Sunday, February 28, 2010

Signs of Spring

My mother's patron saint may have been Ogden Nash but my father was not above quoting a little doggerel from time to time.
"Tis spring; The bird is on the wing. How absurd, I've always heard the wing was on the bird".

It is daylight by 6:00 am now and not dark until 6:00.  I love it, not being fond of dark, damp dreary weather.  Temps holding around 0C all week but supposed to warm up a bit. Snow is going slowly.

The Christmas catalog may come on the hottest day of summer but the first garden catalog comes on the coldest day of winter.  Tanya has her first seed order from InterFlora already and one more to come, plus two more orders from two on-line companies she found.  Last Sunday she planted her first seeds in little boxes and yesterday we bought more potting soil and she planted a bunch more.  Our window sills are filling up.

Maxim was over today to see what she had ordered and to discuss the planting and nurturing of the seedlings. They were on the computer for an hour looking at on-line catalogs and seriously discussing what flowers would work here and which ones wouldn't.

Kuchma Kot came home this morning limping on his right front leg.  No signs of a serious fight but ...  Inhaled a cup of milk and dish of KitEKat, grabbed a catnap and headed outside again.  It is spring.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Today's Excitement

The garbage truck came by today and took our garbage.  We had not had garbage pick up for five or six weeks and had 6 bags stacked in cold storage. Weather and roads had made pickup impossible.  Garbage pickup is 10:00 am in front of our house.  Time is important as one dare not leave it on on the street or stray dogs will scatter it.    This morning, Tanya phoned the garbage office and got the cell number of the driver just to make sure they were in fact coming today.  I took the bags out to the street after 9:00 am. Tanya watched from the window to deter the big German Shepherd which is the main culprit and which still managed to tear open two bags.

And you think you need to get a life?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Exercises in Stupidity

During the cold snap last month, the water in the upstairs bathroom froze.  When it warmed up it thawed and the cold water worked fine.  The hot water worked too but we had water running down the inside wall to the downstairs bathroom, indicating a leak.  Shutting off the hot water upstairs solved the problem in the short term.  Yuri had to tear out the shower and open the wall (removing the tiles and wallboard) to get at the pipes.  He turned on the hot water to find the leak.  There was none. Dry as a three hour sermon.  So he put it all back together again.

Friends from Regina (retired Social Work professors) have volunteered to teach a couple of weeks at Zaporizhzhia and Odessa Universities every year for many years now.  They were to arrive Saturday from Vienna to Dnipro and come to our place for the weekend.  We would drive them back to Zap.  The weather has been less than cooperative all winter and Tanya worried and worried from day 1 about the weather and the roads.  It was foggy and raining when Andrei and I left Saturday morning to pick them up.  The road was terrible, like it had been strafed and bombed.  We got to the airport, to find that the fog had NOT lifted and the flight was redirected to Kharkiv.  Our friends would go more or less directly to Zap.  We drove home in the dark.  Hit one pot hole too many and flattened a tire.  Took three hours to get home, twice normal time.  Tanya was an unhappy camper and chewed out her "Mule" for having gone in the first place.

My internet connection stopped working last week.  I would dial up through my mobile phone, KyivStar would recognize my computer but fail to log it onto the network.  I could use Tanya's modem and my notebook to stay connected but what a pain.  Today Volodya came to fix my internet and work on Tanya's notebook.  He fought with the internet connection for an hour and no luck.  It would not log me onto the network.  Finally he turned my mobile off and on.  Everything worked perfectly after that. 

Volodya took Tanya's notebook back to the shop (along with her USB mouse) so I rigged my notebook up for her to use.  Hooked up the wireless mouse; dug out an old keyboard and plugged it in.  Tanya sat down to text her friend in Germany and the computer went nuts.  It started typing Cyrillic gibberish all on its own.  Sometimes her keyboard would work and sometimes the stuff she typed would disappear and be replaced by gibberish again.  Baffled, I gave her my wireless keyboard and mouse and set up her keyboard and mouse on my computer.  My computer went nuts and started typing gibberish in Latin alphabet.  Lesson - never use two Logitech wireless keyboards and mice in the same vicinity.  They cross contaminate.


