Tuesday, December 28, 2010

“Thanks cops: For nothing"

This was sent to me by my friend Insubordinate.  It is all over the internet and certainly worth repeating in this Holiday Season.

The Editor, 

This letter is directed to all the RCMP members in 
Richmond: Thanks for nothing! 

Thanks for all the times I returned to my home to find it just as I  had left it: Nothing happened.

Thanks for all the evening walks that my wife and I enjoyed in the park, nobody bothered us: Nothing happened.

Thanks for all the times that I and my family members returned from a drive safely because we were not involved in a crash: Nothing happened.

It has been a tough year for our RCMP members; they have had to endure a great deal of bad press. Some members have made mistakes and been taken to task, there have also been mistakes made by the RCMP administration at a level well above the local detachment.

I guess the RCMP hire from the same human race as the rest of us. It is easy for the media to find the one bad apple and spread that across the news. But what of the others?

The hundreds of Mounties here in 
Richmond driving around, doing their jobs protecting you and me.

This year, while I open presents with my family, a Mountie will have to call his family on the phone. They may be as far away as 
Newfoundland, but that will be his or her Christmas.

This year, while I overindulge in a turkey dinner, a Mountie will be grabbing a Double Double and trying to warm up after standing in the rain for hours to keep drunks off the road, so that we will be safe.

This year, while I am reminiscing with my family about Christmases past, our Mounties will be trying to calm a domestic dispute where both parties are a bit too drunk. They will swear at our Mountie and name call; they may even spit and hit. What a Christmas to remember!

While we watch our favourite Christmas tale on our big screen TV, our Mounties will be notifying people of the loss of a loved one, crawling around on a wet road investigating a fatal crash and a huge  number of other tasks that we would not do in a nightmare.

One more thing: After all the gifts and the food and the friends and the holiday fun is done, I know that I will have the pleasure of tucking my daughter into her bed.

Our Mounties do not know if they will be coming home to their family, too many do not. 

This Christmas, I have a lot to be thankful for and I will likely be well remembered by Santa.

Richmond Mounties remember this: The gift for which I will be most grateful is: Nothing. Thanks again for that! “.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Russian Justice - Putin Style

The Economist had an excellent article in their Dec 9 issue. http://www.economist.com/node/17674075 .  Read the comments too. I got to 80 out of about 160.  The pro-Russian comments start coming out after about 40th letter. some are hilarious.

No surprise that Khodorkovsky was found guilty today.  It would have been a brave judge indeed who would have found him innocent.  Khodorkovsky was at one time the richest man in Russia, owner of Yukos Oil, which he acquired much the same way as the other oligarchs acquired their assets in the wild west free-for-all that was 1990's Russia under Yeltsen.  His mistake was opposing Putin vocally and monetarily, speaking out in favour of rule of law and funding real opposition parties.

He was charged with and found guilty of tax fraud seven years ago and has one more year to serve of his sentence.  The amount of the taxes he was accused on not paying was huge, so huge as to defy belief.  Certainly he was guilty of tax fraud.  Russian tax laws are numerous enough, vague enough and contradictory enough that once given the go ahead to take someone out, the Tax Police have no trouble getting a conviction on any one.  At any rate the Russian people supported his being found guilty because he was one of the oligarchs who stole everything. 

When his sentence was drawing near to the end, there was no way he would be allowed back on the street.  This time he was charged with stealing virtually ALL the oil his company produced and laundering the proceeds.  This of course totally negates the first charge because if he stole all the oil then Yukos would have had no income to pay taxes on.  The methodology of Stalin's show trials of the 1930's continues to be useful.  Khodorkovsky will be no problem to Putin until 2017. If he survives another 7 years in prison.

No question that Khodorkovsky is not a nice person.  Following his tracks backwards would lead one to all sorts of crimes as he put his empire together.  If those were the reasons he were in prison, no one would complain.  But all of his oligarch colleagues who played the game, supported Putin either directly or indirectly by doing nothing are quite safe even though they are just as guilty of the same crimes as Khodorkovsky.

Berezovsky, another oligarch who had a falling out with Putin is "safe" in England, where he continues to infuriate Putin by speaking out against the criminal element that is Russian governance.  The Russians have charged him with tax evasion.  The Brits have rightfully refused to extradite him because they know full well no one cares about his tax evasion but they care about his opposition to Putin.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dave Cooks the Turkey*

Western Christian Christmas dinner at the Hingston's in Ukraine tried relatively successfully to mix two culinary cultures.  Roast goose, mashed potatoes and gravy, Salad Olivia, smoked salmon, red caviar on small slices of bread, fried fish, five kinds cold cuts, fresh veggies and I forget what all else.  Enough food for 20 in anticipation of 10.  Consumption parted the clans, with the Ukrainian side not touching the potatoes and gravy while Lyn and I had double helpings but avoided all things fishy.

Andrei was not feeling well so bowed out but about 7:00 pm, our friend Small Tanya from Dnipropetrovsk showed up at the door.  She had been promising to visit for two years now and finally made the trip.  She and Tanya stayed up until 2:00 am talking after everyone else went home.

Lynmara, Roman and Lena hit it off instantly, as I was pretty sure they would.  Lyn wants to go shopping with Lena, as they have similar tastes in clothes and similar budgets, (read NIL).

We did a video call to the kids in Canada by Skype.  It was great to see them.  Grandma who will be 91 a few days into the new year is quite puzzled by the wonders of modern technology but did say hello and listened while the rest of us talked.  (NOTE: Other families we video chatted with this holiday season showed off their new babies.  Mine show off their dogs. HINT).

*Some families have Christmas movies that are a tradition.  White Christmas, Emmit Otter's Jugband Christmas, a Christmas Carol (the old one), Elf, Miracle on 34th Street and many others.  However for CBC Radio fans like me, Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe Christmas stories of Dave and Morley are also part of Christmas.  You can listen to the perennial favourite "Dave Cooks the Turkey" here.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Four Years and Counting

Things have been a bit hectic this past week so, like the butcher who backed into his meat grinder and got a little behind in his orders, I have a bit of catching up to do.

Tanya and I celebrated four years married on Thursday by collecting my youngest off the train in the morning at 11:00 am and going out for supper in the evening.  It was a good day and I am married to the most wonderful woman a man could ever ask for.

Four wonderful years together.

