Monday, August 31, 2009

Wokin' the hog

Or the dog, depending on your culture and culinary tastes of course. Tanya and I found a new kitchen store today and invested in a wok. Plain iron, plain wooden handles, like I have seen lots of times in China. $12. Not a bad price.

It's cloudy in the west and looks like rain. Wind has been strong and cold for the past two days. Maybe it will rain. Tanya didn't water her flowers tonight, just in case.

We have a new neighbour living in the old house next door where Lucia's mother used to live. Actually he showed up while she was still very sick. Homeless, no job, no documents. Told folks his name and that he was from Krasnodar in Russia. Made arrangements with the owners and started digging up that jungle of a garden spot behind the house. A very hard worker, he had it worked black and planted in no time, then cleaned up the yard and fixed the fence up a bit. Until Lucia's mom died, he lived in a shed in the yard and cooked what little food he had on an open fire.

Sometimes he will borrow 10 hrivna from Tanya for food and he has always paid it back when next he found an odd job. Today as Tanya and I were heading into ZV, he was standing by the gate into our dog yard. He was raving that the dogs needed food and about the people that only he could see and hear and much more. Tanya calmed him down and sent him to his house, then called her friend Ira at the ambulance service.

Apparently no one wants to do anything with him of for him because he has no papers (Ira said and Andrei confirmed later). There are no Social Services anymore (no money), the police won't do anything; the hospitals neither. Because he has no documents there is no way to bill his expenses to the appropriate authority and anything that is done will be at the expense of the person who does it.

I will ask Tanya what we can do. It is sad to be alone in the world.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Zelenoye Village

This afternoon we went for a drive. Just to get me out of the house and away from the computer screen. We headed north towards the highway from Dnipropetrovsk to Kirovograd. About half way between ZV and the highway, we swung west onto a side road that looked like it went somewhere interesting. After a while we came to the village of Zelenoye, which according to the sign had been settled in the 17th century sometime. The road had not been resurfaced since that time either, I might add.

Like many villages in Ukraine it was built on both sides of a little river, which the road, acting as a dam, had turned into a beautiful lake. The centre of town had quite a number of nice houses, one of which I commented on.

"Stop. Go back. That is my friend Ivan".
Sure enough it was. Tanya had worked with Ivan back in P'yatikhatki. He had since gone farming, though Tanya didn't know where. Now we know. We were immmediately invited in, met his wife Galina, given tea and the grand tour.

He has 50 hectares (125 acres), planted to corn this year, a big garden, a bunch of poultry of all sizes and shapes and a small vineyard. He had bought and renovated the house, torn down an old house next door and expanded the yard so he had a place for machinery. There was a Russian built "'73 Chevy 3-ton" truck and a 5 meter end-wheel press drill parked in the yard.

He showed us what looked like a home-made pressure cooker that they use for canning fish and meat. It holds 33 pint jars, sits over two gas burners and has guages and valves to control temperature and pressure. He and three friends had been fishing on the Dnipro River and brought home all the fish preserved in jars, ready to be put away. We got two free sample jars, one plain and one in tomato sauce.

They say when you don't know where you are going any road will get you there. Sounds reasonable to me.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Whiskey on a Sunday

Except this is Saturday and I am drinking coffee. Am on my second liter (quart).

The mad cleaning crew is at it again. The house will be sparkling clean by supper and whatever I do for the next few days, I will get yelled at for messing it up.

Two way traffic on one way width streets is a tricky procedure. Streets in Zhovty Vodi were apparently designed for driving but not for parking. One side is arbitrarily chosen as the parking side. On coming cars on that side of the street duck into available spaces to let cars going the other way get by. Works quite well. Gentleme's agreement, I expect.

Shoping carts are NEVER left in the parking lot but are always returned to the store or the outside stall. Because no one leaves carts out, no one leaves carts out. The first ignorant person who abandons a cart will start a trend and soon the lots will be full of abandoned carts like Canadian shopping malls.

Yesterday Tanya let the dogs out to amuse themselves. I had given Kuchma a dish of milk. Bobik happened along and stood at a respectful distance while Kuchma licked the dish clean. He then went over and sniffed the empty dish, cocked his leg and pee'd on it and on Kuchma.

