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Russians have a thing for chess and, frankly, are very good at it. Being from San Diego, I thought chess was something you put photo albums in.

Playing Chess in Russia The Agony of Victory

Playing Chess in Russia  The Agony of VictoryRussians have a thing for chess and, frankly, are very good at it. Being from San Diego, I thought chess was something you put photo albums in. Playing ChessPlaying chess requires thinking ten or twelve steps ahead. If I wanted to understand the Russian mind, I had to learn to play chess. If nothing else, it would be a good way to pass the time. This I was told by Robert, an American living in the same town as me. I wasnt particularly excited about learning, but gave in one day after growing tired of staring out the window. I had seen the movie, Searching for Bobby Fisher. What more could I possibly need? How hard could it be? After beginning the game, Robert took pity on me after I apparently made some moves that were questionable. He explained why he was making particular moves and the resulting implications for my king. The game proceeded slowly while he explained strategies to his inattentive student. Then the magic moment occurred. I imagine every teacher suffers from the occasional embarrassment of being outdone by a student. I like to call it beginners luck and invoke the empirical evidence at horse racing tracks and Las Vegas casinos. If youre a first timer, you will always win. It doesnt matter if youre betting on a horse because of the color scheme or hitting on black jack while already holding 19 in your hand. It just happens. With our chess game, Robert had made a particular move and was in the process of explaining it. I sat staring at the board and thinking deep thoughts, which is to say I was wondering what was for dinner, etc. Just then, I noticed something on the board, moved my rook and declared, Checkmate! Robert stared at the board. Then he started laughing. Then he wanted to play again. Being a good sport, I immediately announced my retirement as a chess player.Unfortunately, I couldnt leave my victory alone and gloated to a few people about it. Make no mistake, Robert would beat me a million times if we played a million games, but you have to live in the moment!Within a few days, karma struck and I began to pay for my gloating. People would start showing up at my apartment with chessboards and, of course, vodka. The games were so laughably one-sided it was ridiculous. Typically, I would make two moves and then hear Sah! which I believe meant check! in Russian. My humiliation occurred more or less every day for roughly a month. Some of the victorious would even come back for a second pounding. Finally, I had to take the dramatic step of refusing to answer the door. In the end, I set the game of chess back a few hundred years and Robert had his vengeance.

Edinburgh Stag Do Ideas

Edinburgh Stag Do Ideas

While most folk will take any excuse for a party, there are some party reasons that have stood the test of time. Take the stag do, for example. It's been around since at least early Greek times when the lads of Sparta saw to it that their about-to-be-married chums got a send-off that was worthy of Zeus. Today, stag parties have come a long way, but the idea is still the same - one last fling for the happy fellow before he puts on the ball and chain for life.While many folks are heading off to the continent for a stag weekend, there are some excellent reasons for choosing a city closer to home. You might, for instance, choose to do a "stag weekend" in Edinburgh, where you'll have your choice of dozens of daytime activities and the same wide variety of nighttime fun to send your mate off to the altar in style. Here are just a few of the things that you might include in your Edinburgh stag do.Daytime Edinburgh Stag Weekend FunA stag weekend in Edinburgh can accommodate the tastes of any group from the active to the scholarly. Few other cities offer a range of activities as wide as the traditional Scots city. From kayaking to orienteering, from Five a Side to quad runners there's plenty of choice for a day of getting physical to gear up for the night. For the truly adventurous, there's canyoning - the art of hurtling down a canyon flume with nothing but a wetsuit to protect you from the rocks below. Is there a more appropriate metaphor for the new life your guest of honor is about to enter?Edinburgh Stag Weekend by NightThey say laughter can cure almost anything - and Edinburgh's The Stand Comedy Club is sure to put that to proof. The popular club is often standing room only, so if you want to laugh yourself silly at up to five world class comedy acts in one night, you'd do best to get your tickets early. If clubbing is your thing, you won't even have to leave The Stand - when the comedy's done, a DJ takes the stage and the club transforms into one of the hottest nightclubs in the city.Just a Little Bit Of Naughty Stag Night HijinksIf you're of a mind that no stag do is complete without a pretty girl shedding her clothing and giving the soon-to-be husband a wiggle and tweak, then you'll want a tour of the clubs that hits Bottoms Up, the Fantasy Palace and Big Daddy O's. The girls are first rate - but again, the clubs can be busy on a weekend night. If you're only in town for a stag weekend in Edinburgh, you'll do well to set up a tour in advance with a UK tour operator who can assure you tickets and entry.

