Monday, July 30, 2012

Taliban Steve and the Robot Nation | iPolitics

Taliban Steve and the Robot Nation | iPolitics

A wonderful column  about the Harper Republicans. 

Apple Trees

When Tanya moved to Ukraine from Siberia about 25 years ago she was so in love with the idea of growing fruit that she planted 30 fruit trees in her yard, half of them apple trees.  Sort of like my mother with her zucchini but Tanya didn't have any cows to come to her rescue.  We have been cutting them down ever since and have more to go.

Never a big fan of apples, having consumed some 2400 from my school lunch box over a 12 year period, I like them even less when they are windfall.  We raked and hand picked two wheelbarrow loads tonight and will continue from now to snow fall.  We use maybe one wheelbarrow load of non-windfall ourselves for eating and for juice.

We have these two huge trees and three or four little ones.  Oh, yes, and our new "Pear tree" planted four years ago has apples growing on it.  Thank God our apple trees only bear apples every two years which I never knew before, having never had an apple tree, so we only have a mess every second year.  One of the big trees will come down this fall and two of the  smaller ones.  One of them is almost dead from last winter anyhow so no loss.

Now I don't like cutting trees down.  They take a long time to grow.  I just wish they were anything but fruit trees.  We have planted a birch in the front yard and have a couple of spruce growing in the side flower bed.  We will sit under them for our 25th wedding anniversary.

Tanya loves trees, too and when she worked for the Raion Agriculture Department many years ago was responsible for planting hundreds of trees along the roadsides, including many fruit trees, which are available to anyone to pick.  In spring the roadsides are lovely with blossoms and in fall no one is bothered by the fallen fruit.

Tanya thinks if every person in the  world could plant just one tree every year that we could re-green the earth.  I like the idea. Just not apple my yard.

Two giant apple trees (pictures all from 2010)


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dr. John Atta Mills 1944-2012

Dr. John Atta Mills, President of Ghana, died Tuesday July 24 of throat cancer.  He had been ill for some time though it was never confirmed and he planned on running for a second term. The announcement from BBC is posted here and an obituary here.

Dr Atta Mills was a good friend of my good friends, Wayne and Gifty Dunn and their son Kabore. Gifty is originally from Wa in NW Ghana and Wayne (from Big River Saskatchewan) has done a great deal of consulting work in the country over the years.  Wayne paid this tribute to his friend:

It is so sad. He was such a visionary and led with such dignity, humility and service. When I saw him last (early May) he told me how he felt compelled to stand for another election and when he was finished with being President he and his wife were going to come back to our place in Mill Bay and spend a quiet month. We all had fond memories of when they used to visit before he was President. He was the first Ghanaian man that Kabore ever met and he was a Grandfather to Kabore his whole life (he called him Grandpa P). Last time I saw him he asked me to come back and see him again before I left Ghana but he ended up having to go to an ECOWAS meeting and I didn't get a chance to see him. I am so sad for Ghana to lose a great leader and especially to his wife, Auntie Ernestina, who lost such a wonderful husband and the chance to spend some quiet years together after he left office.
Dr Lloyd Axworthy, President University of Winnipeg, Dr John Atta Mills,
President of Ghana, Wayne Dunn, May 2012
Gifty Serbeh-Dunn, Kabore Dunn, Dr. Atta Mills, Wayne Dunn, August 2011
The President and First Lady with the Dunn family

 The Dunns and Ghana have lost a good friend.  RIP, Dr. Atta Mills.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Remembering the Farm: The Era of Wooden Elevators

Canadian One Dollar Bill 1954
The picture on the back of the 1954 Canadian $1 bill was always a favourite of mine. The narrow gravel road could have been anywhere in the province, with the telephone lines on one side, the power lines farther out in the field on the other side, steep narrow grass-filled ditches and the grain elevator in the background.

The wooden grain elevator, of which hundreds dotted the landscape at regular intervals, was part of my boyhood.  Originally towns (and elevators) were located every 7 miles or so along the railway tracks so that farmers would not have so far to haul their grain in the days of teams and wagons.  Saskatchewan Wheat Pool (SWP), a farmer-owned cooperative, had by far and away the most elevators which were all painted a dull red until sometime in the 60s when they modernized them all to silver.  I felt we lost a bit of our history when that happened.  Little did I know...

