Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Shopping is easier if I can sit down

Last Thursday Tanya and I took the bus to Dnipropetrovsk to pick up the documents for our trip to Greece, including her Schengen visa.  She asked if I wanted to go with her and I said yes.  She doesn't ask much and it was good to spend time together, with me on the computer so much these days.

Tanya also wanted to buy material to make new drapes for the big south window in our front entry and a roll of wallpaper to repaper one wall in the kitchen.

We arrived at 11:00 am and rather than waste time going to McDonalds we decided to "eat off the street" and bought chibreki and tea from a street stall and ate on the fly.  Chibreki, for the uninitiated, is a thin pastry filled with spiced ground meat and fried in about an inch of oil.  After picking up the documents we started looking in fabric shops for material with no luck.

We stopped for tea and dessert (and a bathroom) at a little restaurant which I immediately recognized as one that Tanya and her friend Natalie and I had coffee in back in 2005 when I was in Dnipropetrovsk to visit her.  I remembered where we sat and what we talked about. I'd had no idea at that moment that we would be married a year and half later but that was the beginning of it.

We went to the Ozerka market finally as if it isn't there, we don't need it kind of thing.  The main building of the Ozerka is a farmers market with the best produce and meat in the city.  Surrounding it are about 6.5 ha (16 acres) of stalls in any number of arrangements.

Ozerka Market, all 7 hectares of it.
By this time we have been walking for some time.  Walking isn't bad, it is the standing that kills my feet, knees and hips.  And when shopping there is a lot of standing and waiting.  There maybe a hundred wallpaper stalls in Ozerka market.  Tanya knew what she wanted but it was hard to find.  Skimming stalls was the easy part.  Finding a stall that had maybe the right colour and pattern took the time as of course one has to look and unroll and all and all.  

We found one she sort of liked but kept going.  Then we found one she and I both liked and we hemmed and hawed for no end of time.  I needed a chair which I found in the next stall.  She bought gunpoint, I might add.  "But I haven't seen all the other stalls yet and I might find something I like better".  I've been that route before so it was no deal.  I carried the 10 m2 roll for the rest of the day.  Several women stopped to say how much they liked the wallpaper so that pleased Tanya.

She had no luck finding material in the drapery stalls but at least I found the odd place to sit down.  They all wanted to sell her stringy things that looked like costumes for a belly dancer rather than drapes.  They are apparently in style now.  Tanya decided to buy the material she had seen and liked in Zholti Vody the day before.  (I told you I had been that route before.)  

So we went clothes shopping.  She looked for clothes and I looked for a chair.  I was sitting on the counter of an empty stall when the saleslady in the stall across offered to let me sit on her chair.  It did not look very sturdy.  I said I am too big;  she said she was not exactly small either, which was true.  I'd guess two axe handles three cans of tomatoes and a plug of chewing tobacco wide tall or deep.  So I sat and the chair held up quite well while we visited.

On our way to the bus depot we stopped at the big clothing market where I had got my shirts that fit at Gross Men's Wear.  Tanya wanted to buy me a new sweater for fall as my sweaters were all several years old.  We ended up with two very nice pullovers and a (black, of course) nylon sports jacket to replace the one I lost two years ago.

I am not a sweater person. I would have been much happier with a new (very loud) cowboy shirt.  But when Tanya says "You look good", what I want is not very relevant any more.  Dressing to please her is far more important and she has excellent taste...(well, she married me didn't she?). 

We were wandering around and past a new shop just opening up.  They were unpacking and had just hung up a jacket for Tanya that she had been needing for some time.  She looked awesome in it and it fit to perfection so we grabbed it. 

We are not amused.
Then she started looking for tops, blouses and such.  This takes time so I am looking for a chair. She bought a couple of things at one place and we moved on.  I found a bench in the "boulevard" and sat, while she tried things on.

There was one top she liked.  Now Caterpillar/calf scour/highway-line yellow has never been my favourite colour  but it is Tanya's and she does look good in it. Besides she says it is gold not yellow. She left the top and me on the bench and set out to "shop".  90 minutes later she came back empty handed and bought the gold top.  I told you I had been that route before. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Masha Starts Fifth Class in her New School

Today was the first day of school in Ukraine. Masha started 5th class (grade) in her new school, Lesia Ukrainka Gymnasium.  Going to school in a gymnasium makes no sense to North Americans unless you are a jock so I include the Wiki definition below for edification.

Languages and literature are Masha's strong suit, hence the transfer to a school with strong academic credentials in this area.  The math and science types go to another school called here Lycee.

It is hard to believe that four years have passed since Masha started in First Class and three years since Second Class. Since she was starting in a new school, we went to the opening exercises to give her moral support.  She isn't as excited about this first day of class as she was four years ago.  She does have friends here though.  Her neighbour Sonja was there and the two of them stuck together.  Katya and Yuri's daughter Natasha will be there but she is at a Sanitorium in Evpatoria for a month but will keep up her studies there.

I think the youngest kids in this school are Grade 5 but they look very young beside all the high school students.  There are two classes of Grade 5s with 20 students each, compared to four classes of 25 students in the school she attended previously.

