Six months of benchmarks! :-)
dc2.largenetwork performance in
ap-northeast-2has returned to normal (was 8s, back down to 4.5s)
ap-southeast-1has the disk-read-write benchmark going from 4.5s to 7.8s, but the network benchmark going from 7.9s to 4.7s. Wat? =-) I’m starting to think there’s a random number generator involved in node performance :-)
us-west-2has received the disk read benchmark improvement (going from 0.15s to 0.06s)
us-west-2aagain has capacity for
ra3.xplus(it’s been two weeks, so this is no surprise)
Cross-Region Benchmarks updated.
Very quiet update. Main item of note is oddness for
ap-southeast-1. Disk read-write
became much faster, while network became much slower.
Bring-Up Times updated.
AWS released a new set of Redshift pricing, but as ever prices are unchanged.
Finally, the version tracker continues to be updated on an ongoing basis.
Interestingly, the last two releases have been across-the-regions, which is unusual.
I have relocated to Kyiv, mainly because with what’s going on I feel on an emotional level compelled to be here, to stand against the horrors.
(Note I arrived 2022-07-22/23. I had a busy week settling in and there was quite a bit to write for this post, so it’s published some days after arriving.)
I began my journey in Cambridge, England.
I took the train, as I recently discovered (from this rather superb book) just how bad flying is for pollution; we can’t fly, not if we want to stop global warming.
The route was Cambridge -> London -> Bruxelles -> Köln -> Berlin -> Przemyśl (Polish border town) -> Kyiv.
Most trains Cambridge to London were due to a heatwave cancelled, the rest unreliable, so I took a taxi down to London.
(Minor note from experience of the previous day : Liverpool Railway Station, which is a major rail hub in London, does not have step-free access. It’s a “luggage lugger”. Ah, additional wisdom from my journey up to Cambridge : you can on-line buy cheap tickets, Liverpool to Cambridge for 12 GBP; but it turns out you can buy these only on-line and only up to 6pm the previous day. I saw them on-line the previous day, but wasn’t sure if trains would be running due to the weather, so I decided to buy in the station. When companies add complexity to ticket purchasing, customers get caught out.)
I picked up Eurostar from London and they have in my experience always been very good and this trip was no exception. They seem to have a lot more staff on the ground than, well, anyone else.
Eurostar provides wifi and also power at each seat (at least in Standard Premium). I could not use wifi on the laptop as the security set up means it does not work with anything requiring a login or “click here to get access”; it worked on the phone, up until about the tunnel, and after that didn’t seem to work again (i.e. on the French side).
Eurostar took me to Bruxelles, where I changed for Köln, and once there, for Berlin.
Wifi on Deutsche Bahn trains (and at the stations) in my experience, works, and these trips were no exception.
On the train to Berlin I figured out how to make train wifi work with my laptop, by connecting to wifi with my phone, clicking on the phone through the AGB (the T&C), and then USB tether to the laptop!
Arrived about 45 minutes late, which was fine for me as this was my final destination, but an example of a critical lesson I have been learning about trains recently : it is not safe to rely on trains to make connexions. Do Not Do This. If you do, quite often you will have problems, hassle, trouble, stress and often, expense (such as I had that morning, when the trains stopped running at all and I paid 120 GBP for a taxi to make my Eurostar).
I spent the night and the next day in Berlin, with an old friend, playing Pandemic. It’s our addiction :-)
Morning taxi to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof with about 35 minutes to spare.
Hunted around a bit, found the supermarket in the station (a Rewe) and picked up a few bits - but the queue was enormous. There were only about three or four self-service stations, and about a hundred people in the queue, which is totally nuts - this is a barnhof, where people oddly enough are often in a rush. The checkout area should be huge. I ditched my loot and bailed and good thing too as I realised I only had about 10 minutes to get to my train!
Now, Berlin Hauptbahnhof is a maze. It’s a vast, moderately undersigned, vaulting, cathedral with multiple levels and platforms all over the place. In fact, it reminds me of an escape room, which is not really want you want in a railway station.
