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.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 19, 2012

ABC: I do not Excel at this.

For the past three weeks (well, two since I really got at it) I have been working on a consulting project, updating a report I wrote 10 years ago.  It concerns the agricultural situation in a country, narrowed down to one specific province and  a couple of counties.  What has changed in the past ten years and why and what are the implications for the future?

In one sense it is much easier, with Google.  Also the country has an excellent free statistics site with massive amounts of data that can be queried 16 ways to breakfast.  I have an in-country contact to help me find stuff I can't Google.  Google Translate does a fair enough job for my needs.  What could be simpler?

Did you know that European and North American numbering formats are different?  Exact opposites in fact?  I knew that but was not prepoared for how much fun it was going to cause.  My computer is set to NA default.  Thousands are separated by commas, decimals by periods.  ALL the data I am downloading is European, with thousands separated by periods and decimals delineated by commas. Guess what my computer thinks?

I was not going to change the default on my computer as I have no idea how much problems that will cause with the millions of spreadsheets I have on file.  I tried changing it for each spreadsheet.  You can do that if you are entering the numbers yourself but if you are downloading spreadsheets it doesn't work.  I Googled for help and learned a few tricks, some of which actually worked.  Using Remove (the "."/Replace (with a blank i.e. nothing) eliminates the thousands separator.  BUT if the number is 19.000 or 2.130 Excel has already lopped off the extraneous 0s so you have to do those by hand IF you catch them.

Now I have had lots of fun learning how to make new charts.  Tables of thousands of numbers are useless.  Pictures show information.  Organizing numbers to make pretty pictures is one thing.  Making Excel draw the charts I want is another.  Google to the rescue again.  I can now make two kinds of charts which are not on the Wizard. Column charts with primary and secondary Y axis.  Stacking column charts with several columns over one point on the X axis.

Be impressed, OK.

This suggests some things I need to check further

This told me nothing new and I had to make a different chart before I learned something - cows milked and milk production are NOT real data, they are formula based.  Damn.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gift Suggestions for those who have everything

Chartreuse says she has a family that is hard to buy Christmas gifts for because they have everything.  Here are some suggestions:

For the man who has everything - Penicillin
For the family who has everything - Help with the payments

If the family has small children - tools, drums or bagpipes are popular.  Or see ideas below.

Donations to charities are becoming quite common.

If the family is Republican - A donation in their name to the NAACP
If the family is Democrat - A donation in their name to the Westboro Baptist Church
If the family is Conservative - A donation in their name to Greenpeace
If the family is New Democrat - A donation in their name to the Canadian Nuclear Association

Speaking of donations to charities, long ago I made a list of excuses to replace the "I gave at the office" which is old, lame and no one believes anyway. The only one I can remember is this one: Alzheimer's Association - I forgot.

If any of my readers have other suggestions for other associations, I'd be pleased to hear from you.




Thursday, November 15, 2012

Care Packages

Tanya mailed New Year's gifts to Siberia yesterday.  Gifts for her sister, Luda, her niece and nephew, Ksenia and Slavik, her grand niece Uliana and even something for her cousin's 3 year old grandson, little Tolik.  I wanted to send Tolik a set of wrenches and screwdrivers which for him would be an even better gift than drums or bagpipes but Tanya thought not as I would never be able to go there again.  (At age two, Tolik loosened the wheels on his great grandmother's wheelchair so they fell off and dumped her..."Get up, Babushka...")

Tanya took three bags of stuff to the Post Office.  All unwrapped, as the Post Office has to inspect and approve anything that it ships in country or internationally.  They provide the packaging as part of the cost of shipping.  About $50 worth of gifts and $30 worth of postage but it was ever thus.

One year I mailed $10 worth of Turkish tea (1 kg net) to a friend on Vancouver Island.  The packaging the tea was in put me 50 grams over the 1 kg limit and it cost me $25.  If I had known I would have grabbed 100 grams of tea for my own use.  Too soon oldt und too late schmardt.

