PHOTOS: Just One of Moscow Streets

I saw this nice composition last Thursday on my way to a shop for a new battery for my laptop.  Or, more exactly, on my way from the shop ;-)

This is Shirokaia Street, Medvedkovo neighbourhood, in the northern part of Moscow.  Note that the most part of sculptures are made just from old auto-tyres.

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PHOTOS: Air and Space Museum in Washington

The Air and Space Museum is located in the very centre of Washington, at the National Mall.  Like the majority of Washington museums, it is part of Smithsonian Institution, so the entrance is free of charge, but donations are welcome.

Something brought from other planets is certainly kept inside these stony cubes ;-)

Voyager.  The first non-stop and non-refuelled flight around the world was made on this plane in 1986.

The car of Breitling Orbiter 3 stratospheric balloon.  Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones made in it a non-stop flight around the world in 1999.  It was the first flight like that made in a balloon.

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Quod erat demonstrandum: INION Is to Move To the VINITI Building

The situation around my Institute became relatively clear on yesterday afternoon.  At two o’clock our acting director Ilia Zaitsev and our ex-director Yuri Pivovarov were called to the FANO where they were told the INION was to move to the building of the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information (VINITI) in Usievicha Street near the Sokol metro station.  The FANO has already tried to force us to do so last year, but we refused.  First, at the same time it was talked a lot about the perspectives of our merger with the VINITI that is completely unacceptable for us as our institutes are quite different and, taking into account the today’s conditions in Russia, such a merger will the most probably cause nothing except further shortage of funding.  Second, the VINITI is placed in the opposite part of Moscow, and we still use our old building in Profsoiuznaia Street and have one more small office in Dmitriia Ul’ianova Street, so it won’t be suitable for us at all if some of our departments are placed so far away.  Third, Zaitsev visited the VINITI building last year and says the rooms that are proposed to us are in a poor condition.  In winter time, for instance, we’ll have to work like in a fridge because windows need a repair.

It seems that this time people at the FANO have taken into account their last year’s unsuccessful experience and decided first to use Aleksei Pavlov and his enterprise in order to frighten us so that later they could play a role of our ‘saviours’.  At the same time, however, they say they have no money for our move, nor for a repair in the VINITI building.  Our Institute has no money for that either.  No more information is available now, I’ll write again when I find out anything else.

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News from INION

…are more and more like war communiques.  The ‘repair’ is going on; the colleagues who are in the building say they have called the police.  The workers are meanwhile tearing out the parquet in the conference hall where our tomorrow staff meeting is to take place and are taking the chairs out.  The company that is managing the building is acting like bandits.

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The expulsion of the INION, latest news

The message that our academic secretary sent to the internal mailing list on Saturday evening is worth to be quoted word for word:

Dear colleagues!

For those who was not [in our building] in Krzhizhanovskogo Street, I can report that they are setting us at naught meanly. It is not a matter of harmless rhythmic knocking that is bringing headache. The workers are tearing off the parquet in respirators. The air is full of dust. And our employees have no respirators.

Some part of the first floor is covered with sand now. The same thing will soon happen with fourth and fifth floors as well.

The administration of the Institute asks everyone who will physically be able to come to the staff meeting on Tuesday at twelve not to fail to come.

When this ‘repair’ was just beginning on Thursday, we thought it was an attempt to put a scare into us. But probably things are much more serious, and they are trying to produce unbearable conditions for us in order to paralyze our work and thus to force us physically out of the building. I wonder what will happen next week

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Is INION to Move Again?

I wanted to write finally something positive about my Institute, but the only really positive news is still that we still continue working, despite all the difficulties, and our work is surprisingly successful. However, even this is in question since yesterday.

First, when we came to work in the morning, we saw strange workers in our building ‘repairing’ the floor. The results of their work look like this:

This was only the beginning. At about one o’clock, our acting director Ilia Zaitsev received an official paper with a claim that we are to ‘vacate’ the building in seven business days. No other housing was proposed instead. This requires some additional explanation.

Our main building in Nakhimovskii Prospect was destroyed by a heavy fire in January 2015. The construction of a new building is only to begin next year. Several weeks after the fire, we were given four floors in another building in Krzhizhanovskogo Street as a temporary housing and were proposed we would be given the other two floors as well later. Formally, our Institute is a part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, but during its infamous ‘reform’ in 2013, all its institutes were subordinated to the newly established Federal Agency of Scientific Organizations (FANO). The building in Krzhizhanovskogo Street belongs to the Academy of Sciences, but is managed by a state enterprise that is also subordinated to the FANO. D’you think it is to provide us the best working conditions?Not at all. Its director Aleksei Pavlov has tried to force us out of the building since the very first month after we settled in here, and the FANO has been pretending not to be able to do anything with it all this time. By the moment, he only managed to force us off the ground floor that is now rented to a dental clinic, a shop of paints and lacquers, and a hookah lounge. It’s by him that the yesterday’s paper is sighed.

He argues the building is in a critical condition. But as far as we know, none of the commercial organizations on the ground floor is required to move away, in spite of that ‘critical condition’ of the building. Moreover, Pavlov signed an agreement with our Institute only a short time ago that allows us to use the building at least until 31 December. He didn’t probably know anything about the ‘critical condition’ of the building while signing that agreement. And three days ago, the acting President of the Academy of Sciences Valerii Kozlov proposed to unite our Institute with the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information (VINITI). It’s an old idea, first proposed a year ago. And it’s completely unacceptable for us because our Institute and the VINITI do quite a different work, and an attempt to make our Institute a part of the VINITI will most probably mean the liquidation of our Institute. So it seems that the yesterday’s events were not an initiative of Pavlov, but something much more serious.

