Thursday, December 30, 2021

John le Carré, 1931-2020

 David John Moore Cornwall, best known as John le Carré, worked for both MI5 and MI6 before the success of “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” led him to quite the service and write full timeé . I have followed him since I acquired the George Smiley trilogy from Book of the Month Club a long time ago. His final novel, Silverview, has just been added to my collection. I shall miss him but will likely reread all of them in future.

His style is antithetical to Ian Fleming. No flashy stuff, little action, women as professionals or love objects, not sex symbols. The plots are intellectually gripping and will not let you go. I always have to smile. The hair on the back of your neck stands up as the tension and terror mount but no one is “doing’ anything. The protagonists usually but not always escape with their lives, but the plot rarely ends satisfactorily as the corruption of, money, politics and the system tend to confound the situation. A bitter cynicism pervades many of his later books.

I have read, and own with my son, all his books but one. (The Naïve and Sentimental Lover as after reading a third of it and finding it did not appear to be a spy novel, nor have a plot of any kind, I pitched it). Several of his books have been made into movies beginning with The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, starring Richard Burton. Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s people have been made into superb miniseries by BBC, starring Alex Guinness as George Smiley. Several others of his novels have also been made into BBC miniseries which I will attempt to acquire.

George Smiley and related novels

·         Call for the Dead (1961)

·         A Murder of Quality (1962)

·         The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1963)

·         The Looking Glass War (1965)

·         Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974)

·         The Honourable Schoolboy (1977)

·         Smiley's People (1979)

·         The Russia House (1989)

·         The Secret Pilgrim (1990)

·         The Night Manager (1993)

·         A Legacy of Spies (2017)



·         The Naïve and Sentimental Lover (1971)

·         A Perfect Spy (1986)



·         A Small Town in Germany (1968)

·         The Little Drummer Girl (1983)

·         Our Game (1995)

·         The Tailor of Panama (1996)

·         Single & Single (1999)

·         The Constant Gardener (2001)

·         Absolute Friends (2003)

·         The Mission Song (2006)

·         A Most Wanted Man (2008)

·         Our Kind of Traitor (2010)

·         A Delicate Truth (2013)

·         Agent Running in the Field (2019)

·         Silverview (October 2021)


Sunday, December 26, 2021

Christmas Day at our House

 We'll see how this goes. Internet has been FUBAR for the past few days. Likely weather related as we are wireless and reception is not always the best. Lots of snow this past few days and much more last night. Now that it is winter, Lucky has moved into the back porch which makes Tanya happy as it is easier to spoil him. He loves the deep snow and when Tanya shoveled the walks this morning and threw snow on him he was very happy. He took his ball outside and played hide and seek with it in the snow and remembered to take it back inside. Amazing as he has a 5 second attention span.

Winter Wonderland

Lucky debating whether to go out or not

My printer packed it in or I should say, I gave up on it. Two years without printing seized up the pores in the print head and there was no way to clean it completely. Bought a Canon PIXMA G4311. With replaceable print heads and refillable ink tanks. Took me a while to set it up as wireless. Not simple. Setting it up for Tanya in Russian will be another challenge. Bad enough that my dog is smarter than me but now the printer is too. 

Talker to my brother on the farm Christmas Eve. Rather listened. He has no one to talk to other than himself and his 6 cats and Lassie, his Collie. He has no TV until he hooks up his satellite dish as he was analogue. But he visits a great deal. He has a friend about two hours away, another loner like himself. His friend has two TVs, one set on YouTube and one on Fox. He records lots of stuff for my brother to watch on a playback projector. Nuff said. 

Dec 23rd was our 15th anniversary, so we had the immediate family over for supper last night Dec 25th. Celebrate "Catholic" Christmas and our anniversary at the same time. Tanya cooked all week and I helped where I could or was allowed. We had enough food for an army and only six adults. Masha did not come home from Kyiv, she will be home for New Years. Dasha eats like a bird, a very small bird, so she hardly counts.

Not a traditional Christmas meal by Canadian standards. We roasted two turkey thighs which we can buy cheap and that was as close as it got. Well, ok, mashed potatoes. I made the mushroom and French onion soup mix gravy.  Tanya made a crab salad which she converted into appetizers by wrapping it in thin slices of cucumber held together with a toothpick.  Red caviar on crackers. There was smoked salted Norwegian salmon, a full side fillet. Don't ask. 

