Friday, December 30, 2011

The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays

So if you ever travel across Europe, and layover at the worst airport in the world (CDG) remember, the 24

Euros you pay to store your bags, and the 18 Euros you spend on the train, and all the time you spend trying to see one of the most renowned museums in the world will be wasted if you are doing this on a Tuesday...because unlike every museum in the rest of the civilized world, the Louvre is not closed on Monday, it is closed on Tuesday. I know, serious bummer. If I were smarter I would have planned this out better and checked the website. Instead, I show up like a dumb American asking...why isn't there a line?


The worst part is that in trying to get to my first choice museum on the day they were closed, I totally got behind the other 8,000 people that wanted to go to the Louvre and went there second choice Museum, the Museum d'Orsay, instead.

But hey, I did do a little cafe on the banks of the Seine, and had a cappuccino and a croissant and was dissed by a snotty french waiter, so it's not like I missed out on the whole Paris experience.

The last photo is entitled 'self portrait with jet lag and bed head'

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Merry Christmas

I hope that you all had a Merry Christmas (or if Eastern Orthodox, will have in about a week). Mine was great, including a whorl-wind trip from Georgia, through the world's worst airport (CDG), two days on the ground with my wonderful wife and kids, and back. I reindeered my way back and forth, spreading as much Christmas cheer as humanely possible...and I even worked on my NIP on the plane, and the train, and sitting on the floor of the terminal of the worst airport in Europe (CDG).

Yes, It was a little cloudy in Paris, but no lines at the tower!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Good listeners

One of the things I enjoy the most about performances in Tbilisi is the audience. Performances that I have attended in the States,ballet, classical, opera have much more staid responses (with the exception of country and rock concerts of course- those people go nuts). But not here, Georgian audiences are really generous. And it's a heartfelt generocity that seems to be part of the culture. I attended a Concert at the Didi Darbazi (Grand Hall) with some friends Saturday night. The 200th Anniversary of Liszt played by Alberto Nose (this is a performance with orchestra in 2005 but last night he was up there all by himself), a well noted Italian Pianist. His performance was great (though I was on the lookout for the Hungarian Rhapsody -how can you have a Liszt concert without that?) but alas, other pieces were played that I didn't know. The audience didn't seem to mind. After the performance they wouldn't stop with the clapping. Poor Alberto came out for four ovations after.

The only thing that would have made it better would have been if my wife could have gone as well, but alas, she's back in the states. I'll join them for Christmas in less than a week. So excited...

Oh, and I'll have the long, long flight, with the long long layovers to work on the WIP. You keep telling me you want to see it done, and I'm trying to be a good listener too.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Crunch before Christmas

Another weekend and another Ballet. Yay. I feel so cultured. This one was 'Laurencia', a rousing tale featuring a peasant uprising against the oppressive Spanish aristocracy. It was put together during the Soviet period (you remember that don't you, proletariat's of the world uniting to overthrow the bourgeoisie and install a criminalized despotic ruling class?). But they did put together some very classy music and dance!

My favorite part of the evening was seeing the wave of little girl audience members, in their best outfits, all practicing pirouettes in the lobby after. Very cute.

Most people get to this time of year really look forward to the holiday. Me too, but I also dread the two weeks before Christmas where I try to pack in as much extra work as I can into the short space I have before the holiday weekend, so that I can enjoy it guilt-free. (Probably not much novel writing in my immediate future.)

But I am hoping to make time for a Lizst concert next Saturday here in Tbilisi. The old boy would have been 200 this past October, after all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Seventy years ago today at zero-seven-forty-eight in the morning, a vanguard of ninety Nakajima B5Ns preceded a Tsunami-like wave of aircraft which a swept into Pearl Harbor and changed the course of history. You all know that right, today was Pearl Harbor day, the day that went down in Infamy?

The world would likely be a very different place if not for the events of that one day, that one 'AI' strike on the conflicted, politically complacent, isolationist pond of post-depression America. All those ripples. I wouldn't be here if not for it. Okay that might be a stretch, but my father was an Air Force NCO, and he did go to Germany in the 1960s because America still had troops stationed there, which we had because the Allies won WWII, and while there he met a hot dutch chick, and the rest is my history.

International relations theory teaches us that there are essentially four elements of National power; Diplomatic, Informational, Miltary and Economic (DIME). Nation-states exert power or ensure security through these four means. Primarily. So what motivated the Japanese politico-military decision makers to believe that they had exhausted the DIE and were ready to exert the M? Much good scholarly work out there if you're interested.

