A classless note from a classless Ute fan

| Sunday, November 29, 2009
On my way home from "The Holy War" down in Provo, I heard Max Hall's comments live on the radio. I was pretty upset with what Max Hall had to say. I am a huge Ute fan and graduated from the University. I have lots of respect for BYU. I grew up in a home that was dominated by BYU fans. I have no hard feelings to the University. However, I must say that his comments were out of line and I wanted to sum a few points about the comments.

"I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them — I hate everything about them.

"I hate their program. I hate their fans. I hate everything. So, it feels good to send those guys home. They didn't deserve it. It was our time, and it was our time to win. We deserved it. We played as hard as we could tonight, and it felt really good to send them home and to get them out of here, so it is a game I'll always remember."

"Do you really want me to go into it? I think the whole university and their fans and organization is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year and did a whole bunch of nasty things. I don't respect them, and they deserve to lose."

1) I don't have a problem that Hall hates Utah. I think that many players on both sides have this same feeling. There really isn't anything here that fuels the fire for me any more than it was already fueled. I do believe the LDS beliefs and religion discourage this kind of hate; however, that doesn't offend me as a person.

2) This is fine if Hall feels they deserved it. Both sides also probably felt the same way. It was a close game to the end, it could have gone either way and BYU pulled it out. Congratulations there. I have no hard feelings about the game being given away or lost. Someone was going to win and someone lose. I wish the other side had won, but it was still a great game.

3) I completely disagree with that the entire Utah program and fan base is classless. First off, I know there are stupid and retarded fans. And yes, I disagree with drinking morally, but (gasp) people do that. Now, there is no reason anyone should throw their beer or any drink on fans from another schools. This is idiotic, classless, and shows complete lack of self-restraint. I understand why Hall has no respect for these types of people. I myself also have no respect for them. These fans truly are classless.

4) Hall should realize however that all Utah fans are not that way. And why the program is also "classless" sure beats me. If I were to use this same logic with BYU, then I could say that the BYU fan base and BYU program is a bunch of unforgiving cocky haters. However, I realize this isn't true. There are some people from BYU that are like this (Hall would be here based on his comments), but that doesn't mean every single person at BYU is this type of a person and that the entire program is this way. It just means that there are people like this. In my opinion, these comments don't reflect the belief of the BYU program or LDS religion, rather they reflect on the character of Max Hall. He has had a year to think about this, and the fact that he thinks that all Ute fans are classless clearly shows that he has some other problem whether emotional or logical. That is not for me to determine but I think that Hall needs to step back.

In conclusion, I think Hall has lost his head with these comments. However, in no way do I think these comments diminish BYU as a program or their win yesterday. Rather they diminish Hall himself as a player and as person. BYU still has a great program and a lot of great fans. They also have their classless crowd as well. Utah has their classless crowd but they also have their good outstanding fans and players like every University. I hope that Hall can realize that what he said is pretty classless itself, apologize, and that we can all move on. Both sides have great teams and classy fans. I hope my rant isn't too "classless" for Mr. Hall though.

P.S. It was a great game yesterday and I had a really fun time in the BYU student section. Too bad the Utes couldn't pull it out.

Kindle Review

| Monday, November 2, 2009
I got a Kindle last week and have been unable to put it down. I have been reading practically nonstop while not a work. My Kindle was an unexpected gift and I have been grateful to have it.

My Kindle
I had only seen a Kindle once before and wasn't completely sold on the idea of it. It was a pretty cool system, but I didn't think it looked cool enough. That is probably the first impression that most people will have. Compared to some of the other electronics out there today, a Kindle seems pretty lackluster in comparison (look at the iPhone, netbooks, and other such electronics for example). The Kindle however has one primary purpose, to provide an excellent reading environment, and it does just that.

When you look at the kindle, you literally feel like you are reading an actual page from a book.
Kindle uses a high-resolution display technology called electronic paper. It works using ink just like books and newspapers, but it displays the ink particles electronically...The electronic paper display is reflective, which means unlike most displays, you can read it clearly even in bright sunlight. Also, electronic paper does not need power to hold the ink in place, which extends your Kindle’s battery life.
-Kindle User's Guide

Truly incredible. I am still impressed. If you notice in the image below, the Kindle is sitting right in the sun, but the words are still completely visible. It is literally like a book.
And that is the reason I love the Kindle so much. Unlike a computer, iPhone, or other electronic device, you can stare at the Kindle for the same amount of time that you can stare at a normal book. The convenience of having multiple books with you wherever you go in such a small place is a nice little bonus (although I typically never carried more than 2 books with me at a time, but now I have about 20).