The Grade 5s were all marched out at the beginning of the ceremony and welcomed to the school. All the usual suspects spoke and even a few minutes each adds up.  We left after an hour and went to visit Dasha.  Baba Natasha took her home after a few minutes as all the noise bothered her.
Masha looks a little worried.
Two students MC the ceremony.
Fifth Class students all lined up in the front row; Masha is near the far end
Masha's face side profile barely visible; Sonja with the headband

Some of the teachers
I don't recall girls like this when I was in high school
The boys haven't changed though; still awkward and geeky.
These two are well over 6'; a few more and the school basketball team ...
I just loved this red coat worn by a lady standing beside us.
gymnasium (pronounced with a [ɡ] in several languages) is a type of school with a strong emphasis on academic learning, and providing advanced secondary education in some parts of Europe and the CIS, comparable to British grammar schoolssixth form colleges and U.S. preparatory high schools. In its current meaning, it usually refers to secondary schools focused on preparing students to enter a university for advanced academic study.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Dnipropetrovs'k Circus

My daughter Lyn and friend Laura came from London to visit us  for a week. There was a Moscow based circus performing in Dnipropetrovs'k so on Saturday we took in the 5:00 pm show.  Can't recall the last time I took my kids to the circus. No pictures were allowed of the performance.  Sorry.
The Dnipropetrovs'k "Tsirk" is a one ring circus, smaller than Kyiv but decent nevertheless. Source: Google Maps
There were all the hucksters and hype that comes with a circus.  Cotton candy and popcorn.  Lots of plastic happiness with bright flashing lights for parents to buy little kids. Pizza and beer at intermission. The trapeze artists and gymnasts were superb, as one would expect from a Moscow troop.  Russian clowns are the best in the business and are dearly loved and celebrated.  "Harry" was no exception.  His difficulties in setting up and lying down on a collapsible cot had kids of all ages shrieking with laughter. We could all identify!

It was the animal acts I came to watch, to see if I could "eyeball" whether the animals were mistreated or not in any way.  Circuses have attracted their share of attention, deserved or not, from the PETAs of this world, so I was curious.  There were dogs, horses, sea lions and doves.  We had to leave a little early to catch our bus so there may have been more but possibly not.

The dogs were wonderful and worth the price of admission (well, along with Harry).  They were funny and seemed to know it.  They were cued to the second, tails wagging and all happy with pats and treats from their trainer.  I loved the Basset Hound.  When asked to perform the impossible, he would lie down and play dead.

The doves were nothing spectacular.  They did what birds do - fly and sit on things.

The horses, on the other hand, made me wonder.  They were not carrying any excess flesh though they appeared sleek enough.  The lady trainer didn't appeal to me much, though her whip (string on a stick) and her cane were just for signalling.  At the end, she rode out on a fancy black all duded up, with a mean double bit on him that had him foaming at the mouth the entire time.  She may have needed it to control him as he was bursting with energy and should have done a 10 mile fast run before the show.

The sea lions were a puzzle as I have no idea how to tell a happy one from a mistreated and unhappy one.  They were certainly well trained and when one missed a cue, the other jumped off his tub and went after him.  Male jealousy.  They were certainly treated well in the ring.  Treats as rewards and lots of hugs from the trainer for a job well done.  It is how they are penned afterwards that could be a concern.

No lions, tigers, bears or elephants suited me fine.  And unless I could see behind stage and in the off season, I couldn't make a final comment on the care of the horses or sea lions.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

An Irish Nurse In Africa - a Book Review

An Irish Nurse in AfricaAn Irish Nurse in Africa by Brian Ross
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An Irish Nurse in Africa and its companion novel The Irish Boer (both available on Smashwords) were originally written as one novel. The publishers refused it as it was over 300,000 words which is apparently forbidden for a first time author. So Brian Ross tried to split the book and in my opinion ruined it (hence only three stars) as unless you read them both at the same time as the author suggests, everything seems out of sync. I wish he would put it back together and re-publish it under another title. I would read it again.

Having said that, the books are still a good read. The author writes dialogue well and realistically. His battle scenes make one feel part of the fight. The stories occur in roughly the first year of the Second Anglo-Boer War(1899-1902) and follow actual historical events quite closely. Francis O'Driscoll is an Irish nurse who finds herself on the side of the British while the Irish Boer is her brother Arthur who leads a Boer Commando fighting for his adopted homeland.

Full disclosure: Arthur and Francis were my Great Grandmother Ross's brother and sister. The Irish background details in the book are true as are SOME of their adventures. Francis was indeed a nurse with the British army and Arthur did lead a Boer Commando which participated in some of the battles described in the book.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I cannot seem to catch up n either blog reading nor writing since I left for Greece almost 4 weeks ago.  I have been home now almost two weeks and am swamped with three reports to write (with background papers on Greek and data either not yet found or in Turkish and in Greek and a summary article.  The reports I get paid for; the summary article is pro bono sort of.  The client will pay for my 145 Euro steak supper in the Galaxy Restaurant of the Athens Hilton.  I wandered in there out of curiosity and asked for a menu.  The salad was 23 Euro and I thought "What the Hell, might as well go for broke".  All this for a view of the Acropolis in the distance.  But it was an AWESOME steak.

Something I learned since I got home is not to drink a pot of coffee after supper and then read the comments section on an article about GMOs.

The absolute ignorance and venom spewed at anyone who dared to even question the notion that all GMOs are poison made my blood boil and I laid awake half the night.  The Left loves "research polls" that show that the Right does not trust science but it is my observation that the anti-food, anti-agriculture, anti-everything folks of the Looney Left have no more trust in science than the Repugnant Right.  They, too, only believe "science" that reinforces their already existing world view.  AGW?  "Science" says we MUST destroy Big Oil.  GMOs?  "Science" is all evil lies, paid for by Big Ag. Apparently "97% of all scientists" only counts when it agrees with me.

Today I ran into these two blog posts which in themselves are interesting but the real gems are in the comments section.

Friday, August 9, 2013

In Defense of the Big Mac

Chardonnay Socialists and their anti-food, anti-agriculture, anti-everything friends of the Looney Left love to hate McDonalds.  I happen to love the Golden Arches.

