Friday, April 30, 2010

Erastivka

This afternoon Tanya, Lena and I drove to Erastivka Research Station, about 50 km from here, to get three big plastic bags full of well rotted horse manure for Tanya's flowers and tomatoes.  That is not what Tanya calls it but we are working on that.  Apparently some English words are easier to remember than others.

Erastivka, which also includes an agricultural technical school, is located by the village of Lozuvatka about 15 km east of P'yatikhatki.  It is a satellite of the Plant Breeding Institute located in Dnipropetrovs'k where Tanya was working when we first met.  There are 7 satellite research stations of the central Institute and in those days they all had dairy cattle and pigs along with supporting feed production to provide milk, beef and pork to the staff at the research stations.  Tanya was in charge of all the livestock operations on the farms.  She did the annual production and financial budgets and oversaw the livestock specialists in charge at the various farms.

Which is why she has an in with the livestock specialist at Erastivka who supervises the horse herd.  The station breeds horses to sell to local villagers as light draught animals.  We got three bags of black top soil from a manure pile that was at least 10 or 15 years old.

We had to stop in P'yatikhatki at the flower market (of course) and Tanya bought 9 big double  petunias in colours she had not seen before.  When she got in the car she commented "Maxim will just die".  Apparently he phones his grandmother two or three times in the week to see if Tanya has any new flowers.  Tonight after school he and his mom came out on the minibus and he by-passed his grandmother to come to see what Tanya had done this week.  It grates on him that Tanya now has better flower beds than his Babushka so Tanya loves to rub it in.

I threatened to give him three of the petunias.  Tanya threatened to kill me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Road Show

Left town at 7:00 am Tuesday morning, arrived in Kyiv at 12:30, found our rented flat which was near the railway station and only $50 (down from $100 a couple years back) and set out to meet with our friend  Sveta at 2:00 pm.  We had coffee and then set out for the Magnolia Botanical Gardens.  Not being a Southern boy, I had never seen magnolia blossoms before, though they are everywhere in Crimea this time of year, Tanya says.

The white magnolias had been blooming for three weeks already and filled the air with a wonderful scent.  The red blossoms were just beginning to open.  No camera of course as this was an impromptu tour.  Sveta had her camera, the bag being nearly as big as she and shot picture after picture with her humongous Nikon SLR digital.  She is supposed to send us some so must remind her.  And remind her not to send the 12 or 15 mb versions.

We headed for TGI Fridays to meet my friend John Jackson from Great Bend Kansas at 6:30 for supper.  He is a tall gentle cowboy, at home on a horse, managing cattle ranches on Indian Reservations or in the FSU, managing logistics for other companies.  I met him years back, though our respective Agricultural Consultants Associations.  He brought me a package of farm magazines and we talked cows for a couple hours while devouring Jack Daniel's Steaks.  His logisitcs man Hriday Gupta and Tanya conversed in Russian as we were boring them.  John and I could have talked cows for another week or two before I would need a break.


Wednesday morning, Tanya went home on the Dnipropetrovsk express and I took the Kharkiv Express to deliver my presentation at the scientific conference organized by Dr Rodenko head of the Animal Science Institute. My train left at 6:30 and I arrived in Kharkiv at 12:30. One of his Post-Docs (they call them Junior Scientists), Victoria met the train and we took a taxi to the Hotel Mir (Peace) where the conference was located. Her area of research is factors affecting milk fatty acid composition.

We walked in just as a speaker was finishing.  They broke for coffee and I was the next speaker.  I had 30 minutes (15 in English and 15 for translation - done by Dr Rodenko).  I crowded in another 15 minutes of questions and could have gone longer.  Then Victoria and I had a quick lunch and the Vice Director took us, again by taxi, to their Institute for a tour of their laboratories.  I met four Post-Docs all told and they all spoke poor to fair English and, I expect, read it fair to good. Augurs well for them to keep up with scientific research published in English.  I was impressed.

Victoria then took me on a quick tour of the city, including an old monastery, the main Cathedral of which was undergoing renovations and repairs.  Inside was just stunningly beautiful.  A service was in session so we did not stay long. We then went to the bus station, where she bought me some sandwiches and water for the trip back to Dnipropetrovs'k.  Victoria was glad to escape the conference I think and looked after me like I was her own father.