Skiing in Utah

Skiing in Utah

Utah is a great place to take a skiing vacation, regardless of your skiing abilities or experience. With a number of world class ski resorts, Utah boasts some of North America's best skiing, and prides itself on having 'the best snow on earth'. But don't take my word for it - get out there and experience the magic of skiing in Utah for yourself! With such high quality resorts, and truly amazing snow coverage and texture, Utah is an excellent location for your skiing vacation.If you're looking for a choice of resorts, but you don't want to venture too far from home, Utah is definitely the place for you. Its fine, powdery snow can be experienced through most of the year, and you'd be simply mad not to visit Utah at some point if you're a skiing enthusiast like me. One of the premier resorts in Utah is the Deer Valley Resort. In 2005, Ski Magazine voted Deer Valley as the best resort in the whole of North America, and it is easy to see why. The sheer quality of skiing to be had, combined with the breathtaking surrounding and facilities that are second to none, makes Deer Valley a connoisseurs choice. And what's better, it feels a million miles away, yet it is only a short difference from the bustle of Salt Lake City. The resort itself has over 20 ski lifts to ensure queues are kept to an absolute minimum, and it is more than reasonably priced for the quality of the skiing. Another of Utah's most cherished resorts is Powder Mountain. The haunt of the local skiers, Powder Mountain is relatively undiscovered in comparison to the other resorts, although it is just as good in terms of facilities. In fact, it is thought to be one of the best resorts if you are looking for value for money, and with an ideal climate, it really is the perfect place to host your skiing vacation. With only 7 ski lifts, Powder Mountain is a much smaller ski resort, but that doesn't mean it's not as good! If anything, you are likely to benefit from fewer skiers, meaning you have more slope to yourself! Powder Mountain is famous for its atmosphere, which just smacks of traditional Utah spirit and friendliness. And that's not to mention its impressive dedicated skiing school, which provides lessons from some of the state's most experienced skiing experts, all at very reasonable prices. With nightly grooming, and slopes available to meet all ability standards, Powder Mountain has certainly earned its reputation as a world class ski resort without the crowds, and is truly one of Utah's best kept secrets.So if you are looking for a great skiing vacation to go with you family, or if you are looking for somewhere to hone your skills, you really couldn't do better than Utah. Combining both world class accommodation and restaurants, with perfect natural skiing conditions, Utah is perceived as one of America's best skiing states, and it is easy to see why with it's beautiful, thick, powder snow. With its depth and quality of resorts, there's something for everyone, and you will be sure to enjoy your vacation, like the millions of enthusiasts before you, that have chosen Utah for their skiing break.

Going Camping? How to Choose The Right Backpack

Going Camping? How to Choose The Right Backpack

So, you have decided to go camping. Well, good for you. However, have you got the necessary camping gear sorted out; especially the backpack. Its one the most important components of the camping gear and you have to make the right choice in this regard or you are done for. Importance of choosing the right backpackA person who is not all that experienced with the concept of camping or hiking might not give the backpack its due importance, and might just have a feeling that all backpacks are the same. But such is not the case, just ask an experienced camper.There have been many cases wherein, instead of enjoying a nice little camping trip, people have come home, suffering from a back injury; resultant of a faulty backpack. There are many more unpleasant experiences that are a result of not choosing the right camping bag, but we wont delve into it. How to choose?The style of hikingA large part of choosing the right backpack is dependant of the kind of outing that you have lined up. This means that whether you are going to hike for an extended number of days, or just a few days.There is a backpack available for every requirement, and the storage capacity of the backpack is dictated by the number of days, that you are going to use it for. The type of frameDepending on the terrain of the camping trip, weather that you might encounter, and various other factors, you must choose the frame of the backpack. They come in two types:Internal-frame packs: They have design that makes for easy maneuverability, stability, flexibility. Moreover, backpacks that are made from this type of frame fit closely and must be chosen if you are going camping on a terrain that is uneven. Such backpacks are great to use, while climbing, scrambling, or even on snow bound slopes. External-frame packs: If you are traveling on established trails, and aim to carry a heavy load, then backpacks that have an external frame, are the right choice for you.They make for a comfortable carrying of heavy loads, and also have a larger storage capacity. Moreover, they are noted for their air circulation advantage and are quite cool to carry. The great thing about them is that they are not too expensive.The storage capacityThis is one of the most important considerations before choosing any backpack. List out all the gear that you are going to need to take with you, and then work out the details with regards to space.Storage capacity needs vary from one individual to another and from one camping trip to another. If its a long camping trip then, a storage capacity of about 5000+ cubic inches would be a standard requirementOn the other hand if your camping trip is short, then you can choose backpacks that give you around 3,000 to 5,000 cubic inches of space. For day long camping trips even 2,500 cubic inches of space will do. The comfort factorBe it a camping trip of any length of time; comfort must be the overriding factor that must dictate your choice of backpack.Some of the accoutrements of the backpack, which make for comfort, are:> Suspension systemThe suspension system of a backpack is important, and is what you must be looking for while checking out the shoulder straps of the pack. The suspension systems should be adjustable in nature, and thus you should be able to customize it to your requirement.Other suspension features are load-lift straps, cinch straps, and a sternum strap. > Hip-beltsIts these belts that support the major portion of the weight of the pack. When you choose a backpack make sure that its padded and shaped to perfection.> Comfort factor in internal-frame packsInternal frame backpacks have something called the lumber pad that helps in air circulation. Moreover, there is also the presence of a frame-sheet, which helps keep your back safe from the poking of sharp objectsExtra featuresTry going for backpacks that promise something extra or offer you some extra add-ons. These add-ons could be in the form of rain covers, accessory pockets, stuff sacks and even trekking poles.PriceSome backpacks are ridiculously expensive, while others are ridiculously cheap. It will be up to you to make the distinction between something that will give you value for your money, and something that will just be a futile investment.If you are thinking about going for regular camping trips then it does make sense to buy something that will survive for a good length of time. Such backpacks dont come cheap, but are worth every penny you invest in them.On the other hand, if you are planning to go for camping trips on an off and on basis then its not a good idea to buy expensive, and advanced backpacks. Go for the affordable variety, but those which give some kind of assurance about quality.Choose your backpack with due care. It could mean the difference between a happy camping trip and a disappointing one.