Chardonnay Socialists, being progressive liberals and all, have to have some way to demonstrate their intellectual and moral superiority over those of us who fall into the "Ewww, bus people" crowd.  So they eat only things like organic salt and free range arugula and eschew any food that doesn't have the word "natural" (mis)used in its description.

Cost is no objective.  It is like listening to New Russians.  "I paid $5 for this package of three free range organic natural radishes grown from ancient seeds preserved by the Peruvian Incas that I bought from a local farmer 50 miles away".  "That is too bad, if you shopped for food where I do, you could have paid $7.50".

The Looney Left hate McDonalds because it is big and successful. Both groups make all kinds of ridiculous noises about how terrible the food is.  Junk food (whatever that is) is their favourite expression; Super Size Me is their cult movie and of course the company is totally responsible for everyone getting fat.

Add caption
 Since McDonalds is the first place I head for a taste of home when I get to the city every month or two, I did some personal research, looking for "Junk Food". Their coffee is pretty good and my beverage of choice for breakfasts.  Orange juice?  Check. Soft drinks?  Check. These are drinks you can buy in any grocery store and on a hot day, an ice cold coke just hits the spot.

They even have bottled water.  Not Perrier, (sorry CSs), but in the Athens airport McDonalds I paid  0.35 Euro for the same brand and size water that cost me 7 Euros from the mini-bar in the Hilton.  I am sure the Hilton water was far healthier than the McDonalds water.

Breakfast Wednesday in Dnipropetrovsk was a Sausage and Egg McMuffin, a Bacon and Egg McMuffin and a hashbrowns.  So I had two eggs, two slices of cheese, two slices of real bacon, a slab of pork sausage and four pieces of bread (two English muffins) some greasy fried potatoes and a large coffee.  All good food, nothing junk about it.  I could have cooked it at home but then I would have had to wash the dishes.  And it held me until we got home at 6:00 pm.

Then there is the hamburger itself, this icon of fast food and staple of the backyard BBQ.  As you can see from the pictures, a hamburger consists of bread, ground beef grilled well done, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and anything else you would like to add.  What in Heaven's name is junk food about this?

I have eaten burgers and fries for lunch in many restaurants, chains like TGI Fridays and any number of white tablecloth restaurants and paid three or four prices.  Did that make it healthier?  The french fries had peelings left on in the fancier places.  Definitely upped the nutritional value, I am sure.

And if you are so inclined you can order salads and such.  I can and do eat salads at home.  Eating one at Mcdonalds seems like a waste of opportunity.

Another charge from the Looney Left against McDonald's is that they target children.  Well, golly, Sarge.  So what?  I think 'Donalds was the first word at least one of our kids said.  We would take the kids there for a treat every week or two.  They actually ate the food and played and left us in peace.

The Repugnant Right say you are to blame for everything.  Bad choices.  Mostly not choosing wealthy white parents, when it comes down to it.  The Looney Left on the other hand would have you believe nothing is your fault.  It is all the fault of the evil Koch Brothers, Peabody Coal, Exxon, GOP, Harper Cons, Nike, Walmart or take your pick.  But definitely not your fault.

By the way, when Super Size Me came out, an Edmonton teacher ate only at McDonalds for a month and lost weight because he used his head and ordered and ate sensibly.  If you and your kids eat at McDonalds often enough that the calories are a problem, you need a life and your kids need some parenting.

On the other hand, a good case can be made that a lot of people don't have "a life" and that parenting isn't that simple when working two or three jobs.  But that is not the fault of the Golden Arches.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bra-vo or Lingerie Shopping with Tanya

Tanya and I took the bus to Dnipropetrovs'k today to deliver her documents in application for a Schengen visa for our Greek holiday in September.  It will likely take all five weeks to get approved.

There is a good lingerie shop in Dnipro that Tanya likes that sells a better quality than she can get here in Zhovti Vody. I am always after her to spend the money and buy good bras that fit and support.  I try to hold up my end of the bargain but am not always available.  She also needed a new swimsuit for our Greek expedition.

Tanya went back into the shop to the fitting rooms.  There were two young ladies working there; a tempest in a D-cup and a trainee.  I could play no part in the process, though I have often thought of becoming a diesel fitter in a lingerie shop (Yep, dese'll fit 'er).  I parked myself on the pink leather chair near the front door to admire the merchandise.

The store sold men's underwear. Who knew?  The pictures on the packages reassured me that the models were paying attention in their marketing courses, especially the section on positioning the product in the mind of the consumer.  Positioning is simply remembering to put the potato in the front of your Speedo instead of in the back.

There was a display of uh, er, ah intimate night apparel.  The pictures on the boxes were quite revealing.  I wondered who could afford these...not the negligees but the girls wearing them.  The photos on the displays of expensive thongs really cracked me up.  Very cheeky on someone's part, I thought.

Eventually Tanya appeared with her purchases all nicely bagged and we then went to the huge clothing market.  I had not been there since the old one burned down.  It has been rebuilt and expanded.  There are maybe 300 or more individual shops all numbered by street and shop so you can find them again.  The shops average about 3 meters by 6 meters but range in size from 3x3 to 6x6, each one selling different lines of men's, women's and childrens clothing and accessories.

