Karaoke in Russia

I just got back from Moscow.  It was the best trip I have ever had there.  Heck, it was one of the best trips for work that I have ever had – not to mention one that involved a trade show.  I discovered a new facet of the Russian people that I’ve never seen before.  As it turns out, they have an intense love of karaoke.  Bad, shameless karaoke, to be exact.  For three days in a trade show booth, I watched as the proud people of the Russian Federation butchered English language songs – all in the name of promoting a new English teaching product.

Did I mention I got paid to do this?  Between that and the Russian models hocking all sorts of Internet goods, it was pretty awesome.  Not to mention, the product got promoted.

That’s Capitalism, comrade.

Gosh, Thanks!

Those limoncellos are for you, dear readers.  As I sit here and try not to post nudity or tons of profanity on my blog, you continue to visit.  For pictures of Minnie Mouse cakes and reviews of some of the best bands on earth, you come.  I’m not sure why you do, but you do.  The web is a weird place.  My ego is stroked and I sleep well knowing that you have helped readership (clickership?) increase to about 100 times what it was a little over a year ago.  I only wish my investments were doing so well.

At any rate, thanks.  This is fun for me and I hope it is for you.  Or, I at least hope it gives you comfort that there’s somebody in the world that is just a bit more of an aimless goofball than you.

Dirty Mouse

mousetrapWe had a critter living on our balcony (or “terrace” as the folks here call it) up until last week.  I killed the little SOB.  It’s the second time we’ve had a rodent problem in this apartment and it’s really starting to tick me off.  There is so much construction in our Prague neighborhood that it’s absolutely no surprise that the furry little buggers are running for safer environs.  The problem is, they’re seriously harshing my mellow when it comes to sitting on the porch in the waning days of summer.

Still, in a town this old, I imagine we’re not getting the shortest straw when it comes to rodents.  But we have had our fair share.  A couple years back, I had the landlord come and plug up the drainpipes on my balcony after trapping about 6 or 8 of the beasts over a couple weeks.  The plug worked up until a few weeks ago.  I discovered the latest mouse when I was going out to grill after sundown one evening and saw him chomping on a scrap of food left over from my daughter’s outdoor dinner.  He skittered into the corner and proceeded to startle the heck out of me.  Within about 12 seconds the startle turned into anger and I set up 3 traps with peanut butter.

What followed was sheer torture.  After the traps were set up, I watched from the window overlooking the balcony as he proceeded to lick the peanut butter off two of the traps without setting them off.  As I stood and fumed while spelling out profanities under my breath (I could have nailed him with a BB gun), my wife explained to my daughter what was going on.  “There’s a dirty mouse on the porch,” she told Little NH in a effort to differentiate between the one on the porch and the ones in all of her books and on her videos.  It didn’t take long for the kiddo to sense that daddy was out for blood.  She really got the hint when we headed to the hardware store the next night and stocked up on three different types of traps.

There was a new, plastic, German-made trap that caught my eye.  It was pre-baited and looked like a good design.  You’d think the Germans could design a better mousetrap, no?  I think $10 for four of them might have been a waste, however.  After a couple days in the sun they seem to be much less sensitive – even with my extra bait for good measure.  The trap that got the job done was a terribly sensitive, hairpin-trigger, classic trap.  No more peanut butter.  I loaded it up with a Snickers bar chunk and made sure that it was securely stuck with caramel to the trigger portion so there would be no free meals.  It was so sensitive that I had to reset the thing about 5 times while setting it down.  Within a few hours after dusk, el ratón was dead.  I don’t think the flavor of the Snickers even registered in his tiny brain before the trap ended his life.

That was about two weeks ago.  I did a major cleaning and inspection of the porch and found no more signs of rodents.  Still, I have 5 traps out, just in case.  The landlord is doing a full survey of the building to try to figure out where they’re coming from.  (With the cooking smells emanating from some of the apartments and the international mix of some of the tenants, I would imagine that some of the rodents are from far off lands.  I’m just sayin’.)

It’s a good life lesson for the little one.  Still, whenever Stuart Little comes on, I have to admit that I feel the urge to grab a snickers and a very sensitve trap.

Advertising Culture Shock in Washington, DC

While back home in DC, I was whacked up the side of the head with the sheer volume of advertising and promotion everywhere. Yeah, there are ads in Prague but they’re not in my language so I don’t pay much attention to them. As for TV, the satellite service I have has PSA’s instead of the normal ads so the barrage in the US of A came as a bit of a shock.