1935 calendar.
SWP issued a calendar showing their governance districts and all their elevator locations.  Every year there would be fewer locations as small centres closed, a result of better roads and increased numbers of farm trucks.  As rural communities died, the elevator and post office were usually the last services to go. You will never read the names on the calendars but you may be able to see the frequency of towns along the rail lines.  And note too the disappearance of branch lines.

1975 calendar

When I started school at Cavell, 2 1/2 miles from home by road, 2 miles cross country, the same one-room school my father attended, there was still a railway station, post office, general store (with 10 gallon manual gas pump), two churches and two elevators, both SWP.  One elevator was soon moved to act as an annex to the other so there was only one "elevator agent".

When my Grandpa Johnson quit farming in 1955, Dad bought his '49 Merc one-ton with a hoist.  Up until then we hauled grain with two wagons behind the Massey 44 or one wagon with the team when roads were bad.  The elevator had a hoist to empty trucks and wagons that had none.
Typical elevator, now at North Battleford Western Development Museum

I liked going with dad when he hauled grain, especially in winter.  The two-story office building (silver, to the left above) was always toasty warm.  The water-cooled stationary engine was on the lower floor, connected to the leg by a wide belt which ran under the walk way between elevator and office.  The "leg" (see 3 in photo below) was an endless belt of metal buckets that "elevated" the grain to the top of the elevator, where is could be distributed to bins as desired. You knew when the  agent was loading cars and might have room for grain as you could hear the putt-putt-putt all the way to our farm on a quiet day.

Simplicity itself.  Other than the leg, it was all gravity flow
The picture above shows a top loading grain car.  In the "olden days" grain was shipped by boxcar which was loaded through the sliding side doors with a great deal of effort.  The inside was marked with lines for the allowable depth of grain depending on weight/volume with wheat the heaviest and oats the lightest.  So when someone says they are "full to the oat line" you know they are FULL.

The roads got better; three ton and five ton trucks replaced the one tons; towns got farther apart.  Cavell disappeared bit by bit and Dad started hauling to Landis, 7 miles away, which had two elevators, one SWP, one "Line" ie a corporation.  He didn't like the Pool agent there so hauled to the other elevator company.

The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) handled all purchases and sales of wheat, barley and oats.  Elevator companies acted as their agents.  There were great advantages to this arrangement.  CWB was the sole seller of Canadian wheat on the world market and could demand a premium price.  Farmers were given an initial price up front and a final price at the end of the year so every farmer got the same money for every bushel sold whether in fall or spring.

As there was limited room at the elevators, farmers were allotted quota based on CWB sales and acres registered in the "Quota books".  In fall every one could haul 6 bushels per quota acre, then depending on sales and the availability of boxcars, extra quota would be announced throughout the year.  Excitement was learning that there were "six boxcars" on the elevator siding and  that the CWB had announced a 2 bushel increase in quota.  When everything worked the bins would be empty of last years crop by the start of harvest.  It didn't always work that way, of course.

SWP Elevator at Swift Current
Elevators continued to close and the remaining ones got larger.  Old putt-putt-putt was replaced by multiple electric motors, more bin space was added, dust collectors became mandatory.  They even got computers.  My Uncle Vince who was an SWP grain buyer for most of his working life called his computer Jennifer because it wouldn't bring him coffee either. (WKRP fans will get this). The picture above is a good example of the epitome of wooden elevator modernization.

About 30 years ago, the "Inland Terminal" became the new standard for grain elevators and the wooden elevator was doomed.  Sidings that would hold 50 to 100 grain tank cars cut railway freight costs compared to the days of collecting five or ten boxcars at a time.  Farmers any distance from these giant elevators found it cheaper to contract their grain hauling to commercial trucking firms.  Elevators closed and were torn down, branch lines closed and were pulled up.  the days you could look in any direction and see the next town or the next three towns because of the wooden elevators, were history.

In a cooperative, equity is a liability not an asset as it is owed to the members on retirement. As such it is not useful as security to a company needing money for expansion or modernization.  SWP was in a bind as it needed to replace its aging fleet of wooden elevators to be competitive.  As well many of its members were reaching the age of retirement.  Paying out all the equity owed would bankrupt the cooperative.  It became a corporation and all equity was converted to shares.  Do not ask how that turned out for older farmers.

Viterra Elevator at Assiniboia

Other farmer owned elevator companies were going through the same struggles and eventually Manitoba and Alberta Wheat Pools joined forces with United Grain Growers to form one company.  Which was then bought up by SWP, becoming Viterra in the process.  The days of farmer-owned grain companies were over in Western Canada.