We got our own care package from Canada last night.  Meest (bridge) Corporation Inc is an awesome package delivery service from USA and Canada to the FSU.  It was started as a way for people in NA to ship care packages to relatives in Ukraine and grew from there. (That link doesn't seem to want to work in English language but Meest America Inc is in English).

There is a lady in Regina who collects boxes for Ukraine.  I am sure there would be a contact person in every community of any size with a Ukrainian diaspora. The boxes are trucked to Montreal (I think) where they are loaded in a container and shipped to Ukraine.  It takes six to eight weeks. We have made use of this many times in the past 6 years. Cost is about $2.75 per kg plus insurance and delivery.  Max weight is 30 kg and runs about $125 delivered to our door in Mar'yaniv'ka.

Tanya has gone to Krivii Rih today with Andrei and Tania so I am making chili for myself for lunch.  It is not exactly Screaming Sphincter Chili but it is hotter than she likes it and tomato sauce disagrees with her.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Vase dat you say?

We drove Masha home at 6:00 pm Sunday night. Masha and Tanya made greeting cards all Saturday evening and Sunday morning. In the afternoon they went outside and raked and burned leaves.  Kids seem to love fires.  Tanya sorted the apples we had stored in an outside shed and I hauled them into the summer kitchen where they will stay until it gets really cold.  Three laundry sized baskets will last a while.

Masha went with me to walk the dogs.  For a long while we walked hand-in-hand.  Her idea.  I guess I am a pretty good step-dedushka and it feels good.  We stopped by the river on our way home and the dogs immediately bailed in off the edge of the road and swam out and back.  That water had to be cold!  Then they chased each other through the grass and tall reeds until they dried off while Masha skipped stones in the water. Throwing rocks into water is something else that all kids seem to love.

Tanya was dead beat tired by evening.  One-on-one with a 9 year old for a day and a half can wear you out.  She was too tired to sleep so she watched movies on the internet until 4:00 am and then fell asleep upstairs so she wouldn't wake me coming to bed.

Kuchma had decided not to go prowling at 10 pm as usual.  He was sleeping on his couch blanket (dirty feet) when I went to bed and at 5:00 am, I heard him go upstairs looking for someone to let him out.  He makes more noise going up and down stairs than I do. I blindly stumbled out of bed and bumped the bureau, tipping over an ancient 75 cm red glass decorator vase.  It fell gracefully but landed hard.

When I told Tanya in the morning, she was not impressed.  Said I needed a bedroom with only a bed in it.  Reminds me of an Australia joke about a kangaroo but we won't go there.  And for someone who stubs her foot against the bed as often as she, I didn't think she had much room to talk about me but of course one does not say that.  And she didn't break any vases.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dance Band on the Titanic

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada.  The Armistice,  ending the Great War, was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  What does Dance Band on the Titanic have to do with remembering and honouring those who fought in wars past?  Listen and I expect you will figure it out.




"Dance band on the Titanic
Sing "Nearer, my God, to Thee"
The iceberg's on the starboard bow
Won't you dance with me

Mama stood cryin' at the dockside
Sayin' "Please son, don't take this trip"
I said "Mama, sweet Mama, don't you worry none"
"Even God couldn't sink this ship"

Well, the whistle blew and they turned the screws
It turned the water into foam
Destination sweet salvation
Goodbye home sweet home

I'm in the dance band on the Titanic
Sing "Nearer, my God, to Thee"
The iceberg's on the starboard bow
Won't you dance with me

There was a trombone and a saxophone
The bass and drums were cookin' up the bandstand
And I was strummin' in the middle with this dude on the fiddle
And we were three days out from land

And now the foghorn's jammed and moanin'
Hear it groanin' through the misty night
I heard the lookout shout down "There's icebergs around"
"But still everything's all right"

Oh, the dance band on the Titanic
Sing "Nearer, my God, to Thee"
The iceberg's on the starboard bow
Won't you dance with me

They were burnin' all the flares for candles
In the banquet they were throwin' in first class
And we were blowin' waltzes in the barroom
When the universe went CRASH!

