Monday, December 30, 2019

Old Books are Old Friends

Some of you may be familiar with my main reading material. Why I have insomnia is beyond me.  I just finished Culloden (the 1745 battle that Bonnie Prince Charlie lost), Mary Queen of Scots, a biography and am 1/3 through The Black Prince and the Capture of a King at Poitiers 1356. Next up is Midnight in Chernobyl, a history of the nuclear disaster in 1986. I am curious about everything.

Sometimes the weighty tomes bog me down and as I have likely blogged about before, I turn to western novels and short stories for relaxation. These are books I have read many many times over the years and I do mean years. Most of them are decades old, the covers torn, the pages brittle and yellow. Prices on the covers make me smile. One was 45 cents new, a few were 75 cents, and many were $1.50. Days long since past. Yes, I have them in e-book format but nothing beats the feeling of reading a real book.

Authors: Ernest Haycox and Louis L'Amour, in that order. Louis L'Amour books are readily available new or used. Ernest Haycox not so. I haven't seen a new one in years and the used book stores tell me if they get one in, it is usually gone by day's end. A company is digitizing them and selling them through Amazon for about $4. I now have over 20. Other authors I like but don't have many of their books are Dorothy M Johnson (The Hanging Tree and Indian Country), the best writer of western short stories in my opinion. Two of her stories were made into movies: A Man Named Horse and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. I have two books by Frank Slaughter, The Professionals and Segundo, two by Jack Schaefer, Shane and Monte Walsh, and two by Will Henry, The Fourth Horseman and The Feleen Brand.

Before I left Canada, I likely had 150 to 200 paperback Westerns, most of which my kids got. I brought about 30 or 40 with me including the ones mentioned above. I do need to raid their libraries again but it is at my own risk.

These two shoeboxes and a dozen more books are my Ukrainian paper library of Westerns. My e-library is pretty good but it is just not the same. If you click on the pictures, the titles are readable.

To all my readers, old friends and passers-by, I wish you a Happy New Year with health and happiness in abundance. May 2020 be a vast improvement (even a half vast improvement) over 2019.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot. . .

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Christmas Letters and Other Things

Grandfather Frost and Snegorichka
When I was a kid back in the '50s, everyone sent Christmas cards to everyone, even neighbours who lived half a mile away. They were displayed on racks and hung from strings and wires. I think a first-class letter was 5 cents and a Christmas card, unsealed, was 3 or 4 cents. For several years, I went door to door on horseback selling Christmas cards to our neighbours. Lyle Harris told me Santa Claus was dead because he shot him by mistake but he bought cards anyhow.

Letters went in some of the cards to distant people we didn't see too often and my mother spent many a Sunday afternoon writing them. When Ella and I got married in 74, we stopped sending cards to anyone that didn't get a letter and eventually stopped sending cards to almost everyone, just letters. When there were too many to write individually we started photocopying a handwritten letter. Once we got a computer, it was much easier. I have many of those letters but wish I had all of them, one for each year.

We used to get many Christmas letters too, some by mail and eventually many by email. With Facebook, even that has died away as everyone knows everything about everyone as it happens. But I still send an annual letter to a few people and still get a few, all of which are saved and filed. I have about 40 years of family history in thumbnail format. A few years are missing from the '80s and a couple in recent years, for reasons that most can understand.

We will have a family dinner on Dec 25th "Catholic Christmas" and on New Year's Day. Since Tanya's background is Russian, we do not celebrate Orthodox Christmas January 7th in the same way that Western Ukrainians and Canadians of Ukrainian descent do. Someday I would like to participate in that.

Yesterday and today were Christmas baking days, though you might not recognize it as such. Tanya made pelmeni (ravioli to the uninitiated) until her hands got tired just because she wanted to. then we made 8 dozen oatmeal cookies, one batch with chocolate chips for Dasha and one batch with raisins for me. Today we made two loaves of banana bread and a big pan of 'Mexican' cornbread. The family all like these and so it is a treat for them.

I have not enough nerve yet to tackle shortbread or Christmas cake but someday. I have a thermometer for deep-fat frying but not yet the nerve to try making doughnuts. My mom was afraid of deep-fat frying and it rubbed off.

