Saturday, December 31, 2011

Anton Chekhov on Occupy Wall Street

Just look at this life: the insolence and idleness of the strong, the ignorance and brutishness of the weak, impossible poverty all around us, overcrowding, degeneracy, lies . . . Yet in all the houses and streets, it’s quiet, peaceful; of the fifty thousand people who live in town there is not one who would cry out or become loudly indignant.  We see those who go to the market to buy food, eat during the day, sleep during the night, who talk their nonsense, get married, grow old, complacently drag their dead to the cemetery; but we don’t see or hear those who suffer and the horrors of life go on somewhere behind the scenes. Everything is quiet, peaceful and only mute statistics protest: so many gone mad, so many buckets (of vodka) drunk, so many children dead of malnutrition . . . And this order is obviously necessary; obviously the happy man feels good only because the unhappy bear their burden silently and without that silence happiness would be impossible. . .

At the door of every contented happy man someone should stand with a little hammer, constantly tapping, to remind him that unhappy people exist, that however happy he may be, sooner or later life will show him its claws, some calamity will befall him – illness, poverty, loss – and nobody will hear or see, just as he doesn’t hear or see others, now. But there is nobody with a little hammer, the happy man lives on, and the petty cares of life stir him only slightly as the wind stirs and aspen – and everything is fine. . .

Wait in the name of what, I ask you? In the name of what considerations? They tell me that it can’t be done all at once, that every idea is realized gradually, in due time.  But who says that?  Where are the proofs that it is so?  You refer to the natural order of things, to the lawfulness of phenomena, but there is order and lawfulness in the fact that I, a living and thinking man, must stand in a ditch and wait until it gets over grown or silted up, when I could perhaps jump over it or build a bridge across it?  And again, wait in the name of what? Wait, when you haven’t the strength to live and yet you must live and want to live! . . .

. . . don’t settle in, don’t let yourself fall asleep! As long as you’re young, strong, energetic, don’t weary of doing good! There is no happiness and there shouldn’t be, and if there is any meaning and purpose in life, then that meaning and purpose are not at all in our happiness, but in something intelligent and great.  Do good!
 Excerpts from Gooseberries 1898
Chekhov wrote these words less than two decades before the Revolution of 1917 that changed Russia - and the whole world - forever and only 7 years before the Revolution of 1905 which began a period of reform which was - as always - too little, too late... 

Regina's Mobile Crisis Services answering calls for help

 What my daughter MayB does at work. Going on 12 or 13 years now.  She is awesome.

Regina's Mobile Crisis Services answering calls for help

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii - Colour Photographer of the Russian Empire

Today's blog is a result of a friend of mine posting a link to photos of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii on Facebook. If anyone is interested in colour photographs of the Russian Empire in the last years before the Revolution, this man's work is incredible.  In the days before colour film, he invented a process combining three monochrome photos in red, green and blue, then merging them to make a colour photograph.

Twenty pictures are shown at the bottom of the Wikipedia article linked to above and 86 at this link here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

March of the Penguins

Tanya saw these on a TV cooking show so made a bunch for our party on Saturday.  You need large pitted black olives for the body and small ones for the head.  Carrot serves as feet and beak while cream cheese and Mayo make the body stuffing for the white vest (split the body olive to stuff it).

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Celebrating Five Years of Marriage

Tanya and I celebrated five years of marriage on Dec 23rd. We found it hard to believe that time had flown by that quickly but I guess with age time speeds up. For supper, Tanya made Chicken _?_*  that she saw on TV and we drained a bottle of bubbly between us.

On the 24th (yesterday) we had a dinner party for 16 friends at a local restaurant owned by a friend of Andrei's whose son is in Masha's class. We ate, drank, danced and sang and had a great time.  Since we had been married in Canada, this was the celebration in Ukraine we didn't have then.

It has been a good five years, we both agree.  Filled with love, filled with fun, filled with happiness.  We suit each other in so many ways.  And our families get along.  Tanya loves my kids and they love her.  I love Tanya's kids and they love me.  Someday we would like to have the whole family together in one place, even for a week, just to say we did it.

We are not without our differences (viva la diffĂ©rence) and misunderstandings. Some is personality, some is family tradition and some is cultural, I am certain, but they are all mixed together and hard to sort out.  Men and women never speak the same "language" anyhow but we really do speak different languages and have different cultures so it makes us doubly aware that we need to be careful and let things slide many times.  Both of us, I am sure, feel we give more than we take so it is likely pretty well fifty:fifty, as it should be.