This can lead to trouble when it comes to finding a platform and this is compounded if you’re carrying heavy luggage or a pram by how incredibly slow the lifts are. I’ve seen glacial epochs come and go faster than Berlin Hauptbahnhof lifts. If you want to change levels, you’re looking at most of ten minutes. I need to make it clear that I am not exaggerating. I mean actually really standing there looking at your watch as the minutes roll by. The lifts take forever to open and close their doors, and then forever to start moving, and there are four levels to service; and where they’re so slow there’s often a queue as well.
If you’re in a hurry, you’re going to be lugging your luggage or your pram or bike or what-have-you up or down stairs, which is what happened. I found the platform and up I went. (The last three or four months I’ve been swimming three times a week. I have more overall body strength now that I’ve ever had before, and I was grateful for it! I could haul the 20+ kg of luggage about without too much trouble.)
Now, there was some trouble buying the ticket for this journey.
Deutsche Bahn have their web-site and I tried to buy 1st class, but there was no availability. It’s not clear if it’s absolutely no availability, or if it’s no availability for the options you’ve chosen - “window seat”, etc - so I ran through the process a few times before buying 2nd class. (This took some time; I always think companies imagine their sites are smooth, slick operations.)
The next day I think I found out that DB get a quota of tickets to sell - that this is a really a Polish service - and so I then tried to buy on Polrail. Polrail however as far as I can tell from how their web-site works allows tickets to be bought only if they are at least five days in the future - so I could not buy as it was now four days before the journey.
Interesting, isn’t it? as with British train tickets, complexities in ticket purchasing which catch you out.
If you can’t buy, you’re instructed to email, which I did. Support (as Support always does) wrote back two days later (too late to be useful), ignored my questions (they always do), and simply wrote “there is no 1st class available for this journey”.
Was there first class when I tried to order? is there a quota? why is there a five day moratorium on orders? we shall never know.
When I was on the train, I walked up to 1st class. It was about one third full. It will have filled up during the journey, but it will also have emptied. I suspect the ticket system wanted to allocate me the same seat for the entire journey.
I would be perfectly happy to change seat at some stops.
The problem is that because the ticket system assigns seats (rather than merely saying “1st class”), with long journeys the ticket system end up with an impossible task to find a seat which is unoccupied for the entire journey.
So, back to getting on the train. Having just boarded, standing at the end of a carriage, I discovered I no longer had a face mask. They’re still mandatory in German trains; you cannot board without one. I think I put it in my shorts pocket the day before, which went into the washing machine, and it would now then be in the washing machine at my friends place…
The conductor was my hero for that day and brought me a mask. I gave him a very nice bar of chocolate as a thank-you :-)
Now, at this point, I was in the train but at the wrong carriage. I left my luggage where it was, reconnoitred up and down, figured out the numbering system for the carriages and seats and then by seeing them found out what a “compartment seat” actually is.
You see, when you order a ticket, you can ask for “compartment” or “carriage”, “aisle” or “window”.
I had no idea what a compartment seat is. I did Google at the time, but Google could not find hits for enlightenment :-)
What it is, is you have a carriage, which has a series of little rooms, each with its own door, and an aisle, that the doors open onto, running down one side (not the center) of the carriage. Each little room is one of these “compartments”, and it contains six seats, in two rows of three, each row facing the other row. No tables.
It’s great for a family or friends, but hell on toast for strangers or people who want to work with a laptop. There’s also not much in the way of luggage storage, only overhead bins, and good luck getting a 20kg or 25kg luggage up there (and what happened in fact, as I saw during the journey, is that people put their luggage in the corridor).
I went back to my luggage, slid it into the storage bin in the carriage I had boarded - a normal, non-compartment carriage - and took an empty seat in that carriage. Great :-)
I figured sooner or later someone would come to claim their seat, and then I would move.
A conductor came by and checked tickets. No problems.
Now, there was wifi, but it totally did not work. Couldn’t get an IP address. I had a little wifi now and then, while in Germany, as we pulled up to German stations; then the Deutsche Bahn station wifi would be available.
There were also no power sockets.
This was a significant problem, so I conducted further reconnaissance up and down the train, looking for power sockets.
First class had per-seat power.
The compartments had per-seat power.
Some of the second class carriages had no power at all.
Some had a few sockets on a few seats at one end of the carriage (these seats all being full of people with their phones plugged in).
One second class carriage, which had no aircon, had per-seat power.
I left my big luggage where it was and decamped with my hand luggage to this carriage.