Sky is sort of cloudy. A few drops of rain have fallen but it looks like what my dad used to call a "four inch rain" - the drops are four inches apart when they hit the ground. Planting of winter wheat will start in a few days (about Sept 10th) so it will likely start to rain then.

We have two suitcases half full with clothes ready to leave for Canada. Two weeks!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mail Order Madness

Mail Order was a big deal when I was a kid. Shopping was limited in the small towns nearby and trips to the city (Saskatoon and North Battleford) were few and far between. Eaton's and Simpson's were the source of all sorts of good things - clothes, household goods, tools, bikes and toys. Oh the excitement when boxes arrived at the Cavell Post Office which my aunt ran at the time.

Tanya has discovered the joy of on-line shopping. Interflora is a Dutch mail order company with retail outlets in several Ukrainian cities as well. Best of both worlds. Internet orders go to the closest retail outlet (in Dnipropetrovsk in our case). Tanya's order this spring had some problems, she chewed out the manager in Dnipro and replacements arrived in the mail.

Today she picked up a package of clothes, two tops and two pairs of mix and match PJ's that she ordered from a Slovakian company. PJ's were exactly what she wanted. Tops not so. But since there doesn't appear to be a return policy, she has already found new homes for them.

She is also having fun with the Foreign Exchange rates. Her USD account was only giving her 7.80 UAH to the dollar at the bank machine. The posted exchange rate at the bank, if you walk in with dollars was 8.10, and a friend of Andrei's will give her 8.40 which is quite close to that posted on For those of you who need to check FX, O and A give you official exchange rates on everything but Monopoply money. She took $200 out of her account (had to go to the main branch in town) and we went to meet the friend. He is fishing today.

New Banner

A gift from my daughter May-B. Many thanks.

Kyle Shaw, Speed Artist

Kyle Shaw is the nephew of long time friend, fellow Agrologist and sometimes blog commenter Insubordinate. He is also a wheelchair athlete. He lost the use of his legs in a car accident at age 16, spent a year or more in rehab and continued on with life. You can read his bio here on the Cyclones Road and Track Club website.

Yesterday he won Silver in the 1500 meters at the Canada summer Games in PEI with a time of 3:41.50. He races again today in the 400 meter at 3:00 pm PEI time, having won his heat yesterday. You can cheer for him and check on the results here.

Grit and determination are family traits and Kyle continues the tradition. Go for Gold today, Kyle. We are with you all the way.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Don't get in a flap

I figured after my last trip to see a doctor, then next one should be to a gynecologist.

To work out the next steps in my sex-change operation (I just threw that in as a cheap way to pick up more readers).

Actually, she is the doctor at the private clinic who has the ultrasound gadget to burn off little skin flaps that we old people sometimes get. I had one on my leg that had been annoying me for a long time, rubbing raw against my pantleg. Thrown, hogtied and branded. Easy as that.

If there is a reason that a gynecologist has this machine, I don't want to know about it.

Late summer flowers

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Amway ahead of you

Valya and Volodya dropped in this afternoon to bring Tanya her Amway laundry detergent and pre-wash spot remover. That stuff sure is concentrated but it works. My mom used Amway laundry detergent and liked it. I don't ask about price. Happy is all that counts.

Another reason why I like my new dog walking path - it is uphill for the first kilometer than downhill for the remaining two km. Kind of like a roller coaster, once I hit the top, gravity takes over. Volk decided to be a dipstick and run off tonight. I will go out in a few minutes and see if he is back yet. He was back for a while, playing with the cat but took off when he saw Tanya coming to catch him. I don't blame him. I would let them both run if I could. Dog runs, cages, chains and leashes are not my thing.

The cat has been all goofy these past few days. Comes in the house, meowing his head off, follows me around. I offered him some sausage and he was too full to eat it. Rolls over for me to rub his tummy, like a pup. Likes his throat and chest scratched. Then he finds a warm spot in the sun and sleeps for hours. We were watching the Science Channel about big cats and Kuchma wasn't the least interested. Until the program changed to regular cats which meowed; then he perked up.

Speaking of big cats, I would love to get a bottle of lion urine from a zoo and go around the neighbourhood with a spray bottle marking tress and such. That would put the fear of God into every dog in the country.

