Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why we need a Greenhouse

Tanya went to Dnipropetrovs'k today to pick up my invitation from her sister in Abakan. It was sent by DHL to the tune of $50 which is an improvement over last time when it was $100. DHL has an office in Dnipro and do not do inter country delivery, so we have to pick it up. I will head out at 11:30 tonight for Kyiv to put in my application for a Russian visa.

I would love to know what takes a month to get a personal invitation from a family member? The application for an invitation went to the local OVIR which is the police department that registers all residents, permanent or if foreign, temporary. Since Luda is no longer working outside the home, the invitation had to be done by my brother in law. Do they check out Luda and Valerie? Do they check me out more thoroughly than if I were simply a tourist or going on business? In the latter situations ostensibly you are under the "control" of a tourist agency or an approved business.

It is comforting to know that Russian xenophobia is many centuries old and not just a carry over from Soviet times. Also, I just learned from another book I am reading "Holy Madness - Romantics, Patriots and Revolutionaries 1776-1871" by Adam Zamoyski, that the idea that the West is plotting against Russia is also at least a couple of centuries old. "From the early 1840's, the Slavophiles propagated the twin notions of a great Western Conspiracy to crush Russia and of a noxious Western 'disease' threatening to undermine her spirituality." So it isn't Nicholas, Stalin, nor Putin.  It is Mother Russia.

We will be gone to the end of April and Tanya is worried about her garden.  She moved most of her plants to the passageway between the house and outbuilding where they are cold but not freezing, just to delay their growth.  The tomatoes are shooting upwards and all the other tiny plants are doing well too so it may look like  jungle when we get back.  Katya and Yuri will stay here while we are away.  Katya will look after the plants and Yuri will be repairing our kitchen sink drain which plugged solid or collapsed a few months back and has been waiting for spring to repair. He will have to run an entirely new pipe.  Above ground and above the cement.  Pictures later I hope.

Here is why we need a greenhouse.  We are looking for the person in Zhovti Vody who builds them but he moved and we haven't found his new location yet.

Plants are started in a flat box covered with plastic wrap then transplanted
into individual cups when they are big enough
They were growing very well in the front entry by the window and radiator. 
Too well to last until May to put in the garden.

Some of the tomatoes
The black stacking crates were 50 cents so we bought 13 (all they had).
The community garden area.  It was cold, foggy and wet this morning. 
Snow from last night still on the ground in patches.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Collected Quotations

Years back I started collecting quotations I found written down someplace and didn't want to lose. Now Google will find every quotation ever recorded. I was interested to see which quotations had caught my fancy at the time and that I took the energy to actually type out (being a 20 word a minute man makes for tough sledding on the keyboard).

I had actually planned on a well researched and brilliantly written blog post on risk but got tired out after digging out the references. You are stuck with this as I can just cut and paste.


"It is my feeling that as we grow older we should become not less radical but more so. I do not, of course, mean this in any political-party sense, but in a willingness to struggle for those things in which we passionately believe." - Margaret Laurence

"I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once." - Jennifer Unlimited

"If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." -Catherine Aird

"The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple." Oscar Wilde

The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser - in case you thought optimism was dead. -Robert Brault, software developer, writer

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." - Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." -- Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." -- William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."-- Groucho Marx

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." - Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." - Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend... If you have one." -- George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill...followed by Churchill's response: "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second, if there is one." -- Winston Churchill

Man that is born of a woman Hath but a short time to live, And is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down like a flow’r; He fleeth as it were a shadow, And ne’er continueth in one stay. Job 14:1,2 KJV

"What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don't like something to saying that the government should forbid it. When you go down that road don't expect freedom to survive very long." - Thomas Sowell

Management is about getting the best out of existing resources, under given constraints, whereas leadership is about moving beyond constraints and redefining what success means.

"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort." Herm Albright

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. ~ Mother Teresa

"A loving heart is the truest wisdom." Charles Dickens

"The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident." Charles Lamb

"Pure love and suspicion cannot dwell together: at the door where the latter enters, the former makes its exit." Alexandre Dumas

"I don’t know how old I am because the goat ate the bible that had my birth certificate in it. The goat lived to be twenty-seven." Satchel Paige.

"If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use." Galileo Galilei.

"When you say that you agree to a thing on principle, you mean that you have not the slightest intention of carrying it out in practice." Otto Von Bismarck.

"Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof." John Kenneth Gabraith

"As you go through life, you will have many opportunities to keep your mouth shut.
Take advantage of all of them." My Mother

More another time. I have pages and pages of them, saved over 40 odd years.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I finished off the business plan last night and emailed everything to my colleague whom I hope is still my friend after he reviews it. It was 11:00 pm. I slept until 9:00 this morning and again all after noon. I shall go to bed early tonight, too.

Now to concentrate on some stuff for another friend and colleague that needed to be done two weeks ago. He is firing up his consulting business after a four year hiatus and developing all new material, website etc. Some of the work I have been most proud of, I have done working with Wayne and his clients.

Tanya and Lena worked in the garden this afternoon. All the local gardens have been raked over, smoothed out and a few brave souls are already planting. Potatoes, mostly thoug the ground is hardly warm enough for anything to grow. Tanya planted lettuce today. It is supposed to be +17 next week. Our first spring rain fell this afternoon driving them from the garden. The mini-crocuses are blooming furiously in the front yard, trying to be noticed. The tulips and irises are showing green shoots. I heard a song bird of some kind two days ago. It is spring. Tonight we change our clocks to DST, I think.

A Christmas package from my daughter in BC arrived this week. She mailed it early in the new year. Two and a half months. I expect the last month was getting from the main PO in Kyiv to our little village PO. When we drove out to pick it up, I got thinking that these people are most likely descendents of people who were once serfs 150 years ago.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Winter Fishing in Saskatchewan

My friend, Wayne who now lives on Vancouver Island, was born and raised on a farm near Big River Saskatchewan, where his father John, still lives. John was a logger, farmer and in the winter ice-fisherman.  He has run nets in Delaronde Lake for decades and in his early 80's is still running the nets.  Only now, the money raised from the sale of whitefish goes to the local hockey rink or some other charity. A couple of winters ago, Wayne decided to video the process of laying the nets under the ice.  This is his first ever edited video, which he finally posted on YouTube.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A great website about Russia

I just found the Russian Sphinx blog site with the most awesome graphics of information about Russia and the rest of the world too. Pays to read the comments on The Economist articles.  The Daily Chart was of arms exporters and importers and one of the commenters linked to this http://russiansphinx.blogspot.com/2011/03/military-budgets-by-country-and-for.html

Other posts this month:  Even if you don't care about Russia check out the graphics

Sunday, March 20, 2011

There apear to be some GAAPs in my knowledge

It used to be said that a person became an Accountant because they didn't have enough personality to be an Economist.  Now a person becomes an Economist if they do not have enough imagination to be an Accountant.

The "fancy" stuff that real accountants do for their real (rich) clients is quite different from the "fancy" stuff that I do in business plans for owner-operator small business start-ups.  Pro-forma financial statements are really models of how the new business is expected to operate over the next five years.  The model can be as simple or as complicated as information is available to create it.  But there are huge amounts of unknowns, the greatest one being for example, the number of billable hours on a monthly basis for the first year. My solution is to split the difference between what I think is probable and what the client thinks is likely.  I am terribly risk averse.  With my money and other people's.  Especially with other people's.

Cost of Goods Sold was another new term for me.  I was familiar with it and what it meant but had never used it. Which costs go in COGS and which go in General Expenses?  In my Livestock Specialist days they were called variable and fixed costs, so that helped a bit.  If one is totally familiar with the industry, filling in the blanks in operating costs is easier but what do I know about welding or plumbing?  Fortunately my colleague has been in this game many years and knows many of the standard numbers such as insurance - liability, vehicle, etc. 

When we don't know, we use the PFS system (Pulled From Sky).  I prefer to use SWAG in livestock financials (Scientific Wild Assed Guesses) but that is just because of my science background.  The amazing thing is that PFS numbers are usually close enough, given Robert's experience and that fact that a business plan to be really useful, is not dead but dynamic.  In other words, once the business gets going, the business owner needs to revise it fairly regularly if it is to serve as a guide.

The "number of billable hours" is a result of a gut-feel after completing the marketing plan.  Most of our clients are local people, with 20 years in the game working for someone else.  They have a network to die for and a reputation for quality work that has potential clients pleading with them to start their own business. So we do an inventory of the competition; the client tells us how they will differentiate themselves from the pack and get the word out they are in business and we write it up and put costs to it.

