My Opinion Of Russia

Russia was pretty much as I expected except for one thing. People’s apartments are tiny and their appliances are miniature. The refrigerator and stove look exactly the same, just scaled down 30%. Apartments are more like studios (you basically have one room plus a small kitchen, with that one room being an office/bedroom/living room).

There were lots of pretty women in Russia, but I expected that because Yelena told me there was (none as pretty as her of course).

The government was pretty disorganized… No one asked me for my customs form that I took the time to actually fill out upon entering and then again leaving the country. Airport customs didn’t ask me if I was taking anything out of the country (actually they didn’t ask me ANYTHING). Nor did they even bother to look at my passport.

I’ll post some pictures when I find out what Yelena did with them (since they are not on the digital camera anymore).

Russian Economy

The economy in Russia is out of whack (you hear about it in the news, but you don’t really know until you visit). Here’s some examples…

  • A Hummer costs $120,000
  • A Kia costs $38,000
  • Gasoline costs $1.50 per gallon (for 95 octane no less). Maybe someone there should start selling gas mail order. heh
  • A normal apartment runs $500 per square foot (to purchase).

Now this might not seem extraordinary, but it’s not abnormal for people to make less than $500/month at their job.

Necessities are cheap though… you can buy an ice cream cone (yes, this is a necessity) for $0.20, and we bought 2 bags of groceries for like $7.00.

Windows Could Benefit From Mac Networking

While sitting in the airport yesterday, I wanted to transfer a 800MB file from my laptop (a Titanium Powerbook) to my girlfriend’s iBook. Her computer is newer than mine, so she was running 54Mbit wireless, while mine was 11Mbit. So I setup a private computer-to-computer network (no biggie).

But here’s the part I thought was cool… it was going to take like 15 minutes to transfer the file because we were limited to the 11Mbit and I didn’t want to wait that long. I had an ethernet cable with me, so I plugged it into both computers just to see if Macs could automatically switch a normal Ethernet cable to a cross-over cable (I figured it was a long shot).

Low and behold, not only did the laptop internally switch it to a crossover cable, but the file copy that was going on automatically switched to the Ethernet cable the second it was plugged in. By the time I could check to see if the computers could see each other via Ethernet, the original file copy that was going on via Airport was all of a sudden done. Either way, pretty slick that it switched a file copy to a different (faster) port automatically mid-copy.

Moscow’s Subway System

The metro in Moscow is neat. It takes you anywhere you want to go within the city for a quarter. It’s crowded and old, but that’s part of the fun. Oh, it’s pretty fast too.

It’s sort of like a roller coaster… you know you probably are safe, but your body tells you differently. :)

Pioneer iPod Adapter

It looks like Pioneer might be following Alpine’s lead and making an iPod adapter for their car stereos. I couldn’t find any info about it anywhere, but if you look close at the AVIC-N1 specs on Pioneer’s website, it has a little note saying it’s “iPod Adapter Ready”. Hmmm… interesting.

Airline Power Adapter Plug

Since I’m going to be on an 18 hour trip (3 flights) to Moscow next week, I checked to see if there was an off chance that the airline had power plugs in their seats (most airlines do in first class, but I’m not flying first class). And guess what? They DO! And as far as I could find, the airline (US Airways) is the only airline that does have power outlets in the coach cabin. All you need is a normal Empower 15V plug (which I already have). So that will be nice to actually kill time playing a video game, watching 8 movies or whatever else. Yay for US Air!

Now I just need to get an adapter so I can plug the AC power cord into the european sockets, and I’ll be set.

Hyatt Regency Kauai in Hawaii’s Drink – Poipu Passion

Almost two years ago, I went to Hawaii to laze around. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Kauai (which by the way is the nicest hotel I’ve ever seen).

Anyway, they had a specialty drink there called the Poipu Passion (I probably had like 80 of them during our stay). Guess what? I found the recipe for it! :)

  • 1 1/4 oz Absolute Citron
  • 3/4 oz Blue Curacao
  • 6 oz lemonade

Blend it together with some ice, and yum.

Image Functions In PHP

The image functions aren’t really anything new for me, I’ve done some things (like graphing functions) with the PHP image functions, but I mucked around with some advanced functions (alpha blending of multiple layers and scaling the output). And all I have to say is the PHP imaging functions are awesome (of course most of the credit is because of the GD lib).

But as an example, I made something that can render what any 2005 Hummer would look like (colors, options, etc.) dynamically. It also can dynamically generate thumbnails which ended up being a lot smoother than I thought it would. It’s like modern day paper dolls.

SUV SUT
Base Package:
Color:
Colored Grille
Chrome Brush Guard
Up-Level Chrome
Show As Thumbnail

BTW, this is what mine looks like:

How To Play Tennis

Not that I really know *how* to play Tennis that well, but I started playing (well, at this point I wouldn’t exactly call it playing… more like trying to play).

It’s a pretty fun sport (I’ve played three times in the last week now, and each time I’m getting better). Even hitting the ball against the practice wall is pretty fun. I figure it will be at least a month or two before I’m good enough to go pro though (and earn some supplemental income).

After-Market Car Audio Shortcomings

My perfect system would be this:

  • Double DIN touch-screen controller

  • Video out (to drive monitors in rear headrests)

  • Navigation system that can be controlled from the touch-screen
It doesn’t seem like a terribly tall order, but I don’t think I have any options. Some stuff is close, but nothing is “complete”.

Can’t someone combine all the good stuff into one system? :)

H2 Hummer Gas Mileage

With my new truck, I was expecting to get about 8 miles per gallon. I drove it around over 100 miles today, and the on-board computer showed me getting 12.5 miles per gallon overall. Definitely not great mileage, but better than I was expecting.

One nice thing about it is my Toyota Tacoma has a 17 gallon tank and got 16 miles per gallon (272 miles between gas station visits). The H2 has a 32 gallon tank, so 12.5 miles per gallon works out to exactly 400 miles per tank. So the slightly higher fuel costs is offset by saving my time of going to the gas station. :)

2005 H2 SUT

Well, I finally decided to get one (a 2005 SUT), so I picked it up from the dealer today. Got a pretty good deal on it, and it was exactly what I wanted (I would never have bought it if it wasn’t). This is what I ended up getting:

2005 Hummer 2 SUT (Stealth Gray Metallic)

– Luxury Package (“Ebony” [why not just call it black?] leather interior, heated seats [rear too], chrome roof rack, mirrors, handles, side steps and wheels, 6 disc CD changer, XM radio, floor mats, leather console and chrome interior trim)

– Self leveling air suspension system

– On board air compressor (with hose)

– First aid kit

– Chrome wrap-around brush guard (I needed this for lights)

– Off road lights (on brush guard)

– Locking hard tonneau cover

– Snowboard rack (up to 4 boards)

Chechnya’s War With Russia

Just a little note to let everyone know how super stoked I am (Yelena too) that Chechen terrorists are hitting Russia 2 weeks before we go there. In the last week they blew up two planes, suicide bombed a subway station and now they took a school hostage and are killing kids.

Can’t wait to go to Russia! :)