Our 5-month-old foundling German Shepherd, Lucky, is huge and full of mischief. We cant put him with the other two dogs as his coat is not thick enough to keep him warm, though these days he needn't worry as it is +10C in the day time with five days rain forecast. He is too big and plays too rough for our little female. He wants to wrestle and play fight. So we keep him in the back porch at night and on nice days he runs out in our yard all day. I get up with him at night as we are on roughly the same schedule. Last night he went from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m., a record for both of us.

He is getting the idea and today when Tanya went to take him outside to do his business, he was standing by the door and whined to go out. Progress. When he has done his business and if his feet are dry, we let him run in the house for a bit two or three times a day so he doesn't get too lonesome. Today he was wandering around the bedroom and living room while we were working in the kitchen. All of a sudden he took off as fast as he could go for the back porch. Tanya was suspicious and followed him. He has stolen the TV remote and was hiding it under his blanket.

Tomorrow is our 13th anniversary. Tanya was looking at our wedding certificate the other day.  I think she was checking to see if there was an expiry date.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to all and all the best in the New Year.

(I found this on Facebook and now I can't find who posted it to give credit or beg forgiveness for stealing it.)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Grocery prices

Saturday we went for groceries. As I noted on FaceBook, our supermarket is now owned by a new chain and is undergoing a total interior reorganization. There were boxes and pallets and staff everywhere. Maybe half is in its new place, and the rest either still where it was or partially moved and set up. We didn't buy much produce as that area was under destruction. We did buy stuff for Christmas and New Year's to add to the stash. and we bought meat for pork and beans and meat to grind for cabbage rolls and 'cutletta', which I made today.

It has been a while since I posted Ukrainian food prices in USD and CAD so I gave it a shot today. I was surprised at how high some of the prices were and how low others were. The exchange rates are today's off the net and likely not what you would get at the bank

Groceries 23.48 17.83
American sliced sandwich bread 470 g 48 2.04 2.69
Bread sub loaf 200 g, fresh 17 0.72 0.95
Bread, sliced, white, 400 g 12 0.51 0.67
Coffee, Espresso, 250 g 175 7.45 9.81
Coffee, regular 500 g 258 10.99 14.47
Flour, 2 kg bag 41 1.75 2.30
Grapefruit juice, 1 I  50 2.13 2.80
Mandarin oranges, kg 50 2.13 2.80
Mango salad dressing 200 g 20 0.85 1.12
Orange juice, 950 ml 38 1.62 2.13
Serviettes, white, fancy, pkg 20 14 0.60 0.79
Sunflower cooking oil, 850 ml bottle 30 1.28 1.68
Tomato paste 485 g jar 27 1.15 1.51
Meat and eggs
Beef roast, boneless kg 145 6.18 8.13
Bologna, kg 113 4.81 6.34
Eggs,, 10's, extra large 28 1.19 1.57
European dried sausage 340 g 128 5.45 7.18
Grilled chicken, hot, kg 83 3.53 4.66
Pigs ears, fresh (dog chews) kg 58 2.47 3.25
Pork roast, boneless 134 5.71 7.52
Pork roast, boneless, sale kg 100 4.26 5.61
Ring sausage, 500 g 87 3.71 4.88
Butter, 400 g 68 2.90 3.81
Cheese slices 250 g 60 2.56 3.37
Cheese slices 250 g 44 1.87 2.47
Cheese, cheddar (?) 250 g block 50 2.13 2.80
Yogurt drink, flavoured, 580 g bottle 34 1.45 1.91
Yogurt flavoured 330 g 22 0.94 1.23
Ginger (for sushi) 230 g jar 21 0.89 1.18
Hard cider, lemon 6% v/v 500 ml 21 0.89 1.18
Red caviar 185 g jar 340 14.48 19.07
Smoked mussels in oil, 210 g jar 49 2.09 2.75
Vodka 500 ml 89 3.79 4.99
Vodka 700 ml 179 7.62 10.04
Wine, Inkerman, red semi, 700 ml 100 4.26 5.61
Wine, Inkerman, white, semi 700 ml 110 4.68 6.17

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Karolina Protsenko, Violinist Extraordinaire
Videos by this young woman showed up on my FB news feed. Her name was obviously Ukrainian but the street she was playing on obviously was not so I got curious as to who and where this talented violinist is. Found the following

Karolina Protsenko was born on October 3rd, 2008 in Ukraine. Her parents are Nikalay and Ella. The family moved to the United States in 2014 when Karolina was 6. She started violin lessons the same year. In early 2018 baby brother, Leo was born. 

