Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Remembering the Farm: Starting School in Leipzig

Fifty years ago this week, I started Gr. 8 at Leipzig, as small town about 7 miles from our farm.  I was one month short of 13.

That June the Wilkie School Unit closed all the remaining one room schools, including Cavell.  Six schools in the Leipzig District were closed and we were bussed to Leipzig where a new school had been built.  From one room with 16 kids in 8 grades to four rooms (Gr. 5 to 12) with 25 to 30 kids in each grade.  Two more rooms were added the next summer and Gr. 1-4 who had been temporarily taught in the convent joined us.

Leipzig was on the eastern edge of St Joseph's Colony, a settlement of German Catholics, established in 1905.  The school was staffed primarily by School Sisters of Notre Dame, the Saskatchewan Motherhouse of which was located in Leipzig.  Leipzig was a Catholic School in a Public School District because the vast majority of the students were Catholic.  The few of us heathens left at 3:00 while the remainder had 30 minutes of Religious Studies.  We were ably babysat by Sister Martina over at the Convent where we pretended to do homework.

My teachers included:
  • Sister Raymond (Grade 8) - she despaired with me but survived the ordeal.
  • Sister Marie LeClaire (Grades 9 and 10) - a wonderful teacher, much humour and a long yardstick to keep order. Worth a blog on her own someday. 
  • Sister Annella (Grades 11 and 12) - loved literature, especially poetry; we kept in touch over the years; recently deceased, age 88.

My dad, who was going on 39, drove the new 36 passenger GMC school bus.  A real job, bringing about $125 in real cash money on a monthly basis to our family.  We could stop milking cows and shipping cream.  Freedom is no more cows to milk.

We left every morning at precisely 8:10 and arrived at the school at about 8:45 to 8:50.  Picked up at 3:30 we were home by 4:00.  No waiting for late risers on the return trip. Families in order of pickup in the morning:
  • Hingston
  • Huber
  • Frey
  • Frey
  • Watt
  • Frey
  • Ulrich
  • Herle
  • Schmidt
  • Kolonosky
  • Miller
  • Delainey
  • Gaertner
Rode the bus for six years until graduation in 1965.  Went back in 2005 to the 100th anniversary of the founding of the parish and saw many of my classmates whom I hadn't seen in 40 years.

Expect some of my readers, including my brother and sister, to fill in some memory gaps here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Shushenskoye Museum

Sushenskoye is the village in the Sayan mountains just on the edge of Khakasia where Lenin was exiled from 1897 to 1900. He received an allowance and spent his time hunting and writing seditious literature at which he was never caught. Though his bookshelf was raided by the police, they got bored after the first few shelves and did not look at the remaining two shelves which contained enough illegal books to have warranted very severe punishment.

The village was declared a museum in 1940 and every self respecting Russian visited it.  Even today, it gets a few thousand visitors a year, especially with a new ethnic music festival.  The mountains around it are beautiful and the Sayano-Shushenkaya Dam and Hydro-Electric Station is not far from it.

Tanya took me to visit the village in 2006 when these pictures were taken.

House where Lenin lived
Typical late 19th century Siberian village
Woodworking shop
Hand cranked wood lathe
Wagon typical of those in use in rural villages
Lenin's desk and bookshelves
Lenin and his wife had separate beds which was normal for upper class Russians.
Dry goods shop in the village
Another shot of the dry goods shop
Tavern.  The keg was filled with vodka
Oven/cook stove in a poor cobbler's home
Cobbler's bench with wooden lasts
The biggest house in town: merchant, landowner, gentry of some sort

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hang Them All (You'll Get the Guilty)

Written and sung by Tom T Hall

There's a murderer in your town Mister
There were seven unsolved last year
There's a murderer in your town Mister
How long has he been living here?

If they hang 'em all they get the guilty
If they hang 'em all they cannot miss
If they hang 'em all they get the guilty
Been a lot of problem solved like this

There's a thief in your town Mister
This morning my milk was gone
There's a thief in your town Mister
How long has this been going on

If they hang 'em all they get the guilty…

There's a cheater in your town Mister
Last night I saw him in a bar
There's a cheater in your town Mister
Is that the kind of people you are?

If they hang 'em all they get the guilty…

There's a hypocrite in your town Mister
I think I caught him in a lie
There's a hypocrite in your town Mister
Are you gonna let that go by?