I really do need to up my meds.

An Exchange of Views

I love The Economist. Partly because much of it is online and free. Partly because it is as unbiased news source as one is likely to find (ie I agree with its viewpoints more often than not). Partly because each article on their website is followed by a comments section. The comments section is sometimes more informative than the article in that information is added by readers. Sometimes it is just entertaining. The following exchange occured after an article regarding the use of private security contractors (Blackwater) in Iraq.

Seriously people? As if locating, targeting, and assassinating al-Qaeda members is wrong? I only wish they had actually followed through and carried out the program.

Ibn Khaldun
Seriously people? As if locating, targeting, and assassinating the people who set up military bases in your country and routinely invade or set up dictators in your neighbouring countries is wrong?

John Swartz
Ibn Khaldun, of course it's wrong to kill Westerners. We bear the burden of managing an incredibly complex world. We are the source of virtually all the innovation and wealth creation of the past three centuries. If we set up military bases in your country, it is to protect you. If we invade your country it is because your government is a retrograde abomination. If we establish a dictator in your country, it is because we have a low regard for your ability to govern yourself.
If you have a problem with any of that, pray to your God and see if He stops us.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Irish and the Ukrainians

I have always said that the Irish and the Ukrainians have a great deal in common . Both have spent much of history as colonies of not very nice neighbours.

There have been anti-government protests recently in Kyiv and one banner read "We are against everyone". Definitely Irish.

Independence Day

Today, August 24th is Ukrainian Independence Day. Ukraine has been an independent republic since 1991, when it separated from the fast disintegrating USSR. My buddy, Artur, celebrated by going to his in-laws to dig potatoes. He says you are only independent as long as you have something to eat.

Tanya's cold is better (???). It is now a dry hacking cough but breathing is easier.

Lena and Roman dropped in this afternoon for a short visit. Lena brought her friend Yulia whom we had not met before. Lena raided our garden for tomatoes and Musk Melons. After tea, I drove them home and then tried to find some bread. Our usual shop was closed for the national holiday and our little neighbourhood store was out of bread. Pancakes for breakfast. Yeah!!!

Dogs behaved well on their walk tonight and went home into their yard like good puppies should. I have a few fixed routes which I have walked a hundred times each. The key is to keep my dogs away from chickens, other dogs and grumpy neighbours so exploring is limited. Tonight in desperation, I walked an old route (along the marsh) from the other direction. Amazing how that changes the view, looking at it from the oposite side. The rushes are so high that they hide the trail in many places, so the humps and holes are new too. And the Russian Olive (Thanks, John) scratch me on the other side.

I am reminded of the man who had only bread and cheese to eat. Most days he ate bread and cheese. Some days he ate cheese and bread. Other days just cheese or just bread. I think I need to up my meds?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Counting the Days

We leave on the 11th, arrive in Calgary on the 12th. Today is the 23rd. There are 19 days until we leave and 20 days until #1 son and d-i-l meet us at the Calgary Airport.

Today I dragged out three suitcases; my two old black Samsonite clamshell hardsides that have been around the world with me a few times in the past 20 years and one good Canadian made softside. We have not had good luck with local made softsides. three have self destructed after one or two trips. The hardside weighs 2 kg more than the softside, meaning keeping under 20 kg is more difficult but they are indestructable.

We are starting to figure out what clothes we need to take and what we still need to buy to take with us. Like Tanya's bp meds.

You've Come a Long Way, Baby

Apparently Real Women don't want rights, only 'intellectuals' (ie those who can think?) according to this article on BBC News today.

Tens of thousands of people in Mali's capital, Bamako, have been protesting against a new law which gives women equal rights in marriage.

The law, passed earlier this month, also strengthens inheritance rights for women and children born out of wedlock.

The head of a Muslim women's association says only a minority of Malian women - "the intellectuals" as she put it - supports the law.

Several other protests have taken place in other parts of the country.

The law was adopted by the Malian parliament at the beginning of August, and has yet to be signed into force by the president.

One of the most contentious issues in the new legislation is that women are no longer required to obey their husbands.

Hadja Sapiato Dembele of the National Union of Muslim Women's Associations said the law goes against Islamic principles.