Cold sliced roast pork loin. Cabbage rolls, голубцы, golubtsy in Russian and голубці, holubtsi in Ukrainian. I learned that one cabbage roll is golubets in Russian. Who knew, like who eats one cabbage roll. And kholodets, like head cheese, made from an old hen and four pigs knuckles boiled to death and let set in the cold. Eaten with hot mustard. I love it. We made beef liver pate cutlets. Ground beef liver and onions, add eggs and flour and fry into thin patties. Eat cold or hot with condiment of your choice. I love it. 

When Tanya and Masha were in Spain in mid December, she brought back Spanish ham, Spanish sausage, Spanish 'cheddar', and Spanish 'parmesan'.  If you have never eaten Spanish ham, you are in for a treat of a lifetime. It is dry cured and you slice it THIN. The really good stuff was 95 Euros per kg. That is not what Tanya bought but heavenly none-the-less. The sausage was also dry cured. All four items were to die for. 

The green salad was just a token gesture

Desert was two cakes, one traditional and one chocolate that Tanya made by combining two recipes. She will do that one again, for sure. We made chocolate muskrat houses cookies aka haystacks, (my aka 'feedlot specials'). They are the best ever. 

Tanya's chocolate cake

Dinner is eaten over a long period of time. Once everyone has had a good feed, it is time to visit over the dirty plates and eat more from time to time, eventually getting around to desert. Andrey had to work that night so he ate quickly, went into the bedroom and slept for two hours. I cleaned up what I could and went to my computer. Dasha played with the cats. They love her which is good as they usually don't like visitors. The four women talked. And drank. A 0.7 litre bottle of white wine split two ways. A 0.5 litre bottle of Finlandia vodka split mostly two ways as Andrey and I drank very little (for once). 

Baba Natasha did the dishes for which I was grateful and we packed up enough food for the three families, Natasha, Lina, and Andrey and Tanya, for at least two or three more meals. And we'll be eating well this week too. For breakfast I had crab salad, kholodets and chocolate cake.

As Tanya said, once a year, we can and need to do this. 

I hope all my readers had a good Christmas or a quite day at home with lots of naps or both. I wish you all a happy and safe new year as we try to move on from 2020 and 2021.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Somebody tell Putin to FOAD

 Started this on Thursday, had no energy nor ambition as we have had no sunshine for over 6 weeks. Also more stuff was coming down the pike and all I wanted to write was obscenities. 

Russia has been piling troops and tanks along the Ukrainian border since last spring and has been adding to them to the point that it looks like war. All Putin needs now is an excuse. Even if he has to dress Russian prisoners as Ukrainian soldiers and stage his own. USA, EU, and NATO have recognized the risk. Since Ukraine is not a NATO member, they cannot commit troops but they have warned Russia that they will come down much harder with economic sanctions than they have, including kicking Russia off SWIFT which hamstrings their ability to trade. Russia has developed its own version of SWIFT for just such an occasion but only 16 countries have signed onto it, including Belarus just recently.

Putin has now drafted two legal documents, one to be signed by NATO and one by USA, that essentially pulls NATO back to pre 1997 borders and leaves the former Warsaw Pact countries of Central and Eastern Europe (as well as Central Asia) defenseless and at the mercy of Russia, i.e. Yalta 2.0. At Yalta 1.0, Stalin promised Churchill and Roosevelt that these countries would remain independent and free to chose their own governments and future. We know have that worked out. America, NATO, and Ukraine responded that ain't going to happen and if Russia escalated its invasion of Ukraine (they invaded in 2014) NATO would move more troops to the eastern borders of it member states. 

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser said, while the Russians had a list of security concerns, so did the United States and its European allies, and that Washington was willing to negotiate on that basis. . . “We’ve had a dialogue with Russia on European security issues for the last 20 years,” “We had it with the Soviet Union for decades before that.” That process “has sometimes produced progress, sometimes produced deadlock,” and noted that the United States planned “to put on the table our concern with Russian activities that we believe harm our interests and values.” “It’s very difficult to see agreements getting consummated, if we’re continuing to see an escalatory cycle.” Essentially, there are things that are non-starters but there are things we can talk about. 