If they hang 'em all they get the guilty…

There’s a terrorist in your town, Mister*.
Today at noon, I saw his wife.
There’s a terrorist in your town, Mister.
He should pay for 9/11 with his life.

If they hang 'em all they get the guilty
That's what you say we ought to do
If they hang 'em all they get the guilty
But remember they're gonna hang you too.

*verse added to bring the song 40 years forward.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Beautiful Khakasia

Our friend Sergei Glukhov from Abakan in Khakasia sent us some pictures that are worth sharing.  When I first went to Abakan with Tanya back in June 2006, we contracted with Sergei to drive us around, translate for me at meetings and organize some sightseeing.  Sergei is a wonderful young entrepreneur, Boston educated and a very capable translator.  He is also an outdoors-man, with a thorough knowledge of his homeland and an interest in a wide variety of areas.  If you want a holiday out of the norm in a unique and beautiful part of the world, ask me for Sergei's contact information.  Khakasia has rugged mountains, endless steppes, and thousands of years of history. Abakan is a 5 hour flight from Moscow. You'll need a visa.

Church in Abakan City
Yennessee river and Cyan Mountains
Yennessee river

Khakasian Steppes
Tree growing on one of thousands of Kurgans
Good fishing
Sergei is a wonderful cook
Freshwater prawns
Evening campfire
A real charmer

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

They walk among you. They breathe. They Breed

While 1 in 5 Americans believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim, Huffington Post reports that they are in good company.  Here is a list of things done or believed by 1 in 5 Americans (details in the link above).

  1. Can't identify the USA on a map;
  2. Are unaware from whom the USA declared independence;
  3. Think George W bush was a great president;
  4. Believe witches are real;
  5. Believe the sun revolves around the earth;
  6. Do not use the internet;
  7. Do urinate in the swimming pool;
  8. Believe the Apocalypse will happen in their lifetime;
  9. Believe marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol;
  10. Believe the lottery is a good financial investment;
  11. Believe in alien abductions.

Wonder how Canadians would fare in a similar set of questions about their own country.  Rick Mercer had us in stitches with his "Talking to Americans".  They even made a movie.  Fair is fair.  Americans should try it on Canadians.

Colin Mochrie with an apology from Canada to America.

Saskatchewan Roughrider Football Fans Take Note

My good friends, Alf and Sveta Zumpano, at Free Lens Photographic, are circulating the following regarding activities the day before the annual Roughrider-Blue Bomber game on Labour Day Weekend.

We would like you to know about the Rider Fan Exhibit that is opening at the Legislature on September 4th.  It is a fantastic project celebrating the fans of the greatest team in the CFL.

There will be a parade from Mosaic Stadium to the Legislature at 2:30pm and the opening ceremony of the exhibit will commence around 3:30pm.

We will be photographing all of the fans dressed in Rider Gear and we'll be placing their individual photos in the windows of the buildings of the poster Rider Green - Immortal Nation

Be sure you are included in this photo creation which will printed 8'x 12' and displayed around town and perhaps in places around the province.  Be immortalized by joining in and having your photo taken at the Legislature.  Please go to the link below to see more information and click on Rider Green - Immortal Nation in the top right corner to see the poster.

Please tell you friends and please pass this on to as many people as you can.

We hope to see you there on Saturday September 4th.


NOTE: if you click on the Free Lens Photographic website and go to galleries/weddings, you will find a beautiful B&W picture of May-B and the Guy walking towards  the Legislature. Building

Monday, August 23, 2010

I was wrong

I am ashamed and I apologize for my initial reaction to the construction of a community centre several blocks from Ground Zero by the local Muslim community.  Some days I wonder what goes on inside my head.  I had read enough to change my mind by the time I closed comments on Of Mosque and Men but ran into these two articles today which really clinched it for me.



Sunday, August 22, 2010

Masha Rides Her Bike

Masha got a brand new hot pink Barbie Bike for her 7th birthday.  And roller blades.

Across the street from her apartment block is a park that runs between two streets like a very wide boulevard.  It has several squares paved with cement sidewalk blocks and a wide paved walk way up the centre.  Perfect for bikes, roller blades, skate boards and pedestrian traffic.

