Friday, February 24, 2012

Two Different Bibles?

“Mark you this, Bassanio, the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”—from “The Merchant of Venice”

The Religious Right has been claiming the high ground for years to the point of stating that one cannot be Christian unless one holds their conservative values and that liberals seeking social justice are godless. So I was very pleased to run across a website for The Christian Left which tells me that it is not just the “godless” who are seeking social justice.  Though if it were, it wouldn’t bother me, nor change my politics.  If being a Christians means I have to be anti-sick, anti-poor, anti-oppressed, anti-minorities, anti-women, anti-environment, pro-wealth and pro-war, then I am just as happy to be out of it.

The home page of the Christian Left is quite lengthy but well worth reading*. It begins:

We are The Christian Left. We’re all around you. We’re among the people. Take a look. We’re part of the Body of Christ. We’re Christians. We’re Liberal. We make no apologies. In fact Jesus' ways are “Liberal.” That’s why He was killed. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the conservatives of their time . . .We’re not ‘Communists’ or ‘Marxists’ either. We reject all such labels. We will not be profiled or pigeonholed and we will not ‘Be Quiet.’ We’re Christians. We’re Liberals. Please get used to it . . . The most common religious viewpoint which might be described as ‘left wing’ is social justice, or care for the poor and the oppressed. Supporters of this might encourage universal health care, welfare provision, subsidized education, foreign aid, and Affirmative Action for improving the conditions of the disadvantaged. Stemming from egalitarian values (and what Jesus Himself said), adherents of the Christian left consider it part of their religious duty to take actions on behalf of the oppressed.

When we have Rick Santorum making statements like Obama’s agenda is some phony theology not based on the bible or others suggesting “liberalism is a hatred of God”, Mike Lux at Crooks and Liars wonders “What Bible is Santorum Reading?” 

[T]he Bible I read…is overwhelmingly supportive of helping the poor, showing mercy to the weak, refraining from judging, treating others as you would treat yourself, calling on the wealthy to give their money to the poor, and all kinds of other liberal, lefty, progressive values.

Several paragraphs such as this one bring out the clear message of social justice:

The anti-immigrant conservative has to ignore Leviticus, which says: "Don't mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. Instead treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love yourself." The pro-death penalty conservative has to ignore Jesus who told the Pharisees that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. The anti-labor conservatives have to not worry about Jesus' brother James (the undisputed first leader of the early Christian church according to most historians) saying "Now an answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries coming to you ... Laborers plowed your field and you cheated them: listen to the wages you kept back, they are calling out: realize the cries of the workers have reached the ears of the Lord."

He continues:

Now, look: people have every right to believe whatever they want to believe about God, Heaven and Hell, sin and salvation, the soul, and all sorts of theology. . . And if you want to believe in a God who doesn't care about the poor, loves the wealthy more than anyone else, and wants you to be selfish, feel free. But when you claim to fervently believe in the holy words of the Judeo-Christian Bible, and your political philosophy is violently opposed to most of what is actually in that Bible, I have to call you out on that. . .

I will go so far as to say that the modern conservative faith is the direct opposite of what the Judeo-Christian Bible teaches: modern conservatives argue that everyone should take what they want and devil take the hindmost, that we are all on our own, and that if you are rich it means that a Darwinian selection process allowed you to succeed, and that you owe nothing to anyone else. Modern conservatives are far more faithful to Ayn Rand, who openly rejected Christianity because of its values of helping the poor and caring for others. Give her credit for one thing: at least she was honest.

Now someone will say “Well, you are just ‘Cherry-picking’.  The whole Bible is inspired by God and you just can’t pick and chose.  ‘[E]ther it’s all God’s truth in all its parts, or none of it is’”.  My answer to that is to refer you to my previous post “Why can’t I own a Canadian?” 

Every religious denomination, every preacher, every bible teacher cherry-picks in the sense that some verses are emphasized and others are ignored.  That is why there are so many different versions of Christianity. During the civil war in USA, Northern Christians used their bibles to prove slavery was wrong while Southern Christians used their bibles to prove slavery was right.  (Hence Southern Baptists – and thanks, Snowbrush).  Martin Luther cherry-picked Ephesians 2:8-10 and justification by faith became the founding scripture of Protestantism.

Contrary to what the fundamentalists would have you believe, the Bible did not “fall from the sky on the 4th of July” fully formed in its King James version.  The notion that “the Bible (KJV) is without error in all its teachings, including creation, history, its own origins, and salvation” is wishful thinking.  It is Holy Scripture; it is not a history text, biology text, chemistry text nor physics text. As Galileo famously argued, scripture teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.

The books of the Bible were written over the centuries by men for men (and not always by the men whose names appear on the various books.  The bible was translated by men for men, interpreted by men for men; labouriously copied over and over again by men for men, with errors, additions and subtractions deliberate or otherwise until the printing press made such work redundant.  Books were added and subtracted until the present day canon was arrived at.  Roman Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox each have very different canons.  Catholic Bibles have 73 books, 46 in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New Testament. Protestant Bibles have 66 books with only 39 in the Old Testament. Orthodox Bibles have 76 books with 49 in the Old Testament.

