Thursday, October 28, 2004

The age of miracles is truly upon us

They fixed our front door. I can't believe it. Also there is a strange ring of light around the moon.

I am watching out for flying pigs, but apparently they are not here yet, or flown away already.

What will be the next miracle? William Weld winning this presidential election? US troops capturing Osama on Novermber 1st? Arafat kicking the bucket?

The world is ending, the hell has frozen over, the pigs are flying all around.

Red Sox won World Series. For the first time in 86 years, AFAIK.

What next? What kind of miracles are in store for us? Bush and Kerry both losing the election? Rivers flowing backwards? My front door getting fixed?


There was a moon eclipse and I did not see it, even though was awake at the time. How come nobody told me?

Managed to sleep 3 hours this night, again. It's not too bad.

They have Bush's and Kerry's pictures on the bus stops here. Is there nowhere I can get away from these fuckers?

Matti Nykänen stabbed someone because he lost to the victim in finger-wrestling. The mind boggles. I'd hate to think what would have happened if it were something serious like a dick length contest.

They lost 60000 absentee ballots in Florida (empty ones; they just never reached voters). Heh. We probably lose them all the time in Massachusetts, but since it's not a swing state nobody ever cares. Hope they send new ones ASAP, or else we are gonna have a scandal like 4 years ago again.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Sickness, Newton Election Commission and the joys of voting

Still a bit sick. Feeling mostly OK as long as I am up and drink tea all the time. The problem with this is that it is very hard to sleep while being up and having a cup of tea. Last night managed to sleep from midnight to 1am, from 8am to 9 am and from 10am to 11am. Luckily I have eaten so much various pseudoephedrine-containing medications that am not particularly sleepy.

Voted last Sunday (for Sirpa Asko-Seljavaara). It sure does feel exotic to vote in person as opposed to filling an absentee ballot.

I am really glad that here we don't have to put up with all the voter registration nonsense like we have in the USA. Athough I have a feeling that it wouldn't be so bad there either if I were registered someplace other than Newton. Newton Election Commission is, well, weird.

I keep registering. They keep throwing me off voter rolls, which pretty much means that I have to reregister just before every election.

For those who do not know how it works: I am registered as a voter in Newton, even though I do not live there. This is normal; this is what I am supposed to do; this is what all the Americans who live abroad are supposed to do - vote in their last place of residence in the US by absentee ballot.

On the other hand, people who do not actually live there are not supposed to claim living there on the census forms, because the census is supposed to count only the people who really are there.

Here is the problem: the city of Newton uses the census data to purge the electoral rolls from people who do not live there. I visited them in person, told them to put me back on the voter list, and pointed out the problem. They immediately came up with the solution: why don't I just lie on the census form? (Of course they used the verb "say" and squirmed when I explained to them why lying on the census form is a bad idea and is in fact punishable by $500 fine under the federal law.) Anyway, they put me back on the list (which they will surely purge again by the next election).

I requested an absentee ballot and told them that I would be staying for 2 more weeks at my Newton address and would like to receive it there, but if they cannot send it so soon, I would like to receive it on my Finnish address. They said that they would be getting the ballots by the end of the week and my ballot will surely make it on time to my Newton address, but if I don't get it by the end of next week I should call them. With that I left the premises and they hopefully felt better.

On Friday of the next week the ballot still did not come. I called them and asked to send another one to Finland, since I'd be leaving this weekend. The nice young man who answered the phone said that they cannot do that, since they have already sent me one, but that I am welcome to pick up another ballot in person at their office Friday or next week. I told him that I cannot do that (do not have a car and am not gonna be there the next week). Next the young man suggested that I should get somebody to send it to me. I could do that, of course, but I believe that a citizen's interaction with officials should generally be able to proceed without the help of family and friends, so I told him that I am trying to get him to send me the ballot. He said that he cannot help me, and after a few strong but printable words from me buggered off to find somebody who can.

He found a woman who was a lot more accomodating, took my address and promised to send me a ballot. I was lucky and did in fact get the first ballot they sent on Saturday, and used it. Of course I won't use the one they sent - or did not send - to Finland, but since they do not know it, I am still wondering where the hell is it. It's been 12 days. It does not normally take that long for a letter to reach Finland from the USA. If it does not come on time I will consider some retaliatory measures, such as complaining to some federal agency that deals with such issues. In fact probably should do it anyway.

