Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I am so loved. My own workshop!

Tanya is never idle, as those of you who read my blog may have gathered.  She has a huge flower garden, a big kitchen garden which take a lot of her time.  She is also chief cook (I an chief bottle washer).  Only she can maneuver our way through the endless bureaucracy that is life in Ukraine.  Yesterday she was two hours in P'yatikhatki, dropping off my passport.  They had forgotten to tell her she needed to make a second payment at the bank which took an hour in line, then another hour to persuade them to give her a document indicating that they had my passport.

Yet she is never too busy to get or to give a kiss or a hug or a pat on the arm.  And at night when she snuggles up to me and puts her arm over me and hugs me, I feel so very loved.

Tanya has also been busy since May 2014 with contractors doing work on our house and yard. I posted a few days ago about our new fence. She enjoys this so much, she should have been in house construction.  Seriously.  I call her Генерална Контрактовна, General Contractor (pun intended). Our garage was filled with stuff with no where to put it.  The walls and ceiling were black with exhaust smoke from the old Lada and the single bulb hanging from a cord in the middle of the ceiling illuminated nothing. This spring she had Zhenia clean it up and paint the walls white, install a ceiling and real lights.  He with another man helping (he doesn't try to do everything by himself since his heart attack) just built me a workbench and shelving so now I have a real workshop.

Tanya bought the wood to build it.  I knew she bought it but thought she would just buy the rough cut green lumber from the little mill two blocks away.  The stuff I built Volk's doghouse from last fall - which now has a half inch gap between all the boards.  I could have lived with that easy enough. But no, she wanted it nice for me and bought kiln-dried dimension lumber for framing and planed tongue and groove 30 mm or 1 1/4"  flooring for shelves and bench top. Flooring is the only planed lumber available in Zhovti Vody.  I nearly cried when I realized what she had done.  I am so loved.

And you have no idea how much I love her.

Four meters of shelving and bench

Workbench and shelving for tools and small stuff

Shelving for big stuff

Ceiling with lights

Looking out the garage door

Breaker panel. We have 1 km of wiring in our home

Door into the house

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I had one once, but the wheels fell off

Tanya and I went to Dnipropetrovsk today.  We had a number of things to do so bought tickets for the 6:00 am bus.  Tanya made arrangements for a taxi for 5:30 so we would have enough time. The taxi was 15 minutes late.  Tanya had already chewed Dispatch a new one and lit into the young driver on the way.  He was breaking every speed law trying to get us there on time and taking "shortcuts".  In a 90 degree world, there are no shortcuts.  There are routes with fewer holes but he wasn't taking those.  About two blocks from the bus depot, his back wheel came off and passed us on the road.

We paid him off and started walking.  Tanya phoned Dispatch to phone the bus depot to hold the bus.  She did and they did.  We left at 6:05. Lina had been in Dnipro since Monday so we met her for late breakfast at about 10:00.  Then we had a long coffee with our friend Natalia whom we had not seen for quite some time.  She travels the world on business and has a daughter in University between Warsaw and Amsterdam so we were fortunate to find her in the city.

We met Lina for lunch at an Azeri restaurant about 1:00 pm.  The food was Ukrainian but the desserts were Azeri, Turkish, Iranian and Arabic.  We brought home a bag of Baklava. I wanted 3 kilograms but no such luck.

At 3:00 we went to the Police Station to get my clearance certificate saying I had been a good boy since moving to Ukraine.  My two almost speeding tickets from years back didn't show up.  The officers had settled out of court for small unmarked bills, thanks to Tanya's negotiating skills.  We will take this new document to P'yatikhatki on Tuesday.  That will allow them to complete the document set I need to take to Immigration in Dnipro to get a stamp on the back page of my passport to match my Permanent Residency card.

Poor Sveta walked to our place (she LOVES to walk anyhow) to look after our critters only to find Tanya had forgotten to leave her a house key.  She got lucky actually.  Tanya spent all yesterday afternoon cooking and the sink was full of dirty dishes and pots.  They are my morning job while coffee brews and Sveta does not have to do them but if there is work to be done she cannot leave it alone.

