Monday, December 24, 2012

HOW THE ANGEL GOT ON TOP OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE

With many thanks to Baxter Black for my favourite Christmas story ever.  This fairy tale answers that age old question, “How did the angel get on top of the Christmas tree?"


Santy wuz lyin’ there in front of the fireplace, laid out in his Lazy Boy with his feet up. Suddenly he looked up and glanced at his watch.  It was ‘leven thirty.  It wuz Christmas Eve and he had to be outta there by twelve or he wouldn't get all the toys delivered on time.

He jumped up and run to the back room. He tore through the closet lookin’ for his red suit. He shook the moth balls outta the sleeve and slipped into the britches. He heard a great big RIP. He backed up to the mirror and he had tore the seat right out of them britches.  He glanced at his watch and it was 25 to twelve. So he skinned off the britches and run 'em down to the little tailor elves and said, "Boys, sew this back up!" And they did.

Santy come in and throwed on his coat and hunted around in the closet fer his boots. He couldn't find ‘em 'n holler’d, "Maw! Where's my boots at?" She said. "They're out on the back porch where you left ‘em when ya came in last Christmas.  An' shurnuff, he run out on the back porch they’d built on the trailer house ‘n’ there they were. He’d pulled ‘em off wet last year and they’d dried and curled up. He stuffed his feet down in ‘em an’ dadgum, if the heel didn't fall of the left boot.  Santy glanced at his watch and it were 20 to twelve.  He ripped them boots off and took 'em down to the little cobbler elves and said. "Boys, hammer this back on!" And they did.

Santy slipped on his boots and run into the house, grabbed his coat and took out across the yard to hook up the sleigh. The yard light had burnt out and somebody'd left the fresno parked in the driveway.  He hit that sucker at a high lope an' went head over heels an’ lit with a great big war whoop, spooked the reindeer an’ they went over the top rail into the beet tops! Santy glanced at his watch an' it wuz a quarter 'til twelve!

The little cowboy elves saddled up and brought the reindeer into the barn, put 'em in the hitch and hooked 'em up to the sleigh. Santy jumped up in the buckboard seat, cracked the whip ‘n’ the reindeer took off and Santy just sat there! The tugs had broke on the harness! Santy glanced at his watch. It was 10 till twelve.

Santy said "Boys, gather up them reindeer and I'll fix the harness." Then he hooked the team back up leaped in the sleigh and slid on down in front of the house.  Just as they pulled up to the house, one of the runners fell off the sleigh.  Santy looked at his watch. It was 5 till twelve

They welded the runner back on and Santy run in the house. He grabbed that big bag o' toys, slung ‘em over shoulder…Yup, you guessed it. The bottom fell out of that bag and toys went everywhere!

Santy wuz down on his hands and knees, scramblin’ around stuffin’ them toys in a Safeway bag when a little angel come flyin' in the door with a Christmas tree over his shoulder.

He said "Santy. Where do you want me to put this tree?"


Merry Christmas to all my readers.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Winter Day Market

This morning the sun was shining brightly; not a could; not a whisper of wind.  It was -19C (-2F) but quickly warmed up to -15.  The soft white snow covered a multitude of sins and crunched underfoot.  A perfect day.  So Tanya and I went to the market which is held every Sunday morning from 7 to noon.  She bought a sweater and gloves for Masha and a turkey for Christmas (mine), a goose  for New Years and an old duck to add to kholodets.

Kholodets is like headcheese in that one boils whatever until the meat falls off the bones, adds gelatin to the juice and lets it set.  It is eaten with hot mustard and is a major holiday treat at our house.  Since the main ingredient is two ox-tails, I suppose you could call it tail cheese but it doesn't sound like a big seller.

Lina is home sick with a terrible cold.  There is no heat at her office and if she brought an electric heater she would have to pay for it herself which would not be easy since she hasn't been paid for two months, we learned today.  The funeral and headstone business is pretty dead in the winter other than ceremonies.  Instead of telling some people they were laid off until spring, the owner just stopped paying every one.