I know I am paranoid, but when 3 ballot requests out of 4 fail maybe somebody really is out to prevent me from voting (though do not understand why since I generally vote in fairly conventional ways).

Monday, October 25, 2004


Been really, really sick for the last couple of days. Not even anything serious, some allergic reaction that causes continuous coughing. But continuous coughing is really a bad thing in a person for whom coughing causes vomiting. Two night spent on one's knees in the toilet praying to the Great White Porcelain God does negative things to one's mood and working ability. Last night was perfect: throwing up every 5 minutes, work to do before a deadline in the morning, and a dentist appointment in the morning.

The day's biggest achievement: not throwing up on the dentist.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Cleaning pays off

Hurrah! Hurrah! I found the floor!


Some bad person went and filled up all my hard drive. Need a new and bigger hard drive. Probably gonna buy it as soon as my credit card recovers from the vacation.

Maybe should move some stuff on DVDs temporarily. Bought 20 DVD+Rs for $8. Wonder if they'll work.

Holy shit (cleaning the house)

Stayed in and tried to clean the place today. The place is in such a mess that my efforts remind me of a mosquito trying to fuck an elephant.

Cleaned the makeup drawer. Found out that I own:

- 22 lipsticks (graah! graah! where did they come from? has anyone ever seen me in a lipstick? I don't think I've worn lipstick 22 times in my life)
- 3 hard powders, 5 cream powders, 2 cover sticks
- 8 boxes of eyeshadows and 2 eyeshadow pencils
- 3 lip pencils, 3 eye pencils, 3 eye pens
- 1 blush (never used blush in my life)
- 3 mascaras plus 2 things called hair mascara
- 28 bottles of nail polish (but not surprising since actually use it regularly)
- 1 jar of glittery stuff whose purpose is unknown but which is too hard to be comfortably spread on any body part

And these are only the ones in the box. The are lots more around the house, esp. nail polish.

Probably should either forswear buying makeup forever, or make a heroic effort to use up the makeup I already have. Maybe both.

So don't be surprised if you see me wearing a centimeter-thick layer of makeup sometime soon.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Still no rest for the wicked

The Mandarin test came and went and was horrible. Can't recognize any tones at all, much less half of the sibilants. Also had three pencils none of which worked. You can write Chinese characters with a ball-point pen if you know what you are doing. I am not sure I knew.

The bugs are still there, and I can't even find them.

Was gonna clean my place yesterday but wasn't really up to it.

Saw a nightmare and even remember most of it. It featured installing some weird Linux distro on many even weirder computers, a big TV with an even bigger picture that you had to scroll from right to left in order to see it all, and a fight with an unfamiliar Russian guy at a party - not a mock fight but a fight of the kind that usually has only one survivor. Woke up in the middle of it and realized that it's late and there are many bugs to be fixed. Ugh.

What I hate about such nightmares is a surge of adrenaline that just does not go away. Don't know what to do about it.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Vacation: the crazy guy

On Saturday Volodya had a birthday party. It was a very good party even though I behaved badly and ate all the carrots. I don't even like carrots, but Lyalya make some kind of a carrot salad thingie, and it was very good and I ate it all. I think I should be ashamed. Tried to eat all the chocolate cake, too, but many other people were way faster.

One of the guests at the party was a guy named Y., who is a friend of my parents', and of Volodya and Lyalya. Everybody says he is a very nice guy when one-on-one and sober. I'll have to take their word for it, since I've only seen him at parties and rather drunk.

In fact Saturday was only the second time I'd seen him. The first time was at Benka's birthday party 4 years ago. He'd rather startled me then with the most insane party conversation I'd ever heard, and I had heard quite a few when I used to hang out with people who often enjoyed 2-3 drops of LSD for recreational purposes at parties.

This time he was even better. He opened the conversation by challenging me for being a disrespectful daughter to my father. I am not quite sure whether he meant that I disrespect my father by disagreeing with him sometimes, or by not disagreeing with him enough. Oska listened in on that and was rather amused. In the end of this topic, Y. said that if I were his daughter he would try to improve my personality by applying physical violence. All of the above was not said in an aggressive tone, but in a rather neutral and helpful tone, as if advising me about some improvement if interior decoration. I did not raise the obvious question of whether or not he has ever practiced the improvement of his actual daughters' personalities in the aforementioned way.