Bonya was not so lucky.  He wanted into the house as we were leaving.  We thought fine, Sveta can let him out when she gets there.  He was all day in the house with no litter box. When he heard us at the door at 6:30 pm, he was down the stairs in a flash and went by us at the speed of light out into the garden.  How he could run so fast with his legs crossed is beyond me.

We always made fun of Grandma L for stuff in her medicine cupboard that was YEARS past the expiry date.  I posted on Facebook a while back that my Vicks Vap-o-Rub was 16 (now 17) years past expiry which beat Grandma's record.  My Desenex foot powder must be 20 years out of date as the active ingredient quit working finally this week. Tanya bought me some new stuff called Lamikon.  The active ingredient is turbinafine 1%.  This is just so I can work in a line about Miss Grey Cup with athlete's fetus in case there is someone living who hasn't heard the  joke before.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Gallipoli Campaign – April 25, 1915 to January 9, 1916

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign.  What you know of Gallipoli, or if you have even heard of it, will depend more on where you are from than anything else. If Canada became a nation under the baptism of fire on Vimy Ridge in April 1917, Australia and New Zealand came of age on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 and Turkish, as opposed to Ottoman, nationalism was given a huge boost.

Mostly when we think of WWI, we think of trench warfare in Belgium and France.  But it was truly fought all over Europe on several fronts.  The Ottoman Empire, reeling and bankrupt from disastrous wars in the Balkans from 1911 to 1913, was neutral.  The navy was initially pro-British and the army, under Minister of War Enver Pasha, was pro-German, dreaming of restoring lost territory and lost glory. 

Britain had seized two British-built battleships, which had been bought and paid for by Turkey.  The Germans, anxious to have an ally in Eastern Europe and the Middle East offered two ships in return.  The Goeben and the Breslau eluded a ham-fisted British naval attempt to intercept them (a great story in itself) and reached Constantinople.  They were “turned over” to the Ottoman navy but kept their German crews and commanders. In November 1914, they entered the Black Sea under Turkish flags and shelled Odessa, Sevastopol, and Nikolayev.  Russia promptly declared war on Turkey and the Black Sea was closed to Allied ships trying to supply the Russian Army.

In February and March 1915, the British and French navies tried to force their way through the Dardanelles to Constantinople.  The narrow channel was well defended by shore batteries and “The Narrows” was heavily mined, causing the loss of three British ships.  Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, put forward a scheme to land Allied troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula and wrest control of the shore batteries and The Narrows, which would effectively take Turkey out of the war. 

A basic map of the Gallipoli Peninsula, showing landing areas 

The links on the maps below take you to pages which will blow up quite large on your screen and provide a pretty good idea of the action timelines and the terrain.
The campaign was doomed from the start.  British military intelligence, that oxymoron to end all oxymorons, was thin on the ground.  They did not know the geography of the area and badly underestimated the fighting abilities of the Turkish Army.  Like a great deal of Turkey, the area was mountainous and the Turks held the high ground. They were ably led by Mustafa Kemal who is better known to the world today as Kemal Ataturk, the Father of all Turks.

The landings took place beginning April 25th. The British and French landed on Cape Hellas, the southern tip of the peninsula, under heavy fire.  The ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) landed farther up the western coast at Gaba Tepe (in what is now referred to as ANZAC Cove), with the intent of catching the Turkish Army between the two forces.  Except they landed two miles off from where they were supposed to, in impossibly difficult terrain and were slaughtered as they came ashore.  Both armies fought to establish beachheads and held on under constant bombardment.

In spite of best efforts on both sides, neither could dislodge the other.  Stalemate and trench warfare developed similar to that in France.  An August offensive gained some ground at great cost in casualties on both sides. On September 20th, another offensive was launched, this time with British Troops, including 1074 members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment landing in Suvla Bay to assist the ANZACS. This offensive, which was Newfoundland’s introduction to the war, also failed.

The decision was made to withdraw and on December 7 the troops began to be taken off and by January 9, 1916 the last one embarked for home.  Of 480,000 Allied troops, there were 250,000 casualties including 48,000 killed. This does not count those struck down by dysentery from the heat and unsanitary conditions.  The Turks also counted 250,000 casualties of which 65,000 were killed.

