Jul 19 2012

Friends And Injuries

Category: Friends,VideosChrisM @ 7:06 am

On Tuesday evening, we invited DanS and Justin over for a meal and a bit of chill out time. With Justin due to escape Kazakhstan very soon, and Lara and the kids (as in the rest of DanS’s family) still away on a holiday, it seemed like a good time to fill up with food, talk, empty the cupboards of beer and drive and just spend a bit of time together without a bar’s sound system making conversation nigh on impossible without BSL 🙂
We decided upon burritos (I discovered that tortillas with food inside, wrapped up, can be called burritos, as not all burritos have a hard shell) as a) I wanted something tasty and b) everyone else is a lot less picky with their food. Given that we could take out pick from home cooked battered chicken, Heinz baked beans, cheese, peppers, chillis, tomatoes and of course a bit of ketchup and mayo, this seemed the easiest way for everyone to have exactly what they wanted for dinner. Justin was working late, so the rest of us ate and drank until it was time for Tim and Anna to be made ready for bed, at which point Justin arrived. Irina kindly fried up some more chicken, and we all sat round the table enjoying more food (and perhaps a little more alcohol 🙂 ).
Once the food was out of the way, the question of entertainment reared it’s head. I suggested the xbox, as it has been gathering dust for months now – Irina isn’t a gamer, and once the kids are in bed most days, if we have spare time, we try to find something we would both like to watch. Anyway, I remembered that the console wasn’t actually turning on last time I checked, so after triple checking all the connecting leads were OK, and then unplugging everything, leaving just power and the HDMI cable, there was still no activity. After applying the engineer’s touch (short sharp shock to the box), it kicked into life. We decided to use the kinect, and to play Kinect Sports after a little driving fun.
You can see a montage of our sessions below – sorry about the low quality, I am sure last year’s clips were better. I’ve cleaned the lenses since just in case. Anyway, first we have Dan and Irina – I can’t remember who won overall. Dan is VERY keen to point out he didn’t lose at the boxing mini game.

Justin and Me – This was a draw, however given that Justin hadn’t ever played this game before, I suspect any subsequent rematches would not end as flatteringly for me. Especially if the javelin game was involved (I never learn it would seem, as I once again pulled some random muscle/ligament type thing in my arm when over-exerting a virtual throw of the javelin, as I did last year)!

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Oct 28 2010

Friends, Guns, Roses And Burgers

Category: Eating Out,Friends,PicturesChrisM @ 2:35 am

These are the pictures I previously mentioned. DanD, Walton and I all met up with DanC (who was back in Astana for the weekend) for a meal and a few drinks. Although DanD and I had already been to this bar since the Guns n’ Roses chain had taken it over from Northwind’s management, we weren’t sure if the prices, ambience, layout and staff attentiveness were all just boosted for their opening week, or whether we could consider adding it to our list of regular haunts.
As it turned out, the G n’ R management seem to have noticed all the little issues that prevented North Wind from ever really filling up with customers, and addressed them from the very start. The layout of the bar and surrounding tables has been changed, the prices, whilst not cheap, are certainly a lot more reasonable than previously, and the menu (in both English and Russian) has enough variety (from traditional Western bar food to steaks and garlic bread) to meet most people’s needs. Both times we have been there, there was live music and the normal tables were full up with people enjoying themselves. Finally, the dance floor was occupied most of the evening.

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Oct 27 2010

Astana’s New Stadium

Category: Sport,VideosChrisM @ 8:29 pm

This is the last of the videos that didn’t quite make it onto this blog. It is actually from a few weeks back, when Dan and I went to watch Kazakhstan’s football team play Germany in the EUFA cup tournament league thingy. (Anyone who claims I’m not a true football fan can just go and… pat themselves on the back). I know the quality isn’t great, but I’m hoping two things will change that situation in the future – I’ll eventually find a streaming video app that lets me use the full 640×480 resolution of the video mode on this phone and secondly, once I’ve caught up with Anna’s pictures and videos, I’m hoping that new photos and clips recorded on our proper camera will be put on the site in a matter of days, not months, as sometimes occurs now!