I took an empty seat, and I had that seat - the wrong seat - for the rest of the twelve hour ride.
The carriage (and the train as a whole, as I went up and down it now and then) became pretty packed. In the compartment carriages, people and luggage were spilling out into the corridor. More people were sitting in the space at the end of carriages, where the entry/exit doors are (even though there were still a fair few empty seats in the carriages themselves).
In my carriage, I saw a woman, who had like me picked a seat she preferred, and she was bumped once or twice from her seat - but there were by then plenty of other spare seats, so she just took one of those.
Having the same seat and knowing it is your seat is quite important for comfort. If you know you could get bumped out of your seat, you need to ensure you’re at your seat, with your bags, when-ever the train comes to a station; otherwise what might happen to your bags if they’re in someone else’s seat and you’re not there when they arrive?
If you know you could get bumped, you can’t really settle and relax.
I’ve come to the view then that seat reservation isn’t a good idea. It’s better only to say which class the ticket is for. Then people once they have a seat will always be able to stay where they are, and the ticket system can do a better job of getting people into the class they want.
Oh - and one other thing - I asked about paying to upgrade to first class.
Apparently impossible, as I have a “special price ticket”. I had no idea that I did, but this is nuts - that you are prevented from giving more money to the train company, because you have a “special ticket”.
Like, wat? (“wat” with no “h” is a kind of stunned, uncomprehending, “are you nuts?” kind of “what” :-)
During the ride, I took a meal from the dining carriage. It was very good - freshly cooked pasta with a very nice soft sauce - and a little red wine. My compliments to the chef. I would have been happy with that food in a Berlin restaurant.
The dining carriage actually is full of eating tables, but you can take your food back to your seat in a box (as I did).
The train rolled up to Przemyśl about an hour late, again, I can’t help but think is not bad for such a long trip.
I learned quite a lot from that trip.
Wifi you have to assume will not be available. I’ve found generally trains have wifi, and I’ve found generally it does not work. I mentioned it to one of the staff. He was not surprised. If you get it, great, but plan for its absence. If you have to have connectivity, you need a SIM, and you need to ensure it will work where you’re going (which is a whole ’nother can of worms).
(Related to this, the train to Kyiv, which I am on now as I write, has just departed. There are two wifi networks on the train, neither of which work. One has no DNS lookup, the other is in Ukrainian only and I have no idea what it’s doing or what it’s for. It’s called “SWEET.TV”. You get to some weird web-site, and that’s it. It’s not in any way a pay-for-wifi site.)
Seat reservations are rather notional. Pick a seat you like, and take it. I think with a bit of luck, you’ll keep it.
Rolling stock matters. It affects everything inside the train - whether or not there is per-seat power, if the aircon works, if the wifi works, the seat design, etc. I’m pretty sure the rolling stock for any given train changes over time, so you never know what you’ll get.
Bring food. The dining car is there, but when you’re in a train for half a day, you need to bring healthy food you’re comfortable eating; and as I discovered on the 15 hour trip to Kyiv, actually, the dining car might not be there at all, even on so long a journey (although there is a war on, so maybe this is exceptional).
Most important of all : your train will NEVER - that’s N E V E R - arrive on time. It may not leave at all. This is a fundamental problem, when you are taking a train to get to another train. Buying tickets in advance for the second train is risky, because you can be sure you will be late, and it might be you do not arrive at all. If both trains are from the same company, they will pay for your hotel or get you on another train : but if the second train is with a different company, pow, you lose.
(This happened in my previous long distance train journey. I planned to go from Bruxelles to Gibraltar over three days. The very first train was an hour late. Bang - complete wipe-out. Not possible to make the connexion and so everything downstream was not possible. I was then in Paris, I booked a flight to Malaga, and a taxi (120 euro) down to Gib, and a hotel for a night (120 GBP). All in all, that first train being late threw away 300 euro of booked tickets and cost another 300 euro to get to Gibraltar. Thales offered 30 euro compensation - half the price of their ticket. As an aside, their “contact us” form, last I looked, was to my eye deliberately set up to obstruct use. I’ve never seen a form so staggeringly long and with so many mandatory fields.)