Now Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovs'k are 210 km apart, outskirts to outskirts.  The bus trip took 5 hours.  It was the milk run bus from Kharkiv to Mikolaiv.  We arrived in Dnipro at 11:00 pm.  My seat mate would arrive in Mikolaiv at 6:00 am.  Andrei was waiting for me at the bus depot, with our car and his friend Sasha from Krivii Rih.  We had to return Sasha to home so we did not arrive home until 2:00 am. 

A long day for a 15 minute presentation.  But...more on that later.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Truly too tired to Blog

Finished my paper for the conference on Wednesday.  I sent it to my friend, mentor and former professor at U of S and he gave me some good ideas  for improvements.  So it is done and sent to Kharkiv.  Not sure they want 6 pages or if they will translate it, but they have it.

Then I abstracted it down to 15 PowerPoint slides using PROMT on-line translator.  If every one bursts out laughing, I'll know it was not exactly correct.

Yesterday's three hour Russian lesson near finished me.  One on one concentrated learning.  Three or four dozen new vocabulary plus writing plus verb conjugation.  This is lesson two but we are on chapter 7 in the elementary text book.  Natalie is marvelous.  She has years of instruction experience with students from all over but especially North Africa and the Middle East, so she KNOWS how to teach adults.  This next week is a write off so my next lesson will be in two weeks.  I have much work to do on my own in the meantime. Tanya helps me study.

Anyhow, here is your laugh from me for the day, from our local paper.

 
Wife: And why did you call me NADIA all night?!
Husband: Ducia, I was dreaming that I was Lenin*...

(*Lenin's wife was named Nadia)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Remains of the Day

Not much remains of this day, at any rate. 

Finished my paper that I will give at the Institute of Animal Science conference in Kharkiv next Wednesday.  Now I need to pull the PowerPoint presentation together and translate it.

Roman and a friend are going to put a cement floor in one room in our outbuilding as the first step in turning it into a woodworking shop.  This is part of a larger project improving the sidewalks and paths so we don't wade in mud when (if?) it rains.

That paper collar Masha made for Bobik two weeks ago lasted for seven days before it fell off.

Our elderly neighbour two doors down moved here after Chernobyl.  She has maybe two months to live as the radiation she received finally caught up with her.  Her son is here looking after her.  Her daughter who lives in town here is not helping.

I'm still waiting to get my medical certificate signed for my driver's permit.  All the required tests are done (X-Ray, blood work, ECG, etc) BUT, get this, the government "economized" and did not print enough forms so the doctor is unable to proceed.  They can economize on forms but drive $100,000 cars at head office.

My Russian lessons resume tomorrow.  My teacher will be here at 9:30.  Her husband is driving her so he will get a taste of the road conditions and understand why I don't want to drive to Krivii Rih.  I have the alphabet down semi-cold in printing (upper and lower case) and in writing (upper case and most of lower case).  Tomorrow we will work on vocabulary again and I hope work on joining up these fancy written letters to form words.  Once I can write fairly fast, learning will speed up for me as I can write out words and sentences a few times to remember them.

My friend John from Kansas is in Kyiv and Tanya and I are going to meet him for dinner next Tuesday.  He gave me a hard time for my blog about Kansas.  I told him I could see his big grin all the way to Ukraine while he was reading it.  We will also meet my friend Sveta from Regina who is here visiting her mom and next day I will catch the train to Kharkiv to the conference.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring Flowers

It is finally late spring.  The trees are leafing out all over town and  the apricot and cherry trees are all in bloom.  Not in our yard of course.  Because we are low down by the river (creek, swamp, marsh) it is cooler here and we'll be another week at least.

The vegetable garden is almost all planted.  Beets, carrots, peas (already a couple inches high), 10 cabbage plants, a great many onions and about 1/3 in corn.  More peas and beets will go in later, along with cucs and melons.  The umpteen dozen tomato plants in the windows  will be transplanted in a couple of weeks, likely the first week in May.

Tanya's flowers are bursting colour all over her flower garden.  The daffodils and crocuses are done but hyacinths, tulips and lilies, oh, my!  She went out to take pictures for you.


More later.  Figured you needed a break from the previous themed blogs.  Great for picking up readership but hard on friendship, it would seem.  but I'll come back to it in future.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

WHO and HOW

I got some email feedback on yesterday's blog.  Two positive and one accusing me of propagating "atheist opinion".  That puzzled me greatly as Weingarten's column was anything but.  Irreverent perhaps but certainly not atheistic.