Churchill, whose brainchild this was, resigned and took a commission on the battlefield in France. 

Australia and New Zealand celebrate ANZAC Day April 25 as we celebrate Armastice Day Nov 11th. 

In 1934 Atatürk wrote a tribute to the Anzacs killed at Gallipoli:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives ... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours ... You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
Kemal Atatürk Memorial, Anzac Parade, Canberra, Australia
A detailed write up of the campaign can be found on Wikipedia here and on here. The Australian story can be found here, here and here. The New Zealand Story can be found here. The Turkish side of the story here.

The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, the ballad of an Australian soldier at Gallipoli is one of the saddest anti-war songs ever written.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fence Me In or Of Fences and Flowers

We got about 15 mm rain yesterday and last night which was so needed to fill to corn and sunflower.  And to rejuvenate Tanya's flowers.  It has been so hot and dry, they have not looked their best.  Already this afternoon, they are perking up.  Tanya has been cleaning up the spring and summer flowers so there are bare patches.  Even the gladiolas are finished.  Roses are making a comeback and this rain will sure help.

Front left, when facing the street

Front right when facing the street

Side garden looking west

Side garden looking east

The real reason though for not posting pictures was to hide the latest project at our home. We now have a new front fence and gates.  This was a great deal of work and took several weeks.  Our contractor Zhenia put up the fence around our kitchen garden last spring all by himself because he needed the money.  He didn't need a heart attack but he got that anyhow and could not work for several months.  When he came back, he brought his father and two young men with him which we were glad to see. He also had a professional welder helping to make our gates, though he is a good welder himself.

The fence is made up of pre-cast concrete slabs with a pattern on one side.  They slide into grooves on concrete posts.  We also have a new sidewalk along our front fence.  At first Tanya was going to make it into flower beds then decided she did not need any more space for flowers.

Our new front fence, left facing the house

Our new front fence right facing the house

Our new sidewalk and gate along the front of the house

Our new front gate

Custom built gates - buy the fancy stuff and weld it together

The inside of the fence is relatively smooth.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Elizabeth May and Gold Mining in Greece

In a previous post I stated that Elizabeth May, head of Canada’s Green Party and Niki Ashton, NDP MP, had gone to Greece in 2013 and bad mouthed a Canadian mining company on behalf of anti-mining groups.  The article on Elizabeth May’s website describing the situation was full of lies and less-than-half truths. Having said that, I owe it to folks who are not familiar with the gold mining industry or with Greece to clarify why it is so.

The Canadian mining company is Eldorado Gold ( I will deal with Perama Hill first.  Three lines of lies, innuendo and bullshit, five paragraphs to refute. It is so easy to be anti anything.  You don't need facts or references, just write what sells and let others try to refute it if they can.

Perama Hill will require the crushing of one million tonnes of rock in an open-pit mine (an average of 20 tonnes must be crushed for one gold ring about 1/3 of an ounce.) This rock will then be sprayed with cyanide, which often seeps into the water table. Local mayors in the region oppose this project.

Perama Hill is located about 30 km NW of Alexandropoulos in rough country, mostly maquis and grazing land with agricultural land farther north (see link for pictures). The immediate area around the mine is relatively poor with few economic opportunities outside of small subsistence farms.  The ore body, located on top of a rocky knoll (altitude 250 meters) is small and relatively rich at between 3.13 and 3.46 grams of gold per tonne of ore. The open pit mine would eventually be 640 meters by 340 meters by 125 meters deep and contains about 11.7 million tonnes of ore.  The entire operation, pit, crusher, buildings, leach pile, tailings and overburden, everything, would cover less than 60 ha.

A Troy ounce of gold contains 31.1 grams.  A standard wedding ring 70 cm in diameter by 1mm thick and 3 mm wide would contain about 4 grams of 24 carat gold. So a ring of 1/3 of a Troy ounce (at 3.46 grams per tonne), would require 3 tonnes of ore. Even at the Kişladağ mine in Turkey where the gold concentration is 0.7 grams per tonne of ore, it would only take 15 tonnes to make a 1/3 Troy oz ring. So I am not sure what that line was supposed to prove.  Ore concentration is only of interest to the mining company – can they extract gold profitably.