See Here for a brief outline of the Church Councils convened over several centuries to agree on biblical canon. Politics, power and money have been part of religion since humans first bowed down to a rock.

So everyone reads the same bible, more or less, cherry-picks the verses to support their ideology and accuses the other of being godless.  More on this subject another time.  I have been all week getting this far but have found some excellent writings (see below) on the subject of reading the bible which I hope you will read.  I hope to come back to it at a later date.

Charles Scriven, Ph.D., chair of the Seventh Day Adventist Forum board (publisher of Spectrum), president of Kettering College of Medical Arts wrote a series of three articles in 2010 in the Spectrum Magazine blog around “Why Can’t I own a Canadian?” examining how people read the bible.  They are Grace, the Holy Spirit, and the Threat of Fundamentalism; Part I and Part II and Biblical Realism as an Alternative to Fundamentalism, Here.  

*Note: You may want to read the comments at the bottom as well before you make up your mind about The Christian Left.  They seem to be banning any commenters from their FB page that raise any issues they do not agree with and do not differentiate between trolling and honest dialogue.  They have no problem with comments on their website though.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Advice for men and women over 60

Q: Where can men over the age of 60 find younger sexy women who are interested in them?
A: Try a bookstore – under fiction.

Q: W hat can I do while my wife is going through menopause?
A: Keep busy.  If you are handy with tools you can finish the basement. When you are done you will have a place to live.

Q: How can I increase the heart rate of my over 60 husband?
A: Tell him you are pregnant

Q: How can I avoid wrinkles as I get older?
A: Take off your glasses.

Q: Seriously! What should I do for these crow’s feet and all those wrinkles on my face?
A: Go braless.  It will usually pull them out.

Q: Why should people over 60 use valet parking?
A: Because the valet won’t forget where he parked your car.

Q: Is it common for people over 60 to have short term memory storage problems?
A: Storing memory is not a problem; retrieving it is a problem.

Q: As people age, do they sleep more soundly?
A: Yes, but usually in the afternoon

Q: Where should people over 60 look for eye glasses?
A: On their foreheads.

Q: What is the most common remark made by people over 60 when they enter an antique store?
A: I remember these.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why Can't I Own a Canadian?

Snopes says this been making the rounds of many years but considering the lunacy being promulgated during the current GOP campaign of presidential hopefuls, in particular by Santorum, it seems fitting to run it by again.

In her (1990?) radio show, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a US resident, which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination .... End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness - Lev15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Your adoring fan,

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lessons my Mother Taught Me

My mother taught me to appreciate a job well done – “If you are going to kill each other, do it outside.  I just finished cleaning”.
My mother taught me religion – “You better pray that it will come out of the carpet”.
My mother taught me about time travel – “If you don’t straighten up, I’ll knock you into the middle of next week”.
My mother taught me logic – “Because I said so, that’s why”.
My mother taught me foresight – “Be sure to wear clean underwear in case you are in an accident”.
My mother taught me irony – “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about”.
My mother taught me the science of osmosis – “Shut your mouth and eat your supper”.
My mother taught me about contortionism – “Will you look at the dirt on the back of your neck”.
My mother taught me about stamina – “You will sit there until all your spinach is finished”.
My mother taught me about the weather – “Your room looks like a tornado went through it”.
My mother taught me how to solve physics problems – “If I yelled because the house was on fire, would you hear me then”?
My mother taught me about hypocrisy – “If I told you once, I told you a million times: Don’t exaggerate”.
My mother taught me the circle of life – “I brought you into this world and I can take you out”.
My mother taught me about behaviour modification – “Stop acting like your father”.
My mother taught me about envy – “There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do”.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Two Presidential Elections - Political Not Funny Jokes

America has a presidential election in November which is not news.  However, Obama has lost a lot of progressive voters because he has broken most of the promises he made and has pretty much sold out to the moneyed crowd.  The only reason he might win again is that the Republican party so far has failed to put forward a credible candidate.

These two op-ed pieces put the choices in perspective:
Bill Boyarsky's What’s Really at Stake in 2012  in TruthDig lays out the GOP position - they do not care which GOP candidate is elected as long as he/she is not so brain-dead they cannot hold a pen to sign bills a Republican controlled  HoR and Senate will put forward and the bills they intend to put forward will take America back to the 19th century.  Read the comments under it to get the reaction of disillusioned progressive liberal voters to Obama's presidency.

Obama, the Human Rights Hypocrite by Paul Craig Roberts in Counterpunch describes what has happened during the Obama presidency, essentially a continuation of W's policies.

As a foreigner, I am hoping for Ron Paul as he has promised to put a "Closed" sign on the American Empire, take all the troops etc home, close all the military bases and stop interfering in the affairs of other countries.  Of course, we all hoped Obama would do something along those lines too.

Russia has a presidential election on March 4th with 5 candidates running, which is not news either. While Putin is expected to win, for the first time there is opposition in the streets and even with a 10% or more padding margin, it will be by a reduced majority.  That is news.

Of the (Kremlin approved) opponents, Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation will be the strongest contender, mainly as people vote in protest. Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (and a "clown") get a few seconds coverage on the nightly news compared to Putin's several minutes but of Mironov (A Just Russia) and Prokhorov (Norilsk Nickel and Russia's 3rd richest man) we hear nothing. 