"We have to stick to the Koran," Ms Dembele told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme. "A man must protect his wife, a wife must obey her husband."

"It's a tiny minority of women here that wants this new law - the intellectuals. The poor and illiterate women of this country - the real Muslims - are against it," she added.

In another article, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, already in trouble with the moderates for allegedly fixing the election, is now in really deep trouble with the conservatives because he wants to bring three women into his cabinet.

"There are religious doubts over the abilities of women when it comes to management," said hardline lawmaker Mohammad Taghi Rahbar.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Remains of the Day

Tanya worked in her flower garden all day Thursday in a cold bitter wind. Flowers good; Tanya hadth a code id her head and of all peeble idth todally midtherable.

Our friends from P'yatikhatki, Valya, Valya, Valya and Volodya, called this morning at 9:30 to let us know they were coming to visit in the afternoon. They were going to a lecture on health (and beauty) products at 12:00 and would come when it was over. Tanya was too sick to go to the lecture on health.

They arrived at 3:00. Only Two Valya's. Third dropped out at last minute. Turns out the lecture was from an Evangelist of the "Great American Church of What's Happening Now", AMWAY. We had a good laugh. They never mention that in the advertising and by the time you find out, the doors are locked to prevent people from escaping the hall. Been there.

Got an update on the P'yatikhatki grain elevator story. Quite a few months ago now, when the owner, an acquaintance of the three women, had been on holidays, several men tried to force the local business registration office to change the title on the elevator to give them a majority share, based on forged documents. The woman at the office refused in spite of threats because the documents were not correct.

Before winter cereal harvest started, the owner was offered $1 million for the elevator (worth maybe $5 million??) by a company with connections to Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko. The owner refused and there was a big fuss, lawyers, courts and newspapers etc. Consequently the harvest is now over and NO farms delivered any grain to the elevator which is now bankrupt and the woman who owns it in hospital (with a nervous breakdown?).

Exactly why they did not deliver is uncertain at least to me. Tanya says it is because they were afraid if there was a change in ownership that contracts with the previous owner would not be honoured and they would not be paid for grain in storage. I am guessing that there is more than that, that the farmers were warned off. Government bureaucrats still control farming to a great extent and can break a farm by holding up subsidy payments, holding up supplies of fertilizer, fuel, seed, pesticides. Everyone owes their job to someone above them and when the word goes out that the Prime Minister doesn't like you, "they have ways".

Timoshenko is also alleged to be demanding kickbacks for her party before she will approve necessary infrastructure financing to complete stadiums etc in preparation for the 2012 (Euro Cup??) Football matches.

She is in a dead heat to be the next president of Ukraine in the January elections. The other leader in the polls is Leader of the Opposition Yanukovich, the man whose blatant and violent rigging of the 2004 election brought us the Orange Revolution.

Timoshenko and Yanukovich have passed legislation in the Rada (Parliament) which the news reports as "reducing the presidential election by 30 days". Apparently if you read the fine print it also allows all kinds of electoral skullduggery and would virtually guarantee that elections would not be free and fair. The only legislation this crew seems able to pass is related to ensuring their own well being. President Yushchenko will take the legislation to the Constitutional Court if the Rada overrides his veto.

We'll end up with a Putin style of government yet.

Friday, August 21, 2009

True Story

A professor of ophtalmology retired from a Russian university after a long and distinguished career. They threw him a banquet as befit a man of his stature, with appropriate speakers praising his accomplishments and contributions to ocular medicine.

Behind him on the wall is a mural of two human eyes, very skilfully drawn, with the professor's face peering out from the lens of each of the eyes.

When at last the professor rose to make his speech, he looked at the murals and remarked that it was a good thing he had not gone into gynecology.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Politics and Religion

Someone took exception to my use of “Christian Republican” as a derogatory term. Actually derogatory doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel about it. (Canadians can play along by substituting appropriate political party names).

Republicans claim to have a lock on Christianity. The only thing they have a lock on is hypocrisy.

They preach morals and family values but their personal track record says otherwise. They preach fiscal responsibility but spend tax money like there is no tomorrow. If you look at the record, the Republicans have gotten the USA into financial messes which the Democrats then have to sort out. Raegan-Clinton and now Bush-Obama are just the most recent. They don’t tax and spend, they just spend. They preach free enterprise but are firmly attached to the government teat for favourable legislation, big contracts and cash handouts. They preach against big government but expand it exponentially.