We have seen some pretty good people start their own business and succeed very well.  No-one gets rich but they have the benefit of any profits and as owner-operators they get to work longer hours than they did before (for less money if the economy takes a downturn).. What is not to like?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The World According to GAAP

Once upon a midnight dreary, fingers cramped and vision bleary,
System manuals piled high and wasted paper on the floor 
Longing for the warmth of bedsheets, Still I sat there, doing spreadsheets*;

My friend and colleague, Robert, with whom I have done a number of business plans for clients as varied as oyster farmers, welders, plumbers and roofers, decided it was high time I learned to do the pro-forma financial statements myself.  I had always depended on him since he has years more experience AND a Commerce degree.  I've used spreadsheets for years and done financial statements too but nothing very formal and all agriculture related.  The production models were fairly basic and the financial spreadsheets that I had done were mainly simple partial budget enterprise analysis rather than whole farm and certainly never followed anything close to GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). 

So for the past week, I have been wrestling with understanding things like Cost of Goods Sold, Statement of Change in Financial Position (aka Cash Flow) and having Balance Sheets that actually balance.  With all the right information called by the right names and subtotaled under the right category names.  It has been quite interesting for me as I have known for some time that I needed to learn to do proper financial statements. 

I still have the rest of the Business Plan to finish off but that is the easy stuff compared with the financials. And I am learning more about Excel at the same time.

*The Computer Nevermore

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Canadian Farm Size and Total Farm Operating Income

I know you hate charts and tables and stuff but I have two more related to Canadian farm size and gross farm income.  A colleague, Kevin Hursh of Hursh Consulting and Communications sent me the numbers after including some of them in his "Today's Comments" so I did the charts up for him. I forgot to ask him exactly how many farms there were in Canada but I guess I could look it up.

There are lots of small farms but in the grand scheme of things they don't produce much.  The old 80:20 rule but in this case it is 80:18.  80% of Canadian farms produce only 18% of the total farm operating revenue (revenue generated by growing and selling agricultural products), not counting off farm income, government payments and such like).  20% of Canadian farms generate 82%. 

Now the question is what IS a farm?  By Canadian tax definition, it is an agricultural operation that generates over $5,000 in sales of farm products.  43% of Canadian "farms" gross under $10,000 dollars per year.  22% of Canadian farms gross between $10,000 and $100,000 per year.  My parents farm in Saskatchewan would have fallen into that category with 3 quarters of native pasture (190 ha) and 5 of cultivated land (320 ha), all sandy loam soils .  The next income division, $100,000 to $250,000 accounts for 15% of Canadian farms.  These three categories generated 18% of Total Farm Operating Revenues (Figure 2).

Only 4% of  farms grossed over the million dollar mark.  My guess is that feedlots and pig operations fall into this category along with a few huge grain farms.

Margins are slim and operating costs are phenomenal while any profits are bid back into the value of land (or in the case of dairy and poultry, into quota prices). Asset rich, cash poor.

Figure 1: (Gross farm income is in $'000)

Figure 2: (Gross farm income is in $'000)

Economist on Nuclear Crisis in Japan

The Economist has an excellent article on the background of nuclear malfunctions similar to what is happening in Japan and an explanation of the current situation.


The comments, some of which are actually quite informed, fall into two categories.  There is the "Luddite anti-everything" crowd and the "Useful Idiots in the pay of big business" crowd.

BBC's latest information is here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Climate of Ukraine

Several readers have asked about the climate in Ukraine, so you get a whole blog to answer it partially.  Kyiv is almost exactly on the same latitude as Regina, Saskatchewan, while Sevastopol and Yalta are on the same latitude as Pierre South Dakota. 

An otherwise continental climate is moderated greatly by the Black Sea.  The narrow strip of land between the Crimean mountains and the Black Sea has more of a Mediterranean climate.  Temperature increases from north to south and precipitation decreases from west to east.  The Carpathians get maybe 650 mm rain annually while the  Steppes get 250 to 300 mm.

The charts below show the average annual precipitation and temperature for Chernihiv which is north of Kyiv, and Dnepropetrovs'k which is where I live The charts are from a presentation I did a while back. Winter precipitation is a lot higher than eg the prairies and in that sense certainly not "continental".

Monday, March 14, 2011

Travel Ukraine

BBC has several great articles on Ukraine here at Ukraine Direct.  Lots of pictures, stories about food, markets, politics, economy, customs and people.

