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 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. 

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: []
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 etrangŠøres et Commerce international Canada
Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada

From: Wayne [mailto:wayne@]
Sent: November-05-10 6:21 AM
To: ''
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.