Lyn's flight was canceled on Dec 21 because of the weather.  Thankfully, she was flying Lufthansa who are pros at looking after their passengers.  A hotel for the night, supper and breakfast and come back next day to see what they can arrange.  The next day, she reluctantly dragged her luggage to the airport (London City) expecting, (as did I) that she would only have to drag it back to a hostel somewhere.  Ten minutes after she arrived at the ticket counter, she was in line to board a flight to Geneva to catch a Ukraine International flight to Kyiv.  She arrived in Kyiv at 11:00 pm that night.  And caught the 7:00 am train out.

Tanya was not surprised at this.  She had been telling me since the first flight was canceled that Lyn would fly on the 22nd.  She was more than a little miffed at me for being, uh, less than receptive to the idea.  Call it faith, call it a sixth sense, call it whatever.  She is right often enough (like 95% ) that I should learn to just shut up and listen.

Tanya is downstairs fixing Christmas dinner.  She sent me upstairs so I wouldn't "help" as she says sometimes my helping makes more work for her than not.  Our Ukrainian family is gathering today for Western Christian Christmas, in honour of Lyn and I.  We will celebrate New Years Eve and again Orthodox Christian Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cell-Phone Christmas

In 1997, the year we had a warm brown Christmas and posed on the lawn in our shirt sleeves, Ella's side of the family had Christmas in Rosetown at the home of Ella's brother Kirk.

Some background here.  Kirk and Ruth went from 0 to 6 kids in two years.  They adopted two older children, brother and sister, whose arrival coincided to the birth of a daughter.  Two years later they had triplet girls who were 13 by this time.  The house was full of teenagers, less than quiet and more than a little chaotic.  Like good Christmases are supposed to be.

The men were sitting around the table comparing cell phones, since we each had one and they were a relatively new toy, at least to us.  Clunkers compared to present day models but certainly smaller than the earlier "suitcase" models.  Cell phones, by the way, are the ONLY thing that one man will brag to another that his is smaller.

I went upstairs to the bathroom.  No toilet paper.  None, nada. (When will I learn to look first? When I am not in a rush. When is that likely to happen?) Obviously the spare rolls, assuming there actually were some, were in a different part of the house.  What to do?  Yelling was useless as one could not be heard over kids and TVs.  Hey, my cell phone is in my jacket pocket.

Ring, ring.
"Ruth, could you send someone upstairs with some toilet paper, please?"

She did, once she quit laughing.
Good invention, cell phones.

Happy Solstice Day

I like winter solstice because from now on the days get longer again.  My deeds must not be too evil as I hate the darkness.  Today is a special winter solstice coinciding with a total eclipse of the full moon for the first time since 1638.

Celebration of the Winter Solstice or the Roman "Festival of Lights" is far older than our celebration of Christmas and many of the traditions were incorporated into Our Christmas.  Actually, most of our Christmas traditions are borrowed from far older pagan celebrations.

Getafix, the Druid Priest

The Druids celebrated the Solstice and also brought us the mistletoe tradition.  Which brings to mind the famous Druid Priest Getafix.  Ah, yes, Asterix the Gaul, the world's favorite comic book character after perhaps only Mickey Mouse.  A French cartoon drawn by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, Asterix has been translated into more than 100 languages.

Asterix, Obelix and Dogmatix
Set in 50 BC, in a little village in northern France, Asterix, his friend Obelix, the menhir delivery man and the pooch Dogmatix help their chief Vitalstatistix defend this last bastion of Gaulish freedom against the Roman legions from military camps Laudanum and Totorum.  The Gauls depend on a magic potion brewed by Getafix while the legionnaires are urged on by Roman Senators Nefarius Purpus and Christmus Bonus


Other Gaulish characters include the blacksmith Fulliautomatix, the fishmonger Unhygenix and his wife Bacteria, the bard Cacophonix, the Roman spy Doubbleosix and on it goes.  I can't forget the Egyptian Ptennisnet. 

When Number ONE son was about 10 years old, we would borrow Asterix comics from the library and he and I would laugh until the tears rolled down our faces.  One day some years later we found the entire collection at the library used book sale.  Joyful memories forever!!

Happy Winter Solstice Day.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gourmet Cooking

Masha and Tanya took a taxi over to our house just after lunch and stayed much of the afternoon.  My Tanya was busy making Christmas crafts for Masha's school room from "Christmas decoration stuff" she gathered together and then took apart to make "supplies".  She found some old green garland and wrapped it around grape vine she cut earlier in the day as the base for the wreath.  

My professional grade glue gun I bought at Epicenter last year for $40 finally got a real workout. First time Tanya used a glue gun.  I think she is hooked.  When LynnieC gets here in three days to spend Christmas holidays, the two of them are going to buy good craft supplies and go crazy making more Christmas stuff. 

If LynnieC gets here.  Great Britain is snowed under as is much of Europe.  Heathrow is closed but apparently City, which Lyn will fly from, is still working.  Boryspol Airport, Kyiv is closed because of ice.  Frankfurt in the middle is not looking good either.  Even if all three are working on the same day, can they clear the backlog?  I worry.

Tanya was tired.  I said to her, "What do you want for supper?" meaning give me a hint and I will go cook it.  Next thing I know she is banging around in the kitchen.  We had a famous Russian dish, Rozhki po Flotski, for supper.  Sounds impressive until you realize it is the Russian variant of SOS.  Ground beef straight from the freezer to the frying pan along with a couple of onions.  Macaroni cooked, then mixed with the hamburger and onions.  Slathered with ketchup.  15 minutes freezer to plate. 

Oh, and Rozhki po Flotski?  Means Macaroni for the Fleet.

Friday, December 17, 2010

More Roman and Andrei Stories

As a small boy Roman's summer costume consisted of sleeveless undershirt, undershorts and rubber boots.  He never met a mud puddle he didn't like.  Andrei NEVER walked into a puddle.  Andrei was scrupulously clean, scrupulously neat (still is).  He could sometimes drive his mother crazy.  When he started school, he ironed his own pants every morning before he left for school.  Roman used this to good advantage as when Andrei thought he had a pounding coming, Roman would stand in the middle of a puddle until Andrei went away.

Tanya's family lived in a duplex that shared a common attic.  When Roman was four, he appeared at the attic window with the neighbour's rifle, which Tanya had no idea was stored there. Tanya told Roman to listen very carefully and she would tell him a fairy story that he had never heard before.  (Obviously it wasn't going to be Peter and the Wolf)  She spun quite the yarn, I guess, out of desperation as she slowly made her way up the stairs to the attic so she could take the rifle.