They are anti-poor, anti-sick, anti-“Coloured”, anti-women, anti-minority of any kind, anti-science, anti-education, anti-intellectual, anti-environmental stewardship. They are pro-violence, pro-guns, pro-war, pro-accumulation of wealth by fair means or foul, the latter being their only measure of personal value. They believe the wealth of a nation should not benefit the people of the nation, only a select few. Their social safety network can best be summed up as “I’m OK; f**k you!”

This may an acceptable political ideology and it certainly has its adherents but it is not Christian. It is the antithesis of everything Christianity stands for. They love to call the Democrats godless atheists, though Dems do a far better job of living true Christianity and I suspect they have as many or more actual Christians voting for them.

So if you want to call yourself a Christian Republican, that is your choice. But please don’t talk to me about your kind of “Christianity”. It sickens me.


Me: I am glad your Papa likes me. It is difficult for fathers with daughters. They worry more about choice of daughters' husbands. I mean I know The Guy is a good person, good to and good for May-B. But I worry. She is MY DAUGHTER.

Tanya: Worry about The Guy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pictures of Hiroshima

My thanks to May-B for sending me this link.

The pictures of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped are indescribable. Look for yourself. The story of how they came to be is rather incredible in itself. And read the comments after. There is a great education contained in them. Much I did not know before and some things I wish I did not know now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sayano-Shushenskaya Disaster

Sayano-Shushenskaya Hydroelectric Dam is located on the Yennessee River in the Sayano mountain range in south central Siberia, perhaps 50 kilometers south of Abakan where Tanya's family live. It is the scene of a horrendous accident which has left 12 people confirmed dead. There is little hope for survival for another 64 more who were trapped in the turbine room when two water tunnels broke and flooded the area.

Downstream there is concern that the dam might give way however authorities say that this is impossible. The exact cause of the collapse of the water tunnels is not confirmed but has nothing to do with the structural soundenss of the dam.

Tanya called her sister this morning who said some people are moving to higher ground but this was likely just an intital reaction. She did say that all the bread immediately disappeared from the shops as people feared that lack of electricity would close the bakeries, however that is also back to normal.
I visited the dam when I was in Khakasia in 2006 so it has more meaning to me than just a news item.

Monday, August 17, 2009




Class 1 How To Fill Up The Ice Cube Trays
Step by Step, with Slide Presentation. Meets 4 weeks, Monday and Wednesday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM.

Class 2 The Toilet Paper Roll--Does It Change Itself?
Round Table Discussion. Meets 2 weeks, Saturday 12:00 for 2 hours.

Class 3 Is It Possible To Urinate Using The Technique Of Lifting The Seat and Avoiding The Floor, Walls and Nearby Bathtub?
Group Practice. Meets 4 weeks, Saturday 10:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 4 Fundamental Differences Between The Laundry Hamper and The Floor
Pictures and Explanatory Graphics. Meets Saturdays at 2:00 PM for 3 weeks.

Class 5 Dinner Dishes--Can They Levitate and Fly Into The Kitchen Sink?
Examples on Video. Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM

Class 6 Loss Of Identity--Losing The Remote To Your Significant Other.
Help Line Support and Support Groups. Meets 4 Weeks, Friday and Sunday 7:00 PM

Class 7 Learning How To Find Things--Starting With Looking In The Right Places And Not Turning The House Upside Down While Screaming.
Open Forum .Monday at 8:00 PM, 2 hours.

Class 8 Health Watch--Bringing Her Flowers Is Not Harmful To Your Health.
Graphics and Audio Tapes. Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 9 Real Men Ask For Directions When Lost
Real Life Testimonials. Tuesdays at 6:00 PM Location to be determined.

Class10 Is It Genetically Impossible To Sit Quietly While She Parallel Parks?
Driving Simulations. 4 weeks, Saturday's noon, 2 hours.

Class 11 Learning to Live--Basic Differences Between Mother and Wife.
Online Classes and role-playing .Tuesdays at 7:00 PM, location to be determined

Class 12 How to be the Ideal Shopping Companion
Relaxation Exercises, Meditation and Breathing Techniques. Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM.