Viterra is in process of being bought up by Swiss based Glencore, a commodity trading house giant with annual revenues in 2010 of $145 billion, which controls 3% of the world's daily oil consumption and 55% of the world's zinc and 36% of copper trade.

And I felt bad when SWP painted their dark red elevators silver.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Gimli Glider - 29th Anniversary

The Gimli Glider C-GAUN
Twenty-nine years ago today on July 23, 1983, one of the most famous (or infamous) incidents in Canadian aviation history occurred on a routine Air Canada flight from Montreal to Edmonton via Ottawa.  AC 143, a Boeing 767 carrying 61 passengers plus flight crew of eight ran out of fuel over  Red Lake Ontario.

The plane, four months old, the first Air Canada plane to convert fully to metric.  A high tech plane with high tech glitches including a faulty Fuel Quantity Indicator System (FQIS). Failure of the FQIS should have grounded the plane but AC was still writing the procedures manual.  A series of small mistakes led up to the big one.  The decision was made to calculate the necessary fuel load manually.  In times past, this would have been done by a flight engineer but the new planes eliminated that position.

The fuel truck worked in volume but the aircraft people work in weight as they need to keep track of the total weight of the aircraft.  The tanks were dipped and the calculations done and redone, checked and rechecked.  Except they used the  conversion factor of litres of fuel to pounds of fuel instead of the factor to convert o kilograms of fuel.  So when the plane took off they had half enough fuel.  When they stopped in Ottawa they checked everything again, making the same error.

When the plane ran out of fuel, The instrument panel went dead except for a few pre-WWII instruments that were run by an airspeed driven turboprop. The decision was instantly made to divert to Winnipeg.  Captain Bob Pearson was an experienced glider pilot and knew how to fly deadstick.  It was soon obvious they were not going to make it.  It was too far and they were losing speed and altitude too fast.

First Officer Maurice Quintal had served in the RCAF and knew of the abandoned airforce landing strip at Gimli which was closer so they changed course.  As luck would have it, the "abandoned" airstrip had been converted to a racetrack, including go-kart track and that day was "Family Day" so the strip crowded with people and BBQs.

There was enough power from the turboprop generator to get the main landing gear locked into place but not the nose wheel as the slower they went the less power generated.  Braking was at a minimum as the flaps etc could not be deployed but the nose wheel collapsed and the plane ground to a halt without hitting anyone.  No one on the plane was hurt other than a few bumps getting off using the emergency chutes.

While everyone considered the two pilots to be heros, Air Canada tried to pin the blame on them and ground crew. An external independent investigation laid the blame fully on Air Canada's lack of training and lack of procedures, as it should have been. 

Gimli Glider retired to the Mojave Desert
Just as a side note, the A/C crew from Winnipeg that drove up to Gimli to repair the aircraft ran out of gas on their way, but they did get there eventually and in two days had the plane, now known as the Gimli Glider back in the air. She flew another 25 years before being retired to the Mohave Desert in January 2008, with several of the original Gimli crew including Pearson and Quintal on board.

For more detail here are some links:

Wiki has an excellent write up, especially the explanation of the series of errors.

Mojave Skies Blog has a post relating the story as one of the interesting planes at the Mojave Desert site (the picture above is from that post).

Flight Safety Australia has a very detailed article covering both the series of errors and the investigations assessment of Air Canada's responsibility.

And one final blogger:

Chris Hedges: The Careerists - Chris Hedges' Columns - Truthdig

Chris Hedges describes those who make possible the great crimes of history, the enablers as it were, the people who make the trains run on time, collect the data, manufacture the arms but never think, never ask questions, never challenge. I have felt this way about "profession" civil servants all my life, which is why I was obviously not a good one.

These armies of bureaucrats serve a corporate system that will quite literally kill us. They are as cold and disconnected as Mengele. They carry out minute tasks. They are docile. Compliant. They obey. They find their self-worth in the prestige and power of the corporation, in the status of their positions and in their career promotions. They assure themselves of their own goodness through their private acts as husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. They sit on school boards. They go to Rotary. They attend church. It is moral schizophrenia. They erect walls to create an isolated consciousness. They make the lethal goals of ExxonMobil or Goldman Sachs or Raytheon or insurance companies possible. They destroy the ecosystem, the economy and the body politic and turn workingmen and -women into impoverished serfs. They feel nothing. Metaphysical naiveté always ends in murder. It fragments the world. Little acts of kindness and charity mask the monstrous evil they abet. And the system rolls forward. The polar ice caps melt. The droughts rage over cropland. The drones deliver death from the sky. The state moves inexorably forward to place us in chains. The sick die. The poor starve. The prisons fill. And the careerist, plodding forward, does his or her job. 

