Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Great Weather Site

Harry Dekker used to say a Meteorologist was someone who could look in a girl's eyes and tell whether.

My brother sent me a link to this great weather site which his son in law sent him. FindLocalWeather gives detailed maps of the earth showing temp, windspeeds, barometric pressure etc.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

You and me goin' cookin' in the dark

The lights went out at 5:00 tonight. Tanya found three candles in the bathrooms and since we have a gas stove, proceeded to cook supper by candle light. From scratch. How she found all the ingredients in the dark pantry, I don't know. First we had our daily allotment of cognac, drinking to Health (we are both sick with colds), Love and (a return of the) Lights. We had hamburger and macaroni hash, "home-made" sausage that needed to be cooked (most is eaten cold) and pancakes with home-made strawberry jam or sour cherry syrup. There is enough left for breakfast tomorrow. The lights came on just as we finished our tea.

The pancakes were a necessity as we had no bread (and no milk, sausage, eggs, butter, cheese, fresh vegetables or fruit other than our own apples). We are going shopping tomorrow. And our supermarket Velika Kreshenya ("big pockets" in Ukrainian) will have a record day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I ain't seen the sunshine since...

Another day of peasoup fog. I have lost count. The temperature hangs around +3 day and night and everything is dripping wet. Much of the snow is gone around the house, our flowerbeds are black and I need a Bobcat to clean the dog yard. The road is either deep in slush or where the snow is gone, covered with a thin layer of greasy clay.

I took the hounds for a walk today again. When I opened the gate, Volk was GONE like a shot, while Bobik starts off a bit and then comes back to grab at me so I will follow. I went to their kennel room and filled their dog food dishes and Bobik followed, frantic for me to go with them on their run. As I leave the yard he races ahead then comes back and loops around me, takes off and comes back. He repeats this "Timmy fell down the well" routine until he is certain that, yes, I am going with them, then he too is GONE at a high gallop down the road.

Tanya made soup tonight for supper, after our walk. It was good and warmed me up. My sinuses are running and my throat is getting sore. Tanya's cold finally caught up with me. I need sunshine.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Interview

1. If money was no object, describe how you would make your life more perfect and why.
First, Tanya and I would travel more, including going to see our families in Canada and Siberia twice a year instead of struggling to make it once a year and not always succeeding. It is a big world and we have not seen nearly enough of it nor learned nearly enough interesting things about interesting places.
Second, I would contribute enough money to the University of Saskatchewan to totally renovate the old Stone Barn so it would stand another 100 years and dedicate it to Dr. Bell. The Stone Barn is a major historical landmark that is too costly to do much with when the University is struggling with finances. J Milton Bell spent almost 50 years inspiring students and adding to the knowledge of livestock nutrition.
Third, I would contribute generously to two Regina based charities in which I firmly believe: Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, which I have supported in the past and Chili For Children. Charity begins at home and Regina was home for over 20 years.
Fourth, I would find NGO’s working in Ukraine with the poor and hungry, especially street kids and contribute generously to them. Charity begins at home and this is home. We have so much and the needs are so great.

2. Where do you see your self realistically in 10 years and what would you be willing to change to get to your "desired place in life"?
Realistically, I see myself right here, working in the garden in summer, doing as much travelling as we can afford, sitting back and enjoying life. Since this is where I want to be, I don’t have to change anything except maybe my eating and exercise habits in order to live longer.

3. If you could start all over from Junior High on what occupation would you have chosen and why?
I have thought about this, quite a bit over the years. Maybe I would have done that PhD in Range Management that was split between Idaho and Alaska that was available back in 1976. Maybe I would have studied history and become an archaeologist, working digs in Northern and Central Asia. Maybe I’d have gone to Tech and learned carpentry.

4. What one characteristic or quality would you want your kids to have that would make you feel like you had succeeded as a parent and why?
Self-confidence. Because I don’t have any and my father before me did not. Lack thereof makes one’s life very very difficult.

5. Tell us how you parent/parented your children that was similar or totally different than how you were parented? In other words, what did you learn to do or not to do as a parent that your parents did?
I wanted my kids NEVER to be afraid to disagree and to argue with me. About anything. In that, we succeeded! Too well, somedays.