"There's no way that this could happen"
I could hear the old captain curse
He ordered lifeboats away, that's when I heard the chaplain say
"Women and children and chaplains first"

Well, they soon used up all of the lifeboats
But there were a lot of us left on board
I heard the drummer sayin' "Boys, just keep playin'"
"Now we're doin' this gig for the Lord"

I heard the dance band on the Titanic
Sing "Nearer, my God, to Thee"
The iceberg's on the starboard bow
Won't you dance with me

There's a wild-eyed boy in the radio shack
He's the last remaining guest
He was tappin' in a Morse code frenzy
Tappin' "Please God, S.O.S."

Jesus Christ can walk on the water
But a music man will drown
They say that Nero fiddled while Rome burned up
Well, I was strummin' as the ship go down

I'm in the dance band on the Titanic
Sing "Nearer, my God, to Thee"
The iceberg's on the starboard bow
Won't you dance with me

Dance band on the Titanic
Sing "Nearer, my God, to Thee"
The iceberg's on the starboard bow
Won't you dance with me

Dance band on the Titanic
Sing "Nearer, my God, to Thee"
The iceberg's on the starboard bow
Won't you dance with me"

Saturday, November 10, 2012

To heir is human; to sleep, divan

Masha is here for the night, so I guess I get the couch again.  I picked her up after her English class.  She was all packed and ready, loaded with hobby stuff.  Two classes in greeting card making turned her into a pretty good little crafty-type.  I've seen some of her cards and they are quite good for a nine year old.

Babushka has caught the bug, being quite artsy in her own right.  We are going to Dnipro next week so she can go to a big craft store there and buy "stuff".  She has been twice to a small shop here in town so the two of them are now scattered knee-deep across the living room.  We had been running short of little pieces of paper but I think we will be OK now.

We'd been in town earlier in the day for groceries.  We got about three blocks from home when Tanya realized she had forgotten her wallet.  She has a lot of things to remember to keep us organized so her wallet or mobile phone or list often get missed.  I just have to remember where I left the car last.  As to the essentials, I simply cross myself (spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch) and away we go.

Velika Kshenia (Big Spoon in Ukrainian) has their Christmas  New Year's stuff out. This year we are going to look for outdoor lights.  Maybe when we are in Dnipro. We have not seen them in previous years.

There are a couple of light arrangements I would like to try but am not sure they would be appreciated.



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Some friend he turned out to be

Jenny and Dave Christensen at Dave's retirement in 2003
Dr. David A Christensen, Professor Emeritus, Animal and Poultry Science, College of Agriculture and Bioresources, University of Saskatchewan has been my professor, mentor and friend since undergraduate days.  He graduated from U of S himself 11 years before me.  If you look at the grad pictures from that year you recognize a lot of scientists.  There were no jobs in 1958 so they all went to grad school.

Dave was a dairy cattle nutritionist and I think frustrated human nutritionist as he seemed to enjoy human nutrition as much as ruminant nutrition.  He taught nutrition to the Medical Students, less than 1/4 of a semester.  You know where it says always consult your doctor before going on a diet...Dave just laughs.  (I advise consulting your veterinarian as they are far better trained in nutrition).

You can read about his career here. We got along quite well.  I think he tolerated me because I could be used as a bad academic example to warn other students.

The summer between 3rd and 4th year, I worked for him.  One of the projects was a digestibility trial featuring clover screenings.  Four x Four Latin Square design; four rations, four steers, three weeks adjustment, one week measurement; everybody change; repeat four times.  All data was written in a scribbler, hung on the wall beside the steer pen.  There was no backup.

Close to the end of the 3rd replicate, on a Sunday morning, I was late getting there to feed the steers.  Ten a.m. instead of 7 a.m.. One steer had stretched his long neck and longer tongue to reach the notebook and ate it.  Did I mention I hate Jersey steers? In panic and terror (I HAD been warned) I raced to his house.  His wife Jenny comforted me with bacon and eggs while Dave laughed at me and redesigned the trial so we wouldn't lose three months, only two.  The digestibility of ink-filled notebooks featured in successive nutrition classes over the years.