5 Tips for Business Travelers in Moscow

With over 10 million residents and a rich and fascinating history, Moscow is the center of Russia's economic, cultural, and educational landscape. As a result of the country's steady economic growth and virtually unlimited potential, an increasing number of multinational corporations have set up shop in Moscow, bringing an unprecedented number of business travelers to the city. Yet the city's size and complexity, combined with the country's unique language and culture, make Moscow hard to navigate for foreigners. Here, then, are some tips to help ease the way for business travelers.1. Carefully Choose Your AccommodationsWhere you choose to stay can make the difference between a successful and a disastrous business trip. Your best bet is to select a business class, fully equipped, serviced apartment rental in Moscow. A short term rental will provide you with familiar Western comforts, while giving you access to the equipment you need (like Wi-Fi Internet; a computer printer, scanner, and fax; and free local calling) to stay connected and get the job done. Many come with a "fully equipped" kitchen and a washing machine, which will help you settle in and concentrate on the business at hand.When selecting Moscow rentals, be sure to look for rentals in the upscale Arbat area of Moscow, within the Garden Ring Road. This is a very safe area, and one that is close to supermarkets, embassies, stores, restaurants, financial institutions, and nightclubs. Furthermore, unless you're fluent in Russian, choose to work with a company that is Western owned and operated. An English-speaking staff will go far in ensuring that your stay in Moscow goes smoothly and is stress-free. 2. Getting through Passport ControlWhen you arrive at Domodedovo International Airport or Sheremetyevo 2 International Airport, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the lines and procedures at passport control and customs. The best "serviced apartment rental" companies can also arrange for full airport VIP services, Fast Track check in, and business lounge access. 3. Visa RegistrationRussia has very strict regulations for foreigners visiting Russia. Not only do you have to register upon your arrival in Moscow, but if you visit other cities, you have to register there as well. If you are staying in a "short term rental" , the Western company that manages the rental should be able to assist you in complying with the myriad visa requirements.4. Airport and Train TransfersMany business travelers are overwhelmed by the logistics involved in going to and from Moscow's airports and train stations. There are four major airports and nine train stations in the city, as well as the world's most extensive Metro system. Although it's possible to negotiate Moscow's transportation system on your own, it's much less of a hassle to book an airport or train station transfer with the "Moscow rentals" company you select. 5. Taxi and Transport ServicesWhether you need to get around Moscow or are going to one of the many popular tourist destinations in Russia, it's important to select a reliable taxi and transport service. Again, it's helpful to be able to rely on Westerners, who can arrange for you to book an hourly taxi. With the right planning, business travel in Moscow can be both productive and enjoyable.

Taking a culture on its own terms

When travelling to distant and exotic locales, we are constantly confronted by different, exotic, and sometimes disturbing and challenging situations and experiences. These experiences are a big part of what makes travel such an adventure, and they are the catalyst for opening our minds and broadening our own personal horizons and perspectives. When situations arise that disturb us or make us uncomfortable, it is very important to force ourselves to suspend judgement based upon our own experience and culture. Often times, the culture, custom, and tradition of the countries we visit is in direct contrast to our own, and we must experience and learn about our host cultures to get positive experiences while travelling. Everyone has come across the "ugly American" that complains about everything and insists that he can't find a good hamburger anywhere! Well, why go to India, a country of a majority of Hindu faithful that view a cow as sacred and never consider eating beef? This is an extreme example, but by observing closely the way we handle ourselves in different travel situations we can begin to identify traits in ourselves that are leaning towards our ugly american and weed these traits out. Perhaps our travels will be more rewarding and diverse if we allow ourselves the time and patience to really learn why people are acting and reacting the way they are, and begin to take a culture on its own terms.

Summary

Russians have a thing for chess and, frankly, are very good at it. Being from San Diego, I thought chess was something you put photo albums in.