Chris Hedges: The Careerists - Chris Hedges' Columns - Truthdig

Trayvon Martin and America’s Gun Laws : The New Yorker

Trayvon Martin and America’s Gun Laws : The New Yorker

An excellent review of the evolution of the NRA and gun laws in America. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

How I Lost My Fear of Universal Health Care

How I Lost My Fear of Universal Health Care

When I moved to Canada in 2008, I was a die-hard conservative Republican. So when I found out that we were going to be covered by Canada's Universal Health Care, I was somewhat disgusted. This meant we couldn't choose our own health coverage, or even opt out if we wanted too. It also meant that abortion was covered by our taxes, something I had always believed was horrible. I believed based on my politics that government mandated health care was a violation of my freedom.

When I got pregnant shortly after moving, I was apprehensive. Would I even be able to have a home birth like I had experienced with my first 2 babies? Universal Health Care meant less choice right? So I would be forced to do whatever the medical system dictated regardless of my feelings, because of the government mandate. I even talked some of having my baby across the border in the US, where I could pay out of pocket for whatever birth I wanted. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that midwives were not only covered by the Universal health care, they were encouraged! Even for hospital births. In Canada, midwives and doctors were both respected, and often worked together.

I went to my first midwife appointment and sat in the waiting room looking at the wall of informational pamphlets. I never went to the doctor growing up, we didn't have health insurance, and my parents preferred a conservative naturopathic doctor anyways. And the doctor I had used for my first 2 births was also a conservative Christian. So I had never seen information on birth control and STDs. One of the pamphlets read "Pregnant Unexpectedly?" so I picked it up, wondering what it would say. The pamphlet talked about adoption, parenthood, or abortion. It went through the basics of what each option would entail and ended by saying that these choices were up to you. I was horrified that they included abortion on the list of options, and the fact that the pamphlet was so balanced instead of "pro-life."

For more of the story go HERE

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Kyrgyzstan on the verge of catastrophic feed shortage

America isn't the only part of the world with drought reduced feed supplies.  Many parts of the FSU are also suffering from heat and lack of moisture .

Kyrgyzstan on the verge of catastrophic feed shortage

Wooden Yew Know It

One of the things I have missed in Ukraine is wood working.  I am not good but I can "make a board".  When the kids were young I made lots of wooden toys, then got into house remodeling (our own) and now in my old age I would like nothing more than to make stuff again.  A garden bench for Tanya and a dog house for the mutts for example.  I left all my power tools in Canada as they are 110v and Europe is 220v but brought some of my hand tools.  Like my Estwing hammers with the leather handles.

Unless you live in western Ukraine, wood is a premium item.  this is surprising when you consider that Russia has the largest area of softwood trees in the world but no lumber industry as we know it in Canada.  Wooden houses are built of solid log timbers, not framed as we do in North America, so use a huge amount of wood per house.  But no one will ever drive their out-of-control car through the side of it.

In most of Ukraine, houses are built of concrete and brick.  The FSU, in its quest for scientific socialist efficiency, decreed steel and concrete to be THE building materials as they would last for a long time where as wood was considered impermanent.  So here in Zhovti Vody individual houses and cottages are built of cement blocks and bricks while wood is used sparingly, mainly for framing the roof.

Dimension lumber, (where you can buy it in town) is as it came off the saw, in exact dimensions 1"x1" or 25mmx25mm, 2x4 or 50x100, etc.  Lengths are random around 2 to 3 meters.  If you want it planed you need to own a planer. Which I do not. And every board MUST be hand picked or it will be crap.

One can buy OSB and plywood and the plywood is like we got in the old days - many thin layers.  It is awesome.  But expensive.

And this is not to say there are not mill works in town that turn out fine quality windows and doors and other wood products.  It is just to say that everyone is an amateur brick and tile layer not amateur wood butcher as I am used to. And the "Home Depots" and "Ronas" and the mom and pop stores are all geared to masonry.

