Saturday, July 31, 2021

Best Friends and Enemas

The title is simply click bait though someone once sent me a card that read, “For your birthday, I’m giving you a big bottle of castor oil. . . with friends like me, who needs enemas.

Looking for some serious thought and comments here as I am puzzled. Umair Haque wrote a column, “How bad is American life? Americans don’t even have friends anymore.” The image below is of survey results for USA asking, outside of relatives, how many Best Friends people had. Range from 0 to >10. The numbers dropped considerable between 1990 and 2021.

As I have said before Umair Haque makes Jeremiah sound like Pollyanna so I took his conclusions with several grains of salt. Read it if you like. But I question the definition and the survey question.

How do you define best friends? I divide people into Best Friends, Good Friends, Friends, Acquaintances, People I wish I didn’t know. I have lots of people I consider good friends but where is the divide between good friends and best friends? Things that keep me awake at night.

So, I asked my children, as I have a great deal of respect for their thinking ability. I will edit their answers somewhat.

I think best friends is such a limiting concept because I have “best friends by topic” or by location or by time in my life. I’m sure the numbers dropped as people moved online. I have so many different types of friends I find the labels don’t fit! Friends I talk about work with, friends I talk about philosophical things, friends I call with exciting news, friends I meet for coffee, friends who I can talk to one thing about but not about others, etc.

I would say my list of “good friends” or “good friends who I never see or talk to but still appreciate a great deal” has climbed since my youth. People wander between labels easily too. I like “good friends” as to me it seems like there is more room for people. 

We don’t need “best friends” like when we were 6 anymore. Because our worlds are bigger and more complicated now. For me, I like the saying that friends come in three categories: forever, for a time, for a season. I’m okay with that. 

For me, there are 2 types of best friends. 1.The ones you spend your chosen free time with. 2.Non relatives, non children that you would lay down your life for without a moment’s hesitation. And if any asks me to say who my single best friend is, it's XYZ.

Hmm. An interesting question. I guess I maybe have 5 or 6 BEST friends outside of relatives. I think your division is pretty good, though. Too many people falling into the “people I wish I didn’t know” category these days. I probably have more of those than I do best friends, which maybe says more about me than I would like. 

And I’d say best friends are the people you can be totally yourself around. But only sometimes. Or maybe they’re the people you want to talk to when you’re happy or you’re sad. Or the people who know you the best and still love you anyway. 

Yes! I agree. I would go to ABC for different things than LMN. And they know me in different ways, but they’re both my best friends.

Their comments helped a great deal to get my head around something I never thought much about before. Friendship is a continuum with no fixed dividing lines and many sub titles under my five main headings of “Best Friends, Good Friends, Friends, Acquaintances, and People I wish I didn’t know.”

I have maybe three people I consider best friends or top of the list of good friends. These are people I have known and worked with for many years, who are far smarter than I, each in different areas and from whom I am continually learning and with whom I could spend all my time.

I have dozens of good friends, all for different reasons and the two years I was back in Canada allowed me to renew many of them. There are also Facebook Friends and Blogger Friends, some of whom I consider good friends. Internet makes it easier to stay in contact with friends I know personally and friends I have never met personally.

Acquaintances used to fall into the hundreds when I worked in Sask Ministry of Agriculture. Farmers and ranchers, industry people, through meetings, conferences, farm calls. Walking across Agribition used to take 3 or 4 hours because I stopped and talked to everyone I know. Now, not so much, having been out of the game for 20 years.

People you wish you didn’t know are usually out of your control. You have no choice (sometimes they are relatives 😊😊) usually through work or related business. On FB I have unfollowed or unfriends most of them but being polite sometimes intervenes unless they make racist remarks.

OK, the floor is open to comments.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Putin, Ukraine, and Nord Stream II

Russian aggression towards Ukraine has not changed much in a while so I have not blogged about it. Lies are spread about Ukraine every day on Russian news and on the internet. Cyber warfare keeps our IT people working overtime. Militarily, every day is much the same. Cease-fire agreements are made, and the Russian side continues to attack several times a day along the front line, with Ukrainian casualties of one or two killed and a few more wounded every day. Russia continues to support their proxies with money, munitions, equipment and of course officers and specialists, all the while denying that fact.

A couple of things have happened just recently that may signify a change for the worse. In April, Putin massed 100,000 troops and heavy equipment along the Ukrainian border complete with full operative logistical support. Most of them are still there. Then last month Russia has (illegally) threatened with bombing any “enemy” ship passing within their (illegally claimed) 12 mile limits around Crimea.

