Youtube Video: Brexit, Briefly: REVISITED!

There’s three things, pick two. I use it often in engineering, where the corners of the triangle are Cheap, Fast, Good and you can only pick two. Managers always, always want to pick all three, just as well as the UK seems to want to pick now. Have your pie and eat it is the motto of the day.

I cannot even snigger at the stupidity of Britons who voted to leave, since I have no doubt that had Czech Republic had a similar referendum, our results would also be similar. Because despite the objectively measurable fact that we are much better of in the EU than we were outside it, a lot of people yearn for the good old days.

Good old days that never were. If I were to pick only one reason for why EU is a massive political success despite all its flaws it would be this:

There was not a war between members of EU for two generations. Prior to that, the whole EU history was stumbling from one war to another, and the scars from those wars still did not heal.

Jack’s Walk

Happy Birthday to me! ©voyager, all rights reserved

Today is Jack’s 11th Birthday, sort of. Jack is a Leap Year Baby and since there is no February 29 this year we’re celebrating today. So far, Bubba has listened to his parents sing to him off-key, had bacon and eggs for breakfast and then had an exciting romp up at the lake. Plans for later in the day include gifts (a new rubber pig that honks and squeals and a bag of his favourite treats – Greenies,) more singing (Jack loves to sing) and a nice bit of salmon to top his kibble for supper. All in all, I’d say that’s a pretty good day for a not-quite birthday.

Crimes against mankind: fat women existing

Let’s get it out of the way, right at the start: I’m fat. That is a simple statement of fact. I’m not a bit “on the chubby side” or have “womanly curves”. Actually, I find such statements pretty offensive because they imply that being fat would be a horrible thing (it isn’t), but I’m not (I am). Listen, everybody with eyes to see knows I’m fat. this is not a moral statement. This does not tell you much about who I am or what I do. It has absolutely no relationship to my character.

Yet, when you’re fat, especially when you’re a fat woman, your weight is everybody’s business, usually under the guise of being “concerned” about our health.

So, Nike creating a range of sportswear for fat women should be universally lauded because it will encourage us to finally take up that exercise you’ve been bothering us with for the last few decades, right? Right?

Comments on the picture:

You don’t have to be so PC, Nike, this is trying too hard, fat isn’t pretty nor healthy.

Another guy, Aaron,  feels obliged to explain this to us in detail:

Nike have officially just lost my respect and cracked other the PC brigade of having to keep people happy (sic), next you all will be supporting severe obesity where people can’t walk or get out of bed lol health and facts have literally gone for all you snowflakes. So we want people to be happy with their weight, even if it causes cloths (sic) higher blood pressure, diabetes, sever (sic) difficulty in breathing and lazyness (sic), is this what you loneys (sic) all support because if so then you’re supporting a person’s insecurity to try feel proud of themselves but really hate every inch of there (sic) body and emotionally eat themselves fat, and you still support it, anyone who supports this is the reason, and proof that this world is losing touch with keeping healthy.

I don’t know, but it seems like Aaron is a bit, uhm, emotional about a clothing line for women. Especially given that this is sportswear, so it’s actually designed for people who want to, you know, exercise. But Aaron’s (and other guys’ anger is well justified, because if we make clothing that fits fat women (somehow fat men are of little concern even though statistically, there’s more of them), they may actually feel good about themselves (because nothing can cause grumpiness like an ill-fitting bra) and that cannot be permitted. Because as Aaron and every other dude like him knows, we’re categorically miserable. Really. We may seem to live happy and productive lives, have friends, lovers, lots of fun, but as Aaron knows, we’re actually just faking it (you cannot be productive anyway because fat people are lazy, don’t you know?).  The obvious solution for this is that we just stop being fat. Somehow. While please not existing in public, because that really offends dudes like Aaron. No exercise and sports either, because somehow that supports us in being fat. Sorry if that logic escapes you. It’s because you’re a woman, or fat, or both, or neither. Don’t ask me, I don’t make the rules.

Or maybe we just see Aaron for the sad entitled prick that he his, feigning concern for our health while being very upset about a company selling clothing that makes it easier for fat people to actually exercise and do something for their health*.

And  I’m sorry I have to say it, but Aaron, you should have sat still and paid attention in your English class.