And while we’re on this note, I’m now in the train Przemyśl to Kyiv, and we’ve not departed yet - planned was 10:15, it’s now 12:41. A train with many passengers for this train has been delayed, so we wait for them. Curfew in Kyiv is 23:00, the original arrival time was 22:06. I knew the train would be late, and I would arrive after curfew, and it is so; but it turns out in this case to be lucky! Curfew is until 5am. The more we are late, the more of those hours I spend in a comfortable first class seat than in Kyiv station :-)
(We departed 13:30.)
You will often buy tickets on-line. It can of course be that a train sells out, and so there are no more tickets; but it can also be there are arbitrary, completely unpredictable, restrictions on purchasing (as in the UK, and also with Polrail) and so although you may be able to buy one day, it may be the next day it is then and there-after impossible. Buying on-line is not wholly reliable, above and beyond simply selling out of tickets.
In some of the carriages, the water provided in the bathrooms was not potable; you could wash with it, but not drink it. You may need to buy water or if possible refill at the dining carriage (they might not offer this, or they might run out of water).
Be sure to buy everything you can in advance. To enter Ukraine, you need to buy covid insurance, and I discovered at about 1am while in Przemyśl and so heading to Kyiv the next morning that Transferwise (a FinTech I intended to use for UAH) appear to block transactions in UAH. In the end I bought using a normal UK bank, and paid their fees.
It’s a separate matter to train travel, but be aware FinTechs are NOT repeat NOT reliable, and none of them offer a level of customer support which can solve problems in a timely manner (the Transferwise support page had this - “support is closed now, but you can email, we’ll try to get back to you inside two days”).
Make sure you have a couple of bank accounts, so when one of them goes wrong in some bizarre and unpredictable manner, you can solve the problem yourself.
Do not fully rely on roaming for SIMs. When in Gibraltar, my UK SIM would not receive machine generated SMS (as issued by banks for two-factor). When I came to Berlin, my Gib SIM would not roam at all - I was incredibly lucky, and was able to buy the final train ticket without an SMS being sent, which was wholly unexpected. The next day, roaming worked. Like, what?
Make sure you have a couple of SIMs, so when so when one of them goes wrong in some bizarre and unpredictable manner, you can solve the problem yourself.
(Unfortunately, banks and FinTechs have yet to catch on to the idea of having multiple phone numbers associated with an account.)
The basic lesson of all of it is that nothing is wholly reliable. Trains, banks, SIMs, wifi, train food for a 15 hour journey.
You must provide alternatives so when failures occur, you can recover.
Having rolled up at Przemyśl, at about 11pm, I needed to find a hotel - this was something I felt I could pick up on the fly. The station had working wifi, and I mooched out on front of the station, caught up with people, and spotted a hotel about fifty meters away. Over I went, in I went, sign I noticed “not suitable for disabled access”, room I booked… and three huge flights of stairs up which I lugged my 22kg luggage, two coats, and two bags.
Hum de ho :-)
Got into my room, relaxed for a bit, found no wifi (it’s only downstairs, first floor) and so I headed down, as I still needed to buy the covid insurance necessary to enter the Ukraine.
It took me from 11.30pm to 1.39am to buy that insurance, because Transferwise were rejected online payments in UAH. In the end, I transferred money to a UK account and, paying their fees, bought insurance that way.
This was absolutely something I should have done in advance, but there has been a lot to book and plan and figure out, and this was lowest priority. This trip happened rather sooner than expected, as it turned out to be useful for my landlord if I left early : that was kind-hearted, but probably a mistake. You need to have enough time to plan through fully for trips like this.
So, insurance purchased, I went to bed, train departing at 10.15am, so alarm set for 8.30am - enough time in the morning to find a supermarket for food for the trip.
Next morning turned out to be quite busy collating the extensive paperwork needed to get into the UA - the covid insurance, proof of finances, proof of address and rental contract, and the train ticket, sorting out maps for the phone and so on. By the time I was done, it was time to head to the station.
At the station, I check departures, platform 5, I follow signs to platform 5.
Most places are undersigned. You follow signs up to a point where the destination is not in sight and there are no more signs. In this case, I found myself outside the station, with no more signs.
Fortunately, there were two workers there, I think something to do with the station, and one spoke English.
Turns out I had to pass through a building which was there, border control, to get to platform 5.