Tanya and I went to see how she was making out learning to ride.  I'd been there a week ago and she was using the training wheels, learning how to peddle and steer.  Masha decided today she would show us her roller blades first, then practice on her bike.  The roller blades come with a backpack to carry them which holds all the protective gear too.

Roller Blade Backpack
 She buckled them on tightly, all by herself, strapped on her knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards and away she went.  She is not much for speed but works hard at turns, stops, running on the spot and standing jumps.  She circled one way for a while, then turned and circled the other way ensuring her legs and her turning skills got equal workouts.

I'm coming at you!!
Circling the Square
Then it was on to the bike. No training wheels today.  Tania held the bike for a few rounds then let her go on her own.  She was pretty shaky with managing the pedals but kept at it.  Trying to convince her that she needed to KEEP PEDALING was the hard part.  Again, going in circles, working on turning, working on stops, working on not hitting anybody.  But so shaky with the pedaling.

Getting her started

Circling the Square again, on her own steam.
Pretty Shaky but Determined
 Finally to get her headed down the straight away and build some speed, I "raced" beside her.  She laughed so hard she almost piled it up but it got her pedaling and away we went.  Elephant and child.  Three trips up and back and she would go on her own.  My Tanya said to Masha's Mom that she was bringing me to play with Masha every day.

After about an hour she had it mastered.  Could start and go, turn in a smaller radius, build speed, not hit anyone and slam on her brakes, screeching to a halt.  She is a determined little imp.  Like her Babushka!

Considering it took a year of intensive physiotherapy beginning when she was a year old before she could do anything but drag her left arm and left leg, she has come a long way.  I am so proud of her!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weekend Cartoon

Announcer: Over the next 24 hours, temperature, air pressure and prices will rise.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Clean Garage

The weather has moderated finally and the AC has been off for three days.  There's a cold breeze blowing through the open window and dark clouds in the sky. Maybe it will rain.

This afternoon Roman and Lena came over.  Lena to harvest garden stuff and Roman to help me do some yard clean up.  We swept up the dog run, shoveled up a wheelbarrow full of windfall apples from the patio and sidewalks and cleaned the garage.

We hauled everything outside, swept the floor twice and put everything back in, only more tidy.  Well, everything but four old tires and three bags of junk.  I need to buy shelves next time we are in Krivii Rih so I can store and find things easier.  Or better yet, buy some tools and build the shelves.

Roman and I were quite proud of ourselves for not sitting at our respective computers all day and actually doing 3 hours of real work. We were telling Tanya and she was so impressed "Maybe it will rain".  Which is more polite than saying "Hell must have frozen over".

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hell no, you can't!*

Today was primary day here and as Republicans have asked for my vote I can say with great glee "No"!  No you can't have my vote because you've conditioned me to say "No".

I say no to tax breaks for the rich.
I say no to corporate loopholes that make CEO wealthier while the rest of us suffer.
I say no to slashing budgets that cause layoffs of our teachers fire and police.
I say no to banks that won't refinance mortgages while we bailed them out.
I say no to republicans who made health care an issue of killing grandma when they knew that was a lie.
I say no to torture.
I say no to illegal wire taps.
I say no to treating us all like criminals when we board a plane.
I say no to stereotyping races and religions for some sick political gain.
I say no to not passing a jobs bill and getting the economy going again.
I say no to teabaggers and their fake outrage when most of the time they don't even understand the issue.
I say no to republicans who parrot the BS of Fox News which isn't a news organization and shouldn't be part of the white house press corps.
I say no to the idiots who think that it was Obama who got us into this mess.
And I say no to the idiots who keep blocking everything he's tried to do.

Got any better ideas other than tax cuts for the uber wealthy then let's hear it or just shut the hell up and get out of the way.

*This blog is stolen from Demeur who would rather be correct than right.

The Bridebasket of Europe

Tanya and I went for breakfast (at 10:00 am) to our favourite tea and bake shop, Marichka.  We met a couple from Switzerland having a morning coffee.  They had two boys, maybe 10 and 8. He was tall, handsome, 45, university professor.  Good English and Russian (and likely German, French, and Italian too). She was drop dead gorgeous brunette, 35, originally from Kyiv, visiting her Babushka in Zhovti Vody.

On the Lighter Side

Husband: I am going hunting.  Wife: Me, too.

