Thursday, September 29, 2016

All The Good Names Were Taken: Missing the obvious

All The Good Names Were Taken: Missing the obvious

"What turned a person described by the neighbors as an "ordinary kid" into someone buying bomb components through Ebay was a whole lot of little incidents that eventually hit some trigger point. And it wasn't stuff happening in some Arab country -- it was what was happening in New Jersey. It was day after day, week after week, month after month of Islamaphobic neighbors calling in bullshit noise complaints, it was the city hassling his family's restaurant if it stayed open one minute too late but ignoring other restaurants in the same neighborhood doing the same thing, it was being repeatedly being accused of being a jihadi or called a raghead simply for looking Arab -- although Afghanis aren't Arabs, but most Americans are too dumb to know that."

An excellent and thought provoking post.  Please read it all.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Putin's United Russia wins Duma elections. Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

It is unlikely that the Russian Duma elections held last Sunday got much attention. The world seems mesmerized by the American Gong Show, Brexit or not to Brexit or the flood of refugees into Europe driven by events in Syria.  However it is worth knowing about as it has implications for the future.

According to the Central Election Commission, United Russia received about 54% of the vote with an historic low turnout of 47.8%.  This gives the party 343 seats of 450, a 76% majority, capable of amending the constitution. Much to no one's surprise.  The fix was in which is why most voters stayed home.

There are several ways to determine if an election was fraudulent.  One is to compare actual voting with exit polls.  This could not be done in Russia as exit polls are unreliable.  Another is to count the actual number of voters who entered the polling station and compare that with the official number of votes caste.  In several polling stations where RL/RFE staff were able to count the voters entering, the number of ballots cast was double or more. Response? "Your clicker must have got stuck".

Levada Center, the only independent polling organization in Russia, found a few weeks before the election that support for United Russia was about 30%.  They were promptly declared a 'foreign agent'. Another polling firm found 44% support.  Both a far cry from the reported 54%.

The detailed results by polling station of the 96,000 polling stations are readily available on the CEC website.  Statisticians have been analyzing the data looking for anomalies and found them.

Figure 1
In free and fair elections, charting percent turnout by polling station creates a bell-shaped curve, with the center roughly corresponding with the average percent turnout. In Figure 1, Canada, Mexico, Sweden and Poland follow the bell curve.  Bulgaria and Ukraine show a blip close to the 100% mark, indicative of fraud by ballot stuffing.
Figure 2

Now look at past Russian elections in Figure 2. The left hand side of the curves look normal but the right hand side does strange things.  Like not falling away. Like showing blips at turnout percentages ending in 5 or 10. Like a number of polls with turnouts in and around the 100% mark. Funny how that works, isn't it? As Joseph Stalin said, "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything."

Figure 3
This year's election followed the trend in Figure 2 only more so. Starts out normally and then goes wildly off.  When the votes are broken down by party, it seems in polling stations with high turnouts, United Russia got all the extra votes. Like 11 million out of 25 million extra votes, if one assumes the same patterns by party as in the normal part of the chart. The same pattern of spikes shows up at turnouts ending in 5 or 10.  How lazy can you get?

In one polling district, turnouts at 100 of the polling stations were 62.2%.  This was 'just coincidental' as actual turnouts ranged from 62.16 to 62.24.  Right.

For a video of examples of ballot stuffing, go here:

For a giant sized picture of Figure 3, go here:

Paul Gregory, writing for Forbes, explains how the Kremlin controlled the election, keeping turnout as low as possible so that ballot stuffing would be less noticeable:

The rest of my sources are here:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

TV or not TV; that is the question

Every family has their own rules about which TV shows their young children can watch.  This picture of the cast of M.A.S.H. was in my FB news feed today.  It reminded me of some of the TV rules when our kids were young.

Our kids were encouraged to watch MASH (mostly the reruns as our youngest was 5 months when the final session of MASH aired in 1983) and not allowed to watch Dukes of Hazzard.  We felt that the lessons taught in MASH, in particular the last 6 yeas were well worth learning.