And finally, Putin self-published a 5000 word paper On the Historic Unity of the Russian and Ukrainian People in which he attempts to tell Ukrainians that their statehood is an accident, their resistance to Russian aggression futile and their fate as a people inextricably tied to Russia’s. His conclusions are questionable and the whole thing has nothing to do with history as a modern academic discipline.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is obsessed with pretending that Ukraine does not exist and that Ukrainians have no independent agency. Putin presents the Soviet Union as the savior of Ukrainian reunification. “In 1939, lands that had previously been seized by Poland were returned to the USSR. Their main part was given to Soviet Ukraine.” Putin shamelessly concludes that “contemporary Ukraine was fully created by the Soviet epoch.” And declares Russia always treated Ukraine “with great love.”

Putin has long expressed sympathy for the Russian Empire and his new article vividly manifests this worldview. He sees Russian Federation, not as a new state that emerged after the collapse of the USSR, but as a direct continuation of the Russian Empire. Putin interprets the nation not as a civil phenomenon, but as an ethno-religious community. This imperial mentality is incompatible with modern international law and is dangerous for all of Russia’s neighbours. The President of Russia calls today’s Ukraine “our historical territory” although it would be more correct if the Ukrainians called the region of Muscovy “ours”, since initially it was ruled by the Kyiv princes.

Putin can’t deal with two peoples who are similar in many respects but who want to live separately. And he is prepared to use force to achieve full domination of Ukraine as he did in Crimea and is doing in the Donbass. From the point of view of the West, his actions are those of an aggressor; but from Putin’s point of view, what he has done is an internal matter because they are already properly Russian. Putin considers present-day Ukraine ‘the anti-Russia,’ that is as simply “one more Western project the struggle against which is what he supposes is his mission handed down to him by the Moscow princes.”

To put Putin’s conclusions in perspective, imagine Boris Johnson declaring that the Great English nation includes the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish, based on their common history. It is as accurate historically as Trump’s 1776 report. This linked article is a hilarious satirical take off on Putin’s approach according to which anyone except the Ukrainians formed the nation in Ukraine by applying the Putinist approach to Russia.

Ukraine is taking Putin’s paper seriously as it is almost a declaration of war. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the former Prime Minister of Ukraine said, “Putin’s mission is to restore the greatness of the Russian empire.” Ukrainians overwhelmingly believe that they are a different nation and want to continue building their national state and overwhelmingly want to escape the historic domination, occupation, colonial exploitation and repression by Russia. Putin’s own stance now appears to be hardening. If he acts upon the precepts he enunciates in his essay, it could transform the East-West confrontation into something much nastier and more foreboding.

The second major item with a bearing on Ukraine’s future and perhaps more dangerous to the country’s future as an independent state are Russian pipelines encircling the former East Bloc countries under the influence of the USSR, in particular Ukraine. Nord Stream II, the pipeline under the Baltic Sea linking Russia directly with Germany will double the volume of Nord Stream I to a total of 110 bcm/y. TurkStream pipeline starts from Russia’s Krasnodar region, crossing the Black Sea to the receiving terminal in Turkey. It consists of two lines with a capacity of 15 bcm/y each. The first line is already in operation, delivering 15 bcm/y of gas to Turkey for its internal needs.  The second line is designed to run from Turkey to Bulgaria, across Serbia to Hungary and Slovakia.

Gas Pipelines from Russia to Europe

Nord Stream II (NS2) for years has been a source of friction within Europe and between Europe and America. Germany supports it very strongly. Ukraine sees it as “a noose around its neck.” USA says it puts too much power in Russian hands. Putin says America just wants to sell LNG to Europe.

Gazprom has reduced supply to Europe to a contractual minimum through existing pipelines across Ukraine, driving prices up and reducing Europe’s ability to replenish stockpiles which are currently at 50%. Gazprom says that when NS2 goes on stream there will be lots of gas for Europe. That is rather compelling evidence that Gazprom, which wholly owns NS2, will try to force the hand of Gazprom to ensure that it is not just completed, but that it also receives all European Union (EU) regulatory clearances rapidly. Failure to do so will ensure that Europe and Ukraine will freeze in the dark this coming winter.

Gazprom has several times in the past decades used gas supplies as political weapons. One expert identified approximately forty politically motivated Russian energy cutoffs between 1991 and 2004. From 2014 to 2015, Russia attempted to cut off Slovakian, Hungarian, and Polish supplies in order to forestall contracted Russian gas being resold to Ukraine via reverse flow.


