Monday, January 31, 2011

Earth's City Lights

This Audio Slide Show on BBC, regarding counting stars within the four points of Orion and the impact of city lights on the night sky, is very interesting.  The narrator comments that Great Britain wastes about 1 Billion Pounds Stirling annually lighting up the sky instead of the ground.  That is a lot of money and a lot of wasted electricity with a concurrent waste of hydrocarbon fuels which will vary with how much of their electricity is generated by hydro or nuclear instead of coal or gas.
When one looks at the NASA picture of earth at night from space, you can see where people live and where they do not and how much light is either directed or reflected upwards.  This picture is a copy of a much larger version.  I found one on Flickr at this site here. It is 1.1 MB. I downloaded one a few years ago that was 3.5 MB.  The detail was incredible at high magnification.  I found all the little towns in Saskatchewan in the area where I grew up.  I haven't tried it on the Flickr site nor have I been able to find the 3.5 MB one again.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Face Memory Test from BBC Science

The test consists of three parts:
1.You'll be shown 12 photos in the first part, 
2. You'll be shown another 12 photos in the second part
3. You'll be shown 48 photos in the third part and asked if you saw them in the first part, the second part - or never saw them at all.
When you have finished the third part, your results will be given to you.
You are advised to wait 5 minutes between each part of the test, so you can keep things separate in your mind easier.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Sun Shiny Day

Three days of sun this week; spring must be coming.  Tanya was into the on-line seed catalogues again.  Temps in the -5C range (23F) so it was a good day for walking.  Ronald, the neighbour's dog, has been allowed out of his yard to play when Bobik and Volk have been out so today he went with us on our walk. He likes the company; they mostly ignore him.  Unless I pay attention to him, then they play a rough game of tag in which Ronald is "IT" and tag consists of a nip on the rump. I hope it never gets rougher than that.  Watching the two dogs work together and Ronald defend against both is very interesting.  Smart.

Today we were quite a ways from home when they started this tag game.  Ronald finally got tired of it and ran for home with Bobik and Volk in hot pursuit.  Ronald is all legs and can out run them easily on the straightaway.  They chased him all the way home, then came back to me.  With Ronald right behind them. 

Bobik and Volk are now three years old.  Ronald will be one year old in couple of months.

Bobik and Volk on the front step

Ronald at about 10 months

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Great Wall of China

This article in the Globalist has some interesting B&W pictures of the series of walls which today are collectively referred to as The Great Wall of China.  I am adding Daniel Schwartz's book to my wish list. There are other photographs at the Amazon website.

If you are truly interesting in the history of the Chinese walls and of China, I recommend reading Julia Lovell's book The Great Wall: China Against the World 1000 BC - AD 2000.  China has been building walls for two thousand years.  Lovell's book covers each dynasty from 221 BC and the associated building of walls, complete with maps.  Fascinating reading, especially when each successive series of walls fails but the next dynasty continues on because they are unsure of what else to do.  Keeping the people in and the barbarians out was an obsession that Lovell, in the Conclusion "The Great Wall, The Great Mall and The Great Firewall" suggests continues to this day.

The product description and  Nathan Hoturoa Gray's review of the book on the Amazon site cover the topic pretty well.  Having spend some time in China in the 1990's, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and learned a great deal from it, background to what I observed.  For me it was a can't put it down kind of book.  For the true historians among you, it is well end-noted with a comprehensive bibliography.

Julia Lovell teaches Chinese history and literature at the University of Cambridge.  Her next book, due out this year, she says, is about the Opium Wars, which were a serious defining period in China;'s relationship with the outside world.  It too is on my wish list.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Send in the Clones

Our PURPLE 2008 Kia Carens.  Note licence number

Another PURPLE 2008 Kia Carens.  Note licence number

Hard Times (Pudding)

Today is Saint Tatiana Day, the Name Day of all Tatianas everywhere.  My Tanya and Andrei's Tanya, along with Masha and Lena celebrated by going for lunch to Marichka's for pizza while I reloaded programs on my computer.  We then invited friends over for supper for which I was responsible for dessert.  I made Oatmeal Squares (my kids will recognize this). They turned out perfect except for one small flaw.  They were glued solidly to the cookie sheet and one needed a chisel to remove them - in small pieces, not 3" squares.  Plan B was to serve ice cream with lots of cookie crumbs sprinkled on it.  Still tasted good.  And now I know why the recipe said to cover the cookie sheet with wax paper.  It is what you call Cookie Doh!!