St Andrews Kyiv 2007
Along "Andrew's Descent" Kyiv 2007
Crimea 2007
Sofivka Park October Uman 2008
Pecharske Lavra Kyiv 2007
Pecharske Lavra Bell Tower Kyiv 2007

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Europeans are pretty clueless about coffee regardless of what they think. They make not bad coffee but try and get a cup full?  Impossible.  You have a choice of something called Expresso which is very good coffee served in a thimble which I can toss back like vodka or Coffee Americana which is Expresso with an equal volume of boiling water in it.  Served in a small cup.  About two good gulps.  There is also something called Cappuccino which is the same as coffee with cream and sugar but costs three times as much.

Historian-Nan at All The Good Names Were Taken posted a picture of a kitten head down in a coffee cup that pretty much sums up my relationship with the stuff.  When I am working at my computer, I like to have a hot cuppa on my desk at all times.  This can lead to consumption of large volumes.

Since I got my Melita coffee maker  I have been able to keep track of just how much that can be at times.  Filters are 40 to a pack (oh, did I mention I like statistics and numbers and graphs and such?) and a pack lasts two weeks.  The pot makes, if I fill it to the brim with water, two mugs of coffee.  400 mls per mug. I measured.

Forty mugs per week minus five that Tanya drinks (one cup in the morning about five days a week) leaving me with 35 cups per week or five cups per day.  Two litres per day.  Some days I drink three cups, other days seven but I start to vibrate a bit after seven cups.  Tanya is always after me to stop drinking coffee, blaming it for all ailments real and imagined.

I did stop cold turkey maybe 15 years ago.  Home sick two days then on Tylenol for three until the caffeine dependency wore off.  I drank herbal tea for several months. It comes in two flavours, regardless of what the box says. Boiled grass and Feedlot runoff.  I do drink real tea.  Earl Grey being my favourite black tea and sometimes I even drink green tea but it will never be habit forming.

The other day Tanya took my blood pressure.  135/90 which she said was high and I should stop drinking coffee.  I did for 48 hours.  Longest two months of my life. 

I've had this cartoon since pre-internet days; scanned it from a Xerox copy I got decades ago.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Never eat a dead chicken on a windy day

Today was nice enough to do some yard work.  No sun but no wind either and about +5C.  I held the ladder while Tanya pruned the grape vines around our front door.  There is a timing for all this.  Trees are pruned in February.  Grape vines in March.  Last year was our best crop of grapes ever.

Then Tanya gathered winter detritus off the flower beds, while I swept the walks and cleaned up the dog run.  The other day Volk brought home a dead chicken from our neighbour's manure pile and proceeded to eat it.  Bad enough, but in a Force 7 Gale Wind, there were feathers EVERYWHERE.  Especially in the flower garden.

Something to look forward to again this fall .

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mark Trail

It is rare that I read a blog post and don't leave a comment.  Partly because I like it when people comment on my blog.  Partly because I have an opinion on everything, to which I am certain the world is entitled. And partly, as I understood after watching my dogs who can never pass a tree, because I just like to leave a sign that I was there.

Stolen from here

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why People Become Republicans

The Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan Inc. (FACS) was established in 1992 as the first industry-supported, membership-based, non-profit provincial organization to collectively represent the livestock and poultry industries regarding animal care issues. FACS circulates news articles of interest to the livestock industry to it members from time to time. This one caught my attention:

School Bans Meat on Mondays
March 4, 2011
Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes reports:

Maine’s Bowdoin College is under fire for a mandatory “Meatless Monday” in the schools’ dining halls. Instead of cheeseburgers and friend chicken, students are offered stir-fry tofu and vegetables.

“Meatless Monday” is sponsored by the Bowdoin College Democrats as a way to promote healthy eating. The Democrats also believe that eating fewer animals will help the environment. And there’s talk that “Meatless Monday” could become permanent.

However, some students were outraged over the mandatory meal.

“Raising awareness for a cause is one thing, but to have a vocal minority impose its will onto the rest of us and then attempt to stifle dissent is outrageous,” wrote Sam Landis in an email to the Bowdoin Orient newspaper.

Landis and another student organized a counter-protest. They gave away free McDonald’s double cheeseburgers to anyone who agreed to donate to the Coastal Humane Society.

He said posters promoting their event were torn down and destroyed.