Andrei was supposed to look after Roman in the morning after Tanya went to work and then drop him at Tanya's Babushka's house in his way to school.  One morning, he watched from the street as Roman went into Babushka's yard and closed the gate, then he continued on to school.  Roman watched him leave then scooted over to a friends place to play for the day.  Babushka thought maybe Tanya had stayed home when Roman never showed up.  That evening, the police finally found Roman.

Andrei looked after his toys.  They would be clean and neatly lined up at night, like any good trucker would look after his rig.  Roman's toys rarely lasted more than an hour before he took them apart to see how they worked.  This was frustrating enough but one day he took his mother's vacuum cleaner apart.  Putting it together was not his strong point.  The loose parts were simple tucked inside and the unit closed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Roman Starts Kindergarten

Tanya was telling me stories about her boys when they were young.  The kind of stories only a mother can tell. Good blog material for a few days here.

Roman as a small child used to bug his mother to take him to work so he could see what she did.  Tanya always put him off by saying she had a very bad boss and so could never take him to work.

Roman started Kindergarten at age three (daycare is called Kindergarten in the FSU as it is more structured than our daycare).  His first day there, another little boy cried the whole time.  Finally Roman asked him why.  He wanted to go home.  He missed his mother and just wanted to go home.  Roman said, "Well lets go, I'll help you".  And two three-year-old boys headed out, unnoticed by anyone.

One of Tanya's friends who drove a local shuttle bus, saw the boys, asked what they were doing.  "Looking for this boy's home". So he picked them up and took them to Tanya's workplace.  Tanya phoned the Kindergarten.  "Do you know where Roman and ____ are?"  "They are right here". "Maybe you should look".

In the meantime Tanya's co-workers and boss were all gathered around the boys having a good laugh at their escapade.  Roman said to his mother "How come you said you have such a bad boss?  Look, he is smiling at me and friendly."

Fast Food

 I subscribe to a daily news email from "Meatingplace", mainly to keep up with American views on Canadian meat industry changes. As a McDonald's fan, this item caught my eye.

McDonald’s announces aggressive expansion plans in China. 
McDonald’s Corp. announced Wednesday it double the amount of restaurants it operates in China by 2013 to 2,000 restaurants, according to media reports, citing a briefing in that country.
The Oak Brook, Ill.-based burger giant plans expand to open as many as 200 new restaurants in China in 2011 alone. The company is chasing Yum Brands, parent of KFC and Pizza Hut, which operates some 3,700 outlets in China.
McDonald’s added 165 restaurants in China this year. The company opened its first restaurant in china in Shenzhen almost 20 years ago. “It took us almost 19 years to reach 1,000 restaurants,” quoted Kenneth Chan, McDonald’s chief executive in China, as saying. “We will get our next 1,000 restaurants within three years.”

There is an old joke  about a guy ordering a hamburger in China and finding a piece of rubber tire in it.  The explanation given was that with mechanization the tractor had replaced the donkey.  McDonald's which makes a practice of using local ingredients in their products, initially at least had to import fat to mix with the ultra lean Chinese beef simply so you can eat the burgers.  Anyone who has eaten an ultra lean burger knows it is like eating rubber tire.  KFC was very popular when I was last in China.  Pizza Hut must have come in the last 10 years.  There are also great many "fast food" Chinese restaurants as Chinese food lends itself to pre-preparation as any one who frequents Canadian buffet restaurants knows.

So far, McDonald's is the only western fast food company in Ukraine.  There is too much competition from local fast food joints, from street venders of Chibreki and BBQ chicken to chains like Potato House and Cilantanos (spell?) as well as other pizza places.  Pizza Hut could not compete here as their well loaded pizzas would be more expensive than the local thin crust thin topping entrees.  Having never eaten a pizza in Italy, I can't say what an authentic pizza looks or tastes like.  Chicago is where the NA pizza is supposed to have originated from, like San Francisco is where NA Chinese food originated.  Don't know if that is true or not.

We have an awesome little tea, bake shop and pizzeria here in Zhovti Vody which Tanya and I frequent at least once a week.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

C ool Paw Bobik

Bobik does not know when he is beaten.  From when they were little puppies Volk has always been top dog and Bobik has always resented it.  When they were little it was good fun for them to be always wrestling and fighting because that is what puppies do.  Then they got older and it got serious.  Bloody serious.

Most of the time when they got into a death struggle, I have been there to sort them out and put them in isolation until the mad wore off.  This fall not so much.  Sometimes when I don't take them for a walk, I just let them run.  One day they didn't come home as they usually do and finally Bobik limped home with one front leg badly chewed up.  Taking out a front leg to cripple is a good fighting trick that dogs use but Volk had never before done that.  At any rate Volk finally came home also looking the worse for wear but certainly not too badly chewed up.  And in a week, Bobik was good as new.

We went for a couple walks and then one day, I let them run again, thinking Bobik had been beaten badly enough maybe he learned.  Nope.  He came home several hours later with the other front leg chewed to ribbons.  I couldn't find that it had been broken, so left him to heal himself (I should have called him Physician).  For two weeks it was pretty swollen and it dangled from the first joint like it was broken.  I figured I would have to put him down. 

Like that was going to happen.  Tanya and the boys would have put me down first, I think.  But at least I stirred things enough that we took him to the vet tonight after 6:00 so if we needed an X-Ray we could get one at the ER as the vet clinic doesn't have a machine. Reminded me of Baxter Black starting out as a vet.  He said a steam roller ran over this lady's dog so he put it in a suitcase and ran it through the airport luggage scanner.  But I digress.

In the mean time, the two mutts got at it again in the yard, Bobik with a bad leg and all.  Too dumb to quit.

So Andrei the veterinarian examined his leg thoroughly and said no it wasn't broken but the tendons were badly damaged in that knuckle joint and it was hot.  Antibiotic injections three times three days apart. antihistamines daily for five days and a compress on the joint daily for 30 minutes for five days.  Bobik is now living in the passage way to the out building and I will be taking him outside for bathroom duty fairly regularly as he has no clue about house training.

