Saturday, April 18, 2015

Man . . . seeks Woman

So how did you meet your spouse?  If the answer is at a family reunion, I probably don't want to know the details...or maybe I do, if she/he was married to your cousin at the time.

Finding a mate for those of us whose parents do not do the arranging can be a bit of a problem.  At the age of 18 to 25, finding that "one person" who is supposed to be perfect for you for the next 65 years is at best a crap shoot.

How do you meet a suitable population of people from whom you can select, or be selected by, one that gives you the best odds of making something work over time.

Church or church organizations have always been a good place if one is religiously inclined.  Having a common set of beliefs is a good foundation for a marriage, though there still can be religious differences i.e. he thinks he is God and she doesn't.

In my grandfather's and father's time, community dances were a common meeting place for young people, at least in rural Saskatchewan.  With my generation, "We met at the bar" was a frequent response.  (Saskatchewan took a while to allow women in the bars).

Now, according to surveys, on-line is the most common way of meeting someone .  No kidding.  If they can auction cattle by satellite and internet, why not people?  Of course there are some dangers.  What you see is not always what you get,  though there are telltale signs.  Andy Borowitz says it should set off alarm bells if she invites you to dinner and asks you to bring duct tape, large industrial garbage bags, a shovel and a chainsaw.

An acquaintance of mine has her profile on dating sites at all times.  Her luck isn't that good, having attracted a couple married guys and a stalker from whom she had to get police protection.  On the other hand, I read her profile and the words neurotic nutbar were not mentioned once.

So when my friend, we'll call him Ivan to protect the guilty, decided after 11 years of widowerhood, during which time he raised two teenage daughters to adult hood and married one of them off, that in his upcoming retirement, he should seek female companionship, where else would he turn but to a seniors' internet dating site.

Ivan writes a general letter (email) about once a year which normally makes me laugh till the tears run (down my leg) and this year was a classic.  Here is his letter and his ad (reprinted with permission):

Concerned that life might be forlorn without the social fabric offered by seasoned Delbertian professionals, I am seeking solace at a seniors dating site and guidance from  Watson, pretender to HAL, for my retirement:

In search of a woman who understands me:

As stable as gyp rock, with the resiliency of quality underlay, and the durability of a matt finish (contemporary palette), this flaneur extols the practicality of sensible shoes. Now in the 10th anniversary of his 50th year, he enjoys the crooning of Glenn Gould (with piano accompaniment), theatre or verse in iambic pentameter, and the company of the distaff population. With a sophistication rivaled only by the Canterbury Tales, he can be found with his peers developing talking points in preparation for a fleeting moment of Andy Warhol fame.  To be soon retired, he has enrolled, once again, in the cavern of deep thought to encounter the world on a new level. Apprehensions, concerns, and suspicions of subscribers to this fine resource of eligible seniors may be resolved at arm's length or in person.

Dear "It's all about me"
I, too, am younger than I appear and am none the worse for wear. With a long career at StatsCan behind her, this graduate of the dismal science, also, has a penchant for some different. A flower child of means, yet average in all respects, begins classes in September. What are you taking?
             Attractive at any age

A glossary for those who ain't me
1. Watson - IBM's premier AI computer is the reigning and undisputed World Champion of Jeopardy (Jan 2011) and owes its success to the cognitive technology and analytical processing which supports its extraordinary capacity to comprehend and communicate with natural language.
2. HAL - HAL 9000, a computer in the movie, 2001 - A Space Odyssey (still advanced by today's standards) 
3. flaneur - an idler, lounger, or loafer; in literature: a casual witness to life whose thoughts and conclusions may contain truths and/or inaccuracies.
4. Glenn Gould - World recognized Canadian concert pianist (deceased) who gave up public performances in favour of studio recordings, in the belief that he would have greater artistic control and to ensure that the sound would be as close to perfection as possible. However, no matter what the sound engineers did, they could not get rid of his humming, moaning, and singing that is present in all of Gould's studio recordings.
5. theatre or verse in iambic pentameter - Shakespearian stuff 
6. distaff - a staff for holding the flax, tow, or wool in spinning; symbolic of women's work, and then by extension, women.
7. Canterbury Tales - stories by commoners for commoners; stories that stoop to entertain.
8. Andy Warhol -  said "in the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes"
9. dismal science - economics

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mao's Great Famine - a book review

Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962 by Frank Dikötter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Using access to recently opened provincial and county archives, the author is able to paint a picture of China's decent into madness known as the Great Leap Forward. He weaves together individual stories with events and statistics from the village, commune, county and provincial level. One is not overwhelmed by numbers but by horror.

The new data allowed estimates of the death toll to be revised upwards to 45 million people, 50% higher than previously thought. People died of beatings, torture, live burials, disease, exposure and in the tens of millions by over work and starvation.

