“I think it is trying to snow”
I could have written this one every day of the last three weeks. That’s how long we have been back home, ironically we left the snow of England which is quite pretty to the more industrial snow of our current homeland. Arriving late afternoon is was still a shock to see piles 6 to 8 foot high by the side of the road. It had come down two days before and the army of people had been out moving it around and out of the way.
There seems to be a strict code for moving snow. First main roads (predictably) then side streets then pavements and last car parking spaces. They have neat machines which scoop up the snow and put it on a conveyor which dumps it into a truck behind. Something like those you see digging up the asphalt. The snow is as I noted before moved somewhere else as there is not much chance it will melt for a month or two.
This brings me to the temperature “it’s cold”. I know it is relative and I have often been in Newcastle where people don’t seem to bother with coats (although this owes more to the fact that they are only moving 100 yards or so to the next pub). I have seen people in Rome with overcoats on when I was in short sleeves. As I say it is relative and when I go out I think it is relatively cold. Now I think I may still have some readers in Canada who might still think this is nothing special but to me of course it is still new. The temperature is averaging -15c. it has got as low as -26c and one day it did get as high as -5c when that pale yellow thing which never seems to rise above the rooftops popped out. We live on the 6th floor and not sure it gets above my eye line as it struggles to make any impression. The only result of this sudden exposure to the rays was to melt some of the roof and cause a leak into the “Patio” area I say patio it is about 5ft by 2ft so not something to shout about.
So how does one survive? Well inside is fine, so fine in fact I can spend the day in shorts and a football shirt. These Russians know how to heat a house. The radiators pump out heat constantly and there is never a stop they just keep going and will possibly get shut off 1st April. It is going out which is the issue so the drill is to check the outside temperature as it makes a difference to what you will put on. You also take into consideration how long you will be out and where. You only wander around a mall wrapped up once to break into a sweat. So here’s the deal.
-5 c woolen gloves, short coat with fleece, cloth scarf, 2 layers vest and shirt, no hat, short boots, 1 handkerchief
-10 – 15c padded gloves, long coat with fur collar, large woolen scarf, 2 layers vest and jersey, knitted hat, short boots, 1 handkerchief
– 18 – 25c Skiing gloves, long coat (add hood), large scarf, 2 layers shirt and jersey, fur hat with ear muffs, long large boots, 2 handkerchiefs (see below)
-25c or below what are you going out for you must be mad.
Does this work, not really there is a gap between your coat and your boots which is freezing. There are lined trousers which I need to acquire before the weather turns (so lots of time yet). You of course have the obligatory yet involuntary running nose which is quite an embarrassment. It starts 15 paces outside and continues forever. I can saturate one in the first 10 minutes so two is preferable. You also need to remember to keep things in your coat pockets as getting inside all this apparel once out could be classed as an Olympic event as you struggle to retrieve that 50 ruble note from some location about you which you thought was a wise place to store it.
I may say some more on the topic next week but I need to leave in 20 minutes so I really need to start getting wrapped up now if I am going to get out on time.
Habit, Routine or Ritual ?
I am thinking about the difference if there is any between the Habits we have and the routines we develop and if they in the end turn into rituals.
Take getting up in the morning now I have a routine, get up when the “beep” tells me to (I would rather have the radio but given I don’t have control of the alarm then a beep it is). Put on a pair of sports shorts and a football shirt and wander off to make coffee and a cup of tea for Judi which I take back to her as she never gets up until the 3rd beep. I give the cat a very small amount of milk in fact only enough to say you have had some, more a couple of drops but she does get excited about it.
I turn the radio on as I don’t like silence and sit sipping coffee. The radio is set to a local station which if course I don’t really understand but the music is mostly in English although they do have some interesting stuff “Like a hobo from a broken home I’ll come running back to you” is one of the current favorites. I am collecting silly lyrics for a later blog. On the 3rd buzzer I will check the kettle to make sure there is enough water in the kettle for more coffee. Judi appears as if my magic with tea and shoes in hand, tops up her tea and puts her shoes on. We talk briefly about things which need doing that day then she is gone.
My routine continues make the bed which is really just straightening the duvet then onto the Yoga. I am continuing with the Yoga even though I don’t like it. I just want it over with but know you cannot really rush it. It is not circuit training and you are supposed to relax into it. I am sure it is doing me good and it was one of the time slots I made for myself in the early days. That done get dressed and start the day.