Sad to watch him try to lift one hind leg to pee when he only has one front leg.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Log Driver's Waltz

We are really enjoying internet speeds fast enough to watch music videos.  One of my very favourites is the 1979 NFB "Log Driver's Waltz" Vignette.  The animated film of this Canadian Folk Song is set to the music of Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

Log driving (and I have borrowed all this from Wikipedia) is a means of log transport which makes use of a river's current to move floating tree trunks downstream to sawmills. It was the main transportation method of the early logging industry in Europe and North America.  Bigger saw mills  were not portable, and were usually established in the lower reaches of a river, with the logs brought to them by floating downriver by log drivers.

To ensure that logs drifted freely along the river, men called "log drivers" were needed to guide the logs. This was an exceedingly dangerous occupation, with the drivers standing on the moving logs and running from one to another. When one caught on an obstacle and formed a logjam, someone had to free the offending log. This required some understanding of physics, strong muscles, and extreme agility. Many log drivers lost their lives by falling and being crushed by the logs.

On small tributaries logs could only be driven during the spring flood, when thousands of logs, cut during the winter months, were sent downriver. Each timber firm had its own mark which was placed on the logs. Obliterating or altering a timber mark was a crime. At the mill the logs were captured by a log boom, and the logs were sorted for ownership before being sawn into lumber.

Log driving became unnecessary with the advent of the railroad and good public roads for trucks.

Log Drivers in Sweden 1918

Tanya said they did the same in Russia.  Her father worked driving a skidder in the Taiga north of Krasnoyarsk when she was very young.  Logs would be sent down the Yennesey River from the mountains south of Khakasia.  On the big rivers they would be boomed into rafts.  On the Volga river which was much quieter than the Yennessey, Tanya said people would often camp on the rafts and fish from them.

GM Crops: FCPP - Frontier Centre for Public Policy

GM Crops: FCPP - Frontier Centre for Public Policy


Cold days require warm comfort food and home-made soup fills the bill.  Our kids were raised on wonderful home-made soups that were never ever the same twice in a row.  Refrigerator soup, sometimes known as enthusiasm soup, started with anything that would serve as a base, and then everything in the refrigerator was enthusiastically dumped into it. The herbs and spices varied though I think China Lily soy sauce figured predominantly.

Tanya's soups are all home-made and are primarily vegetables with some meat boiled in it, such as chicken, for good measure.  There are several different names - borshch, summer borshch, she, soup (no name?) and one of my favourites, Solyanka.

Lingvo defines it as a spicy vegetable and meat soup.  Sol is salt so to me it is more salty soup. Tanya's is made more or less thusly:

Chopped up vegetables: potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, whatever is handy. The onions and tomatoes are fried up a bit first in a very hot pan.  Everything is boiled together with chopped up ham.  Add lemon, rind and all, chopped up fine, black or green olives, halved, small pickled mushrooms and dill pickles chopped up fine.  Tanya added a little hot chili ketchup to this last batch, so I guess yo can experiment how you like  When it is just about done, throw in chopped fresh (or fresh frozen) dill weed (goes in all soups).  Serve with sour cream (is there any other way to serve Ukrainian soup?).

Two days ago, I made two loaves of banana bread which were slightly overbaked and therefore look like there was molasses in the mix.  Tastes pretty good anyhow.  This afternoon, I made johnny cake and Tanya made oatmeal raisin cookies.  My johnny cake recipe has sugar in it. When we were in Dnipro last week, we ate at an Italian restaurant (Il Primo, chain owned by TGI Fridays). Tanya's fish (salmon?) was served with a sauce of some kind on a thin slice of cornbread which had no sugar.  I need to find a similar recipe for both fish and cornbread on the net as she said it was the best lunch ever.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Irreverend Christmas Lights and Cartoons

My all-time favourite cartoon.  The expressions are priceless

I would dearly love to do this one sometime.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why We Have Mice

Sound asleep

Stuck in the Muck

Long time agriculture communications consultant, Kevin Hursh, in his Today's Comment writes this about farming in Saskatchewan in 2010, the wettest year on record.

Stuck in the muck
It’s never fun at the time, but now it’s fascinating to look back at the pictures.
The 2010 growing season must have set records for farm equipment mired in the mud. You’ve probably seen some of those shots circulating by email. 
In case you’ve haven’t discovered it, there’s a website set up with scores of amazing photos of combines, grain carts, tractors and high clearance sprayers stuck deep in mud holes. There are even some track hoes that are practically submerged.
The website has been set up by Flaman Sales and they’re taking votes on the best photos with prizes to be awarded. The website is www.stuckinthemuck.com. Voting takes place until December 20.
Almost everyone got some piece of equipment stuck at some point this year. In some areas, farmers were getting stuck a dozen times a day.
With digital photos and cell phone cameras and easy transfer by email, sharing that sinking feeling has never been easier. Somehow it's comforting to see that someone else got equipment stuck even worse than you did.
I’m Kevin Hursh.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Just a reminder

The Mayonnaise Jar

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and started to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor, as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things - God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else. The small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. So...
  • Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
  • Play with your children.
  • Take time to get medical checkups.
  • Take your partner out to dinner.
  • There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap.
'Take care of the golf balls first -- The things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled. 'I'm glad you asked'. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough; remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fleeing the country

My youngest moved to England, to find work as a librarian, she hopes.  You can read about her adventures on her new blog, started just for the purpose.  Sort of getting close to back where we started.  My maternal grandmother's people were from Yorkshire while my paternal grandparents were from Ireland.  One of my dad's cousins, in her '90's, lives in Bath.

She is now two time zones away from us in Ukraine.  Same number of time zones as Regina (May-B) from Victoria (Ky).  They are two provinces apart.  Lyn and I are several countries apart.

Distance isn't what it was when my grandparents came to Canada in 1906.  One of my Grandfather's brothers stayed behind in Ireland.  They never saw each other again. That was not uncommon.  When people moved, they disappeared forever from the lives of those they left behind.  Other than a few letters.  Those people were really brave.

But it still takes courage to head out on your own to a new country to seek your fortune.  And whatever else she can find.  This from her Facebook: LynnieC is in London. Did you know that all the hottest men in the world live here? Also, there's some historical stuff, I guess?

Good thing she has a hotmale address.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Blue Passport blues

Tuesday I picked up my shiny new Canadian passport, good to 2015.  I love it.  Dark blue, with nice clean pages on the inside.  Not loud and garish.  Quiet and dignified.  Like Canadians.  Like me*.