Our nearest plan is to organize a staff meeting on Tuesday. We also hope to receive an official explanations from the FANO by that time. They were pretending not to know anything almost all the day yesterday, but in the evening they had to give some comments to the journalists after we published the news about our expulsion in mass media. Now they are lying through the teeth that they have brought to our notice that this building is only a temporary housing and that they have already proposed us several variants of new housing. Our own administration doesn’t know anything about those ‘proposals’. I’ll write more as soon as I get any more information.

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A Short Manual on Searching Academic Literature in the Internet (in Russian)

Finally finished my short HOWTO on searching academic literature in the Internet.  The text is based mostly on my own experience: my main work at the Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences is to analyse the new publications on Soviet history, including foreign ones, and it would be really difficult to do this work without Internet as only a small part of Western research papers and monographs is available at Russian libraries.

Download the full text (PDF, 9.5 Mb, in Russian).

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Happy 23 February!

The 23 February holidays are going to be rather busy.  Tomorrow—a mini-lecture on how to search and download foreign research papers in the Internet, at the Veskon-2017, an annual Moscow festival for Tolkien studies and role playing games.  On Friday—one more report, at the same festival, together with my university friend, about the geography of the South and the East of the Middle-earth (an expanded version of our last year’s talk, now with an additional analysis of two dozens of different maps of the Middle-earth made earlier by different authors).  And finally on Sunday—one more lecture on searching the research papers in the Internet, this time at the Nikolai Fedorov Museum and Library.  Time to share the working experience with other people ;-)

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Penguins in Space: Running Orbiter in GNU/Linux

There are quite a lot of space flight simulators, but most of them are purely science fiction games and don’t always respect physical law.  Orbiter, on the contrary, was invented as a scientifically and technically correct simulator.  There are no space wars or interstellar flights there, but the real behaviour of a spaceship on orbit is shown authentically.  The distribution includes digital models of the Earth, the Moon, all the other planets of the solar system and some of the satellites.  As to spaceships, Space Shuttle Atlantis is available, as well as the International Space Station and the Russian Mir station (in the virtual universe of Orbiter it’s still on orbit, one of the training missions is to undock from the ISS and to fly to Mir).  In training missions, a futuristic Delta-glider rocket plane is used, with atomic engines, that is more easy-to-learn than Atlantis.  The same spacecraft is used for interplanetary flights.  Technically the program allows the users to develop their own spaceships and even their own planetary systems.  Collections of addons are available in the Internet, with those addons one can ‘drive’ virtually everything that has ever flown.

The game therefore is written more for education than for entertainment, so it’s free of charge, but the source code isn’t available and the developers have no plans to support operating systems other than Windows.  Nevertheless, the program runs quite correctly in GNU/Linux via WINE.  It means by the way that it should work also on a Mac, but I didn’t try.  The current version was published in summer 2016, after a seven-year delay.  As it turned out, the developers have been going on to work hard all this time.

You can download the game from its official website.  Two options are available: a MSI installer for Windows and a ZIP archive.  It’s the latter one that should be used in GNU/Linux, but it’s more convenient in Windows as well because it doesn’t need any installation.  It’s enough just to unpack it into any directory you prefer (better not into c:\Program Files) and to run the orbiter.exe file.  The only useful feature of MSI installer in comparison with the ZIP archive is that a desktop shortcut will be generated automatically.

On my own computer, Debian GNU/Linux 8 and WINE 1.6.2 are installed.  The CPU is Intel Core i5-3570K with integrated graphics.  I used an installation guide from here, in short it’s very simple:

  1. Install GNU/Linux and WINE.
  2. Download a ZIP archive with Orbiter and unpack it, for example, into ~/.wine/dosdevices/drive_c/orbiter.
  3. Download from here the file D3D9ClientR7.zip and unpack it into the same directory where you have unpacked Orbiter.
  4. Run the command:
    winetricks d3dx10 d3dx9_36 vcrun2005 corefonts
  5. Run the Orbiter_ng.exe file (unlike orbiter.exe it uses an external graphics engine).
  6. Click Modules, and click Expand all twice.  Enable the D3D9Client checkbox.
  7. Check the other parameters and enjoy the game.

My own experiments, however, had different results.  The Orbiter_ng.exe file runs correctly, but any time I try to launch a scenario the game immediately crashes with a message about a fatal error in D3D9Client.  The orbiter.exe file, on the contrary, runs without any errors and doesn’t need any D3D9Client.  There are several issues, but within reasonable.  Both window mode and full-screen mode are available, you can play Orbiter on one virtual desktop (even in full-screen mode) and work on another one, no discrete graphics is required (I play with a maximum resolution for my monitor, 1280×1024).  Hope you will enjoy it, too :-)

Orbiter 2016 Delta-glider

Learning to fly…

Orbiter 2016 Delta-glider

Flying over South America.

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REVIEW ARTICLE: Contemporary historiography of the GULAG: new approaches (in Russian)

Published in Sotsial’nye i gumanitarnye nauki. Otechestvennaia i zarubezhnaia literatura. Seriia 5, Istoriia, no. 4 (Moscow, 2016), 112–129 (in Russian).

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