Then he told me to describe my average day in Finland. I did; he told me I was lying but did not expand on that. He asked me how does it feel to run away from Objective Reality and hide in a Small Artificial World like Finland. I told him that we have Objective Reality in Finland as well. He said he meant running from a country that is significant in world politics to one that isn't. I told him that while there is a number of things I miss about the US, being a Global Leader in Building Democracy in a Separately Taken Arab Country (Volodya's description, not mine) isn't one of them. At that point he started a long tirade about people who live in other countries while their own country is fighting against terrorism. This reminded me of Russia and Russian attitudes and I almost started singing

Значит все мы, кровь на рыле,
Топай к светлому концу,
Ты же будешь в Израиле
Жрать, подлец, свою мацу.
Мы стоим за дело мира,
Мы готовимся к войне,
Ты же будешь, как Шапиро,
Прохлаждаться в стороне.

(Sorry to those who don't speak Russian, I'll try to translate it later.)

Then he started a lecture on how wrong and bad I am about not wanting to have children, but the lecture was not unusual in itself as such lectures go. Then he decided that he wanted us to hit each other's hands and see who is faster. He was faster, in fact he had a very good reaction. He told me that I really suck and that I should better stop doing martial arts. I told him that since I practice Krav Maga for fun and exercise rather than to become the world champion, I don't see why not being particularly good should bother me much. Or him. He responded with new insults to my personal morals and martial arts skills, but then calmed down and found a new victim.

A couple of hours later he suddenly came back to me and said that he wished to fight, and that I should come out into the living room and fight with him a bit, and that he will kick my ass. I came out into the living room, mostly out of concern for a possible fight in the dining room and flying saucers (not of the UFO kind, but the kind you put your cake in). I'd often seen fiftyish Russian men fighting between each other just to resolve the question of who can beat whom up, but I'd never imagined myself being a party in such a fight. But there I was, ready to fight and quite concerned. (The last time I'd sparred drunk at a party was 12 years ago and it was not a happy memory: I had to spend most of the rest of the night bringing various cold objects to my victim and apologizing profusely. Free sparring with a man who does not have his ball protector on is not a good idea.)

In the end it turned out all right: we did not break each other, ourselves, any innocent bystanders or inanimate objects. He protected his balls very well to the detriment of nonessential organs like shoulders, head and ass. I tapped him on the sides and the ass with my foot several times. He got some punches through, and so did I, but most of the punches were deflected from both sides. Then he started telling me that I am in fact pretty good (meaning the martial arts and not the moral character), and peace, booze, tea and cake have finally came upon us.

He is not bad himself at his martial art. I am glad for him: if he regularly talks to almost-strangers at parties that way, he surely needs the fighting skill pretty often.

In the end, however, he still managed to piss me off by repeatedly asking what kind or revenge I'd take if somebody killed my parents. And that was after he discovered that I can in fact fight him. Silly bugger. Heh.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Vacation: Anya's baby and Aquarium

Tuesday, October 12: met Lena in downtown and we went to see Anya and Mark and their baby. We wanted to buy some wine and Chinese food, but upon our arrival in Quincy noticed that everything was closed. Well, what else do you expect from a town where they ban the sales of non-alcoholoc beer to under 21-year-olds? We crossed the subway tracks to another, livelier part of Quincy, and found what we needed.

Erik (the baby) looks very much like Churchill, even more so than most babies. His eyes are very well-focused, and usually focused on Anya's breasts. He is somewhat furry, but they say that happens. He also has huge balls, but Mark says that they told him not to get excited about it in the baby class: all male babies have huge balls.

Lena looks cheerful and happy in spite of being somewhat overworked. Apparently marketing works out a lot better for her than software engineering. We talked about our careers and found out that Lena did not like software engineering precisely for the same reasons why I like it: having to pay attention to a lot of small details, and working alone for the most part.

Wednesday, Octover 13: went to the Aquarium to look at the critters. They have a lot jellyfish now. I don't know if it's just a temrorary thing, but they are cute and look rather exotic in comparison to ones I'd seen live. The rest of the critters were as usual: seals, huge turtles, sharks, penguins, etc. They let you touch starfishes, which is nice, but not half as nice as some other aquarium I'd been to (either in Blankenberge or in Scheveningen) that lets you touch rays. Rays are wonderfully soft to the touch and apparently like to be touched, or at least come for more much like friendly cats.