It has 48 pages waiting to be filled with visas and stamps from interesting places.  Especially the place where I live.  Ukraine.  I am registered here as a permanent resident under the number of my old passport.  Need to fix that.

Wednesday we went to the document office in P'yatikhatki, 30 km away.  As it is the "County Seat" and we live in a village in P'yatikhatshi Raion, we must go there "to be taxed". Tanya called the office and they told us we needed to apply to register a new passport.  We arrived about 3:00 pm and filled out the two forms, only to be told we needed four passport photos.  If we brought them back at 8:00 next morning they would go to Dnipro that day and we would have my passport back with a permanent resident stamp in it by Monday.

Now I have a Ukrainian Permanent Resident passport BUT Immigration at Ukrainian airports (or on trains at border crossings) are very hostile that I don't have a stamp in my passport.  Immigration control are a different Ministry than the Ministry which looks after everybody's documents.  The latter says we don't need a stamp in my Canadian passport; the former say we do.  Since the former can refuse my re-entry into Ukraine, I need the stamp!

Thursday we were back with the pictures next morning at 8:00.  At 11:00 we got a phone call saying oh, by the way you need to have the 4th page translated and notarized.  Back to P'yatikhatki to get my new passport.  Translating it was easy, we just made the changes on the translation of my old passport and retyped it.

Monday, we will go into Dnipro, to get our friend Natalia to stamp the translation as hers (she is a certified translator) then we will take it to a Notary friend of Natalia's who will stamp it without having seen Natalia sign it.  Then we will take it to the Document office in Dnipro (I think) where they will dutifully stamp some more papers and hopefully even my new passport.

Or maybe we'll have to take it back to P'yatikhatki.

* cough, hack, choke

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Are there any News? Not a New.

Tanya decorated for Christmas today and the house looks quite festive.  Pictures to follow when our handy-dandy ISP works again. 

Today we are back to the old and slow one.  Groan.  Volodya, our tech who set up the new system, tried to get us running again Saturday but gave up.  He will come back tomorrow and do something. 

It is actually 0C as I write.  Maybe it will get cold tonight.  It has been so warm, a great many seeds have sprouted in the flower garden so Tanya dug up the seedlings and potted them inside for the winter.  She now has a head start on petunias and phlox for next spring.  The crocuses are even up.  Not good.

Friday I let the dogs out to run about 10:00 and they never came back as they usually do.  Bobik came limping home at 4:00, worse for the wear, bloodied from a gash on his front leg and a chewed ear. No Volk.  I went looking for him and this dog came running up to me and barked at me steady for a couple of minutes. 

Saw Volk briefly yesterday.  He had found himself a paramour.  The dog who barked at me.  Guess she was telling me to mind my own business.  Volk would come home when he was ready.  Or hungry.  He came home today.  Muddy and starved but if dogs can grin. . .  Now instead of Bobik sitting at the fence and crying to go out, they are both being mournful.

I'm trying to write an article for a Ukrainian livestock magazine and have had severe writers block.  I know what I want to say but HOW to say it in a fashion that won't get me deported or shot, yet will still have the desired impact. . . and not be 10 pages long.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Old Slop Pail

Tanya's blood pressure is all back to normal again and hopefully will stay so.  I take her in every morning for her IV, (which reminds me of the red blood cell and the white blood cell whose love was in vein) come home and do up the dishes and clean up the kitchen before it is time to go back and get her.  With no drain for our sink, we carry the dishpan into the bathroom to dump and have a bucket to collect odds and ends, like half drunk coffee.  Reminds me a bit of the farm.

For most of my growing up years, until I left for University, we lived in an old house with no running water.  Water was carried in from the well.  In winter we kept a 45 gallon barrel by the stove and melted snow for soft water.  Water was heated on the stove to wash anything that needed washing.  Under the sink was a five gallon pail, into which small amounts of water were emptied.  Waste water was carried out and dumped in the ditch of the road that went very close by the north side of our house.  In summer, Dad ran a hose from the sink to the ditch so we were saved the carrying.  Needless to say, it smelled bad and drew flies.

Garbage disposal was well organized to minimize solid waste that needed to be hauled away.  Eggshells were crushed and fed back to the hens as a source of calcium.  Compostable scraps went to the chickens or the pigs.  Anything paper was burned.  The rest, mostly glass or cans went to a small but deep slough about 1/4 mile from the house.  Along with empty cans of weed spray, old batteries and other items which now make me shudder to think about.  We also piled rocks we picked off the field into the slough and when the municipality finally banned refuse dumps other than at specified sites, Dad filled the slough with dirt and covered it with topsoil and now it is invisible and farmed over. 

Pretty primitive but there are many many homes in rural Ukraine and Russia where water is still hauled in and out.  My sister-in-law in Beli Yar just got indoor plumbing this year.  I had threatened to set fire to their outhouse if they didn't.

Happy Thanksgiving, America

For those of you interested in such things, I recommend the book Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick.  It is a very readable history of the Pilgrims in New England.

 In the meantime, enjoy your family and the turkey.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Kid Makes Me Proud

For those of you who sometimes question my children's parentage (How could HE be father to four such wonderful children?) I have this to say:  Pfffppttt!! Sometimes DNA triumphs over all the attempts of their mother, teachers and society at large to the contrary.  You can read about it here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Rained all night and again all day.  Slow soaking in kind.  I hope it doesn't freeze before the surface dries off a bit or it will be unfun driving the rest of the winter.

Tanya and I went to visit Tanya and Masha.  Andrei was in a billiard tournament.  I think that is one way he supports his family.  He doesn't lose often.  Masha showed us her new room which is quite nice, lacking only a computer which she will get when I get a new notebook.  The kitchen and hall are still to finish but it is home.

Masha brought out her English lessons and did her vocabulary for us.  She sounds the words out silently to herself.  It is cute that she phones every night to get me to say words for her that she has trouble with - purple, hippopotamus, orange are some she has called about.  She and the other students taking English have to go for private lessons as there is no English teacher in the public school she attends.  Given pay and other conditions at the school, it is a wonder there are any teachers at all. The private lesson books are much superior to the ones from the public school, too.

Too wet to walk the dogs today and I don't think they even came out of their room.  Kuchma goes outside only on demand (our demand) and the rest of the time stays curled up on the carpet.  Or chair.  He is towel trained in that if a chair or couch has a towel on it, he knows he can sleep on it.  If there are no towels on the furniture he sleeps where he wants, so it is up to us.  Last night Tanya was doing her nails and had a towel across her lap.  Kuchma is NOT a lap cat but he saw the towel, climbed onto her lap and went to sleep.

