May 28 2010

Shoplifters To Terrorists

Category: In The MediaChrisM @ 8:55 pm

Another vague tie in to Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 again (a game I’ve been playing recently), as I came across a piece on high tech surveillance techniques that could be in use on battlefields within just a few years.
The fact that this concerns me less than behaviour-analysing CCTV systems that were touted in the last couple of years for domestic use is probably a purely selfish instinct. I’m not likely to ever find myself in a potential war zone, whereas the thought of being flagged for a higher level of scrutiny whilst wandering around a UK high street or shopping centre creeps me out a little. The end results should dictate a reversal of concern levels though – after all, if a security guard/policeman takes an interest in my shopping in Cheltenham or Swansea, I’m never going to encounter a predator missile suddenly being aimed at me. If the software or operators make a mistake in Afghanistan/Pakistan though, the error could lead to loss of life, not just an inconvenience.

Not Modern Warfare 2

The MW2 reference was that the article originally caught my attention as one of the photos reminded me of a level I’m trying to complete right now. Hopefully DanD will be able to come over again soon, as playing with two controllers isn’t particularly easy.

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May 15 2010

Beer, Brilliant Buddy Bears And Babies

Category: FriendsChrisM @ 2:05 am

DanC is back in town for a few days, so we are hoping to meet up on Saturday and see how his family is doing. The other Dan (DanD) will be joining us after his daughters finish their afternoon nap, by which time I hope to have had a few relaxing beers (one advantage of not driving over here), some barbecued beef, and then we’ll all move on to Bayterek to have a look at some brilliant buddy bears. Hopefully the walk will be healthy, as beer and shashlik aren’t known for their fat/calorie free content 🙂 Why all the letter B’s in this post? No idea TBH, but the buddy bears started this whole alliteration theme…

In case I forget to blog on them, or we end up not going there for some reason, here is a quick summary –

Buddy Bears Almost In Astana (Mock-Up)

The Buddy bears have arrived in Astana! There are 125 brightly painted bears standing in between Baiterek and Keyruen shopping centre. They stand at over 2 meters high painted by famous artists from all over the world, each one representing a country. They are an event of the ‘Germany in Kazakhstan’ programme and will be displayed until July.

(suggested meeting date and time information cut from original e-mail, my thanks to the Astana International Women’s Club for sending Irina this information)

Take a look at the website for more info and some great pictures.

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Apr 25 2010

Bigger Belts Because Of A Birthday?

Category: Friends,PersonalChrisM @ 1:57 pm

This week I had my 31st birthday. We (myself, Irina, her Mum and Anna) went out on Tuesday to a TGI Friday, where I thoroughly enjoyed the custom cocktail, fried & bread-crumbed mozerella, a proper bacon cheeseburger with chips and then a delicious chocolate brownie based dessert. Come Friday we had Walton (Assel was away), JohnA and Inessa, DanD and Lara and all the children from the aforementioned families all come over, the idea being that people would be able to relax and drink a little more with a delayed birthday celebration bringing the “morning after” to a Saturday, instead of a work day. Irina went out and bought a couple of kilograms of good meat, and cooked some beautiful home made burgers and other delicious courses. It was good to see everyone, especially in one place.

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Apr 17 2010

Qik – Playing (losing at) Pool…

Category: Friends,Tweets,VideosChrisM @ 10:11 pm

Qik – Playing (losing at) Pool With Dan In Highvill, Astana, Kazakhst by Chris Merriman

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Feb 05 2010

All round at Dan and Lara’s fo…

Category: Friends,Pictures,TweetsChrisM @ 8:21 pm

All round at Dan and Lara’s for delayed joint birthday celebrations

Dan Serenades Inessa And Sophie

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Jan 19 2010

Soothing Singing

Category: Friends,VideosChrisM @ 4:00 am

Only a brief glimpse of Anna in these videos, the main stars are Lara and DanD’s kids who were singing for their supper. Actually I think it may have been a dress rehearsal for a performance they were due to give in their school for a New Year celebration, but it was appreciated anyway. Another fleeting shot of the Dombra Hero t-shirt again. It was designed and is sold by a friend of ours, and I’ve not written a post on it still, which is quite shameful. If you know anyone who is into their Guitar Hero games, or wants a slightly more intellectual chuckle than your run of the mill unoriginal Borat themed Kazakhstan clothing, check out the link. They deliver globally, with some even making their way to Afghanistan!

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Jan 18 2010

Christmas Day Meal

Category: Anna's Photos,FriendsChrisM @ 11:57 pm

After saying goodbye to Walton we relaxed for a few hours at home with Anna, and then travelled over to JohnA’s for a delicious Christmas Day meal. This was the first year I wasn’t at home in Britain for Christmas with Mum et al, so I was really glad to be in a friendly and happy atmosphere with Anna and Irina. DanD and his family were there, as well as Innessa’s parents, which meant I wasn’t alone in toasting the day with vodka and beer, rather than wine 🙂 The food was great, and we even had some entertainment laid on – you’ll need to wait for the video to catch a clip of that…

Anna, DanD and a Dombra T-Shirt Model

Anna, DanD and a Dombra T-Shirt Model

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Jan 12 2010

Davay Davay Baris!

