Saturday, September 28, 2019

Chili is my favourite comfort food

Chili is my go-to make it myself dish. Canadian chili is pretty bleah unless you have friends who know how. I like it hot. Not Texas hot, Jackiesue. I had some of that in Amarillo in 1984. The first bite paralyzed my breathing apparatus. I survived only because I had a large coke. After a few bites you sort of acclimatize to it.

My chili has never been made the same way twice as I have thumb rules that are followed more or less. I did write down my sort of recipe and would appreciate suggestions on what more I can add to it.


Depending on the size of the pot:
1 kg red kidney beans (dry)
1 kg ground beef (lean)
1 large onion or 2 medium
1 or 2 cans corn kernels
2 cans diced tomatoes, or 1 can diced and 1 can tomato (or spaghetti) sauce
3 hot red chili peppers
3 jalapeño peppers

Heaping tablespoons:
1 Garlic powder
1 Cumin
1 Oregano (Mexican best IF you can find it)
1 Tumeric
2 Medium chili powder (Indian) 


Soak the beans several hours in hot (to start with) water to speed the process, then cook until soft but not squishy. Add some salt if you want. Brown the ground beef and onion. Add salt if you want.
Strain the beans and save the water in case you need it to make the chili a bit more liquidy. Add beans, ground beef and onions, canned tomatoes and corn kernels to the pot. Clean and chop the peppers and add them to the pot.
Add the spices and stir everything together.  If it is too stiff add water from cooking beans to your satisfaction.
Simmer on the stove for a few hours until you get tired of waiting.  Or use a slow cooker.


Have a large cold glass of something in case the first bite is too much for your breathing apparatus.
Can be toned down with sour cream.

Note: I will be away from my computer for the next two weeks so will try to blog from my mobile app for the first time. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

My Take on Trump vs Biden in Ukraine

Viktor Shokin, source Kyiv Post
Mykola Zlochevsky, environment minister under Yanukovich and owner of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, was under investigation for corruption - money laundering and illicit enrichment. Hunter Biden, who joined the board of Bursima in April 2014, AFTER Yanukovich was driven out, was not under investigation. The Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine was investigating Zlochevsky. However, Victor Shokin, the Prosecutor General, was doing everything in his power to stall the investigation, as he did with every investigation of high-level corruption.

Prosecutors are THE most corrupt people in Ukraine, followed by judges. Prosecutors decide WHO gets investigated and charged, Judges decide WHO goes free. A few years back the Prosecutor for Dnipropetrovsk Oblast was murdered, presumably replaced by someone more amenable to some powerful interest. In 2014 the Russians made much of a known far-right thug, now dead, roughing up a Prosecutor in, I think, Rivna Oblast. What they didn't tell you was that he saved the guy from lynching because he had just released an accused murderer.

Anti-corruption activists had been after Shokin for months, prior to Joe Biden's involvement. Also, European governments and international funding agencies, including the IMF who have been the gun to the head of all Ukraine's reforms and also the American Ambassador to Ukraine. Biden's threat to withhold $1 billion dollar loan guarantee was likely the last straw for Poroshenko who fired Shokin and replaced him with equally corrupt Yuriy Lutsenko, who in 2016 declared the investigation into Zlochevsky dead.

Trump and Giuliani depended for their story about Joe Biden's alleged interference on Shokin and Lutsenko. Lutsenko was fighting anti-corruption NGOs and Serhiy Leshchenko, liberal deputy and journalist. Lutsenko told Giuliani that Leshchenko "exposed the illegal payments made by Mr. Yanukovych’s political party to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had done so at the instigation of the U.S. Embassy and financier George Soros, among others. He also claimed that the U.S. ambassador, Ms. Yovanovitch, had given him a list of people not to prosecute — a claim dismissed by the State Department as “an outright fabrication.”"

I am so glad Trump was not president when Yanukovich was in power as they are two of a kind and certainly Trump would have loved him and his methods. I remember well the furor around trying to get rid of Shokin and the frustration when he was replaced by Lutsenko, who is now finally gone also. Trump and Giuliani are supporting the enemies of Ukraine, the corrupt officials, the pro-Russian oligarchs and the Russians. Please stop them. I see impeachment is proceeding and I am glad of that.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Day Trip to Dnipro

Yesterday I took the bus into Dnipro to pick up a package at the airport from friends flying in from Regina enroute to Zaporizhzhia. I'd left two portable hard drives behind which were backups of stuff on my computer. Actually, I should back up to the cloud and to the hard drives but my internet speed isn't fast enough.

Last time I was in Dnipro it was by ambulance 27 months ago. Can't recall when I was last there of my own free will. The bus ticket said it was a 2 hour trip. I thought maybe they had resurfaced the highway? Yeah, right. The 30+ km past P'yatikhatki is so bad the bus had to slow to a crawl many times and drive as much on the shoulder as possible. It is part of a main highway connecting Dnipro with the west side of Kyiv and is busy with heavy trucks coming and going. They have to crawl on that highway all the way to Olexandra which is in a different Oblast and has better roads. Is there a war between Dnipro and Kyiv that Dnipro will not fix their highways?

I left the house by taxi to the bus depot at 8:30; bus left at 8:55. This is a real 29 passenger bus. They run twice per hour. Used to run an 18 passenger mini-bus three times per hour. Arrived Dnipro about 11:15, walked to the railway station to catch the mini-bus to the airport. Arrived to see it pulling away. Took a taxi because I was worried about how often the bus ran and didn't want to be late to meet my friends who arrive at 1:00 from Vienna. Turned out I had lots of time as either the plane was late or customs and immigration took forever or both. Time for coffee and a mini-quiche. It was close to 1:35 when they came through the door.

