Saturday, March 28, 2015

I visit the doctor

I have been feeling po'rly these past couple of weeks.  Nothing specific, just sort of bleah.  Which partly accounts for my lack of blogging.  Stress from putting together my tax documents to send my accountant didn't help, nor did 6 mugs of strong coffee per day.  My taxes were not that difficult, it was just I was missing two receipts which I tried to download, one thing leading to another and Murphy was at his finest.

So last Friday Tanya took my blood pressure which was 160/85.  This is apparently not good. Since her blood pressure can go up and down like a toilet seat at a party, she had an ample supply of meds and gave me one of her "bring the pressure down quick" tablets.  Woke up next morning feeling much improved.

And drank only tea all day.  Did I mention that I can drink tea but no matter what you do with it it still tastes like tea.  I like Earl Grey sometimes but as Marx allegedly said "All proper tea is theft". for the next two days I allowed myself one cup of (instant) coffee.  BP 140/80.

Since I had not been to the doctor for a check-up for some time (like a long time), Tanya went to town Wednesday and got an appointment for Thursday, beginning at 8:00 am.  I was to take a specimen*, supplying my own jar.  I wanted to take a three litre jar but Tanya did not think they would see the humour.

This was no simple physical exam.  My doctor, Sergei Valentinovich, whom I knew from a previous problem, is a good guy and very thorough.  Tanya went with me to translate and more importantly to show me how to get to the different places.  It is not one stop shopping.  First I went to the old hospital which is many buildings on one campus, reeking for former Soviet times and a complete lack of maintenance since.  Much of it has been closed down and patients forced to travel to Dnipropetrovsk.

The Polyclinic waiting room was actually a hallway, freshly painted, clean and bright.  Tanya was given a list of stuff to buy from the dispensary.  First stop was for blood samples.  None of this vacuum tube stuff, it was an old fashioned syringe and dispensed into proper test tubes with  white-glued labels hand written on scraps of paper. BP 110/70.  YESSS!!!!

Next stop we walked over to the Cardio building for an ECG.  I lay down on what looked like the Bed of Procrustes but left in five minutes with my printout which was normal, no problems, according to the tech.  It was now  9:00 am.  Sergei Valentinovich was busy until 12:00 noon so we went for breakfast and I had two cups of coffee to celebrate

We were to meet him across the street from the old hospital at a new private clinic which looked much like any Canadian doctors' office.  While we waited they took more blood samples for tests that the old clinic couldn't do.  Complete with vacuum tubes and a band-aid over the puncture would when we were done.  Then Doc Sergei looked at my innards with a new and fancy ultrasound machine.  Non-invasive, thankfully.  I have experienced the other (and no, they didn't find my head up there then either).

Then the three of us walked back to his office in the old polyclinic for some meds which I am to take for a month then go back and see him.  My father in the last yers of his life took an eggcup full of pills every morning. None of them were real pharmaceuticals and all were self prescribed.  At the moment I am taking only one real med which I have for years but am almost up to half an eggcup full of other stuff that is supposed to be good for my aging plumbing and I doubt it will do me any harm.. It is all "herbal" which Europeans are much more fond of than North Americans.  but Then Europeans go to spas to "take the waters".

Post script: My results came back Friday for the first blood work.  For all those where low is good, I was very low and for everything else, in the middle of the pack.

Water is essential for life.  You can't make coffee (or whisky) without it.

* Lena comes home from the doctors and says to Ollie, "The doctor says I am to bring him a speciment but I don't know vot it means".  Ollie says, "Ask Mrs Svenson next door".  Lena says "I hate that woman.  We cannot get along".  Ollie says, "Just be polite and ask".  Ten minutes later, Lena comes home with a black eye, and clothes torn, looking like she had been in a brawl.  "Vot hoppened?", says Ollie. "Vell, I do yust like you said.  I said 'Mrs Svenson, please, vot doss it mean ven the doctor asks for a specimen?' She says 'Ach, go pee in a bottle' unt I said 'Go poop in your hat' and the fight was on".