Speaking for myself, I am happy and contented.  Many years ago I named my consulting company Odyssey because I felt like Odysseus wandering the planet trying to find "home".  I think my quest is over and while I will still wander the planet (as long as someone else pays) I know where home is.  It is wherever Tanya is.
The anniversary couple

The anniversary cake

A few of the guests, (while we waited for the rest)

*Chicken breast sliced thin, a layer of ham and a layer of cheese with another layer of chicken breast on top, dipped in egg, rolled in bread crumbs and fried (could have been roasted) and took her all of 10 minutes to make.  She said it is NOT Chicken Kiev; anyone know what it is called?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Final Leg of the Journey

The last four days in Regina were a mad dash to finish business and see as many people as possible.  MayB had people for supper Thursday night and Friday night and when they left, more people came for coffee. Sunday was her church's annual Christmas program and dinner so I was able to see many old friends and eat another Turkey dinner.

She hauled me to the airport Monday morning on her way home from work (MayB works 10 pm to 8 am and The Guy from 4 am to 1 pm; they see each other occasionally) and the long trip home began.  AC left Regina on time (surprise); so far so good. Even the Toronto-Frankfurt leg was relatively uneventful.

When we got to Frankfurt, it was snowing heavily. Not good.  Four hours late leaving Frankfurt meant I missed my train connection in Kyiv.  Our long time taxi-driver, friend and all around fixer, Kostia, came to my rescue and helped me acquire a ticket for a later train.  Not an easy task at the last minute and beginning of holiday season but possible for Kostia.  Upper bunk in an open car but a ticket never-the-less. Instead of arriving home at 11 pm Tuesday, I would leave Kyiv at 11 pm and it would be 6:00 am Wednesday before I saw my Tanya.

An upper bunk is not impossible for me to climb into but having to do that every two hours becomes a bit difficult.  Lucky for me the Car Attendant sized me up as possibly having more money than energy and rented me her roomette for the trip for $12.50 (100 UAH - same price as the ticket).  A bottom bunk and a room to myself.  I slept a little, which I would not have done on the top bunk, in spite of being exhausted.

Andrei met me in P'yatikhatki.  The fog was thick as pea soup (or in Russian, casha - porridge) and even Andrei had to keep his speed down.  Tanya had borsch and roast chicken waiting for us.

A wonderful trip.  Spent time with my children, my siblings and Grandma - the primary reasons, in that order, for the visit.  Everyone else was a bonus and there were too many I didn't see. Not enough time but it was time to go home.  There is no place like home and no one like Tanya.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Aunt Pat aka Precious Pat

Last Wednesday Ky and I drove up to Comox to visit my Dad's cousin Pat and meet her new husband John.  I hadn't seen her for several years and figured it was a good opportunity especially if Ky would drive. Pat is a very lively 88 year old and John is a spry 81 year old.  Pat has outlived two husbands named William and I told her I was glad she married a man named John not another William or I would accuse her of being a Bill collector. She said she is not changing her name this time as it is too much trouble.

We had a great visit.  John is originally from England but lived many years in Australia, working at a series of jobs that took him almost around the entire country, prior to moving to Canada.  He and Pat were in a singing group that goes around entertaining at seniors homes.  He offered to carry her accordion one day and she turned him down, saying she could manage.  Then she felt guilty she had been rude, so next time she asked him to help her. Her grandkids teased her that the accordion got very heavy over one week.

My second cousin Marilyn and her husband Bill came in for supper.  They are retired and have a B&B on the ocean front. Marilyn had been to Saskatchewan only once, 1964 for my grandparents 50th anniversary.  I remember meeting her then and once since, the last time I visited Pat.

Cousins of my parents are getting thin on the ground, Pat 88, Muriel 95 and Nora 99 being the only three left of 23 on one side.  Pat said she was delighted the younger generations (meaning Ky and I) still remembered the older folks.  I said she is the only thing between me and the abyss so the longer we could keep her around, the safer I felt.

Pat and John (photo by Maryanne)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ricky's Place

My sister Evelyn picked me up in Red Deer Friday and drove me to Calgary.  We stopped to visit my brother Stan's oldest and her two girls (five granddaughters, he has!) and then to Ev and Dan's home where Ev had invited her two kids and their spouses for dinner. Saturday morning she drove me to the airport and I arrived in Victoria at 1:00 pm.

