Articles about Russian gas giant Gazprom, like this one, from The Economist over month ago, make me very sad deep down inside. You see, unlike your average Westerner (in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not really average in anything), I actually harbor affectionate feelings for Gazprom, albeit for silly, sentimental reasons. You see, the word ‘Gazprom’ was one of the first words I learned to read in the Russian alphabet. (Though one can easily memorize the entire Cyrillic alphabet in a day or two, it takes a lot of time and practice for your brain to get used to stringing the letters together and reading them fluently. Trust me, I speak from personal experience on this.)
So first off, a bit of background about Gazprom, because I love to edify people about Russia, my favorite topic in the universe. Gazprom (which is a portmanteau of the ridiculously long phrase Газовая промышленность [gazovaya promyshlennost], meaning “gas industry”) was formed in the later years of the Soviet Union. It was privatized in the 1990s, but was kind of, sort of, renationalized after Putin came to power in 2000. From what I can tell, it exists in an odd state of limbo. I’m not sure I’d outright categorize it as a state-owned company, but it’s not exactly privately owned, either. Basically, it is a publicly traded company (on multiple stock exchanges – take that, Facebook!), but the Russian government has great influence over it, which in turn increases Russia’s influence in the world (since it is a huge and powerful company that delivers an important resource). Continue reading →
I read a book recently called Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century by Sergei Kostin and Eric Raynaud. It was really, really good, as is the excellent film that is loosely based on it (L’affaire Farewell). The book was translated from French and unfortunately, the translation leaves a bit to be desired in certain sections, but overall it is very interesting.
One of the main things I remember from this book was the KGB slang I learned. (Yes, there is such a thing as KGB slang.) The term I learned was мокрое дело (mokroe delo), which translates to “wet affair” – i.e. an assassination. (If I’m not mistaken, this term exists in English, too.) I’m not sure what this says about me as a person that one of my favorite aspects of the book was learning this slang. It probably just means that I am way too obsessed with spies and Russia, but we already knew that, right?
Oh, and if you haven’t seen it, you definitely should watch L’affaire Farewell. It’s available on DVD with English subtitles and is amazing because Emir Kusturica is in it. Emir Kusturica is one of my favorite filmmakers and actors ever. And now that I’m thinking of him, I am reminded of the fact that he speaks Serbian and I want to speak Serbian so badly and so I’m going to publish this blog entry and go study random Serbian words.
I love a good spy novel. In my mind, spy novels are a sub-genre (or at a related genre) of thrillers, another type of book I love. I also love Russia and anything Russia-related. So, as you can imagine, a spy/thriller involving Russia just about makes me swoon with delight. What makes it even more amazing is the occasional Russian word or phrase inserted here and there, but don’t worry, this certainly isn’t required.
However, one thing that really, really cuts into my enjoyment of a good solid spy novel is factual inaccuracies. I specifically speak of those relating to Russia. One factual inaccuracy I often encounter is reference to the KGB in a modern (that is, post 1990s) context. Continue reading →
I’ve been busy this week working on my novel, which is why I haven’t written on here at all. I’m happy to say that I’m rapidly approaching 50,000 words. This is the most I’ve ever accomplished on a single novel – usually, I get antsy and restless after writing about 35,000 on a single work, abandon it, and start something else. I’m really proud I’m almost to 50,000 words. I might actually finish this thing!
I love data, especially when it’s organized into pretty graphs, so I thought I’d share a few charts with you. StatCounter, the web counter I use (it’s amazing and no, I’m not being paid to say that), has a nice little tool that lets you see which browser versions are the most popular by country.
First, the United States.
Click to see larger
Who are all these people still using Internet Explorer? Internet Explorer is probably the worst browser ever created! Continue reading →
Happy Victory Day! I hope everyone will take a moment today to remember those who died in World War II.
If you’re interested, there’s a video below of the parade at Red Square. As usual, Russia’s leadership wanted to show off its military might. I think my favorite part of the parade was at the end, when the airplanes with colored contrails flew. I have no idea how they color those contrails, but it looks so cool.
The most famous photo of World War II. Aleksei Yeremenko in 1942. He was killed in action in 1942, right after this photo was taken.
Victory Day will be celebrated tomorrow in Russia, as it is every May 9. Even in this era, World War II is a really, really big deal in Russia and many former Soviet countries. I’m not really sure why that is – perhaps it’s because of many years of Soviet propaganda, which was necessary because the Soviet Union really didn’t have many other accomplishments (aside from oppressing people, if you know what I mean). Continue reading →
Because what else is a person supposed to do after midnight on a Tuesday? Watch random YouTube videos, of course! Here’s one of my favorite recordings of “E lucevan le stelle” from Puccini’s Tosca, sung by Placido Domingo.
Want to spend the rest of your life on Mars? In about ten years, you might be able to.
Here’s a piece about that plan to put people (permanently) on Mars. It could be a fun idea for a science fiction story, but it’s really freaky in real life.
How about that: “America’s tech talent shortage is a myth”. Looks like big tech companies propagated this myth of a “programmer shortage” in America in order to justify passing an immigration bill that would allow them to legally hire foreigners and pay them lower salaries.
I found this semi-obnoxious image in honor of 1 May, a holiday in Russia. Click on it to see it larger and in all its ridiculous glory.
I can’t believe I haven’t written in a week! I was really busy last weekend studying for economics (I ended up getting an A in the class) and for most of this week, I’ve been writing. This week, I have written over 8,000 words of my novel. I feel like it’s finally shaping up and turning into something halfway decent. I have been very impatient about my writing recently since I discovered author Russell Blake. He’s written almost twenty books in fewer than two years.
In writing, there’s no substitute for lots and lots of practice, so I am trying to get that practice in and actually finish a novel. This current one I’m working on has been in the works for almost five years now. That’s a bit ridiculous and it’s time I finished it.
This is what I found when I searched ‘economics’ on Google images.
I had my last real economics class last Monday. (This upcoming Monday doesn’t count since that’s the exam.) I honestly can’t say I’ll miss the class, which is paradoxical. After all, I liked the teacher and absolutely loved the material. I learned a lot and I am more informed when I read the business section of the newspaper.
What I didn’t like about the class were two things. First off, the textbook was absolutely dreadful. It was so bad that I’m not even going to link to it on Amazon. (For those curious, we used Krugman’s Economics in Modules.) Most of the time, I ended up reading other sources. I even downloaded a few free textbooks (legally, of course) that were a lot more useful than the dreadful tome we used. Luckily, I only paid thirteen dollars for my copy (thank goodness for Amazon marketplace!), so that makes me feel a bit better.
The other aspect of the class that bothered me were the people. We did not cover nearly as much material as planned – I would estimate that we shaved off about one-third of the material because people could not keep up. I’ve said this before: I don’t mind it when people ask questions. What is annoying is when one person monopolizes an entire thirty minutes of class time talking about a basic algebra issue. This person was the worst combination: she was both outspoken and stupid, which made for some frustrating questions asked.
This isn’t the last economics class I’ll take. In fact, I know that this fall, I will be enrolled in an intensive macroeconomics and microeconomics course. I hope my experience will be better than my recent one.
And I sincerely hope that we will not use any textbooks written by Paul Krugman.
I have been reading so much Russia-related stuff since last Friday, when Chechnya (and therefore Russia) burst onto the national stage in this country due to the revelation that the Boston marathon bombers were Chechen.