We had just stepped in the door when a woman looked at me, grabbed Tanya and hauled us into her shop which carried clothing for large men or large clothing for men or...  At any rate 20 minutes later I had three new shirts that fit and she had $100.  The name of the shop?  GROSS.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Canada's Racist Past Continues to the Present

For more than a century, Canadians have been accustomed to reports of terrible housing conditions on reserves, unsafe drinking water, dismal educational outcomes and, at least in Western Canada, prison populations disproportionally stacked with aboriginal inmates. Aboriginal leaders and young people such as those who embraced the Idle No More movement have been calling for Canadians to fundamentally acknowledge the injustices and atrocities of the past and fix the problems that keep indigenous Canadians from living the same quality of life as their non-aboriginal neighbours.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Love and Marriage: Part Three

Spoke with my son on Skype this morning and he told me this story.  It is apparently true but I have not bothered to find links to it.

A woman disappeared over 50 years ago (from BC?).  Her husband was suspected of murdering her and the cops dug up the yard looking fro her body.  No evidence of anything was found and he was never charged but when he died in the 90s, the cloud of suspicion hung over him still.

The woman has been found, alive and well, remarried and living in the Yukon.  She had simply left and never told anyone she was leaving or where she was going.

The reason her husband was suspected of murdering her?  He never reported her missing to the police for over four years.

Visiting Dasha on a Rainy Afternoon

Masha, Tanya, the two kittens and I sat on the front landing for over an hour watching the rain.  It was the second good rain we have had this summer and the air was cool and fresh.  A swallow sat on a wire overhead enjoying the impromptu shower, ruffling her feathers and preening herself.

The flies were very annoying.  Tanya said they like me because I am warm.  I thought it was because I smelled like something they could lay eggs on.

The kittens moved from lap to lap, watching the rain and listening to the thunder for a while, then climbed on my tummy and went to sleep.  Bonya was more or less vertical with his chin on my shoulder and Tigritsa horizontal on my arm with her chin on her brother.  Holding still is only fun for so long but they were quite good about me putting them down.

We think we lost another neighbour; the funeral bus from Lina's company went by filled with people, headed down our street.  Big Victor told Tanya this spring he had cancer and we had not seen him for a while.  Working in the mines claims another victim and our street has another old widow.

We decided to take Masha home (she was here for the night) and go visit Dasha.  Tomorrow is our last day home for a while and I had not seen Dasha for almost a month.  She is growing and very active, waving arms, kicking feet and clenching and unclenching her fingers and toes.  She will be three months on July 25th and weighs about 5.8 kg (12 lbs, 12 oz.).  She smiled and cooed as long as we didn't try to pick her up.  Then suddenly she got tired and it was nap time.  Tania bundled her tight, rolled her on her side and she went to sleep

Our little Dasha
 Tomorrow night I catch the Monday 1:00 am train to Kyiv and a 10:00 flight to Athens.  I will be there two weeks on a project. I got my documents the other day including one for a car rental.  Heart attack time.  I am supposed to drive from the airport in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece across Chalkidiki peninsula??  And read Greek road signs??  I emailed that I hoped they had good insurance and learned that no, the translator would meet me in at the airport and do the driving.  OK, I can breath now...

Monday morning, Andrei will drive Tania, Lina and Masha to Kyrylivka south of Melitopol on the Azov Sea for 9 days.  The sea is relatively shallow, warm and beaches are sandy.  Great for kids.

Tanya and I are going back to Greece in Sept for two weeks and friends from Saskatchewan are joining us.  We will be staying in Athens and looking forward to exploring a new country. Tanya thinks we should rent a car...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Love and Marriage; Part Two

Too much truth in this story.

There was a group of women at a seminar on how to live in a loving relationship with your husband.
The women were asked, "How many of you love your husbands?" 
All the women raised their hands. 
Then they were asked, "When was the last time you told your husband you loved him?"
Some women answered today, some yesterday, some didn't remember. 
The women were then told to take their phones and send the following text: "I love you, sweetheart." 
Then the women were told to exchange phones and read the responding text messages. 

Here are some of the replies:
1. Who is this?
2. Eh, mother of my children, are you sick?
3. I love you too.
4. What now? Did you crash the car again?
5. I don't understand what you mean?
6. What did you do now?
7. ?!?
8. Don't beat about the bush, just tell me how much you need?
9. Am I dreaming?
10. If you don't tell me who this message is actually for, someone will die.
11. I thought we agreed we would not drink during the day.
12. Your mother is coming to stay, isn't she??

Monday, July 15, 2013

Software things NOT to do: Delta Search

Some days, I am dumber than two sacks of hammers.  Today being one of those days.  Being a sucker for freeware I clicked on something I shouldn't have ought to clicked on.  Downloaded it and installed it to see what it did.  It was a PDF manager or some useless thing.

Actually I was trying to download a PDF file from a site that said I needed this first.  I trust everybody and when Winnie Mandela emails or Skypes me to help her get $47 million safely out of South Africa I am going to help her.

The program didn't amount to anything so I quickly uninstalled it but when I went to Google Chrome I found myself taken over by Delta Search which had been packaged with it.  I am too quick on the "next" button and don't read the fine print in the software licence agreement.  Or even read it at all. The Software Licence Agreement and The Bible have in common that people really don't read it, they just scroll to the bottom and click "I accept".

Delta Search is a phoney search engine that brings up fake results, directing you to websites you do not wish to visit so they can sell you something you do not wish to buy.  I went to Google Desktop (yes, I still use it) and used it to search the internet.

Learned a few more things there too.  

Do all the usual on Chrome first:

  • Go to Customize and Control, 
  • First, Tools, Extensions and remove anything that looks like Delta search - it may have other names.
  • Then Settings, On Startup Open specific pages - open and delete Delta anything
  • Also on Settings, Appearance Show Home Button change - delete anything Delta
  • Also on Settings, Search - reset default then open Manage Search Engines and delete anything that looks like Delta.
  • Close and reopen Chrome.  You MAY have solved your problem...or not.