Reminds me of an ambassador who defined the difference between a Lady and a Diplomat. If a Lady says no, she means maybe, if she says maybe she means yes and if she says yes, she is no Lady. If a Diplomat says yes, he means maybe, if he says maybe he means no and if he says no, he is no Diplomat.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said:  “We are clear that any dialogue with Russia must take into account NATO’s concerns about Russia’s actions, be based on key principles and documents on European security, and take place in consultation with NATO’s European partners such as Ukraine,. . We reaffirm our support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. NATO’s relations with Ukraine are a matter only for Ukraine and 30 NATO allies,”

“We will always respond in a determined way to any deterioration of our security environment, including by strengthening our collective defense posture as necessary. NATO will take all necessary measures to ensure the security and defense of all NATO Allies. Any further aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and would carry a high price… We support the right of all countries to decide their future and foreign policy free from outside interference. NATO’s relationship with Ukraine is a matter only for Ukraine and the 30 NATO Allies. We firmly reject any attempts to divide Allied security.”

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleh Nikolenko said, “It is the reversal of the escalation and the ending of Russia’s international armed conflict that is the best guarantee of security on the continent,” “The same position is shared by the North Atlantic Alliance itself, which is confirmed, in particular, in its statement of 16 December 2021. The same applies to the exclusive sovereign right of Ukraine to independently determine the development of relations with foreign states at the bilateral level, including in the field of military cooperation,” 

“We urge Russia… to return immediately and unconditionally to the constructive agenda and to start implementing the Minsk Agreements and the Normandy Leaders’ Agreements now, in particular the agreed conclusions of the 2019 Normandy Quarter summit. It is first of all strict adherence to the ceasefire, further draw away of forces, continuation of the demining process, implementation of the political aspects of the Agreed Conclusions of the Paris Summit, opening and ensuring the proper functioning of new checkpoints on the contact line, holding the next stages of mutual release of POWs and exchange of their lists.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov warned the U.S. and NATO against ignoring its recent proposal for a security agreement, in which Moscow seeks to roll back many of the security advances NATO has made in Eastern Europe, while tacitly dangling the threat of further military incursion into Ukraine. Urging that it be considered “with the utmost seriousness,” Ryabkov also pointed out that the draft should not be considered a menu of options from which some could be selected, and others rejected. He stressed that the Kremlin’s draft is a “package” that must be dealt with in its entirety. Putin’s proposal comes with a Jan. 14 deadline can be considered an ultimatum.

Michael Anthony McFaul is an American academic and diplomat who served as the United States Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. He is @McFaul on Twitter. He posted the following (thanks, Ostap)

Putin is not threatened by NATO expansion. Mighty Russia is not threatened by NATO expansion. NATO has never and will never attack Russia. Putin has reinvented this so-called threat to justify his latest coercive diplomacy... and maybe escalated military intervention in Ukraine.

Now that Putin has published his ideas for a new European security agreement, let me propose some additional articles to the draft agreement.

Article 1. Russia agrees to withdraw its forces from Moldova and restore full sovereignty to this European country.

Article 2. Russia agrees to withdraw its forces from Georgia, renounce recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries and restore the full sovereignty of Georgia.

Article 3. Russia agrees to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, return Crimea to Ukraine, stop supporting separatist forces in Ukraine, and restore the full sovereignty of this European country.

Article 4. Russia's agrees to withdraw Iskandar missiles from Kaliningrad.

Article 5. Recognizing the importance of defending both individual and state security, Russia agrees to stop assassination operations against anyone residing Europe, be it the UK, Germany, or Russia.

Article 6. Russia reaffirms its commitment to agreements already signed including the Helsinki Final Act, the Paris Charter, the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.

I have more to add. But that's enough to get the negotiations rolling.

I like how he thinks. Wonder if anyone will take notice. I guess we'll have a Merry Christmas but whether we have a Happy New Year remains to be seen.

Friday, December 10, 2021

I have nothing to say and will prove it at length.

One of my long time Facebook friends posted this a couple days ago: Tell me about your most interesting scar. The comments range from funny to scary to sad. Several emergency life-saving surgeries, one wild seagull peck on the cheek instead of intended eyeball. All stuff like that. I'm covered in scars big and small all with a backstory. Most a result of my own stupidity. 

One over my right eye was a result of looking down a pipe plugged with ice at 100 PSI when the ice let go. My Hardex lens deflected the ice or it might have killed me, certainly blinded me in that eye. Yes, I am dumb enough to look down the barrel of a cocked shotgun to see if it is loaded. Dad got me to emergency in under 20 minutes (not his first trip with me). The nurse asked, "How did you do that?" "I bit myself." "how can you bite yourself in the forehead?". "I stood on a chair." She was going to let me bleed to death after that. 