Sunday, February 21, 2010


Trying out new powerful room deodorant in Velika Kshenia (Big Spoon in Ukrainian) grocery store:
Me: This smells awful.
Tanya: You think you smell better?
Getting ready for trip to Dnipro yesterday:
Tanya:  Here is 400 hrivna for gas and food.
Me: I will pay you back 400 hrivna from my account when I go to the Bankomat.
Tanya: You will pay me back 800 hrivna.  I am trying to save money.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Car Insurance

We renewed the insurance on our car today.  It ran out tomorrow.  I thought it had run out last week.

We had trouble finding an agent.  The little insurance office by the DIA vehicle registration office was vacant every time we went by and the phone number in the window didn't work.  Tanya finally got on the internet, found the company website and talked to the office in Dnipro.  She gave them all the information and today a lady from somewhere in the DIA office building came over to the insurance office to finish the process. 

It took over an hour.  Masha and I had a snowball fight to kill time while we were waiting.  First Tanya got the invoice and then went to the bank to pay it.  The bank wouldn't have anything to do with anything plastic so we then had to get cash from a Bankomat and go back.  Once it was paid for, the insurance lady needed pictures of the car.  She didn't have a camera so went to find someone who did.  A girl in the DIA office had a cell phone camera.  It didn't work.  A guy from the office had a camera and took pictures but had no way to get them to the insurance company.

We went for groceries, went home and took the pictures ourselves and emailed them to the office in Dnipro.

I have become that most-to-be-feared driver - an old man with no neck and a hat.


Apparently my oatmeal raisin/chocolate chip cookies are a hit with the family next door.  They want to take a batch and the recipe to the local tea and bake shop to put on their product list.  I was a bit slow at getting the demo batch done so yesterday Lucia was over to get the recipe.  Tanya translated it and explained it to her and loaned her a measuring cup which she had never seen before.

Today she made a batch as a trial run.  She was phoning Tanya every few minutes. She had to use all white sugar as there is no brown sugar in Ukraine, except in the big cities and it is expensive at $8 per pound.  She brought over four cookies for Tanya and I to check out and they were wonderful.  Baked to perfection, crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle, as cookies ought to be.  Tasted great.  I thought better than mine, Tanya said to me later not as good as mine. (Did I mention I love my wife?).

Lucia brought the measuring cup back.  Having used it once she will never need one again in her life for any recipe.

Next will be Johnny cake.  If I can find cornmeal that isn't too coarse.  Or does it matter?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Lunch today was amazingly simple and simply amazing.  
I love my wife. She says I always tell her that AFTER I've eaten.

Lookin' out our back door.  
Not much by snow country standards but pretty impressive for central Ukraine. 
Tanya says it is the most snow in 10 years.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine’s Day Is For Men Only*

Feb 11, 2010 10:20 AM, Troy Marshall, editor Beef Magazine

This isn’t an advice column because I’m as qualified to advise others on romance as I am to predict the weather. However, experience tends to lead to opinions if nothing else.

I’m assuming a lot here, but my guess is that most of you are in the same boat as I am – you married well over your head; “out-punting your coverage” is one football metaphor for the situation.

I’ve read tributes to the women in agriculture before, and while always eloquent, they don’t do full justice to what the lady of the house means to an operation. She’s an equal partner in most cases, with a host of added burdens.

Because her job requires her to be on the road this time of year, my wife hasn’t been home on Valentine’s Day for more than a decade. Unfortunately, I’ve used that as an excuse for not having to do anything overtly romantic to commemorate the day.

I realize that without my wife, I’d probably only shave once a week and subsist on frozen pizza and potato chips. Except for the life-expectancy aspects, that might not sound so bad, but I shudder to think what my two boys and lovely girl would be without their mom.