The roads were plowed and sanded in town and behold! We have another stop light at a bad corner.  Not sure what is going on here.  But something strange is in the works.  Bank machines are always short of cash.  People are pulling everything out that they can. Rumours abound of something terrible happening in the new year regarding banks and currency.  Word on the street is that some government employees have not been paid for a couple months in some oblasts.  The PM and entire cabinet resigned just prior to a meeting with the IMF and I have been too lazy to track down why and who replaced them.

Today was our 6th anniversary so we threw a chicken in the oven and Andrei, Tanya and Masha came for supper. Tanya is 20+ weeks and starting to show. She goes for another thorough check up on Dec 25th.  Over 35 and almost 10 years since the last one, means the health system here gives her special treatment.

Andrei and his mother do not always see eye-to eye, so to speak.  He and I get on well, as we have a common enemy.  When they were going home tonight I said to him "Thank you for your mother".  His reply just cracked us all up. "Na zdorovia"  which means "To your health" and the tone was "You are welcome to her".

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Anonymous has become annoying

I have made some changes to the comments section to deter Anonymous.  I didn't realize that word verification was turned off.  I also set it so that you can only comment if you are registered.  Whatever that means.

If anyone has problems writing comments to my blog posts.  Let me know by email if all else fails.

My apologies to those who have been plagued by anonymous comments to my blog, though I do not understand how that works.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wish I'd Said That!

"You will, Oscar, you will". ~ James McNeil Whistler

When the white missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land. ~ Desmond Tutu


America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real, but the moon landing was faked. ~ David Letterman

After the game, the King and the pawn go into the same box. ~ Italian proverb

Men are like linoleum floors. Lay 'em right and you can walk all over them for thirty years. ~ Betsy Salkind

The only reason that they say, 'Women and children first' is to test the strength of the lifeboats. ~ Jean Kerr

When a man opens a car door for his wife, it's either a new car or a new wife. ~ Prince Philip

A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kickboxing. ~ Emo Philips.

Wood burns faster when you have to cut and chop it yourself. ~ Harrison Ford

The best cure for sea sickness is to sit under a tree. ~ Spike Milligan

Lawyers believe that a man is innocent until proven broke. ~ Robin Hall

Kill one man and you're a murderer, kill a million and you're a conqueror. ~ Jean Rostand.

Having more money doesn't make you happier. I have 50 million dollars but I'm just as happy as when I had 48 million. ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger.

If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead. ~ Johnny Carson

Home cooking. Where many a man thinks his wife is. ~ Jimmy Durante

As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind - every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder. ~ John Glenn

America is so advanced that even the chairs are electric. ~ Doug Hamwell

If God had intended us to fly, he would have made it easier to get to the airport. ~ Jonathan Winters

I have kleptomania, but when it gets bad, I take something for it. ~ Robert Benchley

Monday, December 17, 2012

Zhovti Vody in better times

Zhovti Vody (Ukrainian) or Zholti Vody (Russian) in better times before the disintegration of the USSR, was a thriving city of about 80,000.  It had several uranium mines and possibly other ores too but am not sure and two large factories making electronics for the Soviet military. As such, it was a closed city in that you could not come here without clearance, if even then.  I don't know how that works but I know that Russia still uses the closed city system.

These pictures are from the website Odnoclassniki, sort of  a Facebook for pictures and messaging.  Tanya has found many of her old school chums and we have looked at pictures from all over Russia.

No idea where this fountain went

Memorial to the Great Patriotic War

Petrovskovo St before the trees grew



The Zhovti Vody bus depot

The theatre before the trees grew

Everyone headed for the football game. Local team was the Avant Garde. Shashlik and bliney took the place of hot dogs and hamburgers





The movie theatre in the days when it showed movies.



The main of three hospitals

Khmelnitskovo Blvd before they put up Bogdan's statue

The far end of Khmelnitskovo blvd.

Leaving Zhovti Vody for Krivii Rih (Ukrainian) Krivoi Rog (Russian). 
Note: I corrected the mix-up of names from the original post as I had the Ukrainian Zhovti as Russian and the Russian Zholti as Ukrainian.





Thursday, December 13, 2012

Where have you been?

The answer to that, from Wayne and Shuster's "Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde" was "I've been a broad".  I think they wrote the entire skit around that line.