Have you noticed that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 (pronounced o·muh·kron) has spawned an entire cottage industry of media types with articles, podcasts, blogs, and videos? I was getting 10 or 12 a day in my in-box or on my FB news feed. They didn't know anything about it and still don't know much but they had to write something as everyone else was doing it. The politicians were quick to punish Botswana and South Africa for identifying it by banning everyone from sub-Sahara Africa. This in spite of the fact it may not have originated there and had already spread to several countries. 

Pfizer says those with booster shots show better resistance and that a fourth shot may be necessary. The Anti-vaxxers are all over that as a conspiracy to sell more vaccines, of course. Omicron supposedly picked up some genes from a common cold virus, a Corona virus, and could account for its ease of spreading and (possibly) milder manifestations. Imagine if Omicron picks up some genes from the neonatal calf diarrhea virus which is also a Corona virus. If you cough you can thread the eye of a needle at 10 paces. 

The Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border is also getting a huge amount of media coverage. The numbers are hard to verify as everyone has a different set. One set says about 125,000 troops with hospitals, kitchens, etc. to last a month, and 100,000 reservists to hold the over run territory. Pundits are falling all over themselves to guess, "Will he or won't he?" Personally I am scared but that is just me. I can paint a scenario that will give you nightmares, if Putin says, F**k it" and goes for broke. If he crosses the border, he has nothing to lose by going all the way, including the Baltics and Poland. NATO cannot stop a blitzkrieg type attack until after the fact. Throw in a couple of nucs on Warsaw and Talinn to discourage escalation unless it is full out nuclear war. We pessimists are never disappointed. If we are wrong we are happy and if we are right, we told you so.

The Republicans are solidly on Putin's side. He has bought and paid for most of the politicians and people like Tucker Carlson. And as one commenter on a WaPO article said, "Oh, heck. If one is any kind of Republican, what's not to respect, even love & admire, about Big Bad Daddy Vladdy Putin? He's White, a racist, is cruel to gays, is an authoritarian's authoritarian who couldn't care less about the welfare of his citizenry, and he despises democracy. Vlad the Poisoner is a law unto himself, and he actively supports his nation's Christian church establishment while suppressing the others, is supremely greedy, is the boss of bosses in his crime syndicate, and often and shamelessly knocks off his opponents. Some think he may even be the richest man in the world. Most admirable, no? Just the Republicans' kinda guy."

From Euromaidan Press

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Bonya and Lucky

 There are so many things to rant about, the criminal negligence of the BC government being one. But there are enough rants in my inbox and news feed that I do not want to add to them, rather go for something that brings at least a small amount of relief from it all. This is the ongoing story of the friendship between Bonya and Lucky.

We have three cats which I blogged about one year ago. Bonya, Tigritsa, and Vovo. We also have one dog, Lucky, who is now about 27 months old and whose beginnings I have blogged about here Getting Lucky, and here Further Adventures of Lucky. Lots of pictures on these blogs.

The cats have good reason to fear dogs as our dog Volk, who died of congestive heart failure at age 13 last January, was a cat killer. Yet Bonya took to Lucky right off. I wrote this about him.

Bonya has a soft heart. When our German Shepherd showed up last October as a wee starving sick puppy, Bonya worried about him and would check on him every hour or two. Once Lucky got well and went into the dog yard with Volk, Bonya would still worry. He goes with Tanya (only outside the fence) when she takes the dogs their food to make sure Lucky is OK. Lucky looks for him too. They touch noses through the fence and Lucky even brought his toys to show Bonya. 

The paternalistic friendship continues. Bonya is a bit afraid of Lucky because he is so big and aggressive though he just wants to play. If they are in the house yard together, Bonya will not run from him but will only put up with so much sniffing and pushing. One day he put the run on Lucky which made me laugh.

Bonya goes with us morning and night when we go to feed Lucky. He sits outside the fence and watches, then wanders off. He will also stroll along the fence in the abandoned lot next door from time to time. I was out playing ball with Lucky when it was almost dark and Bonya came along, ducked under the brush pile next door, watched us for half an hour, then came over to the fence for a kiss through the bars.

Black and white dot is Lucky under the brush pile

Visiting in Lucky's room while sheltering from the rain