If not:
Download adwcleaner and run it (Search then Delete), then run Malware Bytes Anti-Malware which you can get for free and should have on your computer anyhow. I have the Pro version which costs but has saved me many times.

That should solve your problem BUT be careful.  If you Google "uninstall Delta Search", some of the sites that will come up are also fakes and while they will tell you the above they will then suggest downloading and running something like SpyHunter or SpyWare Doctor which will "identify" all sorts of stuff on your computer and make you buy it to get rid of it.  I read several different pages of instructions before I did anything and lucked out because two of the first links I opened were fakes promoting the two Spy programs.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

In Praise of a Good Product

Disclaimer:  No one is paying me for this though they certainly ought to!

I have a consulting project in Greece, much of which will be done online or by pouring through documents provided by the client or others.  Most of these documents are in Greek, which as William Shakespeare noted, are Greek to me.

Translation is a big problem.  If I have no idea what the document says, I do not know if it is important enough to have it translated, so I need something quick and dirty.  Google Translate works well enough to get the gist of it, though of course agricultural terms are not well translated in many (most) cases.  And it does some languages better than others.

Working with Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish or German documents has not been a problem to date.  Whether the document was in Word, Excel or PDF format, normally, I could cut and paste enough into Google Translate. But it would not work for Greek, pasting from a PDF into GT or into Word.  Some letters came out as little boxes other letters were misread and replaced with a wrong letter, sometimes from another alphabet.  I had all the right fonts but...  Panic.

Kostas and Chrisa are the two people the client has assigned to work with me and emails have been going back and forth since July 1. Three days ago, Chrisa suggested ABBYY FineReader.  What a life saver!

I have used other OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software in the past but  nothing that worked on other than English.  FineReader works in 24 languages and it LOVES Greek.  I can load an 18 page Greek PDF document and in a couple of minutes I have a perfect replica Word Document, complete with pictures, tables, everything. Load that into Google Translate and ipso-presto, it is fully translated for a quick read (but needs a great deal of formatting cleanup to be passable as a document).

Interface Languages
Sometimes a PDF is not created in scannable format or the information might be in image format. No problem. FineReader just read a photo I took in 2007 of a descriptive sign at a 15th century castle in Crimea.  The sign was in Russian but in a minute I had a reasonable English translation.  Good for labeling pictures of the castle to put on-line.  (Someday).

I knew about ABBYY long ago but didn't know they were into OCR.  To me they are Dictionaries.  I have a Russian-Ukrainian-English digital dictionary I bought in 2008 but they have been around for much longer than that and have many languages in some of their dictionaries.

FineReader is an excellent purchase if you do any amount of document scanning and need it in clear clean type face, whether to read in Google Translate or simply to save as  a document.  It works great!!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Divide and Conquer: The History of White Privilege.

This is a superb 10 minute presentation of how our skin colour got to be more important than our economic situation.

Guest post: And then its head popped off

Post authored by my daughter May-B once writer of Buggering Crap Monkies

I often come upon adventure when I take my dog, Monty, for a walk.  You would think we would avoid getting into trouble on one of the three routes we take daily, but more often than not, that isn't the case.  There was the time a pack of dogs left their yard and circled Monty doing nothing to him while he screamed as though being murdered.  There was the time he chased a small car into a snow bank and then looked back to me as though he had caught me a great prize.  He weighs 18 lbs, but he gets me into more trouble than most full grown people I know.

But I digress.  This tale is not about Monty, although he was present, it's about another animal. A bird.

A bird I had to kill.

Monty and I were on our walk, minding our own business (as we do), when a City truck drove by.  I thought nothing of it and carried on my way until the truck slammed on his brakes and swerved to the side.  I turned to look and saw a small bird lay on the road.  The two had obviously collided leaving a clear winner.

A middle aged man stepped out of the truck with panic on his face.  He looked like a 70s hippy throw-back with long silver hair and handlebar mustache.  He warily approached the bird and explained he had tried to avoid her, but the bird had swooped right into his tires. 

She was a small robin with a mottled brown chest and a badly damaged lower half.  She breathed heavily, gasping for air, as she lay dying in front of us.  The city worker's eyes began to mist and a single tear rolled down his cheek as he offered to take her to the Humane Society for help.  I assured him it was too late for that.  She was in her last moments. 

The man was overwrought and stood dumbfounded at the little life ending in front of him.  He looked to me for guidance and I found myself offering to take care of her.  To end her suffering so as to end his.  He agreed to hold Monty's leash (thank God the dog had not decided to be brave and eat the poor bird.  I think that would have been the end of the man altogether.)

I had two waste bags in my pocket for the dog and used them because I'd always been told birds carry disease.  I contemplated the fact I had no idea if this was true, but I wasn't taking the chance.  I draped one bag over her body and one over her head.  I picked her up gently and decided the most humane thing was to break her neck.

Being a city girl, I have never done this before. I assumed it would be simple.

I gently twisted.  And twisted.  And twisted.  The bird's head just kept turning while she just kept living. 

I started to panic. Not only was I not helping to end the bird's suffering, I was just torturing the poor thing.  

I was about to give up when I pulled out instead of twisted.

POP! The head came clear off the bird. 

I quickly put the bags back together so the tormented man wouldn't see the mess I made and ran to the garbage bin a block away to disperse of the corpse I had mutilated.  I returned, assured the man it all went well and was not his fault, and walked as fast as I could away from the dump site.

I immediately messaged my sisters to tell them of the horror.  They assured me I was a hero, despite the decapitation.

Next up, chickens.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Once Parted, Now Departed

Went for a haircut today.  While not ready for a comb-over by any stretch, I have to admit, I have not seen a stand that thin since the Drought of '61.