Husband: Why haven't you fed the animals?  Wife:  You want to eat?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Of Mosque and Men

Dana from "Life is Good" asked me to make sure I read her most recent post "Few Words Needed".  The post and the comments that follow raise some good issues.  Two other posts Regarding the Mosque Near Ground Zero and Yeah,…,what he said. Sam Harris on building Mosque near Ground Zero from Coyote Sings  are also worth reading on the subject.

Rob-Bear is right in that the US is determined to make Muslims out as the bad guys of the 21st Century.  Starting with Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations.

And they are getting a great deal of help from certain members of Islam themselves.  If you want a list, read the news. At the rate they are going, people are soon going to rise up in a rage and attempt to destroy them off the face of the earth. Maybe that is the plan

A thousand years ago, Islam was the centre of civilization.  Christian Europe was a land of barbaric beliefs and practices. Now they have nicely changed places.  What happened? Lots of books try to come to grips with that issue.  Bernard Lewis has written a number of books on the subject.  Karen Armstrong's Islam, A Short History is a very moderate and balanced look at Islam.

American Muslims have every legal right to build a Mosque where ever they want in United States  if they have control of the property and meet zoning bylaws.  President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg both acknowledge this fact.  They have the right to do it.  And it has been painted in the best politically correct language that they should do it.  They are fools if they do.  First it is in incredibly bad taste.  Second the instant some Islamic preacher uses it as a bully pulpit to celebrate a victory over the infidel and encourage more acts of violence, it will set the Muslim-American community back decades, possibly permanently, in trying to co-exist in America.

And Islam may appear to be THE most serious menace to the world.  They are a Red Herring.  "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross", Sinclair Lewis.  The Religious Reich bent on a "Godly" society and global hegemony will make the Taliban seem like moderates.  And like Hitler's Jews, Islam will be the made-to-order scapegoat.

All Muslims should not be tarred with the same brush just as all Christians will not want to be tarred with the same brush tomorrow.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Party On

Flowers, Plant stand and Nina Ricci from me
There were eight of us for supper tonight, in spite of Tanya deciding she didn't want a party for her birthday.  Tanya did some prep work and some cooking and the rest we bought at a local deli.  Volodya and Valya from P'yatikhatki started it by saying they were coming invited or not.  Our friend Galina from Moscow came a couple days early.  Lena is at the ocean for a well deserved three day rest and so Roman showed up, looking for food.  Tania and Masha rounded it out. 

Flowers from Maxim and Ivan

Volodya, Valya and Galya

Happiness is . . . each other.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Peanut, peanut butter and jelly

Peanut butter is an unknown food in Ukraine, though by now it may be in the better supermarkets in the large cities like Kyiv or Dnipropetrovs'k.  When Ky was here in June to visit, she brought a jar of it with her in case she went into withdrawal.  I remembered we had it the other day and introduced Tanya to peanut butter and honey on toast.  She is hooked.

She has now had peanut butter and jam, peanut butter on celery and tomorrow I will introduce her to peanut butter and banana sandwiches.  Peanut butter and dill pickle and peanut butter and onion sandwiches may have to wait.

Unless we can find it in MegaMart or such, it will be a permanent addition to the care boxes sent by MEEST on a regular basis.  Along with Maple Syrup.  Cheez Whiz I can live without though a jar would be nice sometimes.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Same old same old

It has been a tad warm in European Russian these past several weeks.  This map from The Economist shows the variation from normal for a week in July. Lots of fires as I reported earlier though many of them are out or under control.  Moscow has had rain and temperatures are moderating a bit. I'll get an update from our friend Galyna next week when she visits.

Earlier this week BBC reported that Moscow's Health Chief, had confirmed that the number of deaths in Moscow had doubled in July over normal.  He will be looking for a new job shortly, I expect as today, BBC said that the Kremlin strongly denied it and Doctors have been under "unofficial" orders NOT to diagnose heatstroke as cause of death.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

At Dana and Joe's

Hurrah for Government Motors

The Canadian and American governments took a lot of heat for bailing out GM.  Today BBC reported that GM made the biggest Q2 profit in 6 years of $1.6 billion.  The CEO, Ed Whitacre, is stepping down, smart enough to quit while he is ahead, having successfully restructured the company and restored profitability.

Restructuring came at a human cost of 65,000 jobs lost with several factories closing.