Said hi to the huge jewfish they have there. Three years ago the American Fisheries Society has decided to rename the jewfish, because somebody found it offensive. I assume that somebody was not a jewfish him/herself, although I can imagine a fish not wanting to be called a jewfish since this name conjures the image of gefilte fish in many people. We were all waiting with great interest whether they rename jewfish into goyfish, but they called it goliath grouper.

While in Aquarium I started thinking: what determines what people find cute? A lot of sociobiological stuff is being said about people finding other people cute, but what about animals? Is there some biological and/or social reason why people find some animals cute and some not, and why these preferences overlap quite a lot? And why are all the animal places always full of children? Do children like to see animals more than adults? If so, why? Do adults perceive children as likely to like to see the animals? Is this universal, at least in all cultures that have zoos?

No rest for the wicked

Back to normal life, back to work. Got a huge list of possible bugs to fix by Friday and immediately remembered why I was so eager to get away from fucklifts for 3 weeks.

Yesterday morning, after sleeping only 3 hours that night and not at all the night before, had to tolerate the cable guy invasion. Two cable guys came in the middle of the night (about 10) in order to install a new cable outlet, even though the old one worked just fine. They woke me up and made my place even a bigger mess than it already was, and now I have two cable outlets and only one cable modem to plug into them. They also raised enough dust to make me cough and throw up for the rest of the day. In the evening it got really bad, but alcohol, pills and good company had a healing influence after a while.

Today I came to my Chinese class without much understanding of what is going on, and was immediately told that I have missed a midterm test and have to make it up tomorrow. A listening comprehension test, no less. Gotta learn Mandarin by tomorrow, or at least learn to hear the damn tones. And quite a few characters, too. Killeri is coming over tonight, let's hope he'll inspire me. I feel in need of inspiration.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The election

With two TVs constantly on there was no escaping the US presidential election. At some point I even started crying when my parents threatened to turn a presidential debate channel on.

At least some of the comedians were good. I used to think of this election in a very pessimistic way - no matter what happens one of the fuckers will win - but some comedians gave me an idea for positive thinking: no matter hat happens one of the fuckers will surely lose. Imagine having both Bush and Kerry for president...

Got my absentee ballot last Saturday after yelling at the Newton Election Commission. (Last time they failed to send me an appropriate ballot in spite of numerous requests; they sent me two city ballots asking whether I wish to spend 5 million dollars on plans for a new high school building; I felt like putting "no" on both and sending them back, but didn't. In general the "5 million for the plan" idea makes me feel like quoting Strugatskys about the city architect being a very good friend of the city treasurer.) Hesitated for a second - Massachusetts is not a swing state, so I had a chance to vote for a third-party cadidate without affecting the outcome - but after checking out the third-party candidates I voted for Kerry.

Now the city elections are coming here in Helsinki. I haven't decided yet whom I am voting for, but I do have a party picked out. When I use the candidate search bots, they give me some National Coalition and Green candidates as the most desirable and Left and Commie candidates as the least desirable. The Green is surprising - I am probably the only person in Finland who really does not give a shit about the environment - and reinforces my perception of the Green party as a receptacle for urban politicians who do not fit in anywhere else.

New York

Went to New York with Oska for a day on a Chinese bus. Chinese buses are buses that run between Boston's and New York's Chinatowns (though lately they have left from South Station in Boston) and charge only $15 for a one-way ticket.

The bus was as good as any. There was a friendly KGB (or whatever they call it now) guy in the seat in front of us who was asking a lot touristy questions. There were trees with red leaves outside the window, and some nice lakes. More importantly there was a bathroom stop.

South Station does not allow taking photos inside anymore, apparently in order to prevent evildoers from doing evil in the form of exposing its miserable food selection to the world.

When we got there Oska buggered off to some business meetings and I went to shop in Chinatown. Went to a couple of stores, bought lots of DVDs (way cheaper than in Boston), wanted to go to a third store but then figured that neither my budget nor my backpack would survive that and went to a teahouse instead. Had some tea and a piece cake of the variety that is usually soft but in this case was hard enough to be used as hammer. I decided not to eat the venerable pastry, which later turned out to be a mistake.