I got looking at all the different family dessert recipes handed down over the generations made with flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, raisins, baking powder, milk and butter.  These are pretty basic ingredients, not fancy, not expensive.  Homestead food, poor farmer food.  The milk and butter were home grown, the rest of the stuff bought in bulk with no use before date and no refrigeration needed, so to speak.

A favourite of our family when I was growing up was Hard Times Pudding also known as quick raisin pudding, though at our house it was "Raisin pudding in its own sauce", a rather cumbersome title.  Basically it is sweet biscuit dough, filled with raisins and baked in a brown sugar sauce.  Mom would sometimes make it for supper but most often it was a surprise dessert hot out of oven late on a cold Friday night or Saturday night when Dad, my brothers and I would come in from working late outside on "weekend chores".  A double recipe would fill the big green Pyrex bowl, (the same one in which she baked scalloped potatoes), and the six of us would make quick work of it.

Ice cream would have been perfect with it and that is how I serve it now but in those days, even at 99 cents for a half gallon, it was a rare treat.  Now I need to go chisel the rest of the cookies off the cookie sheet.  #%^&@@@# to coin a phrase.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shopping for Clothes

Tanya took me shopping for clothes today.  I have a love/hate relationship with clothes shopping.  I love new clothes but hate spending money on them.  But Tanya was buying, so what could I do.  I don't mind suits and ties but always feel uncomfortable in them as they do not always fit like they should.  No matter what, I never look like the Armani models.  I am a jeans and shirt man. I never met a shirt I didn't like, especially western style, in loud colours with pearl snaps.  Two pairs of jeans and forty-'leven shirts and I am good to go for years.  I would meet the Crowned Heads of Europe wearing jeans and shirt except my wife would be embarrassed to tears if I did.

A local magazine "Animal Industry Today" is sponsoring a Round Table on the Ukrainian beef industry on Feb 2.  The magazine has published a few articles of mine related to improving the beef industry in Ukraine.  These have come to the attention of the Deputy Minister (Livestock) of the Ministry of Agrarian Policy.  The publisher asked me to write an article for the January issue in preparation for the Round Table that would (my paraphrase) agitate the fecal mass a bit. Not that I am good at that but I gave it my best shot; repeating in my usual diplomatic style, advice that the Ministry was given 10 years ago and never acted on.  I have now been invited to participate in the Round Table.  The Minister of Agrarian Policy will be there as will the Deputy Minister and several other heavy hitters from around the country.

This is NOT a jeans and shirt crowd.  Darn! The suit I wore to my daughter's wedding two years ago (well,17 months ago) is still good as new.  But I need a car length dress coat.  My good leather coat is too heavy unless it is -30. And a new shirt. A shirt?? Now you are talking my language. Let's go!

Left for Krivii Rih at 10 am, Andrei driving.  Best men's store in town ( I bought the suit there) has some very nice coats but not my size.  A city of almost 1 million people and no "Big and Tall" that any one knew of.  If Andrei can't find it in Krivii Rih, it doesn't exist.  By 2:00 we were in Dnipropetrovs'k at a "Big and Tall" where winter coats were half price, no less.  There were several that fit and I got one both Tanya and I liked.  Along with a new shirt.

We next stopped at Tanya's favourite ladies' wear (She is coming to the Round Table with me, of course! I don't leave home without her; she keeps me out of trouble). Tanya got a skirt and two tops for the same price as my new shirt.  There is no justice.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Measure of All Things

Two hundred years ago, the only standard measure was time, with the day divided into two 12 hour halves, the hours into 60 minutes each and the minutes into 60 seconds each. The circle was also divided into 360 degrees with each degree further divided into 60 minutes and each minute into 60 seconds. Beyond that, every country, county, town and village seemed to have its own units of length, weight and volume. The units may even have had the same names in places but the actual amounts varied. This worked well in local markets but made trade very difficult.