The Dukes of Hazzard taught nothing but disrespect for the law. We didn't watch it either. Our kids were around RCMP from when they were babies as we first lived in a community with the barracks across the street from us, then remained friends with one of the families for years.  We were watching Smoky and the Bandit one day when the oldest two were maybe 4 and 2.  They could not follow the movie but they cheered for Jackie Gleason because he was the law. They are no longer quite so naive but still respect police officers in general.

Funny how having kids affects what adults watch. We were hooked on Dallas until one night our oldest who was 5 decided to stay up and watch it with us.  Suddenly we realized exactly what trash we were watching and never watched it again.

Another family, a much more conservative Christian family than ours, allowed Dukes of Hazzard but not MASH as they felt the morals in MASH set a bad example.  To be fair, their kids were older and the earlier seasons of MASH were much raunchier.  We far preferred MASH with the characters pictured above. (The link above has a time line of all the characters).

I think the kids have watched every episode of MASH many many times.  The youngest owns every season on DVD.  I am glad to say that by and large they have retained and live many of the lessons from MASH in terms of how to treat their fellow humans. Alan Alda would be proud.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Remembering the Farm: My Grandparents Hingston 50th Wedding Anniversary

My brother, Stan, found and scanned the Guest Book from my grandparents, Freke and Kathleen Hingston's 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1964.  It brought back a great many memories of times past and people long gone.

My grandparents were married in May of 1914.  My grandfather always joked that the Great War did not break out until August. Fiftieth anniversaries were still a rarity in the early 1960s that they were sincerely celebrated.  Grandma and Grandpa had moved to a seniors lodge in North Battleford a couple of years prior but since they had lived all their life in the Cavell-Landis district, that is where the celebration took place.

A family dinner was held at our home on the farm which had been their home from 1914 to 1945 when they retired into a small house in Cavell.  We got the yard more or less beat into shape and emptied almost all furniture out of the living/dining area to make room for tables and chairs.  Not sure how many were there but they all managed to squeeze in somehow.

After dinner there was a come-and-go tea in the Landis Hall.   My brother noted that whoever was in charge of the guest book did a terrible job of getting people to sign as I am sure 75% of the people who came did not sign.

My grandparents lived to celebrate their 60th anniversary in 1974 which today is not so uncommon but was very special then.  Their health did not allow any major celebration and by that time they had outlived all their friends anyhow. They were well enough to attend Ella's and my wedding in April, though. Grandpa died the following year at age 90, living longer than any of his four brothers, even Uncle John who was the oldest. Grandma died in 1983 at age 95 but the last few years were very unkind to her.

I remember them well - we visited often in the little house in Cavell, then the little house in Landis from 1955 to 1963 and the lodge in North Battleford. They were good people.  Grandpa said when he came to Canada from Ireland in 1906 he had $400 and after farming, preaching and raising four kids over the decades, he still had $400.  Life had cost him nothing.

Colourized wedding picture
 It was a late spring when they got married and there was still snow in early May in central Alberta
Bob Hingston (nephew) and Grandpa and Grandma at the dinner in our home
 Ignore the date on the picture. Film got developed when it got developed at our home.
At the Landis Hall.  Joe Moore (nephew) in L background 

Some of the guests
George Hindley was the minister who married them.  Chartiers were their pastors in North Battleford.  Henry Johnson was my mother's father.  Grandma Johnson had died a couple years earlier.  Tom Moore was Grandma's brother in law.  Auntie Lily had died a few years previously. Eva, Frances, Winnie and William were their four children, with their spouses. The rest of the signatures are cousins

Gift from Bob and Millie Graham
Bob and Millie Graham farmed 1/2 mile from our place.  They were our closest neighbours and friends over the years. This plate is now with my daughter Kylee-Anne.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Volk and I Go Scouting

Kashtanka has gone back to live with Sveta. Kashtanka has not been well and seems to be allergic to something here.  Volk is quite happy to be alone.  No barking, no howling and so well behaved on walks.  Today was a nice cool breezy day so we went to a new area I had been curious about since I saw it on Google Earth. On the map it looked so much longer than my usual route I hesitated to try it until it was cooler.  The actual difference is only about 0.5 km (3 km vs 2.5 km).