In our younger days, there were times of flowers and candy to express my feelings, but now I realize that Valentine’s Day is a chance to say and do what I should say and do all the time – express my gratitude for one of God’s greatest gifts – the love of a great spouse.

As I write this, I certainly don’t have a romantic getaway planned, or even a thoughtful gift on my agenda. I do know that ever since she said “I do,” I’ve been woefully inadequate in expressing how fortunate I feel. My advice is for all of us to do our best to figure out how to express that, and then do it every day. 

This wonderful column was too good not to pass on.  I wish I could write like Troy Marshall. as I have every reason to pen a glowing tribute to the Love of my Life on this Valentine's Day.

For my few readers in the cattle business (RTA, this means you) Beef Magazine is an excellent publication delivered free to your in-box in various permutations including "Cow-Calf Weekly).  Articles are timely and the adverts keep one up to date on what is new in the  industry.  Check it out.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Going back in time

This morning my email held two "going back in time" items. 

Anyone who loves old cars will be enthralled by this slideshow.
Relive the 1950s and 60s

This photo was in a PDF of a research report from U of S Animal and Poultry Science from years back.  I am on the left.

The picture was taken in 74 or 75 when I was in grad school.  We are making silage in these culverts, lined with plastic.  Worked great for digestibility trials.  We would fill and weigh plastic garbage tubs; dump them into the culvert and pack the silage by foot.  We took samples of the fresh forage and then the silage after about 4 to 6 weeks.  The silage in each would feed four steer calves for a month.  The final week we measured everything that went in and came out.  Digestibility being determined by difference.  We filled dozens of the little silos.  I fed steers and collected and analysed feed and feces all winter for two years.

Packing the silage by foot reminds me of my brother explaining to someone that in the big upright silos in Ontario, they would put a very old horse into the empty silo and the horse would walk around and around while the silo was being filled to pack it down.  Once the silage reached the top of the silo, they would shoot the horse and push it over the side.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,

Andrei and Tanya got back yesterday afternoon.  The roads were a little better but still very bad.  It was warm and the snow was wet and heavy.  Andrei slid off the track in front of our place and finally called a bunch of his friends to come help.  He and I and a shovel couldn't quite do it.  He took the car into town and kept it there.

The wind howled all last night and all today.  If it had not been 0C yesterday it would be some storm out there but there is no drifting.  Andrei, Lena and Tanya set out for P'yatikhatki at noon (30 km) today.  Tanya walked to the corner so Andrei wouldn't get stuck again.   They never got to the edge of town.  All the streets were glare ice.  There were car accidents everywhere and every exit road from Zhovti Vody was blocked with a jackknifed semi-trailer.  Tanya bought groceries and came home. 

Compared with DC we are coping not bad.  I read they quit plowing the streets.  Washington City Council obviously believes that if God put it there, He can take it away. 

I used to feel that way about my sidewalks in Regina but the City soon saw it differently.  God may have put it there but YOU, home owner, will shovel it away.  Onto your lawn, not onto the streets, they added, just for good measure.  Grumble, grumble grumble.  Shovel, shovel, shovel.

Spring will come soon here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Secret to Success:

This equation should be taught in all math classes!

From a strictly mathematical viewpoint it goes like this:

What Makes 100%? What does it mean to give MORE than 100%? Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%. How about achieving 103%? What makes up 100% in life?

Here's a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions:

A B C D E. F. G. H I. J. K. L M. N. O. P. Q. R. S. T. U. V. W. X. Y Z is represented as:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.


11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%

8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%


1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%


2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103%

AND, look how far ass kissing will take you.

1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118%

So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty that While
Knowledge and Hardwork will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, it's the Bullshit and Asskissing that will put you over the top !!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spaghetti for supper

Tanya and Andrei went to Dnipro today.  It was about -1 and snowing.  The roads were terribly slippery so I was glad it was Andrei who took her.  They decided it was not worth the risk of coming home tonight.  Wise move.

So I made spaghetti for supper.  Tanya cannot eat food cooked with tomato sauce as it gives her heartburn (even without all the stuff I like to throw in) so I took advantage of the situation. 