In 1792, two Frenchmen, Delambre and Mechain set out from Paris to measure with extreme accurately the length of the meridian which ran from Dunkirk to Barcelona through Paris. The French Academy of Science, fired by revolutionary zeal intended to create the perfect system of measurements based on the earth itself which all people of all nations would adopt. The meter was to be exactly one 10 millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the Equator. Units of length, volume and weight would be all linked together related to the meter. The decimal system and Latin suffixes completed the new Metric system.

While the meridian had been measured some 40 or 50 years before, a new and very accurate instrument, the Borda repeating circle, meant it could be measured much more exactly. It took them seven years. The difficulties of actually doing the survey in the middle of the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, wars with Spain, Prussia and England and the rise of Napoleon merely compounded the physical difficulties. Prior to the age of satellites, distances were measured by triangulation. If the three angles of a triangle are known and the length of one side, the other two sides can be calculated. So a series of triangles stretching the length of the distance to be measured, connected by common sides can be calculated by measuring one side of one triangle.

Delambre was a pragmatist and finished his half of the meridian first. Mechain was a perfectionist and it eventually killed him. He started in Barcelona, Spain in late 1792 and was to work his way north. He got into the Pyrenees and was stopped by the war, ending up back in Barcelona for the winter of 1793-4. Not knowing to leave well enough alone, he redid one of his measurements and found it to be very different from the one before (simplified version). He buried the error and it haunted him. He felt he had failed. His depression slowed his work and he almost did not complete it. He finally went back to Barcelona to try to find the error, caught malaria and died.

Delambre had to sort out Mechain’s papers which were a deliberate mess. Mechain had suppressed and doctored a lot of data but he had done so to make himself look more precise and was very careful to keep his doctored data from affecting the final calculations. Delambre sorted it out, recalculated everything and published the data. He did not expose Mechain’s deliberate cover ups and called the Barcelona error a discovery.

The work of these two men while not very relevant to the precision of the metric system, as it turned out, did advance the cause of science and mathematics. Error was found to be a normal part of any measurements and could be split into errors in precision and accuracy. Precision is an indication of the repeatability of results while accuracy is how close the results are to the “right” answer. The statistical method of “Least Squares” was developed using their data.

The promo on the cover and the other reviews I have read make a big deal of Mechain’s error, which may have contributed to the meter being 0.2mm short. (The satellite confirmed distance is actually 10,002,290 meters). The author, and indeed Delambre, realized the error was irrelevant as setting the meter at one 10 millionth of the quarter was arbitrary to start with. What was critical was that the length be standardized and the system adopted.

The metric system replace the systems of the Ancien Regimes country by country in the 19th and 20th centuries in most cases in times of political and social upset – war, revolution, independence – when the government could forcibly “ram it down the throats” of the people. France herself where metric was invented, didn’t officially adopt it till the middle of the 19th century and for decades after the old systems were still in use in the towns and villages. Britain and several of the other Commonwealth countries adopted the metric system last.

My take-away lesson from this book is that while Canada adopted the metric system 40 years ago, it may be another 60 years or more, if ever, before it totally supplants the British Imperial System in all things. Systems of weights and measures are not just impersonal methods of uniform description. They are part of our very culture.

In a footnote, as it were, I will add that in 1884, along with the 24 hour clock and standard time zones, the brain-children of Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming, the meridian of 0º longitude was established as running through Greenwich England, leaving the Paris meridian some 2º20’ to the east.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Romanov Dynasty

The Romanov Dynasty was to rule Imperial Russia from 1613 to 1917. It was, as they say, interesting times.  Years ago, before there was any inkling of future ties to Ukraine and Russia, I began reading Russian history, simply because the country has always fascinated me. Three excellent books introduced me to the Romanovs: 
Peter the Great by Robert K MassieCatherine, Empress of all the Russias by Vincent Kronin;  and
The Shadow of the Winter Palace; Russia's drift to revolution 1925 - 1917 by Edward Crankshaw.  I do need to reread the last one as it has been a while.

