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Vlad B

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Japan Honeymoon [19 Dec 2013|12:30pm]
Over 2000 photos to choose from, so I won't even try to post them here. I'm curating some albums on Facebook bit by bit - look there if you want to see the details.

This video I found yesterday, neatly sums up our entire trip. It was mainly filmed in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara, and we have visited almost every location in these cities that are shown here. It even has a brief shot of the Golden Gai area where we had an epic pub crawl. Of course, we didn't see cherry blossoms, or the cuteness at 1:17...

Some tips about Japan that might be helpful:
1) Whenever the dollar:yen exchange rate rises to 1:100, the country is not all that expensive. Less expensive than Europe in fact. It's possible to get airline tickets that actually cost less than flights to Europe, especially with a stop on the West Coast. There are plenty of good restaurants where dinner costs under $20 per person (that's with unlimited tea), and there are decent prepared meals and bento boxes at convenience stores for under $10. In many Sushi places, 1 piece of fish on rice or a 4-piece maki roll costs between 1.50 and 2.50. We've had a couple of luxurious "kaiseki" lunches at $40 per person, but these multi-course meals were so filling that we didn't need a sizable dinner afterwards. Most attractions cost between $5 and $15. We've never seen any mixed drink cost more than $10. Oh, and there's no tipping.
2) Flying into Tokyo and out of Osaka or vice-versa can save you a substantial amount in transportation costs (only a one way bullet-train ticket between the two cities). In such a case, you won't even need a Japan Rail Pass. Many smaller and often more convenient railways won't even accept it.
3) Renting a portable wi-fi for the duration of our trip really helped us out, b/c we often consulted the English-language train schedule site Hyperdia.com and Google Maps. It was about $100 for 2 1/2 weeks, but well worth it. Data plans may be more expensive.
4)Very important to bring comfortable shoes that are easy to slip on and off, and maybe even a pair of light slippers. You'll be taking shoes off a lot, especially in Kyoto.
5)If there's one Japanese word to learn beside "arigato", it's "sumimasen". This word can be used to get attention, apologize for being a clueless foreigner, or push out of a crowded train. In general, there's plenty of English signage in big cities, and most transportation modes are bilingual.
6) Hire a Japanese guide or make a connection with someone local before the trip to show you around, for at least a day or two.
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The Hobbit review [19 Dec 2012|11:20am]
The Hobbit has been a part of my cultural baggage since age 7, when I first heard the Russian translation read to me - more than anything else by Tolkien it's been ingrained into my subconscious. I can't even begin to approach this film in the same way a critic would, i.e. to judge it as a pure work of cinema, independent of The Book. While I'm not averse to changes that make sense for the sake character development or putting the story in larger context, I would consider myself a semi-purist on this one - even more so than Lord of The Rings. Having looked forward to Jackson & co's version for years (practically since the last Extended Edition of LOTR came out), I couldn't help but inflate my expectations. At the same time, I knew that The Hobbit would likely suffer from the same excesses that the first Trilogy did, and I was right. Like all of the LOTR films, it needs serious editing, and deviates from the original in ways that are sometimes hard-to-swallow. But since Tolkien's first novel was lighter in tone, and more episodic in structure, many of Jackson's choices feel right and do not stray far from its spirit. Overall, it's not any worse than LOTR, and the leisurely pacing allows fans to enjoy Middle-Earth. Here's the breakdown of what I liked and disliked, as I've done with the other 3 films SPOILERS BELOWCollapse )
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My mom's new Children's Book [27 Sep 2012|11:33am]
Dear friends with kids - please check out my mom's latest publication:

It's a true labor of love, having been inspired by my niece, Andrea, who already knows some of the poems by heart :) The poems are in English, so if your child is bilingual and just starting to learn, it might be perfect...

Book sample here.
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Scary Soviet Cartoon from the 50's [27 Jul 2012|11:44am]
It made a huge impression on me back then, after seeing it only once, some 30 years ago. In the Youtube era, having no idea what it was called, I pretty much gave up on trying to find it. Yesterday I stumbled upon it by accident while researching some famous Russian voice-over actors, and had a hunch that maybe that was it.