It’s a very repetitive process broken only by slight changes on the weekend so is it a routine or a ritual, well I think routines can be broken but rituals are fixed like religious ceremonies they are written in lore and cannot be changed. There is something unnerving about a change of routine, as humans we are creatures of habit so changes upset the balance and cause anxiety and confusion which is the reason for this particular blog.
The Australian open tennis is on and the matches are starting early so as we get up there are results to check and live tennis on the TV. This interrupts the normal routine and the calm and tranquility. TV’s and Pc’s need to be up and running and sports web sites scoured for comments. All of this before 8 am in the morning now that is a little cruel for a man who likes peace and quiet as a start to the day.
Not only do I have all of this but I am designated watcher which means I have to continue checking progress so I can give a running commentary later in the day. No don’t get me wrong I like tennis and am developing a cool backhand slice on the Wii game but it is difficult to watch and retain all that is happening. There was a match lasting five and a half hours the other day so all of my routine was shot to pieces. I am actually writing this whilst Federer struggles in the early stages of a match with Davydenko. It fine but only 10 o’clock in the morning. I was never a daytime TV watcher so I still feel guilty about having it on before tea time.
So my daily routine has changed. I know it will be over next week and we will return to normal so I can live with it and try and remember it is just a routine not a ritual.
So what’s your ritual ? getting ready to leave the house, setting the table, the route you take shopping, when you do you laundry, how you clean the house, there are many habits we develop which become routines which in turn become rituals. What if done differently will send you into a tail spin and completely throw off your day. It is worth remembering “if things don’t change they stay the same” a very silly saying but would you want to be dictated to by a routine you developed or are you a free spirit who can adapt to the situation at hand.
I need to stop now as Federer seems to have got the measure of Davydenko and may be closing in for the kill we shall see and I shall comment later tonight.
Now that is extremely annoying not to say embarrassing
It would seem I am spamming people maybe even sending out phishing emails and all this is very annoying. There is that sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you start to get responses to emails you never sent and some of the ex IT people I worked with start to suggest you might be infected. Damn, damn, damn. You wonder if the filtering on other peoples email will protect them or that they will have the good sense to not try the innocuous links in the emails but if people trust you then there is a chance that some innocents will and could start the chain again.
Not that I paint myself whiter than white only that I am naturally careful about these things. I have the strongest antivirus stuff and religiously keep it up to date. I avoid dodgy sites and even have Norton check sites and let me know if they are suspect. I don’t save my passwords I always key them in each and every time. I don’t use my email id for every site I log onto I have various different ones for different places. My virus scanning is on constantly and I run a full scan every week Not sure what more I could really do maybe it is a case of “S**t happens” but more likely that it is my fault an accidental click is all that is needed and there that little piece of code which silently attached itself springs into action and soon everyone in your mailing list is getting a little message saying “hi” from you.
Damn, damn, damn it’s too late now and you just have to live with it. Rescan the Pc (680,812 files) delete all of you cookies, history and anything else you can think of. Respond to anyone who lets you know and apologize and hope you have not started off a global chain which will soon sweep the world and bring it to a standstill.
You get somewhat blasé after a while and it was normal for me to leave my email open all day whilst I am online which may be a key. Not sure about that but think I will only use email on its own and be even more selective about the sites I use. I actually think it was the local Russian Expat site as the email went out early in the morning and it’s either that or the BBC Sports page (which I very much doubt) as these were the only places I had visited. So probably drop the Expat site which I have never been too fond of as there are many people on these moaning about stuff which is irritating so no real loss. Not sure I could survive for long without the BBC as it is my link to the rest of the world.
Damn, damn, damn. You want to trust you Pc and not have to spend your time worrying about this sort of stuff I have lots to do and much of it on the machine so it will be a rough couple of days checking and rechecking that everything is back to normal. In reality it may not be that big a deal but it is never the less embarrassing and that hurts (a great deal). You don’t want people worrying when they get an email from you, you want them to trust you and believe you would not put them in harm’s way.
This sort of thing is not new and in my time I have had exposure to lots of people with this issue just it was never me. Whilst I was running help desks you could get 10 -20 a day in the late ninety’s as that was the age of spam and it was there every day and you spent a great deal of time dealing with it and pacifying people and repairing bits of kit. Some even required changing a person’s name. With the advent of some laws this calmed down and phishing took over as the threat. Now we also have to contend with service threats which try and swamp sites with requests to bring them to a standstill.
Maybe this is the most worrying threat, we live by the Pc these days and not having it whilst it won’t stop the world it could severely impact every day actions. Just think of what you do online besides email and Facebook, shopping, banking, organizing holidays, etc, etc and how you would cope if these were not available just when you needed them.