I stole these questions from Dana at Life is Good because they kind of make you think a bit before answering.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Garrison Keillor on Barack Obama’s election

Garrison Keillor on Barack Obama’s election:

Be happy, dear hearts, and allow yourselves a few more weeks of quiet exultation. It isn’t gloating; it’s satisfaction at a job well done. He was a superb candidate, serious, professorial but with a flashing grin and a buoyancy that comes from working out in the gym every morning. He spoke in a genuine voice, not senatorial at all. He relished campaigning. He accepted adulation gracefully. He brandished his sword against his opponents without mocking or belittling them. He was elegant, unaffected, utterly American, and now (Wow) suddenly America is cool. Chicago is cool. Chicago!!!

We threw the dice and we won the jackpot and elected a black guy with a Harvard degree, the middle name Hussein and a sense of humor. He said, “I’ve got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I’ve got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher.” The French junior minister for human rights said, “On this morning, we all want to be American so we can take a bite of this dream unfolding before our eyes.” When was the last time you heard someone from France say they wanted to be American and take a bite of something of ours? Ponder that for a moment.

The world expects us to elect pompous yahoos, and instead we have us a 47-year-old prince from the prairie who cheerfully ran the race, and when his opponents threw sand at him, he just smiled back. He’ll be the first president in history to look really good making a jump shot. He loves his classy wife and his sweet little daughters. At the same time, he knows pop music, American lit and constitutional law. I just can’t imagine anybody cooler.

It feels good to be cool, and all of us can share in that, even right-wingers and embittered blottoheads. Next time you fly to Heathrow and hand your passport to the man with the badge, he’s going to see “United States of America” and look up and grin. Even if you worship in the church of Fox, everyone you meet overseas is going to ask you about Obama, and you may as well say you voted for him because, my friends, he is your line of credit over there. No need anymore to try to look Canadian.

Norma sent me the above. Can Obama turn American foreign policy totally around? Unlike Russia, where foreign policy seems to drive big business eg Gazprom, American foreign policy is driven by big business. Over the past several decades, the conduct of American foreign affairs in what is euphamistically referred to as the "national interest" defined as what is good for big business has made America the most hated country in the world. Obama can only make changes within limits or he will be stopped. Cold. I hope he tries anyhow.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

CATS AND DOGS*

1.What is a cat?
Cats do what they want.
They rarely listen to you.
They are totally unpredictable.
When you want to play, they want to be alone.
When you want to be alone, they want to play.
They expect you to cater to their every whim.
They are moody.
They leave hair everywhere.
They drive you nuts and cost an arm and a leg.
Conclusion:
Cats are tiny women in fur coats.-----------

2. What is a dog?
Dogs lie around all day, sprawled on the most comfortable piece of furniture in the house.
They can hear a package of food opening half a block away, but they don't hear you when you are in the same room.
They growl when they are not happy.
When you want to play, they want to play.
When you want to be alone, they want to play.
They are great at begging.
They will love you forever if you rub their tummies.
They leave their toys everywhere.
They do disgusting things with their mouths and then try to give you a kiss.
Conclusion:
Dogs are little men in fur coats

*This has been around for a long time but is always a fun read.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Delightful Guest

This past week we had a houseguest whom I had previously known only via email. Norma is a Peace Corp Volunteer who spent the past two years living and working in the town of Kreminna in Luhansk Oblast in eastern Ukraine. She works with schools and community increasing awareness and knowledge of ecology. Kreminna has a large forested area (planted) called the “Lungs of Donbas” as well as streams and riparian areas and the study of Ecology is relatively new in Ukraine.

Her Russian is worse than mine is, she lives alone in the town and finding a kindred spirit with an agricultural background was all she needed to cut loose. She regaled us with stories for the next day and a half. She kept apologizing for talking so much but truly, she was the best entertainment we had had in a long time. A marvelous storyteller.

Her adventures in Kreminna would try the patience of a saint but to accomplish anything in Ukraine, patience is more important than anything else is, I think. Examples – she wanted to organize an Ecology club among several schools to meet monthly. Permission must come for each meeting from the Town Administrator to whom the school principals answer. It was not forthcoming for the longest time. They finally had a meeting. She was informed the meeting would last three hours (Why? Because!). After one hour, half the people got up to leave. They had been instructed that they were only to stay one hour. There was no science equipment in any of the schools. Some previous town administrator had ordered it all destroyed; textbooks, microscopes, glassware, all. Why? At independence, the schools were ordered to teach Ukrainian history and culture. Interpreted as to the exclusion of science? Ignorantly or deliberately to “get even”, no one knows.

Her father’s family, Cady, has been in America since 1630 and from the sound of it, has been social activists the whole time. Her Great-great Aunt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the first leaders of the American woman's rights movement. She and Susan B. Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. Her grandfather was a professor of English and taught writing to such famous environmentalists as Rachel Carson and Wallace Stegner. Relatives, though not her father’s family, were members of the Communist party in the ‘30’s.