High tech analysis was a long way off and wet chemistry was the norm.  The Kjeldahl method of determining crude protein (nitrogen) involved digesting the sample in concentrated sulphuric acid, adding concentrated sodium hydroxide to neutralize the acid and boiling the mixture to drive off ammonia which was captured and measured.  If you didn't mix the acid and base carefully enough, when it started to boil it would explode.  When they closed the old building years later, I still was tied for the record of blowing up the Kjeldahl room most often.

In 4th year we had to write a thesis which was actually a glorified term paper but could involve actual research.  Mine was straight literature review.  We had all year to work on it which means I didn't start until after final exams were over and Dave put a gun to my head.  It was a month late.  He knocked me back from an A to a B for the effort he put into getting me to write it.

Yet for all this when I showed up five years later to do graduate work, he was willing to take me on as my advisor. I was just married and Ella said she would work two years to put me through before we started a family.  I think Dave figured with Ella around he wouldn't have to do all the nagging.  He was doing cereal silage work in those days, which was perfect as the crop grew in summer, you fed it in winter and did your analysis in spring.

His office was filled with tables, on and under which were stacks of paper three feet deep.  He did not need Google Desktop.  Ask him about anything and in two minutes he could locate the paper in the middle of a pile somewhere.

There was always a lineup of students waiting to get into his office.  I have no idea why unless they were masochistic but you always came out smarter than you went in.  He cross-examined like a trial lawyer and could pick holes in the best of arguments.  I apparently said once, "If you think you don't have any problems, go and see Dr. Christensen". It was quoted ever after as Hingston's Law of Graduate Studies.

At the end of two years, all the research and analysis was completed.  With a new baby and a new job, I flung my data into a box, knowing I had three more years to complete my thesis.  (You can see where this is going?)  At the beginning of the fifth year, I dug out the box and began writing.  Ella had an IBM Selectric typewriter and we went to work.  Now anyone who has ever written one of these things knows that multiple drafts are a necessary evil.  My first draft was pretty good other than it was organized according to Hingston not according to Hoyle.

About this time, my boss died of a massive heart attack and I was doing his job as well as my own and never home.  Dave and Ella revised the thesis over the phone (we were several hours from Saskatoon) as it was getting close to the April deadline.  Two more drafts and it was a done deal.  There was some mention at my oral defence that they had the wrong person in the room.  I said, "Go ahead. Ella knows this thing as well or better than I do and understands it too".

We stayed in touch over the years. Dave was always my resource for dairy nutrition since I was more into beef cattle.  We share much the same cynical sense of humour.  He has been to and worked in more countries than I have.  Last time I was in Saskatchewan I grabbed a whole afternoon to visit him. and we email back and forth usually once a month or so.

Which brings us to last night, I dreamed (no idea why) that Dave and I were teaching a nutrition class together.  I was supposed to get paid but Dave deducted for all my personality deficiencies and I had to pay him.  True story, I swear to God.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Beautiful Amazing World

Thanks to MRMacrum's comment on the last blog post, I am NOT going to give anyone my two bits about tomorrow's election in USA. Andy Borowitz does it far better and is at least funny.

No, I am going to promote one of my favourite Facebook pages Beautiful Amazing World   https://www.facebook.com/Beautiful.Amazing.World

They simply post photographs of beautiful amazing places, animals and things.  Worth being on Facebook just for this.  The page also features pictures from other pages such as https://www.facebook.com/IurieBelegurschiPhotography photography of Iceland and Greenland (two shown below)

Icelandic horses

Newfoundland

Cloud patterns in Iceland

Lynx kitten

Spain

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Forty Days

Today was 40 days since Tanya's Papa passed away.  The Orthodox church believes that the soul enters Heaven after 40 days and tradition requires certain activities of remembrance   We invited the family for lunch.  Tania was not feeling well so Andrei and Masha stayed home too.  Roman and Lina came.  Roman's cousin Svetlana was here for the weekend so there were five of us. Tanya had even found a bottle of Siberian vodka for the occasion.

