in until about 11. I called Semyon @ 9am and told him that there was no way I was going to make it to breakfast this morning. I just went to sleep really. I was up all night dorking on some pc work that was long overdue and then posted my entry for yesterday sometime around sunrise. By the time I went to bed it was creeping up on 7am. Jennifer sent me a few IM's here and there encouraging me to sleep, but I just wrote back with "what? :|".

When I woke @ 11, I immediately got in the shower and headed out the door for work. I had a 1 hour walk ahead of me and I was really hoping it would wake me up by the the time I got to the office. Sure enough, it did. Nothing too exciting happened between the time I got to work and lunch time. However, at lunch time I was met with a new "difference" in Russian culture...

Today, I wanted to (finally) send the 24 post cards that I had finish filling out over the weekend to all of my family and friends back in the states. Oddly enough, nobody knew what the hell these things were. I showed them to Konstantin, Semyon, and Maxim and they had never seen pictures with writing on the back. Even when we went to the post office, Maxim had to explain to the lady what I was doing, and I saw some confused faces and giggling. So I knew this was not "the norm". Come to find out it was going to cost me ~90 rubles (or +$3) each to send these to my family and friends in the states. I could not believe this. They suggested that I put them each in an envelope or package them up as a single package and send them this way to the states. I was in total disbeleif!! I'm hoping that I'll be able to figure something out tomorrow. If all else fails I may just wait til I get back to the states and then send them from Columbus. It will just be my little joke to everybody; I flew all the way over to Siberia, only to send a post card from Columbus. :)

So after the post office incident Semyon, Maxim and I all ate at the "East and West" restaurant for lunch then headed back to the office. Nothing too cool happened at work really except for the fact that I kicked Scott's butt in Wii tennis, but that's neither here nor there. :)

After work, Segery A. organized an outing with the support crew. This is where my Russian culture lesson of the day really began. :) We came back to my flat and we dropped off my book bag and a bottle of vodka that he got me (thanks Sergey). From there we went to a place called "Prime Time" which was a Novosibirsk sports bar. We sat at a large table and watched Soccer on a HUGE tv for much of the night. I was finally able to put a face with all of the names I've been seeing in my inbox. I got to meet Sergey R., Andrey T., Igori (aka: Bala-bul), and Eugene, who also brought his wife Sophia (aka: Sonya). We had a GREAT time!

We played "American pool" and drank lots of beer. These guys know how to drink. :) Then around 10pm we headed off to a pool hall over by where Scott and Oksana live for the remainder of the night. The best part about the transition from one location to the other is that I was able to take my beer with me!!?? I was drinking in the taxi and it was not a problem. No way is this allowed in the states. It felt strange to say the least, but I got some good pictures out of it. :) My Russian vocabulary began to get larger and larger on this ride as everybody was teaching me new words. I just repeated them one after another and then forgot them. If I remembered every word that I've been taught, I'd be jamming. However they go in one ear, get recited through my mouth, generate some laughs, then I let them go out the other ear most times. :( I do remember "balabul" though and it was the word of the night. :)

At this pool hall, I was able to show everybody my stellar "Russian Billiards" skills. I think it was a case of beginners luck to be honest. I won both games. :) Basically you have 15 white balls and 1 red ball. The red ball acts as the "bat" and it's only purpose is to break the balls apart. Once the rack has been broken, this ball acts as any other ball. The purpose of the game is to knock in 8 balls. The first person to knock in 8 balls wins. There are no rules as to which ball you can hit and which ball goes in "next". The three biggest differences in this game are as follows:
  1. The pool table is maybe 33% larger than the standard (American) pool table
  2. The balls are maybe 25% larger than the standard (American) balls
  3. The pockets are sized exactly large enough to fit the ball into the pocket
These three factors make the Russian pool a lot more difficult than standard pool. Other differences include the fact that you can hit any ball to any other ball and the ball that you hit can actually act as the ball to go into the pocket (similar to 3-ball for all you Data Dynamics employees). Needless-to-say, I liked Russian billiards very much! Especially when I'm winning. :)

After I put the smack down on the Russians @ their own game of pool, we went to the bar area and drank more!? I was keeping up pretty well, for being a light-weight with alcohol. Sergey introduced me to a B52 drink which contained vodka, Baileys, something else, and then it was set on fire. The trick was to drink it with a straw before it melted the straw... which I did. Hiccup! I think I ended the night with a Captain Morgans and practice my Russian. I recall saying "Andddrey... Tsotsoho..." many times and getting yelled at for not pronouncing it correctly (though I'm convinced that they were just messing with me now).

I got home at 1:30 and spoke with my girls for a few minutes, then went to sleep. By the end of the night, it was clear that we have a great... hiccup... shupport team. Th'are very shmart... and fun!! :)