She will stay with our friend Alexandr who was our neighbour for a while when we lived in Dnipro in 2007.  Alexandr is another victim of the old system.  She worked as a computer programmer in the Soviet space program (NASA equivalent) which was HQ'd in Dnipro.  the rocket factory is still there and active.  Radiation from the computer screen destroyed much of her thyroid function and eventually led to her blindness.  She is not even 60 and looks 80.  Tanya keeps tabs on her and looks in on her every so often to see how she is. Alexandr knows that she can call Tanya in an emergency.

I hope the snow stops and the plows and sanding trucks are out tomorrow.  If not I will make spaghetti again.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lena's Mom

Lena's Mom came home today.  She managed not too bad for only one leg*.  She did the transfer from wheel chair to car like a pro but had real trouble with the walk, stairs and narrow door at the apartment.  Basically, she clung to Lena and Roman on each side of her and hopped.  She was dead tired by the time she got to her room, though she didn't lie down but sat up for a bit at least. 

I stopped at the florists and bought her a big bouquet of flowers to celebrate. 

We need to get her wheelchair now from the agency that supplies them.  Come warm weather she will get out more and get used to using her crutches. Before long I hope she is truly mobile again.

*"Dr, what is the quickest way to lose 30 lbs of ugly fat?"  "Cut off your head."

Now BLUE aint the word for the way that I feel*

When Webb Pierce recorded those words over 50 years ago, Yulia Timoshenko wasn't even born but I am sure it is her theme song tonight.  Victor Yanukovich is the new president of Ukraine by a margin of about 3% in what was said to be clean and well run balloting.  There may be some recounts but Yulia does not have a hope of getting it annulled  on the basis of fraud.

She will likely be able to maintain enough support in the Verkovna Rada to stay on as Prime Minister but one hopes the two will do more useful work and much less squabbling than she and Yushchenko this past five years.  The problem is the Ukrainian constitution is somewhat like the French constitution, with powers divided between both president and prime minister.  When they are on opposite sides of the fence it is tough enough in a mature democracy like France, but here in Ukraine, it is a nightmare.

Turnout was 69% or 25 million voters.  One million voted "against both parties".  I love that clause and think more countries should adpot it on their ballots.

* Crazy Arms by R.Mooney and C.Seals

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Neither Orange or Blue, Just Plain White

By Tuesday, temperatures of +3 had melted most of the snow and left the streets a rutty mess. Wednesday it dropped to -3 and stormed all day, dumping at least 30 cm of snow.  We were supposed to go to Dnipro for a meeting but at 7:00 am got stuck in the driveway so declined the honour. 
 No snow on Tuesday night and by Thursday it was deep everywhere

Andrei wanted to borrow the car, later that day.  We told him sure; bring your own shovel.  It stopped snowing at dusk and the village hired an industrial loader from the farm across the way to clear the main roads so people could go to work the next day.  Zhenia persuaded him to take a side trip past our two houses, which he reluctantly did.

The loader went as far as our drive and didn't clear the rest of the street so of course, someone thought it was open, got to our place and then got stuck.

The next day at noon, I shoveled the car out onto the single track road and we drove to town.  It was an emergency - Tanya HAD to pay for her flower, bulb, shrub and tree order.  There was a single track set of ruts, all the way to town and the car dragged the entire trip.  With ice under the snow, if I had stopped it could have been final. Andrei drove us back - it always seems easier when he does it - and then took the car to Krivii Rih.  By this time it was snowing heavy again so he stayed the night and most of the next day until the road was open.

It was dark when he brought the car back last night.  Kuchma Kot, who hadn't been home for a day or so, must have heard him coming as he appeared out of the darkness about four blocks from home and raced  for home ahead of the car.  He would NOT get off the road and let Andrei by.  I wish I had the video Andrei took on his mobile phone of that cat in the headlights running for his life.

The pile of snow was as far as the road was opened by the loader.  You can see where the dogs headed out to play and changed their minds in the deep snow. It didn't take me long to shovel the ridge from our drive, surprisingly enough.