The Kindle offers lots of other little cool things such as an easy way to grab your favorite quotes from what you are reading, note taking ability at a certain spot in a book, and a simple way to get to your notes and quotes off the Kindle on to your computer or other device. The Kindle has Wifi connectivity so I can browse the internet (in black and white of course and it is a bit clunky, but it is nice to have just in case).

Getting books is one of the areas that I really like and dislike. The thing that I love is how simple it is to get a book onto your Kindle. If you purchase it at the Amazon store, it downloads itself directly to your Kindle (that's right, I simply say I want it and it adds itself to my system in about a minute). You can purchase books directly through your Kindle or on your computer. The thing I dislike about books is there is no local library that I can use for free to check out books. That means that if I want to read a new book, I either have to pay for it to get it on my Kindle (it's only $9.99 for a new release so cheaper than in the bookstore) or wait for it at the library as usual which kind of defeats the point of getting a Kindle. This is just a minor problem thought because there are hundreds of books that are free at the Amazon book store or on several other sites. Also, if you can print something to PDF, then you can get it onto your Kindle in a readable format.

Overall, during the past 4 days that I have been using my Kindle, I have been impressed. I take it with me everywhere and am constantly turning it on and reading a few pages here and there (it saves where I am reading in each book, so I don't need to worry about losing my spot). Would I recommend getting your own Kindle? I don't know to be honest. The Kindle comes with a current price tag of $259. I wouldn't trade my Kindle for anything now that I have it, but like I said, I got it as a gift. If you are in the business of buying books often, it may be a good investment for you as there are lots of free books out there and typically the Kindle version will be cheaper than the hard copy. If you are like me, and live at the library because you prefer free books to purchasing, then the Kindle might not be for you, unless of course you have the money to spend on it. Then, I would definitely go for it.

Remember though, you will only be able to share your books with your friends that have a Kindle as well. If you do, let me know what books you have and I'd be happy to let you check out my books. Off to read my Kindle now.
Notice that even from the extreme angle, you can still read the words that are written (no glare)

Another angled shot
One more angled shot

Putting it all together

| Sunday, October 4, 2009
The computer is basically done. I am finishing up getting all of our documents and pictures over to the new hard drive but that is just clean up work. I had a few people ask me why I was building a new computer and the main reason was because our old computer was almost dead. It took about 10 minutes to startup, and then if it sat for more than 10 minutes then you had to reboot the machine because it froze up. With all of the Photoshop and Sai Paint Tools stuff that my wife does, she couldn't handle it.

Also, I couldn't really just upgrade the system because the old machine was an eMachines system that was running on DDR Memory and didn't have any SATA support (that's right, we were on DDR and PATA. For the non-techies, that is old stuff.

I had never built my own system before by buying the parts, but I thought it would be a fun adventure. The most work was figuring out exactly what I needed. Putting the system together wasn't too much work. I put the system together following this step-by-step guide. Also, I did a lot of research on one of my favorite sites using this thread where people were very helpful in answering questions.

Here are a few of the pictures from my build (I am not going to give all the steps as you can find those using the guide that I posted above). I took these pictures with my cell phone so please forgive the quality:

The Parts

Putting it together

Booting Up

Overall, it took me about 4 hours to get everything together and running (the last hour to hour and a half was just setting up Windows). The system works great and so far there are no bugs. I will definitely be building all of my machines in the future because for the price you can get a way awesome machine. If anyone needs or wants help building their own machine then let me know and I would be more than happy to help you out. See the final build parts here.

Final Build Parts

| Sunday, September 27, 2009
So, after a long day yesterday, here are the final parts that I ordered for the machine I am putting together for my wife:

MotherboardGIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard$162 (Combo Price)
CPUAMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition Callisto 3.1GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 80W Dual-Core Processor$162 (Combo Price)
RAMG.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500)$70
OSWindows XP or Vista through ACM$20
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5"$65 * 2
DVD DrivePLEXTOR 24X DVD/CD Writer Black SATA Model PX-880SA$40
Video Card  
CaseThermaltake Tsunami VA3000BWA Black Aluminum$60 (After Rebate)
PSUOCZ OCZ700MXSP 700W SLI/CrossFire Active$50 (After Rebate)

A couple of reasons for changing some of the parts from my original plan:

OS - I found out that since my wife is a student, she could join ACM and get 8 license keys to a large selection of software. Sweet deal, and much cheaper than purchasing an OS straight up.