Having waded through 1050 pages of Tolstoy's War and Peace followed by Richard Riehn's 1812: Napoleon's Russian Campaign, I figured I needed some "lighter reading" so I tackled Imperial Legend by Alexis Troubetskoy, a biography of Alexander I who reigned as Tsar from 1801, on the assassination of his father, Paul son of Catherine the Great, until his "death" in 1825.  The book, written by a descendant of high ranking Russian nobility (one of whom was one of the Decembrists) explores the very strong circumstantial evidence that Alexander I, with the connivance of his family staged his death to escape the throne as abdication was impossible for a reigning Tsar.  He allegedly reappeared some years later in Siberia as Feodor Kuzmich, a wandering mendicant or "starets" who died in Tomsk in 1864.  The murder of his father and his indirect involvement preyed on Alexander's mind all his life and it is argued that in his desire for peace of mind and true salvation of his soul, that he "disappeared" at the peak of his power and spent the rest of his life as a hermit, in penance.

Alexander I was succeeded by his younger brother Nicholas I, followed by Alexander II and III and finally Nicholas II, whose 1967 biography, Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K Massie, I am working my way through just now.

An interesting note:  the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg where Tsar Nicholas II, the last of the Romanovs and his family spent their final days before their brutal murders in 1918 bears the same name as the Ipatiev Monastery where Mikhail I, the first of the Romanov dynasty, hid out during The Time of Troubles

Putin's Palace

Check out these digs being built for Vladimir Putin in southern Russia.  And he isn't even a Romanov.
This source says the money is "donated" by Russian businessmen.  Part of the price for not being "investigated" by  the tax police like Khodorkovsky?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nice to be Knee-ded

Went to see my doctor today about my knees.  Truth, Tanya made the appointment and dragged me there but it was necessary.  A lifetime of flat feet and two decades or more of 50 kg of extra lard are deleterious to the health of one's knees. (I know, I know, if you get stiff in the joints, stay out of those joints).

My right knee has been trouble for at least a year now when I drive any length of time.  The driver's side of the Kia was not made for giant economy size and my knee would pain so bad after about 30 minutes on the gas pedal that I would have to get out, walk around the car with my leg straight and then get back in for another 30 minute drive.

The last couple of months my left knee would take a notion once in a while not to support me when I was walking down stairs.  Not good.  So off to the doc it was.

Quick exam by the doc in his office. X-Rays next. Talk about speedy.  The tech gave Tanya the four negatives, still dripping from the vat and we hurried back to Dr. Rosenberg. He had a quick look at them, and said likely the beginnings of arthritis.  He then hung them over a register to dry and will give them a thorough look before we go back to see him.  The X-Rays will be added to my medical file which Tanya keeps for me (people here are responsible for their own medical files).

He gave me a prescription for some blue pills (no smart remarks) which we will try for a month and then maybe injections into the knees beginning in February.  At $75 each x 3 in each knee. A fortune in this country.

Dr. Rosenberg has a huge Samurai sword in his office.  He says it is for when his operations are not successful. Doctors bury their mistakes.  Architects can only plant vines.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I'm going to take my own advice

Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wit and Wisdom of Yogi Berra

For youngsters and non-baseball fans, Yogi Berra was one of the greatest major league catchers of all time.  He spent  19 years with the Yankees beginning just after the war.  During that time the Yankees went to 14 World Series and won 10 of them.