Class 13 How to Fight Cerebral Atrophy--Remembering Birthdays, Anniversaries and Other Important Dates and Calling When You're Going To Be Late.
Cerebral Shock Therapy Sessions and Full Lobotomies Offered. Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 14 The Stove/Oven--What It Is and How It Is Used.
Live Demonstration. Tuesdays at 6:00 PM, location to be determined.

Upon completion of any of the above courses, diplomas will be issued to the survivors

THE ADULT LEARNING CENTER – Fall Classes for Women



Class 1 Up in Winter, Down in Summer - How to Adjust a Thermostat
Step by Step, with Slide Presentation. Meets 4 wks, Monday and Wednesday for 2 hrs beginning at 7:00 PM..

Class 2 Which Takes More Energy - Putting the Toilet Seat Down, or Bitching About It for 3 Hours?
Round Table Discussion. Meets 2 weeks, Saturday 12:00 for 2 hours.

Class 3 Is It Possible To Drive Past a Wal-Mart Without Stopping?
Group Debate. Meets 4 weeks, Saturday 10:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 4 Fundamental Differences Between a Purse and a Suitcase
Pictures and Explanatory Graphics. Meets Saturdays at 2:00 PM for 3 weeks.

Class 5 Curling Irons--Can They Levitate and Fly Into The Bathroom Cabinet?
Examples on Video. Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM

Class 6 How to Ask Questions During Commercials and Be Quiet During the Program
Help Line Support and Support Groups. Meets 4 Weeks, Friday and Sunday 7:00 PM

Class 7 Can a Bath Be Taken Without 14 Different Kinds of Soaps and Shampoos?
Open Forum. Monday at 8:00 PM, 2 hours.

Class 8 Health Watch--They Make Medicine for PMS - USE IT!
Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 9 I Was Wrong and He Was Right!
Real Life Testimonials. Tuesdays at 6:00 PM Location to be determined.

Class 10 How to Parallel Park In Less Than 20 Minutes Without an Insurance Claim.
Driving Simulations...4 weeks, Saturday's noon, 2 hours.

Class 11 Learning to Live--How to Apply Brakes Without Throwing Passengers Through the Windshield.
Tuesdays at 7:00 PM, location to be determined

Class 12 How to Shop by Yourself.
Meets 4 wks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM.

Class 13 How to Fight Cerebral Atrophy--Remembering To Take a List To The Store, Avoiding Separate Trips for Each Item Needed.
Cerebral Shock Therapy Sessions and Full Lobotomies Offered. Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 14 The Stove/Oven--What It Is and How It Is Used.
Live Demonstration. Tuesdays at 6:00 PM, location to be determined.

Upon completion of any of the above courses, diplomas will be issued to the survivors.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Tanya's Birthday

Tanya's birthday was yesterday. We just had her family over for dinner. Roman cooked shashlik to perfection as usual and salad, fruit and cake made the meal. We took one last opportunity for family pictures with Papa.

Roman, Lena, Tanya, Andrei, Tanya, Pyotr, Masha

Oh, man! Wasn't that a party?

Today Tanya and Papa left for Moscow, to put Papa on the train home to Abakan. He has been a good guest for the past several weeks. He was glad to go home but sad to leave his two grandsons and great granddaughter. It is a long way between Zhovti Vody and Belii Yar.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Love Purade

I am back from three days in Kyiv, working on my consulting project. for two nights, I rented a rennovated studio flat on Red Army Street (it has a new name now but the street signs are still old) for less than $40 USD per night. It was fully furnished including fancy sheets with hearts. The hearts had little sayings in English - Love to Love, Two Hearts, Broken Hearted and (the winner) Love Purade

I also have a Genuine Certitied Rolex from the former Silk Alley in Beijing and a Bruse Springsteen album from a street vendor in Kyiv.

I see lots of T-shirts here with English words on them, seemingly chosen at random, usually spelled correctly but totally meaningless in combination. It is for effect only, I guess.

There is a story from years back about a woman who knitted a sweater for herself and incorporated three Chinese characters into the design, which she had seen on a menu in a restaurant. A friend of hers who was Chinese burst out laughing when he saw her in the sweater as it read "Cheap but delicious".