GM is reportedly planning an IPO to "privatize"  government held shares.

With China now the world's number two economy and number one car market; with Toyota leading in car sales, it is a whole new world.

I miss the chrome and style of the cars of my youth. My first real car was a 56 Buick Special.  While I am a Chrysler minivan driver at heart, I am glad the venerable GM is still on the road.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Death and Taxes

Having just finished paying my 2009 taxes, not without penalty, I might add, and having run into a couple of articles and a blog on the subject, a rant about taxes seems in order.

Taxes are the price one pays for civilization.  If you don't like paying taxes, I can suggest several countries that are tax free, relatively speaking. Somalia comes to mind. Ukraine and Russia also but not paying taxes here comes with a twist - cross the government and they audit you.

Most of the civilized world is governed under what are known as Social Democracies.  Which is to say, the citizens expect and receive services from their governments which are deemed to be in the public good, which are, if not more efficiently delivered, certainly more effectively and equitably delivered than by the private sector.

Europeans are derided by some as paying high taxes BUT they get reasonable value for their money.  Happy Tax Day, in the April 16th Globalist provided the following explanation:

Whatever Europe’s shortcomings, the fact is that, in return for their taxes, Europeans do receive a generous support system for families and individuals — services for which Americans must often pay exorbitant, out-of-pocket fees.

That includes quality health care for every single person, the average cost of which is about half of what Americans pay, even as various studies show that Europeans achieve better health results.
But that's not all. In return for their taxes, Europeans also are receiving affordable childcare, a decent retirement pension, free or inexpensive university education, job retraining, paid sick leave, paid parental leave, ample vacations, affordable housing, senior care, efficient mass transportation and more.

Americans are notorious for not wanting to pay taxes, which can be traced back to British taxes being used to pay British soldiers who prevented Americans from doing what they wanted (mainly steal more land from the Indians).  Canadians seem less reluctant to pay taxes as the British used our tax money to protect us from the Americans.

Utah Savage in her blog on Real Americans explains why average Repugnicans hate taxes - they all think that they too are someday going to be billionaires and don't want to share their imaginary future wealth.  it is the American Dream - work hard and you too can get very rich.  Some have done it.  Of course some have run the four-minute mile too.

Now Americans pay a fair bit of taxes, directly and indirectly.  But what do they get for them?  They get to pay interest on trillions of dollars of debt.  That is why tax and spend (pay as you go) is out of favour with the very rich, while borrowing and spending is in.  You borrow money from and pay interest to those who have money.  The wealthy love wealth redistribution - as long as they are on the receiving end (that is another blog).

You also get to finance foreign wars to keep your empire together (one of the sources of the trillions in debt).  Along with over 800 military bases.  American empire building foreign policy has earned you the enmity of a great deal of the world and mad America less secure than ever.  Good value for your money there.  And of course, billions to bail out banks, so the very rich can continue to get very richer.

But where do spending cuts come from?  Education, Social Safety Nets, Roads, Street Lights.  This article quoted from a NY Times article highlights the things Americans will no longer be getting for their tax money.

It really sounds more like pre-revolutionary Russia where the taxes of the peasants (officially no longer serfs) went to support the lifestyle of the nobility and the military adventures of the Tsar.  Are you sure you live in a democracy?

Rules for Visiting Russia

The US Dept of State have excellent websites for information on visiting countries all over the  world.  This is lengthy but worth at least skimming in its entirety.  Just for the cultural exposure.


It would be much more funny if I didn't need to go there sometimes.

Having said that, it is a beautiful country, with wonderful warm friendly people (outside of politicians, police and bureaucrats), lots of history, natural and architectural scenery and well worth the trouble to get there.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday Night Supper

Tonight Andrei, Tania and Masha went with Tanya and I to Krivii Rih to McDonalds for supper.  Just for something to do.  We had a good three hour visit; Masha got a new pair of shoes to start school and I had my fix of recognizable food.

I like McDonalds.  I realize that the Chardonnay Socialist crowd look down on it but to them I say "Pffft".  The food is good, the restaurant is clean, even the washrooms are spotless.  The staff are friendly, even to each other, they are well organized and they hustle.