We've been doctoring this week.  Tanya's bronchitis finally cleared up but her blood pressure is bad again.  She is supposed to get an IV of something for 10 days once a year but had not bothered as she "felt fine".  So now she has had two infusions and goes again tomorrow for a third etc.  Takes about an hour and already she is feeling better.

If you haven't contributed to The Guy's effort to raise money for Prostate Cancer this November, it isn't too late.  The site is HERE.  I went for two more tests this week - blood test and ultrasound.  All good.  So after three tests if there is a problem with my prostate, no one has been able to put their finger on it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fall Cleaning

Today was fall cleaning at our house.  Walls, ceilings, corners, cracks and crevasses.  By 9:00 Katya was hard at work on the upstairs. After lunch, Lena and Tanya and Katya were all going full steam ahead.  I just ran taxi shuttle and tried to stay out of the way.  Kuchma just tried to stay out of the way. He got booted out at least once. I was lucky.

The house now shines like  new penny.  One is not allowed to live in a clean house in case it gets dirty again instantly (all men will understand that) but it is worth it.  The area rugs are unrolled for winter.  The summer drapes are down and winter ones are up.  The cobwebs are gone and the woodwork polished.  Ready for Christmas decorating.

Our kitchen sink has been plugged for months.  Drano didn't help.  A 10' snake helped a bit and it would drain slowly, so I would wash dishes until the sink filled with water then stop and let it drain.  I rinse with hot water.  Finding a plumber with a roto-rooter is a non-starter as we don't have plumbers in Ukraine as we know them in Canada.  Katya's husband Yuri found a guy who owned a 50' snake and so today he and Roman set out to see if they could unclog our sink drain.

It is about 25' to 30' from our sink to the corner of the house where the main sewer pipe to the septic tank is located.  The black iron pipe drain has been buried under the floor in concrete (or earth?) for over 20 years.  It may have corroded shut, collapsed or whatever, but there was no fixing the problem.  Yuri sweated at it for three or four hours but nothing doing.  The snake was not going through.  All that happened was enough gunk got stirred up that the drain is totally plugged now.

We have two choices - be shot or hanged.  Wait until spring and trench a new sewer line from the kitchen to the septic tank, independent of the one from the bathrooms.  Or run a white PVC line inside the house, along the living room wall, under the window and figure out what to do with the hot water register under the same window.  Chiseling the pipe into the wall is impossible as is jack hammering up the floor.

The 6 lb pork roast sure tasted good for supper.  There wasn't much left of it when the six of us got finished (seven counting Kuchma).

Kuchma thinks he is Emperor with all this carpet to himself

Friday, November 19, 2010

Joining the 21st Century

Today we changed our ISP and our hardware.  It isn't high-speed internet but it looks awfully good after what we have endured for so long.  We can use Skype without long pauses, garbled sound and frequent dropped calls.  I actually watched a video on YouTube without having to take 15 to 30 minutes to download it first.  Web pages load in seconds instead of minutes.  Not only that but we got a D-Link wireless so we can use our laptops anywhere in the house and only have one account. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sure works for me

Tanya is in cleaning and furniture rearranging mode, getting ready to decorate for Christmas, even though it is +21C outside as I write.

Last spring, at end of season, we bought an electric fireplace for looks and as an extra heat source in the living room.  (Electric heat is cheaper than gas heat). The floor model came with no box or instructions.   It had fake flames and all and looked pretty in late evenings when we plugged it in but gave no heat.  As it was summer we didn't explore further. 

Today she moved it from under the TV to another wall, for ease of decorating and to make room for the tree to go in the window.  I decided to see why it made no heat as it had a heating element and should have a fan.  No sign of a control panel anywhere. Plug it in, "fire" works.  Unplug it, "fire" stops.  Puzzle.

When Tanya finished dusting it and was pushing it back against the wall, she kicked it, in some frustration at its unwillingness to throw heat.  A hidden door popped open and there were the controls.  I just looked at her in amazement.

She said, "Sometimes stupid works, too".

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hard Times Come Again No More - Mavis Staples

Utah Savage posted this song on her blog a few days back.  I downloaded it and have been playing it over and over.  It is beautiful.  It is sad.  It is a powerful reminder that hard times haunt a great many people still, in every country of the world.  Greed and poverty seem to go hand in hand since the dawn of time.  The pictures on the one video are from the '30's but I could find pictures every bit as tragic today here in rural Ukraine or any part of the FSU. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hospital Number Four

Schools and Hospitals in Ukraine are numbered.  Streets have names.  Like Lenin, Karl Marx, Heroes of Stalingrad and the Glorious October Revolution.  Changing street names is fairly low on the priority list.  Repairing them is only slightly higher.

Tuesday, Tanya made an appointment for my annual check-up with one of the top Urology specialists in Dnipropetrovs'k.  Prostate glands are the bane of men and angels. Angels, you say?  Certainly, there is even a song about "Let angels' prostates fall".  I think it is in the Hymn about the Royal Duodenum that my cousin Lorne and I used to sing 40 or 50 years ago. But I digress.

The appointment was for 11:00 and at 11:2O we were ushered into his office on the 3rd floor of Hospital Number Four near the west end of the city in the industrial area.  At 11:40 the examination was over and at 11:45, with hand written report to put in my medical records (individuals, not the doctor's office, are responsible for maintaining their own records) and having paid him $25 we were on our way home.  With a clean bill of health and the satisfaction of having done my duty as an aging male and actually gone for a check up.

And I'll put in another plug for my Number One Son-in-Law who is growing a one month wonder mustache to raise money for Prostate Cancer Research.  You can donate HERE.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Come for Tea

Come for coffee about 7:00.  In Canada it means come for coffee and a visit.  Maybe with snacks (usually with snacks if it it married couple to married couple) which might be veggies and dip or some deadly dessert.   It does not mean come for supper (or dinner, depending on how and where you were raised).

Come for tea about 7:00 means virtually anything here in Ukraine.  When Tanya says to me do you want tea, it usually means with the appropriate meal or if not meal time, then snacks or something but always tea means food.  I often have to specify TEA...no food, please.  Sometimes she listens.