Close up of dimension lumber (badly picked over)
Local construction materials store lumber piles badly picked over.
Saw mill about 1 block from our home.
 There is a saw mill about 1 block from our place, built a couple of years ago.  In Soviet times, mills like this would have been on every collective farm.  Loads of logs arrive periodically and are dumped at the left of the big door.  You can see a large log there. The logs are man-handled up on the drive and onto the saw frame.  Sawn lumber is piled to the left under the windows and scraps to the right of the drive way.  Scrap will be hauled away for fuel someplace.  They cut some dimension but a lot of random width unedged 25 mm boards which will be used for roofing.

Stack of unedged 25 mm boards for roofing
House and garage under construction
Roof sheath with random width unedged lumber
Finished roof on another building
Roof are then covered with plastic or metal sheets of various colours and styles.  Roofing tiles are also used but mostly by folks with money.  Plain grey asbestos sheets are used mostly by folks without money as they are cheap. Asbestos shingles are now available and I expect that those roofs would be sheathed in OSB to provide a solid surface.

When I can afford to buy a good planer and can find a source of half decent dimension lumber, I have a room in our outbuilding that someday will be a wood working shop.  Someday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Small Business "Strip Malls" in Zhovti Vody

Small business in Ukraine is just that, small.  The next step up from a market stall is a small shop on a side street.  Tanya and I stopped at one such small shop on Saturday.  It is one of over a dozen small Ladies Wear stores in town; this one  located on Petrovskava St.  I don't know if it was new or if I just hadn't seen it before.

Petrovskava is lined with blocks of old two and three story flats, set back a dozen meters (mixed metaphor?) from the street.  Other streets may have newer 4, 6 or even 9 story blocks.  Entrances are always at the back, never on the street.

So to create a store, once one has done all the appropriate paper work and bribed all the appropriate officials to sign the documents, one buys a flat or two, guts them, except for load bearing walls, chops an entrance to the street and builds steps and a landing.  One shop may attract other shops and soon there are several of the bottom floor flats facing the street converted to shops, forming a strip mall Zholti Vody style.

Owner redecorates the front corresponding to the size of the store
 The store, Sofia's, is located in a single renovated flat, in three sections (former rooms), totaling about 30 to 35 sq meters (350 to 400 sq ft).  It carries along with women's clothing, a few handbags, a few toys and some stationery supplies. 

The sign isn't up yet. Name is on a paper on the door

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sympathy is what strangers are for

The following is condensed from a FB conversation after my daughter dropped her phone in the toilet.

Sunday, July 15, 2012



(The following was stolen from Rob Bear who purloined borrowed from ExmoorJane Alexander. He asked if he could use it, and she didn't say he couldn't. I didn't ask as permission is at the bottom. Thanks, Rob and Jane.)

• Really tough, hard exercise can sort out all manner of nonsense and garbage. 

• Listen to your body.  It really does tell the truth.  Unfortunately most of us are not accustomed to listening. And we suffer from that self-inflicted deafness. 
• Breathing is very hard. 
• Your mind will lead you astray. It may also help you back. 
• Meditation should be obligatory – for the mental health of the world. 
• Never tell anyone what to do.  It is not your business. Unless someone asks for help.
• Contradictions abound. Everywhere. 

• Love your enemies – they have the most to teach you.  Seriously. 
• Unfortunately banks don’t run on quantum principles. 
• When in doubt, play loud rock music. Or some classics.
• Fasting for long periods and driving is not a good combination. 

• Drinking alcohol and driving is not a good combination. 
• Think before you spout out nonsense. 
• Don’t think too much. 
• A sense of humour is the probably the most important character trait you can have. It will get you through all manner of things. 
• If you can’t change your life, change the way you think about it. 
• We are all alone. 
• We get by with a bit of help from our friends. Sometimes a lot of help. 
• You can’t please everyone – don’t even try. 
• Nobody can save you. Unless you ask for help. And even then, it’s questionable. 
• If you love someone, tell them (yes, even if they’re psychic). 
• Try not to judge. 
• Dogs are small gods, that bite. 
• Sugar is sweet evil. 
• Never judge a book by its cover (literally and metaphorically). 
• When something about someone really bugs you, ten to one you have that self-same trait yourself. Which is hugely annoying.  
• Massage restores the whole body and mind — it really does. 
• The truth hurts, sometimes. 
• Use all your senses – all the time. 
• Religion is mystery, metaphor and imagery — treat it with the respect it deserves. And if you choose it, live it. All the time.
• Love really is the bottom line. 
• Open your heart wide. 
• Be kind. Or at least try. 
• All people carry burdens. Some of these will not be visible.
• People are weird. 
• Never make assumptions. 
• Avoid people who drag you down.  
• Sometimes things which seem incredibly meaningful may be incredibly random, but that doesn’t keep them them from being incredibly wonderful. 
• Have no regrets. 
• Give it your best shot. 
• Don’t take yourself too seriously. 
• It’s not always about you. 
• It’s always about you. 
• Oracles are open to misinterpretation. Including this one.
• When dealing with people who seem ridiculous, just smile sweetly and nod. 
• It’s not worth trying to force the universe. The universe will snicker at you from behind its hand. 
• Trying to push a river is similarly pointless. 
• Never give up. 
• Know when you’re in a losing situation and quietly walk out backwards, making small “I’m not really here” hand motions. 
• Never turn down a rain poncho or an umbrella.