Hard Drive - I went from 500GB to 640GB because I looked around and people were getting better performance from the 640 ones. The price on these drives is a bit higher than you can find but the "Black" brand is one of the better brands of hard drives and especially for the OS. I wasn't going to get a Velociraptor Drive. Too much for me.

Case - You may notice that I switched the cases and the newer one is $20 bucks more. I liked the original case quite a bit and would have been happy with it. The only reason that I switched is because the new case had free shipping, and the old one would have cost $20 to ship. So in the end, it was the same price but I got a better case.

PSU - I had a couple people direct me away from the Apevia PSU and towards some better brands. This one is built by a more reputable company and has pretty similar specs. The price is the same, so definitely worth switching.

Hopefully all the parts show up this week and then I'll be putting this machine together next weekend. I'll be posting pictures and how things go as I start to build it. I am stoked.

**EDITED 9/29/09 - They lowered the price on the hard drives from $75 to $65. I asked them to refund the difference and they did. I lowered the totals accordingly.

Computer Build

| Saturday, September 26, 2009
I am going to be building a new comp from scratch. Here are the current specs of what I am planning on buying. Please leave any comments on your thoughts on what I should or shouldn't buy.

MotherboardGIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard$162 (Combo Price)
CPUAMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition Callisto 3.1GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 80W Dual-Core Processor$162 (Combo Price)
RAMG.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500)$70
OSWindows XP Home$90
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar Black WD5001AALS 500GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5"$60
DVD DrivePLEXTOR 24X DVD/CD Writer Black SATA Model PX-880SA$40
Video Card  
CaseAPEVIA X-SUPRA G-Type X-SUPRAG-BL Black / Blue$40 (After Rebate)
PSUAPEVIA ATX-AQ700W-BK 700W ATX12V$60 (After Rebate)

Russian Train

| Sunday, July 5, 2009
I know it's been over a month since we've been home and I have meant to post this video for some time now. Anya took this video on the way home from Russia on the train from Penza to Moscow. We had the two top beds in the train and it was hot in the train. You can't really hear what I am saying (unless you turn your sound way way up and listen carefully) so I have transcribed it below.

Yo. What's up?
(video of the train)
What are you taking a video of?
You just wanted to take a video of that man down there sleeping without his shirt on.
It's really hot...I'm dying...I'm sleeping in my sweat.

Free Internet

| Friday, June 26, 2009
I saw this commercial a while back, and I laughed out loud. I would totally do this for free internet! Enjoy!

Russia - People

| Sunday, June 7, 2009
The people in Russia are very interesting and very diverse. It makes sense with all of the things that they have been through from Communism under the USSR to the fall of communism to the beginning of a democratic society that this people has a very unique attitude and one this is tough to capture in a blog post or any pictures. Words can't really describe human nature, but I have tried to describe other parts of Russia, so I will do the same here.

The first thing I think when I see Russian people on the street or in pictures or even when I first meet them is how mad they look and sound. Russians have this interesting quality that makes you think that they are an upset people. As you walk along the streets, enter stores, and ride the transportation system you will likely not see many, if any, smiles coming from the people around you. I am not sure what it is but Russian nature is not to smile in public.

Listening in these same situations to conversations and interactions is also pretty interesting. It always amazes me how a Russian person can sound so mad and upset and the other person doesn't get offended. Russians like to hold intense conversations and be very serious as they talk so much so that I often think a fight is going to bust out, but it never does. The people are very straightforward, and they don't try to sugarcoat their words.

For example, my wife has a really good friend who she has been friends with for some time. They like to do different things together but like any women or young ladies, they love to shop and they love clothes. One of the things that always gets me is how open and honest they are with each other about each other's clothes and looks. My wife says she really likes something and her friend tells her that it is ugly and not to put it down (she doesn't say "I don't really like it." but she says "That's ugly, don't even think about it."). When it comes to boyfriends they are the same way and anything else. They also sound like their fighting a lot, but they're not, they're just talking/discussing a topic. It is the Russian people's nature for some reason.

