Monday, August 30, 2010

Aeroflot Makes 24 Hours Into 35

I don't like being in an airplane at all. Flying a Russian airline is probably one of the most torturous activities I can think of. It's right up there with getting my cuticles cut off with those curved scissors and watching Bachelor/Bachelorette. It's just painful.

I actually don't know which is worse, actually getting on the plane and sitting in an enclosed vessel with the humidity of a Sahara dessert for 13 hours or knowing that you are going to have to do it in a few days and stressing out over it.

The nightmare began Friday, August 27th when I walked through the doors of the international terminal at LAX. I knew I was at the right check-in counter when I saw fat men in tracksuits, and women in tight-fitting clothes and high heeled shoes. When I finally got to the counter they told me my backpack was too big.

Mens asses.

I specially packed everything into my carry on because I wouldn't have time to wait for the baggage. So, checking the bag in was not an option. I have taken exactly the same backpack on exactly the same flight during Christmas time, no less, and it has never been a problem. Now, all of a sudden, they won't let me on the flight with the bag. The woman claimed that the bag doesn't get smaller if you take stuff out of it. What? Maybe a hard-case suitcase doesn't, but this is an adjustable backpack, fucko.

I had to stuff it into their little metal check-to-see-if-it-fits-in-this-space thing to prove to her that it's a carry-on size. She finally gave me a boarding pass. Whew. Never mind that nobody else had to stuff their shit into that thing. I specifically checked a bunch of people's suitcases that they put in the overhead bins to see if they fit vertically. Nope! None of the ones I tried could fit depth-wise like my backpack had to. Inconsistent bastards.

Of course, because it's Aeroflot, the time that the plane is supposed to take-off is completely disregarded. They didn't even start boarding people until AFTER the flight's departure time. We finally took off 68 minutes after the scheduled time.

The flight was long. It's 13 long hours. I will say one good thing about Aeroflot, they got a new plane with pretty cool personal TVs on which you could watch a bunch of pretty recent movies. I don't get to go to the movies often, but I do watch previews. So, there are always movies I want to see but never do. They had Valentine's Day under the recent releases and I immediately jumped on the opportunity to watch a movie for free! Yay! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Jennifer Garner and Julia Roberts are so cute. I just love them.

Chick flicks are good, but a movie only lasts 2 hours or so. Being able to sleep on the plane is of paramount importance to remaining sane. I'm sad to say, readers, but I think I've lost my mojo. I used to be able to sleep anywhere, in any position, and with any amount of noise and light. On this flight I just could not get more than 30 minutes of sleep. I was really frustrated with myself.

A couple of hours before landing the captain had the nerve to tell us that "we are going to be landing at 6:55 PM, basically without delay." Say what? Since when is arriving 30 minutes late arriving "basically without delay"? Did I miss something? And it would be fine if they at least stuck to that, but at 6:55 we were still at 5,000 meters (16,500 feet) altitude. Is 5 km off the ground Aeroflot's landing altitude? Is that another memo I didn't get?

A Dave Chapelle's quote comes to mind. "You ask, why treat our customers that way? Because fuck 'em. That's why."

They didn't let me out of that airplane until 7:24. The last train through Moscow that mama and I could catch to get to our train to Penza was at 7:30. I was the first one through customs and we ran through the whole airport just to watch the doors close right in front of us at the platform. Missing that train meant spending the night in Moscow, spending the night in Moscow means sharing metal seats without backs with drunken bums at the train station and paying to use a bathroom that is basically a hole in the ground.

We tried to find a cultural way to spend our night, so we went to check out this newly built monument next to the train station.

I saw a drunk man with an eyepatch dripping blood who was pissing right on the monument, so we quickly left. I will spare you the description of the rest of our night, but it followed a similar theme.

Here we are at the train station in Moscow.

There were no trains to Penza until late the next day, so we took a bus. Somehow drivers think it's totally cool with everyone to smoke on the bus. No big.

I saw the most majestic lion and tiger at a stop somewhere between Moscow and Penza. We quickly snapped a few pictures:

I'm holding up an ice-cream. It says CCCP (USSR) on it. It was yummy.

13 hours on the plane, 12 hours in Moscow, 10 hours on the bus - 35 hours later I was finally home.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I'm Sorry. What?

What? What? What? What? What? WHAAAAA?

What grades did I get in Computer Architecture and Algorithms? A- and A? Is this some kind of a sick, twisted joke somebody is playing on me? An A- from Professor Tamir would be something of magical origin. This is not right.

I am going to go down for a nap. If I wake up and this post is still up (indicating that this wasn't a dream) I am going to poo my pants.

(Or maybe it is, I just haven't woken up from this level of dream/indirection. Ahhhhh. I just don't know. Inception reference.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Soup, Soupy Soup! (Pasta e Fagioli)

I used to not like beans. I don't think my mom cooked beans often, or cooked them at all. I remember my handling uncooked beans and thinking how on earth can somebody eat these hard pebbles. Well, I've been kind of obsessed with beans over the past few months. There is something really neat about cooking beans. You have to soak them overnight, so you have to plan ahead.

Unfortunately this whole "planning ahead" thing is not something I do often. I didn't cook my own beans for this soup. My point was I like beans now. I'm pretty sure this soup had everything to do with it.

Anyway. I used Giada's recipe because somebody who cooks delicious food loves Giada. I decided to give it a shot. It did not disappoint.

4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped onion
3 ounces pancetta, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
5 3/4 cups
low-sodium chicken broth
2 (14.5-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup elbow macaroni
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1. Wrap the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth and secure closed with kitchen twine.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, pancetta, and garlic and saute until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the broth, beans, and sachet of herbs. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.

4. Discard the sachet. Puree 1 cup of the bean mixture in a blender until smooth.

5. Before putting the puree back into the soup, add the macaroni and boil with the lid on until it is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes.

6. Return the puree to the remaining soup in the saucepan and stir well. Season the soup with ground black pepper (and red pepper flakes).

Do use low-sodium chicken broth. Pancetta gives the soup all the salt it needs. Yum. Hello, post-bean flatulence. Ew. Enjoy!

Here is the whole L. Canyon Crew: S, B, and Grandpa-J.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Dearest Readers,

It is my greatest pleasure to inform you that as of last night I am done with Summer School 2010! Words cannot describe just how amazing this feels.

I had two finals yesterday. First Computer Architecture and then Algorithms. I felt good about Computer Architecture. Algorithms was hard, we got a really hard Dynamic Programming problem, but everyone felt the same way I did. I conked out as soon as I got home and woke up with a sore neck. I got a neck exercise from all the studying and exam-taking I had done yesterday. Who would've known that Algorithms is such a workout?

To celebrate JT and I went on a movie-date to see Inception. My only complaint - it was too loud, I was covering my ears the whole time. I'm quite unaccustomed to movie theaters I guess.

Summer school is hard, my friends. I thought it was hard last year, but that was cake compared to this. Two more upper-div CS classes in the bank. Next!

I've been absent from the blog ever since summer school began, so get ready for a post diarrhea some time soon.


PS. It feels soooooo good to leisurely make breakfast in the morning and to be able to play the piano while the muffins are the oven instead of reading a boring-ass chapter on Virtual Memory. Mmm.

Florence + The Machine is my latest obsession.

Friday, August 6, 2010


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build them up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

- Rudyard Kipling -


I am 20 years old (and 6 days)! Agh.