Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Nuremberg Principles

The Nuremberg principles were a set of guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime. The document was created by the International Law Commission of the United Nations to codify the legal principles underlying the Nuremberg Trials of Naziparty members following World War II. (Wiki)

Principle IV

Main article: Superior Orders

Principle IV states: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him".
This principle could be paraphrased as follows: "It is not an acceptable excuse to say 'I was just following my superior's orders'".
Previous to the time of the Nuremberg Trials, this excuse was known in common parlance as "Superior Orders". After the prominent, high profile event of the Nuremberg Trials, that excuse is now referred to by many as "Nuremberg Defense". In recent times, a third term, "lawful orders" has become common parlance for some people. All three terms are in use today, and they all have slightly different nuances of meaning, depending on the context in which they are used.
The Nuremberg Principles are used by the winners to condemn the losers.  They are certainly NEVER applied by a regime in dealing with its own people.  The regime defines who are heroes and who are traitors, not "the people" and in most cases either the people support the regime or are coerced into doing so. Hence the fact that Bradley Manning is not allowed to use Principle IV in his defence (or the First Amendment or practically anything else from what I can gather). Julian Assange and Edward Snowden will spend their lives in hiding or in prison. History may consider them heroes but the American Empire never will.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Catching Up is Hard to Do

It has been a while since I posted anything or read my blog list.  Maybe two weeks?  So today was catch up day on reading and am maybe half done.

Dad and Daughter
My daughter Ky was here for 10 full days, arriving on Saturday June 8 and leaving Thursday June 20.  We had a wonderful visit.  We did nothing but be - in the same room, or the same house or the same yard or on the same dog-walk.

She was exhausted and slept a great deal, which she needed.  Being in the 5th year of a PhD program (Victorian Literature) at University of Victoria, BC  is a pretty heavy schedule, working on her dissertation, teaching an upper level English class each semester and speaking at three major conferences since January pretty much wore her out. This last conference was in Venice which is why she came to visit.  Rome Kyiv return was pretty cheap.

The conferences are sort of marketing tools for would be academics as they are attended by fairly senior people in the field, sort of like major league scouts, I guess. We put her on the train to Kyiv Wednesday evening June 20th to catch her 5:30 am flight to Rome.

Masha, Dasha and Andrei
If you are interested all of Ky's pictures from her time in Ukraine are posted HERE on Flikr

While Ky was here we did go to visit my newest Step-granddaughter Dasha who is two months old now.  She was for her monthly check up and has gained 1 kg each months so is doing quite good.

Masha stayed with us for a few days while Ky was here.  She had a cold and her mom didn't want Dasha to catch it.  She left the same time as Ky so it seemed pretty quiet for a few days.

Once Ky was gone, I gritted my teeth and finished a report I had been working on for some time.  A feasibility study on growing stinging nettles for fibre.  Nettles are a very ancient fibre crop in northern Europe, eventually replaced by hemp and flax, then imported cotton fibre. Stinging nettle also has a great many uses in cosmetics, herbal nutrition, folk medicine and actual medicine.  You can look it up. It is good for everything except emergency toilet paper.

That finished, I am ready to start another project in Greece for the  same parent company I do work for in Turkey.  That should take me the summer, some of it in Greece, even.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Two (Possibly Related) Stories

Diane Henders confessed to accidentally entertaining a passing driver by pole dancing in her garden.  I should love to run into the motorist and get his side of the story.

It reminded me of two stories from a summer of long long ago, one of which I can verify as I was there and the other which was related to me some years later by someone with absolutely no connection to or knowledge of the first story.

1. In the town in which we were living at the time, lived a store manager with a wife and two daughters ages 6 and 8, a purple station wagon and a new tent trailer which he was hopelessly inept at backing up.  They went on holidays to the mountains.