Kylee-Anne picked me up and we went directly to the Christmas dinner put on by the church group she attends. I had never been to her assembly but knew several of the people so got a visit with them.  Then Saturday evening we drove to Duncan for coffee with my friends Robert and Jo, with whom I have done several business plan projects.  He was flying to Saskatchewan next day so it was Sunday night or never. Ky was sociable for a few minutes then retired to his office to mark final research essays from her English class.

Ky finished the essay marking but then had 32 final exams to mark and also had to work Monday, so Sunday night she drove me out to Mill Bay to my friends Wayne and Gifty Dunn.  Ky knew Gifty but had not met Wayne nor his son Kabore (an up and coming hockey player at age 10) before. She visited for a couple hours and said she would be back for supper Monday night.  Wayne and I have worked together in a number of countries on CSR projects, Turkey in particular, and he was in Ghana when I was last in Canada so it had been four years since I saw him.

Kabore got an early Christmas present, a Macaw named Ricky. Small vocabulary so far.  Hello and such like.  Screams "ERIC" when he is mad.  Not sure who Eric was but figure he was either a hen-pecked husband or a teenaged kid. Ricky and I were introduced and he rode around on my shoulder or arm for a while and seemed to hit it off.  I felt like Long John Silver.  He shakes hands by grabbing your finger in his beak and bobbing his head up and down.  Next morning I went to his cage and offered him my finger which he promptly bit.  Hard.  Drawing blood.  And said "Ouch". Parrot beaks have a very powerful bite. My fault - moved in too fast.  After that I moved a bit slower and finally got him to sit on my arm and shoulder again. He is quite friendly and we got on very well.

I leaned back on the couch and Ricky sat on my chest and "groomed" me, picking and nibbling gently at my eyelids, nose, lips and chin.  That took a great deal of trust on my part because that is one wicked beak and if he decided to bite, I would have lost pieces of face.

Parrots are very clever and can have the intelligence of a four-year-old according to the book.  Ricky learns quickly. He had been perched on the railing overlooking the entry stairs and didn't want to move.  He would not get on my arm and pushed me away with his beak.  When I persisted, he got angry and would have bitten me if I'd got near him.  Wayne went to get him and he bit Wayne hard enough to draw blood.  Wayne threw a towel over him and threw him in his cage.  Ricky knew he was being punished and sorted out his attitude real quick.

Next time he was on the railing and I went to get him, he tried to bite me again so I got the towel and showed it to him.  He wanted no part of that and held out his claw for me to put my arm down to get him.  We sat on the couch and he grabbed the towel from me and threw it on the floor.

Saying goodbye to Dunns was hard and poor Ricky didn't want me to go.  He kept lifting his claw for me to put my arm out to take him. I want a parrot.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Since both Number ONE Son and DIL work during the day, I am left to my own devices.  Yesterday (Tuesday) I had coffee with school mate I had not seen for literally 46 years, since graduating from high school.

Dee was literally the girl next door.  Her folks farm was 3/4 mile west of our place and our folks used to visit back and forth.  When dad drove school bus, they were the second stop on the morning route.  Dee and her two sisters were more the age of my younger brother and sister, which is how I found her - she was friends with my sister on Facebook and noted her place of residence as Red Deer. Last I heard they were in Lloydminster.

We sat in a local coffee shop that roasted its own beans and served homemade desserts.  Gabbed for two hours until the money in the meter ran out.  Dee has kept closer contact with the old neighbourhood than I, as she and her husband helped run the farm after her dad passed away.  Until they figured they were both working to support their farming habit.  So we caught up on everyone we could think of from school days and all our neighbours, her mom and sisters, my siblings, kids, life in Ukraine and so forth.

Nice to catch up.  Sometimes I miss the community I grew up in but not often. The world changes and like they say, you can never go home again.

A Variety of Wishes from Bill Blum

William Blum writes a monthly Anti-Empire Report, the December version of which can be found here.
He sends the following to his readers (who may pick the greeting of their choice) including a number of wishes for the New Year.