And what of the young men that participated? Both sides. What did Captain Fuchida think as he led his men in that loud, slow 'Kate'? If he was like most Aviation Captains I know (or was) he had compartmentalized most everything else and was desperately trying to make sure he didn't screw it up. Keep formation, stay on vector, hey watch your altitude Mitsuo, where are the American planes and ADA, which target should I select, did I arm the Torpedo release squibs...

Little things and big things, eh?

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I don’t think it will come as a surprise to those of you who really know me that I enjoy classical music. You wouldn’t know to look at me, I know, and it doesn’t seem to fit with the kettlebell post, nor the Army experiences, but hey what can I say? I’m complicated. Ogres are like onions, right? Anyway, one of the nice things about living in Tbilisi is that they have a really vibrant arts scene. (I’ve hit 2 ballets, 3 opera’s, 6 concerts and a symphonietta since the end of September!) All lovely, some really good, some a little lame, but I attended another performance on Friday that I really really enjoyed.

I think I’ve mentioned that being notified (in English) of events is a challenge here. The system works for the locals, but not so well for the uninitiated, so I often stumble upon these performances. The Friday performance was like that. I saw a poster on the side of the Grand Hall (didi darbazi-it says so over the door in the picture) of the Tbilisi State Conservatory, (it’s on the same street as my gym) and puzzled out that it was a young lady named Irma Gigani that played piano. Fortunately there was an English-speaking gentleman in line who turned to me, and out of the blue said, “You are American.” How did he know? I thought I was blending in sooo well. Well, I pointed to the poster and asked if he knew anything about the performance. He read it and said, “Some girl is graduating from her high school and this is her performance.”

I thought that would be sweet. I’m a Dad, I’ve been to dozens of my children’s performances, so I thought it would be nostalgic. I got tickets for me and a coworker (and her partner) and we went. It wasn’t what I expected. Apparently Miss Gigani is a 15 year old child prodigy, has played all over the world, comes from an arts family, etc. A far cry from what I expected. She played Chopin’s Piano Concerto with symphony. Awesome job.

I also hit another performance Saturday night. Shuman and Shubert. Also good. I know, I promised not to let these distractions get in the way of the next book (people are starting to ask when it will come out) so I promise to work on my book today, need to get it up over 60K words. There’s a ballet tonight, but it’s interpretive and I think I’m all cultured out. I might have to catch up on an episode of ‘Spartacus; Blood and Sand’ instead... Fit better?

Oh and the irony of my pointing out that I find it ironic that others have a preconception about my tastes and abilities, in a post where I had a preconception about a high school students abilities is not at all lost on me…ogres love irony too.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ode to the Kettlebell

A friend of mine mentioned he had seen the picture of the Gym I go to in Tbilisi. Real proud of you, I say. But the subject came up as to what sort of equipment it has. Pretty basic, plates, bars, benches, racks, nothing fancy. Not as good as the gym I have in the loft of my barn, but fine. Oh, my barn gym; I spent a year collecting used gym equipment from the DoD DRMO. DRMO is the place where obsolete or broken DoD equipment is offered to the public (remember those apocryphal tales of jeeps still in the crate?). 'Obsolete' is a silly word to use for cast iron dumbbells and plates that soldiers used over the years. Wire brush the rust, a coat of black spray paint and it's beautiful. And it weighs the same as it ever did.

One thing I don't have in my gym that this gym has is a set of kettlebells. I have two 25pounders, but nothing like they have in the Tbilisi Gym. 16, 24 and 32 kilo Kettlebells. (35, 52 and 70 pounders). Remember we talked about Poods before? 1, 1.5 and 2 pood kettlebells. The reason I don't have more in my gym is that they're too new a fad in the US for me to find used ones (yes, I'm that cheap- but its really more of a sport). There are many here in Tbilisi, as in the US it is called the 'russian' kettlebell.

Anyway if you have a chance to grab one of these, or they have them at your gym (or you have a big coffee can, nylon rope and some concrete) I recommend it. The workouts are great to rotate into your routine. (Check these out) I guess you can tell I just got back from the gym right?Remember though, this isn't a magic piece of equipment. You have to use it. Alot. Consistently. And if you do, the results you realize will be 'owed to the kettlebell'. *

(Ah, I kill me!)

* Just because I linked to a cross-fit vid, doesn't mean I want you cross-fit-fanboys thinking I'm drinking the cross-fit coolaide... even if your workouts are tough they're still silly...and of course predispose you to repetitve stress injuries (torn rotator cuff, torn bicep, herniated discs) and rhabdomyolysis...just sayin, there's a balance between working hard enough and too hard.