However, the 2009 crisis resulted in a new EU law that the pipelines and the suppler must be independent of each other, that the pipelines can be used by supply competitors and that there must be tariff price transparency. Gazprom will fight this tooth and nail as it challenges their monopolist position.

A new pipeline will not increase supply, it will simply divert it from one pipeline to another. Reduce gas flow through Ukraine and its pipelines become uneconomic and then scrap. Then EU loses a significant energy security hedge that stems from the huge capacity of the Ukrainian transit network, which has 146 bcm of pipeline capacity and 32 bcm of storage capacity. This sort of capacity makes it possible to meet peak demand, manage atypical supply surges, and support the intermittent availability of renewable power.

And the effect of the loss of that route, in addition to the flooding of the west to east interconnectors, is to make it much more difficult for competitors to enter the gas market in the region, effectively splitting the Northwest European market from the Central and Eastern European market

Nord Stream 2, therefore, is likely to have a very problematic journey through the EU’s energy liberalization regulatory clearance regime, and Gazprom is making that journey more problematic by seeking to manipulate gas supplies to ensure it obtains all the necessary clearances to operate the pipeline. The Kremlin by attempting to blackmail Europe, is inadvertently in the process of triggering an existential threat to the European Union which will force the EU institutions and member states to robustly oppose it.

In the course of this conflict, the operation and functioning of Nord Stream 2—and who supplies gas to the European market—will become secondary issues to that of sustaining the EU’s legal order, the entire basis upon which the EU operates. The Kremlin’s public willingness to manipulate the supply of gas and send the price spiraling upward in order to force its pet energy project through the EU’s legal machinery will lose Moscow the support of most of its remaining allies. It also opens up the prospect of EU action, supported by the United States, to seek to remove Gazprom as a major supplier in Central and Eastern Europe, and limit the amount of gas EU states as a whole take from Gazprom.

So where is America in all this? At the June 16, 2021, Geneva Summit with Vladimir Putin, President Joe Biden told President Putin, that we need to have some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by.” The “rules of the road” were legislated by two global wars. They are the predicate for international relations in all respects, including cooperation on climate change, arms control, COVID-19, and cyber as sought by Biden. Rule #1 is territorial integrity and inviolability of borders, yet Biden did not place Russia’s de-occupation front and center . . . or anywhere. Instead of requiring reinstatement of the rule, Biden simply repeated “unwavering commitment” to Ukraine. 

Everyone gravely intoned Putin’s lecture that the resolution of “the conflict” must be in accord with Minsk agreements. America (and Europe) is in lockstep with Russia’s ukase that Ukraine must surrender key aspects of its national sovereignty under the coercive fraud of Minsk. Russia, a rogue state, uses Minsk to displace the United Nations Charter, Helsinki Accords, and all else that constitutes the “rules-based international order.”

As of yesterday (July 21), Biden and Merkel have settled their disagreements over NS2. Germany will invest in Ukraine’s green technology infrastructure, and Berlin and Washington will work together on initiatives to mitigate Russia’s energy dominance in Europe. The decision drew immediate criticism from Russia hawks in Congress as well as Ukraine and Poland. However, “the Biden administration by contrast recognizes that the United States has more important foreign policy problems than a faraway pipeline, not the least of which is the geopolitical competition with China. Those problems require a strong alliance with partners like Germany.

Under the terms of the deal, the U.S. and Germany committed to countering any Russian attempt to use the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a political weapon. And, they agreed to support Ukraine and Poland, both of which are bypassed by the project and fear Russia's intentions, by funding alternative energy and development projects.

The two sides committed to supporting a $1 billion fund for Ukraine to diversify its energy sources, of which Germany will provide an initial $175 million grant and appoint a special envoy to help Ukraine negotiate an extension of its transit contact with Russia up to 10 years. Germany also guaranteed that it would reimburse Ukraine for gas transit fees it will lose from being bypassed by Nord Stream 2 until 2024, with a possible 10-year extension. Germany also agreed to press for sanctions in the event Russia attempts to use its energy clout as a weapon against Ukraine, according to the joint statement signed by Washington and Berlin

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia would never use gas and oil as levers of political pressure. But last month Putin warned that Ukraine would have to show “good will” if it wanted gas transit to continue. 