It was not an easy day for Lina either as it was a little over two months ago that her mom died of congestive heart failure.  Her mom was 60.  Papa was 80.

Papa had heart trouble for several years and a series of mini-strokes left him bedridden this summer.  We were in Turkey and connected to the family by Skype.  What a great invention.  Tanya had been able to talk to and see her Papa every day on Skype from May 2011 when Luda and Valerie got a computer.

Today we connected again with the family in Siberia.  Luda had her cousin Natasha and Natasha's two girls  and grandson Tolik there for dinner.  We had not seen Natasha for several months as she had been in hospital.  Her hair was starting to grow back and other than looking a bit pale, she looked like the old Natasha - full of fire and fun.  Tanya says she is to be my next wife.  She is 10 years younger than Tanya and I do not think I could begin to keep up to her.  Viagra would be like putting a new flag pole on a condemned building.

Natasha's youngest daughter Liza is a singer and performs in the clubs in Abakan.  She was in Belyy Yar (lit. White Ravine) to perform at a concert which is how she ended up at Luda's.  We had not seen her since 2006.  A very pretty young woman.

Having Sveta visit is always fun.  She is one of those people around whom it is impossible not to smile.  Sveta is a plant breeder and works for a (French) corn-breeding company, managing lab work, test plots and such, about half way between Dnipro and Kyiv.  Her mother lives in Lozuvatka which is about an hour from here so we don't see Sveta very often.  Maybe things will slow down this winter and we will see her more often but in summer it is long days and when she gets a chance she goes home.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Election will be over soon




This little girl, I am sure, speaks for most of the American people.

Some others who have spoken out over the centuries about politics and politicians:

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. ~Aesop, Greek slave & fable author

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber. ~Plato, ancient Greek Philosopher
Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river. ~Nikita Khrushchev, Russian Soviet politician
When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I'm beginning to believe it. ~Quoted in 'Clarence Darrow for the Defense' by Irving Stone.
Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel. ~John Quinton, American actor/writer
Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other. ~Oscar Ameringer, "the Mark Twain of American Socialism."
The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. AND The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it. ~P.J. O'Rourke, American comedian and writer.
I offered my opponents a deal: "if they stop telling lies about me, I will stop telling the truth about them". ~Adlai Stevenson, campaign speech, 1952.
A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country. ~ Texas Guinan. 19th century American businessman
I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians. ~Charles de Gaulle, French general & politician
Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks. ~Doug Larson (English middle-distance runner who won gold medals at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris , 1902-1981)
The problem with political jokes is they get elected. ~ Variously attributed to Will Rogers and George Bernard Shaw

Remembering the Farm - Reading opens every door.

Author Lynda Beck Fenwick (blog HERE, Facebook page HERE) has written several blog posts and Facebook comments about the importance of education in both homesteading times and today.  She emphasizes the role of literacy and accompanying love of books in formal education and in continuing one's education throughout one's life.

That got me thinking about reading and books in my own life and the lives of my children.  Before I started school, I drove my mother crazy with questions.  I wanted to know everything and especially WHY?  Once I started school and learned to read, her life was much simpler.  By the end of Grade 2, I was reading at an adult level, which is to say, anything around the house.

Reading was a struggle for my father.  I don't recall him reading anything other than farm papers and The Bible.  He preferred to read early in the mornings when he felt at his peak.  One of the weekly farm papers ran serial fiction, one of which was called "Death and the Gentle Bull" featuring a Black Angus bull.  Dad had to read that and got hooked on the story.  We teased him ever after about "getting up early in the morning to read a murder mystery.