Today was sunny and only -5.  The snowplow had gone by early in the morning, a single pass, so I shoveled the ridge away from the drive way while the hounds enjoyed racing about on the cleared track, running back to see if I needed them for anything.

The dogs love the snow and raced around the entire time I was outside.  Trying to get them still enough for a photo was tricky but they finally posed.

Zhenia's garage is at the back of his lot and he had a lot of shoveling to do.  He got half way and took a break.  I'd have stayed home until spring. Next winter we will get a snow blower if this keeps up.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Doctor's notes

Doctor's notes
These are doctors' notes on patients' charts: (Actual notes - unedited!)

1. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.
2. On the 2nd day the knee was better and on the 3rd day it disappeared completely.
3. She has had no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.
4. The patient has been depressed ever since she began seeing me in 1993.
5. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.
6. Discharge status: Alive but without permission.
7. Healthy appearing decrepit 69 year-old male, mentally alert but forgetful.
8. The patient refused an autopsy.
9. The patient has no past history of suicides.
10. Patient has left his white blood cells at another hospital.
11. Patient's past medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40 pound weight gain in the past three days.
12. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.
13. Between you and me, we ought to be able to get this lady pregnant.
14. Since she can't get pregnant with her husband, I thought you might like to work her up.
15. She is numb from her toes down.
16. While in the ER, she was examined, X-rated and sent home.
17. The skin was moist and dry.
18. Occasional, constant, infrequent headaches.
19. Patient was alert and unresponsive.
20. Rectal exam revealed a normal size thyroid. (ouch!)
21. She stated that she had been constipated for most of her adult life, until she got a divorce.
22. I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.
23. Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.
24. Exam of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.
25. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.
26. The patient was to have a bowel resection. However, he took a job as a stockbroker instead.
27. Skin: Somewhat pale but present.
28. The pelvic examination will be done later on the floor.
29. Patient was seen in consultation by Dr. Blank, who felt we should sit on the abdomen and I agree.
30. Large brown stool ambulating in the hall.
31. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

My friend Robert on Vancouver Island sent me these.  They were forwarded to him while he was on his way to a DR appointment.  Confidence building, aren't they?

Monday, February 1, 2010

25 Ways You Know You Have Been In Ukraine Too Long

1. You answer the phone with a deadpan “allo-a.”
2. When crossing the street, you sprint.
3. In winter, you choose your route by scanning for icicles.
4. You look at people’s shoes to determine where they are from.
5. Your day seems brighter after seeing some goon’s Mercedes broadsided by a pensioner’s “Moskvich”.
6. You are thrown off guard when the doorman at the nightclub is happy to see you.
7. Seeing a car cruise by on the sidewalk is no big deal.
8. Your not sure what to do you when the DAI only asks you to pay the official fine.
9. You give a 10% tip only if the waiter has been really exceptional.
10. You plan your vacation around those times of the year when the hot water is turned off.
11. You develop a liking for beets.
12. You know more than 20 women named Olga
13. You change into tapichki and wash your hands as soon as you walk into your apartment.
14. You start thinking of black bread as a good chaser for vodka.
15. You have to identify all the Tanya’s and Vladimir’s in your mobile phone by: Tanya, wife; Tanya daughter in law, Tanya neighbour, Tanya “Small”…
16. You wear a wool hat in the banya.
17. You are rude to people at the airport for no reason.
18. ‘Remont,’ ‘piva’ and ‘khorosho’ become integral parts of your vocabulary.
19. You are curious as to when they might start exporting Obalon beer to your home country.
20. Cigarette smoke becomes ‘tolerable’.
21. You don’t even notice padded doors anymore.
22. You never smile in public when you’re alone.
23. When you know the Kyiv Metro better than the transit system back home.
24. You catch yourself whistling indoors and feel guilty.
25. The elevator aroma seems reassuring somehow.

With thanks to my friend and colleague Angela Wojcichowsky of STEP.
By the way, Ukrainians do NOT think this is funny.