Then it hit me - it contained the dreaded "E" word.  Evolution was described in a positive light.  Obviously since Atheists believe in evolution, Christians MUST not.  So therefore the article was atheist.

This is logic of the Middle Ages. Muslims were scrupulously clean, with bath houses, regular bathing, etc.  Since they were wicked infidels, obviously this was also wicked and sinful so "Christians" washed as little and as seldom as possible. There is the story of an elderly nun on her death bed who was proud that in her entire life she had never washed so much as her little finger*.  (Read James A Mitchener's Hawaii for a more modern version of the same logic in 19th century New England Missionaries to the Islands).

Some people look at evolution as proof God does not exist and we are all accidents of genetic randomness.  I look at evolution and conclude that the same God who created the Universe and all the laws governing it also created the laws governing life and living organisms.  How life first appeared on this planet, I don't know, nor in what form.  but I suspect that, like the universe, it was not and then it was.  And from whatever beginnings, living organisms have progressed or changed over the eons until we reach today.

Was it all random or was there a plan behind the seeming randomness.  I believe there was a plan but of course, that cannot be proven.. Nor disproven.

Evolution is a science and as such, it's theories and hypotheses are only as good as today's knowledge.  But at least evolutionists are looking to learn. Does evolution square with a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis?  No, of course not.  Nor should it.

The Bible is Holy Scripture.  It is not a history text book, though it contains much history.  It is not biology/genetics/geology or any other kind of science text book either.  The Bible teaches us how to live, how to treat our fellow humans and our world.  For believers, it teaches us God's plan and purpose for us, how to build a close relationship with God and what God has in store for us.  Why people insist on making the Bible into something it is not, is beyond me.


*She wouldn't have had much trouble keeping her vow of chastity at that rate, anyhow.

Monday, April 19, 2010

And God Said, Let There Be Light in Kansas



Memo to: The members of the Kansas Board of Education

From:     God

Re:          Your decision to eliminate the teaching of evolution as science.

Thank you for your support. Much obliged.

Now, go forth and multiply. Beget many children. And yea, your children shall beget children. And their children shall beget children, and their children’s children after them. And in time the genes that have made you such pinheads will be eliminated through natural selection. Because that is how it works.

Listen, I love all my creatures equally, and gave each his own special qualities to help him on Earth. The horse I gave great strength. The antelope I gave great grace and speed. The dung beetle I gave great stupidity, so he doesn’t realize he is a dung beetle. Man I gave a brain.  Use it, okay?

I admit I am not perfect. I’ve made errors. (Armpit hair—what was I thinking?) But do you Kansans seriously believe that I dropped half-a-billion-year-old trilobite skeletons all over my great green Earth by mistake? What, I had a few lying around some previous creation in the Andromeda galaxy, and they fell through a hole in my pocket?

You were supposed to find them. And once you found them, you were supposed to draw the appropriate, intelligent conclusions. That’s what I made you for. To think.

The folks who wrote the Bible were smart and good people. Mostly, they got it right. But there were glitches. Imprecisions. For one thing, they said that Adam and Eve begat Cain and Abel, and then Cain begat Enoch.  How was that supposed to have happened?  They left out Tiffany entirely!

Well, they also were a little off on certain elements of timing and sequence. So what?

You guys were supposed to figure it all out for yourselves, anyway.  When you stumble over the truth, you are not supposed to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and proceed on as though nothing had happened. If you find a dinosaur’s toe, you’re not supposed to look for reasons to call it a croissant. You’re not big, drooling idiots. For that, I made dogs.

Why do you think there are no fossilized human toes dating from a hundred million years ago? Think about it.  It’s okay if you think. In fact, I prefer it. That’s why I like Charlie Darwin. He was always a thinker. Still is. He and I chat frequently.

I know a lot of people figure that if man evolved from other organisms, it means I don’t exist. I have to admit this is a reasonable assumption and a valid line of thought. I am in favor of thought. I encourage you to pursue this concept with an open mind, and see where it leads you.

That’s all I have to say right now, except that I’m really cheesed off at laugh tracks on sitcoms, and the NRA.

Oh, wait. There’s one more thing.

Did you read in the newspapers yesterday how scientists in Australia dug up some rocks and found fossilized remains of life dating back further than ever before? Primitive, multicelled animals on Earth nearly 3 billion years ago, when the planet was nothing but roiling muck and ice and fire.

And inside those cells was . . . DNA. Incredibly complex strands of chemicals, laced together in a scheme so sophisticated no one yet understands exactly how it works.