Prokhorov was the only independent to make the cut.  The Election Commission goes through the deliberately obtuse required documentation with a fine tooth comb and if the candidate does not meet Kremlin approval, then one undotted i is all it takes.

Putin is credited with bringing "stability" to Russia after the chaotic decade under Yeltsin (See Casino Moscow by Matthew Brzezinski for the 90's in the FSU).  The truth is that much of the spoils had already been divided up by 2000 so of course the shooting died down... a little.  If you read Anna Politkovskaya's "Putin's Russia" which cover's his first four years as president, it is obvious that stability meant that the criminals were in control of the business, the old Soviet Nomenclatura were safely ensconced in the bureaucracy and the FSB kept it all under control so everyone at the top got their share of the loot and anyone who complained was looked after, so to speak.  

It was reported just recently on Ukrainian news that Putin is worth almost 140 billion.  Even if it is rubles, $4.5 billion is not bad for a small time mid-level spy to accumulate.  I also read a while back of a $1 billion house (???) being built near Sochi someplace by Putin's friends for him.  Just to show their appreciation for the stability of course.

 Zyuganov is calling for a reStalinization of Russia, however if you look at recent news items from BBC in the lead up to the election, it would seem it is already happening.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Political Jokes

My brother Stan sent me these as I usually have a quotation at the end of my emails.  Too good not to share and some are VERY apropos given the political climate in Canada and USA at the moment.

The problem with political jokes is they get elected. ~Henry Cate, VII

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. ~Aesop

If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in these acceptance speeches, there wouldn't be any inducement to go to heaven. ~Will Rogers

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber. ~Plato

Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge, even where there is no river. ~Nikita Khrushchev

When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I'm beginning to believe it. ~Clarence Darrow

Why pay money to have your family tree traced; Go into politics and your opponents will do it for you. ~Author Unknown

If God wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates. ~Jay Leno

Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnels. ~John Quinton

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other. ~Oscar Ameringer

I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them. ~Adlai Stevenson, campaign speech, 1952

A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country. ~Texas Guinan

Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so. ~Gore Vidal

I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians. ~Charles de Gaulle

Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks. ~Doug Larson

Don't vote, it only encourages them. ~Author Unknown

There ought to be one day - just one - when there is open season on senators. ~Will Rogers

NOTE: Would someone please tell S.W. Anderson of Oh!pinion that I can't open his blog the last few posts.  Am I persona non grata ?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hanging out the Washing (on the Siegfried Line?)

The weather has moderated.  Climbed to 0C today.  May drop next week to -10C but far better than -25C.  It was even up to 23C in Siberia today.

Tanya decided today was house cleaning day. I have no idea where the dust comes from but our floors are always dusty.  If dust we are and to dust we shall return then there is someone either coming or going under our bed.  I didn't hear the Ninth playing backwards so it isn't Beethoven decomposing but I digress...

 Cleaning day means I had to clean my bathroom, including the shower.  Cleaning MY bathroom, washing the dishes and hanging the laundry are the three things I can do well enough to her satisfaction that I am encouraged to continue. Toilet and sink get done once a week (so THERE, MayB!!!) but the shower...

My theory about showers, like that of many males, is that a) they can't get dirty because they are constantly being washed with soap and hot water and b) they don't need cleaning until the scum builds up inside to the point you can't get in.  Of course in my case that takes less time than for other people, as when I close the doors there is not a lot of extra room.

Needing to look busy the rest of the day, I decided to see why the flame had gone out on our electric fireplace.  It had run steady during the cold spell and the heater still worked, but no magic flickering flames from the fake fuel.  Pulled the fireplace away from the wall, pulled the metal box out of the wooden "fireplace" frame and set it on top of the mantle where I could get at it.  Pulled the back off and both 40w light bulbs were burnt out.

Taking the back off was no easy task.  There were 18 little metal screws to remove.  Manually.  With a Philips.  I was afraid I was going to get Screwer's Elbow again.  I had that once thirty years ago. Before I got a cordless screwdriver.  Whatever I was making needed to be screwed glued and tattooed.  Some 350 3/4" screws and I was in agony.  I went to the clinic and said "Doc, I got Screwer's Elbow."  He said they prefer to call it Tennis Elbow to avoid confusion. Learn something new every day.

Tanya said "Are you going to town for new light bulbs today? Otherwise that thing will sit there in the living room for two weeks".  I went for the light bulbs. She knows me too well.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Another hard day at the office

Normal rising time is 9:00 am in winter. By 10:00 I was showered and dressed. No idea why - sometimes that doesn't happen until 4:00 pm. Tanya made a pot of tea and I did up yesterday's dishes. There weren't many.

Looked outside and my dogs were on the street. The two dogs live to run on the street for a while, go and visit other dogs in the neighbourhood and then come home and be duly bribed back into their yard. Three days ago Volk discovered how to escape over their high yard fence. Next day Bobik figured it out too. He is a bit slow on the uptake. Not the first escapes. We had to knock down a couple of piles of things that they learned to use to escape over the fence. Last escape was over a year ago.