Partly because he quit school during the 8th grade and partly because he was Yogi, he became famous for his usage of the English language. In no particular order:

  • If you can't imitate him, don't copy him.
  • You give 100 percent in the first half of the game, and if that isn't enough in the second half you give what's left.
  • If you come to a fork in the road, take it.
  • Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.
  • I knew I was going to take the wrong train, so I left early.
  • This is like deja vu all over again.
  • You can observe a lot just by watching.
  • I think Little League is wonderful. It keeps the kids out of the house.
  • I'm not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.
  • If the fans don't wanna come out to the ballpark, no one can stop 'em
  • Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical.
  • I didn't really say everything I said.
  • It ain't over 'til it's over.
  • No one goes there nowadays, it's too crowded.
  • The future ain't what it used to be.
  • Ninety percent of all mental errors are in your head.
  • Go to other people's funerals or they won't come to yours.
  • If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there.
  • If the world was perfect, it wouldn't be.
  • A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore.
  • You guys over there, pair up into groups of three.
  • Buy a stock, if it goes up, sell it, if it goes down, don't buy it.
  • If this was easy it wouldn't be so hard.
  • We made too many wrong mistakes.

I really got looped yesterday.

System Mechanic is a software package that I have used for years to keep my computer tuned up.  (I first used Norton but then discovered that the best Norton program was the one that removed all vestiges of Norton from my computer.  Their programs were memory hogs.  Are they any better now?). 

My computer has been giving me trouble off and on for several weeks now. It is set up to act as a proxy server for our wireless internet so we only need one monthly subscription.  Maybe that is what is tying up over half my RAM. There are over 60 processes running at any given time, some of which I likely don't need but which?  The sound snap crackles and pops, accompanied by a surge into the red of my CPU meters, whether CD, DVD, You tube or Skype.  Not constantly but consistently. The DVD burner reads but won't write.

System Mechanic10 (newest) was supposed to run automatic checks and fixes on several items but seemed to be giving trouble, stalling out and shutting down.  So I uninstalled it and reinstalled it from scratch.  Started a manual cleanup step by step. Everything was going fine until I did a hard disk check and repair.  It automatically shuts down and restarts after the operation is complete.

When it rebooted, it acted funny and suddenly a screen appeared announcing that a Check Disc was scheduled.  That was performed and the computer shut down again and then booted up again.  So far so good.  Except that on booting up it rechecked the hard drive, shut down, booted up, rechecked the hard drive ad infinitum.  There is an option to cancel the check disc.  So I dug out an old OS2 keyboard and hit any key.  the check disc stopped and the computer shut down, rebooted and the check disc announcement appeared again. 

So we cycled through that a few times, then I cold stopped the computer and let it sit. Nope, still looping.  It is going into Mir computers tomorrow.  I stuck the wireless modem on Tanya's computer and we are still connected to the outside world.

The loop reminded me of my student days back in the times of FORTRAN and punch cards.  For our computer labs we wrote little programs, keyed them in, made punch cards and ran them.  One learned quickly the advantage of logical thinking and accurate keying. We were given so much money (time) on the campus mainframe.  It was lots of money IF all our programs worked first time but most of us needed to run them a few times to get the bugs out.  Left over time was yours to play with and create computer generated pictures etc. But if you created a loop in logic, the program never stopped running until you ran out of money.  Not a good thing.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Paraprosdokian Sentences*

  • I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
  • Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
  • I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
  • Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  • The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.
  • Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  • If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
  • We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.
  • War does not determine who is right -- only who is left.
  • Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
  • Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening,' and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.
  • To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
  • A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. My desk is a work station.
  • How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?
  • Some people are like Slinkies ... Not really good for anything, but you can't help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs.
  • Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  • I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted paychecks.
  • A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it.
  • Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "If an emergency, notify:" I put "DOCTOR."
  • I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
  • I saw a woman wearing a sweat shirt with "Guess" on it... So I said "Implants?"
  • Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
  • Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut and still think they are sexy.
  • Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
  • Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
  • A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  • The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!
  • Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.
  • A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  • Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.
  • Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
  • I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.
  • Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.
  • There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.
  • I always take life with a grain of salt... Plus a slice of lemon... And a shot of tequila.
  • When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.
  • You're never too old to learn something stupid.
  • To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
  • Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
  • A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.
  • If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one child?
  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

* A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech  in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect. These from DAC, my professor, mentor and long time friend.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Mark of the Beast

Sometimes I wonder if the mark of the beast referred to in Revelations isn't going to turn out to be the cross. We condemn moderate Muslims for not speaking out against radical Islam and preventing it from terrorizing the rest of the world.  One could ask what is moderate Christianity doing about these kinds of people?  God help us all if they get into power in America.

