Jun 18 2009

Air, Teeth, Mud, Concrete and Burgers

Category: Eating Out,In The Media,Kazakh Driving,PersonalChrisM @ 8:56 pm

This evening, so Anna could have some fresh air (and a snooze, as she had been cranky all day – teething?) we walked over to Mega (see previous tweet with picture). On the way there (we still take an extra few minutes to use the proper light controlled pedestrian crossing, compared to the main cross roads next to Mega, where cars don’t have to stop when turning right, even though the little green man is, well, green, for pedestrians) we cut across a little patch of grass to get to the pavement. It had previously been raining, and I suddenly found it very difficult to push Anna along. Looking down, I saw the wheel and lower part of the frame caked in mud. Lesson learned – stick to the concrete where possible. It looks like we may be needing some pressure washers to clear the mud off the frame for the pushchair. Hopefully the Akim here in Astana will consider building a proper pavement (sidewalk for American readers), as the one on our side of the road is actually just a series of (usually) connected concrete covers over large pipes.
Speaking of construction in Astana, NewEurasia.net has an article explaining how Kazakhstan hosting the Asian Winter Olympics has benefited Astana now that the city is co-hosting with Almaty (the old capital city over here). See here for the full run down.
Anyway, despite the use of big puddles, leaves and tissues, the pushchair was still leaving a muddy streak behind it when we arrived at Mega, so Ira ran in to pick up a few essentials from Ramstore, and also a couple of takeaways from Star Burger (I think that was the name) – I had a relatively tasty cheese burger, with no scary rabbit food (lettuce, tomato, gherkins etc), which filled a hole nicely.
On the way back a water tanker (one of the smaller versions, compared to what you might see in Europe) was drifting across lanes, apparently trying to drive through a car, rather than overtake it, luckily they both stopped in time for the zebra crossing, so we arrived back home in one piece, though a little wet, as the clouds broke again for a few minutes.

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Jul 02 2008

Making Joints With Any Sort Of Tobacco Will Be Outlawed

Category: Amsterdam,In The MediaChrisM @ 4:54 am

See this BBC article for a rather large typo, or very misinformed journalist. Although the BBC World television report did not contain this inaccuracy, the fact that the online version wasn’t checked properly is quite astounding. The idea that the Dutch are banning people from rolling their spliffs with tobacco is laughable. In case you haven’t yet heard, the Netherlands are following most of Europe by banning smoking cigarettes (and in their case alone, joints with tobacco in) in enclosed public places. I still want to know whether they expect all smokers who prefer hash to weed to use pipes, but I guess I’ll have to wait a while before returning to Amsterdam to further my research. It is a tough job writing this blog 😉

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May 01 2008

Pirate Isolation Plan

Category: In The MediaChrisM @ 7:49 pm

No, not a serious piece on the issues mariners face in many areas of Asia and Africa, but instead links to a couple of articles on plans to punish those who download and share copyrighted material by withdrawing their access to the internet.
On one hand, we have the British government considering such plans, whilst members of the European Parliament have voted against (only just) such rules, at least at a Europe wide level. Individual governments will obviously still retain the right to put such policies into practice.
Even without any actual UK legislation in place, I know from personal experience that repeat offenders in Britain can find their ISPs cancel their account. Perhaps I know from being caught downloading movies or programs? Nope, part of my job a few years ago was to trace specific users (those who didn’t use PeerGuardian at least 😉 ) that were caught by organizations who scour Peer2Peer networks, looking for illegal copies of copyright material. However, all that would happen back then was if I found a specifically named file was still being actively shared by a customer, they would receive a warning. If the same person ignored the warning, or was caught with new files we were alerted to, their account would be closed. However, as we ran more than 100 different branded ISPs, all working on the same equipment, we’d often see the same people come back again, under a new ISP label 🙂

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Apr 19 2008

US Starbucks Employees Slightly Less Screwed Over

Category: In The MediaChrisM @ 11:01 am

Over in America, the tipping system is a little different to Europe. In most Euro establishments, staff are paid enough (not necessarily a lot by any means, but…), however in America, most waiting staff have to rely on customers’ tips to bring home a decent enough amount of money to live on. This confuses some American tourists, who are surprised that tipping is not mandatory, only considered appropriate if the staff & establishment itself actually deserve it. Whether through attentive service, delicious food, or a good atmosphere, if you enjoy your time, you tip. If the food was mediocre at best, the staff seemed very dis-interested, or you were kept waiting an un-necessary amount of time, you don’t tip.
Starbucks previously used to pool all the waiters’ & waitress’ tips (not uncommon), but then split the pot between all staff, including the management level workers, who didn’t actually wait the tables. A judge in San Diego has ruled this practice wrong, and has told Starbucks to pay back to the workers the amount they were short changed, check out this article for more details…

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Apr 17 2008

Not Present And Correct?