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Nemtsov's Murder and Putin's Disappearance

Putin has not been seen in public for 10 days now and the rumour mills are happier than a kid in a candy store. He is dead,deposed, ill, stroke, face lift, in Switzerland for the birth of his girlfriend's baby, watching reruns on TV.  The Kremlin is trying to hold the fort, claiming everything is OK but Putin has a serious meeting Monday in St Petersburg and if he doesn't show, there will be some 'splainin' to do.  It didn't help that the minutes of the meeting were accidentally read on Friday's news cast.

If this were a planned absence the Kremlin would have had a few TV-casts of meetings organized and released to look as though they were current, so it makes me wonder.

The connection to Nevtsov's murder is this:
Police arrest several people, all Chechens.  Surprise, surprise, surprise! One suspect "blows himself up with a grenade".  He may have been arrested before or more likely killed so as not to ruin the story.  One of the suspects confesses that he did it because of Nemstov's support for Charlie Hebdo.  Right!  But he is visited in prison by two human rights activists (What?  Surely you jest?  Don't call me Shirley) and recants his confession claiming torture, with visible marks to prove it.

Kadyrov, Putin's warlord of Chechnya, says the "confessed killer" is a hero, a true patriot and a dedicated Islamist. His mother says he had no interest in religion whatsoever. Kadyrov and his merry band of thugs are untouchable in Putin's Russia, even in Moscow and go around offing people Kadyrov doesn't like, including in foreign countries.

The FSB and Kadyrov are full court press enemies.  It would seem that the FSB not only know who the killer is but also have proof as to who ordered it.  Putin is between a rock and a hard place.  If he backs Kadyrov, the siloviki will take him out.  If he backs the siloviki, he loses face as his main claim to fame has been bringing "stability" to Chechnya via his man Kadyrov. So he may be simply lying low waiting to see who comes out on top or ...

For a good explanation of how palace coups occurred in Soviet Russia Cheryl Rofer has a great article here about the death of Stalin and the arrest of Beria.

If Putin is dead or overthrown, do NOT expect some miraculous turnaround in Russia's conduct either internally or externally.  It may even get worse.

Friday, March 13, 2015

But I've been to Oklahoma

Hanging Volk's bedding out on the fence to air in the sun caused it to cloud up and rain starting noon yesterday so I put it back in his house.  It rained all night.  Tanya and I took the 7:00 am bus to Dnipropetrovsk this morning and it rained all day.  We got home at 6:00 pm and it is still raining. Winter crops look good.  Now we need heat.

I had not been outside Zhovti Vody since I got back from Canada last fall and had not been to Dnipro since a year ago when we picked up Tanya's UK visa to go to London to visit the Queen...of Sarcasm. (Actually her older sister is the Queen of Sarcasm; youngest is the Undisputed Empress of the Universe of Sarcasm).  Tanya has been to Dnipro and P'yatikhatki several times on business, related to renewing our house documents but I begged off.

No longer having a car has saved us a lot of money, even with taxis.  It cost us $2 USD to come back from the bus depot tonight.  Bus fare to Dnipro was 75 UAH, a bit over $3 USD.  Same price as when I moved here and it was only 16 UAH.  However instead of 18 passenger mini-buses running every 20 minutes, they use 36 and 48 passenger buses running every 30 minutes to one hour, depending on time of day.

There are fewer cars on the streets in Dnipro then when I was there last time.  Gasoline is 21 UAH/litre, less than a Dollar but cash is hard to come by.  Lots of SALE signs in all the stores on Karl Marx (the main drag). TGI Fridays/Il Patio restaurants have closed, so no steak or Jack Daniel's ribs for me.  We went to McDonald's and ate well for $10 or 220 UAH.  Used to be 85 UAH and still $10 a couple years ago.

How do the people of Ukraine survive? They have no FX to backstop them.

We went to Dnipro to pay for our 8 day trip to Barcelona and apply for Tanya's Schengen visa.  We leave April 25th, return May 2nd and will stay at a small resort hotel (breakfast and supper incl.) about one hour and a half from the city.  Cost $1100 USD.  We will buy day tours once we get there.  We looked at Italy (too expensive) and Portugal (another time). Now to do our homework and learn about the area.  There is a Dali gallery and a Picasso gallery on our list already.

This is cutting it a bit fine as my "new" Canadian passport expires Nov 12th 2015 and of course one needs six clear months on one's passport.  I had forgotten it was due to expire this year.  Where did five years go so fast?