How this plays out remains to be seen. Russian agreements are worthless and apparently so are agreements to defend the borders of Ukraine for giving up nuclear weapons. I wouldn’t give a plugged nickel for all the promises from Germany and Biden either. But if Ukraine falls, given Putin’s mission to reconstitute the former Soviet Union as the Russian Empire, eastern and central European countries should be worried. So should the rest of the “free world”.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Hot Weather, Gardens, and Flowers

 We are having our own heat wave these past couple of weeks with temps around 30Cto 35C. This week all forecast to be 35C. Not as hot as 40C which is forecast for Saskatchewan or the kind of unworldly temperatures that the South Western States Pacific North West are enduring but hot enough for us. We do not take the heat like we used to. 

The garden is coming off so Tanya goes out early and picks or pulls whatever is ready. We have dug and frozen about 25% of the carrots and beets. No idea what we will do with the rest. The peas are long done and plants pulled. The beans are nearly done. I shell peas and snap and cut beans as my meagre contribution. When she askes, I help dig carrots and beets, and haul plants and tops to the compost pile.

One of several pails ready to blanche

Cucumbers are coming in by the bucket and Tanya has made a dozen or more jars of dill pickles. She makes two kinds. One with vinegar and one that ferments. The latter is not sealed, just covered, and sits in brine for about a week or so, then the brine is boiled up and the jar sealed. The big ones are eaten or given away. We have enough pickles for us so I am sure she will start giving away small cucs, too.

Tomatoes are ripening faster than we can eat them. They will be frozen for soups or made into juice and canned. Corn will be ready in a day or two. Had my first feed of not quite ready fresh corn two days ago. Wonderful feeling to have butter dripping off my elbows. 

Vegetable marrow and zucchini are overwhelming us. Tanya tries to pick them small but they are getting away on us. We eat them prepared two different ways. Sliced, dipped in flour and fried in light oil, then topped with crushed garlic and a dab or mayonnaise. (She has a dish of flour sitting on the counter as she cooks them every day. Yesterday, Bonya jumped onto the counter to supervise and floured his big hairy tail). The second way is cut up small and stir fried in sautéed onions and grated carrots with tomatoes chopped up and added last.  

These days we are eating vegetables from our garden as much as we can. Keeps cooking to a minimum. Tanya made a vat of soup and a vat of stew and a vat of plov. If the kitchen is going to be hot, cook lots. All boxed in plastic happiness and put in the freezer to be doled out as needed and heated in the microwave. Mostly we eat vegetables.

Lucky does not do heat well either. He is always too hot. The other dogs we used to clip short and they were ok as they had shade. We have been bringing Lucky in the house when it hits 30C or more. AC downstairs and upstairs keeps the main floor cool. He is pretty good though he still thinks everything he can reach is a toy. He is much quieter with Tanya downstairs and me upstairs. If I go downstairs he wants to play, though sometimes if I sit on the couch he will lie down beside me. One day he lay down with his head on my lap, got my thumb in his mouth and went to sleep. He likes to hold our hands gently (for him) in his mouth as a sign of affection.

A squeaky toy and a tennis ball (for now)

Sound asleep

Snoring away. Let sleeping dogs lie.

Tanya's flowers are looking good in spite of the heat. She has lilies blooming throughout the flower garden. Roses are still going strong too. She never has blank spots in the flower bed all season long.

Enough for this week. Stay cool and hydrated, everyone.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

I Gotta Quit Reading the News

 I should stick to WaPo, NYT, and Heather Cox Richardson all of which I subscribe to. But oh, no. I also read The Hartmann Report,  Jeet Heer from The Time of Monsters,  Greg Olear from PREVAIL, all of which are free if you don't want to comment. Then there is Umair Haque from which I subscribe to as there are several articles on it that I might read. And the Daily Beast which can flood my inbox with newsletters if I sign up for all of them. 

Now, Thom Hartmann, Jeet Heer, Greg Olear and Umair Haque make Jeremiah sound like Pollyanna when it comes to the survival of the American Project. And it does discourage me. 

So today, I will post about my dog Lucky again. He lives outside in a pen about 10x50 meters with a room in our outbuilding and a doghouse in the room to shelter in when it is cold or thundering. There is no place to hide from the heat though it has not been much above 30C. We bring him in the house if it gets too hot. Think 40 kg out of control two year old to whom everything is a toy. We are all three of us learning.

He does not like dry dog food so Tanya makes him special meals with porridge, ground chicken, cheap liver pate and several times a week boiled chicken livers. He is her baby too. She goes out to feed him at 7:00 am and 7:00 pm. He would rather play but eventually will come around to eat if she hand feeds him. Sometimes I will go out to feed him and spend time with him, though walking him is usually my thing. 