I have been crunching numbers by the thousands, reorganizing them sixteen ways to breakfast and drawing nice pictures to see if any of them will tell me anything. when you have, just as one section, one country, one state, six counties and 43 vegetables, over 11 years, price and production, you can see how the numbers add or rather multiply.  And there are four or five sections. I am slowly getting close to a first draft, at least.

By the time night came I was too tired to blog or read blogs or think about blogs. So tired I was making stupid mistakes like copying one year's set of data into another year or one crop's data into another crop.  Stuff like that is catch-able and easily fixed but it takes time.

My computer had been acting up for some time and I was sure I had a virus but Kaspersky couldn't find it. When your msconfig file is missing, that is a sure sign something is rotten  in the state of Dellmark. Checked the internet and found SUPERAnti-SpyWare highly recommended.  So I tried it.  Found one serious something and things are running a bit better. When I have time, I will explore further.

Snowed yesterday.  And well it should have, since much of Europe was pretty much shut down and Kyiv got 70 cm.  We got 4 cm of wet snow only and then +1C temps, enough to melt and make everything either slushy or icy depending on where the salt trucks had been.  We have two shiny new sanding and snowplow trucks in our fair city.  AND a new real garbage truck on our route; no more tractor and wagon or old beater 3 ton.  Things are looking up.

We were late getting our garbage to the curb on Tuesday and had a fair bit as we had cleaned out the attic.  Tanya called the driver who turned around and came back for us.  That kind of service you don't get in North America, I bet. Cost us a whole dollar tip.

Went to town for groceries today.  Hadn't been for three days.  Timing was awesome.  Bread, donuts and such were warm from the oven/deep fryer.  Cheaper to buy food from the deli than go to a restaurant. Same benefit - no cooking and no dishes.

I will catch up on my blog reading as I miss my regulars, but it will be a few more days.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Playing with words.

A friend sent me this.  Said she didn't want credit unless it was a line of credit.  They have been around before but just in case you missed them, here they are again. (Sort of BOHICA). Washington Post is supposedly the source but who knows after five or ten years.

Take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.


  1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus : A person who's both stupid and an asshole.
3. Intaxicaton : Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
7. Giraffiti : Vandalism spray-painted very, very high
8. Sarchasm : The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte : To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis : A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon : It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido : All talk and no action.
14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

Alternate meanings for common words.

1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.
6. Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. Lymph, v.. To walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent, n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Brown Bear in the Bar in Brock

My late Uncle Vince was a master story teller and the Shaggy Dog story was his forte.  For the uninitiated, a Shaggy Dog story, as I know it, is a long, usually boring windup with a very bad pun as a fast breaking punch line.  They usually need to be told, not read.  Uncle Vince's  stories were so long you wanted to shoot him to finish them and the punch lines so bad, you wished you had shot him.  This particular story, much abridged, was one of his.

A brown bear walked into the bar in Brock and ordered a beer. The bartender said "No, sorry.  We don't serve beer to brown bears here in the bar in Brock".

The next several minutes of story can be inserted as you wish, but no matter how hard the brown bear pleads his case, the answer is always the same. "No, sorry.  We don't serve beer to brown bears here in the bar in Brock".

Finally the brown bears snaps.  He has had it. "You see that woman sitting at the end of the bar? If you don't give me a beer, I will devour her!"  The bartender says, "No, sorry.  We don't serve beer to brown bears here in the bar in Brock".

The brown bear roars at the woman, kills her with a blow from his paw and proceeds to munch her down.  He comes back to the bartender and says "NOW, GIVE ME A BEER".   The bartender says, "No, sorry.  We don't serve beer to brown bears here in the bar in Brock and we definitely don't serve drug addicts".


"Drug addict?  What are you talking about?", says the brown bear.
"That was the barbituate".


Monday, December 3, 2012

Stars of the 21st Century

This weekend, an adjudicated multi-city dance festival was held in Zhovti Vody at the Theatre.  There were dance teams ages from 5 to about 17 years from nine cities.  Tanya and I went Sunday from 10:00 to 1:00. We saw at least 30 dance routines in that time and these kids were amazing.  The work that had gone into training, choreography and costumes left us in awe of the teachers and students.