Sunday, August 9, 2009

"Illegal" Aliens???

Whenever resources are scarce there is a frantic search for someone to blame. It couldn’t possibly be our own fault, someone did this to us. The governing class of rich and powerful is keen that they should never be the scapegoats so they are very helpful in pointing out groups of poor and powerless people to take the fall. The proletariat, having found someone to hate, are now focused on them, urging their elimination by fair means or foul, peaceful or violent.

Depending on where you are on the globe and in history Jews, Gypsies, the Yellow Peril, Muslims, Turks or North Africans have all served the purpose. In America it is the "Millions of Illegal aliens” who are the cause of all their ills.

In Canada, aliens are from Mars. In America, aliens are from Canada. I suppose to the average American it is six of one, half dozen of the other. What is an illegal alien? “Hey, you, it’s against the law to be an alien around here!” Let’s call them undocumented immigrants. It is also a euphemism for Latin American since most of them are such. At any rate it mostly means non-white folks who are in USA without the express permission of white folks.

Wasn’t it mostly “undocumented immigrants” who settled the Spanish south and southwest, eventually leading to the independence of Texas, followed a few years later by a war that took the rest of Mexican territory, north and west of the Rio Grande? Maybe Americans are afraid if there are enough Latin Americans living there, Mexico will want its land back?

The problem is that undocumented immigrants all take American jobs and also they all live on welfare. They risk their lives crossing the desert to sneak into the USA and then they send for all their relatives, dozens of them, who arrive presumably by taxi, with every female in the group pregnant. Even grandma.

The jobs these folks do are not high on anyone’s list of desirable careers. Not many American or even documented immigrants if they have any choice, are likely lined up to work in slaughter plants, clean toilets or play nanny to Simon Legree’s children. Especially at those wages and working conditions. No wonder they need welfare to subsist. It’s like working at Wal-Mart.

As to welfare, now THERE is a group folks love to hate for some reason. Especially “Christian Republicans”. Likely because welfare recipients are poor and powerless and can’t fight back. Not sure how they square that with Mark 10:21 (sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven). But then CR Christianity is all about their own wealth. Funny how people scream about their precious tax dollars going to some unwed mother but never mention the nefarious schemes and scams that see the billions going to people who are already rich. The “skim” off the Iraq war alone would keep most of the undocumented immigrants in a life of ease for a hundred years. Previous to that the Savings and Loan etc etc.

The other sore point is that “undocumented immigrants have access to health care that ordinary Americans do not”. Well, whose fault is that? Fix the health care system so you are at least on par with the rest of the developed world in providing for your own citizens.

If it is the “undocumented” that is the problem, document them. If it is the “immigrant” that is the problem, then be ashamed of yourselves. Because some folks might say that since 1492 every newcomer to America is an “Illegal Alien”.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Up the Creek

Today I decided to take the dogs on along walk and do some exploring east of our place. About 1 km from here is a valley with a creek running along the bottom which is part of the village grazing commons. I decided to follow it and see where it came from. Maybe another km and there is a sort of earth dam across the valley and I can hear a water fall but can't find it. So I climbed the dam and found a ditch, lined with cement along which the water was running towards where I heard the waterfall.

Grazing area for village cows

Pretty little creek runs along the valley bottom

We walked a long way. Volk got bored and went home

Looking back from the top of the first dam

We followed the ditch. We being Bobik and I. Volk went home to play with the little dogs down the street. None of this exploring stuff for him. The ditch took us to another dam another km away. On the other side of this dam was a reservoir. It was the source of water running to the creek and also the destination of water pumped in the big pipes past our place from the mines on the north side of Zhovti Vody. We crossed the dam to the road and walked home on hard surface. Volk was waiting for us as the owner had locked up the little dogs for the night.

Bobik racing along the bottom of the concrete lined ditch

Looking across the length of the second dam

The reservoir (Panoramic view)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Weakly News

Sunday Lena and Tanya cleaned house. It was the White Tornado meets Mrs Clean. Top to bottom and four bags of garbage. Lena came back on Tuesday and they cleaned the carpets. The old fashioned way - took them outside on the concrete and took the garden hose with hot water and a scrub brush to them, then hung them on the fence for three days to dry.

