26 April 2006

Chernobyl +20yrs

Thanks to a good friend for sending me
this link. That's all i have to say.

16 April 2006

Krym Journey - Odesa via Hazzard County

We left the house all pumped up to be finally packed and on the way. 2 minutes later we're stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on the ring road. But after this hiccup, the road trip to Odesa rocked. The road is really excellent. My guess it that the highway is about 90% complete (i.e. new road, new signage, and even overpasses to minimize intersections). Only small patches were still the old road, but even those did not have potholes or other hazards. The feeling of actually doing a road trip with the kids was very liberating. The rolling hills, newly seeded fields, trees just about to turn green and huge cumulus clouds on the horizon were moving in their intensity. The natural beauty of the Ukrainian nature made the time go by almost effortlessly. In Cherkasy Oblast we were pulled over, with a group of other cars, by DAI for speeding. He showed me 111 km/hour on his hand held device. I was never really clear on what the speed limit is. There aren't any speed limit signs, except sometimes in towns where the 70 km limit is clearly posted. Outside of towns I was operating under the vague assumption that the limit is 120. Oh well. Here we go with a DAI conversation that went from decent to bad with every minute that I did not pony up the cash. With every line he filled in on the Protokol he was getting more and more agitated. He gave me it for signature, which I did, but I noticed a part on the form that allows the "porushnyk" to explain the situation. Why not avail myself of this opportunity? So I wrote, in my block Ukrainian letters, what the road situation was. A group of cars. Cars in front and behind me...and so on. Now he started yelling at me and calling me "nechemnyj". I told him I didn't mean to insult him, but he kept yelling about how I am not conducting myself properly. Considering that we are in the middle of nowhere in what has suddenly become Hazzard County in my head (I could just picture the country judge, the country sheriff) I decide that it's probably not smart for this to continue. The DAI was spitting as he raged, now moving into how Americans have money and a standard of living and Ukrainians don't, and do I know how much a DAI officer makes in a month? Just when I'm about to reach for some cash... he throws my docs into my lap and says "Just go". And go we did...quickly. It was good to see the Odesa Oblast sign.

Arrival in Odesa was just after nightfall. The trip totalled 5 hours and 15 minutes including multiple stops at the modern Lukoil gas stations to visit their excellent toilet facilities. No problemo. The hotel in Odesa "Frapolli" is great. We have a balcony overlooking "Derabasyvska" (a cafe/restaurant street in the heart of Odesa) and a PC in each room (which I'm writing on right now). Today it's onward to Krym. No reservations, no commitments, no obligations. True vacation and a touch of adventure.

15 April 2006

Krym and Hacking our DVD Player

Ok. I don't know if Krym is ready for us but we are cruising down as a family unit to check it out. Ola and I have been to Yalta, but this time we're driving down with the goal of exploring the whole coast and anything along the way that seems interesting.

Sidenote for geeks (like me). With visions of 11 hours in the car with the kids, I purchased a portable DVD player at a store here in Kyiv and even though I was told it would play Region 5 (eastern europe -- dvds sold by stores here) it was actually a region 2 DVD player. No dice with our USA dvds or Ukrainian ones. "WRONG REGION" blinking. Hmmmm. This region crap really blows (i'll spare you the rationalization behind my next steps). I turned to Google and within a few keystrokes I had an exact description of which keys to press on my remote control to access the "secret menu" on the dvd player. Once the secret menu was up one simply selects the region number or VER255 for all regions and viola: a multi-region player. USA and Ukrainian dvds play perfectly.

Sunday Afternoon

One of the things I like about Kyiv. A stunning visual moment getting to the top of Prorizna at Volodymyrska. (Photo by Ola)

06 April 2006

Black Water

04:05 am
My great-grandmother’s black travel trunk, that crossed the Atlantic twice in the early 1900’s, serves as my night stand.  The things that are on it are a battery powered,  imitation 1930’s analog alarm clock, Andrew Wilson’s Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, a reading light, my glasses and my black Motorola; alarm set, plugged in to charge. It’s the Motorola that vibrates and rings at 04:05 in the morning with a familiar name flashing on the blue screen.  It can only be a bad thing when one of your manager’s names lights up on your phone at 04:05. How bad?

04:50 am
I arrive on the second floor of our new building and the smoke is still too thick to see across the workshop floor. Someone hands me a wet cloth that I hold to my mouth while walking into what looks like a thick fog to see where the fire had been.  Now fully extinguished, by a Ukrainian designed and installed sprinkler system, it had been in a small contained area yet the volume of black smoke it generated was enough to fill the entire workshop.  No injuries I think to myself. That’s a good thing. I look down. The bottoms of my boots are hidden in one of the large pools of black water. I swirl it around and wonder where the drains are?

05:30 am
I wash my eyes, mouth, and nose out as best I can and drink some milk to counteract the smoke.  It tastes good especially compared to the evil smelling smoke from burning synthetic materials. Floating chemicals. I’m a little high actually – no, not in a good way. A little anxiety starts here. Insurance? Equipment damage? Will we open in time for business? And what about the grand opening five weeks away? Did I sign those fire regulation “Nakazy” or are they buried in one of my “In” piles?  What’s with this spinning in my head?

06:10 am
The authorities are here now. Joy. MVS officers with star covered epaulets, experts with black jackets and combat pants; everyone but the firefighters (Pozhezhnyky) who have not yet responded. I embark on my now scripted ‘government inspector’ song and dance, playing their game, while my team wastes valuable minutes scribbling on “Poyasnenia” documents instead of dealing with the mess.    

06:30 am
Morning cleaning team arrives on schedule and gets right to work (interesting). Off-shift cleaning staff is called in to help.  I am amazed at the dedication with which they work to clean up the acrid mess. No complaining, no finger pointing, just solid, efficient work. Screw anyone who thinks Ukrainians don’t work hard.  

07:10 am
I pull up the video camera archive on a PC.  There it all is. 03:31, small flame, larger flame, smoke, and water.  Eerie. I think back to that design meeting where I voiced my opinion against a video system, not wanting a big brother feel. Now I’m checking the archive footage for the second time in one week. Last week we caught a shoplifter on video.

09:00 am
Management team meeting.  Things worked; other things failed; no one was hurt. This time. We document the issues and develop an action plan.  I propose we get our emergency response planning shit together. Everyone nods.  

03 April 2006

a What's On moment

Ah. A moment of fame Kyiv style. Thanks to the What's On copy writers, Ola and I are shown with our aliases. The exhibit opening was "Silent TV" at L-Art. In the artist's words the works were inspired by his television which he keeps on silent. Worth checking out.

Billboard Epilogue

This is an example of what many formerly political billboards now look like. Impressive array of colors, the phrase fragments, the layered political and consumer images. Kind of like the campaigns.

Orange Chronicles Gets Some Press!

(Photo from Gazeta PO Kyivsky, Yuriy Sapozhnykova)
In the Saturday, April 1st, "Gazeta PO-Kyivsky" (Russian) Damyan and his project got a full page! You can read it here. The paper reports a circulation of 355,000. Not bad coverage.

It's really an impressive documentary done from a people point of view rather than a political recap. If you have a chance to see it at the various screenings Damyan's arranging around town it's well worth the effort. Soon he will know if it will be aired on UT-1.