However, Russian people are different at heart. As we were leaving Russia and were in the airport I met another woman who was headed home after a three week vacation in Russia (her first time in Russia and she didn't know the language or alphabet at all). I asked her several questions, including what she thought of the Russian people. Her answer is one of the things I love most about Russia and the people that make it who they are. She said that Russians seem really hard and mean but the people are the most hospitable people she has ever met. They have so much less than we do in America, but they give so much more. She shared how the people she visited would not let her go to her hotel but insisted she stay in their 2 room apartment. They gave up their bed and slept in the kitchen on the floor. Jean, the women coming home to America, said that in America we don't give up our beds and bedrooms, but we have a guest room, or we let them sleep on the couch downstairs. My wife and I experienced the same thing while we were there and were given the best room and place in the apartment. Jean also shared that every meal was extremely large and very good, the people giving the best they had no matter what.

Our first night on the train as we were headed to Penza, we had neighbors in the train who were extremely hospitable. As soon as they learned that we were from America and that I was an American, we were immediately invited to share their food. They gave us sausages and bananas and offered vodka and beer. They wouldn't let us turn the food down no matter what (they let us turn down the alcohol fortunately). These people were not rich by any measure and they sure didn't know they would meet Americans in the train, but that didn't matter and they were willing to give us more than what they had themselves.

I find it quite interesting that a people who seem so mean and mad from first impressions are actually some of the most hospitable and kind people I have ever known. The Russian people have a lot of problems that face them as a society and people with a lot of deceit in the government and bad business practices, but the people are what truly make Russia a wonderful place to visit. Check out my book review on "A Train to Potevka" for more about the Russian people.

Russia - What to eat

| Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Like any foreign country, Russia has its own unique cuisine. Russian food seems to be a secret to a lot of people. The Russian diet is nothing special with lots of vegetables being consumed. Most people eat a lot of potatoes and macaroni. Most meals will contain one of the two. The one food that is at practically every meal, if not every meal, is bread. If you don't eat any bread then people think you're sick because bread is a must. I am not sure why but people ask me every time "Why aren't you eating any bread?" (Что хлеб не едите?). Following your meal, usually tea is served. I find it odd, but that is because we didn't do either of these things when I was growing up. Anyways, here are some of the common/unique foods of Russia.

Black Bread - The number one food of Russia (I think). Bread is served at basically every meal. Bread is made fresh daily and available at any store. Russian bread is much tastier then any of the bread sold in American stores.

Dried Fish - Fish is a common food for most Russians. A lot of times fish is boiled and put into soup. The other common way that fish is eaten is dried (as seen in this picture). The fish is dried with all of its scales and bones still in place and when you buy it, you remove the scales and eat the dried meat right off the bone. I've never tried it but I hear it is really tasty...

Piroshki - A pastry of sorts. It is like a bread or a roll with either potatoes, meat, or cabbage inside (they put other things inside as well but these are the 3 most common). My favorite is with potatoes but the others are pretty good as well. After putting the filling inside, the bread is either baked or fried. Fried are definitely my favorite.

Borsht - one of the most famous Russian soups. Borsht contains potatoes, meat (any type), cabbage, carrots, and beets which gives it the red color. Tastes best with sour cream. Soup in general is very common and made by some variant of boiling together meat and potatoes and some other vegetables.

Shashliki - Like a shishkabob. It is meat roasted over hot coals. These things are very tasty and found at small street vendors or when going on a picnic.

Pelmeni - Russian dumpling. A noodle type outer layer filled with beef and pork typically (sometimes with chicken). Usually these dumplings are boiled and eaten with mayonnaise or kethup. Russians do not fry them, but I think they are tastier that way.

Salad - A typical Russian salad does not contain any lettuce. You won't find a head of lettuce in Russia (you can find leaves of lettuce) so when you see the word salad anywhere you can know that you aren't getting a typical American salad. Usual salads are a mixture of rice or diced potatoes with other diced vegetables such as carrots, peppers, peas, etc. and some kind of meat all mixed together with mayonnaise or sour cream. Some can be really tasty and some can be not so great. The other common salad is sliced up tomatoes and cucumbers with onions and mixed together with mayo, sour cream, or oil (yes, vegetable oil).

Pastry - Like the bread, the pastries are fresh too. Usually the pastries are filled with a fruit jam or condensed milk. Condensed milk is used in a lot of things and is very tasty (and super fattening as well).

Blini - Russian pancakes or crepes. These are typically eaten with some type of filling inside. The above picture is a blin filled with cabbage and eggs. Other common fillings are jam, condensed milk, and fruit.