Her father was a Geologist who mapped Alaska in the 40’s, taught Geology (tectonic plate theory) at a University near Moscow and mapped parts of Siberia and east in the 70’s. Norma’s sons are both Yale graduates and the oldest Ezra Rosser specializes in poverty law with immigration law as a side interest.

Norma is an Agriculture and Forestry graduate. She worked for the US Forestry Service among many jobs and for 20 years with the Navajo Nation in land management (grazing, forestry, environment), prior to joining Peace Corp. Norma returns in April to the USA and her beloved Navajo Nation in the Four Corners area to begin an NGO called Four Corners Professional Development Network.

She left on the bus Friday morning for Dnipropetrovs'k, all of us wishing she could have stayed longer. Tanya and I are going to visit her at her log cabin in the mountains of Colorado.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Trail of '98

One of the most famous pictures of the Klondike Gold Rush is the unending trail of miners carrying their supplies to the summit of the Chilkoot Pass.
We have 2 mm long little black ants living under our baseboards. Used to be thousands of them. We have spread ant bait, mopped and vacuumed, succeeding in thinning but not eliminating. You can see where things are spilled on the floor because in the morning the spots are black with ants. Tanya has started blasting them with Mr Muscle, running around like Gus Portakolos with his bottle of Windex.

Obviously I had not cleaned the table top one evening as when I got up in the morning it was covered with ants. There was a black line along the floor headed for the table which turned and headed straight up the wall to the tables edge. It looked like it was drawn with a felt tip marker. I laughed. It was the Klondike all over again.
I scooped them all up with a wet dish sponge, washed them down the sink and cleaned and polished the table before Tanya saw it. The dish of cookies left on the table made the dogs quite happy. They struck it rich.

Monday, January 19, 2009

World's Worst Movie

Saturday night Tanya and I decided to watch a movie on one of our 700 channels (you name the language, we likely get the channel). Jack Hunter and the Star of Heaven was made last year or the year before. Badly dubbed in Russian so I could follow the English in the background. This is a Harrison Ford wannabe with a plot right out of The Hardly Boys mystery series, directed and produced by the Grade 8 Film Club.

The only redeeming feature was the hero looks just like my kids' friend Jason.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Email Signature Lines

I like to use a quotation at the bottom of my emails. My sister started me with the idea as she always has something sweet to end off her missals. I have stolen quotes from everywhere. These are some of my favourites.

1-20-09 The end of an Error

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book.” Irish Proverb

Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

Common sense is the most widely shared commodity in the world, for every man is convinced that he is well supplied with it” Rene Descartes

“Every man takes care that his neighbour shall not cheat him. But a day comes when he begins to care that he does not cheat his neighbour. Then all goes well.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I call my wife “Three Horses”. It’s an old Indian name meaning “Nag, Nag, Nag”.

"I know of no time which is lost more thoroughly than that devoted to arguing on matters of fact with a disputant who has no facts but only very strong convictions" James E. Thorold Rogers.

"If we ever have a plan, we're screwed" Paul Newman

In the end, the most accurate indicator of the degree to which we were successful in our lives is not our personal wealth, but rather the way our children and grandchildren lead their lives

It is better to have loafed and lost than never to have loafed at all. James Thurber,

Lord, help me to be as good a person as my dogs think I am.

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. Blaise Pascal

Never ask the barber if you need a haircut or the military about the need for war. Gwynne Dyer

Never try to teach a pig to sing, it wastes your time and annoys the pig.

No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous. Henry Brooks Adams, historian (1838-1918)

“Oats is a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people." Johnson
"Aye, and that's why England has such fine horses, and Scotland such fine people." Boswell

“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, “Where have I gone wrong?” Then a voice says to me, “This is going to take more than one night.” Charlie Brown

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. Albert Schweitzer

“The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination” Voltaire

The “Credit Crunch” is worse than divorce. I lost half my assets and still have a wife. Attributed to a London banker.

“The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence” – Thomas Huxley
"The deepest sin against the human heart is to demand evidence in order to believe." – Ky

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” Walt Disney

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. Bertrand Russell

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana. George Carlin

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe. Albert Einstein

‘You can accomplish anything in life, providing that you do not mind who gets the credit.’ Harry S. Truman

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect Mark Twain

Wikiality: If enough people believe it is true then it must be true as it is “common knowledge”.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Slow Days in the Village

Not much happening around here these days as you can tell from my blogs. We are suffering from post-holiday budget blues. If it cost a dime to go round the world we couldn't get to the edge of town. Sleep in in the mornings and watch TV till late at night.