I tried to find the escape route but no obvious places. Fresh snow yielded no tracks along the fence. Snow along the top of the fence had not been disturbed. There was some old steel fencing leaning against the old outdoor privy about a meter from the fence. No tracks to it but I moved it anyway. If they are still in their yard tomorrow morning, I will know the escape route but not the methodology for covering tracks. Are they reading Westerns?

We went into the city (sometimes I say into town, sometimes into the city, same thing) for dog food, groceries and to pick up a dress Tanya had at the sewing shop. Tanya says she needs a simple sewing machine. Simple. Like her ideal microwave: two buttons - Make Hot; Open Door.

White sugar was $1 per kg. Brown sugar was $10 per kg. I declined the honour until next month. No brown sugar, no desserts. Don't need them anyhow. Anyone coming to visit? Bring brown sugar.

So tonight Tanya is downstairs watching TV and I am upstairs on the computer. Decide it is time for another coffee and start thumpingly down the stairs. Thumpingly because our floors are cold and I have to wear old man slippers aka mules, which I have not yet mastered. Tanya catches my eye and quietly goes "Sssshhh"...long pause...points to sleeping cat and cracks up laughing. Groan.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

This is dedicated to the one I love

Happy Valentine's Day. This song makes me laugh every time.  Also makes me want to go and choke someone.  I only knew one couple in my life that came close to living the chorus.  She didn't leave him.  Being a good Christian woman, she hung in until he eventually died.  I do hope she is enjoying the rest of her life.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monte Walsh by Jack Schaefer

The pages are yellowed and brittle and looking pretty ragged.  The cover is torn and held on by tape which has become yellowed and brittle and been replaced several times.  I've owned it 30 years or more and the book was published ten years before I found it in a second hand shop.  Read maybe 10 times by me and at least five times by my son, Monte Walsh is beyond a doubt the best western ever written and one of my all time favourite books.

Monte Walsh is not a typical western novel. There is no steely-eyed hero single-handedly gunning down the mysterious villain and his henchman, saving the lovely maiden and carrying her off to his newly secured ranch.  Rather, through the life of one man, Monte Walsh, a "good man with a horse", the book tells of the American West of the open range and the working cowboy. Over a 41 year period from 1872 to 1913,  it begins with the cattle drives from Texas in the 1870's through to the huge ranches financed by Eastern or British money in the 1880s to their inevitable break up by the turn of the century with the advent of fenced pastures and more intensively managed herds.

Much of the book centers around the riders of the Slash Y, of which Monte was one.  The cowboys are typical of the men who herded cattle on the open range; each with his own skills and peculiarities.  They ride for the brand, doing what is required of them and more.  The dangers and hardships they face were also typical of the times as were the fun times - the boys could party hearty, especially Monte.  Each chapter is a story in itself, tied together by people, place and time.

The book is alternates back and forth, funny, serious and sad.  The background mood seems to be rather sad even in the hilariously funny parts because it documents a way of life that came and went in just one generation, leaving behind a man who didn't fit in a world where "ranching is just another form of farming", who could not help "being what he is".

The writing style requires description by someone more schooled in such things than I.  But one of the techniques Schaefer uses so well in this book is repetition of phrases to indicate the things unchanging even in a changing world.

They came out of distance going into distance, Monte Walsh and an old leggy dun.  Afternoon sun slanted down on them, a man and a horse, complete in themselves, all that they owned together on them and in the blanket roll behind the saddle, moving together across the immensity of the big land.
They came along a rutted road that led out of seeming nowhere and on into the same, Monte Walsh and a young deep chested leggy dun at the easy fast jog he had taught it along with many and many other things.  Clouds rolled along the horizon and wind whipped past them, a man and a horse, complete in themselves, all that they owned or needed to own on them or in the blanket roll behind the saddle with the recent addition of a new slicker rolled and tied to it.
Together, the man and the horse, complete in themselves, all that they owned and all that they needed on them and in the saddle roll, jogged steadily along the road out of town, westward, towards the mountains and the river beyond them and the remnants of range land on beyond.
A man and a horse. A tall squint eyed aging man, outside any conceivable exact calculation, any age at all past the half century mark, lean and weathered like a wind-whittled mountain pine and an aging compact cow pony, dun in color, wide between the eyes, stout muscled, deep chested.

As far as authors of Westerns go, Ernest Haycox is tops in my thinking, followed by Will Henry and then Louis L'Amour, though not all his books are good.  There are a few other good writers - Frank O'Rourke, Dorothy Johnson...and Jack Schaefer. Schaefer's classic Shane is considered to be the quintessential Western novel though The Virginian by Owen Wister is the original cowboy novel having been first published in 1902. 

But no Western written beats Monte Walsh. If you only read one Western in your life, make it this one

Note: a couple of movies have been made by the same name, Monte Walsh.  They are in my opinion, trash.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Isaac Beckley Werner (1845-1895)

Isaac Werner, homesteader, agriculturalist, inventor, journalist, scholar and political activist, homesteaded in Kansas in the last decades of the 19th century.  Author Lynda Beck Fenwick (you can read about her here: was born and grew up not far from where he homesteaded.  She learned, not long ago that he had kept a journal of his years in Kansas which had been preserved by her late cousin.  Fenwick was able to track down the journal at a museum in St John, Kansas, county seat and Werner's nearest large town.