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Oct 13 2010

Last Night’s Football Match

Category: Friends,Kazakhstan,Pictures,SportChrisM @ 8:33 pm

As with last video post, these shots were actually taken yesterday at the Kazakhstan vs. Germany EUFA football match here in Astana. I forgot to upload them when I got home to a WiFi connection last night, hence the slight delay…

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Oct 12 2010

From Plain To Recursively Interesting

Category: WordPressChrisM @ 2:55 am

In the last of today’s posts on WordPress plug-ins, I wanted to take a quick look at a very versatile stack of code. The Executable PHP widget plug-in makes it possible (in many cases) to create a brand new type of widget without having to write an entire plug-in to create it. Obviously you can create widgets that display text or images with just a default installation of WordPress, however if you want to use some PHP code to create a dynamic area that reacts differently according to some variables, or actually has some code to process, you would normally need to get your hands pretty dirty and either actually write a plugin to backup the displaying of this section, OR hardcode it into your template’s sidebar.
The first involves too much work for me (DanD is the coder amongst my friends here, I’m a bodger when it comes to software creation), and the second isn’t ideal if you upgrade or completely change your theme – you need to remember to keep a record of your changes, and re-integrate them into the new theme’s files.
So, by placing a widget in your sidebar that is allowed to contain PHP code that will be run, you can suddenly do a lot more with your site, very easily. At one point, about three years ago, I had a lot of widgets that used this system, however I eventually managed to realise that load times were more important than having every possible bell and whistle integrated on the front page. That said, if you run a blog dedicated to digital cameras, and simply want to run a little script that pulls in information on the latest models’ zoom levels or ISO speeds, or perhaps grab the best live prices for huge memory cards, the possibility is there for you. The recursive reference? PHP stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor…

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Oct 01 2010

More shots from the yurt htt…

Category: Anna's Photos,Eating Out,Friends,Pictures,TweetsChrisM @ 10:32 pm

More shots from the yurt
http://twitpic.com/2tnwoj http://twitpic.com/2tnxgl

Anna, Dan, Dr Natalya, Balzhan, Mum, Ira and Ira's Mum In The Yurt

Dr Natalya Giving A Toast With Balzhan Next To Her. Traditional Yurt Decorations Of A HiFi And Air Con Unit!

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Aug 03 2010

Good Evening And Dan’s Birthday Meal At Tiflis

Category: Eating Out,Friends,PersonalChrisM @ 11:24 pm

OK, I’ve removed the six posts that were submitted by my phone on Saturday night and amalgamated them into this one post, with the videos embedded.
It was DanD’s birthday the next day, and so we headed to one of his favourite restaurant’s – Tiflis. I forgot to check in on foursquare or Google Latitude, so don’t have the exact co-ordinates, but I’ve searched on Google Map with Irina, and put where we think it is. The road is called Imanova St, but Google has a different label for some reason. However it is nearly opposite Cinema City, so that is the right street.
The old outdoor (well it had a roof but cut down walls to allow fresh air through) section had just finished being renovated, and we were all very pleasantly surprised by the new look. There are two floors, with an open central courtyard. Downstairs there was a normal seating area with lots of tables, and upstairs had some one table rooms. This worked out well, as they had a Georgian band playing for a lot of the night (see the videos below). The band were great, but when we wanted to talk, it was good to be able to shut the double doors, stick on the air conditioning, and not have to shout.
The food itself was great, with some sort of cheesy bread as a starter for me (salads still haven’t snuck onto my menu!), and a lamb sashliq (with chips obviously) for main. We were there for around three or four hours, and had a chance to congratulate Dan on his upcoming birthday (25th if you believe the normally otherwise honest Dan), and talk about life over here. The service was good, especially by local standards, and I’d happily recommend the place for eating out if you want to try something a bit different. You may find you need to reserve the rooms in advance, and I’m hoping Dan will read this post at some point and leave their telephone number here.