The strangest was the Ambien CR ad disclaimer that ran during the spot. It went something like this:

AMBIEN and AMBIEN CR are treatment options you and your doctor can consider along with lifestyle changes. When taking either of them, don’t drive or operate machinery. Plan to devote 7 to 8 hours to sleep before being active. Sleepwalking, and eating or driving while not fully awake, with memory loss for the event, as well as abnormal behaviors such as being more outgoing or aggressive than normal, confusion, agitation, and hallucinations may occur. Don’t take it with alcohol as it may increase these behaviors. In patients with depression, worsening of depression, including risk of suicide may occur. If you experience any of these behaviors contact your doctor immediately.

Shoot, I’ll say.  Sounds like this pill may get rid of your sleeping problem but give you a host of others!  It also makes me just think that it is the pill form of this – minus the blueberry flavor.  To each his own!

The Czech Sasquatch – In His Underwear

Just one final impression of Prague for you during my last hours in the Czech Republic.  What I’m about to tell you is a phenomenon that is highly Czech from all accounts.  Nevertheless, I’ve only ever heard about it and read about it from friends or on other expat blogs.  You know, kind of like the Sasquatch.

There’s the thing about being an expat, the surprises never stop.

Now, to the story.  I was driving down one of Prague’s busiest streets (Evropska), the street that carries all the traffic to and from the airport.  It’s a 4 laner and busy.  However, on this particular morning, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of white and yellow and did a double take.  It revealed a bald guy, 50’s, in his tighty-whities and yellow Crocks.  Standing there.  In front of his yard.  Traffic speeding by.  4 lanes.  Tighty-whities.  Crocs.  Wha?

Apparently this is regular practice here.  Folks go out to do yard work and instead of dirtying a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, they just go in their skivvies.  I guess its kind of logical but no less shocking when seen in person.

But for me, it really hammers home one point.  Culture shock is real.  And it’s going to hit me HARD.  I’ve been out of America a looong time.

Before I got this job, I remember seeing the guys that worked in Prague when they came back to Washington for consultations.  They always looked really lost and a bit out of place.  Now, I know why.  They were.

Seriously, how does one transision from what I just saw to the Pentagon City Mall?  I’ll soon find out.

Mmmmm, Sweat!

I haven’t done one of these in a long time.  The product is Pocari Sweat.  I read that it’s a Japanese sports drink.  I saw it in the Japa food store a few blocks from my house right next to the tofu in the refrigerator case.  What a name, eh?  Like, “Hey buddy, can I have a drink of your Pocari Sweat?”  Ah, language and cultural differences.  Is there any end to the hilarity?
Pocari Sweat, Japa
Pocari Sweat
Pocari Sweat

I haven’t done one of these in a long time.  The product is Pocari Sweat.  I read that it’s a Japanese sports drink.  I saw it in the Japa food store a few blocks from my house right next to the tofu in the refrigerator case.  What a name, eh?  Like, “Hey buddy, can I have a drink of your Pocari Sweat?”  Ah, language and cultural differences.  Is there any end to the hilarity?

Marshall, Will and Holly…

I got an offer today from Buy.com to buy the “Land of the Lost” complete series on DVD What, do they think I’m crazy?  That series was the reason for most of my childhood nightmares.  Go away people and quit trying to sell me the very product that, free to air in the 1970’s, left me emotionally scarred.  Go, go, go!  No way am I going to risk the same trauma happening to my kid. 

That dinosaur at the end left me running for my life every darn Saturday morning.  I’m not even going to get started on the Sleestaks.  Of course, I would have probably killed for that lunchbox that houses the DVD set back in the day.

Now, if you offer a “Davey and Goliath” hologram box set, that would be something else entirely.

Hands Free Soap Dispenser


I’ve quit buying kitchen gadgets because we simply don’t have the room in our apartment.  Drawers and cupboards are full to the brim with the essentials and we only still own the garlic press because my wife uses it.  So, I know I don’t need this but as a man with 2 robots to clean my floors, I’m finding the prospect of a hands free soap dispenser kind of hard to resist.  If it wasn’t $50 I would own it already.  Not exactly a recession-wise buy, though.  At least I can dream.

The folks over at the Kitchn turned me on to this.  It’s a great food blog, by the way.

Wild Pen Spin

I used to be a high school debater and this talent, spinning the pen, was a prerequisite.  I was never this good but still spin my pen on conference calls and unimportant meetings.  This guy, however, takes it to a whole new level – and then quickly down.  I assume from the final groans at the end, he lives.