Category: Pictures,Sport,VideosChrisM @ 1:28 am

It was around two years ago that I went to my first ice hockey game, and just before Christmas (Xmas Eve’s Eve I think) I went with DanD and JohnA to go and see Baris (Astana’s team) play a Russian side. Having now been to two matches, I almost feel confident enough to guess what the hell is going on. Sometimes. DanD found the following website, that does a pretty good job of explaining what is going on, in simple terms. Just wish he’d found it before hand 🙂


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Dec 14 2009

Eating To Help Others

Category: Friends,KazakhstanChrisM @ 5:08 pm

A little over a week ago (6th December), a charity event was held at the Radisson Hotel here in Astana. The Annual Winter Charity Bazaar was setup by the international community to raise money for local charities, including an orphanage I think. Stalls were in place for each country that had people willing to attend and sell their home made cakes, souvenirs and in some cases, drinks. We weren’t around for the bazaar this time last year (when it was first put in place), as we’d already returned to Britain, so it was interesting to see which countries were attending, what lovely dishes had been prepared, and just how much could be raised.
Irina baked the Death By Chocolate cakes I seem to be mentioning a lot, and they seemed to sell well. The event eventually raised just over 5.3 million Tenge, of which the UK stall sold 176,000 Tenge worth of goods. The hot dogs from a stall that was set up by a local company went down well, as did the most authentic lasagne I’ve tasted in this country. Although Irina and I just attended to buy and eat (well deliver the cakes as well), some of our friends (both Embassy staff & their families and “normal” ex-pats) were actually manning the stall, and DanD even managed to virtually chop half his arm off cut his hand a little.

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Dec 14 2009

Alma TV Initial Report

Category: Kazakhstan,PersonalChrisM @ 5:23 am

As promised, here are my first impressions of Alma TV’s cable service here in Astana.

I’ll lay out the details first – we asked for and got the digital service (apparently not available in all areas just yet), didn’t get their internet service (not available in our location), and already had all the cabling in place for them. Our flat has already had a normal TV aerial wired in from the roof, as well as a large sat dish pointed at the Hotbird satellite. Not wanting to lose the satellite channels, we opted to use the standard aerial leads to feed the cable signal into the flat. As this lead is already split to feed a socket by the TV and also by the PC, this means we can watch two different cables channels at the same time. As long as one is Russian language – more on that later.

So, we went for the Prestige package, which basically means all of the channels except for three or four extra sports ones are included.

The channels that are mainly in English are as follows

    Discovery Channel
    Discovery Science
    Discovery World
    Discovery Travel & Living
    AXN Sci Fi Ru
    Sci Fi Channel
    Fox Life
    Fox Crime
    Universal Channel Russia
    SET Russia
    TV-1000 Action
    National Geographic
    National Geographic Wild
    Animal Planet
    Zone Reality
    Viasat Explorer
    Viasat History
    BBC World
    Cartoon Network / Turner Classic Movies
    VH-1 Europe
    World Fashion
    Fashion TV
    Luxe TV

The following channels are either in Russian or another language, but might still be of interest…

    Sport 1
    Sport 2
    Russian Extreme – different extreme or unusual sports
    Drive – Motor related programs
    Box – Fight channel, different disciplines covered
    Play TV (seems to be KZ KZSport1)
    MCM – French music channel
    MTV Russia – You can probably guess from the name 🙂
    A-One – Another Russian music channel
    Mus TV – Another Russian music channel
    Hit TV – Not sure yet about which country this channels originates from
    Music Pervogo – Another Russian music channel
    Mezzo – Classical/Jazz/Non-pop music channel

English audio doesn’t actually mean that all programs will have English speech. If you have a program that involves interviewing people from other countries, their speech is left intact – the English dubbing you’d get from watching the same channel in Britain is lost. Also adverts are mostly in Russian – no great loss there 🙂

Some channels have their EPG (Electronic Program Guide) two hours off – that is to say if you want to find out what is on now or next, you’ll need to check what the cable box thought was on two hours ago. Not all channels are like this, and I’m fairly certain it would be simple for Alma TV to correct this mistake.

The program names are mostly in Russian, but if you can at least read the Cyrillic alphabet, then you can just say the words out loud, and normally guess what it might be about. Channels that are specifically themed (SciFi, Discovery channels and sports for example) are normally easy to guess.

The interface menu for the cable STB (set top box) was originally in Russian, but can be changed to English. Our installers knew Russian wasn’t my first language, so they swapped the language for us (Menu, 1, Left until you see English, OK and then a few Exits), and also altered the relevant channels from Russian to English audio. Though not all of them, which is why I’ve listed all the ones I could find above, in case you ever find yourself using a digital set top box post-install time.

The box has both composite video and S-Video outputs, but obviously no component, HDMI or VGA. The audio is covered with both analogue RCA stereo output, and digital.

If your area isn’t yet covered by the digital service, you can still get most (all?) of those channels, but only with Russian audio (BBC/CNN excepted).

The ANNUAL rental for the box is around 750 Tenge (that is around 3 UK pounds, or $5!), and the monthly charge depends on which channel package you go for. I’ll have to double check with Irina, but I think the Prestige package (as DanD rightly pointed out, Kazakhstan HAD to have a channel package called that!) costs around 4000 Tenge per month.

I’ll try to post more information as it arises.

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