The Anti-mining folks love to scare people with the word cyanide. Cyanide salts are used in solution to leach gold from the crushed ore.  You can read about the different processes of extracting gold here: How gold is extracted depends on what other valuable metals it is mixed with. In the leach process, the crushed ore is mixed with limestone to keep the pH high and the cyanide in solution.  It is piled and the cyanide solution is poured on from the top, seeps through the pile and is collected at the bottom with activated carbon used to pull the gold out of solution.  This is much safer than the old method of using mercury to extract gold from ore.  Mercury is still used in artisanal mining and is deadly to the miners and the environment.

The notion that the cyanide is going to seep into the ground water is a lie, again just to scare the ignorant.  There is a very thick very impervious membrane between the leach heap and the ground since lost cyanide means lost gold.  Nor will it disperse into the air over the leach pile as that is what the limestone is for.  Cyanide is dangerous but most of the problems happen in transporting it to the mine, such as happened to Cameco in Kyrgyzstan, so mines are very careful to keep the amount of cyanide lost to a negligible amount.

“Local mayors oppose it”.  Do they? What communities do they represent? What about the people in those communities?  Perama Hill is a no-brainer but the government was/is so scared of the anti-mining crowd, it may almost be a lost cause.

That brings us to Skouries where the fiercest opposition is directed. Eldorado Gold acquired European Goldfields and subsidiary Hellas Gold in 2012.  Hellas Gold was the owner of Kassandra Mines which include Olimpias, Stratoni and Skouries in Aristotle Municipality, Halkidiki Prefecture. Olimpias and Stratoni mines were previously owned and operated by TVX. As part of the purchase, Eldorado is cleaning up the mess left behind at both mine sites.

Chalkidiki or Halkidiki peninsula (map) is like a three fingered glove jutting down from Central Macedonia into the Aegean Sea. Agriculture and tourism is well developed in the west of the province. From west to east the land becomes more mountainous and more forested. Aristotle Municipality, the farthest east and least economically developed of the five municipalities which make up Halkidiki, is roughly 75,000 ha of which about 22% is agriculture and 77% forest, including rough grazing land and maquis shrubland.
For a detailed map of the areas and locations of Eldorado’s operating and developing mines in Europe see here and scroll down.

For the past year, thousands have been opposing the mines by holding large demonstrations and protests. Concerns focus on the impact the mines will have on water, old-growth forests, agriculture, tourism, and the social cohesion of their communities. … The Skouries project will extract gold and copper from both open-pit and underground mines. There has been mining in Halkidiki for about 2500 years, but, until now, it has been small-scale and underground. … Eldorado Gold has started work, installing razor wire around the site, bulldozing trees, and digging up two streams to construct a tailings pond.

There was anti-mining opposition in Greece before Eldorado got there and it increased dramatically afterwards. Where ever fear could be stirred up by anti-mining NGOs, they were there with disinformation. The political situation in Aristotle Municipality lent itself to anti-mining emotion. Aristotle with municipal capital at Arnaia, in 2011, was formed from three municipalities, with municipal capitals at Arnaia, Megali Panagia and Ierissos. Those who were used to wielding clout in the little municipalities found themselves on the outside looking in in many cases.

The three mines, and the employment opportunities that went with them were all in what was Arnaia municipality.  The opposition to the mines comes from the other two, led by Ierissos. It was dangerous for anyone to go to Ierissos that would be recognized as supporting the mines.  Vandals destroyed equipment at the minesite, hence the razor wire (and I am surprised the armed guards were not mentioned).

Skouries Mine is located several km SE of Paleochori in the middle of forest (see link for pictures).  Some 300 to 400 ha will be clear cut to accommodate the operation.  They were not “bulldozed”; they were and are again logged, prior to cleaning up with bulldozers.  The forest issue has been jumped on by opponents.  Greece cooks and heats its homes with firewood.  It is a huge industry and cannot meet demand.  Bulgaria is a major supplier of firewood to Greece.  Forests are critical and are managed to the hilt.  Trees are cut on a 30 year rotation. “Old growth forests” is a joke.  There are likely no old-growth forests in Greece, in the sense of hundreds of years old, never touched by humans.