That's it. Now, do your own list, or steal borrow this and carry on.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Weavers Wasn't That A Time Documentary

 For all die hard Weavers fans, a one hour documentary of their last concert in Carnegie Hall in 1981 not long before Lee Hayes passed away.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Purple Kia Blues

Our car has needed maintenance for a while now but we have been putting it off because "it still runs".  In Regina, maintenance was easy.  I took my car to Bob Grant's Auto Service and said "Change the oil and fix what is needed".  Bob and Marlene and crew looked after our family fleet for many years.  It was wonderful to have a mechanic you could trust.

I am glad I don't live there any more as they have since retired and sold the business.  I suspect whoever bought it would be trustworthy though or Bob would go back and deal with him personally.  And if that didn't work, Marlene would go in and THAT you don't want.

Here in Ukraine it is a different matter for me.  If I had to do it, it would be go to Kia Motors and say "Change the oil and fix what is needed" and then Oh, boy watch out.  Dealers are never good places to go in my experience unless you can diagnose and prescribe exactly.  Fortunately, I have Andrei to help; he knows every blue collar businessman in Zholti Vody and surrounding towns.

Andrei, Tania and Masha are borrowing our car to go to the black Sea for a holiday and Andrei, who looks after our car better than I do, wanted to make sure it was in shape to travel the distance.  So Monday he took it to his friend Sasha for "diagnosis".

Sasha has a 1950's garage complete with pit and calendars, in a couple of Soviet built garage/storage system stalls.  In Soviet times, garages were built in banks and clusters of hundreds some distance from where apartments were located (scientific efficiency, you know).  This meant you had to take a bus or taxi to get your car.  It also meant you used public transportation which was excellent rather than clog the streets with cars and burn precious gasoline.

Sasha works mainly on Ladas and other older cars, I think.  I asked if he was a good mechanic and Andrei says "I tell him what to do on the Kia and he does it".  Between them they decided what needed doing and what parts were necessary.  Then Andrei went to a parts store (one of many in town) and ordered the parts which would be in late Wednesday.

It needed new summer tires as the treads were getting pretty worn.  Andrei had a friend in Alexandria about 50 km away who had Michelins made in France for $80 installed, about $40 less than I would have paid for the same tires.  Michelin also makes tires in Russia but these as any Russian built tires are to be avoided if possible apparently.  Wednesday late afternoon Andrei picked up the parts and went to get the tires.

Thursday Sasha started on the repairs.  I saw the parts Andrei picked up and other than the filters, fan belt and antifreeze, didn't recognize anything.  I have been a Chrysler mini-van person for decades and they wear out different looking pieces of front end and suspension.  Sasha finished today after lunch and Andrei and I went to pick up the car.  Total bill so far 6000 UAH.

Then we took it for a wheel alignment.  This is a new modern auto service centre, with high ceilings, clean floors, no calendars and fancy equipment.  First of all I didn't know they even did wheel alignments in Ukraine.  Given the road conditions here an alignment would be valid until you left the garage.  Like a certificate of health on a hooker in Tijuana, as they say.

The bad news was that before they could do a wheel alignment the back springs need replacing.  Now I have been suspicious for a long time that all was not well with the springs or shocks as we were bouncing far too much and bottoming out on too many holes that were not that deep or abrupt.  They are on order and will be here maybe Monday.  Another 2000 UAH and baby will be all set to run smoothly for a few more months.  And Andrei's family will have a safe trip to the Crimean seashore.