The area with all the white appears to have been the beginnings of something which was then abandoned.  It is flat and surrounded by a ridge about 2 meters high of what I assume to be topsoil scrapped off long ago.  What ever was to have happened never did.  Possibly as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, I do not know.  Now that I have seen it, I can at least ask.

New route in red, usual route in yellow
Grown up to weeds

The trail was very fine powdery dust

Some places nothing grew
Volk enjoying exploring new territory

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Alanya - down by the see

Alanya is located across the Gulf of Antalya from Kemer where we usually holiday in Turkey but about another two hours by tour bus as the coast slants away to the east.  Tanya and Masha had been there in 2014 but it was my first time.

We should have known the trip was jinxed when we got there at 1:00 am and found that our Samsonite suitcase combination lock had been rolled.  I never use it and had no idea what the combination was.  Three wheels of 10 numbers is 1000 possible combinations.  I went through 800 in an hour and a half but had to quit with blood blisters on both thumbs.  Next morning I borrowed two screw drivers and pried the lock open.

 Besides swimming, I like to take in some of the historical sites of which Turkey abounds and had pretty well seen all the ones close to Kemer.  On the peninsula which you can see in the above picture are the ruins of a Seljuk Turkish castle and citadel with 6.5 km of walls built in the 13th century on the ruins of Roman and Byzantine fortress built 2000 years ago. Links here, here and here. There is also the Red Tower and ancient dockyards in the same area.

I found Selavi Tours which offered a city tour which included the fortress, the tower and the dockyards as well as the Dim Cavern. Not sure how the tour company pronounced its name but it should have been c'est la vie or better yet, caveat emptor.  We did indeed go into the fortress but we toured a Turkish home set up as a museum and an old mosque in one of the older settled areas inside the walls.  Because I raised hell with the tour guide, we then did not even stop at the tower or dockyards.  Do not ever use this company if you are in Turkey.

Add to that a terrible chest cold (heat, humidity, AC) and one bad night with Norovirus stomach flu which was working its way through the hotel and you have my holiday. Masha had the flu one night too but not so bad.

We did get to swim, Tanya and Masha more than I did, but still enjoyable.  Once I get out in deep water, I bob up and down like a cork and slowly move around like a 40' barge with a 10 horse motor. The salt water makes it possible as I do NOT swim.

Getting in and out of the water was a bit trickier for me as the wave patterns near the shore created some problems if you were not careful. The waves are stronger here than Kemer. There is about 15 to 30 feet of gravel when you first hit the water, followed by a shallow rocky shelf.  The waves seem to roll in but when they hit the shelf they stand straight up and really hit you.  Which is not bad if they are a foot high but a two or three foot wall of water has a lot of power.

Going into the water, you just follow a wave after it breaks and get past the rocky shelf before the next one. Coming in to shore for me was difficult as I have no balance coming out of deep water and my keel draws too much draft to float in on my back.  A wave would push me forward and the undertow would pull my feet out from under me, dumping me in the gravel.  The first time it happened the undertow also took my swim trunks down around my knees, much to the audible amusement of the onlookers.

At supper one evening we were sitting with a young couple from Poland.  They had been swimming and the girl showed me her scraped shin from being dumped by a wave.  I told her what had happened to me and she said her bikini bottoms ended up around her knees too with the same wave.  Her boyfriend thought it was funny.  Male bystanders, I expect, to quote Robert De Niro, were just grateful.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A woman her age

My youngest (34 in December) is a librarian at a Middle-High School in North London ("70 nationalities, 80 languages").  She is a bit off the wall so provides endless amusement to the students, most of whom love her dearly.  They in turn amuse her.  This was her facebook post from yesterday:

A student was doing a creative writing exercise at school today, describing the people in the library. And here's what he had to say about me. I'ma just ignore the 'a woman her age' comment, though.

Chris Evans (Captain America, not the BBC personality)