Finding Chinese-language-learning materials in Chinatown is just as impossible as finding Russian-language-learning materials on Brighton Beach, and I started making my way towards Central Park, where I was supposed to meet Oska at 2:30 or so. It was really beautiful outside. Walked a bit around Greenwich Village, found a used book store the size of Akateeminen, saw a place called Cosi where I'd had some drinks with Silja and Roman 3 or 4 years ago, and those drinks were somehow memorable but I don't remember whether it was in a good or in a bad way. Went a bit north, took some pictures of skyscrapers. Bought a fairly good smoothie somewhere.

Did not go to the top of Empire State Building this time. Probably should've - never know if it will still be there the next time. I used to like the WTC towers, one of them even had a bar with semidecent beer. Now I regret all the times I did not go there, but who knew?

Times Square is always Times Square. You can take pictures but you can't make them really look like the real thing. Bryant Park is also always Bryant Park. Probably would be sitting there quite often if I lived in NY.

Oska contacted me every once in a while and said he was gonna be late, later, and yet a bit later. Finally I went to sit in Central park, where a tall, dark and exceptionally ugly man tried to convince me to move to New York.

They have some dark brown squirrels now. Wonder if the squirrels came there themselves, or if somebody brought them there on purpose. When I was a teenager there were only gray ones; I'd seen the dark brown ones only around Niagara Falls.

I figured that Oska would come and then we'd get some food. But then Oska came at 5 and immediately starting dragging me back to Chinatown, saying that we are in a great hurry. I tried to explain that it does not take 2 hours to get from the corner of Broadway and 59th to Chinatown, but later it turned out that with Oska it kind of does. He dragged me all the way to Lexington avenue to get a bus, although I told him that the subway is both closer and faster. His argument was that he does not know how the subway works in NYC. It works the same way as the subways in the other 10 or so cities where he'd used them: you go there, pay money, get into the train and eventually out if it. But no, we had to run for the bus without a lunch.

The bus actually did leave 15 minutes early. They checked that all the people who bought the tickets were there, and did not bother to wait for people buying tickets at the last moment.

Vacation: the week before last

Wednesday, October 6: got into a car accident. Not a big one though. Probably shouldn't give any details or else the guilty party will chew my head off. Due to the accident we were late to pick grandma for her doctor's appointment, and she was really pissed.

Thursday, October 7: hanged out with Borya in the evening (Borya to whose blog I have a link here). Went to a sushi place, ate sushi, drank sake (a fair lot of sake), talked about life, universe and everything, and about my friend and Borya's sister Tanya. Borya's daughter Lisa is in her senior year of high school this year. Life goes by really fast - I still remember Lisa when she was 4 or so, and I was an adult back then, too. Borya was sweet and cheerful and pessimistic at the same time, as usual.

Friday, October 8: Went to New York with Oska for a day. More about it later.

Saturday, October 9: was going to go to Anya to see her newborn baby, but had a flu and therefore didn't. Went to see Anya's brother and nieces instead, and even got a ride from them there and back. Misha lives in the middle of nowhere, no way to get there or back without a car. Was great to see them. Had some red wine there, even tried the Georgian wine called Alazanskaya Dolina in Russian, which I did not like much when I was 4. Turned out I still don't like it, but there was some other wine and good company. Misha and Jane and Sophia are all fun to hang out with, and I think Anya is not concerned about me being a bad example for Sophia anymore, since she is now old enough to be a bad example to everybody herself (Sophia, not Anya. Well, Anya too, but a different kind of a bad example.).

Sunday, October 10: Mira (the relative) and Lyalya (not the one mentioned above, another friend) came to dinner. Was a good dinner party, and a good dinner, too, even if I say so myself. I made way too much cake, but by Tuesday morning the cake was gone and Oska was looking vaguely guilty.

Mira and Lyalya expressed some intention to dress up as mice for the Halloween. I was wondering whether somebody else should be a keyboard, but then they mentioned that Bob is gonna be a cat and I realized they meant a different kind of mouse, the one with tail and ears that says "squeak".

Invited them to come over. In fact invited everyone to come over, but people rarely do. Jane did once, so I have some hope she'll come over again.

I ain't dead...

...and am even back from the vacation. Did not have time or energy to update for two weeks.

Unless the evil cable people who are coming here very soon are going to break my internet, the complete vacation report is forthcoming, including a car accident (I wasn't driving), many visits to hospitals (totally unrelated to the car accident, and I wasn't the patient), one moderately evil baby (not mine, thank God; from the look of his face one could guess that Sir Winston Churchill had something to do with it), a trip to New York, a crazy guy who wanted to fight at a party, an attempt to purchase all DVDs ever made in Hong Kong and a desperate bra hunt.