I have the same amount of hair but when you get old it grows out of your nose and ears. As Jeff Foxworthy (or possibly Dave Barry?) noted, "Pull on a nose hair and you can watch a guy's hairline recede".

Yulia has been cutting my hair for over 6 years.  She is a very nice lady and I quite like her.  She is closer to 60 than 50, barely able to see over the top of my head when I am sitting in her chair, but VERY meticulous. I tell her "Kak vsigda" (like always) and end up with a perfectly coiffed Yanukovych haircut.  It could be worse, I suppose; a Donald Trump haircut.

The hair salon is located on the second floor of an older Soviet style strip mall called Devyatka (9), anchored by a grocery store where we sometimes shop.  I think it must be a cooperative of some kind as there doesn't appear to be an owner per se.  There are private beauty salons, as Tanya has had manicures/pedicures from two of them but you can always tell who is the owner/boss.

There is a partition down the middle with five work stations on each side.  One side is men's haircuts, the other, women's. My Tanya's hairdresser, another Tanya, is on the end, just around the corner from Yulia so the three of them can converse while we are getting our haircuts and Tanya can approve Yulia's handiwork

Last time I got a haircut in Canada, it was $25 plus a $5 tip.  And a good haircut it was, too. Yulia charges me $5 (40 UAH) so I give her a $5 tip too.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Elections Do Not Make Democracy

Excerpted from the article of the same name in The Globalist.

"Free and fair elections are a necessary, but not sufficient condition of democracy.

  • First, a society must have in place or intend to build institutions that allow its citizens on a daily basis to participate in all aspects of the political process.
  • Second, a democratic society must guarantee that all people are equal before the law. That, in turn, demands an independent and apolitical judiciary.
  • Third, a true democracy acknowledges and respects all cultural, ethnic or religious differences that may exist within its borders.
  • Fourth, freedom of opinion without fearing repercussions from those who have been elected is also critical.

Of course, there is also the true purpose of government, i.e. to do its best to sustainably, responsibly and transparently serve the people in an effort to improve their standards of living in an equitable manner.

In other words, holding elections in a democratic void can easily lead to outcomes that might in the end undermine the goal of achieving democracy itself".

If those who wish to increase democracy in the world would concentrate on those issues instead of elections, democracy might stand a chance.  There are a lot of countries where voting takes place but there is no democracy.  Even the USSR had elections.

And simply winning a majority does not give licence to do as one pleases until the next election (Canada's Harper notwithstanding).  Nor does "one MAN, one vote, once", the so-called Islamist democracy take the wishes and needs of the people into account.

Democracy, government of, by and for, requires that the people participate.  Things get done by those who show up and if "the People" don't "show up", are happy to be ignorant, ill-informed, mis-informed or down right lied to, then the government will serve other than the people.

Religion makes it even worse. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Computer Cat Works for NSA

This was not the post I intended to write today, nor do I want to turn this into a cat blog,

At night if I can't sleep, I will sometimes go upstairs and sit at the computer for an hour or two.  Tigritsa will often come upstairs looking for me and either watch me play cards or walk on the keyboard till I pick her up and hold her.

Hacker spy cat
Last night I guess Tigritsa couldn't sleep.  At about 4:00 am. Tanya woke me out a dead sleep because my computer was making very strange sounds and she could hear voices speaking English. I went upstairs and found Tigritsa on my keyboard having a great time.

The screen was a mess of open dialogue boxes "Are you sure you want to delete this folder?" and open programs including Windows Explorer, hence the voices from a video.  Everything on the screen was distorted. Took awhile to regain control and close it down completely.

Outlook, Chrome and Skype had been all shut down before I went to bed as I was running a backup to my external HD.  Thankfully that was finished before the cat got in the act.  If things have been deleted, I haven't noticed yet.

What I did notice was software installed that I didn't recall, asking me to register and backup my computer for free.  When I tried to uninstall it, my anti-spyware went ballistic.  Spent the morning cleaning up my HD of unwanted trojans and cookies.

I wish she would just eat the butter on the table at night like her brother.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Kitten Kuteness Kontinues

Cutsie titles like that make me want to stick my fingers down my throat.  I only did it in case there are others like me out there and I could annoy them.

The kittens are now 17 weeks old and still give us lots of smiles.  They have stopped sleeping on our feet and now sleep on top of the wardrobe, at least until they get cold.

It was pouring rain this morning but they wanted to go outside until they were outside then they didn't.  We were upstairs on the computers so they climbed the grapevine to the balcony and two very wet and bedraggled kitties meowed at the balcony screen door to be let in.  We took pity on them.

Several weeks ago, I bought them little ping pong ball cat toys with rattles inside which they played with until they lost them all. so I bought them little soft sponge golf ball toys.  They love these and only yesterday did they finally disappear though they will likely turn up.

Tigritsa claimed the yellow one as hers and Bonya was left with the pink one.  She would growl ferociously when she was worrying it.  She walked past my chair carrying it and I reached down and touched her so she growled at me too.  She carried it around with her for days, took it outside, brought it to bed and all.

The other morning I found the yellow ball in the dry food dish and the pink ball in the canned food dish. They had put their toys away when they were done with them. Didn't get a picture and they didn't do it again.

Sunday, Vladik and I were sitting on one couch and Raia and Tanya on the other, visiting.  Vladik had been petting the kittens earlier but they got bored and left.  Then they decided they needed a nap and came back, and without so much as a by-your-leave, hopped up on his lap, curled up and went to sleep.  Raia does not like cats so I told Vladik he could come and play with the kittens anytime he wanted. That got a chuckle from him.

