Thursday, February 28, 2013

If Wishes Were Horses

We all wish for stuff.  Aladdin's magic lamp and all that.  Birthday candles.  Wells and pools.  Or just plain dreaming.  But do we ever wonder how the wishes might come true? Or what might happen if they did?  We just sort of expect the wish to come true as we think it should but if it were simply fulfilled to the letter of the spoken wish, there are any number of options.  And if we did win the lottery what effect would it have on our lives?

I have not seen a study on the after effects of winning big but have read that the winners usually end up broke soon after or in worse financial straits than they were.  This isn't a problem with people who already have money but it certainly is for us blue collar types.

I have heard many people describe what they would do with BIG money; 10, 20, 40 million.  It was all a list of conspicuous consumption articles, houses and trips. Unless they were farmers.  Then they would just pay their debts and buy a hamburger with the change. But no one talks about investing, charity or family.

Or weight loss - I wished I could lose 50 ugly pounds and my kids told me to cut off my head.  I get no respect.  But think of it this way - you want to lose 30 lbs?  How much of one leg would you have to lose in an accident to equal 30 pounds?

Any of my readers who are either short story fans or horror story fans or both will no doubt have read "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs.  Written in 1902, it is the classic tale of wishes come true.

"It had a spell put on it by an old fakir," said the sergeant-major, "a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people's lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it." *** "The first man had his three wishes, yes," was the reply. "I don't know what the first two were, but the third was for death. That's how I got the paw."

Keep on wishing but best not hope for them to come true. They might.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dollars to Doughnuts

There is always one smart ass in the crowd who likes to spoil things. My blog from a couple days ago elicited a response i didn't expect.  This morning I had an email waiting from Dr Dave Christensen with a link to a claim that the picture on the 1954 Canadian $1 dollar bill was actually from Alberta.  I should have known he would find something.  I wrote some time ago "Dave doesn't solve problems; that is what grad students are for. His job is to give them problems.  I know this".

Here is what the link had to say:

Bluesky is in the Peace River Country of north western Alberta just north of the banks of the Burnt River, NW of Edmonton. The scene on the back of the old (1954) Canadian dollar bill is of Bluesky. For those unfamiliar with the back of the old Canadian $1 bill, the scene illustrated is taken from a few miles east of Bluesky looking west towards Fairview on NO.2 highway. The elevators at the end of the dirt road stand out silhouetted against the western skyline with a dark cloud hanging over a typical Peace River sunset.

Albertans would claim that Christ and eleven of the twelve apostles were from Alberta; (Judas being from Ontario), so the notion they would try to claim the Saskatchewan prairie dollar is quite in keeping with their provincial character.

I tracked down the author; no easy task as the website had no contact information and emailed him to provide documentation for his claim.  I also asked “Saskatchewan Farmboy” for documentation that in fact the picture was of Fleming and old Number 1 Highway.  Him I heard back from, twice already with the following two links.

Wikipedia identifies it as “Saskatchewan prairie”, original source being The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Government Paper Money, Tenth Edition, p.206, edited by W.K. Cross, The Charlton Press, Toronto, ON, 1997, ISBN 0-88968-190-2.

The late Ron Petrie, wrote the following column for the April 25, 2011 Leader Post:
For an entire generation of Saskatchewan children, the green dollar bill with its backside depiction of a storm brewing over prairie landscape was wealth itself, enough money on a Saturday afternoon for a three bottles of pop, seven licorice whips, two bags of Cheezies and a stomach ache (plus bonus agony, if dad didn't believe that you spent the buck at the barbershop, as instructed, for touch-up on the old buzzcut).

Never has one image of Saskatchewan been more widely viewed by the rest of Canada than that panoramic view on the back of the dollar. Nor has any banknote been the subject of more urban legend.

On all denominations in the 1954 issue, squinting Canadians swore that in the curled hair above the left ear in the portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth II, they could make out the ghostly countenance of the devil himself. Story had it that the man who engraved the banknote's plate was a mischievous anti-monarchist from Quebec.

Nonsense, according the Bank of Canada. Also without any proof are the stubborn claims by dozens of towns in Saskatchewan that their community was the one depicted on bill's distant horizon, at the vanishing point of a dirt road and telephone poles.

The village was a creation of the artist's imagination, says the bank. To this day, however, the one community that most adamantly claims ownership is also one of my favorite towns, Fleming. Patrons of the historic Windsor Hotel beverage room say they can even prove Fleming was in front of the artist's easel, with simple a test: if you step out the hotel's front door, gaze straight east while holding the old dollar bill at eye level, and then wave frantically, in the bill you'll spot your own self waving back. (The test is also useful in determining whether you're OK to drive home from the Windsor.)