Last night and tonight, I went with Tanya and we both sat with and entertained him. I took him a new tennis ball and made him the happiest mutt I ever saw. He would not let go of it. He held it in the side of his mouth even when he was barking loudly at the neighbour's dog down the street. He would hide it in the weeds and then look for it. We only managed to throw it a few times as his idea of fun is for us to chase him to get the ball. 

He finally came and lay on the weeds where we were sitting, just out of Tanya's reach. He would not get up to eat. She would lean forward with a handful of food and he would reach and take it. When the dish was empty he stretched his neck to see if there was more but was too lazy to get up. 

Tonight Tanya got the ball a few more times and would bounce it. Lucky figured he could catch it in the air but he is no infielder. 

I can still bark loud!

Where did I hide it?

Daring us to reach for the ball 

What did you say?

Too lazy to move but will not let go of the ball

My newest favourite toy

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Looking Back Four Years Today

 Today, July 1st, is Canada Day. Not much to celebrate as the Country begins to come to grips with what the colonists and settlers did to our Indigenous people with the residential schools. They knew about it and told us but we wouldn't listen. The "discovery" of hundreds of unmarked graves on the sites of former residential schools has forced us to listen. It is one thing to weep for the innocent lives lost but another, more important, is to understand the lives of survivors that were destroyed and for which they and their children and children's children are still suffering. 

Tanya and I both have our second Pfizer shots as of this week. We could have waited longer than the minimum days between but best to grab it when the vaccine is available. We get our official certificate next week. When we drove into town, I could count on one hand the number of people on the street wearing masks. In the supermarket more people wore masks but again, I could count on one hand the number wearing them correctly over nose and mouth. Made me think of the guy who survived Chernobyl. He watch the movie and counted nine errors on one hand.

Saturday, July 1st, 2017, my world changed. As Churchy LaFemme would say, Friday the 13th come on a Saturday this month. At 1:30 in the morning, a diverticula on my large intestine burst. Apparently I had Diverticulosis and never knew it. Most people with that condition will never know unless something goes wrong. I never had a baby or a kidney stone but my pain had to be right up there. At 5:00 am I went into hospital in Zhovti Vody and they had no idea what was wrong. That afternoon, I went by ambulance to Dnipro on a morphine drip to survive. Andrey had to speak to the mayor so the city would use the good ambulance instead of the Spanish Civil War left over. 

Mechnikov Hospital is the main hospital in Dnipro and was full of wounded soldiers from the front of the war against Russia. The doctors there had no idea what was wrong with me either and poked and prodded my swollen belly for three days before they decided they better operate. They cleaned me out, slapped an ostomy bag on me, filled my with IV antibiotics and sent me to a room to die. They told Tanya I would probably not make the weekend. As I was lying there too weak to lift a finger, I figured that as long as nothing went south, I would make it. Morphine was my friend.

My girls got there Friday 7th. Tanya found a flat for the four of them about 30 minutes by bus from the hospital. They were busy. Hospitals have no staff and not much else either. Too much money disappears between budget allotment and where it is needed. Nurses administer meds. Period. Family has to do everything else. Including buying meds. The nurse would give a list to Tanya in the morning and sometimes it would take two people half a day going to different drug stores to find everything. 

I was there a month, then back to Zhovti Vody hospital and eventually to the house. Once I could walk we flew to Regina. Two years and three surgeries later we flew home to Ukraine. 

I am so thankful for Tanya who was the best nurse ever, Dr Vishul in Regina (who trained at Mechnikov Hospital, my family who looked after me so well and friends and all who contributed to Go-Fund-Me which paid for all my costs in Ukraine and flights home. I am glad to be alive. 

Growing old is not for the faint of heart. Now I have caught the NILE virus.

The NILE Virus, type C
We are still battling the COVID-19 and the next thing is here already.  Virologists have identified a new Nile virus - type C.  It appears to target those who were born between 1930 & 1970.
Symptoms: Causes you
1.       To send the same message twice.
2.       To send a blank message.
3.       To send a message to the wrong person.
4.       To send it back to the person who sent it to you.
5.       To forget to attach the attachment.
6.       To hit SEND before you've finished.
7.       To hit DELETE instead of SEND.
8.       To SEND when you should DELETE.
It is called the C-NILE virus!
And if you cannot admit to doing the above, you have obviously caught the mutated strain — the D-NILE virus.