Overall: was fun, was fairly stressful, I need a rest and am looking forward to doing nice unstressful things such as fucklift software.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Ig Nobel prices, and Japanese buffet

On Saturday my parents' friends Volodya and Lyalya picked me up and brought me to see Ig Nobel Prizes' informal lectures, for which I am extremely grateful. I've known about the existence of those for a while, but it never occured to me that I can visit the event in person, but it was indded in Boston, and open to the public.

It was unbelievably funny. The details can be found on their homepage, but the most memorable speakers were the guy who found a case of homosexual necrophilia in a mallard duck, a guy who invented karaoke and a group of guys who found that herrings communicate by farting. The latter research was partially sponsored by Swedish Navy who occasionally take farting herring for Russian submarines.

We also got to taste the most expensive beverage in the world, which is Luak coffee. It is made by passing coffee beans through the digestive system of a feline animal called luak, which lives in Indonesia. Tasted like any other coffee to me, but then I am not much of a coffee drinker.

Lyalya's and Volodya's daughter Masha was in the car with three of her friends. They have just started the same high school from where I graduated 14 years ago. I listened to their conversation and was thinking that people's social life does not really change that much between 15 and 30. Or maybe they are just exceptionally nice teenagers. The school has not changed that much either, from what they say.

It was Lyalya's birthday, and at night we went to a Japanese buffet restaurant called Minado in Natick. Great food, all you can eat for $26 or so. Good sushi. Lots of other stuff too, but I like sushi much better than any other Japanese food, and besides their hot food was not very onion-allergic-friendly. Had some dessert later at their place. All in all, great evening. Even their kids are very nice and pleasant to talk with, as opposed to most kids.

There were also some other friends there. Was good to see all of them. They waved hands and made a lot of noise, got very excited about GPS, and I almost taught one of them some of Juha "Watt" Vainio's bad boys' songs.

More vacation

Spending a significant part of the vacation in the bookstores, although have flu and should probably stay in bed for a day. Soon am gonna have more books than an airplane can carry.

Benka and Oska have yelled at me for the flu, since deep in their hearts they believe all disease is intentional in some way. At least if I am the one being sick. I don't think I'll ever be able to admit it to them if I get seriously sick.

They are trying to entertain me, for the most part successfully. It's nice just hanging out with them and drinking (on account of the flu). They are funny.

I am getting all my TV dosage for a year during these three weeks. They have 350 channels or so, and none of them usually show anything I wanna see, but sometimes Benka finds good comedy. Too bad she also often watches Lifetime television for women.

Lifetime television for women is a channel (a group of channels nowadays actually) that shows low-budget made-for-TV movies about murderous domestic violence. Every time you look at it, there is a husband killing a wife, a wife killing a husband, a mother-in-law killing everybody or something like that. Benka likes it because she can fall asleep in the middle of one movie, wake up in the middle of the next one and it will all fit in, but somehow I fail to see this as a cinematic virtue.

I am kind of tired of seeing the presidential candidates and somberly reflecting on the fact that at least one of the fuckers will surely get elected. On Thursday I even started crying and saying that I don't want to see the debates.

Having a break in grandma visits because of the flu.

They have opened a big Chinese supermarket on the corner of Commonwealth and Brighton. Great place, good prices. Having more signs in English (they have some but not enough) would benefit them greatly. Went there, bought good scallops, bad shrimps, and some eel and dim sum stuff whose quality I have not tested yet. They also have live eels, gonna buy those and scare Oska with them. Lots of live fish, actually. Quite cheap, too.

Went to visit Mira and Bob on Friday night. They are relatives of a nice and cool variety (Mira is related to me in 6 different ways - our family tree is a bit of family network, really - and Bob is her boyfriend). Had a great evening, and Bob had made some baby ribs that were really delicious even though were not made out of real babies. Mira's son and Bob's cat also put in an appearance, but did not stay long.

But why is the car gone?

Benka had vacation on Thursday and Friday, and we ran some errands, most notably returned my car's license plates to RMV, and transferred the title to Benka. It was a nice big car, Pontiac Bonneville 1996, 4 doors and a big engine. Too bad it does not run much nowadays, and also leaks in the rain and has mold on the steering wheel. Benka will probably give it to charity for some hungry Indian children or suchlike.