It thawed and the streets were all muck. Then it snowed wet heavy snow all last night, covering wires and tree branches and turning the world white again.

We did send some money in to Roman and Lena today for her mom's eye operation on Monday. Money is easiest and cheapest transferred as hard currency in an envelope entrusted to a minibus driver on a regular schedule to Dnipropetrovsk. We count the money; driver counts the money; we give him 10 hrivna, we call the licence number and arrival time to Roman and he picks it up in Dnipro. Works slick. When we were renovating our house and still lived in Dnipropetrovsk we sent several thousands of hrivnas and even USD to Zhovti Vody. No danger of theft. Andrei knows all the drivers.

Limericks

I love Limericks. Edward Lear (no relation to King) of “The Owl and the Pussy Cat” fame, was the best known writer of Limericks but the five line verse structure can be traced back to the 14th century. The Uppah Clawss do nawt considah them prawpah powems, you know. Because most of them are of a bawdy nature. The limerick form is complex. Its contents run chiefly to sex. It burgeons with virgins, and masculine urgins and swarms with erotic effex.
That means I can’t print most of them on my blog.

There are of course, some very funny very clever clean ones. There was one that all I could recall was one line. So yesterday Google to the rescue: An Anglican curate in want of a second-hand portable font, would exchange for the same a portrait (in frame) of the Bishop-elect of Vermont. (It actually ran as a classified.)

My brother-in-law, Dan, once owned a book store. His house was and is filled with books anyhow so I guess he figured to be his own best customer. He sometimes bought stock from other bookstores which were going out of business and filled his house even more while he sorted. In one pile I found “A Little Book of Dirty Limericks”. Knowing it would be consigned to the fire, I grabbed it and managed to read one of the verses before my sister grabbed it back, horrified that such a terrible thing would be in her home.

A gay young blade from Khartoum
Took a lesbian up to his room,
And they argued all night
As to which one was right
And who should do what, with what, where and to whom.

This and hundreds more can be found at Naughty Limericks.

Advice to the Stressed

May-B has been a bit stressed out the last few weeks. She thinks engagement may be the main cause of never getting married. I mentioned to Tanya how stressed she was and Tanya gave her the following advice which I am to pass on to her.

"Take it easy. Do not worry, relax. Do things slowly, slowly* according to your plan. Remember all work is done by women. Men do nothing and if they try to help they only make it worse."

We have a house guest coming for two nights next week and I offered to help her clean house. She just looked at me. I get no respect.


*This from a woman who, had she been in charge, would have build Rome in a day.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I upped my knowledge, now up yours.

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is 'UP.'

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP ? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report? We call UP our friends. And we brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car .

At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP , look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. I f you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP , you may wind UP with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP.

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP. When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP , for now my time is UP, so............ it is time to shut UP ...!

Author unknown at this time

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Old Calendar New Year’s Day

The trash bags were set by the roadside with care, in hopes that the garbage men soon would be there. Especially when they didn’t come last week. At about 10:00 am Tanya looked out the window and said, “The garbage has been picked up. Huh!! Maybe it will rain”, which I take it is the Russian equivalent of “two moons in the sky”. That was yesterday.

It didn’t rain but the temperature shot up from -12º at midnight to +2º at 9:00 am. Three boys in their early teens were going door to door as is the tradition on Old Calendar New Year’s Day. They showered us with wheat like rice at a wedding, while reciting the centuries old rhymes that wished us health and happiness and food in our fields and gardens throughout the year ahead. We gave them 20 hrivna and a package of eight chocolate marshmallow cookies. Rather Machiavellian, I thought since neither divided by three. Tanya said they would cope.

Volk and Bobik spent a delightful hour antagonizing the neighbour’s cat. Or vice versa. They have had a hate-hate relationship since they were puppies and the cat went on walks with us just to wail on them whenever she felt like it. If the cat walks along the road behind Lucia minding her own business, the dogs will circle and bark but not go near her. They want her to run so they can chase her. She will hiss and spit at them driving them into frenzy before she finally breaks and climbs a tree. They sit under the tree and bark at her. Volk tried to climb it today. Got to the second branch but couldn’t figure how to get farther. Then she scooted under the car and stayed just out of reach while they circled and barked. Great fun.

