Fluffy white clouds, with fluffy white volcanoes

November 19th, 2012

Central Kamchatka Volcanoes, Russian Federation.

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APOD: 2012 April 12

April 12th, 2012

Yuri's Planet, as seen from the ISS.

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Istanbul's strays

February 29th, 2012

Bernd Brunner on the long-standing, unstable truce between Istanbul's human population and the city's one hundred thousand stray dogs:

Although dogs formed part of a romantic cityscape, caricatures from the Ottoman period depict them as threats to be stopped, along with cholera, crime, and women in European clothing. Again and again, attempts were made to catch them and remove them from the city. In the late 19th century, Sultan Abdülaziz decreed that the dogs should be rounded up and deported to Hayirsiz, an island of barren, steep cliffs in the Marmara Sea. Sivriada, a tiny island to which Byzantine rulers once banned criminals, made headlines in 1911 when the governor of Istanbul released tens of thousands of dogs there. A yellowed postcard shows hundreds of dogs on the beach; their voices could be heard even at great distances. However, an earthquake that occurred shortly thereafter was taken as a sign of God's displeasure, and the dogs were brought back.

Interesting to contrast this story with one I linked to a couple of years ago about Moscow's stray dogs.

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September 4th, 2011

Kaliningrad as seen from the ISS. Gorgeous colours.

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Beautiful people driving around in beautiful cars

June 23rd, 2011

The Russian elite's road rage is quite something, apparently:

When confronted with the growing public outrage over his behavior on the roads, Oscar-winning Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov retold an old pre-revolutionary joke. "A peasant nursed and nursed his anger at his master," Mikhalkov said, "but the master didn't know shit about it." Last month, when Mikhalkov was finally stripped of his migalka — a blue VIP car siren that, when turned on, allows the driver to circumvent all traffic laws — his public bitching about the loss seemed to know no bounds. And it's not hard to understand why: With that blue light flashing, a driver can cut through traffic like an ambulance, and everyone else must scatter.

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A tribute to Allen Konigsberg

May 30th, 2010

The Russian city of Kaliningrad1 is proposing to erect a statue honouring Woody Allen2:

Allen, 74, has been approached by a young film-maker, Masha Vasyukova, a native of the Russian exclave that borders Poland and Lithuania, with a choice of designs for this new work of public art. Allen's favourite tribute is a pair of his trademark glasses, mounted at the height of his forehead – 157cms.


Other designs included a reel of film topped by Allen's glasses and a life-size statue of the auteur dwarfed beside an existing statue of the city's most famous son, philosopher Immanuel Kant. Vasyukova was too embarrassed to show Allen a design that styled him as a human sperm, a reference to his 1972 film Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, but was delighted by his enthusiasm.

  1. Which used to be called Konigsberg.
  2. Whose birth name was Allen Stewart Konigsberg.

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Felt nowt

February 4th, 2010

Being mugged is one thing. Being mugged and failing to notice that you've been stabbed is something else entirely:

Mugging victim Julia Popova calmly went home after being robbed on her way home from work – without realising she had a six inch knife stuck into her neck.

Yes, they do have a photo. And yes, it's as bad as you think it is.

[Via GromBlog]

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January 23rd, 2010

A fascinating article on the lives of Moscow's stray dogs:1

Watching them over time, I realised that, despite some variation in colour – some were black, others yellowish white or russet – they all shared a certain look. They were medium-sized with thick fur, wedge-shaped heads and almond eyes. Their tails were long and their ears erect.

They also acted differently. Every so often, you would see one waiting on a metro platform. When the train pulled up, the dog would step in, scramble up to lie on a seat or sit on the floor if the carriage was crowded, and then exit a few stops later. There is even a website dedicated to the metro stray (www.metrodog.ru) on which passengers post photos and video clips taken with their mobile phones, documenting the savviest of the pack using the public transport system like any other Muscovite.

[Via The Browser]

  1. NB: The Financial Times limits the number of articles a non-subscriber can view in a month. If you've visited the site in the last month, you may find yourself unable to read the linked article without registering – free of charge – as a user.

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Mapping Manchester

August 26th, 2009

To anyone who lived through the Cold War, it's not really a surprise that the Soviet Union had prepared meticulous plans for conducting an invasion of the UK.

It's the little details that pique your interest:

1974 was a terrible year for Manchester, with United relegated to the second division for the first time in four decades and power cuts forced by the three-day week declared by Edward Heath's collapsing Tory government.

But the city would have been even more jittery had it known that in Moscow Soviet generals were eyeing the A56 between Deansgate and Stretford and checking that T-72 battle tanks could use the Mancunian Way.


The maps were analysed to get a sense of Soviet spies' efficiency, which fell down on the intricacies of the then-developing industrial estate at Trafford Park. Like many local visitors, the mapmakers got lost in the maze of new factories, and decided to steer their tanks past on the A57 and the Chester Road.

It's enough to make you wonder whether the occasional wacky set of travel directions from Google Maps or the AA Route Planner is part of a campaign of misinformation rather than a consequence of an inadequate algorithm or shortcomings in their mapping data.

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January 26th, 2009

This hydrofoil, custom-built for a Siberian governor, looks like something out of a Gerry & Sylvia Anderson production.1

  1. Well, the exterior does. The interior is just hideous.

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