Mining has been carried out in Aristotle municipality for 2500 years; silver and gold from there financed Alexander in his world conquering spree.  It is a lie that is was all small scale.  Stratoni and Olimpias mines were large commercial ventures and in the scheme of things, the Skouries mine is pretty small potatoes too if you compare it to Kişladağ Mine in Turkey (see link for pictures). The mine will be 1/3 open pit and 2/3 underground.  It is the open pit that has people scared as they have no experience with them.

Two deep gullies will be plugged and partially filled with overburden and then tailings from the open pit.  The streams that ran through those gullies were not “dug up”; they were rerouted so they could make their way to the sea unpolluted.  As the gullies are filled, they will be covered with topsoil and planted back to trees.  Once the mining of the open pit is finished, the material from the underground mining will be used to refill the pit, which will be covered with topsoil and planted to trees. 

Water pollution is another critical area in mine development.  Underground mining has to deal with the high groundwater in the area.  It will be pumped from wells and redirected so it also flows to the sea unpolluted.  The fish are safe; the tourists are safe.

Agriculture is another concern.  Opponents claim that dust from the mine will pollute everything for hundreds of kilometers. Dust is a major issue.  It is far more dangerous than the cyanide everyone is so afraid of but the mine is also well aware of dust problems. The explosives used at Kişladağ to break the ore so it can be hauled to the crusher do not produce the huge dusty explosions you might expect, with rocks and dirt flying everywhere. The explosives used lift the rock about 30 cm and that is all; a ripple and it settles right down.  And there are water trucks everywhere constantly spraying roads to keep the dust to a minimum.

Opponents are welcome to go to Turkey to see the Kişladağ mine in operation and meet with the locals but to my knowledge no one has taken them up on their offer.  Facts must not get in the way. “Our place is too small for this kind of development. It is not we who are saying ‘no’ to mining. It is the trees, the streams, the land itself that says “no”.  Isn’t that sweet?

For more information, the Hellas Gold website is also good. . It is in Greek but at least in Chrome, the “translate to English” does a not bad job of making it readable.

Why do I know these things?  Because I was there. And as the Director of Hellas Gold's Enviromental Section, who was instrumental in designing Skouries, said "This is our home, our families have lived here for generations.  Do you think we would do anything to damage our home?"

Monday, August 10, 2015

Blue Passport Blues - The Saga Continues

On December 3, 2010, I posted Blue Passport Blues which has received the fifth most page views since I started blogging: 2400.  No idea why.  

So almost five years have passed and I have another new passport, this one good for 10 years but with 12 fewer pages so if it may fill up with visas and stamps before 2025 or maybe I will slow down in my old age.

My new passport is not quite as I described the last one;  Dark blue, with nice clean pages on the inside.  Not loud and garish.  Quiet and dignified.  Like Canadians.

Well, it is still dark blue but no longer quiet and dignified. Actually it looks like an American passport.  Tanya thinks it is quite nice so I guess I will go with her opinion. It is not a bridge I choose to die on.


We went to P'yatikhatki today to the documents office to begin the process of getting my permanent residency stamp in the new passport.  We got a list of the necessary documents to bring back, which they will forward to Dnipropetrovsk, where the passport will be duly stamped and I can cross the Unrainian border coming back from where ever.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Why I Support Thomas Mulcair in This Election

I always tell people I started life somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan and am now somewhere to the left of Karl Marx.  Which isn't quite true but close enough.  At heart I have pretty much always been a Social Democrat. The older I get, the more of the world I have seen, the more I have read, the more I understand that the moneyed class, the 0.01% has rigged the game against the rest of us.  My mother used to say, "Them that has, gets".

I have voted all over the map.  In the days of people like Bob Stanfield, Joe Clark, Flora MacDonald, when Progressive Conservatives actually had some principles, I voted Tory.  Mulroney and Grant Devine put paid to that.  Grant Devine's government almost destroyed Saskatchewan out of arrogance and ignorance.  The GST, which cost Mulroney the election, was actually a good thing.  I suspect anyone with the ability to think was hoping the Chretien government would keep it and they did. I switched to NDP in Saskatchewan and Liberal federally.  The two best governments in my life time were Roy Romanow's and Jean Chretien's. 

