Archive | June, 2007
June 30, 2007

Off to the former Communist Bloc

I am heading off to Ukraine and Poland today. My flight is less than ideal (Dulles to New York JFK, 4 hour layover, JFK to Warsaw, Warsaw to Kiev) but whatever, that’s what happens when you try and save a few hundred bucks.

We will be in Kiev from July 1-5, with a tour of Chernobyl and Pripyat scheduled for July 4. This will be the fourth Independence Day that I celebrate in the former USSR, although this one will likely be more bizarre than the others.

On July 5, Ryan departs for the Crimea, and Laura and I fly to Krakow, Poland. We’ll check out the city of Krakow and tour Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mine. I’ll be back in the squalid cesspool otherwise known as Washington DC on the evening of July 8.
As usual, I’ll take a ridiculous amount of photos with my recently acquired Canon S3 IS (yeah, I finally decided to upgrade).

June 25, 2007

Some Coachella pics

Coachella festival

I didn’t really take many photos at Coachella due to my laziness, so a majority of these I stole from Kat. And yes, I realize this happened like two months ago.

Coachella festival
This one photo pretty much sums up the entire weekend

Jack's Mannequin at Coachella festival
Jack’s Mannequin

Coachella festival
Some beautiful desert scenery

Coachella festival
Kat, Danielle, Laila

Willie Nelson at Coachella festival
Willie Nelson

Not really concert-related, but this is my friend Lindsey and her then nine month old son, Hayden. When Kat picked me up from the airport and said that Lindsey, a friend of ours since first grade, was meeting us at In-N-Out, I was stoked because I had never met Hayden. He is seriously the cutest baby ever…and a true SoCal boy at heart, as he kept lunging for our double doubles and fries (sorry dude, you still gotta eat baby food for now).

June 12, 2007

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone National Wildlife Refuge

Here’s an interesting, and somewhat timely, AP article on the “thriving” wildlife population in the radiation soaked area surrounding the former Chernobyl nuclear (uh, “nucular”?) plant:

Two decades after an explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant sent clouds of radioactive particles drifting over the fields near her home, Maria Urupa says the wilderness is encroaching. Packs of wolves have eaten two of her dogs, the 73-year-old says, and wild boar trample through her cornfield. And she says fox, rabbits and snakes infest the meadows near her tumbledown cottage.

“I’ve seen a lot of wild animals here,” says Urupa, one of about 300 mostly elderly residents who insist on living in Chernobyl’s contaminated evacuation zone.

The return of wildlife to the region near the world’s worst nuclear power accident is an apparent paradox that biologists are trying to measure and understand.

Many assumed the 1986 meltdown of one reactor, and the release of hundreds of tons of radioactive material, would turn much of the 1,100-square-mile evacuated area around Chernobyl into a nuclear dead zone.

It certainly doesn’t look like one today.

Yeah, we’ll see.

June 10, 2007

Soviet Arcade Games


“Duck Hunt”, Soviet style

Yes, just like their American counterparts, some teenagers in the Soviet Union spent their weekends playing arcade games:

From the late ’70s to the early ’90s, Soviet military factories produced some 70 different video game models. Based largely (and crudely) on early Japanese designs, the games were distributed — in the words of one military manual — for the purposes of “entertainment and active leisure, as well as the development of visual-estimation abilities.”

Production of the games ceased with the collapse of communism, and as Nintendo consoles and PCs flooded the former Soviet states, the old arcade games were either destroyed or disappeared into warehouses and basements.

It was mostly out of nostalgia that four friends at Moscow State Technical University began scouring the country to rescue these old games. So far they have located 32 of them and are doing their best to bring them back to life.

Last month, the four officially opened the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines in a Stalin-era bomb shelter under a university dormitory. Packed into two rooms are dozens of Soviet-made video game carcasses in various states of repair. Some work perfectly; others last for a few minutes, then fade. One common feature among them all is a lack of a high-score list.

“That kind of competition wasn’t encouraged,” explains Alexander Stakhanov, one of the museum’s founders and engineers. “If you got enough points you won a free game, but there was no ‘high score’ culture as in the West.”

“Sea Attack”

Check out the rest of the games here.