While Masha nibbled at her McHappy Meal (she only wants the "free" plastic happiness ) the four adults inhaled 8 Royal Cheeseburgers, two large fries, two large and two regular drinks and we all had McSundae's to go.  For $35.00.  Oh, and $15 for gasoline.

As to the high fat content, one does not eat there every day so what is the big problem? I can go to "Chez Garcon's Bistro", pay three prices and get just as much fat but everyone thinks it is OK (because it is a higher class of fat?).

In other news, the romance seems to be over. Hot weather makes for short tempers.  After several lovers' spats, Masha is spending her time in the house and Maxim has a new squeeze.  Yulichka, the little girl who rode her bike up and down our street all summer, snagged him on the first bounce and threw for home. 

Bobik decided to take a round out of Volk again and got well bloodied for his efforts.  Maybe he will learn.  He has also decided Kuchma is a cat and should be chased up a tree.  This morning Kuchma was up our big apple tree and Bobik was perched about five feet off the ground in the first set of branches.  No one had a camera of course.

It would have been funny except the dogs broke three of Tanya's flowers.

Email Signature Quotations

My sock drawer is organized and the bathroom clean so am revising the quotations that appear under my email signature.  These have been there for quite a while and it is time for new ones.  A friend gave me a wonderful book called A Calendar of Wisdom by Leo Tolstoy from which I will get any number of good new quotes. Also found a website with CS Lewis quotes.

"She's the sort of woman who lives for others - you can tell the others by their hunted expression." — C.S. Lewis (The Screwtape Letters)

`No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion.' David Hume

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." HL Mencken

"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject"--Winston Churchill

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw

“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” George Bernard Shaw

“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” George Bernard Shaw

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” George Bernard Shaw

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing” George Bernard Shaw

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it. - George Bernard Shaw

“Few people think more than two or three times a year, I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.” George Bernard Shaw

“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’” George Bernard Shaw

We should have a great fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas only, and not for things themselves. — John Locke
“To keep your marriage brimming, With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it; Whenever you're right, shut up” Ogden Nash

"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." - Maria Robinson

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. – Upton Sinclair, 1935

"So much of what we are, consists of what our partner remembers" dana wyzard

“There are three kinds of people in this world: Innovators, Imitators and Idiots”, Christoph Weder

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him”. Tolstoy's "A Calendar of Wisdom"

“With humbleness, kindness and self-sacrifice, you will take the weapon from any enemy. Any fire dies if there is insufficient wood”.  Tolstoy's "A Calendar of Wisdom"

“If your eyes become blinded by the sun, you do not say the sun does not exist. In the same way, you should not say God does not exist if your intellect is lost in trying to understand him”. Tolstoy's "A Calendar of Wisdom"

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. — C.S. Lewis

“I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell - you see, I have friends in both places." ~Mark Twain*

"Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company."  Mark Twain

The Bible tells us to love our neighbours and also to love our enemies, probably because they are generally the same people. – Mark Twain

*Note to self: never use this quote in an email of sympathy to someone who has lost a loved one.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Moscow embassies start evacuating women, children, radioactive smoke cloud threat

The Canadian and Polish embassies have started evacuating non-essential personnel from Moscow - including children, pregnant women and those with breathing problems - as thick smoke smothers the city, according to diplomatic sources. Embassies have been partly spurred into action as fires are now breaking out in the Bryansk region that was affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which threatens to lift radioactive material into the air.

Neither embassy answered calls nor confirmed the reports.

After a brief respite on Thursday, the winds changed last night and have blanketed the city in heavy smoke again. The government has recommended that anyone going outside wear a mask and parents have been told to keep their children indoors.

Russia’s Surgeon General advised those who can to leave the city. According to some reports, the air quality is so bad that walking outside without a mask is the equivalent of smoking two packets of cigarettes a day. "Air quality has been deteriorating since Thursday evening due to a southeastern movement of the air masses, and conditions unfavourable for atmospheric dispersion," the Moscow Nature Utilization and Environmental Protection Department told Interfax.

According to other reports, the level of oxygen in the air has fallen significantly due to the fires and everyone is complaining of a burning sensation in the eyes. A campfire smell is everywhere in the city.

And the situation could get worse after fires broke out in Bryansk on the Ukrainian border, which bore the brunt of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Sergei Shoigu, head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations (MChS), warned in a press conference Friday that if fires spread in the region, they could lift radioactive contamination that exists in the soil into the air and contaminate other regions. Bryansk is some 350 km to the southwest of Moscow and the capital could be threatened by deadly radioactive cloud if the fires are not brought under control.