Does Bachmann Believe Congress Should be Run by Christians?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

200 Combines in One Field

The unintended consequences of banning horse-slaughter

FoodPolitik: The unintended consequences of banning horse-slaughter
By Rick Berman - The Daily Caller   12:13 AM 01/10/2011

As a rule, Americans don’t eat horse meat. We dropped the habit after World War II, but 14 percent of the world’s population still has a taste for it. That’s more than one billion people. Should Americans be allowed to serve that market?

It’s an increasingly thorny question. Until recently, a handful of U.S. slaughterhouses processed horse meat for consumers overseas. But in 2007 Congress cut off the USDA’s funding for inspectors. Since then, says a study published last month in the Journal of Animal Science, a flood of unwanted horses has been unleashed on the American west.

About 100,000 unwanted American horses turn up every year. And the Journal of Animal Science authors note that the capacity of all the U.S. equine recues and sanctuaries combined is just 13,400.

To animal rights activists who never met an animal they couldn’t lecture you over, there’s no excuse for slaughtering a horse. The wealthy Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) led the push to shutter the industry four years ago.

Last week a national “horse summit” convened in Las Vegas to discuss this issue. And there’s lots to talk about. Tens of thousands of horses are starving at any given time in the United States. And many U.S. horses are still slaughtered for food, but now (thanks to HSUS) they’re trucked great distances to Canada and Mexico.

In 2000, virtually no horses were exported from the U.S. to Mexico for slaughter. Last year 50,000 made the trip. American humane slaughter regulations carry no weight South of the Border, so activists trying to save horses from what they considered a cruel death may have guaranteed them something far worse.

And for every American horse that sees a Mexican kill floor, another like it is left to fend for itself, often dying slowly from starvation. In the current economy, some horse owners are left without options. They used to be able to sell their animals for slaughter, but no more. Some can’t afford the $500 it typically costs to hire a veterinarian to euthanize and dispose of a single horse. Instead, many  just “shoot, shovel, and shut up.”

Talk about unintended consequences. Unintended, but not unforeseeable.

The American Veterinary Medical Association figured out years ago what would happen in the wake of a horse-slaughter ban. So did many state-level Veterinary Medical Associations. But the Humane Society of the United States out-lobbied them.

To HSUS, PETA, and other groups like them, horses are pets, not food. They’re also lucrative pawns, playing second fiddle only to dogs and cats in terms of fundraising effectiveness.

So if you’re HSUS, and you’ve caused incalculable suffering to tens of thousands of horses, what do you do about it?

You “rescue” one of your own casualties. And then cynically use the animal to raise even more money.

HSUS collected $1.2 million during its recent holiday donation drive. Part of that campaign focused on an “Animal Survivor” story of a horse named Second Chance. “This is Second Chance,” HSUS’s website intoned. “He survived.”

The animal rights group rolled cameras while its young West Virginia director told the three-handkerchief tale of how the emaciated animal was nursed back to health. “Second Chance wouldn’t have made it without you,” she adds.

Apparently, no one told Second Chance he was supposed to be an “Animal Survivor.” He died in the middle of the fundraising season, just as HSUS was telling potential donors that he went “from a walking skeleton to a beautiful horse on the road to recovery.”

This is par for the course. Immediately after Michael Vick’s 2007 dogfighting arrest, HSUS began raising money on the promise that it would care for Vick’s dogs. HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle later admitted to The New York Times that his organization didn’t have the dogs, didn’t know where they were, and recommended that they should all be “put down” anyway.

Most of these dogs are now rehabilitated. Michael Vick’s public image survived nicely, too, thanks to his HSUS endorsement (coincidentally preceded by a $50,000 check from the Philadelphia Eagles to HSUS). Last month Wayne Pacelle had an epiphany, saying Vick “would do a good job as a pet owner.”