To my dear readers in the United States and around the world — In the spirit of the season, I wish each of you your choice of the following:
  • Merry Christmas
  • Happy Chanukah
  • Joyous Eid
  • Festive Kwanza
  • Happy New Year
  • Gleeful Occupy
  • Erotic Pagan Rite
  • Internet Virtual Holiday
  • Heartwarming Satanic Sacrifice
  • Devout Atheist Season's Greetings
  • Possessed Laying-on-of-Hands Ceremony
  • Really Neat Reincarnation with Auras and Crystals
And may your name never appear on a Homeland Security "No-fly list".
May you not vex a marginally literate high school graduate with a badge, a gun, and a can of pepper spray.
May your abuses at the hands of authority be only cruel, degrading and inhuman, nothing that Mr. Obama or Mr. Cheney would call torture.
May you or your country never experience a NATO or US humanitarian intervention, liberation, or involuntary suicide.
May neither your labor movement nor your elections be supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.
May the depleted uranium, cluster bombs, white phosphorous, and napalm which fall upon your land be as precisely guided and harmless as the State Department says they are.
May you receive for Christmas a copy of "An arsonist's guide to the homes of Pentagon officials."
May you not fall sick in the United States without health insurance, nor desire to go to an American university while being less than wealthy.
May you re-discover what the poor in 18th century France discovered, that rich people's heads can be mechanically separated from their shoulders if they refuse to listen to reason.
May you be given the choice of euthanasia instead of having to watch Republican primary debates.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Travelling Man

Have a bit of time today to write something.  I am currently in Red Deer Alberta, visiting my son and his wife who are both at work during the day so am left to my own devices with the two dogs for company.

I arrived in Canada last Monday afternoon and called my daughter MayB on Skype from Toronto.  Where are you?  Toronto.  When do you get into Regina? 12:30 am.  I thought you were coming tomorrow.  12:30 am is tomorrow.  (Some of my family are chronologically challenged). She did come and get me, though.  And we did some visiting, shopping and appointments over the three days.  MayB and the Guy work odd shifts so was able to get visits in with them as both were off for two days I was there.  We are splitting my visit three days coming in and three days going out, as that way we don't get on each others nerves. Well, me mostly on hers, the way she tells it :) :) :)

Three days in Regina flew by and Friday morning I hitched a ride to Saskatoon with a friend Jen Evancio from Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership to meet with a business associate Al Scholz once we got there.  Stormed most of the way and roads were treacherous.  Several of us have formed a dba, CIBUS Management Group, under Al's consulting company to chase work in Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan. 

Then dropped up to the U of S Animal Science Dept College of Agriculture and said hello to Dr. Bernard Laarveld, grabbed a 15 minute visit with my hero, role model and friend Dr Red Williams, Professor Emeritus, who is in his mid-80's and still goes into the office at Animal Science almost every day.  Dr. Dave Christensen, Ruminant Nutritionist, Professor Emeritous, mentor and long time friend, called his wife to put some water in the soup and slice the baloney thin as he was bringing me home for lunch.  We spent the afternoon discussing nutrition (I am still his student after over 40 years) and the world's problems.  Dave doesn't solve problems; that is what grad students are for. His job is to give them problems.  I know this.

My brother Stan (The English Cowpath) drove in from Rosetown to pick me up about 4:00 and I spent the night with him and his wife.  They have five granddaughters under age 6.  We stopped to see three of them, including the youngest Tatiana, who is 6 months old.  Pictures to follow (Stan, ask Shauna to email me the pictures she took, please).  Next day Donna drove me out to the farm at Wilkie where my brother Ross lives, having retired from Toronto about two years ago and moved back west. My son drove from Red Deer to pick me up and he and I spent the night at the farm and had a good visit with my brother whom I had not seen for several years.

Next morning we drove to Lloydminster to visit Grandma.  Grandma is Ella's mom and my kids' last remaining Grandparent.  She will be 92 in January and is now in an assisted living home as her memory is failing somewhat, though she is still very spry for an old girl.  Now that she is eating better she has gained weight and the pajamas I brought her didn't fit.  Awesome!  We went from Grandma's over to her youngest son's place and had a short visit with him and his wife and three of the kids before leaving for Red Deer.

Trying to see everyone in three weeks is impossible.  Some people will be angry that I didn't stop to visit and I am sorry as I would dearly love to see everyone of my friends and cousins.

Next year maybe Tanya and I will come over in summer and spend a couple months vacationing and visiting.  She didn't come this time as she has been battling a cold and besides she has been to Canada twice in winter...nuff said.