A couple of clips of the room, the company and the main course…

Everyone was still very sober by then, not many beers drunk or shots of Cha Cha served. The restaurant has definitely switched suppliers when it comes to the Georgian spirit of Cha Cha. It didn’t feel like paint stripper going down your throat, if anything it was a little closer to brandy, but not overly so.

OK, onto the entertainment…

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Aug 03 2010

Serenaded For His Birthday

Category: Friends,PersonalChrisM @ 7:32 pm

OK, I’ll be tidying up the front page later by compressing all the individual Qik based tweets into one post, with some information on DanD’s birthday celebrations at Tiflis on Saturday night. The short version is that the renovations have much improved the experience there (nothing wrong with it in the first place TBH). Anyway, the live music made a refreshing change, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and I’ll stop now as we are taking Anna for a walk to a local mini-park that I’ve not been to before. Will try and remember to take some pictures…

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Jul 17 2010

Crayfish and Ceasar Salad at P…

Category: Eating Out,Friends,Pictures,TweetsChrisM @ 8:02 pm

Crayfish and Caesar Salad at Pivavarov. Not mine, obviously. With DanD, John, Inessa and Ira http://twitpic.com/264wh3

Crayfish, Salad & DanD At Pivavarov

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Jun 28 2010

Royal Betting – Customer Losing

Category: Eating Out,Friends,Kazakhstan,PersonalChrisM @ 10:54 pm

To elaborate on the previous tweet regarding the Royal Betting Sports Bar (part of the Kings Hotel complex) in Astana, we were originally heading there to take our place at a reserved table, to watch the England versus Germany World Cup match. A friend of Dan’s had kindly contacted Royal Betting the day before, to check if we could make sure we would have seats to watch the match, and get a feel for the place. He was told on the phone that a table of around 20-40 people would need to spend at least 15,000 Tenge. This equates to around $90, which even allowing for the designated drivers in our group just drinking coke or juice was absolutely fine.
However, upon our arrival, we discovered just why Royal Betting was a bar to avoid in Astana (see half way down the page for some info in Russian and pictures). The manager met us at the door, and told us there was a non-refundable deposit of $35 per person! If each person did not spend that much by the time they left, the bar kept the difference! Although my friends and I have come across other examples of rip off joints in Astana before, this tended to be in night clubs that were desperate to exude an exclusive rich night clubber clientele image. Certainly not in bars that were absolutely empty, and were aware that a few dozen ex-pats were about to watch a football match, spend a fair amount (when this was a voluntary option!) and most likely praise/condemn the venue to friends!
Anyway, the bar itself looked nice enough (the lobsters in the fish tank seemed to be mouldy/furry though!), and whilst the uncompromising/care free attitude of the manager was nothing unusual for customer service levels in Kazakhstan, the fact that when the original reservations were made, a completely different figure and set up was explained (by senior staff/the manager) compared to what we were confronted with on the day, meant I can’t recommend this place unless your company is footing the bill. Check the second link for some more shots from flickr of the venue to avoid in Astana, Kazakhstan.
We eventually went on to a German style pub/bar about a kilometre or two away, where the service was slow but friendly, there was no minimum spend, and the beers were cheaper. Obviously England lost (we were robbed of a goal, but not the match to be fair), and our German friends seemed more than happy with the result (“Justice – 44 years late” referring to yesterday’s vs. 1966’s infamous ball crossing/not crossing the goal line)!

I just wanted to clarify one point – having to pay some sort of deposit for sitting at a table isn’t that uncommon over here. Being told one (reasonable) price only to find a more expensive charge being attempted at the very last minute (bait & switch) hasn’t happened to me before. Perhaps I’m just being naïve, or don’t sit down that often when drinking, but it just seemed like a con, or at the very least really short sighted business sense. The place was dead, a mere 30 minutes before kick off, and losing the good will of so many potential customers & positive word of mouth advertisers seemed ridiculous.

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