The country became "governed by slogans" promulgated by Chairman Mao and any dissent was swiftly punished. Disagreement with method or statement of negative results, anything other than fawning compliance was deemed 'rightist conservative". From the highest level down, Party members were bullied and the people brutalized to force production. There was no "central planning" other than setting impossible production targets and preventing individual initiative

Every activity propagandized as producing a cornucopia leading to the Utopian of "Communism" produced the exact opposite. In turning the countryside into huge communes, people were stripped of all personal belongings including household utensils and even clothing. Not only did production fall precipitously but in order to save face, cadres would announce harvests of double the earlier projections. Consequently requisitions both to feed to cities and for export to repay debts for manufacturing equipment purchases, left no food for the peasants.

In 1958 the push to make steel in backyard furnaces stripped the country of anything that could be melted including pots and pans and even needles and well as denuding the hills and mountains of all trees to feed the fires. The result was a huge decrease in steel production and tonnes of useless pig iron. In 1959 the big project was "water conservancy" to irrigate everything. Dams were built, canals and ditches dug by millions of conscripted workers often to the detriment of planting and harvest. Progress was measured in cubic meters of earth moved and the area of irrigated land fell by half, dams collapsed and rivers silted up.

Finally official investigations into the actual situation were begun in 1961 and a few dared to report the truth. However great care had to be taken to protect Chairman Mao from any and all criticism as he was all knowing and the only source of truth in all China. But he got the message and was furious. The seeds of the Cultural Revolution which followed soon after were sown in the Great Leap Forward as Mao used the Red Guards to destroy all who had opposed him in the Great Leap Forward.

View all my reviews

Ukraine: Inside the Deadlock

This article is an excellent summary of the situation as it stands today.

Ukraine: Inside the Deadlock

This article gives a description of Russian alternate universe, which is unfortunately subscribed to by leftist in the West who claim to be anti-Imperialistic but in fact are simply anti-American.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Dad, you're not funny

For those of you who don't know, a 'dad joke' is a 'lame, embarrassing or unfunny joke told by someone's father'.

Collections of them regularly show up on Facebook; in fact I shared one from Buzzfeed the other day.  

  • Forrest Gump's password? 1forrest1
  • Judge to woman accused of assaulting her husband with a guitar, "First offender?" "No, first a Gibson, then a Fender".

Our neighbour's little girl was in the hospital some years back and we were up visiting her when her dad walked in.  First thing he asked her was if she had heard of the agnostic dyslexic insomniac who laid awake nights wondering if there really was a dog. 

It may be hereditary.  My father told them.  In fact I passed one of his on to my nephew the other day (You're welcome, Andrew) about the little boy who ran through the screen door and strained himself.  

My grandfather told them*: at the beginning of a large meal, "Have you ever seen such a bun dance before?", or "There was a little dog named August who was kicked by a horse..and it was the first of September".

Of course, I would never tell such jokes, myself, though apparently my children think otherwise.  On her first trip to England,  my youngest  bought me this book. Maybe she was trying to tell me something?

* courtesy my cousin, David, who is no slouch at this game himself.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Life in the Cat House

It is an ugly day outside; there is no other word to describe it. Yesterday was only marginally better. In spite of four dental fillings in the morning, when two boxes arrived from Interflora, Tanya, with help from Sveta, had to get them in the ground.  One box of rose bushes and one of bulbs.  By the time they got them planted, along with a bucket of onions and several rows of peas, it was 6:000 pm and starting to rain hard.

Rained hard all night; it's a muddy world out there
At 1:00 am Bonya started meowing to go outside.  When that didn't work the three cats started tearing the house apart.  I opened the door and they leaped out into the cold, wind, and rain.  I tripled locked the outside door and double locked the inside door.  Get me out of a warm bed!

At 7:00 am Tanya let them in.  Bonya and Tigritsa were dry and immediately jumped on the bed and went to sleep. Vovo came home several minutes later soaking wet and Tanya had to towel him off. He was all warped out of shape, followed her around like a pup then got a noisy toy and beat it to death which got Tigritsa into the act.  They finally all settled down and slept the rest of the day.

Making the bed can wait

Tulips and such are growing but slowly.  Note our 'new' fence from our old roofing sheeting

Not Victoria but not Regina, either

Waiting for warm weather
Three storks wading in the swamp, wishing there were frogs

Library Cat hides from the world in her books
Pictures from Tanya

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Ukraine - Russia Update

This post will be about as cheerful as Demeur's weekly offering.  It has been a couple weeks since I did an update on the situation here. In a way it is the same old same old but there are always things to read, like 20 to 40 articles per day on the web.  I figure anyone desperate for that level of detail will already have taken advantage of the links provided in my posts and be reading their own.  There are however a few things going on.