2. In a campground in the mountains that same summer, a purple station wagon pulling a tent trailer managed to back it into a campsite after a great deal of difficulty.  Two young girls got out and were sent off to play while the couple set up the tent trailer and disappeared inside.  The tent trailer proceeded to rock and roll.  Being improperly set, the one end collapsed spilling the naked couple out on the ground. The door being locked the only way back in was the way they came out.

In five minutes they were dressed, the tent trailer folded down, the girls retrieved from the playground and the purple station wagon disappeared never to be seen again in that campground.

Random coincidence?  We'll never know.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Love and Marriage - Serious Feedback Requested

This blog post has been years in the making.  The trigger was a couple of posts on FB a few weeks ago.

I am in incurable romantic.  I love to hear about how people met and fell in love.  News of 60th wedding anniversaries make me happy; 65ths even happier and that chinese couple celebrating 88 years together made my day.  I hate to hear of people splitting up; it makes me sad that everyone cannot live happily ever after.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

This may rank in the top five classic openings and has given rise to the Anna Karenina Principle, which according to Wiki, describes an endeavor in which a deficiency in any one of a number of factors dooms it to failure. Consequently, a successful endeavor (subject to this principle) is one where every possible deficiency has been avoided.

Considering that half of all marriages end in divorce (30% of all first marriages), it is certain that avoiding deficiencies is no easy task but I am not convinced of the veracity of the first half of the statement.  I think all happy families are just as different from each other as unhappy families are from each other.  They have simply learned to avoid or overcome to a greater or lesser degree the deficiencies which otherwise would have split them apart.

Can marriages be fitted to a standard distribution curve?  Most measurable traits of living organisms are not simply + or _, 0 or 1, on or off.  They are variable and distribute themselves around a mean, tapering off to extremes on either side. 

Standard distribution around the mean
 So can we take surviving marriages and rank them according to happiness and will they look like this? Keep in mind that NO ONE can judge a marriage from the outside nor can one partner really speak for the other.  We become very good at hiding, at covering up, at making it work.

A bad marriage to me is where one or both partners are unhappy but they are "making it work"; "staying together for the children".  It has been my observation that it is usually the woman who has to make it work, possibly because she sees no other options open to her. I am open to discussion on this.

Which brings me to my questions. What is an average marriage? What is a good marriage?  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Calculating the net worth of the humanities

From an article in the Victoria Times Colonist by Lisa Surridge, Professor of English and Timothy Iles, Professor of Pacific and Asian studies in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Victoria.  Lisa Surridge is also my daughter's PhD supervisor.  I hope I am not in too much trouble for reprinting it here without permission.