Window display in a shoe store - needs caption

Thursday, March 5, 2015

International Women's Day and Other Happening Things

March 8 is International Women's Day.  In this part of the world it is bigger than Valentine's Day which is a rather Johnny-come-lately import.  In this most misogynist of all cultures, IWD celebrates "traditional values of feminism".  In other words, flowers, chocolates, jewelry, dinners...

Today I went for a haircut and wanted to take Yulia flowers.  Three days early.  Lina had us in kinks laughing, when I announced that at the supper table a few days ago. According to her, if you buy a woman flowers two days before "Vosmoia Marta", she is your Mistress; one day before, your colleague; on the day of, your beloved; and if you forget totally, your wife.

We were on Skype with Tanya's sister today.  Valarie is threatening to buy Luda an ironing board for IWD.  She has needed a new one for months and months and keeps putting it off until "next time".

Two days ago it was so cold, windy and rainy all I wanted to do was curl up in bed for the day and keep warm.  I offered Tanya 100 hrivna if she would go out and feed Volk.  She said she would give me 200 if I did it myself.  (I should have offered her 500.  1000 hrivna would pay for lunch on Sunday).  So today I claimed the 200 and gave it to Yulia in lieu of flowers for my 50 hrivna haircut.

We have reservations for 8 for 1:00 pm at Sweet House on Sunday for lunch. The whole famn damly, including Baba Natasha.  My treat, along with flowers for everyone. Andrei is supposed to come but if he doesn't Masha can bring one of her friends.  But apparently not her friend Sonja as they aren't friends anymore; they have been fighting.  Eleven year old girls!!!

Sveta has adopted Kashtanka, the small red female dog I had hoped would be a companion for Volk.  She is only a year old but was already someone's house pet and is well trained.  She and Murashka, Sveta's cat, love each other, play together, sleep together (on top of Sveta) and it just isn't fair to put her outside.

There has been a very thin stray female that showed up from time to time and which we fed whenever she was around.  If I could gain her confidence, I had hopes she would stay.
She disappeared for several days then showed up with all her friends in tow.  They come around the yard every day and bark at Volk.  I would love to let him run but am not sure when I would see him again.

The cats come in from outside about 11:00 pm, just before we go to bed.  They retire to our bed to sleep for (most of) the night.  But first they have to clean the mud out of their feet.  On our bed.  Tanya put a throw blanket down at the foot of the bed, which we gather and shake every morning. Works good.

Bonya and Tigritsa share a chair

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

More on Nemtsov and other stuff

Putin’s War and the Murder of Boris Nemtsov

On the day after Nemtsov’s murder, the photograph of him lying gunned down on the bridge ran on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, right above a story explaining that the US is limiting the spy-satellite intelligence it provides Ukraine to avoid provoking Russia, and that the Obama administration also remains deeply divided over granting lethal aid a year after it was requested by Kyiv. 

The contrast between the horror in Moscow and the dysfunction in Washington is revealing and also very disconcerting. The image from the bridge radiates globally because Russia under Putin is a danger not only to Ukraine but to Europe, the US, and the entire international order. The refusal to provide meaningful aid to Ukraine, a country that is fighting for its freedom and territorial integrity against this danger, will only invite more Russian aggression, and it will not end with Ukraine. This is a lesson that has had to be learned too many times in history, and we need to learn it again—quickly—before much more harm is done.

Boris Nemtsov, 1959–2015

Whoever pulled the trigger—the collective trigger was pulled by all those, from television propagandists to Vladimir Putin himself, who over the last several years, and especially after the beginning of the war with Ukraine, sponsored a campaign of hatred, intimidation, and aggression against those they labeled “national traitors” and “the fifth column”—Russian democrats and all those who opposed Putin and his policies. Just days ago, pro-Kremlin organizations staged a hate-filled rally in downtown Moscow, openly calling for “cleansing” Russia from “the fifth column.” The placards they carried had the picture of Boris Nemtsov.

State television channels that hounded and slandered Nemtsov until the very last day of his life—the latest episode purporting to show his “links with the West” was scheduled to be broadcast on NTV on March 1st—have immediately changed their tune, claiming that the opposition leader was “insignificant” and “no threat” to Putin. “An average citizen,” Putin’s official spokesman quipped.