I’ll go with Fleming. Wiki can be questioned but not Ron Petrie.

Update Feb 27, 2013:  I heard back from Ralf Brooks who assured me his claim was correct, based on that most accurate of prairie sources:  legend, hearsay and tradition and besides "some of his family were there".  Many thanks, Ralf, and I look forward to what you learn from Senator Jean Leo Cote's book.  I shall do a blog post about your father soon too, if you don't mind.

Update August 2019: That the picture of the elevator on the 1954 dollar bill is of the Fleming elevator is confirmed:

Email dated Monday, August 19, 2019 7:14 AM

The town featured on the $1 bill is Fleming Saskatchewan which is located on the Manitoba border.
The town was famous for its iconic grain elevator, visible on the bill, which sadly burned down in 2010.

Scott Thomas
Visitor Services Coordinator | Coordonnateur des services aux visiteurs
Bank of Canada Museum | Musée de la Banque du Canada

Tel./Tél. : (613) 782-8914
30 rue Bank Street, Ottawa (ON) K1A 0G9 |

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Remembering the Farm: Prairie Elevators - the Sequal

In July last year I blogged about the old wooden grain elevators that dotted the prairie of my youth. My lead was the 1954 Canadian $1 bill, the back of which pictured a gravel road with elevators in the background.

Canadian 1954 $1 bill
To my delight, this morning I got an email with pictures from "Saskatchewan Farmboy" with information about the picture on the dollar.  He sent me some references and I found a couple more.

Hi, I stumbled across your blog about the grain elevators on the back of the 1954 $1. The town is Fleming, SK and that gravel road is actually the #1 highway. One of the elevators was one of the first built in Canada by "Lake of the Woods Milling Company". Up until a couple years ago it was the oldest standing elevator in the country. If I remember correctly, it was built in 1895. My Great, Great Grandfather, Great Grandfather, Grandfather, and Father all hauled grain there. (My family has been here since 1871). Eventually there was a fourth elevator built in the line-up but it was after the photo was used for the back of the $1
Picture from kenoradave (see below)
Picture from Saskatchewan Farmboy

 I'm not sure when Saskatchewan Wheat Pool took it over but they had it before UGG. When United Grain Growers took her over, they used it for fertilizer storage. There's a photo taken of a Super B grain semi unloading in the driveway of this elevator......both ends of the unit were hanging out each side, looked like a giant snake but the old wooden scale was still strong enough to hold about 64,000 kgs!!

Picture from Saskatchewan Farmboy.  Prior to renovation

Picture from Canada's Historic Places (see below)
It was deemed a national historic site in 2008 and the community was in the process of restoring the old girl for tourism (top pictures). With only a few months left to go before she would open for its first visitors, vandals set her on fire and it burnt to the groundThree young men were caught, charged, and convicted for the death of our historic elevator.
Picture from Saskatchewan Farm Boy
A part of our countries history was lost forever that night. It was one of the few that had been saved from the wrecking crews.

Back in the day, the town of Fleming was being considered for the capital of Canada, it was a boom town. A water supply issue and a fire made sure it never would see that glory. Now the population is less than 80 and the only business left is the hotel/bar which my Great Great Grandpa built. 

November 28, 2009, This elevator is one of the last vestiges of the old Lake of the Woods Milling Company. At one time the company flour mill in Keewatin, Ontario was the largest in the world. The flour mill burned in the sixties and that was the end of it. There are still a few of the old mill buildings remaining in Keewatin. No idea why this elevator is still standing. 
March 6, 2011, Seems I managed to grab this shot just in time. The elevator that stood like a monument alongside the TransCanada Highway in Saskatchewan burned down three months after I took the picture. I miss it every time we drive by. With the Lake of the Woods flour mill gone and now this elevator there won't be much evidence left of that part of our history.

More information besides the following paragraph is available at Canada's Historic Places.
Fleming Lake of the Woods Grain Elevator National Historic Site of Canada is a wooden, hipped roof grain elevator, located along the Trans-Canada Highway, five kilometres west of the Manitoba border. It is situated south of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) mainline, between the highway and the community of Fleming, Saskatchewan. This National Historic Site was demolished by fire in February 2010. The formal recognition consists of the grain elevator and a small area of surrounding property.