Read more on the Fox News Website.
The beef industry has been fighting the pseudo-science, half truths and outright lies of the anti-meat crowd for 40 years.  Because people believe the anti-meat crowd.  Would David Suzuki lie to you?  (Would Glenn Beck?) Bad news "science" about beef hits the front page of the newspapers.  The truth is hard to find other than on industry websites and of course "we KNOW about THEM".  The pressure groups form and this is the result.

And these are "Democrats"?  The Left seems to collect as many crazies as the Right.  So people see this stuff about meat, or whatever the cause of the week is, which they know is bullshit and say if this is the Left, obviously the truth is on Fox News.  People believe the BS of the Left and wonder why others believe the BS of the Right?

If the Democrats and the NDP really want to be taken seriously then FOCUS on people; on programs and policies that improve the lot of the citizens.  Health care; Education; Social Safety nets; Workplace safety; Collective bargaining; REAL environmental problems. The Right is certainly focused on taking away those programs or making sure they never happen in the first place.

Oh, and it was hard to keep a straight face to this line: “Raising awareness for a cause is one thing, but to have a vocal minority impose its will onto the rest of us and then attempt to stifle dissent is outrageous,”  From a Republican????

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The bleak future of social networking

In the not too distant future, YouTube, Twitter & Facebook will merge to form one giant, idiotic, super time-wasting website called*...

*Blame my sister, she emailed it to me.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blogs: Copyright and Courtesy

Everybody else in blogland likely knows all this stuff but me, so if you are up on Copyright, Fair Use/Fair Dealing, And Hotlinking: What You Need To Know, then pass on, Sistren and Brethren. Basically, the linked blog post covers the rules for what you can use from other people's blogs and various and sundry other sources.  If you always write original material in your blog, you may want to read it anyhow to see what the rules are about people using your stuff. 

While fair use (United States) and fair dealing (Canada) allow for the limited reproduction of an author's work, wholesale reproduction of your work without your express permission is not acceptable, and it is considered copyright infringement.

If  you read down to the bottom of the Ninjamatics blog post, you get a summary of what you should and shouldn't do.  I just saved the summary to my Blog folder for future reference.

Simply put, there are two rules about reposting someone's blog in its entirety: 
Rule number one is the one you should follow - When in doubt ASK.
Rule number two is all too often the one I follow - It is easier to get forgiven than to get permission. This is a dangerous rule as some folks, especially those who make a living blogging (you can really do that?) or writing in general are not fussy about you stealing their stuff, without asking. Especially if you don't credit them for it.  You don't want to get your ox in a pit or your ass in a sling.

I have reposted a few blogs or articles in their entirety.  Most times I have asked. A couple times I did not and for that I apologize, Lee Hart.  I have always acknowledged the source and linked to it, with the intention that my thirteen readers might also become regular readers of the source.  However as pointed out in the above blog post, good intentions are not enough and we all know about the pavement on the road to hell.  

Having said that, there are obviously some things that beg to be stolen and reposted.  Like jokes.  A great many of them, including the Engineering conversion factors I posted a few days ago have been around on email forwards more times than I can count.  I copied them from an email but later found a raft of them on the internet. So does that mean they are now copyright and I can't reprint them?  Where do you think the person got them from in the first place?  If I post a page of jokes on my blog you can be sure they are previously owned.  Please steal from me, just don't acknowledge me as their source if they are really bad ones.

You can Google Rodney Dangerfield and find pages of his great one-liners and I suppose rather than copy and paste you could link to them but it does lose in the translation.

Cartoons is another area I have trouble with as I love to steal cartoons and funny pictures. I have a personal collection of hundreds sorted into Funny and Adult Funny folders.  I have been known to post some of them from time to time.  Since my blog pretty much flies below the radar, I am safe from lawsuits - until...  I can't plead ignorance there.  I KNOW that reposting cartoons without arrangements is copyright infringement.

Oh, and also note the instructions in the article about hotlinking of pictures.  Don't do it.  This is not like embedding a Youtube video, which is OK or at least they give you the HTML code to do it.

Please, Dear Readers who know more about this than I, feel free to comment in detail.  I am anxious to learn more.

And thank you Elan Morgan aka Schmutzie for your article and advice.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Six days of sunshine.  Five days of temps above freezing.  Most of the snow is gone.  The potholes in the roads are back.  The house is full of seedlings.  It must be spring.