I used to tease Bob Grant about his "$400 oil changes".  I need to call him up and tell him I had nothing to complain about having just had a $1000 oil change.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Supper and all that

There are three books to write reviews on, a couple of political editorials I could rant on and a few other things that make for work if one wishes a decent blog post.  Today is Sunday so forget that.  Hotter'n the hinges again  and still no real rain.  Good thundershower in town but missed us as usual.

Roman and Lena came for supper.  I asked them to come just so I would have an excuse to make potato salad again.  This time (my second try) it tasted like potato salad at least.  Now I can work on jazzing it up.  The chicken salad was too dry and tasteless so I need to look up a recipe next time.  The pork roast was good considering it was frozen when it went into the oven.  Our corn is ready as of yesterday so we had corn on the cob, too.  And apple crisp, with apples from the tree in the abandoned yard next door.

The innocence of young love.  A little boy in town (4 1/2) is madly in love with Masha (8).  The other day he kissed her and she went into the house crying.  Next morning when she went outside the little boy was waiting with a huge bouquet of flowers.  "I am sorry I made you cry, Masha...I brushed my teeth, can I kiss you again?"

Kuchma got his biennial bath.  He had been out fighting again and was black as a chimney sweep.  In fact it looked like someone had dumped ashes all over him, though I expect he had only been rolling in them.  He meowed piteously for the  first minute or so.  We got the Lather-Rinse part done before the feet and claws got active.  We canceled the Repeat part in self defense but his white is semi white at least.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Too lazy to blog again

ADULT: A person who has stopped growing at both ends and is now growing in the middle.
 BEAUTY PARLOR: A place where women curl up and dye.
 CHICKENS: The only animals you eat before they are born and after they are dead.
 COMMITTEE: A body that keeps minutes and wastes hours.
 DUST: Mud with the juice squeezed out.
 EGOTIST: Someone who is usually me-deep in conversation.
 HANDKERCHIEF: Cold Storage.
 INFLATION: Cutting money in half without damaging the paper.
 MOSQUITO: An insect that makes you like flies better.
 RAISIN: A grape with a sunburn.
 SECRET: Something you tell to one person at a time.
 SKELETON: A bunch of bones with the person scraped off.
 TOOTHACHE: The pain that drives you to extraction.
 TOMORROW: One of the greatest labour saving devices of today.
 YAWN: An honest opinion openly expressed.
 WRINKLES: Something other people have, similar to my character lines.

Thanks, Wayne. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July

And as the world's largest, richest and most powerful empire celebrates one of its beginnings, I wish all the best to those who care enough to try to make America and the World a better place for everyone, not just the rich and powerful.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Evening dog walk

Another 30+C day. Masha is here for the night. Katya and Yuri's Natasha came over to enjoy the pool and hang out with Masha for a while.  About 6:00 the three of us took the dogs for a walk.  With a girl for each dog, I took my camera.

Russian Olives and a threatening sky
Heading up the bike path along the river

Village milk cows; fewer than a couple of years back

Mostly Red Steppe; descendants of cattle brought to Ukraine in 1770
Climbing a hill away from the creek bottom

Winter wheat harvest has begun

Sunflowers will bloom shortly
Community gardens with corn as high as an elephant's eye.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy Canada Day, Everyone!

Explosive Video Documents Depth of Putin's Mafia State | World Affairs Journal

Explosive Video Documents Depth of Putin's Mafia State | World Affairs Journal

Klyuev was now widely identified in the press as the mastermind of the Hermitage scam and the owner of Universal Savings Bank. So he sold the bank to a clothing salesman who had the misfortune, like other patsies associated with this crew, of dying in 2008 by falling off a balcony.

The Interior Ministry exonerated Olga Stepanova and her subordinates, claiming that they had been “tricked” into issuing the refunds. Yet as to how these officials collectively became $43 million richer when their state salaries were in the $10,000 range was apparently uninteresting to Russia’s largest domestic crime agency. As for the stolen money, alas, it was lost forever because, as the Ministry claimed, the truck carrying all the Universal Savings Bank records blew up.

On November 16, 2009, after suffering horribly from severe pancreatitis, Magnitsky was taken to Matrosskaya Tishina prison where he was handcuffed and beaten to death by eight riot guards in an isolation cell. His official cause of death was—what else?—“heart failure.” A year later, the Interior Ministry blamed Magnitsky for the Hermitage tax fraud.