Category: Eating Out,KazakhstanChrisM @ 12:46 pm

Something that is still missing from Kazakhstan (or at least Astana, I’ve not been to Almaty for a few years) is the identiclone high street effect you see in the West. Although the exact franchises vary, over in Europe you can often find McDonalds, Starbucks and KFCs. Whether their absence in this city is a good or bad thing depends on whether you care about an area’s cultural history, or are drunk at 1am and want a bite to eat. At least that is how I find my opinion differs 😉

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Dec 10 2007

GPS Alternative

Category: In The MediaChrisM @ 2:27 am

As you may remember from my previous posts re. the HTC TyTn II, I already use a Global Positioning System device when I am in Britain. Although there are of course the usual horror stories of little old grannies mindlessly following instructions and driving their Nissan Sunny into a pond, or of being taken on 250 mile detours, I find the ability to chill out about exactly which junction I need to exit from on the motorway, or the location of speed cameras very useful. According to an article over at BBC News, Europe is planning the launch of a system to offer an alternative to America’s GPS. The table at the end of the article is the sort of thing I really like from the BBC – a neat summary of exactly what is on the table, and in this case at least, who each section will be aimed at.

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Nov 28 2007

UKIP – Ignorant Or Manipulative?

Category: In The MediaChrisM @ 11:29 pm

To get a bit of background information for this post, head on over to this BBC News article. For those unwilling, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) are broadly anti-EU, and favour Britain isolating itself from the European Union more. In the past they have never shied away from playing on people’s fears, and blowing things out of proportion.
In this particular case, they presented a question within a Europe-wide census as asking citizens about their sexual activities. The question was referring to what is sometimes called common-law husband/wife relationships. This is when people live together but do not actually get married.
The tone used by a UKIP representative is toned down in this article, compared to the previous one that was issued before the EU decided to drop the question altogether. The UKIP member now appears to concede that the meaning they attributed to ‘consensual union’ may have been incorrect.
Anyway, I don’t know for certain, but it is unlikely that an entire party could mis-understand a term…

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Jun 21 2007

Vodka Not Equal To Champagne

Category: Kazakhstan,PersonalChrisM @ 7:59 pm

At least in terms of exclusiveness, according to MEPs (Members of the European Parliament to my American readers). They have judged that spirits made from different ingredients can still be called vodka.
Why the champagne reference? Well here in Kazakhstan, the situation is the same as it was a while ago in Europe – pretty much any fizzy wine can call itself Champagne. However, in Europe at least, the grapes have to come from a certain region, and strict rules apply to the production process before a wine is allowed the pretige of having champagne on the label.

MEPs from the Nordic and Baltic states had asked for the legal definition of vodka to be tightened even further than originally proposed, to only include spirits made from potatoes or grain. The manufacturers will need to note on the label what the drink is made from, if not spuds or wheat, but there will be no minimum font height/percentage.
Vodka producers in Western Europe (Britain, Germany and France mainly) will be very happy that spirits made from grapes, citrus fruits and sugar beets can still be called vodka.

Russia is of course the world’s largest producer of vodka, but if the Nordic definition had been applied, Britain would have been kicked out of second place.

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Apr 14 2007

Your Flexible, Crashing Friend!

Category: In The MediaChrisM @ 3:13 am

If you were in Europe today, and tried to pay for a purchase by Visa, you may well have encountered difficulties, as reported by the BBC yesterday.
It appears that a back up system quickly came into call.
If you were caught out by the problem, do let me know, and are you planning to carry a (AmEx,MasterCard,Diners etc.) spare in the future?

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Feb 04 2007

Its Getting Better All The Time

Category: Kazakhstan,PersonalChrisM @ 4:52 pm

OK, so once again, my posting has been sporadic as of late. I’ve now pretty much recovered from the illness though, so I’m hoping to be writing a little more.

In the mean time, here are a few links I have been meaning to suggest –

www.robertamsterdam.com – Perspectives on Russia, Europe, and International Affairs
kazakhstan.blogsome.com/2007/02/03/126/ – KZBlog’s look at KZ Blogs!
kazakhstan.neweurasia.net/?p=248 – Kazakh queues

PS This post’s title is a reference to a Shed Seven song, in case anyone cares…
PPS Had my third Russian lesson today, all went well. The ride back cost 600 Tenge, which was a rip off, but it was balanced out by a friendly driver giving me a lift for free on the way there – he decided a foreigner coming to live in RK and trying to learn Russian was something to be applauded…

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