Their driver was waiting and Otto was in a hurry. He would hardly let Florence stop long enough to give me the package. They had just flown Regina, Toronto, Frankfurt, Vienna, Dnipro. When you are 85 you have a right to be exhausted and desperate to get to where you can rest. Caught a mini-bus back downtown. It was not the regular airport shuttle and took an hour, giving me a Cooks Tour of parts of Dnipro that looked familiar but I had no idea where I was at any time.

There are usually homeless people on the streets. There was one old man with crutches and two dogs. All three looked very downcast. I gave him some money and one of the dogs offered me his paw in thanks. I should have given him more, I guess. It looks like something until you calculate the actual dollar vallue.

Got back to the bus depot to buy my ticket home at 3:00 pm. It was Sunday so everyone was going home to their village from Dnipro. The next three buses were sold out so I was on the 4:55 bus with a two-hour wait. Bought a coffee and a donair (shawrma in Ukrainian). The trip home took two hours and 45 minutes. Then I had to wait for a taxi as the first one got tired, took another customer and disappeared before I got there.

It was 12 hours door to door for a 5-minute pickup. Good thing my time is not too valuable.

A rundown of costs in CAD, just for fun.
Taxi to and from the bus depot in Zhovti Vody: $4.60 each way.
Bus tickets: $12.45 each way
Taxi to airport: $13.60
Mini-bus back downtown: 40 cents
Coffee and food: $6.80
Charity: 80 cents

Some of the things I noticed on the way. Sunflower harvest is going full blast, about 3/4 done. corn will be next month. Winter crops are seeded or the land worked down. Some fields showed green but not sure what. Looked like broadleaf so could be winter canola? More of that grown every year.  Good for honey production too.

Ukraine is slowly changing place and street names away from the Russian of their colonial overlords. Dnipro was Dnipropetrovsk, last time I was there. And my favourite, Shchorsk is now Bozhedarivka. I feel like the Swede who complained to my Great Uncle Joe that he yust learned to say crock and dey changed it to yug.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Truskavets revisited or The Best Of Wally

In a not so recent Dilbert cartoon, Wally went on an 'in-cubicle sabbatical' and merely recycle old emails which he referred to as The Best of Wally.

I have been busy working on a consulting report and if I take time away from it, it is away from the computer. Writing a decent blog post takes time unless it is personal. So I am recycling a few posts from 10 years ago, hoping no one will notice.

In April 2009, Tanya and I went to the spa town of Truskavets in the Carpathian mountains. Europeans take spas seriously but in Ukraine, it is a religion. In Soviet times people were sent by their employer to Truskavets for three weeks. Since husband and wife usually worked at different places they went separately. Do not think too much about this.

Of course, I could in no way take this whole thing seriously which did not please Tanya at all.  Needless to say, we have never been back. The following is my take on 'taking the waters'. If I could write like this all the time, I could give Diane Henders some competition.

3:10 to Truskavets

Dr. Yuri Grigorovich

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Ukrainian Currency

Ukrainian currency is called the Hrivna (Гривна) or UAH. The hryvnia sign is a cursive Ukrainian letter He (г), with a double horizontal stroke (), It floats freely against other currencies. Today it trades at 27.47 to the Euro; 24.95 to the USD and 18.99 per CAD.

I round it off in my mind to 20 UAH/CAD or roughly 5 cents Canadian per hrivna. The National Bank of Ukraine is making changes to the currency itself

Today, there are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50 kopecks, and 1 hryvnia and banknotes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 hryvnias. A new 1000 hrivna banknote is being introduced.
July 1, 2018, the National Bank of Ukraine stopped issuing coins with denominations of 1, 2, 5, and 25 kopecks, only denominations of 10 and 50 kopecks will remain.
Since April 2018, banknotes of 1 and 2 hrivnas are no longer printed and are replaced of coins of the same value. Sometime this year, coins of 5 and 10 hrivna value will replace the equivalent banknotes. in my mind, these 4 new coins are equivalent to Canadian 5, 10, 25 and 50 cent pieces. As much as I hate carrying change, I guess I better get used to it. 
The old coins and banknotes will remain legal tender and gradually drop out of circulation.
When I first came to Ukraine in 1997, the Hirvna was about 5 to the dollar (USD or CAD). Some prices have not kept up to inflation. A haircut was $5 and I tipped $5 for a total of $10. Today a haircut is about $2 or $3 and if I try to bring the total up to $10 my hairdresser has a fit.
The reason for the inflation, of course, is the Yanukovich mafia who stole billions, followed by the invasion by our neighbours to the east. The country has stabilized and wages are increasing gradually. Barring a full-scale invasion, the country's economy is faring reasonably well, corruption notwithstanding. 
Some years back, Turkey lopped six '000,000 off their currency. At the time, 1 million TL note was worth about $1 CAD so the new currency was about on par with the Canadian dollar. All the zeros confused me no end and once I thought I tipped a bellhop $1 and actually tipped him 10 cents. He was unhappy but it was all the currency I had at the time.
In those days one had to declare currency brought into Ukraine. I had just come back from Turkey with a wad of bills so I declared 14 million TL. I was immediately sent to the red lane at customs. "How much is that?" "About $14". "Get out of here!" 
A 1000 UAH Banknote worth roughly $50 CAD