I let the dogs out for a run.  they tracked mud all over the front step.  When we got home from our walk there was a bucket of water waiting for me and an old towel to wash the step.  I guess they will be on-leash now until fall again.  If they damage her flowers ...  And once the gardens start to go in, the neighbours don't appreciate those clowns stirring things up. 

Tanya started tomatoes from seed in our south window about a month ago.  Yesterday she transplanted them to give them more space and the passageway is full of pots and boxes.  The germination was pretty good as she got about 200 plants.  Don't worry.  She will still buy more seedlings from our neighbour who has a nursery.  No such thing as too many tomato plants.  For some reason they don't yield per plant like I would expect.

February made up for it but we had a mild fall and winter.  We had bulbs start to grow in January, with enough snow to protect them from February we hope.  It was so warm a bunch of petunias started to grow from seed out in the garden so Tanya dug them up and stuck them in pots for the winter.  We kept them in the passageway which is cool enough they didn't grow much all winter.  She brought them in a few weeks ago and they took off.  She will be transplanting them soon too as they need more space and it is still a few weeks before they go outside.

Volunteer Petunias

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Story of Ella’s Tree

Ella Oct 2000
Ella would have been 62 today. She will have been gone 7years in April. We were married 30 years and 2 days. She was wife, mother, friend, daughter, administrator, organizer, energizer. She was in charge and things got done. Everyone needed her for something and she was on call 24-7. She never relaxed. Except at the lake. She lived for her time at the lake.

It was a little prairie lake in the Qu’Appelle Valley a couple of hours east of Regina. Our neighbour and long time friend, Barb, had a family cabin there, shared by the three sisters and their families, all friends of ours. In the summer when they weren’t using it, Ella would load up the car with books, food and cleaning supplies (that was her “rent” payment) and go to the lake for as many days as she could, as often as she could. All by herself. No phone, no TV, no nothing and NOBODY. She would sit and read in front of the cabin, where she could see and hear the water.

When she died, a friend gave us money to plant a tree in her memory. None of us were “permanent” anywhere. Our house was for sale and the kids were all renting. The only logical place for the tree was “the cabin” so we asked if that was ok. This is the story as told by our neighbour, Barb, shortly after the planting.

Crooked Lake from the top of the Qu'Appelle Valley

Ella’s Tree
On June 13, Al, Joanne and I went to Lakeview Gardens to look at trees. The family had decided to donate a tree to Joanne to plant at her cottage at Crooked Lake. It was to be a tree in memory of Ella who so loved the lake and the times that she spent there over the years.

After tromping around and discussing the pros and cons of different trees, Al decided on a crimson maple. It stood about 8 feet tall and the trunk was about 2 inches across. We planned to have the tree delivered to the lake the following weekend.

For those of us (4 people at some points), at the lake during the week, there was much discussion about where to plant the tree. On the left side of the lot, at the right side, at the front in the middle (no, that won't do-Ella wouldn't want the view spoiled). We acted like men standing around a construction site -waving our arms and doing everything but digging a hole. Joanne didn't stay the whole week but before she left to go back to the city, we said to her "Give us direction and we will dig the hole while you are gone." She didn't and so we waited for her return.

Joanne brought the tree out on the weekend of June 19. Saturday morning was a pleasant and sunny one and we retrieved the tree from the van. Then we started all over again. Should the tree be on the left side, should it be on the right, how far away from the current trees, how big will it grow (checking the tag and pacing off imaginary branches and leaves in all directions), what will it do to the view of the neighbours, what about the prevailing winds.....on and on. Finally Joanne said OK, this is the spot and away we went. Digging, digging, then putting root nutrient liquid in the hole, then compost leaves from the back of the lot, then the stake for stability and then the tree. We anchored the tree to the stake and stood back to survey our handiwork.

Kathy from the cabin next door came over and started to chat with Jo. Kathy said she saw we had become arborists and Jo said, yes, the tree was in memory of our dear friend Ella who had spent time at the cottage. Kathy knew Ella and was saddened by the news and she said:

"Oh, that lady.....that lady! I said to my husband, as you dug the hole.... where is that lady going to put her lawnchair for that's where she always sat in the sun and read her book."

And so, without realizing it, and with guidance that only Ella could give, we planted the tree where she did her reading on the lawn. I'm sure the rationale was that if she couldn't sit in that spot then no one else could either. We will give the tree love and attention and we want to have you come to the lake to see it too.