Stalin’s Caucasus crimes Putin wants you to forget

Despite claims that USSR embraced Internationalism, in reality nationality and ethnicity always mattered. It didn’t matter that many Kalmyks, Tatars or Chechens had fought in the Red Army too, in the words of Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Stalin “certainly carried all the traditional Georgian prejudices against the Muslim peoples of the Caucasus whom he was to deport.” And that’s not only true for the peoples of the Caucasus. Throughout his reign as ruler of the USSR, Stalin absorbed Russian nationalism and by doing so absorbed all the traditional hatreds and prejudices against other peoples that went along with it.

The deportation of the Chechen and Ingush peoples was part of Stalin’s great deportation plan of ethnic minorities in the USSR:
·         900,000 Soviet Germans, 89,000 Finns deported in 1941 & 1942
·         69,267 Karachais deported to Central Asia 19 Nov 1943
·         91,919 Kalmyks deported to Siberia 28–29 Dec 1943
·         478,479 Chechen and Ingush peoples deported to Siberia on 23 Feb 1944
·         37,107 Balkars deported to Kazakstan on 8–9 Mar 1944
·         180,014 Crimean Tatars deported to Uzbekistan on 18–20 Mar 1944
·         91,095 Meshketian Turks deported from Soviet Georgia later in 1944 

These crimes against humanity form yet another stain against the former USSR and its predecessor, the Tsarist Russian Empire, both of whom today’s Russian leader Vladimir Putin expressly admires. Against this background, it is unsurprising, then, that Putin has continued the legacy of repressive measures regarding any attempt at commemorating these historic events.

The Absurd World of Russian Public Opinion

The overwhelming majority of Russians believe that the West attacked Russia in Ukraine and not that Russia seized part of Ukraine's territory and is now actively helping separatists in eastern Ukraine with regular army soldiers, volunteers and heavy weapons.

They believe not that the Ukrainian people ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych because of his unparalleled theft and lies, but that the United States and CIA agents overthrew him by using Maidan as a tool for replacing the pro-Russian regime in Kiev with an anti-Russian "junta."

Most Russians believe that this country's economic problems are not the fault of the Russian authorities, their corrupt and monopolistic policies, their seizures of private property and practice of corporate raids or their policy of high and ever-rising costs for business, but stem from the machinations of the West, which dreams only of how it can destroy Russia.

In one kindergarten in the Moscow area, a teacher painted this picture of the world for her five-year-old wards. "The Ukrainians wanted to live with Russia, but the Americans wanted the Ukrainians to live with them. The Americans bomb Ukrainian cities. But don't be afraid. The Russian army is stronger than everyone and will save us from the Americans. Our president is good. He stands for peace. He sends weapons to the separatists and we will win soon. After that, one little boy cried out, "Hurray! It's world war! We'll beat everybody!"

Russian soldier fighting in Ukraine is proud of Putin for deceiving the world

A common misperception in the West is a somewhat naïve expectation that Russian people would rebel, if they only knew that Putin is covertly sending soldiers to fight and die in another sovereign country. The fact is, many of them already know. Blinded by shameless Russian propaganda, they don’t mind the fact that their government is obfuscating the facts and lying to the world. To the contrary, they’re proud of their fibbing President. In their imagination, inflamed by Russian mainstream media, the end justifies the means. They don’t mind it when lies are spouted from the Kremlin, because many Russians see themselves at war with the West. “The information war” is therefore part of this one-sided grandstanding, where anything goes. Believing Putin’s lie about “NATO legions” in Ukraine, many Russians are content to believe that their military battalions are waging battle against these imaginary Western opponents. What they fail to realize is that while Putin is lying to the world, he is also lying to the Russians.

Russian mainstream media and the country’s leading propagandists (designated as so-called “guardians” of the establishment) callously disseminate images of dead and injured children in the Middle East, passing them off as casualties of the Ukrainian military. They show off images of Russia’s brutalities in Chechnya, representing them as Ukraine’s alleged slaughter of its own civilians. They ludicrously exclaim that Ukrainian armed forces are “crucifying children and forcing their mothers to watch.” Quite simply, Russia lies to everyone. These falsehoods affect the country’s citizens in the most profound way: by convincing them to give up their very lives for the sake of defeating their alleged arch-nemesis. Instead of the phantom “NATO legions,” they savagely attack Ukrainian military and civilians on Ukrainian soil. As Slavoj Žižek once said, “[T]he horror of Communism, Stalinism, is not that bad people do bad things — they always do. It's that good people do horrible things, thinking they are doing something great."