Did you ever notice how the right is so keen to cut taxes for the rich. It is supposed to be "good for the economy".  Then to balance the budget, they cut programs for the people they were elected to serve.  This is deliberate.  "Socialists" are accused of "tax and spend".  Like it was a bad thing to pay as you go and for the ones who have benefited most to pay the most.  The Right just spend, incurring huge deficits and running up huge debts.  Why?

Two reasons.  1. You can only borrow money from those that have it, so interest is essentially an upwards transfer of money from the citizens to the wealthy. The Right hate transfer payments ONLY when they are downwards. 2. When people finally get fed up enough to boot the bums out, the new government finds, after they create a clean set of books, there is nothing left in the kitty for them to fulfill their promises. In order to clean up the mess, they have to manage on much less and do much less. 

Once the mess is cleaned up, people vote the spendthrifts back in because the government "didn't keep its promises". The Right claims to manage the economy better but the facts always put the lie to that nonsense.  Left and Centre-Left seem to be much better managers. Both Canadian and American data show it to be true.

Harper isn't even a Tory.  He is a Republican which is a group of people I despise with all my heart. He is set on turning Canada into Mississippi.  Every dirty trick, and the list is myriad, is a direct copy of Republicans. 

Yes, yes, as a resident of Ukraine I am grateful for the support Canada has given us in our struggle against Russian aggression.  I would be much happier if Harper were as concerned with democracy in Canada as he pretends to be in Ukraine.

Reasons why I will never vote Conservative while Harper or anyone like him is in charge: (read the first two for sure, the rest are in case your blood pressure is low)

I would not ever vote for Elizabeth May.  I could likely be sued for the adjectives I would use to describe her.  She was in Greece in 2013 badmouthing a Canadian mining company.  The piece on her website regarding the visit is mostly filled with lies and less-than-half truths.  The sort of thing one finds on the anti-everything sites, ideology which the Green Party supports.

In spite of the high regard I have for Ralph Goodale who was my MP for many years, I have no faith that Justin Trudeau's Liberals will fix the mess Harper made of our country.  Opposition parties tend to decry everything the government does but too often when they are in power, they just carry on from there.  I want my country back.  

The fact that the Liberals voted for Bill C51, the Canadian version of the Patriot Act was enough.  Harper's "security concerns", like American security concerns, have little or nothing to do with terrorist and everything to do with controlling the population once people start taking to the streets over growing economic disparity.  I suspect the Liberals are not too far from the same reasoning.

And it will come, unless people are successful in taking back their government from the hands of the wealthy elite. I don't much like revolutions.  There have been two successful ones, the French Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution.  They did not end well. By the time it comes to revolution, the moderates are long gone and only the radical are determined enough to put their lives on the line.  Consequently one set of despots is replaced by another. We need to use democracy while we still have it.

Which leaves Thomas Mulcair who is a decent chap and well worth the risk.  And there is a great risk.  Remember what happened to Bob Rae? The 0.01% do not like it when a government puts the interests of the people ahead of the interests of the wealthy elite.  And they fight back. It would be even worse for a national government than a provincial one.  We would have the entire American right-wing allied against us. Their banking system could literally destroy us.  Or recall what happened to Central American countries in the 1980's which tried to govern on behalf of their citizens.

Besides that, Mulcair has a few crazies in his camp.  Elizabeth May didn't mention it but Niki Ashton, NDP MP for Churchill-Keewatinook was with her on her anti Canada tour to Greece.  And of course, Linda McQuage just told Alberta their tarsands oil can stay in the ground.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Why did Europe Conquer the World - a book review

Why Did Europe Conquer the World?Why Did Europe Conquer the World? by Philip T. Hoffman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some people, presumably those who are not blaming the Jews or the Americans, claim that all the problems in the world are the fault of white males of European descent. There is some truth to that. One could also claim that everything good in the modern world was developed, invented, discovered by those same white males of European descent. There is some truth to that. For the past several hundred years they seemed to be the only ones actually doing anything. There is some truth to that, too, but like the other claims, there are exceptions, of course. But in general, it would seem to hold.