There were exciting things happening in Kansas the years Werner farmed there and  Lyn Fenwick decided to bring the area and time to life, through Isaac Werner's life, using his journal as a starting point. Last October Ms. Fenwick started a blog to describe her search for Isaac Werner's life as she researched her book.  My friend, John Jackson, from Kansas who knows Lyn personally, tipped me off that I should follow her blog and I have certainly not regretted it.  Werner was an interesting man and Fenwick is a very good writer.

She writes an entry about once a week so you can easily start at the beginning and catch up rapidly as there are only 20 so far.
You can follow her blog here: Author Lynda Beck Fenwick

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Today's Tanya-ism

Conversation while driving to town.

"Our neighbour says her new puppies look like Bobik. (pause) All the dogs in the neighbourhood will soon look like Bobik.  All the cats will be orange (like Kuchma).  (long pause) Good thing only old Babushkas live around here."

She comes by it honestly.  She was talking to her sister Luda on Skype this morning.  Luda showed us one of the fresh buns she had just baked.  I said "Luda, please come and bake some for me".  I could hear Papa in the background yelling to me "If you wanted a woman to cook and look after you, you should have married one".

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Colder than a Mother-in-Law's Kiss

After a milder than normal January, we seem to be making up for lost time.  There is a high pressure area centered over Siberia and temperatures in Mongolia, Siberia and Kazakhstan are in the -30s to -40s. Tanya talked to Luda this morning and it is -35 in Abakan.  The cold has spilled over into Europe and the past two weeks or so have been very unpleasant.

We got snow about Jan 23 and then the temps dropped to -20 and dipped as low as -30 in some places.  Two years ago when we had a similar cold snap, other European countries were reporting deaths due to cold but Ukraine did not.  This time round they seem to have caught on that it is unacceptable to suppress bad news and are reporting deaths of homeless people but not deaths of poor people who have not heat in their homes or flats.  More than 100 homeless are reported dead.  Also over 900 people have been hospitalized to hypothermia. The country has made a major effort to provide food and shelter for the homeless in this cold weather.

Other Eastern European countries are reporting numbers of deaths and taking steps to provide for the  homeless.

We have not has snow here since January however the rest of Europe has had varying amounts, mostly lots from what I read.  There is a low pressure area below Italy bringing much snow to the Balkans and to northern Italy.  The Balkans are quite mountainous and apparently remote villages are cut off by the snow in Serbia and possibly in other countries around.  Not sure about the snow in northern and western Europe.  Great Britain has snow and London is reporting -11.

We had expected it to warm up this week but no luck.  Yesterday it climbed to -5 but with very strong winds.  The winds continue and last night temps dropped to -18.  It is 2:00 pm as I write and it is -12 with strong wind outside.  Tanya said this morning that there is ice on the Black Sea which no one remembers happening before and a great deal of ice on the Sea of Azov which is shallow and treacherous in winter.  Tanya said a ship enroute to Rostov na Donu was damaged or sunk by the ice.  I couldn't find anything further on it but will Google it again later.

Not much will improve until that high pressure area moves from Siberia.

Maps from

Voting Fraud in Russian Election

BBC article on last fall's election.

Vote rigging fears ahead of Russian poll

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Usually when one has nothing to say, the advice is not to open your mouth and prove it.  However...

Saturday it was warm enough we went into town for groceries and went through a whack of money in a hurry.

Tanya needed new jeans so we went to Kansas Jeans which is the only store in town with a wide selection.  Now women may be accused of accumulating unlimited numbers of shoes and handbags but my weakness is shirts.  Kansas carries Wrangler cowboy shirts in my size.  So Tanya got three pairs of jeans and I got a new western shirt.  Very nice but not LOUD enough for my tastes. My shirt would be $50 to $75 in Canada at a western wear store but it was $25 here.  They make up for it with the jeans.

Clothes $200
Groceries $200 (our pantry was bare.  they love us at "Big Spoon" supermarket)
Gasoline $40 (2/3 full only)
Internet $70 (we are both serious users and each have a wireless modem)
Haircuts $20 ($5 for haircut and $5 for a tip for both of us.  Yulia was upset because I put my Russian fur hat on my beautiful hair cut and messed it all up. Tanya told her that it was "normal" for me.)

Tomorrow we will go and pay our utility bills.  Low in comparison to Canada but with this cold it will be another $200 gas electricity and water.  Our house is so poorly insulated it grieves me all the heat we waste.  I'd love to put a new roof on it with thick fibre glass insulation under it.  And styrofoam on the exterior walls and then siding.  Hah.  Won't happen.  Cost would buy a lot of heat.

During the cold snap my shower froze up - the pipes run in the outside wall and the cold line froze.  It did that in the cold spell two years ago.  I had been running the water in the shower every few hours but not enough I guess.  Anyhow today it warmed up enough outside -5C that heat from inside was enough to thaw the line.