It's a lovely spot, a lovely tree and is a memory of a beautiful woman.

Joanne by Ella's Tree June 2004

Joanne died suddenly in September of that same year. Complications from surgery, they said. Not a good year for our two families.  Sean and I mourned together.  Cabin ownership passed to her sister Cheryl whose family farmed 30 minutes north of the lake. Barb and her family moved to Ottawa.

I stopped out at the cabin a couple of times. The tree survived the first winter and the second. It seemed to be settling in pretty good, even though it was touch and go if it could survive the climate.

Then the resort area was sold. The cabins were “owned” but the land was owned by the resort and rented annually. The new owners changed the rules. Buy the land or move the cabin off or walk away. It was an old cabin, not worth moving and the price asked for lake front property was outrageously high. They walked away from a life time of memories. The cabin was demolished that fall.

I had moved to Ukraine by then. The kids still had no place permanent enough to put a tree.  Two of them have bought houses since.  Ella’s tree was moved to Cheryl’s farm, where it is now in memory of two beautiful women.

Life is life. Life happens while you make other plans. The physical is not permanent. Only the memories.

LynnieC and Al August 2006

Friday, March 4, 2011

More Useful Conversion Charts

  1. 365.25 days of drinking low-calorie beer because it's less filling = 1 lite year
  2. 1 unit of suspense in a mystery novel = 1 whod unit
  3. 100 rations = 1 C-ration
  4. 2 wharves = 1 paradox
  5. 2 snake eyes = 1 paradise
  6. 2 baby sitters = 1 gramma grampa
  7. 1018 acts = 1 exact
  8. 1015 shops = 1 petashop
  9. 1012 bulls = 1 terabull
  10. 109 antics = 1 gigantic
  11. 109 "lo"s = 1021 picolos = 1 gigalo
  12. 3 1/3 tridents = 1 decadent
  13. 10 monologs = 5 dialogs
  14. 5 dialogs = 1 decalog
  15. 10-1 mates = 1 decimate
  16. 10-1 mals = 1 decimal
  17. 10-1 bels = 1 decibel
  18. 10-2 mental journeys = 1 centimental journey
  19. 10 millipedes = 1 centipede
  20. 10-3 of an ion = 1 million
  21. 10-3 Helen of Troys = 1 milliHelen, the amount of beauty required to launch one ship
  22. 10-12 really big scares = 1 picoboo
  23. 10-18 boys = 1 attoboy
  24. Speed of a tortoise breaking the sound barrier = 1 Mach Turtle
  25. 100 tics = 1 hectic
  26. 500 millinaries = 1 seminary
  27. 1000 female sheep = 1 milieu
  28. 2 monograms = 1 diagram
  29. 2 untruths = 1 paralyze
  30. 33.8 oz of a case of soft drinks = 1 liter of the pack
Found here and here 

Building Better Kids

Kevin Drum, from Mother Jones, has a very worthwhile article called "Building Better Kids". He reviews a paper by James A Heckman, The American Family in Black and White: A Post-Racial Strategy for Improving Skills to Promote Equality, the abstract of which follows:

In contemporary America, racial gaps in achievement are primarily due to gaps in skills. Skill gaps emerge early before children enter school. Families are major producers of those skills. Inequality in performance in school is strongly linked to inequality in family environments. Schools do little to reduce or enlarge the gaps in skills that are present when children enter school. Parenting matters, and the true measure of child advantage and disadvantage is the quality of parenting received. A growing fraction of American children across all race and ethnic groups is being raised in dysfunctional families. Investment in the early lives of children in disadvantaged families will help close achievement gaps. America currently relies too much on schools and adolescent remediation strategies to solve problems that start in the preschool years. Policy should prevent rather than remediate. Voluntary, culturally sensitive support for parenting is a politically and economically palatable strategy that addresses problems common to all racial and ethnic groups.
 Drum says Heckman  does not say that "school reforms" are a waste of money but says that this chart "tells you most of what you need to know about educating our kids".

