Impressions of Moscow

I emailed a friend today that this city is pretty much as I expected: a mixture of Soviet-style architecture and beautiful old churches and palaces from the czarist era. As a slogan for the local tourism industry, it just might work: Moscow. It’s just what you expected.

Since I will only be here for two days there isn’t much time to see the sights. Today I walked to Red Square, which is a few blocks from my hotel. The first obstacle was crossing Tverskaya and Okhotny Streets. There were no crosswalks that I could see. Then I noticed a little sign with a stick figure walking down steps, and figured it out: pedestrian underpasses, tied in with subway entrances. Nearly lost my way in the maze of tunnels and shops down below, but finally emerged on the other side of the street. Walked past souvenir stalls and a Vladimir Lenin impersonator who would let you take his picture for 100 rubles.

Red Square looked pretty impressive with the setting sun reflecting off the spires of St. Basil’s cathedral. Took a few photos, then wandered into the Gum department store. In a souvenir shop I decided that even in rubles, the cheapest items were too expensive for my budget. I figured I could afford 100 rubles so I had my photo taken with some guys dressed up like medieval Russian knights. Decided to pass on the ersatz Lenin. I’d rather see him “in the flesh” in his tomb. I’ll try to get there tomorrow if I have time.

I was too jet lagged to do much more walking. My legs still feel like rubber after being cramped up in tourist class for 10 hours. Добрый вечер!

Moscow

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My favorite things Chicago

1. Authors: Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, Theodore Dreiser. Barack Obama? Haven’t read anything by him yet though will probably be seeing some executive orders soon.

2. Restaurants: Hard to say since Chez Paul’s closed. My high school French teacher used to take a group to dinner there every year. Morton’s Steakhouse is good. Have reservations at NoMi on Wednesday. Hot dogs, pizza and Italian beef sandwiches in this town are spectacular almost anywhere.

3. Movies: Blues Brothers, Ferris Beuler’s Day Off, The Untouchables, The Fugitive.

4. Museums: Almost too many to mention. I used to cut school to wander around the Museum of Science and Industry. The Art Institute’s collection of impressionists is unparalleled. Shedd Aquarium is nice too.

5. Hotels: I would say the Drake is my favorite. Had a suite there a few years ago that I really could have moved into. Beautiful view of the lake. Getting a little tired of the Palmer House, which is where they always hold this conference. I have closets bigger than this room.

Hat tip to Tyler Cowen who always does this.

Optimal boarding of airplanes

Nearly every aspect of air travel is unpleasant these days, beginning with the boarding process. Here is a story about a Fermilab physicist who claims to have discovered the optimal method of boarding. If you read his paper, you’ll see that it involves boarding the rear window seats first, in alternating rows.

It’s nice to see Fermilab doing some practical research, but to my mind the paper seems to assume a lot, and involves a fair amount of hand waving. You be the judge. It made me wish for a piece of software that would allow me to vary parameters and do my own simulations.

Here is a website that pulls together a lot of research on the topic. There are simulations of various methods, links to papers, and links to the websites of researchers who are working on the topic.

My Year in Cities, 2008

If Jason Kottke can do it so can I. Here is a list of all the cities I visited in 2008.

Flores, Guatemala
Guatemala City, Guatemala
New York, NY
Washington, DC
Milan, Italy
Venice, Italy
Salt Lake City, UT
Richland, WA
Phoenix, AZ
Colorado Springs, CO
Hamburg, Germany
Berlin, Germany
Barstow, CA
Oak Harbor, WA
Mumbai, India
Ahmedabad, India
Delhi, India
Oklahoma City, OK

It was good enough to earn me Gold Medallion status from Delta’s frequent flyer program.