Damn, damn, damn.
Can you hear something “Beeping”
It seems I am somewhat sensitive to things beeping and was wondering if it was just me of if it was something everyone suffered from. The electric clock behind me has just “beeped” o’clock not sure which o’clock but it has just turned something.
My Pc beeps at me all the time either letting me know I have new mail or that it has blocked a popup or I have done some illegal activity. My phone beeps to let me know it has a message or a text it also vibrates but that only creates a sound if it is on a hard surface. The cooker bleeped at me the other day when I took the lid off the pan cooking rice and put it down on the surface, “I don’t think you want to do that Steve” my brain heard it say in that wierd HAL like voice. In reality it was just saying “ouch that was hot”.
Over Christmas whilst on our recent epic voyage around the UK there was beeping abound. From smoke detectors through microwaves, dish washers, cookers reaching temperature or ending set times, washing machines, household timers, reversing cars and even the car we were driving would bleep when the temperature reached 4 degrees (no idea why 4 degrees but it did). There are also the video games which bleep constantly telling us to stop doing that or sometimes (rarely) saying well done.
There seems to be a semi Pavlovian (Google Pavlov) response to these sounds from joy that something is done, concern if it is not finished at an appropriate time or even fear if it is unexpected. We jump to respond to these stimuli with a level of involuntary activity which I think we have little control over. Are we training ourselves to respond and are our lives now driven by the beeps or are we ultimately still in control. We jump to respond without thinking is my view. My Pc has just beeped to tell me I have new mail which I am going to resist reading until I finish this (well maybe).
Each beep is vying for our attention “pick me, pick me, me first, no me please” they are telling us all trying to outdo each other to be dealt with. I think of them like the seagulls in Finding Nemo all calling “mine, mine, mine, mine, mine” which I found amusing. Do you think they feel smug if you pick them first or sulk if you don’t? Do you think they secretly get together when we are asleep and organize the rota ?
I am not sure if we could retrain ourselves to not respond to these interruptions. How long could you ignore the dish washer telling you its finished (in my case I can set it to take up to 4 hours but that’s a different problem). Now of course the reality is that the dishes are safe and clean and not going anywhere so unless you have limited crockery and are waiting to dish out dinner there is actually no need to rush to decant the items so what’s the big deal. The same goes for the microwave, you are unlikely to be eating what every was in there unless you have an asbestos lined mouth as it is still actually cooking for a while after it stops. This is why they say leave it for a few minutes so why not just reset the bleep to activate 3 minutes later or is that to simple.
(Still not read that email)
I think in the old day’s church bells and clocks were the only things making noises and these were time related so it told us it was time to start or stop things. These days they are activity based beeps telling us something has happened so they cross over into a different area. They are telling us we need to do something and irrespective of when the bleep goes off we respond even to the point if interrupting what ever important thing we are actualy doing. Hands up those who actually set one of these appliances off so it finishes at a particular time or are you like me sat with my coat on waiting 20 minutes for the washer to tell me it is time to go out. you see the beeping is actually an irritation to the routine nobody sets their appliances to complete something when it is convenient for them you allow the Beeps to dictate when things happen.
Now some of these things are essential like the smoke alarm and probably the cooker unless you like your roast well done but perhaps some of them have delusions of grandeur where they “think” they are important but in reality they are just bit players in the grand scheme of things. Maybe if we read the manuals we could turn off the sound (need to find the booklet for that clock) or maybe just maybe we could learn to ignore them. What do you think do you have the will power ?
going to wait another 30 minutes to read that email, maybe go and have a cup of coffee the kettle has just clicked to let me know it is boiled. (are clicks the new beep?)
A toast “to the health of the Russian people”
Now toasts are a big deal in Russia that is the ones you raise a glass to not the ones you put Marmalade (Jelly) on. At any gathering of above 2 people you are likely to encounter someone standing up and providing a toast. They can be at the start middle or end of your meal and there is not specific protocol it’s a bit like karaoke where anyone and everyone can participate. Of course there needs to be an obligatory drink involved and nobody seems to shy away even when the 7th person is on their feet lifting up yet another glass. Not only are there no formal rules there does not seem to be any planning it is more like random people getting up and pretty much repeating what the last person said, with a few amendments though.
This does tend to prolong meals as does the number of courses they have. Not that there are mountains of food more that there are lots of things offered and you choose to dip in or not as the fancy takes you. Looking at the local cook books there seems to be an awful lot of things either pickled or in aspic (Google it) which is “interiesna”. I am sure they would feel the same if they were offered jellied eels (En) or chittlin (Us) or snails (Fr) but each to his own.