Similarly some 500 servicemen are working to extinguish wildfires near the city of Sarov near Moscow, where a nuclear research center is located, a spokesman for Russia's Railway Troops said on Friday.

"The main goal the railway servicemen are achieving now is putting up fire-breaks to prevent homes and the nuclear center from catching fire," Col. Sergei Dorozhkin said.

MChS admits that fires are burning out of control, but claims it has extinguished more fires than have started in the last day. Still, clearly the situation is far from being under control.

Currently, there are 831 wildfires registered in Russia, including 42 peat bog fires, which are particularly hard to put out as they burn underground, but produce copious amounts of smoke. MChS reports that some 248 fires have broken out in the last 24 hours, but 273 have been put out. In all there are some 80 major fires ablaze in the country.

The international community has come to Russia's aid and fire-fighters from six countries, including Poland and Germany, are now battling the blazes.

The smoke has also started to affect flights, with departures disrupted at the Vnukovo and Domodedovo airports in Moscow where visibility is down to between 300 and 350 metres. Sheremetyevo airport, Moscow’s main international airport, is still operating normally, but there too visibility is deteriorating and is down to 350 metres. One plane, an An-24, crashed earlier this week due to the poor visibility.

Nor is there any respite to the scorching temperatures, which are expected to reach between 37°C and 39°C in the city – setting yet another record high – today and up to 40°C in the regions.

The Russian weather service says that even if the fires are extinguished, the smoke cloud is now so large it could take until mid-September to disburse, depending on how much rain the autumn brings.

August 6, 2010



Thursday, August 5, 2010

Officers and Men

Beach front property is a scarce commodity anywhere but in Crimea it is gold.  When the girls were here in June we went to Yalta and the beaches were not good at all along the most famous beachfront of Crimea.  We heard on the news about a one mile stretch of good beach front that belonged to a village  near Evpatoria on the west side of Crimea.  A group of businessmen wanted to build a string of resort hotels along the mile and wanted the beach front declared private property belonging to their resorts.

The head of the village council refused to sign it away, saying the beach belonged to the village and he could not take it from them and force them to pay to use it.  They threatened him, beat him up and put him in hospital and finally in June, they shot him dead.  Makes you wonder what kind of businessmen will commit murder in the name of profit.

The answer is not at all reassuring.  Possibly a great many of the very rich, the very very rich and the filthy rich? Or of the wannabe's.  They may not hire hit men but they are responsible for the deaths of many.

Is Don Blankenship of Massey Coal whose Upper Big Branch WV coal mine disaster killed so many men any less guilty than if he had pulled the trigger or hired it pulled?  With a history of safety violations and instructions to ignore them and move coal?

Is Tony Hayward of BP any less guilty of the deaths of the men on the Gulf of Mexico oil rig that exploded and created the giant spill?  Of of those who died in the Texas refinery explosion?  All because safety regulations were ignored in the name of profit?

And yet. . .

Gwynne Dyer in his book WAR examines the very strict military hierarchical divisions, especially between OFFICERS and MEN.  The duty of an officer is to use up his men to achieve a stated goal.  Not to waste them, not to conserve them but to achieve the goal.

Bad officers are either too timid and achieve less than expected or throw away men's lives needlessly in pursuit of personal glory.  I'm not sure that closing a coal mine for a year and sparking an FBI investigation is a shareholder value adding sort of activity one would expect from a good officer, at the cost of 25 lives.  Nor dropping 30 billion dollars for lack of a $500 thousand investment in safety equipment and at the cost of 11 men's lives.  One thing the military are partial to is following regulations.  Regulations don't cost money, they make money.

Maybe there is a reason that Sun Tzu and Clausewitz are usually found in the business section.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lion food

Maxim and Masha were playing at his grandmothers this morning.  They came to show us their creation. 

I guess I needed my flash as the pictures are a bit grainy.  Sorry.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Midsummer Night's Dream*

We had a nice little thundershower tonight.  Cooled things off from another 40C day.