I wonder who could have thought of something like that, back then.

Just something to gnaw on.

By Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 14, 1999;

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lessons Learned and Still to Learn

First.
For two years, ever since we moved here, low water pressure has been a problem we just accepted as the way things are.  Until a couple weeks ago, Tanya asked Lucia about their water pressure.  Lots of pressure at her house so it was not the city water system, it was our problem.

We called Yuri in of course and he took the pipes apart.  We had pressure to the meter but none after.  So he installed a new meter, cleaned junk out of all the shut-off valves, and installed another filter  in front of the meter.  Now the water pressure will take the skin off your back in the shower.

Makes you wonder how often in life we accept things as "the way things are" when it is within our own power to change them?

Second
I bought an electric chain saw in Krivii Rih  a week ago yesterday to cut up all the wood around here into fuel lengths.  Russian built and $40 cheaper than a Makita.  The young man at Epicenter took it out of the box and plugged it in to show me that it worked, then put it back in the box.  Neither of us looked closely at it. 

Sunday, Roman and I took it out of the box to assemble and go saw some tree branches.  There is a cast aluminum set of anti-kickback teeth at the front of the saw.  The casting was broken.  Someone had dropped it in the factory as there was no damage to the box and no broken pieces in the box.

Andrei and I took it back to Epicenter on Tuesday when we were looking for tires, explained the problem, filled out the required documents and were told that we would hear from them in 14 days.  To get that far took us an hour.  It is unlikely we will get a replacement as I had my chance to inspect it in the store and they will argue that I dropped it.

Third (but old)
Within a month of when I first bought the car, i managed to break the right back tail light.  We fixed it with red tape and you can hardly see it unless you look carefully.  We ordered the part, picked it up in Dnipropetrovsk and put it in the garage "for the next time I broke the tail light".  A year ago, I decided to install it, opened the box and the part was for the LEFT tail light.  I had my chance to inspect it when I picked up the box and did not.  Well, if I ever break the left tail light, I am set.

Canadians have no idea how fortunate they are to get the quality of service they do.  Much of it is based on trust.  Here there is no trust (and justifiably so) and it increases cost of doing business dramatically.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Buy Buy American Pie

Talking Union

For Christmas, LynnieC gave me a Pete Seeger compilation called Talking Union.  Traveling by a somewhat convoluted route , it arrived her a couple weeks ago. Great songs from a great performer and a true believer that humankind ought to be at least a little more equal than it is.

I've been a fan of Pete Seeger and the Weavers since I was old enough to stand up.  I remember Good Night Irene, Weaver's big hit from 1950 playing on someone's car radio (back then a car radio was a luxury few could afford).  The Weavers (Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman) were blacklisted during the McCarthy era, disbanding (so to speak) in 1953 but re-emerged in 1955, leading the folk music revival of the late 50's and the 60's.

Pete Seeger was active in organizing and motivating the common working man through his union songs.  He also sang protest songs in support of civil rights, helping make "We Shall Overcome" into the anthem of the civil rights movement of the 1960's.

I remember the TV Special "The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time" filmed live at Carnegie Hall in 1981.  The final get together of the original group, just before Lee Hays died.  Watched it twice and would like the DVD if I can find it.

It is hard to think of me being a union supporter, having been opposed to them most of my life.  There are lots of horror stories of corrupt unions, union stupidity, union inefficiency, union fossilization.  All true.  There are more horror stories of workers without unions or with ineffective unions.  Wal-Mart.  A woman in Haiti making dolls who needed to work 100 years to earn as much as the CEO of the toy company yearned in a single day.  Coal miners killed in mine disasters because it is more profitable to ignore safety regulations and kill miners.  Sweat shops in SE Asia making high priced sports shoes for companies I could name but would be sued.  Maybe I should just do it but I am a coward.

America has done its utmost to destroy unions.  Independent unions were illegal in the Soviet Union and are still illegal in China.  Not sure of their status in today's Russia but can guess.  They were illegal in Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany too.  Funny thing, that.

My daughter May-B is at a Union meeting today, representing her group of workers.  One of her Great Grandfathers would be rolling in his grave, the other very very proud of her.  As I am proud.  She is not a confrontationalist, and is frustrated by the idiots on both sides who either demand everything or deny everything. 