The Christmas decorations came down today, leaving the house looking bare and empty. Tanya carefully packed everything in boxes, which we stored in the attic. She had to climb up on one of the high stools to reach the tops of the cupboards in the kitchen. I pulled a chair over beside it so she could step up and down easier. I said “Don’t die”. She said “If you don’t help me, I won’t die”.

Just as she reached up for an ornament on top of the cupboard, I yanked her pajama pants down around her knees and left.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Some Family History

Tatiana’s paternal Great Grandfather Franskevich moved to Siberia with his three sons in the mid 1920’s. Tanya said he never spoke about why they moved or where they were from so to this day they know nothing about their family history outside of Siberia. The name is Polish but they could have been from parts of Ukraine, which were under Soviet rule and were moved involuntarily. No one knows.

Tanya’s Grandfather was 16 years old at the time. A few years later, he married Maria Egorova and they had two sons Petr (Tanya’s father) and Victor. The war broke out and the three brothers were called up. All three were killed. The family got letters about two of them, when and where but of Tanya’s Grandfather no word. For years, they lived with the faint hope that he was somewhere still alive. Many people who were displaced by the war never found their way home again. However, last fall one of Tanya’s second cousins, who lives in Moscow, found an official website, which listed him as being killed near Smolensk but grave location unknown.

Maria never remarried. She raised the boys on her own and when Petr married Maria Tischina in the mid-1950’s, they lived in the Franskevich family home with Petr’s mother. Babushka Maria pretty much raised Petr and Maria’s children, Sasha, Tanya and Luda, as Tanya’s mother worked full time as a veterinarian and was away from home long hours. Tanya’s father was a tractor driver in lumber camps in Northern Siberia and then on a state farm near their home. My Tanya speaks often and fondly of her Babushka.


This picture is of Tanya’s Babushka, Maria (right) and Maria’s older sister, Tatiana Larkin. It was taken in the early 1950’s when Maria would have been in her early 40’s. Maria had two older sisters, both named Tatiana. The girls, both born in January, a couple of years apart, were victims of an absent-minded priest and a timid father. According to Orthodox custom, the priest chooses the baby’s name. Parents may suggest but can be over ruled. St Tatiana’s Day is January 25th. My Tanya’s Maternal Great Grandmother was home sick on the day of their second baby’s christening. When the priest forgot they already had one Tatiana at home, my Tanya’s maternal Great Grandfather was too timid to correct him. The Tatiana in this picture is the middle sister, Tatiana 2.

This family picture was taken in front of the Franskevich home in Kalyagino village along the Yenisei (like Tennessee) River near Abakan in Khakasia. On the left is Tanya's Uncle Victor, who died of meningitis at age 26, beside him is Tanya’s brother Sasha and behind Victor is his cousin Tonya and her little one. Tonya is the daughter of Tatiana 1. Next to her are Tatiana 2 and Maria. Tanya’s Babushka was 1 meter 50 centimeters (5 ft) high. The tall girl at the back was a friend of Victor’s and front right is my Tanya’s mother, Maria. This picture was taken in 1957 the year before my Tanya was born.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Motown Turns Fifty

Motown , one of the biggest recording labels in American music history celebrates 50 years this year. From Studio A, Berry Gordy's converted garage, came some of the most influential black music artists of the 20th century. Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and of course Diana Ross and the Supremes.

My own 15 minutes of Motown fame came in the mid-80's at a staff Christmas party. Darrell and Paul offered to be my Supremes if I would be Diana Ross. Sounded as sane as anything Darrell ever proposed. Why not!!

Clothes were an issue for me. Queen size panyhose didn't fit this queen. Fredricks of Hollywood carried stilettos in my size but way out of my price range. What style of gown? All problems are overcome eventually.

We made our grand entrance. Two bearded Supremes and one 300 lb very pregnant Diana Ross lip-synching "Stop! In the Name of Love!"

Motown did not contact us about a contract.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Using a Drive Through Bank Machine

MALE PROCEDURE:
1. Drive up to the cash machine.
2. Put down your car window.
3. Insert card into machine and enter PIN.
4. Enter amount of cash required.
5. Retrieve card, cash and receipt.
6. Put window up.
7. Drive off.