What’s the takeaway here? Whenever an animal-rights charity tugs on both your heartstrings and your purse-strings, fast-forward the story they’re telling you and think about how it might end. In the case of HSUS, sometimes it leads to the sort of animal cruelty that the group would be protesting if anyone else were responsible.

America may never again have a horse slaughter industry, but I suspect HSUS doesn’t much care. It’s already cashed in. No sense beating a dead horse.

Rick Berman is President of the public affairs firm Berman and Company. He has worked extensively in the food and beverage industries for the past 30 years. To learn more, visit

Monday, January 10, 2011

I just cant take it any more

I washed them

Back to Normal

LynnieC should be on the plane to Munich and then London as I write.  she texted that she was checked in and waiting.  LH2545 departs at 5;10 if it is on time and no weather related problems have been reported today.  The house is pretty empty as she has been here for three weeks and we kind of liked having her around. 

I have done nothing today of a useful nature.  The dishes are still stacked by the sink.  When we eat out of tin cans, I will wash them.  Except here the number of tin cans opened in a month I can count on one hand so maybe I'll wash them when we run out of plates or worse yet, coffee cups.

I have amused myself reading BBC's Mark Mardell's blog commentary on America.  His last two blogs related to the shooting of Representative Gifford have generated hundreds of comments, including a few very well informed and reasoned ones.  Worth reading just to get a cross section of American and British opinions.

One blogger wrote: "Revolutions tend to lead to worse tyrannies than the system they initially seek to overthrow".  I remember reading long ago that "governments that are established with guns can only be removed with guns".  Makes one wonder where the gun culture is going to take USA and by extension the rest of the world.

The timing of the Arizona shootings with the assassination of the Punjab governor in Pakistan makes for interesting comparisons. Liberals the world over are learning the hard way to keep their heads down and their opinions to themselves.  There is always a deranged lone gunman around when you need one.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The things you learn from Wikipedia

I was reading about the Szlachta, or Polish privileged class in Wikipedia.  Tanya found the article as she has been searching out information on her family name (Franskeyvich is the English transliteration of the Russian spelling).  She has tracked down several people with the same family name and one of them gave her a site where she can learn more about the family name history.  Apparently at least some of them were Polish nobility and have a family crest.  She found the Wiki site to explain to me about the crest.

I found this sentence referring to the mentality and ideology of the Szlachta rather interesting.  Amazing how ideology transforms over time.

In its early, idealistic form, Sarmatism seemed like a salutary cultural movement: it fostered religious faith, honesty, national pride, courage, equality and freedom. Late Sarmatism turned belief into bigotry, honesty into political naiveté, pride into arrogance, courage into stubbornness, equality and freedom within the szlachta class into dissension and anarchy.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


LOVE - When your eyes meet across a crowded room.
LUST - When your tongues meet across a crowded room.
MARRIAGE - When you try to lose your spouse in a crowded room.

LOVE - When intercourse is called 'making love.'
LUST - When intercourse is called 'screwing.'
MARRIAGE - When Intercourse is a town in Pennsylvania.

LOVE - When you argue over how many children to have.
LUST - When you argue over who gets the wet spot.
MARRIAGE - When you argue over whose idea it was to have kids.

LOVE - When you share everything you own.
LUST - When you steal everything they own.
MARRIAGE - When the bank owns everything.

LOVE - When it doesn't matter if you don't climax.
LUST - When the relationship is over if you don’t climax.
MARRIAGE - When ... uh ... what's a climax?

LOVE - When you phone each other just to say, 'Hi.'
LUST - When you phone each other to pick a hotel room.
MARRIAGE - When you phone each other to bitch about work.

LOVE - When you write poems about your partner.
LUST - When all you write is your phone number.
MARRIAGE - When all you write is checks.

LOVE - When your only concern is for your partner's feelings.
LUST - When your only concern is to find a room with mirrors all around.
MARRIAGE - When you're only concern as to what's on TV.

LOVE - When you are proud to be seen in public with your partner.
LUST - When you only see each other naked.
MARRIAGE - When you never see each other awake.