The chart shows achievement test scores for children of mothers with different levels of education. Children of college graduates score about one standard deviation above the mean by the time they're three, and that never changes. Children of mothers with less than a high school education score about half a standard deviation below the mean by the time they're three, and that never changes either. Roughly speaking, nothing we do after age three has much effect:
[These] gaps arise early and persist. Schools do little to budge these gaps even though the quality of schooling attended varies greatly across social classes. Much evidence tells the same story as Figure 1. Gaps in test scores classified by social and economic status of the family emerge at early ages, before schooling starts, and they persist. Similar gaps emerge and persist in indices of soft skills classified by social and economic status. Again, schooling does little to widen or narrow these gaps.
Heckman argues that these achievement gaps—between black and white, between rich and poor—are today less the result of overt discrimination than they are of skill gaps that open up very early in life and persist in the face of a wide variety of both good and bad schools. What's more, these gaps aren't purely, or even mainly, the result of differences in cognitive ability. At least equally important are soft skills: "motivation, sociability (the ability to work with and cooperate with others), attention, self regulation, self esteem, the ability to defer gratification and the like."

 Read the rest of the article at the link above and the original paper, also linked above. It seems that it is not just membership in "The Lucky Sperm Club" that accounts for our success in life, but also "The Lucky mDNA Club".  Spending on early childhood intervention is critical in closing this gap.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Further to...

Further to yesterday's blog, one should never get Descartes before the Horace.

Mexican Cornbread

My friend Ross is a bass player with a great jazz band, 'round midnight*, and an accomplished cook, among other things.  Anyone who can whip up escargot on mushroom caps with garlic butter on a portable BBQ at a grade 7 school camping trip is a chef to be reckoned with. 

Ross sent me this recipe because he knew I missed food with some bite in it.  As adapted, I have made it every week since.Tanya loves it.  Her family love it.  Ukrainians are usually not much on spicy food but I am working on changing that.  Here is the recipe Ross sent me:
 Mexican Corn Bread
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 (14 ounce) can cream-style corn
  • 1/2 (4 ounce) can chopped green chili peppers, drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in cream corn, chilies, Monterrey Jack and Cheddar cheese.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to corn mixture; stir until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into center of the pan comes out clean.

Since I was missing some of the ingredients, I had to adapt it a bit.  This is my version:
Mexican Corn Bread – Ukrainian style
  • 1/3 lb butter, soft
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 350 ml (10 oz) can kernal corn
  • 3 10-12 cm (4-5") hot red chili peppers
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (Well, of course.  It is Ukraine, isn't it?)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (I may add another 1/3 cup next go)
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C (350F). Lightly grease a 20x35 cm (8x14") baking dish.
  2. Clean and chop up the peppers, put corn, peppers and sour cream in blender, blend until coarsely mixed, (not until smooth).
  3. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in corn/chili/sour cream and cheese.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add dry mixture to wet mixture; stir until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  5. Bake  for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a knife inserted into center of the pan comes out clean.

* next gig
Regina Public Library Sunday Concert Series  
Sunday, March 27 · 2:30pm - 4:30pm
Sherwood Village Branch, Regina Public Library
6121 Rochdale Blvd., Regina, SK

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Les Classiques des Philosophes Grandes

I think, therefore I am - Rene Descartes
I drink, therefore I am - Dean Martin
I stink, therefore I am - Pepe le Pew

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Engineers' Conversion Table

Conversion factors that every engineer should know:

from my brother, to give credit where it is due.


1. Ratio of an igloo's circumference to its diameter = Eskimo Pi
2. 2000 pounds of Chinese soup = Won ton
3. 1 millionth of a mouthwash = 1 microscope
4. Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement = 1 bananosecond
5. Weight an evangelist carries with God = 1 billigram
6. Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per hour = Knotfurlong
7. 16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Serling
8. Half of a large intestine = 1 semicolon
9. 1,000,000 aches = 1 megahurtz
10. Basic unit of laryngitis = 1 hoarsepower

11. Shortest distance between two jokes = A straight line
12. 453.6 graham crackers = 1 pound cake
13. 1 million-million microphones = 1 megaphone
14. 2 million bicycles = 2 megacycles
15. 365.25 days = 1 unicycle
16. 2000 mockingbirds = 2 kilomockingbirds
17. 52 cards = 1 decacards
18. 1 kilogram of falling figs = 1 FigNewton
19. 1000 milliliters of wet socks = 1 literhosen
20. 1 millionth of a fish = 1 microfiche
21. 1 trillion pins = 1 terrapin
22. 10 rations = 1 decoration
23. 2 monograms = 1 diagram
24. 4 nickels = 2 paradigms
25. 2.4 miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital = 1 IV League