There’s quite a queue, and about 10 minutes now before the train leaves - I queue for a bit, then go back and chat again with this guy, and he explains firstly, border control take in about 10, 15 people at once, and also the train is likely to be delayed. Okay - sounds good :-) I head back to the queue, wait two minutes, and then we’re all waved inside. I pass through control, out to the train, walk down its length to get to my carriage (first class this time), board, find my seat, and ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh - get comfy - with about three or four minutes to spare.
The worker was right though about the train being delayed.
In fact, I get comfy for the next three hours before we depart =-)
I was told a train feeding into this train was delayed, and we waited for it. I’m happy this was done, and it was in fact also in my interest. You see, the train was due to arrive 22:06, with curfew at 23:00. There was no way the train would arrive on time, so I expected to spend the night in the station, until 5am, when curfew finished. The later we left, the more time I would spent in my comfy first class seat, rather than in Kyiv central station.
On the train, in that seat, there’s power, and there’s wifi, but the wifi doesn’t work (DNS broken).
There are three first class carriages, out of the eight carriages in total, spaced evenly through the train, which I found novel; normally I see them clustered together, at either the front or end of the train.
After a while I went up to the dining car. Mmm. Everything on the menu was not on the menu, as there was actually almost no food available. The only food were snack bars, pot-noodle type plastic cartons (two flavours), chocolate bars and coconut macaroons.
I bought what I could, and returned to my seat and continued to work on inbox zero :-)
After the three hours wait, we rolled out.
After that, it was pretty uneventful.
The first class chairs are much nicer than second class, but because of a single simple feature : they have a head rest, which emerges sideways from the side of the chair at head height, but then curves, so it is alongside your head. This is perfect for supporting the head when you want to snooze or sleep. It makes all the difference in the world.
So we rolled along, time passed, I did some web-site work, snoozed now and then, walked now and then, it became dark, and we arrived.
Actually, Kyiv station has no signs on the platforms, and if there was an announcement it was in Ukrainian, and so I really wasn’t sure this was Kyiv - and in fact we’d made up an hour on the journey, so we were arriving earlier than I had expected from just adding three hours to our arrival time.
However, some enthusiastic “Kyiv! Kyiv!” from a conductor was enough and out I popped.
Still no signs, even as I walked up the platform, but there was clearly a large city out there so I was probably in the right place :-)
I rolled around for a good thirty minutes, scouting the place out. Eventually I noticed a shop sign which said “Kyiv”, this being my first indication of being in the right place =-)
The station was dark, most of the lights were out (but there was no blackout in the city, or on the train), and a lot of the seating was filled with quiet, snoozing people, intermixed with those quietly using their phones.
Most of the windows appear to have been covered by some sort of opaque plastic layer, and I suspect it is to prevent shards of glass flying around if there is a nearby explosion.
In the station there is a bit of a exhibition about the war; not much, mainly I think about what happened here when there were a couple of million people trying all at once to get out as quickly as they could. Some examples of the bedding set up (en masse) on the floor for people to sleep, pictures and cards from them, a few hedgehogs painted yellow and blue (railway lines cut into short lengths to form a caltrop, used to block vehicles).
The station kinda shuts down a bit at 1am. The final little food shops close and the escalators stop. It all restarts at 5am.
In the end, having explored, I took a seat, pulled my luggage into contact with my legs so that if it were moved, I would feel it, put on my huge Canada Goose parka for comfort and warmth (it was warm enough to be okay, a summer night in Kyiv, but a bit more was nice and also its cosy) and used my other coat to cover my legs, and dozed as best I could in a quite well shaped, but hard wooden chair.
Time passed, I slept intermittently, it came to be about 7am or so, and I headed out to the AirBnB apartment.
I rolled outside, and took in the scene for a good 15 minutes, figuring out the options and thinking about how to get from A to B.
I could walk, but it is quite a long way, like 2km, so - best not. Luggage wheels not really meant for that.
There seemed to be a tram, but then you have to figure out how to buy a ticket, and also where the damn thing is actually going to go.
So, in the end, I decide taxi.
There’s a couple of drivers around the entrance hawking, but I’m cautious about taking such rides. I think there’s a good chance of being ripped off.
I see plenty of people being picked up by taxis, but I think they’re ordering them via app : I can’t see a taxi rank.
In the end, I make two mistakes, the first of which is to pick one of the hawkers.