The funny thing is how selective memory is... I don't remember almost anything from the last 5 minutes (maybe these scenes were simply too scary and I blocked them out), or even the magical item central to the plot. What I always did remember (not well enough to Google it correctly) was the name of the evil witch, the dark sky and craggy mountains, the little girl running around in distress, and the scene with the running animals/bear which lasts maybe 2 seconds.
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RIP Boom Boom [11 Jul 2012|04:10pm]
One of the most impressive creatures I ever had the good fortune of meeting has succumbed to cancer at 41. That's close to the end of Rhino lifespan.

I no longer post on LJ on a regular basis, but since I've shared the story about him before, I might as well bring it to a conclusion here.

Another story on Boom Boom's life
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Russian Winnie The Pooh (Vinni Puh) Turns 50 today! [13 Jul 2010|03:42pm]
The first full translation was published in 1960, but a "test" chapter was published 2 years earlier in 1958, in the "Murzilka" children's magazine.
evgenyii was kind enough to post the full scan (!) of that issue, the Winnie the Pooh chapter is found on page 20. As you will see, his name is very different.

Coverage in Russian
and English
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Acadia National Park, Columbus day weekend [14 Oct 2009|11:44am]

Otter Cliffs
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Anyone getting rid of furniture :)? [16 Apr 2009|03:26pm]
We are moving to Watertown on May 1st, and will need furniture - dresser, dining room table, wardrobe, yet another bookshelf :) - if anyone's selling or giving away any of these, by all means let me know!
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Plymouth Notch, VT, Jan. 2009 [12 Jan 2009|11:55am]

This tiny village has been preserved with few alterations since the days of Calvin Coolidge, a.k.a. "Silent Cal", who was born, sworn in as President, and died here. The sole road is unpaved.

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Tzfat - November 21st, 2008 [26 Nov 2008|10:25am]

This is where I spent one the weekends on my latest trip to Israel.
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Early Winter In the White Mountains [04 Nov 2008|10:08am]

Mount Moosilauke, one of the closest alpine zones to Boston.
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Madame Sherri's "Castle" - one of NH's best kept secrets [16 Oct 2008|10:27am]

If this is not the perfect playground for AD&D/roleplaying geeks, I don't know what is :)

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Southwick Safari [11 Oct 2008|11:36pm]
Inspired by the amazing and relentless adventures of world-travelers stusik_i_sharik, I decided to embark on my own search of the Big Five... And find all of them I did, only an hour from Boston :)

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Welch and Dickey Mtns. Hike, Oct. 5, 2008 [07 Oct 2008|02:06am]

This gem of a hike, easily accessible from rt. 93 in Waterville Valley, has yielded some of the better photographic results in recent memory:
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White Mountains in October [07 Oct 2008|02:04am]

On the horizon are the Kinsmans and Canon Mountain to the left, and Fraconia Ridge (Liberty, Lincoln, Lafayette) to the right. Lafayette, the highest, already has snow on top, as evidenced by the faintly visible white patch.
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Some Thematic Songs [23 Sep 2008|06:21pm]
One of my favorite music bloggers does it again :)
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Labor Day Vermont Hike [10 Sep 2008|10:49am]
Mt. Hunger and Mt. White Rock, one of my favorite spots in Vermont:

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Highlights of the last 3 months. [04 Sep 2008|12:46pm]
I've been a bit MIA lately, but here's what this summer was like:
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Visting my niece Andrea in Portland, OR [15 Jul 2008|11:28am]

Here, she's about the same age and position as my own first existing photo (except that I was in a basket, and the occasion was mushroom-gathering, not merely hiking).
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Monhegan Island - Memorial Day 2008, 4th visit. [04 Jun 2008|04:41pm]
The quietest(and most enjoyable) trip to the Island yet - other than a few groups of Bridwatchers, there were almost no tourists. Are gas prices the reason? For previous visit, see October 2006 post.

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