The drink was what I wanted to comment on as President Medvedev (you know the one who swapped jobs with Putin) has just passed a law stating that a bottle of Vodka can now no longer be sold for less than $3 which is slightly worrying as it “doubles” the price of the cheapest brands. Anyway they have a goal to half the amount of alcohol consumed by Russians by 2020 with a 15% reduction by the end of 2010. The average Russian drinks 15 litres (26 pints) of pure alcohol per year, or half a pint a week, compared with 5.4 litres in 1990. To put it in some perspective it is twice as much as the US and 50% more than the UK. Of course this is an average so if you take away the babies and kids we might get an even more frightening scenario. One thing I can commend the Russians on is that their drink drive law says 0% alcohol is allowed so nice and straight forward then.
They quote that at least 2.3 million people in Russia are alcoholics, and it is blamed for rising mortality rates, particularly among men. Male life expectancy has fallen to less than 59 years, compared with 72 for women. Maybe why I don’t see that many old men around (I will be in the minority in a year or so).
It’s not the first time they have tried to deal with the problem. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, declared a war on alcohol abuse in 1985, ordering dramatic cuts in the production of wines and spirits and introducing strict controls on public consumption. It led to a surge in illegal production of low-quality, home-brewed drink (‘samogon’). So maybe it is in the genes they just like a drink or two.
Anyway Mr Putin (you know the one who swapped jobs with Medvedev and may well swap back) is supporting the initiative to improve the general health of the population by supporting this alcohol reduction although they don’t seem to have come up with a solid plan yet other than increasing the duty on it. Not sure that is a long term deterrent and they may want to consider other options. Possibly education as children start drinking between 13 and 15 so they could add something to the curriculum if they want.
Now does this mean that the place is overwhelmed with drunks no not in the least whilst there might be the odd party at the entrance to the Metro in general they are well behaved and you do not see hoards of people staggering around making a nuisance of themselves later at night neither do you see a lot of confrontation or fights. Maybe they are all too “tired and emotional” to care
Clingfilm (Stretch wrap) is it stretching things too far
As usual Clingfilm or cling wrap or stretch wrap to our American readers was invented in 1953 by a scientist who was trying to make a hard plastic cover for his car; his experiment was completely unsuccessful but he then found the usefulness of plastic wrap which he happened to create instead. So the wrap’s history is built on a lab error and serendipity as usual in these cases.
Anyway it has many uses but is normally to be seen wrapped around food items of various sorts although it has been seen, covering pallets, windows, etc. Being inventive we can find lots of reasons to cover things in this thin film some less effective and as an emergency condom is not recommended (or so it says on Google something about chafing)
The food area is probably the most popular use and taking leftovers and wrapping them tightly in little bundles to carefully place in the fridge or freezer for later consumption is the norm. Now I could ask how many times they are actually brought back out and eaten verses how many times you would open the door and wonder what the smell is before hunting around to find that item you just could not face throwing away. Likewise you may well find that small section of frozen lasagna only resurfaces when you either defrost the freezer (come on when was the last time you did that honestly ? (Michelle excluded)) or when you have run out of room and are trying to find a place for that bit of lasagna you make six months later.
If you are not at the stage of storing cooked food don’t despair you can individually wrap fresh items as well which involves taking the cling film off the item you have just purchased and dividing it into small portions to wrap again and for future forgetting,, sorry future use at you convenience. That is if you can get the flaming stuff off once it is frozen as the defrosting seems to make the thing so slippery you may get frustrated and sling it once again into the depths of the freezer.
No sure what the knack of using this wonderful item is as my efforts seem to consist of not being able to unwrap it whilst is it inside of the packaging and also not being able to snap it off cleanly even when using that thin strip of metal on the edge of the box, you know the one you catch your finger on then why the film has to immediately want to wrap itself together into a tangled mess. I understand it’s probably static electricity but it is difficult to ground myself being in a sixth floor flat and taking it all outside would be unhygienic I think. So the act of wrapping these items is a challenge in itself. Whilst I think about it why am I trying to individually wrap half a dozen chicken breasts into individual portions? It’s not like there is a shortage or they are even difficult to get hold of. The supermarket is 400 meters away so not difficult to get to and they are not heavy either. So the only logical reason for trying to perform this rather difficult task is because I saved 15 rubles by purchasing 6 at once (51 cents, 31 pence) and possibly the amount of film I waste trying to complete this Mensa test will probably negate my savings so maybe not so smart. I could of course tell the assistant I want a single chicken breast six times but given they are not the friendliest of people I am not prepared for the inevitable fallout as word of my request filters around the store and people begin to point at me and mutter under their breath.
