Category Archives: Details, Details

And now, L’viv

I packed yesterday, then cleaned up my kvartyra (apartment), b/c the cleaning woman stood me up for a second time. She’d called on Monday telling me she couldn’t make it Tuesday, so we agreed on Thursday (yesterday), and she didn’t even return my phone call.

No worries. People would kill for my problems. I folded my shirts, packed, and packed, and packed. I loaded the two shipments of books my mother was kind enough to send me, wrapping them in long johns and t-shirts, swept the eco-system of business cards, USB cables, and stray papers which evolved on my table into its own bag for future study, and when it became clear I would have four bags (two little, and two big), and not three, I called my friend and ally Aleks for assistance at the train station in exchange for dinner.

Then I swept, cleaned the fixtures, sinks, counter tops, mopped with a rag and bucket, ensured the windows were closed, dried the interior of the defrosted fridge and, before Aleks arrived for dinner, felt achey and accomplished.

When we went to my place to gather my bags, it occurred to me that I had not encountered my third most valuable possession during my packing — the 500 GB USB drive I had purchased as a backup device after what was likely a virus in September.

Sometimes I kept it in a pocket of my coat hanging in the closet. Other times it was a part of my desktop eco-system. I unpacked partially and failed to find it either in the bag or in the coat where I most commonly packed it. Oh well.

Aleks and I took a cab to the train station. I carried the two big bags, she the two small ones. We were very early and drank a beer and ate icecream while working on a Sudoku puzzle on her iPhone.

Wrestling my luggage up and down stairs and over the crowded platform caused me to sweat.

I crashed into my train cabin with my enormous bags. My asking which was spot number #14, was pretty much the only thing spoken between me and the other three men in the cabin that evening. I pushed one bag under one of the benches, and heaved the other three onto my upper bunk.

I decided to mimic their closed, disinterested demeanors, and tried to look bored as I gazed out the window. I also played Galaxy Balls on my cell phone. Over the course of the last several months, I’ve been inching toward my record of 8826. During the train ride I broke through 7000. I hoped that I appeared to be sending important text messages, instead of trying to sort falling blocks by color.

I followed the ques of my cabin mates, laying out my linens when they did so. I slept very poorly. In the morning one of them chatted with me and was proud of his surprise at my being a foreigner. He said it was wonderful that a foreign born Ukrainian learns his language, when many Ukrainian in the east, or in Russia don’t even bother to do so. He and another one of them asked a little bit about my background.

My third-cousin met me on the platform before fellow passengers even finished passing my bags to me. He helped me carry them to a waiting cab.

My new kvartyra is much bigger and more modern than the one in Kyiv. It feels extravagant, but like I said, people would kill for my problems.

I unpacked. No sign of the 500 GB drive. I’ll call the super next time I’m back in Kyiv. I felt tired, and didn’t bother looking for linens. I unrolled my sleeping back on top of the wool blanket, and took a nap. I woke a few times to answer my phone, then woke, figured out the water heater, and walked through the rain to this coffee shop.

Several relatives called, and I’ll be meeting them soon. Hopefully, I can make a round before my trip to Lithuania for an Austrian Economics conference / seminar.

Once again, I am in a largely strange city, and once again, I anticipate much of time will be consumed by finding small solutions to simple problem — buy an umbrella.

I have three conferences left this November. In general, I want to spend November attending those, and getting settled in L’viv, which includes getting internet in my Kvartyra.

Then, I want to spend December doing a lot of reading and a little writing.

Here’s a tentative todo list:
– umbrella
– buy a pair of jeans
– contact family
– **GET INTERNET** (at the moment, I’m sitting in a coffee shop)
– Read through the fifty or so stories and essays I have saved up. Excerpt the best ones onto my political blog.
– Catch up on emails
– Buy groceries, including potable water
– look at the to-do list in my notebook (which is back in my Kvartyra) and transcribe the remaining items onto my working list.
– Blog about my experiences with the Kyiv Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club.
– Find a gym, since there’s no Brazilian Jiu Jitsu here, and the change in exercise regime will probably be good for me, a chance for accumulated, minor aches and pains to heal.
– Read last several issues of the Ukrainian Weekly
– Find a place to get the Kyiv Post and/or a magazine I like called Ukraine Week.
– Do laundry — in a real laundry machine!
– Iron my shirts, slacks.
– Begin communicating with my contacts in this part of Ukraine.

So there you have it. I’m in L’viv as of seven hours ago.

Despite the distraction of moving, I think the change is good. It’s a chance to reset, reassess and re-evaluate. It forces me to sort through my accumulated papers, find what matters and discard what doesn’t. It’s a chance to re-establish my routine, hopefully one which involves more reading and writing.

Friends and family, please be aware that until I get internet in my place, I’ll be a little more difficult to contact.


Weather right now

I get the weather report from three cities on my Google home page.