Mom loved to read.  I have no idea how or even if she did anything to foster my love of reading other than make sure there was lots to read.  The farm papers, Canadian Cattlemen, Country Guide, The Western Producer, Free Press Weekly, and  Family Herald (the latter two ceased publishing long ago) interested me, especially as I got older.  But Macleans and Chatelaine magazines interested me from day one.

They were quite different then from today's versions.  Both were monthly or bi-weekly, I forget which. Macleans was more literary than news magazine and I loved the stories and articles. Chatelaine was targeted at the 1950's housewife with a great deal of human interest and educational stuff.  Especially educational stuff.  I have no idea if my parents ever had "the talk" with my younger siblings but mom knew I was getting my education from Chatelaine so she didn't worry.

My first real book was Black Beauty which I got for my 7th birthday.  I had two Robin Hoods; one by Howard Pyle and one by Henry Gilbert.  Preferred the latter as I grew older.  Kipling's The Jungle Book or All the Mowgli stories was another favourite.  I was about 11 or 12 when someone gave me Zane Grey's "Spirit of the Border" and I was HOOKED.  Read a great many of his books, graduating over the years to Ernest Haycox (the best) and Louis L'Amour.  Westerns are still my reading to relax genre.

Dad was able to buy us the World book encyclopedia in the late 1950s.  He had no money but managed to find enough for the cheapest no frills set.  The lady who sold them was someone Dad had worked for back in the 30s and I think gave them to us at cost. It was our "internet" and provided hours and hours of reading.

No idea when I joined "Book of the Month Club" but was a member for over twenty years, maybe more.  My library was starting to grow.  Used book stores and the bargain shelves helped add volumes without exorbitant cost.  Couldn't say exactly when I morphed into history but by my mid-20s for sure.  If I had it to do over, maybe I wouldn't have taken Animal Science but History instead.  though reading it is likely more fun than writing it.

Ella was also a reader.  Mostly human interest stuff, biographies, that kind of thing.  And Harlequins. And Royalty.  When our kids came along the house was full of books and we made sure that there was lots for them to read too.  Little Golden Books, Berenstein Bears and Dr Seuss.  I can likely still recite Hop on Pop or Hand Hand Finger Thumb.

Likely I am responsible for warping my kids' minds with my interpretations of their books. The Three Bears opened with "Once upon a time there were three bears who lived in a house in the woods. Papa Bear pounded nails in the roof; Mama Bear watered the flowers and Baby Bear did tricks on the lawn".  I would explain to the children that I had no idea who Tricks was and that since she was never mentioned again must have been unimportant.  This horrified adult listeners but the children were oblivious.

The public library became a favourite haunt.  When we lived in Kindersley and our youngest was a wee new babe we had a blizzard that shut down the town.  So we bundled the kids and pulling two on the toboggan, we walked through the drifts to the Library - which was actually open.  When we moved, the Regina Public Library closest to us soon knew us all by name and our tastes by heart.

Our house continued to fill with books.  More and more shelving units were added.  One NEVER discards a book.  EVER.  The kids used to say that for any topics concerning WWI or WWII they had only to go to my books for their highschool reports.  They began accumulating their own libraries and by the time they began moving out it was "20 boxes of stuff and 20 boxes of books".

My oldest daughter has similar reading tastes to her mother.  After two degrees (Human Justice and Social Work) she swears she will never read anything on purpose from which she might learn something but on occasion she lies. My son reads history like his father but likes good novels even more.  If you take any newspaper's "Top 100 novels ever written" he has likely read 75 of them.  His thinking ability is far ahead of mine.  History helps me understand what happened and why.  Novelists invent the future.

My second youngest daughter is finishing off her dissertation for a PhD in Victorian Literature.  Everything between Jane Austen (pre-Victorian and L.M. Montgomery post-Victorian.  And my youngest daughter took her history degree and a Masters in Library Tech and is now a Librarian in a highschool in London England. She specializes in reading Young Adult books as those are her students' reading material. Oh, yes, and Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis.  (By the way, LynnieC, there are several new Latin translations of Harry Potter books available).

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.     Erasmus