The question then becomes why? How did Europe, in particular Western Europe, eclipse China, India and the Ottoman Empire which at one time were the world’s largest economies and most vibrant civilizations? Why and how did a backwards, poverty stricken, highly fragmented Europe, after the collapse of the Roman Empire, go on to conquer 35% of the world by 1800 and control 84% of the world by 1913 and have very beneficial trade concessions from two of the countries, China and Japan, it did not control? Why were relatively small numbers of European soldiers able to defeat overwhelming numbers of Aztecs, Bengali’s, Ottomans or Chinese?

Some would say superior genetics. Don’t make me laugh. Others a superior culture and list gross disgusting and horrible things about other cultures. This idea was popular at the height of the British Empire. If you would like a list of gross, disgusting and horrible attributes of British and American culture, I am sure someone would be only too happy to oblige. Every culture has good and bad and we need to learn from the good and discard the bad in all cultures.

Jarrod Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies provided some of the answers as did Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict From 1500 to 2000but did not answer all the questions that might be asked. Julia Lovell’s The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams, and the Making of Modern China, in which a few British gun ships and a small number of soldiers humiliated the Chinese Empire sent me looking for more answers. Good thing I didn’t go looking any sooner as this book was only published in 2015. Philip T. Hoffman’s Why did Europe Conquer the World? builds partly on Diamond and Kennedy though he rebuts their conclusions but answers the main question better than any other book I have read.

The answer is gunpowder technology. China may have invented gunpowder and made the first firearms but Western Europe perfected the technology over the centuries. Gunpowder technology includes everything, not just firearms but logistics, defense structures, strategy and tactics, development, administration, and training of both army and navy. Why did Europe outstrip all other parts of the world in perfecting gunpowder technology?

Hoffman describes four essentials for advancing gunpowder technology:
1. There must be frequent war. Rulers must therefore face similar political costs of mobilizing resources and must be battling for a prize that was valuable relative to the fixed cost of establishing a fiscal system and a military apparatus. There cannot be huge differences in the size of their countries or economies or their ability to borrow, although credit can allow the ruler of a small country to fight a larger opponent.
2. Frequent war, though, is not enough, for rulers must also lavish huge sums on it. Once again, the prize must be valuable, but in addition, the rulers’ political costs of summoning resources must not only be similar, but low.
3. Rulers must use the gunpowder technology heavily, and not older military technologies.
4. Rulers must face few obstacles to adopting military innovations, even from opponents.

Western Europe met all four requirements almost all of the time. From the time of the disintegration of the Roman Empire, the only business of rulers was war. No ruler in Western Europe was able to grow powerful enough that it discouraged other rulers from fighting them. Gunpowder technology was adopted as soon as it was available and improved constantly over time as it was superior to Knights in armor and archers on foot. The bayonet meant that pikemen, who protected musketeers from cavalry, could be replaced with musketeers, doubling firepower. Cannons were improved and made lighter, stronger and more portable. Every ruler learned from every other ruler; there were no secrets

Hoffman walks us through China, Japan, India and the Ottoman Empire and explains why in each case, they lost ground to the Western Europeans because they did not meet all of the four requirements all of the time. China, for example, was often at war but mostly with nomads of the Steppes. Horse mounted archers were far more effective against them than slow-moving infantry armed with muskets and cannon. (It was only in the mid-late 19th century that repeating rifles and pistols allowed the complete subjugation of the indigenous American nomads of the West). So if rulers spent resources on old technology, they were not spending it on gunpowder technology. Western Europe did not have to deal with nomads because Russia, Poland and Hungary kept them at bay.

Why was Western Europe able to continually meet the four essentials to allow it to make such huge improvements in gunpowder technology, long before the Industrial Revolution? It was not preordained, Hoffman said but rather the result of their particular political history. If any of the “Great Powers” from the 16th century on had been able to overcome the others and become so dominant there would be no more fighting. If any of the Great Powers had faced more resistance to high taxes, of which up to 90% was spent on war, things would have been different. The discussion of the political histories of the different parts of the world is crucial to understanding the why.