I ask him how much the ride will be for where I want to go, he says about 10 GBP, which is reasonable. I then made my second mistake, which was not to check the exchange rates before-hand. That’s a real newbie error. He lies about the exchange rate, and tries to charge me about 20 GBP.
Because I’m generous soul, and I appreciate meeting someone - whom I thought - was being sincere, when I took out 2000 UAH from the machine (about 50 GBP) I gave it all to him, thinking it was about 25 GBP.
I just had too much planning on my mind, and again, it shows : do not rush such things.
So I got to the AirBnB.
Now we run into some communication problems. I had told the host if the train arrived after curfew I would come in the morning. On the train, and in the station, there was no wifi, so I could not contact the host again. I make myself comfortable in the lobby and wait.
After a while, I figure I need to actually get a message to him.
The guy manning reception makes his phone into a hotspot :-)
I communicate with the host, and after some further confusion where the AirBnB booking has the wrong apartment number (and it really does, I think - the photos from the booking are the photos from this apartment), where the host is saying the apartment is open (but it’s not - but it’s because I’m outside the from apartment), the host rolls up, takes me to the neighbouring apartment, and then I’m in.
Least best key-exchange experience with AirBnB, because normally they’re very good.
We chat for a little while, sorting out this and that, I think he’s a good guy, speaks reasonable English.
So I was in!
(So, been a busy first week, so here’s the week as one blog post.)
I showered, after three days in trains, and it was lovely :-)
I unpacked just a little, headed out to the local supermarket and bought the first round of essentials, headed home, cooked, and went to bed.
The big supermarket here, couple of minor noteworthy points;
The supermarket is packed with food. No shortages in what they’re selling, although I wouldn’t know if there are some things now which are not sold. The rail system is working just fine, so I think bulk supplies are fine. Petrol supplies seem to be okay in the city, too - I’ve not noticed any petrol stations (I’ve not been out very much yet - busy settling in) but there are enough cars rolling around.
Sunday. Hit the supermarket, found one or two other local supermarkets, but mainly just spent the day unpacking and sorting out the apartment :-) critically, found a supply of perfume-free dish washing liquid and clothes washing liquid.
Began search for a swimming pool.
I spoke to the landlord, who said there was now one pool open per district, and he indicated where it is (in one branch of a city-wide chain of sports clubs).
I went up to a different, closer branch of that chain, to check if it was open or closed (Google Maps has most things as “permanently closed”) and it was open, and it had a pool - a two lane pool on the sixth floor of a tower block! for me it’s a useless pool (imagine butterfly in there), but it’s amazing they have a pool at all :-)
And they wanted about 120 euro a month =-)
(It’s a complex pricing scheme - if it’s less than a certain duration, you can only buy a pass for all the clubs in the city, not just the club you’re going to, and so on and so on. Like bad software engineering.)
They told me the other club (fingered by landlord) was closed.
They also told me I would need a certificate, from a doctor, that I was safe for swimming.
I’ve seen this in one or two other countries, it’s completely unnecessary. If 70 million say Brits can get on without it, your country can too =-)
I also visited a mall, but I think the air raid sirens went off after I’d investigated the first floor : I was in a shop at the time, and it looked to me like an alert app of some kind went off on someone’s phone, and then the tannoy began to issue messages in Ukrainian, and people seemed to be leaving the mall, and I saw the shops were being closed up and so I left as well and then saw the mall had been shut.
But everyone outside was just carrying on as normal - either they didn’t know, or didn’t mind.
I think (from later experience) they knew, but no one is concerned - Kyiv is huge, and missile attacks have not happened for some time now.
I also visited a second pool, unrelated to the club, also open, looks good - 5 lanes, 25m, empty - and they also want a certificate.
While I was out I happened past an abandoned road block. The hedgehogs (railway lines cut into short lengths and wielded together as a huge caltrop) had been pulled off the road, onto the pavement, and there was a rectangular block of cement that had been placed on the pavement, and them had sandbags built up around it, to provide some cover for infantry.
So I needed to find an English-speaking doctor or clinic to get this certificate to go swimming.
I found two which looked likely, but a good hour or so walk away. Now, I do not keep a phone number, so I cannot call them - but I can set up my laptop for VOIP and make calls. To do this I need a VOIP provider.
