Monday, November 29, 2010

Photo Nostalgia - Church on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg (2009)

In June 2009, I entered the Russian Federation for the first time, arriving from the once-Soviet state of Estonia. Heading east from Tallinn, I would disembark in the wee hours of the morning in St. Petersburg, the home and resting place of my favorite author, Fyodor Dostoevsky. There were many iconic landmarks to choose from as my "first order of business," but for whatever reason I settled upon the Church on Spilled Blood, which is sometimes confused with Moscow's St. Basil's Cathedral (no doubt because the former was built to resemble the latter). As the name implies, the church was built over the location of the mortal wounding (by bomb) of Tsar Alexander II, which occurred just a month after Dostoevsky's death in 1881. Curiously, it never functioned for liturgies, even prior to the communist revolution; however, it is decorated within similarly to the greatest cathedrals in Russia. Although officially called "cathedral" (Russian = sobor) today, it was historically known as a "church" (Russian = khram) due to the above reason.
My approach to the church took me from my hostel, further down the Kanal Griboyedova, to the also-striking (and older) Kazan Cathedral, part of which can be seen at left.

Statue of Mikhail Kutuzov, native of the city and commander of the Russian army against Napoleon in 1812, near the Singer House (left) on Nevsky Prospekt and looking towards the Church on Spilled Blood

The exterior of the Church on Spilled Blood (officially the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood) has been long celebrated throughout the world, not least of which for its cupolas (domes)

Despite a chip or two, they still hold up nicely

As with most Russian Orthodox churches, this one is covered with icons from top to bottom

A peek into the altar

It was easy to forget about the floor... but I remembered to take a photo

When I have time this coming month, I will update the blog with other photo exhibits on Russian landmarks in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and beyond.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lake Tahoe and SNOW, November 20-21, 2010

It's about time I updated the old blog, so I'll begin with something current = this past weekend, Northern California got a dose of "crazy weather," which the rest of the continent would refer to as "normal." Since I'm Californian, you'll have to excuse me if my enthusiastic descriptions of the weather depicted below make you go "pfffffff."
Bit of background = my friend Edwin and I were obligated to make it to Stateline, Nevada, to see his brother (and my roommate / best friend) Adrian and some mutual friends compete in a World Series of Poker tournament. We hadn't counted on the weather, although we fortunately brought snow chains... which would definitely come in handy.
After passing Folsom, we headed uphill on CA-50, and came across more snow than Californians are used to... especially in November. Keep in mind - Indian Summer was still upon us just a week earlier.

The change of scenery made the drive 100x more interesting. Note the snow falling from the trees on the right.

We wondered if we would need to put our chains on at all, since the conditions were actually decent despite the blanket of snow on the sides of the road.

This sight made us think that maybe we were in for more = lots of snow falling from the trees.

Oooooo, purty.

If only my car came equipped with a fireplace and some hot cocoa.

The fear I felt knowing that I had never put chains on before was akin to the first time I went on a looped roller coaster = you keep telling yourself it will be fine, but deep down you're worried that something horrible will go wrong. While nothing did go wrong, I would have killed for the process to be as quick as the roller coaster (which it was NOT).

Edwin, invoking Tom Hanks = "I! HAVE PUT ON CHAINS!" (actually I did :-P)

The last part of the drive to South Lake Tahoe was both exhilarating and terrifying

Just about to cross into Nevada (Harvey's on the left, and Harrah's on the right)

Entering Harvey's from the parking structure

We rendez-vous with Adrian, who has good news and bad news regarding the Texas hold 'em tournament. "The bad news is, Elmer and Jason [our 2 mutual friends] are out. The good news is, Justin [another friend] and I made the final round." Out of 318 players, Justin and Adrian made the final 20. They were guaranteed at least $900, with their initial buy-in being $350.

Adrian and Justin (upper right) in action.

Adrian rests his head while out of a hand.

Adrian and Justin made the final table! Eight other players were left - they would each make over $1,500.

Adrian and Justin would each make the final six - the female at left was the 6th place finisher.

Time for a dinner break, with Adrian and Justin in the final five!

Back to work...

Sadly, Justin was eliminated... but won over FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. After Justin got busted, the man in the hat went out as well... meaning Adrian was in the final three, and would make at least NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS.

I went to the bathroom, and while walking back I heard the news on the P.A. = "Let's hear it for our third place finisher, Adrian Wise!" NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Adrian lost to a sloppy call by the man in orange that turned lucky when the river card hit.

Nine K was no consolation to Adrian = he wanted the ring. I even heard him saying, "My precious..." under his breath. I kid...

The winner of the tournament, who not only took home the ring, but also TWENTY-ONE THOUSAND. Not too shabby!

Ace-Jack is an underrated pair.

Motel 6 would be our home for the night. Note the current amount of snow on my Honda.

Adrian's check = I didn't know this, but if you make over $5,000 at a time at a casino, you have to file a W-2 form. Justin's profit margin was just barely under 5K, so he got to keep all of it. Take THAT, Uncle Sam! :-P

The snow kept falling all night.

I couldn't stop laughing at the sight of my car the next morning.

There was about ten inches of snow piled on top of my car. It took a full 30 minutes de-icing the vehicle before we headed back into Nevada.

Don't let the blue sky deceive you = it was still snowing. But we still got to see the lake for the first time that weekend.

Our destination in Nevada?

Montbleu, which quickly became my favorite place in all of Nevada.

Part of the reason was the outstanding (and at $10.95, CHEAP) breakfast buffet. From left = Elmer, Edwin, Adrian, Justin, and in the foreground, Jason.

Edwin, Justin and I got busted early on in a $45 tournament, and while they were going to stick around, I was exhausted plus I had work the next morning. I also realized I had forgotten my flashlight, and didn't fancy taking my chains off in the dark... so I started driving home at 3:45pm.

I made it home ok. En route I passed this "town," whose sign says it all (click the photo to read).

Monday, November 8, 2010


I feel vain even having to update ye olde blog with this forthcoming update - do I have a steady enough readership that would even justify this? - but nevertheless, here goes: I've been busy not just with work (which is very busy) but also with moving, which is why there haven't been the regular blog posts. The circumstances of moving were less than ideal, and yet everything is working out so far, save for having enough time for blogging. As far as the rest of life is concerned... WHO CARES? THE GIANTS ARE WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS!!! Ahem...

In short, the blog will be back up and running in less than a week.