Must be spring coming.  Kuchma yowls to come in the house, stays 10 minutes and yowls to go out again.  This for three days now.  Volk disappeared three days ago and has not been seen since.  Bobik came home like a good boy but cries because he is lonely.  I am keeping him home as if Volk has a girlfriend, I don't need them battling to the death again like last fall. This video shows a crow trying to break up a fight between two tom cats.  Pretty funny and totally fruitless.

Watched a presidential contenders debate tonight.  Russian not Republican. I may be crazy but I am not stupid. Leader of the Communist Party vs an Oligarch whose name escapes me.  Putin will not lower himself to debate the little people since he is going to win anyhow.  He was too busy and such trivial things would interfere  with his important duties as Prime Minister.  When he said that, he was busy chairing the National Anglers Association meeting

Not sure how many are running against Putin.  Khodorkovsky in in jail for the foreseeable future.  Two wannabee guys didn't make the cut - they were disqualified by the Electoral Commission.  One was the Governor of Yakutsk who was a good guy.  The other one apparently was not.  They have strange rules for running elections in Russia.  Transparent is not a word I would use.  Kind of like the Florida Supreme Court and the electronic voting machines in Ohio except much more crude of course. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Kicking Things - reposted from Miserable Bliss

Once in a while Violet from Miserable Bliss will go on a tear and write some incredibly good and insightful stuff.  She does not do it often enough but her schedule would exhaust mere mortals. Mother (three boys), social worker (harm reduction) and wife (computer programmer). Here is her latest:

When I am working, as a general rule, I spend a significant amount of time with people who share a lot of similar views to my own. It’s really, really nice.

There are variances, of course, but most of my coworkers believe in some of the same core concepts that I hold dear; there are no arguments about things like sexism or racism or equality or poverty or harm reduction. When those subjects come up, we can easily talk about them without angst or anger.
We come at things from different angles, at times, but the very core of the discussion is one of agreement. Our disagreements are akin to having different favourite colours; no one is right in choosing blue as their favourite in place of orange. We learn from each other, I think, because we have different experiences personally and as a result of the work that we do and because we’re open to discussing them as much as we’re able.

Outside of my work circle, and in my personal life, things are not much different. The majority of my friends share similar core values and viewpoints to my own – again, with some variances or minor disagreements – and, I suppose, that’s part of why they’re my friends. My husband and I have very similar thoughts on social issues. My kids are still in the exploration side of things but are receptive to the topics we discuss around the dinner table.

At times, I have needed to defend my viewpoints to people in my community. During workshops or presentations, I speak openly about my work and, of course, I encounter people who don’t agree with some of my core values and the principles of what I do. Sometimes I’m working with those people in a manner where I’m there only to present the info and leave. Other times, if someone is open-minded enough for a discussion, we can talk about why we disagree on those issues. But, when all is said and done, people walk away and, for the most part, I don’t see them again or I rarely run into them. Either way, if I’ve been professional in my interactions, there’s no negativity when we meet up again. I’ve often been pleasantly surprised to hear people say that they’ve been thinking more about something I’ve said and that they have questions or have somewhat softened their stance on particular issues.

I believe, very much, that education is the way to overcome a lot of the bullshit in the world. Whenever I have the opportunity to teach someone about some of the things I’ve learnt – the things that I know – I’ll leap on it. This includes discussions about poverty and addictions and sexism and racism and mental illness and.. well, a lot of other things that people who aren’t in my field of work may not have had reason to explore. Subjects that are fraught with tension and fears and misunderstandings.

Bear with me while I sort of change subjects for a moment, ok?

Having semi-recently pared things down, I have 300-ish friends on Facebook. Some of them are people I’ve met through my professional life (my current boss, for example, and my coworkers) and some are from my time at college. A few are from university, some are from previous jobs, some are from high school and a few are from elementary school. I have relatives, blog readers (hello!) and neighbours on my friends list. There are members of my kids’ family, people I’ve met online in various communities, and a few friends-of-friends that I met through Facebook interactions.

It goes without saying that many of these people have different opinions from my own. In some cases, I can observe and learn things from those other opinions – about religion, for example, or about the cultures of other countries. I am learning about different political perspectives and about different lifestyles. I’m learning what it’s like to participate in different sports or careers that I had never considered for myself. All of this is good.

Shortly before Christmas, however, I began to struggle greatly with a LOT of bullshit on Facebook. There were long-winded diatribes about how “Christmas is Christmas and how DARE you try to take that way from me by saying ‘happy holidays’!” People that I’ve known for years began writing status updates that were blatantly xenophobic – including the age-old statement of, “If you don’t like the way we do things in Canada, you should go back to your own country” and “In Canada we celebrate Christmas and if you don’t celebrate it than you don’t belong here!” and other awful crap along those lines.

My first inclination was to speak up. Until I noticed that the person writing the awful statements was getting 20+ “likes” on their statement – meaning that they, just like me, have friends who share similar viewpoints. On my own wall, I posted a few little things about my own holiday-related feelings – that inclusion is a more Canadian value than “Merry Christmas” and that no one was trying to ‘take away’ Christmas from those who celebrate it and for whom it has meaning. I didn’t push it very far, though.

Sidenote: there is no “War on Christmas”. No one is trying to take away YOUR right to celebrate whatever holiday – religious or otherwise – that you choose to celebrate. Why does the idea of someone celebrating a different holiday make you so angry? How is it offensive to you that your government, funded and elected by everyone in the community, tries to include all the members of the community?