Thousands of delegates to the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences have descended upon the University of Victoria this week from across the country and, indeed, around the world. There could be nothing better for the local economy: eight days of meetings, hundreds of hotel rooms booked, thousands of meals eaten, a plethora of taxis taken.
Are those 7,000 humanists and social scientists good for anything else?
In this time of budget cuts and bottom lines, of temporary foreign workers, one of the recurring, popular diversions from issues of governmental accountability is the increasingly virulent attack on the liberal arts in the media, typically phrased in the form of the question, “How will studying that get you a job?”
Should these scholars pack up their books, their words, their debates, and apply themselves to something useful, such as welding, dental hygiene or designing bridges?
The humanities represent a fundamental component of a university, a fundamental component of a vital democracy, a fundamental reaffirmation of the value of each and every individual to the totality of the human experience. If we believe that each individual deserves an opportunity to learn, grow, contribute, discover his or her own path to a responsible place in the human community, we inherently recognize the value of the humanities.
If we find the interaction between art and its time — as a critique, comment, reflection, acceptance or denial of ideology — fascinating and necessary, we recognize the beauty of the humanities. If we question the relationship between the past and the future, if we look to that relationship to guide social progress, we recognize the indisputable necessity of history, of philosophy, of religious studies. If we value the power of language to change lives — private and public, individual and international — we realize the value of linguistics, of literature, of film and of drama.
The humanities disciplines understand that each person, as an individual and as a member of thriving communities, represents more than mere data for experimentation to prove or disprove a theory; more than a mere consumer to whom a corporation will market its goods; more than a mere ledger item to be minimized, downsized or economized.
If we value democracy, if we want to live in a society where we can question our leaders and their integrity to govern, we need people who can wield words, arguments, enter debates, measure and test ideas. We need people who are trained to think critically and who are unafraid to speak out. We need the products of the humanities and social sciences, guardians of ideas and wielders of words.
In 1852, John Henry Newman rose to defend the very idea of a university against the charge of inutility. His detractors, he said, insisted that education should be “useful.” They demanded what was the “market worth” of a liberal education, “if it does not at once make this man a lawyer, that an engineer, and that a surgeon; or at least if it does not lead to discoveries in chemistry, astronomy, geology, magnetism, and science of every kind?”
Sound familiar?
Newman’s answer is as valuable today as it was more than 100 years ago: “Society itself requires some other contribution from each individual, besides the particular duties of [a] profession.” In Newman’s view, training the intellect — the training provided by the liberal arts — best enabled people meet that duty.
In 2013, we don’t often talk about social duty. Duty is a word that we utter with a sense of awkwardness, as previous generations might have whispered about sex or divorce.
But we in the humanities believe in the social duty that we owe to our nation and to the globe. We have a duty to speak freely. We have a duty to question. We have a duty to defend right where it is weakest and to unearth wrongdoing where it is most silent and unspoken.
And that duty is best met by people whose minds have been forged by university training in the liberal arts and social sciences — by those who have studied human history, human ideas, human societies and human foibles.
We are the humanities — the humanity that is, unalterably, the foundation upon which, for which, and by which the global community survives.
So bring on the congress. It’s worth more than tourist dollars to our city. It’s worth the world.
© Copyright 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tanya's flowers and other stuff

News is that Ukraine will force businesses to have bank and credit card terminals and will limit cash withdrawals  to 500 UAH per day or 15,000 per month (less than $2000).  Too much taxation lost in undeclared income. This will not affect small businesses like the markets nor most Ukrainians as $500 to $1000 per month is very good money and in small towns $300 is pretty good.  Pensioners fare even less well.

It will impact people who pay cash for a $1000 leather coat or a $400 dress jacket which I have had to do because the shops didn't have terminals.  The dealership where we went for regular oil changes and maintenance for our car didn't even have a terminal, nor did the travel agent from whom we always buy our Turkish vacation packages.  In other words, it will affect upper middle class.  Whether it will affect the very rich or not is another story.  Laying out $95,000 cash for a car or for jewelry may still be possible; I will never know, that is for sure..

We can now book and pay for bus tickets, train tickets, airline tickets on-line; pay utility bills on-line and a number of other conveniences that make life a little easier for people who have computers.

Tania, Dasha (1 mo) and Masha
My second youngest daughter will arrive here for a 10 day visit on Saturday night.  I will meet her in Kyiv.  She is currently in Venice all this week at a very high level international conference of Victorian Literature academics and she presents on Thursday.  She is a little bit nervous to say the least and had serious writer's block with her paper, which is now complete.  We have nothing planned as all she wants to do is sit and sog, play with the kittens, walk the dogs with me, and visit Lina, Dasha and Masha.

With the rain we had  a week or so ago, Tanya's flowers are doing quite well. The best thing about them is that I get to admire them but am pretty much kept out of the garden.  My Mother loved flowers and her Mother too.  My Grandfather used to haul water in barrels on a stoneboat in the 30s so Grandma's flowers would prosper even if the rest of the garden went dry.  We teased my Mother that she just let the flowers go to seed and cultivated the volunteers to make rows.

Last fall Tanya had some metal work trellises built for climbing roses and clematis and some other flowering tree whose name I don't know.  They should have been a meter taller than they are as the plants have already reached the top of a couple of them.

Climbing roses topped out on their trellis 

Side garden looking east

Front garden

Front garden roses, climbing and regular

Side garden looking west