Proroshenko fired Kolomoisky as Governor of Dnepropetrovsk.  Next to Akhmetov, I would guess Kolomoisky is the richest most powerful oligarch in Ukraine.  He has been a strong force against Russian sponsored separatism and actually finances a volunteer battalion.  But he got greedy and tried to keep control of two publicly owned energy companies, using his own militia to take over their head offices.  That did not go down well.  He is not trusted by many people at best but Ukraine down't need in-fighting along with Russian invasions.

The so called Minsk II cease fire has been honoured as much as Minsk I, which is to say, not at all by the Russian backed forces in DNR and LNR.  Ukrainian positions have come under fire every day almost and the village between the front line and Mariupol is under constant attack.

Russians love anniversaries.  Anna Politkovskaya was murdered on Putin's birthday.  Stalin insisted Kyiv be retaken by the October anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and wasted the lives of 10's of thousands of soldiers trying to achieve it.  May 9th is the 709th anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War (NOTE: Russia does not recognize WWII from Sept 39 to May 8, 45 since they were allied with Germany during the first part of the war but rather June 41 to May 9 45).  Consequently  folks who are supposed to know are predicting a major Russian thrust to take Mariupol by that date.  Certainly, there has been ample preparation for it to happen.

Of course we still get the greatly concerned but no arms stuff from EU and USA. Stay tuned.

Now I am going to provide a few links.  If you read nothing more than the first one, you will understand my statement about cheerfulness:

Thomas Theiner has written a number of posts recently about the coming war with Russia.  This one, Gotland – the Danzig of our time scares the bejabers out of me.  Cheryl Rofer at the Nuclear Diner disagrees with the premise of the article and I hope she is right. Another couple of of his articles is this one Peace is over and this one Harsh realities and Western betrayals to come.

Analyst: Recent sharp rise in Russian military spending shows Putin preparing for bigger war

One Professional Russian Troll Tells All   

Wesley Clark: Putin Plans Spring Offensive in Ukraine

and a couple of freebies: 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Computer Games

Monday noon, I had a Skype conference with a long time client and agreed to do a project. Murphy went into overdrive.  That afternoon internet speed went from 60 to 0 in five seconds.  Wet weather affects the reception of my dial up wireless modem.  Next day it was back up to snuff, then the real problems started.

I switched from Office 2003 to Office 365 (2013) last April.  I am beginning to like it as it does more things than the old program but is less handy to use, I find still.  When your client is in a foreign country, even when correspondence and reports are in English, there are lots of foreign words and the custom dictionary is absolutely critical, else your paper is covered with red lines indicating "misspelled words".  My custom dictionary was not working.  Went on line to find out why.  Not logged in to Office 365.  I was logged in last time I checked.  I am logged in on My Account page on-line but this is not sufficient.

I cannot log in.  Click NEXT and nothing.  At 1:30 I end up on chat with an MS Office support tech.  In Indonesia.  MS has a great program to allow remote messing with your computer.  This guy seems pretty competent, does all the right stuff, even takes my mobile number just in case.  Downloaded Office 365 about three times.  The last GB cost me $5 as it was over my daily limit.  Then at 4:30 he wants to reboot to make sure everything is installed.  He does a limited reboot and of course disappears. I could not reconnect my internet so I could not get at the MS tech and he did not bother phoning to see where I went.

I tried a normal reboot which took time to figure out how and everything crashed.  Error message said install Windows rescue CD.  I actually had one, believe it or not.  Must have been an accident.  An hour later I had figured out how to boot from the CD and was back to normal.  Still could not connect to the internet.  Error message 741.  Your computer is not equipped to handle the encryption. Neither am I.

Next day (today) I went to Mir Computer where I got the modem. Took my laptop, forgot the modem, had to take a taxi home and back. Everything on my computer is in English.  The poor girl at the internet desk was totally baffled.  She checked to make sure the modem was working which it was. I went home.  Tanya called her IT guy, a young man named Andrei who must be all of 20, but is awesome in computer including English language stuff. He came at 6:30 after work.

In 15 minutes I am up and running - Andrei simply rebuilt the connection from scratch.  I think I can do that next time. By 7:30 I had a connection to MS Office Tech Support and a nice young lady with a sweet smile named Kate took over from yesterday's dweeb.  She did all the same stuff except download Office three times and is totally baffled.  We simply cannot log into Office. She gave up at 9:30 pm. I am being booted upstairs to a second level tech tomorrow.

Last night, Tanya's son, Andrei, phoned his mother and said "What are you doing?"  She said "I am downstairs watching the movie, Dostoevsky's 'The Idiot' on TV.  Upstairs I have another idiot."