The story of a Russian soldier’s war in Ukraine: “We all knew what we had to do and what could happen”

This is a long interview with a badly injured Russian soldier, A Buryat from Ulaan Ude in the Far East.  He describes his recruitment, training, the steps taken to hide the fact there are regular Russian soldiers in Ukraine and the battle in which he was injured.

We found Radio Sputnik. And there was a debate, if there were soldiers here in Ukraine. And all the guests were like, “No-no-no!” And here’s our company, like, yeah, right. Well, who would admit it openly? Our government does realize it has to help, but officially sending the troops in would rile up Europe and NATO. However, you do realize NATO is also in it, sure, they are sending them weapons.

Ukraine Live Day 378: Severely Injured Russian Soldier Describes Deployment to Ukraine

This is a detailed military analysis of the above interview and the link is a good source of day to day reporting on the war in Ukraine.

The soldier sustained severe burns after ammunition went off inside his tank, causing a fire.  He was evacuated in an APC and was taken first to Gorlovka, and from there to Donetsk, where he is now in a burns unit in the region's central hospital. He hopes to return to Russia soon.

Batomunkuev makes no secret of his identity. He is a soldier in the 5th independent tank brigade (based in Ulan-Ude). He was conscripted on November 25, 2013 and signed a three-year military service contract (enabling him to be deployed outside his region) on June 2014.

Before leaving for Rostov, back in Ulan-Ude, the unit had painted over their tanks, covering numbers and unit markings. All insignia patches were removed when they arrived at their camp. Passports were left at their home base.

On leaving the camp, they were told to hand over mobile phones and documentation. It appears the Russian military is attempting to clamp down on potentially revealing photos and reports appearing on social media, or for bodies to be found with identifiable documents.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Nemtsov Remembrance March in Moscow

The Anti-Putin march which Nemtsov was organizing for today, March 1, went ahead only it was a remembrance march for Nemtsov instead.  As many as 70,000 people showed up.  The official police count was 16,000 so it was at least 4X that.  I remember from the marches in Washington DC against the Vietnam War (which I observed as as student from a very safe distance).  If 100,000 people showed up the MSM were instructed to report 10,000 based on official Whitehouse estimates.

Estimating a crowd is actually quite simple if you have detailed information ahead of time of areas where the crowd will assemble eg length and width of bridge (or the park in front of the White House where the Washington Monument is where people gathered for Obama's swearing in). An estimate of how much of the area is actually occupied is multiplied by so many people per square meter/yard, which doesn't change that much, I guess.

70,000 is not very many but considering the atmosphere in which they are marching, they are extremely brave.  Did you see the photos of the crowd from Obama's inauguration in 2009?  The quality of the photographs was such that you could expand to identify any person anywhere in the crowd. A program to match against photos on social media would give you the names of most of them, I expect.  The photos of the crowds at William and Kate's wedding were in the same detail and I found my daughter in the crowd. (OK, my cousin found her).  So you can figure that everyone of those 70,000 people will be on record with the FSB.

Photos from Konstantine Maslov 

Nemstov's girlfriend who was with him when he was assassinated is being held in Moscow pending investigation.  She is not under arrest but neither can she leave to return to Ukraine of which country she is a citizen.

No violence reported that I could find.  There were a number of arrests.  Anyone with a Ukrainian flag or a Free Savchencko sign of any kind were arrested.  Ukrainian Deputy Alexei Goncharenko was arrested for wearing a Nemstov t-shirt.  Russia may charge him with murder in connection with the May 2014 fire in the Trade Union Centre in Odessa.  There are several Ukrainians held in Russia under various excuses.  Savchenko and Goncharenko are the highest profile.

Gonchenko likely had as much to do with the fire in Odessa as Savchenko had to do with the deaths of two Russian journalists but that is irrelevant.  "Russian justice" involves picking a victim, picking a crime to charge them with, and manufacturing evidence as necessary. It doesn't have to be even the least bit credible as the verdict will be written in the Kremlin, possibly even before the trial and handed to the judge to read.