Stand together.  Bargain sensibly and work for the good of both employee and employer.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Re-Tired

We put new summer tires on the KIA yesterday.  The winter tires will last another season but the Hancook summer tires we took off last fall were worn out after two summers.  One balances tires in Ukraine but as I mentioned before one does not do wheel alignments.

Trying to find good quality affordable tires was not easy.  (Note: FX rate is 8 UAH to the CAD or USD).  The place I usually go to have tires repaired and from whom I bought the winter tires two years ago quoted between 850 and 950 UAH per tire for Michelin or Continental.  In Canada I would not have quarreled with that as anything under $125 for good tires, installed is OK in my books.  But the roads are so bad here that I am torn between cheap throw away tires that could be dangerous or good tires that may get wrecked anyhow.

Andrei said that Nokian Hakka H tires, made in Finland had been rated as the best tires for the money.  We were quoted 740 UAH so yesterday we went to Krivii Rih to see if we could find something cheaper but still acceptable quality - in the 600 UAH ($75) range. 

We went to two big tire stores, all with well known brands but no bargains.  We went to Epicentre (Costco/Home Depot).  Their Nokians were Russian made.  No thanks.  We went to the big market place for all things made in Russia/Ukraine automotive.  We found Kumho tires for 600 UAH.  I could live with that.  No credit cards of course so off we went to find a bank machine and grab a quick lunch.  Forty-five minutes later the Kumho tires were now 700 UAH.  "It's Ukraine".


So we drove back to Zhovti Vody and put on the Nokians at 740 installed.  Good tires for $370.

By the way, that is a month's wages for a great many people and two months' for rural farm workers, street sweepers and the like.

Canadian War Crimes

It is against the law for a country to turn prisoners over to another country if there is a danger that they will be tortured.  Canadian forces in Afghanistan routinely turned prisoners over the Afghan Security Forces even though the Canadian government had been told as early as 2006 by Canadian Diplomat Richard Colvin that they would be tortured.  The Canadian government denies any knowledge of anything and the Military Police Complaints Commission began an investigation last week into Mr Colvin's charges that his warnings were ignored.

The "evidence" has been scrubbed clean by Canadian censors in the name of "National Security".

The following are links to Globe & Mail articles and editorials which are worth reading if you at all care about Canada's moral position in the world.  We are guilty of aiding and abetting the very behaviour we are supposedly fighting to prevent. 

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/richard-colvins-catch-22/article1533670/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/house-of-pain-canadas-connection-with-kandahars-ruthless-palace-guard/article1529596/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/editorials/the-case-of-the-incurious-investigator/article1533473/#article

 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-blocked-efforts-to-monitor-detainees-treatment-diplomat-testifies/article1533653/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canada-stymied-detainee-monitoring-richard-colvin-says/article1532711/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/no-reason-to-investigate-detainee-abuse-forces-investigator-says/article1532320/

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

May-B and The Guy

Bobik's New Collar

 

Bobik, having the nicer collar of the two, generously contributed it to the stray female so Valya could lead her to her new home.  Because we had not yet replaced it, Masha made Bobik a new collar from paper, complete with name tag and nice pink colouring.  She put it on him on Sunday and he is still wearing it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bingo Babushka

Tanya, Tania, Masha and Lena are downstairs playing Russian Lotto which is similar to Bingo but a bit more challenging.  There is the usual multitude of cards and bag full of numbers.  However the cards consist of 3 rows of nine squares.  15 numbers between 1 and 99 are distributed randomly 5 to a row. 

So when number 37 is called you have to look all over each card you are playing.  None of this Mickey Mouse "Under the G" stuff with only five squares to check. 

Cover all 15 numbers and win or cover a row and win, depends on the rule of that game.

Tanya bought the game for Masha for International Women's Day, back in March.

We played Russian Lotto at Volodya's birthday back in mid-March.  Seven adults (well, OK, one 12 year old going on 18 boy).  I drew and called the numbers.  Good practice for my Russian language.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Maybe I should send it again?

September 19, 2003

Mr. Stephen Harper, MP
Office of the Leader of the Opposition
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Mr. Harper:

Your recently received mailbox stuffer “Stop Patronage” is rather disgusting.  Please stop acting like a sanctimonious twit.  When the Reform Party of Canada was founded, it promised to stay above stupid politics.  Did the birth of Canadian Alliance Party mean that promise no longer holds, as it now seems to be as bad as the rest of them?  

