27 September 2011

Cougar Alert

Cougars are fast, in this case fast enough to elude captured by a 1/500 of a second flicker of a camera aperture.

This was a city-dwelling cougar. She was in her middle ages, but revived by the high-revving, sleek, but purring animal she was driving: a Mercedes Benz coupe. And to ensure that the world did not misunderstand her place in the food chain, this predator had airbrushed actual cougars all over her car.

All Are Cougars, Some Are Wilder

Alas, this fast and cunning cougar gave me the slip; If only I had been a bit quicker with my camera ... I mean, that stylin' cougar's car paint job was worth a thousand words just by itself.

Something Like This, but on a Benz

15 September 2011

The Dog Was Spared

I took an illegal taxi last night, chauffeured by an Azerbaijani, and presumably a Muslim.  At some point, a bus driver dangerously cut off my taxi, sending my driver into a rage.  The taxi driver accelerated, made eye contact with the bus driver, and unloaded a creative but crass tirade involving his genitals and a dizzying combination of the bus driver's mother, wife, daughter, and their orifices.

To His Credit, He Spared the Family Dog

Somewhat shocked, I looked at the driver and said "это не по-мусульмански," roughly translating to "this is not Islamic behavior."  The driver paused to think for a moment and then looked at me with shame and embarrassment and said, "you are right, I shouldn't say anything about putting it in their mouths."

The rest is okay, I guess.

14 September 2011

Animal Trap

Alexey Navalny, a Russian public activist, once compared certain Moscow street intersections to animal traps.  Mr. Navalny complained that the signage on these traps was designed to be deliberately confusing.  This confusion invariably leads most drivers to commit "errors," thereby giving hungry policemen waiting nearby a chance to trap the driver and shake him down.

Whether the animal trap analogy is appropriate is a separate question; the fact is that street signage in Russia is, indeed, rather confusing.

I took this picture at the intersection of two major streets in downtown Moscow. When turning right from the feeder road of the Garden Ring to Tsvetnoy Bul'var, one is confronted with this extremely cluttered signage scene.  It is as if it was designed to deliberately confuse drivers.
  • The street name sign is quite small; it must be that Russians have better eyesight than other mere mortals on the planet.
  • Signs overlap each other; good luck trying to get a clear picture with a simple glance.
  • And if it is not bad enough, some random pole blocks the traffic signal. 
  • The traffic light is small, posted low, and as poor visibility unless you get very close to it; then it is blocked by a random pole (see above)
  • You have to pay very specific attention to the shape of the traffic light (I versus L) to know whether right-hand turns are allowed with a general green sign (I) or whether they require a special green light (L). There is no other way to know other than looking at the shape of the traffic light. And the special green light on the L-shaped signal is not complemented by special red light informing the driver not to turn left. In other words, you either get a green light or nothing.
  • There is a slight degree of additional confusion with the blue direction sign; that sign says that “one can go straight or right;” however, the traffic light says “unless I explicitly allow it – and you have to pay close attention to my shape."
  • And what is it with the advertisement posted right next to official, information signs? This should be a crime – or at least a misdemeanor.
With all this confusion, no wonder hungry policemen are waiting right around the corner to flag driver who will, invariably, make mistakes with this signage arrangement.  Bad information presentation, it seems, is a blessing for bribe collectors

08 September 2011

Marvels of Moscow Metro, Part V

Post rush hour, some Moscow metro trains are taken out of service as the extra capacity is not needed.  Obviously, these retiring trains need to be evacuated of passengers; and sometimes passengers do not evacuate willingly.  

A case in point was a drunkard on my train who refused to (or could not) wake up and leave the train.  He was removed by a very lightly-armed the metro police - probably as gently as possible.  

In my experience of witnessing American police, had this passenger been riding the BART in the San Francisco Bay Area or the New York Metro, he would have likely been handcuffed and arrested for a similar infraction.  In the case of this drunkard, the indignity of being dragged of the metro car and onto the metro station floor is probably punishment enough.  

As a final note, the drunkard blew a kiss to the lady who first attempted to wake him up.  Call it a happy ending.