Whenever I ask Tanya how I can help, she says "By not helping". Sigh. So I worked on my Ivankiv prefeasibility study, looking at what it would take to establish a real beef industry or at least several enterprises. Possibly a miracle?

The dogs are walking me on a new route, as they got bored with the old paths. We pass a house where there is a little black dog the size of a cat with an attitude the size of a bear. She will have none of this intruder stuff and puts the run on my two. The couple who live in the house are often sitting on a bench out front in the cool of the evening and they laugh and we all cheer the little dog.

Next Tuesday (11th) is Masha's 6th birthday and of course I am going to Kyiv that morning so will miss her party. But I will be back Thursday night and I better have a gift for Tanya as her birthday is on Saturday (15th). Last year for her birthday I took her to Turkey. This year maybe I will bring her back?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Livestock Production in Ukraine

I promised Rob-Bear some data on when the last cow in Ukraine would turn out the light or why we eat chicken all the time.
Under the old Soviet production system cattle (dual purpose dairy/beef) production had to be heavily subsidized as it was horribly inefficient. Just one example was the number of people "employed" - 10 times or more per unit of inventory that one would expect. This production methodology carried over on the restructured state and collective farms creating huge losses so the cattle are dumped in favour of grain and oilseed production which is profitable. Only the new larger commercial dairy farms which import their management from Europe and America are profitable.

Pig production was much the same picture in Soviet times. The restructured farms stopped raising pigs because they lost too much money. A few years ago investors began building large commercial pig farms using western technology and management. Backyard pigs and big barns now account for the bulk of production. You can see the hog cycle beginning to appear about 10 years ago. The cure for low prices is low prices. The cure for high prices is high prices.

Poultry production has taken off and is extremely profitable and chicken meat is extremely cheap, about 1/3 to 1/4 the price of pork and beef. Virtually all broiler meat now comes from modern commercial companies, using western technology.

Monday, August 3, 2009


We went shopping for groceries yesterday so I thought I'd run another list of costs of various items in Canadian dollars (compare here and here). The exchange rate yesterday was 7 UAH to 1 CAD. One year ago it was 4.3:1. That means my dollar buys about 60% more local currency than it did a year ago. There has been inflation of course, especially in imported items, but never the less we have more money to spend than we did a year ago, while folks here have much less. Even so the shops and markets are busy in Zhovty Vodi and Krivii Rih.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

It Rained

It rained last night but you would never know it from this picture. We had a three hour downpour with lots of lightning that knocked out the electricity. I think Zhovty Vodi got it worse than we did. Andrei said that the water was running down the main street (the streets are the storm drains) about half a meter deep. He was worried the river would rise and flood us. Fat chance. The rain must have soaked in as fast as it fell in our neighbourhood.
We were in town for groceries this afternoon and saw the damage to the streets. When they repair the streets, they lay a wafer thin layer of blacktop onto whatever is there. It fills the holes and looks good for a while at least. But the water got under the layers in several places and literally ripped square meters of blacktop up and washed it down the street. It would be funny if the streets and roads weren't so horrible already.

Canadian Jazz and Mongolian Traditional Music

I met Deb Rasmussen in China about 15 years ago. She is an Ag Economist who works for AgriTeam Canada on projects all over the world but many in China and Mongolia. When Tanya and I were in Mongolia in 2007 we ran into her there. She is currently managing a five year Animal Health project in China as well as her involvement with projects in Mongolia.

She is also an accomplished Jazz Singer, with a Calgary group called Northern Lights Quartet with Keith Smith (guitar), Simon Fisk (bass), Robin Tufts (percussion). Last October the group traveled to Mongolia and performed at the grand opening of the Canadian Embassy and the celebration of 35 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and Mongolia. They performed with a Mongolian group called Altai Khangai.

This August Altai Khangai will be coming to Canada and Northern Lights will be performing with them in a number of locations, Saskatoon, several in Alberta including Red Deer, Calgary and Banff, Vancouver, Victoria, and finally in Ottawa. For more detailed information please check the Northern Lights Quartet website.

Fence Building

Bron and her sisters pulled the weeds in her yard yesterday. The Guy is starting to build a fence around their yard today. If he had this nail gun, it would go much faster.