Looking NE from our balcony
Looking SE from our balcony
 Also knocked out the electricity from about 9:00 pm until midnight.  No TV, no computer. So we went to bed in teh downstairs bedroom which was coolest.  The three of us, Masha in the middle, and sang kids songs.  Masha is a good singer and can remember many songs and poems, a real entertainer.  Then she and Babushka sang together.  Then it was my turn.  It took some remembering.
Frog Went a Courting
My Little Rooster
Hole in the Bottom of the Sea
My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean
The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly.

When it was time to go to sleep, I went upstairs to the couch.  Masha was afraid I'd roll over in the night and kill her.  Last night Tanya and Masha were still awake and giggling like idiots at midnight.  I thought I was going to have to speak to them.  Tanya said she recited a little rhyme to Masha that shut her down right now. The English translation is essentially "The cat is dead; the tail is shedding hair; whoever says the next word has to eat it."

*Legend has it that Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan ran a billboard campaign that was simplicity itself: 12" 3" Wet Dry.  Buffs of the Bard  of course instantly recognized the summer's repertoire as As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Love's Labours Lost.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Handel's Messiah

George Frideric Handel's great oratorio Messiah has been sung by hundreds of thousands of voices over the past 270 years.  What is not known is that he stole both the idea and the music for the famous chorus from his little known brother Ralph "The Pot" Handel.

Apparently after waking up in the morning, following a night of feasting and drinking, with his mouth tasting like the bottom of a parrot cage Ralph penned the famous

HHHAAAlitosis (halitosis, halitosis), HHHAAAlitosis . . .

You heard it here first.  No need to thank me.

The Only prize I Ever Won was my Wife's Hand

Smutzie, from www.Schmutzie.com | www.CanadianWeblogAwards.com | www.GraceinSmallThings.com and of course, Five Star Friday, emailed to tell me that The Blog Fodder was nominated for a CWA (Canadian Weblog Award) - Best Ex-Pat Blog.  Cool. By whom I have no idea but she is a friend of May-B at Buggering Crap Monkies.  though her biases might run the opposite direction

I didn't think the CWA in her email meant Canadian Western Agribition but had to check to see what it did mean.

Certainly a category my blog does fit in as I couldn't think of another.  It is all over the map as far as content is concerned.  Part letters to my kids, part letters to the editor, part filler, part ??

Readership is pretty slim.  Average 30 per day but only 13 will admit it.  Wish a few more would sign up as followers and make themselves known.  I don't know how to tell you to do that if you don't have a blog. Anyone know if there is a way to sign on as a follower and have an email tell you when I've posted something?  You can even use a phony name if you wish.  Like Insubordinate.

It isn't funny, when you are old.

Al, after hugging Natasha who is a very attractive young woman, "The problem is I have daughters older than her".
Tanya, "That's not your problem".

I get no respect.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's Hot. Damned hot. And (not) Wet (here).

Today begins another week of temperatures in the high 30's.  It is 3:00 pm as I write and it is 40 outside my window.

Tanya and Lena picked the garden yesterday - anything that would cook in the sun.  The watermelons are all picked.  The tomatoes are all picked. Funny picking tomatoes because of heat.  many is the times I have helped pick the tomatoes because of pending frost but heat?

Friends from Kreminchuk are coming for supper and the night.  Five people.  They suggested shashlik.  Yeah, right in this weather.  We bought three BBQ chicken from the deli.  $5 for a 4 lb chicken and we don't have to cook it.  We bought one for Roman and Lena and one for Andrei and Tania too.  It is too hot to cook.

We are selfish.  We will sleep upstairs in the air conditioned bedroom. They can sleep downstairs in our bedroom, the new sofa-hideabed and Andrei's couch which is still in our entry way pending completion of their apartment is we all live long enough. We will leave the AC on in my office which as cold airs settles, keeps the downstairs cool too.

Russia is also suffering from this heat wave.  they have forest fires and peat bog fires going all over the place.  A number of villages have been burned out and at least 30 lives lost to the fire.  The heat wave combined with smoke from the peat bogs has caused a number of deaths in Moscow.  Old people.  And drunks, drowning trying to keep cool where it is unsafe to swim.

In the meantime, Pakistan has the worst floods in memory and China too, is having one in (maybe more than) a hundred year floods.  The Three Gorges dam will show its worth - or not - this year.

Stay cool.  And dry.  Or wet.  Depending on where you are, I guess.