Friday, February 22, 2013

More Quotations from my Email signatures

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” ~  Herm Albright

A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him. ~ David Brink

“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone. ~ Edith Cavell, nurse and humanitarian (1865-1915)

"I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative.” ~ John Stuart Mill

Every man is a damned fool for at least five minutes every day. Wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit. ~ Elbert Hubbard, author, editor, printer (1856-1915)

"You will find when you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love." ~ Henry Drummond (1851-1897):

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” ~ Derek Bok

"The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before." ~ Albert Einstein

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

"The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity." ~ André Gide

“With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” ~ Steven Weinberg

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." ~ Groucho Marx

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” ~ Ernest Hemmingway

“Change your opinions, keep to your principals. Change your leaves, keep intact your roots”. ~ Victor Hugo

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." ~ Thomas Jefferson

Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too. ~ Marcus Aurelius

“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority.
The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority.
The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.” ~ A.A. Milne

“A quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself.” ~ Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

“My country right or wrong,” G.K. Chesterton once wrote, is on the same level as “My mother, drunk or sober.”

The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise. ~ Alden Nowlan, poet, novelist, and playwright (1933-1983)

“The public will believe anything, so long as it is not founded on truth”. ~ Dame Edith Sitwell

“I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it”. ~ Dame Edith Sitwell, English biographer, critic, novelist, & poet (1887 - 1964)

"When men can speak in liberty, you can bet they won’t act," ~ Charles Ingersoll to Alexis de Tocqueville

“A man may be very industrious, and yet not spend his time well. There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of life getting his living”. ~ Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

When our parents were first driven out of Paradise, Adam is believed to have said to Eve “My dear, we live in an age of transition" ~ W.R. Inge, Dean of St Paul’s.

Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold. ~ Leo Tolstoy, novelist and philosopher (1828-1910)

Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry. ~ Mark Twain

"Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good." ~ H. L. Mencken

This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel. ~ Horace Walpole

The whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and in a thousand things well. ~ Horace Walpole

Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. ~ William Arthur Ward, college administrator, writer (1921-1994)

You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you. ~ John Wooden, 1910-2010, Basketball coach

The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team. ~ John Wooden 1910-2010 Basketball coach

We stand today at a crossroads: One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other leads to total extinction. Let us hope we have the wisdom to make the right choice. ~ Woody Allen

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why Am I Here?

Why am I here?  This question is quite multi-purpose and depends on the context, really, to come up with an answer.

Usually, I ask this of myself when I go to the internet to look for something, forget what it was, spend my time looking for something else, close Chrome and realize I didn't do what I had set out to do.  Also a useful question when I go down to the root cellar or to the next floor/room.  By the time I get there I cannot remember what I went for.

Why am I here (in Ukraine)?  That can be answered in two ways. The immediate short term answer is simple.  The long term answer is complicated but I can trace all the major decisions and events in my life that eventually ended up taking me to Ukraine; beginning at age 12 when I decided I wanted a university education and career in beef cattle.

There was certainly no long term planning involved through most of it. When I came to a fork in the road I took it. (Yogi Berra gave excellent advice).  There was always a bit of Contrarian in the decision as to which fork I took; whenever possible opting for "the road less traveled by".  (Robert Frost gave good advice, too). Sitting in one spot, surrounded by a picket fence and watching the world go by might be fine for my grave site, but not for me.

And of course, many things are decided by events we have no control over.  Like Ella's death from Cancer. These events provide another "fork in the road".

Why am I here (on this Earth)?  Now THAT question is a route to guaranteed madness if you try to make sense of it.

From an evolutionary standpoint, I am here to pass on my genetics and if possible hang around long enough to ensure that they are passed on yet again. (I may have to live forever at that rate).  Once that is accomplished, as others have pointed out, evolution is done with me and I am on my own.

Religions have evolved over the years around stories made up to explain questions that were/are otherwise impossible to answer: why did the crops fail, where did the stars come from, why are we here,  what happens when we die?   People like to have answers, reasons; it is a coping mechanism.

"Science", which to be honest with you, seems like it has become just another religion, has answers to many of the previously unanswerables but it doesn't really give us a purpose (other than passing on our genetics) nor answer what happens when we die. People have their own theories about both.  The science crowd say we are here because of an evolutionary accident and when we die we just disappear into the entropy of space.  Not very inspiring, considering the stuff we have to put up with in the time we are here.

The religion crowd have built whole empires on earthly purpose and the after-life, mainly for the benefit of the power elite when you examine it closely.  Pie in the sky by and by (Thank you, Joe Hill).  Not very inspiring either.  The truth is we do not know and can never know.  Until after we are dead but no one has come back to tell us.  Maybe they like it there and don't want a crowd?