FEMALE PROCEDURE:
1. Drive up to cash machine.
2. Reverse and back up the required amount to align car window with the machine.
3. Set parking brake, put the window down.
4. Find handbag, remove all contents on to passenger seat to locate card.
5. Tell person on cell phone you will call them back and hang up.
6. Attempt to insert card into machine.
7. Open car door to allow easier access to machine due to its excessive distance from the car.
8. Insert card.
9. Re-insert card the right way.
10. Dig through handbag to find diary with your PIN written on the inside back page.
11. Enter PIN.
12. Press cancel and re-enter correct PIN.
13. Enter amount of cash required.
14. Check makeup in rear view mirror.
15. Retrieve cash and receipt.
16. Empty handbag again to locate wallet and place cash inside.
17. Write debit amount in check register and place receipt in back of checkbook.
18. Re-check makeup.
19. Drive forward 2 feet.
20. Reverse back to cash machine.
21. Retrieve card.
22. Re-empty hand bag, locate card holder, and place card into the slot provided!
23. Give dirty look to irate male driver waiting behind you.
24. Restart stalled engine and pull off.
25. Redial person on cell phone.
26. Drive for 2 to 3 km.
27. Release Parking Brake.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Grandma's Birthday

My Mother-in-Law had a birthday last Monday. I thought maybe one of the girls would write about her but since they often mention her in their blogs, I guess they gave her time off. Mom is now 89, still lives on her own, in the apartment that she and Dad and Ella moved into almost 50 years ago.

There isn't enough space on all the blogs on earth to write all the good things about her that I could. She was "Auntie" Bea to a great many young people in the church, including me, long before I had any notion of changing it to "Mom". She has an immense capacity for love, worry, hospitality, work and still makes the Energizer Bunny look like a sloth.

She is frugal with her money (and yours) to a fault. I called her on her birthday and she worried about the cost of the call, which is less from Ukraine to North Battleford than it used to be from Regina to North Battleford. But she gives money away to those in need at every opportunity.

She has loved me over the years in spite of me being me and she still loves me.

She accepted Tanya with open arms and open heart. When she learned Tanya's mother had passed away some years ago she said to her that if Tanya needed a mother she would be Tanya's mom.

Mom, I love you and I hope you are around for many many more birthdays.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Odd Couples

My niece, Calvin, is getting married next month. I named her Calvin when she was just a toddler (after Calvin and Hobbes) as she was that kind of trouble. She was fun to have around to teach terrible things then send her home to my sister. She has a very good man. I know his parents and grandparents and he comes of good stock.

They have a wedding website. First I heard of such but it is sure cute and covers the waterfront. A place for RSVP, a place to ask questions (like when do we eat?) and even specify special meal needs (Halal, anyone?), a wish list of gifts rather than a registry and a brief description of the couple.

He is a geologist. Not a problem. Easily understood. He has rocks in his head.

She is an Actuarial Analyst. Actuarials work for insurance companies, calculating the risk and therefore the premiums on various insurable hazards. Steroetypes have them as brainy but odd people who inhabit the bowels of high-rise insurance offices and have food delivered so they don't actually have to interact with people. An extroverted Actuarial is one who looks at your shoes instead of theirs when they talk to you.

This is NOT my niece. Beautiful, outgoing, gregarious, mischievious, ace ball player, student and all that good stuff. How she chose actuarial mathematics over a normal career is beyond me. I assume she has calculated her marriage to the nth degree and figures it a safe bet.

I'd love to know what she has calculated as risk for her brother and his wife. He is an Engineer and she is a Cancer Radiation Tech. Normal enough you say...They jump out of airplanes. With parachutes. Which open. So far. They met while jumping out of airplanes. Both have been injured, though to be fair, my nephew smashed his leg while base-jumping off a cliff not out of an airplane. His aunt said he had injured himself free-basing.

They hook novice jumpers to experienced jumpers harness to harness so anyone can try it, My nephew said he could not take me on as they don't make parachutes big enough. Now don't give me that, they throw tanks out of airplanes with parachutes. Well, OK, there is a guy in BC who might have a big enough chute. Someday...

I love my family. We are all strange.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Three Wise Women


Legend has it that it was on January 6th, for those of us who celebrate Christmas December 25th, that the three Wise Men visited the Holy Family in Bethlehem bringing gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh to the Christ Child. The gifts signifying Kingship, Priesthood and death on the Cross.

The issue has been raised as to how it might have been with three Wise Women instead. One version which has been circulated for a while goes as follows:

What would have happened if it had been three Wise Women instead of three Wise Men?
They would have
  • asked directions ...
  • arrived on time …
  • helped deliver the baby …
  • cleaned the stable …
  • brought practical gifts …
  • and made a casserole.