One of the good things to carry over from the Soviet Union is the availability in small cities of professional quality dance and voice instructors.  In Soviet times attention was paid to culture.  There were culture halls in every town and village where kids went to learn performance arts and good instructors for each.

Of the dances we saw, there were traditional dances with traditional costumes; modern dances with modern costumes and fun dances with fun costumes.  Our favourite was about 20 five-year-olds in zebra costumes with a teen age clown and a teen age ring master.

Some performances had four different age groups in four different costume sets doing four different routines all intertwined at high speed.  Fifty kids dancing their hearts out and no collisions. First time I had ever been to such an event and it was interesting for me to see how the difficulty of the movements and of the choreography were adjusted to the ages and abilities of the kids.

Masha had a solo dance - a Turkish belly dance - and was judged best in her age group (she is 9).  Tanya and I had seen a professional at one of the Turkish nights at our hotel when we were on holidays.  Masha had the basic moves down cold.  She had one year of physiotherapy between ages 1 and 2 before she could even walk, so watching her dance is pretty special.  She still doesn't have all the flexibility in her one leg that other kids may have but it doesn't slow her down.  And her dance routine certainly showed the rest of her was flexible. She even made the local paper.

Tanya took her camera which ran out of battery about 45 minutes in so we didn't get many pictures.  Shooting in a large hall with a small camera is a problem any time. The picture of Masha is professionally done and her mother paid for it.






Sunday, December 2, 2012

Zhovti Vody - some pictures

Someone posted some great pictures of Zhovti Vody on Odnoklassniki, the Russian version of Facebook which is much more user friendly and superb for pictures.  http://www.odnoklassniki.ru .  If you can translate the web pages (I use Google Chrome so it is easy), you can likely sign up and surf pictures of people and places to your hearts content.  Tanya has used it to find many of the people she went to school with or to spend all day looking at other people's flower gardens.

Anyhow, here are a few pictures of our town.


This is looking east-northeast (NOTHING is square with the world) down Petrovskovo Blvd.  The new electronics and appliance store (Comfy) and grocery supermarket (Velika Kshenia  - Big Spoon in Ukrainian) are to the right.  To the right of them are apartment blocks and in the distance are three 16 story apartment blocks.

This is looking in the exact opposite direction from high over the town square.  the building is the Theatre.  This weekend there was a two day children's dance festival with hundreds of students from several cities.  We went today for three hours and I will blog about that when I get the pictures looked at. The yellow buildings are older apartments.

Theatre at Night


This is the opposite side of the square from the Theatre.  the building with the arches was a movie theatre in Soviet days but has fallen on hard times.  The yellow buildings are apartments.


Bogdan Khmelnitsky is the local hero.  In 1648 he and his Cossacks freed Ukraine from Polish rule at the Battle of Yellow River about 35 km from here.  Of course in 1653 he had to sign over to the Russians to keep the Poles from making a comeback.

Bogdan's statue has been different colours over the years so some wag made a composite
Bogdan's statue in the park on a foggy evening

Economics University
Commemorating the beginning of Uranium mining in the city
One of many bus stops
Russian Orthodox Church 
There are literally thousands of trees in the city.
Tree planting was a priority in industrial towns and cities
Our newest restaurant.  Not bad food.  Pricey, though.
One of many parks
Railway bridge over the Yellow River (I think)

Soccer pitch is well used.

The realities of life in the Soviet style apartment buildings.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sandbox Training the Cat.

Andrei was here Thursday afternoon and using our electric chainsaw, helped Tanya cut down a dead apple tree and trim up a number of others.  I worked on my report so I could ship a chunk of it out Friday.  I have used chainsaws but they terrify me.  Along with pressure cookers and deep fat fryers.  When you make Clumsy Carp seem like Rudolph Nureyev, you should avoid things that have potential to wreak grievous harm to yourself and others.

Friday morning I helped Tanya clean up all the branches and haul them to a burning pile over on the abandoned lot because it was threatening rain and could have turned to winter before it dried out enough.  The burning pile will still wait for spring as most of it is too damp.  There was a barrel of garbage in the dogs' yard that hadn't been burned in two years.  Mostly dog hair and food bags but likely other stuff too.  I didn't tell Tanya but dumped some BBQ starter on it and lit it just before I went in the house.