I spent the day searching for and investigating providers, and then picking providers to use, and finding out they were not viable, until I reached a provider which took six hours to make work, and required a friend in Germany to put money into the account (their home page - “five minutes and you can be talking!” - hostage to fortune :-)
The basic problem was that they do not accept payments if you’ve in a whole big long list of countries, including the Ukraine. I don’t mean the bank card, or the bank - I mean you. And the proposed solution is you buy a VPN, get your IP address from that (which need to be inside one the white-list countries, although they forgot to mention that =-) and then they will white-list that IP so you can pay.
Why not just white-list the original IP? it’s crazy.
I have some understanding of this, this provider last year had a major DDOS attack with blackmail, but it’s not viable as a service as there’s a lot of countries they simply do not accept payment from, and so you have this service and it’s find and then you move and pow, you no longer have a service. That’s no good if you travel.
I did not want to spend more time on this, so I called a friend and had her put money into the account. I will use it for now, since it works, and find something else in the future.
It’s a shame because the technical side looks superb. I’ve seen that though before in tech companies; they don’t really seem to notice or think enough that billing and admin are just as vital to the end-user as the technical service itself.
Phoned up a medical centre, made an appointment for 1pm, went there - using the metro for the first time - met doctor. Was asked if I had any skin issues, and to take off my t-shirt, so she could check for any excess fat. That was it. 36 USD - the price of a month at the pool =-)
The metro was interesting - always is first time you use it.
There are machines for buying or putting credit onto metro cards.
Of them, only one would dispense new cards, and its bank card reader seemed broken.
In the end, I approached the staff, who pointed and demonstrated I could actually pay directly with my bank card. Problem solved (although its a solution which has zero privacy).
The metro is very, very deep. I boarded the fastest, longest escalator I’ve been on in my life. It’s so fast I saw a woman baulking at boarding! It takes minutes to get to the end, and this thing is moving. Later, when I was returning, I pulled out the e-reader, turned it on, and read for a while!
There are three metro lines, M1, M2 and M3 (red, green and blue although I do not recall which is which). There’s a triangle of stations in the center of town where the lines cross, and the metro maps and Google Maps make it look like the stations of the different lines are in fact separate (when you’d imagine the lines would cross in the same station, for easy transfer). In fact, they do join in the single station.
One ride is 8 UAH. 1 EUR right now is about 40 UAH, so rides are peanuts - totally unrelated to the actual cost of the metro. That’s not viable in the long term, or fair : why should everyone else in the country subsidise my city transport?
So, I headed home, and went swimming! in about 2.5 weeks, I’ve been once, while in Berlin. Normally it’s three times a week.
The pool when I visited it first was empty. 25m, five lanes, no swimmers.
This time there was a class, when that finished, I was there, and one other person.
I did my hour and a half, and headed home, my body going “what the holy jesus just happened??!? :-)
Later went shopping, and discovered something new : a kind of sweet, sunflower seed cake. I ate the whole thing. It was irresistible, and absolutely packed with calories. I will never buy another.
Air raid sirens went off at 6am.
I was already awake in fact from the sunlight - dawn comes early here - and went back to sleep.
Headed out to the northern mall and found much of what was outstanding : kitchen scales, shower curtain, a cover for the chair, this and that.
My main problem now is marmite. Marmite does not seem to be a thing in the Ukraine, and I have about 250g remaining.
I will contact the British Embassy and see what they advise :-)
Checked out the southern mall, now, in full, all the floors. Need flip-flops, a dish rack, and writing paper and envelopes. No luck here, but found a nearby stationary shop and bingo for the writing paper.
All the shops look quiet, and I wonder how they stay in business. I heard taxes for small businesses are in abeyance; I wonder if rent is as well? but people need wages still…
Then swimming and bought a one month ticket. Going once is expensive - about 5 euro - but one month is cheap - about 40 euro. The pool I settled on has English speaking staff, youngish girls, and that’s made it all much easier than it otherwise would be. They will be getting some good chocolate for the hard work they put in to learn the language, from which I have benefited.
Swimming started to work again : muscles remembering what it’s all about =-)
Hit the supermarket, bought food, felt like a bit of wine, arrived exactly at 7pm and watched them seal off the booze :-) Bit of a non-day : had a late night the night before.
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