So this afternoon friends invited us to their home for tea, about 7:00.  We had no idea what to expect and it is not polite to ask, apparently.  Ryya said she had tried a new recipe.  They had been at my birthday party and loved my apple crisp so Tanya thought maybe it was a dessert recipe.  So we had supper before we left.  Chicken and potatoes.

Mistake.  Tea this time was supper.  Platter piled high with chicken, potatoes, mushrooms, carrots apples and oranges all roasted together, basted with some kind of sauce and delicious.  Would have been more delicious if we had been hungry but we managed to eat enough to be polite.  Chocolates and coffee for dessert.

We had a great visit.  Both Ryya and Vladik teach at the "Lycee" (or something like that) which is a special school for exceptionally brilliant kids.  Their one wall, from the front door to the back of the bedroom is lined 8 high with bookshelves.  They know lots of stories and there was lots of laughter.  A good way to finish a day.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rough Week

Sorry for not posting more often this week.  I have neither energy nor ambition.  Nothing 'citing ever happens round here.  The dogs have been good, the cat only crapped in the bedroom once this month and the garbage truck was on time yesterday.  Maybe things will pick up later in the week.

Rough week, but I made it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pictures from Chukotka in the far north east of Russian Federation

Our friend Volodya from P'yatikhatki did some consulting work for a gold mining company in the Autonomous Region of Chukotka in the far NE of Russia. Anadyr-Ugolnyye Kopi is the only settlement of note I could find on Google Earth so I am thinking that may be where he flew in.  Certainly it is near the ocean.  The Chukchi are the aboriginal people.  In winter they cross the Bering strait where it is fairly narrow to visit relatives in Alaska and in return receive American Eskimos (Dene?).  The army don't know where to look to keep them from crossing and likely don't care either.

You can see Volodya's pictures here. http://foto.mail.ru/mail/valdemarr2/-/slideshow 

I hope this works. Not sure if they are password protected or not but I can open them on my computer.

Friday, November 5, 2010

With friends like this

When I applied for my new passport, I had to give two references who could vouch that I was a real person.  They were actually contacted.  This is the reply they got from one of my friends.  I only listed him as "friend" because there wasn't enough room to write "village idiot".
From: Anna.Mischenko@international.gc.ca [mailto:Anna.Mischenko@international.gc.ca]
Sent: November-05-10 6:17 AM
To: wayne
Subject: passport service

Dear Mr. Wayne,

Please confirm that you know Mr. Fodder Blog

Best regards,

Consular section
Canadian Embassy | Ambassade du Canada
(38044)590-3189 | (38044)590-3189
(38044)590-3134 | (38044)590-3134

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada | Affaires etrangиres et Commerce international Canada
Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada

From: Wayne [mailto:wayne@]
Sent: November-05-10 6:21 AM
To: 'Anna.Mischenko@international.gc.ca'
Subject: RE: passport service

Thank you. I know him very well. His name is Mr. Blog Fodder (I believe you have the first and last names reversed, or you have forgotten a comma after the last name).

I sincerely hope that you do not give him another passport. We have finally gotten him out of the country so why would we give him the paperwork to allow him back in. Is there a place where I could intervene in his application? I have photos and other documentary evidence to support my case.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I love McDonalds

I needed to apply for a new passport as my old one has only 5 months left on it and you need six months clear to go anywhere.  The night train to Kyiv left P'yatikhatki at 11:30 pm and by 6:15 am I was sitting in McDonalds waiting for the bank and embassy to open at 9:00, inhaling a cup of coffee, hashbrowns  and two Bacon and Egg McMuffins.  Real bacon which I have yet to find in Ukraine. All for $5. And free WiFi.

Whoever owns the franchise for McDonalds by the railway station deserves to be as rich as Bill Gates.  Open 20 hours a day, 10 tills and a line up at least five deep at every till. I'd love to know the daily turnover.

There are 20 young people visible behind the counter and I don't know how many more back in the kitchen area.  They seem visibly happy and certainly work together as a team.  Service is awesome.  With a smile.  Though that may be at my clumsy Russian (they all speak enough English to bail me out when I have trouble).  And the food tastes like home.  I know, the Chardonnay Socialist Foodies are groaning at the thought of fast food (eeeuwgh...bus people). It is fast, cheap and easy, like me.

For those who follow FX, The Economist publishes a semiannual Big Mac index that compares the cost of a Big Mac in every country that McDonalds has restaurants.  Since the Big Mac is exactly the same, everywhere in the world, then the difference in price is a function of the difference in exchange rates (compounded by lower or higher wages and other costs) and an indicator of where exchange rates "ought to be".  "The Economist's Big Mac index seeks to make exchange-rate theory more digestible. It is arguably the world's most accurate financial indicator to be based on a fast-food item".  India is not included as there is no beef in their burgers.

And for Foodies who like to mix economics with their meals, the Economist has several articles and charts about other fast food here, but you may have to subscribe (or know someone who subscribes).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Understanding The Blues

Lot of folks going to be singing the blues before today is over so here is a piece I found some years back that explains who can and how to sing the blues.

Understanding The Blues
If you are new to Blues music, or like it but never really understood the why/wherefore, here are some very fundamental rules.

1. Most Blues begin with: "Woke up this morning..."

2. "I got a good woman" is a bad way to begin the Blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line like, "I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town."

3. The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes sort of: "Got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Yes, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher and she weigh 500 pound."

4. The Blues is not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch... ain't no way out.

5. Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks. Blues don't travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain't even in the running. Walkin' plays a major part in the Blues lifestyle. So does fixin' to die.

6. Teenagers can't sing the Blues. They ain't fixin' to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, "adulthood" means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shot a man in Memphis.

7. Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii or anywhere in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City are still the best places to have the Blues. You cannot have the Blues in any place that doesn't get rain.

8. A man with male pattern baldness ain't the Blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg 'cause you were skiing is not the Blues. Breaking your leg 'cause a alligator be chomping on it is.

9. You can't have no Blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go outside to the parking lot and sit by the dumpster.

10. Good places for the Blues:
  • a. highway
  • b. jailhouse
  • c. empty bed
  • d. bottom of a whiskey glass
11. Bad places for the Blues:
  • a. Nordstrom's
  • b. gallery openings
  • c. Ivy League institutions
  • d. golf courses
12. No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, 'less you happen to be an old ethnic person, and you slept in it.

13. Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if:
  • a. you older than dirt
  • b. you blind
  • c. you shot a man in Memphis
  • d. you can't be satisfied
No, if:
  • a. you have all your teeth
  • b. you once were blind but now can see
  • c. the man in Memphis lived
  • d. you have a 401K or trust fund
14. Blues is not a matter of color, it's a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods cannot sing the Blues. Sonny Liston could have. Ugly white people also got a leg up on the Blues.

15. If you ask for water and your darlin' give you gasoline, it's the Blues.
Other acceptable Blues beverages are:
  • a. cheap wine
  • b. whiskey or bourbon
  • c. muddy water
  • d. black coffee
The following are NOT Blues beverages:
  • a. Perrier
  • b. Chardonnay
  • c. Snapple
  • d. Slim Fast
16. If death occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it's a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So are the electric chair, substance abuse and dying lonely on a broken-down cot.
You can't have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or while getting liposuction.

17. Some Blues names for women:
  • a. Sadie
  • b. Big Mama
  • c. Bessie
  • d. Fat River Dumpling
18. Some Blues names for men:
  • a. Joe
  • b. Willie
  • c. Little Willie
  • d. Big Willie
19. Persons with names like Michelle, Amber, Jennifer, Debbie, and Heather can't sing the Blues no matter how many men they shot in Memphis.

20. Make your own Blues name starter kit:
  • a. name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.)
  • b. first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Kiwi, etc.)
  • c. last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.)
  • For example: Blind Lime Jefferson, Jakeleg Lemon Johnson or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not "Kiwi.")
21. I don't care how tragic your life: if you own a computer, you cannot sing the blues.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Truths For Mature Humans*

1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

6. Was learning cursive really necessary?

7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

10. Bad decisions make good stories.

11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection...again.

13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.

14. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

15. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

16. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lite than Kay.

17. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

18. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

19. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?

20. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!

21. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

22. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

23. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time!

24. The first testicular guard, the "Cup," was used in Hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important. (Ladies.....Quit Laughing.)

*This just arrived in my in-basket from my friend Ken in Winterpeg, Mumbletoba.  Too good not to share.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Parties

Since today is Halloween, I thought I'd write something scary.  The last time I posted a Halloween themed picture, I was severely chastized for inappropriate behaviour.

There has been some discussion in bloggerville about the need for more than two political parties in America.  I agree.  I think two more parties would help considerably to separate the sheep from the goats (or something).  Two new parties, one on the extreme right and one one the extreme left. 

We'll start with the extreme right as it is closer to reality than you think.  Lets call it the National Socialist Party.  The NSP vision for America is to turn the clock back a couple hundred years to the days when men were men and women were glad of it.  They want the Constitution enforced as it was written by the Founding Fathers.  Which is to say, only males of white northern European extraction with property can vote.  Women are not considered persons.  What law there is is carried on one's hip.  Anyone who is not white northern European is either a slave or to be killed or run off.

Their economic platform is borrowed word for word from the American Bankers' Association.  Regulations will be eliminated so that huge corporations can rape and pillage both the environment  and the populace at will.  There will be two classes of people; the super rich and the serfs.  This is known as FREE Enterprise.

NSP's social platform is based on THEIR literal interpretation of King James' Little Black Book and is similar to that of the Taliban in Afghanistan.  All the forces of a totalitarian police state will be used to enforce a strict moral code and create a "Godly" society.

Then we go to the extreme left.  This is the Socialist National Party.  The SNP is a bit of a problem to define as it is made up of dozens of single issue groups dedicated to stamping out various and sundry activities that they deem bad for environment.  Or animals.  Or trees. It is hard to say what its vision of America is but it will be GREEN with few if any people and lots and lots of horses which are not allowed to be killed or eaten.   

Their economic policy is simple.  Destroy the economy to save the environment.  ALL coal, oil, gas consumption must be stopped immediately as the sky is falling uh, sorry, the earth is warming  and WE caused it with all our CO2 production in the last 60 years.  Only the evil rich are opposed to this as they became rich exploiting carbon based energy.  The fact that all the rest of us depend on carbon based energy, for which there is no real substitute, for our jobs, such as they still are and for our lifestyle, such as it still is, is irrelevant.  They are even more oblivious to science and reason than the extreme right, if it were possible.

They have no social program.  People's welfare are not the concern of this party.  People are maggots, to quote Dr.  Suzuki, leader of the Canadian affiliate. There are too many of them and they should all leave (except members of the SNP, of course).  This party will be as totalitarian as the right only their Gestapo will look for anyone burning anything to keep warm or keeping an animal even as a pet.  We will all live in caves as cutting trees to make houses will be forbidden.  However the usual animal skins as seen on Clan of the Cave Bear will be forgone in deference to the animals, our equals, and we will wear leaves (or grow more hair, or something).

With either group in power, democracy, even such as it is, will cease to exist as any populace stupid enough to elect them obviously cannot be trusted to govern themselves.

Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sunday is Election Day in Ukraine

Tomorrow Ukraine will vote in Oblast, Raion, City, Town and Village elections.  Since I can't vote, nor understand the campaigning, I have ignored it pretty much; just enjoyed the billboards, promoting this one or that one.  The Governor (and therefore the Executive) of the Oblast is appointed by the president anyhow so how much good the local councils do, I am not sure.

THE power position as I may have mentioned before is the Chief Prosecutor for the Oblast (equivalent to province). He decides who is investigated for what crimes by the criminal police or the tax police.  Any business person of any note MUST have this man as a "Roof" in teh local vernacular.

Some time back, I blogged about the adventures of one of Tanya's "friends", Nadia, who, in the chaos of privatization in the 90's, ended up with the local grain terminal in P'yatikhatki.  She apparently skimmed $20,000,000 of farmer's money and about a year ago, lit a shuck for Greece with her face on a wanted poster.  The charges have since been dropped (see paragraph above), the elevator turned over to her family and the lady returned to Ukraine.

She is running on behalf of the Party of the Regions (President Yanukovych's party) for a Deputy's post in the Dnipropetrovs'k Oblast Rada.  In that party, she will be in good company.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fall Flowers

The last rose of summer
Blooming Idiots

Another week of warm weather and this one will be covered in blossoms

The Constant Gardener

These survived the dogs' diggings

Ronald looks on while Tanya works

Still a few bravely blooming

Windfall apples

Lots more where they came from