I do not know Hal Singleton and never heard of him.  I too believe qualified people should be appointed to government boards and agencies.  The fact he lost two elections as a Liberal candidate is irrelevant to his abilities to do the job he has been appointed to on the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.  What are his qualifications compared to the requirements of the job or do you even know?  “Making over $85,000 per year” is no sin; in fact it is a medium-high white-collar salary.

I have a few other comments to make while I am at it.  

Please separate religion and state.  Marriage as defined by the state and marriage as defined by religious organizations are two different things.  One is administrative and one is theology.  Do not confuse them.  I strongly agree with same sex marriages on a CIVIL basis SO LONG AS no religious organization is FORCED to recognize them or perform them.

Prostitution should be legalized and regulated.  I do NOT agree with the sale of sex but since it is the world’s oldest profession, our current approach obviously has not worked and benefits only  police, pimps, politicians and preachers.  It leaves the women totally defenseless.  They should be our concern.

Decriminalization of Marijuana is just the first step.  It should be legalized and regulated.  Safe houses and needle exchanges should be provided for hard drug users and possibly hard drugs should be provided free to confirmed addicts.  I do NOT believe in recreational drug use.  However, the so-called War on Drugs does not work and benefits only police, pushers, politicians and preachers, all of whom have a vested interest in and benefit from the continued illegality of drugs. 

At the same time, Canada must provide other opportunities than growing illicit drugs to farmers in countries such as Columbia and Afghanistan.  This means putting some real efforts into global development.  Forcing the EU and USA into abandoning agricultural subsidies would do more than anything else to help the developing world.  I am a firm believer in the benefits of Free Trade and Globalization to developing countries but it must be free, level and transparent.

Thank you for the opportunity to voice my concerns and may I assure you that the Canadian Alliance Party (aka the Canadian Taliban Party “A burka for every woman and an AK47 for every man”) may NOT count on my support in any upcoming elections.

Yours sincerely,

Russian Lessons - Trying Again

Yesterday I started taking Russian lessons again.  I had the contact name and number for over three months before I got up nerve to call.  The woman is head of the Languages Department at the Krivii-Rih Technical University.

We drove down yesterday.  Took over two hours, the road was so bad.  Found the Institute and the teacher.  Natalie is a very pleasant grandmotherly type in her very late 50's or early 60's.  Smattering of English, French and fairly fluent in Arabic.  Her students come from all over, many from the Middle East and North Africa.

Did a two hour starter lesson, got a text book and one for Tanya who will help me at home.  Natalie will take the bus here once a week, Saturday morning, for a three hour lesson.  $50.  I nearly fell over when she agreed to come to our place but it was that or no lessons.  I could not possibly drive that road every week and be fit to learn anything when I arrived.  So we'll see.

I did my first half hour of practice today, writing the Russian alphabet.  I can print it easy enough and read a bit of script but now I will not only be able to read written material (like the shopping list) but even write stuff.  My typing skills are improving slowly as I don't have to hunt for the letters as long but spelling Russian words is no easier than English.

Then I helped Tanya with English.  She said she cannot read it as the words make no sense when she looks at them ie she cannot pronounce them.  So I got her reading this so she would understand that no one can make sense of reading English.  I would read the line and she would repeat it.  We'd look up words on Lingvo, the best computerized Russian English Dictionary ever. Grammar lesson was would, could and should.  Lingvo did a great job of explaining it to her, she said.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mharsky Monastery

When Tanya and I went with Volodya to Chernihiv in mid-March, we stopped at the Mharsky Monastery on our way home.  I had been there in the summer of 1999 and was surprised at how much reconstruction had occurred in the ensuing years.

The Bolsheviks had massacred the monks in 1919 but did not destroy the  place.  It reopened in 1993.  When we were there in 1999 it was occupied but still more or less wide open to the public.  Now it is closed except on certain days, if I understood right.

The first two pictures are from July 1999 and the others from March of this year.


Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral
 Mhorsky Monastery



Holodomor Memorial

Saturday, April 3, 2010

WHO

I believe in God.  An omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God.  An eternal God without beginning or end of days.  He always was and always will be.

You cannot prove it scientifically either way.  You believe or you do not believe.

I believe God created the universe and everything in it. Science is busy trying to find out exactly when and how and they are quite close.  I understand they have traced/calculated the universe back to about 1 millionth/1 billionth (???) of a second after the "Big Bang" occurred but not quite to the initial point of the Big Bang itself.  They know roughly how old the universe is and a great deal more about it than I can understand.  Even after reading Stephen Hawking's "A Brief Moment in Time".