Maybe it need one of those dispensers they use in the shops they don’t appear to have the same issues I encounter although they are doing it continuously every day so maybe it is in the wrist action. Not sure where we would put it or if it should be constantly on the worktop but I think we have better use of the limited space we have so a none starter really even if I could find one.
So the usefulness of clingfilm is beginning to escape (and annoy) me although covering things to cook in the microwave is I have to say is not only useful but in the main essential although not actually having a microwave makes this less attractive. So I will have to find user uses for the remaining three quarters of a roll we have that is if I can find the end of it or avoid cutting my finger on the serrated edge of the box. I am not intending to throw it away as I am sure in the not too distant future I will have a burning need for it. Life can be very complex at times.
Now of course I may have a jaundice view of all of this as I am a Tupperware man myself ever since we got our carrousel which eliminated a whole cupboard full of lids and containers which did not fit each other. You probably have a similar collection in one of your cupboards. Maybe there should be a Tupperware swap club where people gather together and try and fit lids to containers. I of course am above all of this as I have 3 different container sizes but only one lid size which fits all of them. This of course does mean that I have a fridge half full of translucent boxes of various sizes with items I have forgotten or am ignoring until they start to smell or start moving around on their own. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
They are stealing the snow !!!
Hello I’m back sorry about that, I will fill in the gaps as we go along but first I thought I would tell you about the snow stealers.
They come in the dead of night with diggers and big trucks and shovel it all away. During the day time the road sweepers shovel it all into nice piles then overnight it gets taken away and then they start again. Now you might think why move it at all just let it melt well let me tell you it’s -10 and likely to stay that way until late March so this snow is not going anywhere soon. Not sure where it ends up but I imaging a real ski slope somewhere around the city which will probably operate until April.
We were in England over Christmas and whilst they are experiencing the worst winter for 20 or 30 years it’s not the same. For the most part it is pretty and lasts a few days bringing catastrophic predictions of shortages of Gas and grit, food, travel disruptions and worst of all cancellation of football (soccer) matches (even in the US snow is not allowed to stop sports matches). People scramble to get sledges or something else to slide down the local hill on. Here the snow is not pretty at all it absorbs all of the smoke and fumes and is a light brown color.
They don’t grit here you just take smaller steps if you know what’s good for you. Every few minutes you see someone sliding around and you remember short steps. In a few places they add some specks of something but it is not salt as it does not melt anything it just makes some patterns until it get covered by the next dump.
You would have thought with all of those salt mines in Siberia they would have some spare but no.
Here of course they are used to this type of weather and just get on with things. The roads seem ok as everyone has winter tires on and driving is not really an issue in fact it is slightly better now as they don’t drive at such reckless speeds. The pavements are a different matter. All the buildings have downspouts I say downspouts rather than drain pipes because they just splash out onto the pavement as they don’t have drains. So when the sun does shine and some of the snow on the roofs melt they fall onto the pavement and create mini ice rinks. There are also huge icicles hanging from the roofs as the downspouts freeze up and overflow. This has people putting out barriers to stop you walking underneath them. Fine except you then have to walk into the road or over the mounds of snow waiting to be stolen. So you need your wits about you looking up down to see where the next hazard is. Our road which normally has people parking on both sides (and the pavement) and still had room for two lanes of traffic is now a single lane track as it gets narrower due to the mounds of snow being piled up by the sweepers that is when they are not hiding in the bus shelters drinking that is (the drinking has reduced but not stopped).
Right now I can see a man walking across the roof opposite pushing the snow of the edge and banging the guttering to remove the ice. No safety harness or protective roping off for these people they just climb up and bang away. I think I need to stop watching him as I am getting a bit queasy.
Almost everyone has a big hat and coat but not many have scarfs not sure why maybe they think it is sissy. Well I don’t and mine gets double wrapped around my neck just to be sure. Judi says there is now 20 minutes “Faffing around” before we go out as we prepare. (Remember always go to the toilet BEFORE you start) and the same when we get back and of course now we understand why all good Russians take their shoes off outside. There are lots of fur coats on display and one has to believe they are effective and there is no stigma attached to them around here.
They do know how to heat the shops and houses and I am typing this in my t-shirt, well the office but wearing a t-shirt. Our radiators came on 1st of October and there is no thermostat just on or off so heat regulation is simple. No 57 page document to quiz to set up the heating just on or off which even I can manage.