But as they left, they would have said……..
"Did you see the sandals Mary was wearing with that gown?"
"That baby doesn't look anything like Joseph!"
"Can you believe that they let all of those disgusting animals in there!"
"And that donkey they are riding has seen better days too!"
"Virgin, my *%@$! I knew her in school !"
"That baby doesn't look anything like Joseph!"
"Want to bet on how long it will take before you get your casserole dish back?"

C Рождеством Христовым!


Мы сердечно поздравляем
С Рождеством всех вас!
Счастья искренне желаем
В этот светлый час!

Пусть Вас озарит сиянье
С звездной высоты
И исполнятся желанья,
Планы и мечты.

Пусть нежданная удача
Взбудоражит кровь.
И конечно, много значат
Дружба и любовь!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A New Day is Dawning*

In a few short days, an African American man will move from his private residence into a much larger and infinitely more expensive one owned not by him but by the taxpayers. A vast lawn, a perimeter fence and many well trained security specialists will insulate him from the rest of us but the mere fact that this man will be residing in this house should make us all stop and count our blessings - because it proves that we live in a nation where anything is possible.

Many believed this day would never come. Most of us hoped and prayed that it would, but few of us actually believed we would live to see it. Racism is an ugly thing in all of it's forms and there is little doubt that if this man had moved into this house fifteen years ago, there would have been a great outcry - possibly even rioting in the streets. Today, we can all be both grateful and proud that no such mayhem will take place when this man takes up residency in this house. His moving into this house at this time in our nation's history is much more than a simple change of addresses for him - it is proof of a change in our attitude as a nation. It is an amends of sorts - the righting of a great wrong. It is a symbol of our growth, and of our willingness to "judge a man, not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character".

There can be little doubt now that the vast majority of us truly believe that this man has earned both his place in history and his new address. His time in this house will not be easy - it will be fraught with danger and he will face many challenges. I am sure there will be many times when he asks himself how in the world he ended up here and as all who have gone before him, the experience will age him greatly. But I for one will not waste an ounce of worry for his sake - because in every way a man can, he asked for this. His whole life for the past fifteen years appears to have been inexorably leading him toward this house. It is highly probable that in the past, despite all of his actions, racism would have kept this man out of this house.

Today, I am thankful I am an American and that I live in a nation where wrongs are righted, where justice matters and where truly anything is possible.

*This essay was sent to me by a friend. I do not know who wrote it but thought it worth posting. It has been been 48 years since there was much hope in the world over a new American president.

Monday, January 5, 2009

In case you missed it

A 12-year-old boy has been found guilty in the United States of murdering his mother following a row over his household chores. A judge in Arizona ruled prosecutors had proved the boy acted intentionally when he shot his mother, Sara Madrid, eight times last year.

Now you may think this incident is a result of easy access to firearms and being raised in a culture where violence is becoming the accepted norm. You would be wrong. As Christian Republicans*, you know the problem was that the mother was not carrying a gun. If she had been she could have saved her life by killing her 12 year old son before he killed her. The Consitution gives Americans the right to bear arms and every American has the responsibility to bear arms, from Saturday Night Specials to 50 caliber heavy machine guns or even 20 mm 6000 rounds per minute Gatling guns. Of course they should confine them within the borders of the United States and only use them on each other. Put America First!!

Oxymoron: A figure of speech in which incongruous or contradictory terms appear side by side. See also religious tolerance, military intelligence and congressional ethics.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Things I am thankful for today

1. That my kids had a good Christmas together and that my two youngest got home safely to Victoria and Edmonton in spite of the horrid weather and roads.
2. That we slept until 11:00 am three days in a row. Proving, I suppose, that the sleep of the just and of the the just after are equally sound.
3. That Tanya has found a number of her school friends and relatives using "My World", the Russian variant of Facebook.
4.That I had fingernails to remove and replace the peel and stick Cyrillic characters on my keyboard.
5. That there is still heat in our home in spite of the greed, ambition and stupidity that infuses the leaders of our country.
6. That the days are getting longer. Sunlight...sunlight...glorius sunlight.
7. That my two dogs are getting along, playing together and coming home when they are called.
8. That our friends Volodya and Oksana came for supper and the night and we visited until midnight.
9. That my New Post page is working tonight since it didn't last night.
10. That I have to get up at 8:00 am tomorrow NOT.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gas Wars of a Different Kind

Anyone following the Ukraine-Russian natural gas dispute should look at two articles on the BBC World News Webpage. EU states see gas pressure drop and Russian gas theories abound explain some of the current happenings and some of the theories behind the dispute.

The background…

Ukraine imports the vast majority of its gas supplies from Russia. Europe imports about 40% of its gas from Russia, half of which transits Ukraine via a network of pipelines.

Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant, says it was owed $2 billion by Ukraine for 2008 gas supplies, $1.5 billion for gas and $0.5 billion in late payment fines. Ukraine’s state energy company Naftogaz has paid $1.5 billion but will not pay the fines.
I
n 2008, Ukraine paid $179 per 1000 cubic meters, which Russia wants to raise to $250 for 2009. This is still far below the $400 to $500 that European countries pay. Ukraine has offered $235 and Gazprom says settle or it will be $418 like real people pay.

Why the debt, I do not understand, though Tanya says that the big factories are charged a huge price for gas to subsidize consumers and they do not pay or are not able to pay. Then there is Swiss registered RosUkrEnergo, the intermediary that buys all Ukrainian gas from Gazprom and sells it to Naftogaz. Why it exists, I do not know, but in 2006, Ukraine was not successful in negotiating a direct contract between Naftogaz and Gazprom. RosUkrEnergo is apparently owned by some seriously powerful dudes from Ukraine and Russia who like the opportunity to continue to make $billions.

So far, a relatively simple commercial dispute but the plot thickens…

Russia cuts off gas supplies to Ukraine on schedule as threatened but gas pressure in the pipelines drops to EU countries. Russia says Ukraine is stealing gas and can no longer be trusted as a transshipment route. Ukraine says Russia is not shipping enough to meet EU requirements and blaming Ukraine. This I believe is closer to the truth as Russia wants to build two very expensive very environmentally dangerous undersea pipelines through the Baltic and the Black Seas which Gazprom will control and which will bypass all unfriendly FSU countries like Poland and Ukraine. So making Ukraine look bad helps garner EU support for their pipelines.

At the same time, Russia would love to unseat Ukrainian President Yushchenko whom they hate. Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, of the plaited hair and boundless ambition, also hates Yushchenko and wants his job. Both sides have reason to make Yushchenko look bad.

Stay tuned and keep the home fires burning.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Winter's Walk




The day was perfect for walking. A clear sky, not too cold and not much breeze. The temperature climbed to -6ºC and the sun was warm on your back. We drove into Zhovti Vody for some groceries (and to put more money on Tanya’s mobile phone). When we got back, we got our cameras and took the dogs for a walk. They pretend to ignore us but we know they love to have company on their romps through the snow. Tanya and I must be the only two people in Ukraine who walk for exercise and enjoyment instead of necessity.

By the time we got home, the temperature had dropped to -10ºC and the wind was picking up so we made tea and hot soup for supper to warm up.

Tonight will be cold, it is 7:30 pm and already -14ºC. The weather is playing into the hands of Gazprom, the Russian supplier of natural gas to Ukraine. I hope Ukraine and Russia settle a contract for 2009 soon.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Memorable New Year's Eves

Tanya and I had a champagne dinner by candle light last night and watched Musical Extravaganza Variety shows until midnight. The love affair of Russians and Ukrainians with music and variety shows is worth its own blog someday. Last year we were enroute home from Canada on a train from Kyiv trying to get to Roman's in Dnipropetrovsk before midnight. We made it, just. The year before we were at a party of Ex-Pat Russians and Ukrainians in Regina.

Staying up to midnight has lost some of its charm as I get older but I guess I better get used to it with Tanya. I like my guests to go home about 10 or 11 so I can go to bed, roll over at midnight and kiss my wife Happy New Year and go back to sleep. One time about 20 odd years ago we invited friends over for New Year's Eve, expecting them about 8:00. They arrived at 11:00 and we couldn't get rid of them until 2:30 am.

When we were stationed in Cumberland House (a Metis and First Nations community in northern Saskatchewan) we learned that in lieu of fireworks they shoot off their rifles and shotguns at midnight. Our guests from Saskatoon were a bit shocked and the wife spent 30 minutes hiding behind my armchair.

The worst New Year's Eve ever, I put the kids to bed (we had only two at the time) and gave them my mother's line "Well, that is the last kiss you get from me this year". I guess 3 years old and 1 year old kids were a bit too young for that joke. They were unconsolable and it took two hours to get them calmed down and back to sleep. I was never forgiven for that one either.

The funniest ever was the year we kids had scrimped enough money to buy Mom and Dad a Cuckoo Clock. It was very cheap and sounded very un-cuckoo-ey. At the stoke of midnight New Years Eve, my little brother, who had got a dart rifle for Christmas, blew the cuckoo away. Dad laughed so hard; packaged the whole thing up; put some more money with it and bought a good one which is still in the house.