LOVE - When your heart flutters every time you see them.
LUST - When your groin twitches every time you see them.
MARRIAGE - When your wallet empties every time you see them.

LOVE - When all the songs on the radio describe exactly how you feel.
LUST - When the song on the radio determines how you do it.
MARRIAGE - When you listen to talk radio.

LOVE - When breaking up is something you try not to think about.
LUST - When staying together is something you try not to think about.
MARRIAGE - When just getting through the day is your only thought.

LOVE - When you're only interested in doing things with your partner.
LUST - When you're only interested in doing things TO your partner.
MARRIAGE - When you're only interested in your golf score.

LOVE- When a rainy day means more time to stay inside and talk.
LUST- When a rainy day means more time to stay inside and screw.
MARRIAGE- When a rainy day means it's time to clean the basement.

LOVE- You only leave the house to buy coffee and doughnuts.
LUST- You only leave the house to buy condoms and KY jelly.
MARRIAGE- You only leave the house when you're allowed.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Current Events Russia and elsewhere.

An open letter to President Medvedev about a $1 billion palace being built for Putin.

Even with an approved rally, if you are in opposition to Putin, you get arrested and thrown in jail.  Nemstov is serving 15 days (next time 15 years?) on trumped up charges.

The Khodorkovsky verdict came in between Christmas and New Years, to minimize bad press outside Russia.  A few years back they found him guilty of avoiding taxes that amounted to more than his company earned, though people seem to have forgotten that.  Now they found him guilty of stealing all the oil his company produced, some 350 million barrels worth, though he was only charged with stealing 218 million. The Economist also covered the story but then as everyone knows they "hate Russia" (read the comments after the story) in much the same way that those who point out the faultlines in the American system are accused of "hating America".  It saves having to deal with the issues.

Pakistan radical Islam is rapidly turning into an unavoidable problem for the world.  The country's military and intelligence service have sucked billions of dollars out of America to "combat terrorism" while at the same time supporting the terrorists.  There may be moderate Islamists in Pakistan but if they are smart they keep their heads down and their mouths shut or they end up dead.  If the Americans back off, it seems the Chinese will step in to support the Pakistani military just on principle, I suppose.  Amazing that what seemed like a good idea at the time, thirty years later turns around and bites you.  Iran isn't the problem, nor is Iraq.  Next stop Pakistan.

If you want all the bad news about what is happening in America, there are many blogs and web journals to choose from.  Some of the better ones are Huffington Post, Information Clearing House and Slate Magazine.  If you are a Fox News listener, maybe you can get someone to read these articles to you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Little Vika (VEEka)

Our mail delivery lady, Valya, has a daughter Katya, who has a two year old daughter named Vika (Victoria).  They live in Marianivka Village too but on the other side of the river and about two km south.  Valya is a village woman with at least one cow, chickens and a large garden.  Katya, her husband and Vika live with her but Katya's husband works in the city and is not often home as he stays with his mother there rather than trying to commute.

We met Katya and Vika last spring when the three of them came to get a stray German Shepherd that we had been looking after until we could find it a home.  Vika was about a year and a few months then.  Old enough to walk and smile and that was about it.  She was a sweetheart.

Katya is our Avon and Oriflame lady and helps out her mom on the mail route sometimes.  I have been asking her to bring Vika for a visit so this morning she did, arriving about 9:00.  Vika went upstairs with me and I introduced her to LynnieC who was still in bed at 9:30 am, (rising about 1 or 2 is normal for her as she goes to bed about 3 or so in the morning).  The two of them hit it off and we could hear shrieks of laughter coming from LynnieC's room.

After lunch, Vika sat on my lap and almost went to sleep until she realized what was happening.  then she flung herself at her mother and cried.  After a bit she settled down but no way was she sitting on my lap again.  She would haul Christmas ornaments, Santa's and so forth to me, though.

I drove them home about 1:30 and she fell asleep in her mother's arms.  Katya phoned Tanya later in the afternoon to say that when Vika woke up, she ate a good lunch again, put on her boots and said she wanted to take the "Beepbeep" back to Dedushka's.  Melt my heart.