(And let’s not even address the fact that those same governments don’t really acknowledge other holidays – religious or cultural – in any meaningful way during the month of December or otherwise. It really is just lip service but, at least, we’re making some progress on that.)

I ended up mostly staying quiet because I was so angry that I couldn’t find coherent ways to express myself that wouldn’t immediately put people on the defensive. No one learns while they’re being defensive.

After the holidays, things calmed down. People went back to posting pictures of their kids or talking about their job or detailing what they ate for breakfast. All good.

But.. lately I’ve seen postings like this:

Good god. Where do I even start? The person posting it made some comments about “SO TRUE!” and their friends chimed in and all I can think is: where’s your compassion? Sure, it’s an American posting it, but it’s not far off from what some of my Canadian FB friends have posted at times.
I don’t have the inclination or time to research the stats; for the sake of this ‘discussion’ let’s assume they’re reasonably accurate, though I suspect they’re not.

Why do you suppose those 12 million illegal immigrants are in the United States right now? Is it because they want to live in a country where they have to be hidden, can’t work openly, can’t access services or health care, are often supporting families in other countries (and are thousands of miles away from their children and spouses), are treated awfully by anyone who does employ them (because that employer knows they won’t complain about mistreatment and low wages and long hours) and where they’re openly hated by many of the citizens? Maybe there’s more to it than 12 million people from elsewhere woke up one morning, came to the US for that delicious free-ride you think you’re providing to them, and now they’re living the lap of luxury while you pay for it with your taxes? Maybe?

Those 3 million crackheads.. why do you suppose they’re smoking crack (or using any other drug, for that matter)? Is it because they woke up one morning and decided that they wanted a life of addiction and all the mess that usually accompanies that life? They decided that the best idea EVER was to lose so much of what they held dear and replace it all with drugs? Do you actually think that anyone chooses this? Or that it’s such a great life that people don’t want to break away from it? Are crackheads having the time of their lives?

The 42 million unemployable people on food stamps.. I don’t even know what that means. If they’re actually ‘unemployable’ there are two reasons and the first is that they have health issues of some sort that make it impossible for them to work. Should we just take them out back and shoot them? Tell them to starve because they were unlucky enough to have that health problem? Or are we talking about unemployable people due to the shift in economy and the number of people out of jobs because the government and financial systems fucked them over? People who will require retraining, perhaps, before they’re employable again? Should we also shoot them because, again, they were unlucky and don’t deserve to eat?

2 million people in prison.. ohdeargod, are you kidding me? I agree, to some extent, that your tax money shouldn’t be funding that bullshit because most of those people shouldn’t be incarcerated in the first damned place. Here’s where we could talk about racism and outdated, biased laws and governments that create prisons-for-profit and all sorts of injustices. But people who are incarcerated deserve food and shelter and all the other basic human rights, regardless of why they’re locked up – and, seriously, most of those people shouldn’t be in there and goddammit, why would you want to make that worse for them? Pay your fucking taxes and complain to your government officials about what they’re doing with that money when it comes to prisons.

535 fools in the house and senate.. Did you vote? Do you write letters to these people? Do you protest? If not, well, you’re an idiot and, quite frankly, the IRS is just extracting an Idiot Tax from you on this one. You deserve to fund shit you don’t like if you don’t try to change things.

But here’s what it all boils down to: fear and lack of education.

In all of the cases above, the person who agrees with this is under the impression that they – whoever they are – could never be desperate enough to flee to another country. They could never be addicted. They could never be unemployed (for any length of time, at least) and they could never be incarcerated.

And in every single case, they’re wrong. It just hasn’t happened to them yet. I’m not surprised when I hear people talk about how “welfare” is a bad idea and how it’s full of people scamming the system and living a life of luxury while ‘the rest of us go and work our asses off to pay for it’. We push thoughts of our own vulnerability aside. We think we’re ‘better than’ and we think we’re ‘smarter than’. We assume it’s a failing on the part of that ‘other’ that causes them to need help. WE will never need help – THEY will always need it.

I wish I could tell everyone who believes the bullshit – noted above and elsewhere – to spend some time thinking hard about it. To think deeply about how they got to where they are now; think about the luck, the help, the ‘right place, right time’ of all of it. Think, too, about how it could all come undone.
And I wish I could find a way to facilitate conversations between the people who agree with the bullshit and the people who live the reality of it – an honest discussion where people put aside their defensiveness and where no one gets offended and where questions and answers flow openly.

I haven’t posted any of this on Facebook for a variety of reasons. I don’t have the time or energy to devote to rebutting 80 arguments from friends-of-friends who leap up and start shrieking. I don’t have the time or energy to spend endless hours on Facebook in general. I know that people don’t learn unless they’re open to learning – and that someone who posts bullshit on Facebook isn’t looking for anything other than agreement in that forum. I don’t have a relationship, with some of these people, that would allow me to ‘educate’ on some of the issues.