A standard Russian meal. As soon as we flew in, this was the first thing that we ate. Macaroni with fried chicken with mayonnaise for the topping. Mayonnaise and ketchup are used very often and rarely do Russians make a tomato sauce for macaroni, rather just use one of the two or both.

Sharuma - Russian fast food (kind of). This is a common food made in several cities throughout Russia. The best sharuma I have ever eaten were in Saratov with beef, tomatoes, and cucumbers but these ones are pretty good as well.

Russia - Copyright

Doing a quick search for Copyright laws in Russia bring back several sites that talk about bringing Copyright laws up to standard with other countries. I am not quite sure what they are talking about though. Here is what I've found in Russia.

There isn't really any enforcement of copyright laws at all. Well, I guess that isn't completely true. It looks like Microsoft got in with someone and so most Microsoft products are legal copies. However, most everything else is pirated over and over.

How can you tell if the movie/cd/software that you are looking at is pirated or a legal version? Price of course. Good quality pirated DVDs are around 100 rubles or just over $3. You can expect to pay about $15 for a legal version of the film. You can find even cheaper films as well but the quality is very lacking and leaves a lot to be desired.

A CD will usually go for about $2 and sometimes you will find CDs of MP3s from an artist for the same price (there is usually about 100 songs on a cd like this). You can expect to pay about $5 for a pirated computer game. Xbox and Playstation aren't really popular in Russia so I don't think I've seen any "illegal" copies before.

DVDs, CDs, and computer games for sale on the rionok.

DVDs and computer games for sale in Russia.

Shelves of pirated DVDs for sale inside a store in Russia.

Like I said, I am not sure if there are copyright laws in Russia or what but they aren't enforced if there are. If you do decide to buy films in Russia though, whether official or unofficial copies, you will want to make sure that you have the correct region encoding or else you will be out of luck.

Also, Russian websites also have lots of pirated movies, cds, and games that can be downloaded. However you have to know Russian on most any of these sites. A lot of them are locked down to Russia only as well (for good reason).

One other thing that isn't unique to Russia but I find interesting is that ratings aren't given to films. No R, PG-13, PG, G rated films. Really there isn't any rating or way to know what the film contains without doing some research on your own. It's pretty tough to explain to someone the rating system (believe me since I tried to do it several times).

Russia - Street Food

| Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Today's post will be quite short. Also, the next couple will probably be shorter and I'll be missing a few days as we are getting ready for the long trip back to the United States. Stay tuned however.

One of the other ways to get your food and drink in Russia is from the local street vendors. Vendors range anywhere from people selling ready to go food, all the way to people selling nuts and other such products. People sell anything and everything you can think of and it can be anywhere on the street (not just at the rionok). Some of the sellers have little huts that they are in (often found at the bus stop) while others are right on the street with their stuff. Here are some pictures.

Small shop where fruits are sold.

Grandma selling piroshki (yummy russian food).

Women selling nuts on the street.

Small cakes/pastries seen through the window of a vendor.

A vendor selling russian root beer (kvas). It doesn't taste like root beer. I am not a fan.

Buying anything on the street should be done with care if you are buying prepared food. You never know what they may have put in those piroshki with meat...I've heard some pretty nasty stories about dogs and cats being used in them.

Russia - The Magazine

| Monday, June 1, 2009
So obviously the rionik isn't the only place to buy things. There are stores all over the place where you can buy stuff. However, the stores in Russia have some distinct differences from those in the United States.

I am going to look at grocery/food stores to start, but I will cover a little bit about other stores as well. One thing that I love about Russia is that no matter where you are, there is almost always some type of store (in Russian the word for store is “magazine”) within a short walking distance. The nearest store to our current place in the United States is at least five minutes by car. I sure wish we had one closer than that.

Magazine in Russian.

Magazines differ in size and can be super small to decent size. Expect to find small magazines all over and larger ones more spread out. If you walk into a small magazine you can expect to find a sales person (typically a woman but not always) who will give you what you want. In other words, you don't touch anything without asking the sales person to let you take a look at it (sometimes this is a real pain and I am not a big fan of this setup). Many of the items sit behind the counter and you can say that you either want to buy it or look at it. Other things sit under glass that is the counter...you'll typically find chocolates and other treats here.

Waiting to buy meat and cheese.