Now it's official, I don't have a car. It's damn annoying to be without one here in Boston. Public transportation is iffy (bus 57 runs quite often officially, but usually it means that you have to wait for it quite a while and then you get 3 or 4 buses at a time. I wonder what kind of card games they are playing at the terminal stations.). Benka's and Oska's rides are even iffier ("We'll drive you anywhere you want, dear. Are you quite sure you want to go there? What are you gonna do in South Brookline at that hour?"), and the nice people whom I'd like to visit in South Brookline never drive with less than 3 promille of alcohol in their blood on general principle. I would think it's safest to go with the cabs, but unfortunately I used to know quite a number of cab drivers when I was young, and sobriety was not one of their most outstanding virtues, either.

But that's not even the issue. That car was sort of my pet when I lived here. I liked it. I fed it gas, and occasionally oil. It said "grrrrr". Sometimes it pissed on my parents' driveway. It was warm. I was concerned when it said "brbrbr" instead of "grrrrr".

Besides, it was probably the last car that I will ever own.

Monday, October 04, 2004


Decided to declare Wednesday a relative-free day (except for parents who are usually fairly tame anyway) and went to hang out downtown. The original plan consisted of Chinatown, North End, shopping for underwear in Filene's and hanging out and having some sake with Anya, but then Anya started having contractions and was in no condition for hanging out and sake, and it started raining so hard that the idea of dragging myself all the way to North End or Filene's stopped feeling exciting, so I just went to Chinatown.

Chinatown is improving along with the rest of the Western world. More and better restaurants and stores, some construction and less undesirable element. Due to construction the undesirable element relocated from the southern to the northern part of Chinatown, and nowadays they don't try to sell me drugs with the same enthusiasm as they did 10-15 years ago. I don't know whether it's because they have become lazy, or because I have reached the age when one is not expected to buy one's drugs from the undesirable element in Chinatown.

Bought a truckload of DVDs, am afraid to think of the credit card bill. Decided to come back and buy some more in October, so that at least the stuff is on the next month's bill. Would like to buy some Cantopop too, but do not know what to buy. Maybe should ask the people who sell it for advice.

Had some sake on my own, but that is not the same. Got some takeout food, too. Good as always.

Gotta go there again soon.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Aunt and uncle and the new computer

Went to visit aunt Rimma and uncle Misha on Tuesday. It was a very rainy day and they don't live very close to the subway, but at least it was warm.

They are nice and entertaining people, although sometimes they have strange ideas of life. Rimma tried to feed me all day, without much success. It used to be traditional in Russia that the host offered some food and the guest refused regardless of whether he/she wanted it or not, but after two or three iterations either the guest ate the food or, failing that, the host stopped offering. I don't think Rimma quite gets that "the host stops offering" part yet. After 6 or 7 iterations it gets on your nerves. After 20 or 25 iterations it really gets on your nerves.

Thy tried to show me pictures and stuff on their computer, but the poor thing did not wish to boot. It has a 466MHz processor and 32MB of memory. After trying to boot it 4 times they declared that the thing belongs in the museum of ancient technologies, and asked me to help them buy a new one, and off we went.

On the way there we visited grandma's new rehab home. It is in Brookline and has 4 persons per room, but very nice nurses. Grandma has 3 roommates from hell, 2 of whom are Russian-speaking. Luckily she is fairly deaf, or else she would be bashing their heads in with her walker, and probably would have done a good job of it. Two of them are certifiably insane, but luckily they are deaf too, so they talk to each other in Russian and English, making no sence in either but with a full illusion of communication.

After grandma we went to Best Buy and got a computer for $567: Athlon XP 3200, 512MB, 160GB, 17-inch monitor and a printer. I'd say it's a good price. The funny thing was that the thing would have cost $599 without the monitor and the printer. Two employees tried to sell us 3-year extended warranty for $199, which caused a fit of giggles in all three of us. An employee explained that fixing computers by oneself is hard since every computer has its very own individual motherboard and they cost at least $150; we argued a bit and then went to the motherboard stand and found a wide variety of them for $80 apiece.

On the way back Rimma made excuses for the employee and said that women don't understand anything about computers, which was funny considering they'd just spent the whole day asking me for computer advice.