Why do I believe God created the Universe and everything in it?  

Because of all the Laws which govern how everything behaves.  Whether physics, chemistry, biology (and every sub-sector within these disciplines), there are certain laws which govern how things happen.  Science is about discovering and understanding these laws.  Physicists have the tough ones as they get out to the edges of the universe and deep inside the workings of sub-atomic particles.  The laws of genetics ensure continuity from generation to generation AND provide enough variation for selection (natural and human assisted) and even for evolution.

Engineers of all stripes take advantage of all the known laws, harnessing them to design and construct various and sundry amazing things. Like cars and rockets and computers and artificial hearts and bridges and electrical grids and . . .

Whenever there are Laws, there must be a Law Giver. Someone who laid down the order by which the universe and everything in it unfolds.

You cannot prove it scientifically either way. You believe or you do not believe.  I believe.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter

Easter is one of the two holiest days of all Christian Churches, the other of course being Christmas.  The birth, life and death of Christ brought salvation to the world through redemption from sin.  According to Hebraic Law, blood sacrifice was necessary for forgiveness from sin.  Although the most perfect lamb was chosen, being biological of course, it could not be PERFECT.  Consequently the sacrifice was good for one year only.

Jesus was the "Perfect Lamb of God" without spot or blemish in his life from beginning to end, so was the perfect sacrifice for complete forgiveness for all time.  John 3:16 sums up the whole issue.

My Iowa cousin, Alice, made reference to Maundy Thursday in a recent email.  I had to confess to not being familiar with the days of Holy Week which lead up to Easter Sunday.  I am familiar with the Tuesday before Lent, celebrated by the British with wild pancake parties and by the more sensible folk as Mardi Gras.  Alice sent me the following explanation which I thought was excellent.


On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a colt-ass.   His 12 disciples followed him, and the people who tended to believe in his teaching, preaching, and miracles that they had been seeing & hearing, waved palm branches, laid their cloaks down on the ground before him, and hollered "Hosanna!"  Which means roughly, "Lord, save us!"  They didn't understand the kind of kingdom he came to establish.  (Hey, I don't understand all of it yet either!)   
 
While this was happening there were people watching who didn't like him & his message. (They didn't understand it either.)  The Roman soldiers were standing around, making sure there was no trouble, no religious rebellion or insurrections, anything like that.  And the Pharisees, the head honchos of the Jewish people /temple in the city, were afraid that this self-proclaimed King was gonna take away their power.
 
By Thursday, the general mood of the people in Jerusalem was going downhill.  The place was crowded because of the Passover, the celebration of when the Angel of Death passed over the homes of the Hebrews when they were enslaved in Egypt  several hundred years before, when God chose Moses to lead them out.  The last plague was that the first born of every household would die that night, when the Angel of Death moved thru the city, but the Hebrews were instructed to sacrifice a perfect lamb and to use a brush of hyssop (fragrant plants) to paint blood from the sacriced lamb onto their door frames.   The Angel of Death would pass over those houses with blood on the doors.   This event became a feast, celebrated annually by the Jews, and they came to Jerusalem from all Israel to  celebrate, if at all possible.
 
On Thursday, Jesus did some teaching.   He gave the final form of the commandments of God.  (First, there were something like 603...not sure of the exact figure right now...but there were LOTS of commandments in the early days to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the patriarchs of the faith.  Second, they were pared down to 10 commandments when Moses received them on Sinai, during the Exodus.  Jesus further pared them down to one-maybe-two:  Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love one another.)   The term MAUNDY comes from the same root word as COMMANDMENT........either Latin or Greek....can't remember right now for sure. But it is MANDATORY (another word from that root) that we love God and one another.
 
 Jesus held a Passover feast in the Upper Room of a home.  He invited his 12 disciples, and he did something quite unusual:  instead of having a servant wash the feet of his guests, he did it himself, which taught us servanthood.  Peter that night taught us humility & submission.........I'd really rather wash my own feet & he felt that way, too. 
 
 During the feast, Jesus instigated the practice that would become The Last Supper, Holy Eucharist, Communion, referring to himself as the Perfect Lamb who would lay down his life in sacrifice for all the sins of all mankind for all time..........The Father's perfect plan to overcome the imperfections experienced by humanity ---and even our most grievous & terrible sins---since the Fall from Grace in the Garden.