So how then should we live our lives?  The Hypocritical oath (sorry, Doc) is a good place to start "First off, do NO harm".  Leave the world no worse than we found it and a little better if possible.  Help our fellow humans (and non humans) find a little "pie" here on earth while they live.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

'What gender is 'computer'?'

This has been around before but still good for a chuckle or three.

A SPANISH Teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine. 'House' for instance, is feminine: 'la casa', while 'Pencil is masculine: 'el lapiz.'
A student asked, 'What gender is 'computer'?'

Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether computer' should be a masculine or a feminine noun. Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation.

The men's group decided that 'computer' should definitely be of the feminine gender ('la computadora'), because:
1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;
2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;
3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later retrieval; and
4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

The women's group, however, concluded that computers should be Masculine ('el computador'), because:
1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;
2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;
3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and
4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.

The women won. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sweet Fanny Adams, Square Root of

Roast beef, mashed potatoes, carrots and a green salad for supper.  The roast even had sufficient redness in parts to appeal to me and grayness in other parts to appeal to Lina and Tanya.  I like it badly wounded; they like it long dead. One needed ones own teeth to eat it but it was still beef. And it was good!

Beef in Ukraine has traditionally been a by-product of the dairy industry since time began.  I think today there are all of 30 thousand beef cattle in Ukraine.  Much of the beef is eaten ground as cutleta (hamburger cutlets) or pelmeni (ravioli).  There is no grading system so you pays your money and takes your chances.  It might be "youthful" intact males (under four years of age) or aged cow, no longer useful for milking.

Not only is there no grading system, there is no real established feedlot system though there are a few modern feedlots using North American technology.  Their beef goes mainly to the HRI trade and upper end retail chains, I think.

Since there is no feedlot system as such, there is really no pricing system other than the live slaughter price paid by the abattoirs.  If they pay $1.00 per kg live then any animal large or small sells for $1.00 per kg.  Successful feedlots buy the calves as young as possible, under a week, then raise them like dairy calves until they can go to pasture or go to the drylot.  If they buy them much older, their growth will be so stunted from poor nutrition that they will never be profitable.

We pay about $5 per kg for ground beef.  it is so LEAN that it is mixed with ground pork to make cutleta so you can actually eat it.   We pay about $7.50 for roasts or steaks of indeterminate carcass location origin, age, and tenderness.

Since getting back from Kyiv, I have done the Square Root of Sweet Fanny Adams.  Wrote up my notes from meetings, thought about the proposal and took naps between trying to catch up on blogs.  It feels good to relax.  Still some serious stuff to sort out, more on that later, but for the moment I am relaxing.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Kuchma Kot and Krasotka Koshka

Lina moved in with us after Roman died and will stay until she feels able to face the empty flat again.  She has her best friend from childhood visiting her this week and they have been staying at the apartment together so that is good.

When Lina moved here she brought Roman's cat. Krasotka (Babe) is a very pretty one year old female with soft silky black fur which she keeps very clean.  We have had quite a few smiles watching this young cat adjust to our house and to Kuchma and watching Kuchma adjust to another cat and a female at that. When one or the other had been outside and came in, they would run up to each other, touch noses and then she would bat him upside of the head.

At first they squabbled, then they mated and now they ignore each other.  She will have kittens in mid March sometime of which we will keep one, maybe two.

Because the apartment was ground floor, she entered and exited through their kitchen window, sitting on the ledge until it was safe to jump down or until Roman opened the window to let her in.  She is not fussy about using our front door to go in and out, preferring that we open the living room window so she can enter and exit as she is used to.  She bangs on the window to be let in.

Kuchma comes home after hours away all dirty and ragged looking; Krasotka comes home as clean as when she left.  Including feet.  One day she banged on the window to be let in, then ran and used her litter box.  House trained!

She is the most curious little critter especially when it comes to shelves.  She climbs up on the book shelves, climbs into and empties the shelves in the closet. She loves to sit on things and look. Like Tanya's desk or the coffee table or the kitchen counter.  Actually she likes to sleep on the kitchen counter as it is right over the radiators and nice and warm.  She will climb on my knee at meal time and sit.  If Lina isn't here she will jump onto the table and park her butt on Lina's place mat and watch us eat.

She likes to play but has no one to play with.  Kuchma does NOT play.  One day, the two of them were sleeping on the divan in the front entry.  Kuchma's tail would twitch and she would grab it.  Finally she dragged it into her mouth and chewed on it.  Kuchma woke up and stalked off.

Friday, February 15, 2013

To Kyiv and Back

There is an apple crisp in the oven so I have a few minutes to blog.  Even with a sore thumb.  Put a razor edge on the paring knife to slice the apples and sliced my thumb instead.  Wondered why the apples were so red.  Anyhow...

