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.

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 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.