It caught and burned as I could see smoke drifting by our north window.  In a couple hours the sky cleared up and the day brightened.  We were both upstairs on our computers when we heard this awful "BOOM".  I said it must be thunder.  Guess there was something in the barrel I didn't know about.  Good thing the dogs were gone.

I had let them out in the morning for a run and they disappeared until this morning.  They were happy to come home and were so tired they could hardly wag their tails.  They are still young enough to stay out all night.  

And such a nice night it was.  The temperature had gone up to +15C (60F) Thursday night and the wind howled all night.  Friday and Friday night it stayed +15C which broke a more than 100 year record in Ukraine.  There are actually lilacs blooming in southeastern Ukraine near the Azov Sea. Crazy weather.

So the flower garden is all ready for winter, if it ever comes.  Earlier in the week we banked loose soil around the bases of the rose bushes and raked most of the leaves and dead flowers off.  I was allowed to help though I almost wrecked it and cut off one of the small stems of a clematis.  Normal for me.

Kuchma is getting old so we will try to keep him in the house most of the winter instead of booting him out at night.  Which means we have to train a 12 year old cat to use a litter box.  I locked him in the passageway between the house and outbuilding with the litter box.  It worked.  He used it.  And didn't use one of Tanya's boxes of dirt covered bulbs and roots.

So I tried it again some time later. He used it again; but only half in the box and half over the edge on the floor.  This presented him with a problem as to covering it so he dragged a floor rag to cover his deposit in box and on floor.  Not very accurate but can't fault him for neatness.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Battle of Berezina

Two hundred years ago, from November 25th through to 29th, the final battle of Napoleon's 1812 Russian Campaign occurred at the crossing of the Berezina River.

The French army was in full retreat from Moscow, forced to retrace the same route as they had traveled in the summer. With no foraging possible for man or beast, horses and humans were dying as they marched. The cavalry was virtually afoot and hundreds of supply wagons were abandoned.  (It was not the bitter Russian winter that did them in, it was starvation.  Severe winter never came to Russia until after the French were in Poland).

The Berezina River was the last major crossing before the safety of the  Polish border.  Roughly 40,000 French soldiers and 40,000 civilian followers or non-combatants arrived at the river November 25th.  They planned on crossing on the ice and Napoleon had ordered all bridge construction materials destroyed a few days previously.  However, unseasonable warmth meant the river was thawed and impassable. The only bridge at Borisov had been blown by the Russians.

The Russian army had 34,000 men under Chichagov on the west bank of the Berezina while Wittgenstein was approaching from the north with 30,000.  Kutuzov was following about 40 km behind with another 54,000 soldiers.  The plan was to trap and destroy the French army and capture Napoleon.

From Wikipedia 
Napoleon sent Odinot south on the 25th with enough soldiers to draw Chichagov's force , believing the French intended to escape to the south.  It worked.  In the meantime, as not all bridge materials had been destroyed, the engineers set to work building two 100 meter bridges across the icy water at a ford near Studenka, further north.  By the 26th, the bridges were complete and enough French forces and cannon across to hold the bridgehead when Chichagov realized he had been had.

Victor was left behind to fight rear guard against Wittgenstein's army and on the night of the 29th, the last survivors made their way across the bridges.  Those non-combatants who had not managed to cross were left behind to the tender mercies of the Cossacks. Estimates of French and Russian losses vary widely but French losses ranged from 15,000 to 25,000 combatants and 10,000 to 20,000 civilian non-combatants.

From Wikipedia
Napoleon had been campaigning on two fronts in 1812 and loosing both (Wellington's army and Spanish guerrillas were chasing the Grande Armee all over Spain).  Plots were hatching to dump Napoleon who had to leave the remnants of his army at Berezina and hurry home to save his throne.

The Battle of Berezina was a strategic success for Napoleon as he escaped and his troops were not completely annihilated, leaving sufficient to rebuild his army the following year. The Russians failed to stop him because they really were not that committed to doing so, while the French were fighting for their lives.

Kutuzov, who did not arrive in time, never had any intent whatsoever to do so.  If he had had his way, not a single Russian soldier would have lost his life fighting Napoleon. Kutuzov realized that Napoleon was beaten as soon as he crossed into Russia, that distance and weather would do the army's work for them.  His objective was simply to clear the last French soldier out of Russia and they were going.