Karolina began busking in late 2017. Santa Monica 3rd Street promenade is Karolina's preferred place to play. Karolina has 3 YouTube channels. She's also on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. In less than 2 years her fan base has grown into several million, in over 50 countries. Her videos on YouTube and other media sites have been viewed well over 500 million times. Karolina is classically trained and learns popular songs very quickly. On average she takes about 1 hour to learn the song and she does her own arrangements and as she says "I add some notes". Karolina Protsenko is a talent to watch! She is a musical genius. 

Karolina Protsenko continues to grow in both popularity and talent. Her 4th album of covers is called "Sky".Karolina has appeared on many TV shows and has garnered much praise from the likes of Violinist Lindsey Stirling and AGT judge and comedian Howie Mandel, whose cousin is Violinist Itzhak Perlman.
She plays to and for the crowd and is well rewarded. Also, she has no qualms about asking for tips online from those who enjoy her music videos. Her mother accompanies her on keyboards or piano. She has a good sound system and a microphone in case someone wants to sing. Watching her enjoy playing her music is as big a treat as listening.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Old Dogs and Children

One month ago was my last blog post. Time to rejoin the human race, having neglected spouse, family, friends, and critters for about 3 months while I worked on a consulting report. It is finally finished, 190 pages, 140 charts, 90 tables later. and 10's of thousands of pieces of data organized and manipulated. Haven't heard back from the client.  Likely crashed the server. Sunday and Monday I slept like the old dog I am. Today I will begin to catch up on things.

Volk is also an old dog, coming 11 years in January, but sometimes he thinks he is young. We let Volk and Kashtanka run out of their yard as long as Lucia's chickens are not free-ranging. Normally they take off running and come back in about an hour and hang around until feeding time then go back in their run. One day Volk didn't come back. At 5:00 pm the next day he showed up beaten and bloody. He had been in a fight over a female in heat. When his brother Bobik was alive, up to 6 years ago, the two of them would disappear for three days until one came crawling home. Not sure who beat up Volk this time.

Volk at almost 11 years
It might have been the neighbour's dog who was apparently out at the same time. They hate each other. If it was Ronald, Volk has had it coming for years as he has tormented him through the fence. One cold wet early December day maybe 5 years ago, I was coming home from walking the dogs and Ronald slipped out the gate in Lucia's yard. He would have killed Volk but I managed to get a collar in each hand and hold them apart. They did not bite me on purpose but in a fighting rage, they bite everything that goes by. I slipped and fell in a mudhole, couldn't get up but held on for dear life for 15 minutes until the neighbour came and got his dog. Tanya saw me but had the flu and couldn't come outside. The next day I was in bed with the flu also. We were both down for two weeks.

Speaking of which, Tanya and I got our flu shots last year for the first time in Regina. Trying to get them this year in Zhovti Vody was no easy task. The hospitals don't handle the vaccine, you have to order it through the pharmacies and then pay someone to inject you. We managed to get two doses after three weeks of trying and now to get a nurse to give them to us. In Moscow, they have kiosks in the subway stations and it is free.

Lucky, who is four+ months according to our vet, has had his problems. He has been growing like mad. Several weeks ago his back legs went out from under him, no pain, just weakness. His flanks jutted out from his body, his hocks were close together and he walked almost on his ankles. We took him to the vet and she put him on vitamins and some kind of shots and pills for a week and he improved somewhat. Last week he was well enough that we took him for his first set of shots.

He has been getting much better with time but still tires easily and while he can run and jump, he cannot jump up on anything. He and Kashtanka play together. Lucky wants to fight as puppies do and Kashtanka wants none of that so she runs and Lucky chases her. It snowed last night and Lucky thinks he has died and gone to heaven.  He is so big and has so much energy. He will be OK.

He outgrew his little house

Lucky's sweater from an old one of Dasha's