It’s tempting to “unfriend” all of the people who post bullshit. To step back and say, “Holy shit, no thank you!” and hang out with my like-minded friends – the people who don’t make me want to start kicking things. I have to keep reminding myself that this is educational for me – that, by listening and watching and reading, I can find ways to understand what they fear most and use that whenever it’s appropriate to educate people. When I do my workshops about harm reduction, for example, or when I’m talking to people about why we need to increase the amount of social assistance (“welfare”) we pay to people, I can better address those issues if I know why others oppose them.

But that doesn’t make it any easier to listen and watch. It doesn’t make it easier to bite my tongue.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Regional Code Hack Needed for LG DVD/VCR DC699X

My DVD Player, Model DC699X bought in Ukraine, is set with the FSU regional code and will not play my North American DVDs.
Anyone out there know of a hack that will allow me to set the regional code to 0 so it will play any DVD?
There is a hack for an LG BD370 but according to there isn't one for the DC699X.
Just checking.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Yesterday was my 1000 post, according to Blogger which keeps track of such things.  The little map I have on my blog site to the right and about half way down says I have had 46,729 hits since I started.  Since it seems to count whenever I go there too, I would round it back to about 45,000 hits and call it good.  Monthly hits look like this:

I have 40 admitted followers. Readership is steadily increasing and the number of countries astounds me.  I didn't save the January stats yesterday but think there were at least 50 countries, most with one to three hits but several with 20 to 50. 

Which brings up the subject of statistics and its uses.  I am NOT a statistician, I am an analyst (self-taught).  We had a statistics department when I was with Saskatchewan Agriculture.  Statisticians make me mental.  They are so precise, worse than accountants.  Accuracy and consistency are paramount.  Even if the numbers are not 100% (e.g. GDP or July 1 Cattle on Farms), the methodology must be explicable and consistent. And it is a good thing it is so.

Their job was to provide as accurate data as possible to the likes of me.  My job was to squeeze management information out of it.  Stuff you could make decisions from.  About and approximately were good enough.  So I would round it, massage it, reorganize it sixteen ways to breakfast to see what I could learn or to demonstrate a point or substantiate a policy position.

Statistics don't lie IF they are honestly gathered and tabulated.  To me, anything less than that is unethical and unprofessional on the part of the statistician.  It is what is done with them that makes the difference.  The analysis, the spin, the presentation, what is left in or left out, the conclusions drawn.

Just a simple example.  I could have divided the monthly hits by the number of days and got daily hits.  I could have looked at seasonal variations and blog posts per month variations.  I could have (if I had saved each months detailed stats) reworked the data excluding hits from countries with less than 10 hits. Or just looked at Canada and USA or even just Canada.  What might I have learned?  I don't know.  Maybe that increased readership in America accounts for the majority of the total increase.  What would that mean?  Darned if I know.

Look at the chart again.  The X axis is perfectly horizontal and the Y axis at perfect right angles to it, so the slope on the line is truly as it appears.  I could have (if I knew how) sloped the X axis upwards somewhat, keeping the Y axis perfectly vertical, changing the perspective from which you view the chart.  The information on the chart would still be perfectly accurate BUT the slope of the data line would appear steeper than it actually is.  The impression left with the viewer is that the number of hits is rising much faster than it actually is, unless the viewer takes time to read the chart carefully.

But any and all of this is only possible if the original statistics are accurate to start with.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Photography as Art

When MayB and the Guy got hitched back in September of 2009, my friends Alf and Svetlana (Sveta) did the photography for the wedding.  You can see the wedding album here on shutterfly.

Free Lense PhotoGaphics  website is here and their photographic art work is featured on Etsy here.

Alf is a very good photographer.  He is also a professional leather worker, drummer (makes his own bongos), computer buff and all around good guy.  He was running his father's shoe repair when I first met him more than 20 years ago.  Not many shoe repair shops play CBC radio.  I went in one day and they had it tuned to Gilmor's Albums which was a live CBC radio show MC'd by Clyde Gilmor which had run for 40 years and featured music from his own albums.  I did a double take as Mr. Gilmor had been dead for some time.  That got a laugh.  It was on tape.

Sveta is the artist.  An incredible photographer especially of children and babies.  She is a totally a people person and can catch the true character of the person in her photos.  When I first met her, she was running an NGO called Sunny Wave in Kyiv.  Sunny Wave was a number of young people who did Art Therapy with young children with cancer at the National Children's Cancer Hospital.  Sveta started taking pictures of their activities and art work.  She got many thanks from parents who commented that they were happy memories.

Alf needed a holiday about 10 years back so took three weeks to see Istanbul and Kyiv.  My tales of travel, especially to these two cities had inspired him, he says.  So Sveta says this whole thing is my fault.  He was flying from Istanbul to Kyiv on a red-eye flight.  Sveta, who had worked in Turkey as a tour guide, had missed her earlier flight and was on the same plane.  She did not feel safe taking a taxi home by herself so talked Alf (a perfect stranger who looked harmless, she said) into splitting the cab with her and dropping her off first. She offered to tour him around Kyiv for a couple hours the next morning as a Thank-You.  And, as they say, the rest is history.

So please check out their website and look at their portfolios.  If you need photographers for a family reunion, baby pictures, a wedding, funeral or other joyous occasion, give them a call.  And have a look at the artwork Sveta has created from their photos on Etsy.