Side story about their five-year-old granddaughter, Sonja.  Her parents are renovating their flat so they sent Sonja to visit them for two weeks.  Then she went to Azov Sea with her other grandmother.  Raia said she slept for three days.  Vladik had taken Sonja to buy new shoes.  When they got home she said to her grandfather, "You know, I don't think I have a simple dress to wear with these new shoes".  They learn fast.

Being good for a change.

So you want a Christian government?

Juan Cole: How Egypt’s Michele Bachmann Became President and Plunged the Country Into Chaos - Juan Cole's Columns - Truthdig

Monday, July 1, 2013

Remembering Roman

Today, July 1, is the six month anniversary of Roman's death. Yesterday we had a family dinner in remembrance.  Tanya and Lina cooked everything up on Saturday night so it was just a matter of finishing Sunday morning.

The two of them got up early and went up to the cemetery, put fresh flowers on the grave and pulled weeds and grass around.  At 12:00 we sat down to dinner.  Tanya and I, Lina, Raia and Vladik (Roman's aunt and uncle), Andrei, Tania, Masha and Dasha too.  I was so happy that Andrei and family came as it was the first time they had been to our home since Roman died.

Dasha was good as could be; mostly she ate and slept but when she was awake she was all smiles and waving arms and legs.  I did have to smile as she is at just over two months the same weight as my son was at birth (4.65 kg, 10.25 lbs) but she is growing like a weed.  Her mother keeps her well fed.

It was a hard day for Lina and for Andrei, too.  They spent a lot of time together and walked up to the cemetery by themselves for an hour.  I was glad of that.

The only thing that could have made the day more perfect would have been if Roman could have been there. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Nuremberg Principles

The Nuremberg principles were a set of guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime. The document was created by the International Law Commission of the United Nations to codify the legal principles underlying the Nuremberg Trials of Naziparty members following World War II. (Wiki)

Principle IV

Main article: Superior Orders

Principle IV states: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him".
This principle could be paraphrased as follows: "It is not an acceptable excuse to say 'I was just following my superior's orders'".
Previous to the time of the Nuremberg Trials, this excuse was known in common parlance as "Superior Orders". After the prominent, high profile event of the Nuremberg Trials, that excuse is now referred to by many as "Nuremberg Defense". In recent times, a third term, "lawful orders" has become common parlance for some people. All three terms are in use today, and they all have slightly different nuances of meaning, depending on the context in which they are used.
The Nuremberg Principles are used by the winners to condemn the losers.  They are certainly NEVER applied by a regime in dealing with its own people.  The regime defines who are heroes and who are traitors, not "the people" and in most cases either the people support the regime or are coerced into doing so. Hence the fact that Bradley Manning is not allowed to use Principle IV in his defence (or the First Amendment or practically anything else from what I can gather). Julian Assange and Edward Snowden will spend their lives in hiding or in prison. History may consider them heroes but the American Empire never will.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Catching Up is Hard to Do

It has been a while since I posted anything or read my blog list.  Maybe two weeks?  So today was catch up day on reading and am maybe half done.

Dad and Daughter
My daughter Ky was here for 10 full days, arriving on Saturday June 8 and leaving Thursday June 20.  We had a wonderful visit.  We did nothing but be - in the same room, or the same house or the same yard or on the same dog-walk.

She was exhausted and slept a great deal, which she needed.  Being in the 5th year of a PhD program (Victorian Literature) at University of Victoria, BC  is a pretty heavy schedule, working on her dissertation, teaching an upper level English class each semester and speaking at three major conferences since January pretty much wore her out. This last conference was in Venice which is why she came to visit.  Rome Kyiv return was pretty cheap.

The conferences are sort of marketing tools for would be academics as they are attended by fairly senior people in the field, sort of like major league scouts, I guess. We put her on the train to Kyiv Wednesday evening June 20th to catch her 5:30 am flight to Rome.

Masha, Dasha and Andrei
If you are interested all of Ky's pictures from her time in Ukraine are posted HERE on Flikr

While Ky was here we did go to visit my newest Step-granddaughter Dasha who is two months old now.  She was for her monthly check up and has gained 1 kg each months so is doing quite good.

Masha stayed with us for a few days while Ky was here.  She had a cold and her mom didn't want Dasha to catch it.  She left the same time as Ky so it seemed pretty quiet for a few days.

Once Ky was gone, I gritted my teeth and finished a report I had been working on for some time.  A feasibility study on growing stinging nettles for fibre.  Nettles are a very ancient fibre crop in northern Europe, eventually replaced by hemp and flax, then imported cotton fibre. Stinging nettle also has a great many uses in cosmetics, herbal nutrition, folk medicine and actual medicine.  You can look it up. It is good for everything except emergency toilet paper.

That finished, I am ready to start another project in Greece for the  same parent company I do work for in Turkey.  That should take me the summer, some of it in Greece, even.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Two (Possibly Related) Stories

Diane Henders confessed to accidentally entertaining a passing driver by pole dancing in her garden.  I should love to run into the motorist and get his side of the story.

It reminded me of two stories from a summer of long long ago, one of which I can verify as I was there and the other which was related to me some years later by someone with absolutely no connection to or knowledge of the first story.

1. In the town in which we were living at the time, lived a store manager with a wife and two daughters ages 6 and 8, a purple station wagon and a new tent trailer which he was hopelessly inept at backing up.  They went on holidays to the mountains.