55° F in New York City
45° F in Kyiv
35° F in Iowa City


12.7 ° C in New York City
7.2 ° C in Kyiv
1.7 ° C in Iowa City

Did you know -40° F = -40° C?

Okay, back to work…

“NTLDR is missing”

***WARNING: This blog entry is technical and has little to do with Ukraine. Read at your own risk.***

So, last Thursday, my computer got an “NTLDR is missing” error. It seemed bad, because it wouldn’t even try to start. I’d power up, and 2 seconds later, “NTLDR is missing” would appear on a black screen.

I feared my hard drive had died after serving for so long through thick and then.

On my other laptop (I bought a little $250 notebook for just such an occasion), I did the thing which has earned me a reputation as a computer genius among members of my family and their neighbors — I typed the error message into a Google search box.

So, it seemed this may or may not be a hardware issue.

I discovered that I could F12 it and boot off the Windows XP install disk which I had brought with me for just such an occasion. (XP FOREVER!!!!) I even edited the BIOS (holla!) so that it’d boot from the CD automatically.

It would only start correctly 1/2 the time. I read about the blue screen error I was getting the other half of the time — something about the system being shut down for my own good to prevent further damage. It sounded very motherly.

It also increased my concern that after 4 years of faithful service, including a stint in Afghanistan, at least five trips over the Atlantic Ocean, and an almost total disassembly/reassembly when I replaced the touch pad and keyboard, my laptop was finally on its way to the great technical support center in the sky.

Nevertheless, being able to boot off the CD made Operating System re-installation a possibility. However, first I wanted to recover some data.

My important stuff (writing, personal files) get backed up automatically with allwaysynch and offsitebox — both free.

My less important stuff (photos, music) are also backed up, mostly, but the back up is in Iowa, and I wanted to have them close to me. So I attempted file recovery.

Plan: put Dos-based partition/file recovery software on a flash drive and run it from Windows Recovery Console (which can be run from the XP install disk).
Problem: Can’t Recognize the USB drive.

New Plan: Boot off a Recovery Console USB Drive (which took a little trial and effort to make).
Problem: Okay, I can boot from a USB drive but the software won’t run. Recovery Console looks like DOS and tastes like DOS, but it’s not DOS. You can’t run ANY software, you can only use the Recovery Console commands.

New Plan: Use Recovery Console’s fixboot and fixmbr commands.
Problem: They seemed to have no effect. Still getting the “NTLDR is missing.” Later I discovered they created a new, very small partition on my hard disk. Strangeness.

New Plan: Install windows XP on the little partition and run more robust partition/data recovery tools.
Problem: Can’t access internet or do very much, and my USB removing/plugging-in muscles are getting tired.

New Plan: Install drivers.
Problem: They won’t all fit. Not enough disk space.

New Plan: Delete games, windows meeting, windows help, and a bunch of other useless windows stuff.
Problem: Windows gives me a serious sounding error about corrupted files and encourages me to do a repair installation. Like a sucker, I obey, and run out of disk space again.

New Plan: Same as the old plan, but ignore the serious sounding error. Also, only install the drivers for accessing the internet.

I make dinner.

New Plan: Okay. Now download and run free partition/file recovery tools. Because of disk space issues on the tiny partition, I had to try one, then uninstall it before downloading the next.
Problem: I see some of my files, which is hugely encouraging, but there’s no structure, and garbled filenames, and they’re not all there.

New Plan: Download the well-reviewed Virtual Lab Data Recovery Software, which doesn’t ask for payment until after you run it and see what it detects.
Problem: NONE! It sees my old file structure!

New Plan: Fork over $99.99 even though I probably could, with only a little difficulty, find some Ukrainian shop to do all this for much cheaper.
Problem: keeps rejecting my card and asking me to contact their fraud department. Anti-slavic discrimination?

New Plan: Contact their fraud department and assure them that I am me.
Problem: No phone number, and my email inquiry receives an unhelpful, boilerplate response.

New Plan: Asks mom to purchase it and to read me the activation key over Skype.
Problem: Initially, mom’s mic won’t work, but we overcome. :)

I spent the next several days working out my USB plugging-in/removing muscles and pulled 20 Gigs of music and pictures off my corrupted drive, then I repartitioned and reformatted the drive, which always feels like a great cleansing to me. I reinstalled the OS, and downloaded and reinstalled the drivers, then the software.

I switched from Microsoft Office, whose re-installation disks I’ve lost long ago, to the free and open-source Open Office.

This mess was probably the result of a boot-sector virus.

Here’s a picture of what I stared at for much of this past weekend, also a refreshing box of 15% milk which sustained me through the ordeal.

computer rescue

And that’s how I spent my second weekend in Ukraine. :)

I’m almost certain I could have had all this done here in Ukraine for about $30. The biggest loss for me was not money but time. What kept me going was the feeling of being just minutes away from solving the problem myself, and by the time I faced with the decision of spending $100 it felt like the fastest way to wrap things up.

Like my grandma used to say, learning is painful, and expensive.