The author uses algebraic equations to illustrate his models. These are in appendices and can be skipped by non-economists as his narrative is reasonably clear. The research that went into this was incredibly meticulous and every chapter has expensive end notes.

If you have read Guns, Germs and Steel then How did Europe Conquer the World? is the logical next step in understanding how we got where we are today. What is the legacy of “winning the arms race” and controlling the world? Two world wars, massive poverty in many countries, in particular Africa and the immigration “crisis” as people move from relatively poor areas to relatively rich areas of the world.

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

In July it seemed the paperwork would never end

July has been a month for paperwork. 

My passport expires in November so I need a new one before we go to Turkey in September as all countries seem to have this six month rule about expiry dates.  Canada has actually simplified things for an ex-pat applying out of country.  Two page form and new pictures.

I will pick it up in Kyiv next week.  THEN I have to take it to Dnipropetrovs’k to the Immigration office there to get a stamp on the back page regarding my permanent residency.  When I leave and when I return, Ukrainian passport control check my Ukrainian permanent residency card against the stamp in the back.  Ten working days at the Canadian Embassy to get a new passport and GOK how long to get the stamp in the back.

Tanya has a new 10 year international passport and is applying for a 10 year multi-entry Canadian visa.  THAT used to be simple.  Two pages, pictures and a few documents.  Six years ago she dropped off her application for a five year passport in the morning and had it in the afternoon.  She had been to Canada three times before and always returned so I guess they figured she was OK.  The biggest worry that Canada has is that someone might want to stay.  Harper is working on solving that problem, taking a leaf from the Republican playbook and turning the country into some place no one wants to stay.

Three PDF forms to fill out and you can only download them on Internet Explorer.  Once you have saved them, you can open them on Adobe Acrobat Reader DC if you don’t actually have Adobe software.  If you want to have a look, Google CIC IMM 5257, IMM 5645 and IMM 5257-Schedule 1.  Gathering the information was a pain but at least we’ll have it for next time. Oh, and I had to fill out IMM 5257-Schedule 1 as well.

My favourite question is Check “Yes” or “No” to indicate if you have ever been a member or associated with any political party, or other group or organization which has engaged in or advocated violence as means to achieving a political or religious objective, or which has been associated with criminal activity at any time. I mean, think about it.  If you were ever a member of ANY political party, you ought to answer YES if the Party ever voted in favour of any military action.  And they are all associated with criminal activity at some time or another, whether they admit it or not.

So Tanya was a member of the Communist Party in her youth.  She was the secretary of the local Komsomol (youth group) on the state farm where her folks worked.  This sort of thing was a must if you were going to get anywhere with a career back in Soviet times.  Part of her job was to organize parties and help the kids fill out application forms to go to university. We put NO.

The forms are filled out and almost all supporting documents gathered.  We’ll drop it off at the Visa Application Centre (VAC) when we go to pick up my passport.  Almost all EU countries are using the same VAC.  This is a private company contracted to gather the applications and documents, check them for completeness and pass them on to the appropriate Embassy.  This saves the Embassies a huge amount of time and money.  So how come it will take 10 or 15 working days to get her visa?

Tanya reaches retirement age in mid-August and will go to P’yatikhatki that day (she says) to apply for her pension.  For days I have been scanning and printing documents  for her.  People are responsible for their own records in this country (and in Russia).  For example, doctor doesn’t keep your health records; you do.  Tanya has the originals of her birth certificate, her university degree, the boys’ birth certificates, marriage and divorce documents, land title and ALL her work records – where she worked, job title, how long, what pay etc.  Everything.  So all this has been copied to apply for her pension.

In a way, this makes sense.  This part of the world has been in an uproar for a hundred years, “some days more than others”.  Systems change, people change (or disappear), borders change, wars come and go.  Where and how would one establish a permanent record storage and expect to find your documents in 25 or 40 years?  Hang on to them yourself and you have them. What happens in case of fire or flood, I have no idea.  I expect that most documents could be rebuilt from scratch but I shudder to think of it.