2. In a campground in the mountains that same summer, a purple station wagon pulling a tent trailer managed to back it into a campsite after a great deal of difficulty.  Two young girls got out and were sent off to play while the couple set up the tent trailer and disappeared inside.  The tent trailer proceeded to rock and roll.  Being improperly set, the one end collapsed spilling the naked couple out on the ground. The door being locked the only way back in was the way they came out.

In five minutes they were dressed, the tent trailer folded down, the girls retrieved from the playground and the purple station wagon disappeared never to be seen again in that campground.

Random coincidence?  We'll never know.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Love and Marriage - Serious Feedback Requested

This blog post has been years in the making.  The trigger was a couple of posts on FB a few weeks ago.

I am in incurable romantic.  I love to hear about how people met and fell in love.  News of 60th wedding anniversaries make me happy; 65ths even happier and that chinese couple celebrating 88 years together made my day.  I hate to hear of people splitting up; it makes me sad that everyone cannot live happily ever after.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

This may rank in the top five classic openings and has given rise to the Anna Karenina Principle, which according to Wiki, describes an endeavor in which a deficiency in any one of a number of factors dooms it to failure. Consequently, a successful endeavor (subject to this principle) is one where every possible deficiency has been avoided.

Considering that half of all marriages end in divorce (30% of all first marriages), it is certain that avoiding deficiencies is no easy task but I am not convinced of the veracity of the first half of the statement.  I think all happy families are just as different from each other as unhappy families are from each other.  They have simply learned to avoid or overcome to a greater or lesser degree the deficiencies which otherwise would have split them apart.

Can marriages be fitted to a standard distribution curve?  Most measurable traits of living organisms are not simply + or _, 0 or 1, on or off.  They are variable and distribute themselves around a mean, tapering off to extremes on either side. 

Standard distribution around the mean
 So can we take surviving marriages and rank them according to happiness and will they look like this? Keep in mind that NO ONE can judge a marriage from the outside nor can one partner really speak for the other.  We become very good at hiding, at covering up, at making it work.

A bad marriage to me is where one or both partners are unhappy but they are "making it work"; "staying together for the children".  It has been my observation that it is usually the woman who has to make it work, possibly because she sees no other options open to her. I am open to discussion on this.

Which brings me to my questions. What is an average marriage? What is a good marriage?  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Calculating the net worth of the humanities

From an article in the Victoria Times Colonist by Lisa Surridge, Professor of English and Timothy Iles, Professor of Pacific and Asian studies in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Victoria.  Lisa Surridge is also my daughter's PhD supervisor.  I hope I am not in too much trouble for reprinting it here without permission.

Thousands of delegates to the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences have descended upon the University of Victoria this week from across the country and, indeed, around the world. There could be nothing better for the local economy: eight days of meetings, hundreds of hotel rooms booked, thousands of meals eaten, a plethora of taxis taken.
Are those 7,000 humanists and social scientists good for anything else?
In this time of budget cuts and bottom lines, of temporary foreign workers, one of the recurring, popular diversions from issues of governmental accountability is the increasingly virulent attack on the liberal arts in the media, typically phrased in the form of the question, “How will studying that get you a job?”
Should these scholars pack up their books, their words, their debates, and apply themselves to something useful, such as welding, dental hygiene or designing bridges?
The humanities represent a fundamental component of a university, a fundamental component of a vital democracy, a fundamental reaffirmation of the value of each and every individual to the totality of the human experience. If we believe that each individual deserves an opportunity to learn, grow, contribute, discover his or her own path to a responsible place in the human community, we inherently recognize the value of the humanities.
If we find the interaction between art and its time — as a critique, comment, reflection, acceptance or denial of ideology — fascinating and necessary, we recognize the beauty of the humanities. If we question the relationship between the past and the future, if we look to that relationship to guide social progress, we recognize the indisputable necessity of history, of philosophy, of religious studies. If we value the power of language to change lives — private and public, individual and international — we realize the value of linguistics, of literature, of film and of drama.
The humanities disciplines understand that each person, as an individual and as a member of thriving communities, represents more than mere data for experimentation to prove or disprove a theory; more than a mere consumer to whom a corporation will market its goods; more than a mere ledger item to be minimized, downsized or economized.
If we value democracy, if we want to live in a society where we can question our leaders and their integrity to govern, we need people who can wield words, arguments, enter debates, measure and test ideas. We need people who are trained to think critically and who are unafraid to speak out. We need the products of the humanities and social sciences, guardians of ideas and wielders of words.
In 1852, John Henry Newman rose to defend the very idea of a university against the charge of inutility. His detractors, he said, insisted that education should be “useful.” They demanded what was the “market worth” of a liberal education, “if it does not at once make this man a lawyer, that an engineer, and that a surgeon; or at least if it does not lead to discoveries in chemistry, astronomy, geology, magnetism, and science of every kind?”
Sound familiar?
Newman’s answer is as valuable today as it was more than 100 years ago: “Society itself requires some other contribution from each individual, besides the particular duties of [a] profession.” In Newman’s view, training the intellect — the training provided by the liberal arts — best enabled people meet that duty.
In 2013, we don’t often talk about social duty. Duty is a word that we utter with a sense of awkwardness, as previous generations might have whispered about sex or divorce.
But we in the humanities believe in the social duty that we owe to our nation and to the globe. We have a duty to speak freely. We have a duty to question. We have a duty to defend right where it is weakest and to unearth wrongdoing where it is most silent and unspoken.
And that duty is best met by people whose minds have been forged by university training in the liberal arts and social sciences — by those who have studied human history, human ideas, human societies and human foibles.
We are the humanities — the humanity that is, unalterably, the foundation upon which, for which, and by which the global community survives.
So bring on the congress. It’s worth more than tourist dollars to our city. It’s worth the world.
© Copyright 2013