Russia's failure to stop Napoleon at Berezina resulted in two more years of war plus the "100 days" in 1815 before Napoleon was finally finished. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Upper Crust; Lower Crust

Tanya was bored because it is too miserable to work outside and finish off her garden for the winter by putting dirt around the roots of her rose bushes.  She is already perusing the gardening websites on the internet.  So she phoned Lina to meet her and I drove her into Zhovti Vody to go shopping.

The two of them wandered from store to store for a couple or three hours.  Lina needed new winter boots so it gave them something definite to look for.

I went home and continued turning numbers into pictures.  I have about 30 pages of charts and tables and other information for my report but can't get a story line clear in my head to write it up which is frustrating.

On my way home from town, I stopped to buy bread.  It was still warm from the bakery oven and is home-made just like "mother used to make".  Not really.  My mother made wonderful brown bread from home ground whole wheat flour.  I wouldn't say the loaves were heavy but you could fire one through the side of a wooden ship with a small cannon.

Tanya loves the bread crust.  If I buy two loaves of bread it is not unusual for find the ends missing from both loaves if she has made herself some lunch.  And sometimes not only the ends are missing but the top, sides and bottom too.  I get to eat the middle of the loaf.  Tanya says she does this out of thoughtfulness for me because I am old and have not good teeth.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Maps (pant, pant, pant) Maps

As a follow up to yesterday's post about Red, Blue and fatal car accidents, I bring you this lovely set of maps.  Maps are wonderful.  Making pictures from numbers to turn data into information is wonderful.  Using maps to show pictures made from numbers to turn data into information is almost orgasmic.

Nan, from All the Good Names Were Taken, linked to this map in a post she did after the election.  You can find it HERE much larger than this.

The top middle map is the Red and Blue States from the 2012 Election.  The other two maps are by counties (I think.  Help me, please, Nan).  The big map at the bottom breaks the voting down by counties but is shaded according to population density (people per square mile, not level of stupidity).

However the BEST location to find pictures that tell stories is at Russian Sphinx. This lady makes the most awesome charts, maps, graphs and tables.  Browse around her website and see if you don't agree. The post I have linked to is a comparison of handbag prices in USA and Moscow.  Moscow where conspicuous consumption is a way of life when you have that much money.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Politics and Fatal Car Accidents???

This table is from and AlterNet article found here.  Any explanation?  Commenters suggest rural-urban divide.  One thing sure, Wyoming is not a good place to drive.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Anna Karenina


Anna Karenina Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Who am I to pan the "Greatest novel ever written"? However, Tolstoy should have prefaced it as Mark Twain did Huckleberry Finn, "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. By Order of the Author".

My motives for reading it were to learn more of the culture of my adopted countrymen. Culture is like an iceberg; most of it is under the surface and unseen. As I read the Russian greats of the 19th century, Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, I began to realize that much of the characteristics I see in the people around me were there long before Communism. In fact, Communism as practiced in the Soviet Union was really Socialism with Russian Characteristics.

Novels are a great way to explore the culture of a people as the author must understand it enough to paint realistic scenarios for his protagonists without appearing to do so. As well the issues of the day are well hashed over in the soliloquies of the mind of various characters.  Anna Karenina, written as a contemporary novel, is filled with insights into the character of the Russian nobility, the 1.5% as it were, in and around 1870.

 I was 2/3 of the way through the book before I took any interest in the characters and then mostly Levin and Katya. (My Maude translation calls her Kitty. Good God.) I especially found fascinating Levin's struggles to manage his estate, to motivate the relatively recently freed serfs to adapt new technology and his attempts to incorporate an understanding of their psychology into his management. In my observation, 140 years later the problem is still ongoing.

As to Anna and Vronsky, there is likely enough there to make a two hour movie (he wrote facetiously). The comedy is that if they had simply had an affair, instead of falling deeply in love, there would have been no problem as it was done all the time by the nobility. (They had nothing else to do, really). The tragedy is that her mental condition at the end which drove her to suicide is easily recognizable and treatable today. She was not the first and certainly not the last to be driven to suicide by obsessing on something imaginary which she could then not let go of.

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