Went to Kyiv for a couple days.  Everyone was in the city at once so it was well worth my time going up.  The days were a bit longer than calculated though.  It was my first time outside the city limits of Zhovti Vody since we got back from Turkey in early October.  Things change.  Like rail schedules.  The express doesn't stop at the little siding anymore so the nearest station is over an hour away.  The night trains still stop so it was leave on the 12:30 am train and arriving back at 5:00 am.  My 39 hour trip morphed into a 53 hour trip with two nights on the train.

Met over breakfast with a prof from Ag Economics College of Agriculture and Bioresources, U of Saskatchewan.  A number of universities were meeting with Ukrainian universities looking at potential cooperation. May be some potential to link U of S with another large Ag university.  I hope so.  Don't get me started on the state of university education and scientific research in this country.

Then met our friend,  Lera (Valerie) for lunch, after which we went to an Agricultural Exhibition clear across town.  I had a meeting there for 3:00 pm with a client and Lera volunteered to interpret for me.  We had worked together several times over the years on STEP projects.  Lera is still in project management but "misses agriculture".

At the "InterAgro GrainExpo" several Saskatchewan companies were there with STEP in a Canada area.  Some companies I knew and three people so it was nice to visit with them for a bit.  The owners of one company turned out to be neighbours of people I knew well from Saskatchewan so we had a great visit.  You never know who you will run into.  When I first stopped at the booth and spoke to the lady, she was quite surprised that I spoke English so well, so I played that gag for a few minutes.

The meeting with potential clients went very well.  My friend Vlad and his partner Oksana had organized it as they were clients of his company.  It was nice to talk beef cattle production for a change.  They asked for a proposal so that is progress.  They are also frustrated enough with how badly things are going that they are willing to listen which will also help.  Cattle production in Ukraine tends to follow the old Soviet Collective Farm model which was based on dual purpose cattle and extremely high input costs.  Breaking that mindset will be the key.

Once that was over, I met an old friend, John Jackson, out of Kansas whose consulting firm has an office in the city that he has to visit several times a year.  I had supper with John and his business associate Hriday Gupta from Nepal and crashed on their couch for the night - which lasted to noon the next day.  Guess I was tired.

In the after noon I went back to the Ag show just to see what was happening, then has a long supper visit with John and Hriday again and caught the 11:00 pm train for home.  Got to the house at 6:00, had a shower and a bowl of hot Borshch and slept to 1:00 pm.  Guess I am not as young as I once was.  Trains and I are not as comfortable together as we were.

It was nice to relax.  I have been glued to my computer since November 1 on two projects plus all the stress of January (more on that later) so this weekend I am relaxing by working on the proposal for the beef client.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The 40th Day

Tomorrow is the 40th day since Roman died.  As I understand it the Orthodox believe that the soul enters Heaven after 40 days of judgment.  One thing certain, if you look at the number of 40s in the Bible, there are quite a few, so presumably it has some significance.  It has been a long 40 days, I can tell you and not much to smile about.

Roman's wife, Lina has been staying here until she feels up to facing the empty apartment.  She is like a daughter to both of us so she can stay as long as she wants. She brought her (well, Roman's) year old female cat which has given us some smiles and I will write about Krasotka another time.  Lina walks to work in the morning and takes a taxi home in the evening.

Prayers for the dead which is basically the funeral service were held on the third day (Holy Trinity) after death, January 3 (counting the day of death as Day 1) .  Roman is buried a short two blocks from our place in the cemetery where I take the dogs for walks.

Prayers were held again on Day 9 (Hierarchy - 9 layers of angels arranged in stacks of three for the Trinity again) which was January 9, and we had a family lunch at our home for about 15 people.

Tomorrow, prayers will be held again.  We could attend the prayers but won't.   We will have a lunch at a restaurant for about 20 invited people, mostly family.  Our friend Galina, came from Moscow on the overnight train and arrived mid morning.  Tanya's niece Sveta arrived tonight from Dnipropetrovs'k in time for a late supper.  Both of them are the kind of people one cannot be around without smiling so it is nice to have them here.  It was so funny - when Sveta walked in the door, the noise level went up about 5X.  She and Galina egg each other on.

I have not felt like writing so didn't.  Or reading, so I didn't.  Thanks to one of my faithful readers for leaving a comment somewhere tonight and giving me the spark to write.  I was planning on starting again after the 40 days, so this will give you notice, I will be back on this blog and back commenting on yours shortly.