Walking into a larger magazine usually entails leaving your bag behind that you have brought with you. You generally can't carry it into the store for theft reasons. Basically, watch out for the lockers to put your stuff inside or else the security guard will ask you to put your stuff in them. Once inside the magazine, it feels much like a typical American store other than the products are probably pretty foreign to most Americans.

Lockers sitting outside the magazine entrance.

One thing that is a staple in the Russian stores are alcoholic beverages. No matter where you go, you are going to find plenty of choices on what you want to drink. In the smaller magazines, expect to find from about ¼ to ½ of the magazine to be only alcoholic beverages. In larger magazines you can expect a smaller percentage but still enough to make you realize that you aren't in Kansas anymore.

The wine. Beer and vodka are on the next isle.

Magazines for clothing are much like American stores and you can usually walk in with your bags and other things, but expect to be watched pretty closely. In most magazines that I have walked into people keep a good eye on what you are looking at and what you are doing always. For some reason, magazines with food products always seem to watch you the closest...

Also magazines for other things such as electronics, school supplies, and other stuff are typically under the locked down policy as well. In other words you have to ask to be able to touch something. This isn't always the case though and there are a lot more electronic magazines showing up where you can touch what you are looking at, but school supplies are typically under lock down...so no stealing any of those good looking notebooks you want.

Waiting to buy school supplies.

One other thing is that a lot of clothing stores our found in areas kind of like the mall in a sense (called a “torgovi center”). Basically, it is a bunch of small shops found next to each other one after the other. This is different from the rionik though because all of the stores are indoors and at night you don't have to take down your shop like on the rionok. Each shop is different on whether or not everything is behind the counter or not.

Russia - The Market

| Sunday, May 31, 2009
Shopping in Russia is a different experience than going to the local supermarket in America. Shopping is done in a few different ways and I will cover those over the next few days. To start off, I wanted to cover one of the funnest ways to shop in Russia as an American – the rionik.

A very non-busy day on the rionik.

In a lot of countries outside the United States there are similar outdoor markets where goods and food are sold right on the street. The rionik is just an outdoor market where lots of people come together to buy what they need. Rioniks in Russia vary in size and can serve a very specific purpose, such as only have shoes or boots, or can be a smorgasbord of anything and everything (I like to call these your outdoor Walmarts).

Most cities have one to two major rioniks (Moscow of course has lots that I don't know where to start counting), and are an exciting place to shop. The rioniks are open daily from about 7:30 until about 4:30. The rionik closes for a couple of holidays during the year and when the weather drops to -35 and below. During a recent trip to the rionik we purchased some food (halva for me), socks, and sunglasses. We checked out other clothing and looked for nailclippers as well but didn't buy any.

Shirts on the rionik

A walk down the rionik in Russia.

If you are looking for something of nice quality then the rionik isn't the place for you (I call it the outdoor Walmart for a good reason). However, if you are looking for a good deal then the rionik is definitely the place to go. You can usually get prices lowered down if you try to (however I have found that for some reason most natives don't try...Americans always do though). Maybe that is one of the reasons that I love the rionik so much is because if you want a sweet deal, then you can make it.

For example, when I was in Moscow a few years ago I was looking for some Matroshki dolls. Since Moscow is the best place to buy the dolls on the rionik or at the street vendors we started walking around. After visiting about 10 stands and having each one make some kind of offer, I finally made my final purchase of 10 matroshki for about $90. Considering the starting offer of $250 that they were asking for, I felt pretty good and I could probably sell the dolls for a pretty penny in the United States for them if I wanted.

One thing we never did though was to buy meat at the rionik. Let's just say that it looked scary enough that I never do. However, that's not to say that I don't eat the meat from the rionik because where I am staying now they normally buy their meat from there and so far I haven't gotten sick (keep my fingers crossed). Vegetables are super cheap during the summer season and you can usually get a kilogram of tomatoes for under $1 (that's under .50 cents a pound for fresh ripe tomatoes).

Meat inside on the rionik.

Fruits on the rionik.

Another shot of a row on the rionik.

Overall the rionik is a fun atmosphere and if you visit on the weekend then expect the crowd. If you plan on visiting Russia though, definitely make some time to visit a rionik while you're in the country in order to get a good taste of Russia.

Another video on the rionik.

Russia - Living Space

| Saturday, May 30, 2009
People who live in their apartments and homes either own or rent them. During the Soviet Union, the government owned everything including the homes and the land. While there were apartments before the Soviet Union, they were quite rare compared to the landscape now. Before the Soviet Union, most people lived in homes like the one pictured in my previous post. People built these homes and lived in them. However, the socialistic years brought about many changes. The government built the apartment buildings and replaced a lot of the regular homes. You were then given an apartment according to the number of people in your family and some other factors.

When the Soviet Union fell, people held on to their apartments and homes and thus most people own their apartments or homes where they live. In fact, most of them don't pay anything besides the standard utilities (water, gas, electricity, other) so they are quite fortunate in that sense. Prices to purchase an apartment in Russia are quite high. A one-room apartment in Moscow will cost you about $400,000 (I'll explain apartment sizes lower). For the younger generation they typically stay with their parents or rent because purchasing is almost not an option.

Having lived in America my whole life, I realize how spoiled I am when coming to Russia. I know that in Europe and other countries as well housing sizes are much smaller than the United States. Apartment sizes in Russia range from one-room to as large as five room (this is rare) and almost always have one bathroom (I am not sure I have been in an apartment with more than one bathroom in Russia). Houses are usually slightly larger, but the bathroom is usually seperate from the house so it gets nice and chilly in there during the winters :).

In the United States houses are measured by bedrooms. For example, we have a three-bedroom house in America. However, apartments/home sizes in Russia are measured by number of rooms. So, our house is a 7-room house in Russia (3-bedrooms and 4 living/dining rooms). Bathrooms and kitchens don't go into the room count. I am not sure how they'd count a garage...

Upon entering a typical Russian apartment, you will find a place to remove your coat or other outer garments as well as a place to take off your shoes and leave them at the front door (I have never been inside a Russian's living area where it is alright to wear your shoes). From there, you will typically be able to get to each room from the entrance or a hallway. Typically Russians live and sleep in the same room (which makes sense since most of the apartments are one to two rooms). This means that most rooms have large bookshelves and garderobes in each room to hold stuff. They put everything away and in closets every morning (blankets and all), so they need somewhere to put it.

An entrance to an apartment.

A standard bookshelf.

Another bookshelf.

My wife lived in a two-bedroom apartment with her Mother and Grandma. The three of them lived in one room and they rented out the second room to students (typically they had 3 students in the room). While this is usually more than people had in such a small place, it makes you realize how much you really have. If you have more rooms than you have people living in your house than you are almost always living in a larger space than Russians.

The bathroom in each apartment is typically split into two rooms. The bathroom is in one room and the bath and sink in the other room (this makes sense since there is almost always one bathroom per apartment). Typically the kitchen is pretty small and you will find a fridge and stove. Dishwashers are basically non-existent and if a washing machine is owned then it is typically in the kitchen. Microwaves are becoming much more common but usually food is reheated on the stove.

The typical Russian toilet/bathroom.

The separate washroom. The tubs are usually bigger than in America :).

A russian kitchen. The stove is new so it looks nice.

The fridge.

Most apartments will have a balcony. A lot of the balconies have been closed in with glass to make for extra space to store different things. They are too cold though to sleep in during the winter though.

A closed in balcony.

Another shot of the closed in balcony.

Apartments are heated by the water heater that is on the wall. You don't have any control over the temperature or when to turn it on or off. In the small homes, you typically are able to turn on or off the water (as long as the water is already running) to give yourself heat. The homes also usually have a wood burning stove to keep it warm for the icy winters. During the summers a fan is used to keep the air circulating. Central air is half a world away and air conditioners are also pretty rare.

An apartment heater behind the curtain.

The condition inside an apartment ranges pretty largely. A lot of people hang a rug on the wall to keep the warmth in. Walls and floors in a lot of the older apartment building is pretty bad unless the owner has done repairs (even then the repairs can sometimes be pretty “Russian”...meaning super glue and cement probably shouldn't be used together for redecorating).

I don't know if I could live in Russia in such a small area my whole life. I am sure I would be able to cope but I definitely have way too much junk and I like to keep my sleeping area pretty private and out of sight of people. I think that such living conditions force a person to better know their family (parents and grandparents since they typically share a room). After being in Russia though I am extremely grateful for the many blessings that I enjoy.

The biggest apartment I was ever in was 5 rooms. It was huge (probably smaller than our house now though). But the people who lived there were loaded which was obvious when we saw the beday in the bathroom. That was the one single time I ever saw anything on a level close to what a lot of people I know in America live in.

I found an interesting discussion on this forum about Russian apartments.