*And no, exercise is not about losing weight. Exercise is good for you. Go find something that you enjoy and that makes you feel alive. Forget about your weight.

It’s the season! Making bird food.

One of the secret to great tit pics is to feed them well. You can buy “tit balls”, but for several reasons I prefer to make my own.

The first is that they are relatively expensive, costing around 30 to 50 ct apiece. More importantly, they are usually in a green plastic mesh that can get lost and end up in nature. They’re quick and easy to make, so if you want to try your hand at them, here’s how to.

I use some silicone baking forms for this. the small Gugelhupf forms are the best, since they have a hole in the middle already, but I only have four of them. Standard muffin forms work nicely as well. What you absolutely need is some ring as a centre for the suet to stick to, otherwise they will fall apart after the first pecks. I just use some rattan, but anything goes.

I just fill them halfway with birdseed and then add the ring.

Those that don’t have something to form a hole need something to make that, otherwise hanging them up gets difficult. I use some straws or an ice cream stick.

Birdseed popsicles

Finally I just fill them with suet. Don’t be shy, the birds won’t mind some extra. Now all I have to do is wait for them to get hard again and the next two weeks are covered.

Filled up with important winter calories.

I know there are controversions about whether or not to feed birds in winter, but one undeniable advantage is that we get a lot of organic fertiliser…

Walking in a Winter Wonderland, part 4

ice flowers

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Some flowers, showing off their new “bloom”.

icicles

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Icicles growing in an old Roman quarry.

icicles

©Giliell, all rights reserved

icicles

©Giliell, all rights reserved

 

cobweb

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trees

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Let’s call the “The Lovers”. As you can see, the right side tree didn’t fall onto the other one but started to its left, and then grew all around it.

 

Mornings at the Station

It’s getting dark. Once again, an impressionist shot. But I will say that this darkness is unusual – for one, crappy camera, but also today has been a particularly foggy day, and it’s only getting worse now that evening is upon us.

I’m enjoying the atmosphere of the second shot, though. I’m standing between the two tracks, and something about that light effect and the out-of-focus is very appealing to me.

The usual angle, as it were…
©rq, all rights reserved.

©rq, all rights reserved.

Incidentally, I am currently reading José Saramago’s Blindness (mixed feelings). Today’s weather is a lot like his characters describe their blindness: just a lot of white. Although the fog here is probably less luminescent; going home is going to be interesting. Oh yes, and we lost all our snow.

Speaking of keeping a lid on things, I travel next week to Macedonia again, returning on the 23rd. I have mixed feelings about this trip, but I guess it’s good to be recognized?

Soundtrack to your life: 1

Browsing through some music it struck me how certain songs are just the defining songs for certain times in our lives. You listen to them and they take you a to a place and time, they can evoke a certain mood like nothing else can, so I decided to share some of my “personal soundtrack” with you. Feel free to reply with your soundtrack in the comments.

Growing up and not knowing who you want to be: Innuendo by Queen

This was actually the first CD ever which I got together with the CD player. My English wasn’t quite good enough at that time to quite understand the lyrics, but the music just said enough. Just keep on trying, eh? Later I sat down and translated many of the songs, a much better exercise than anything we ever did in class and to this day some words are automatically said in Freddy’s voice in my head.

It was a time in my teenage years when I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be and what I actually liked.

Freddy died not much later and I was devastated, cut lose again after I thought I had found a place. Queen stayed with me through all these years. Although I like a great variety of music, I became a rock chick back then and have always stayed one at heart.

 

Behind the Iron Curtain part 21 – Ownership of the Means of Production 2

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


Last time I visited this theme I mentioned the logic that was presented to us in order to argue that means of production in our socialist country do belong to the people. What was never mentioned, and what took a really long time to me to realize, is the fact that even in capitalism is a lot of people who do indeed own the means of production. I do not mean the corporate overlords, the robber barons of modern era, but people who actually really work.

For example lets say that I either decide that I do not wish to be a corporate drone anymore, or my supervisor finally decides that my expertise is not enough for him to put up with my quirks (like honestly and without beating around the bush telling him when his department designs crap, or being rather cranky when I miss a meal). My backup plan in such a case is to try to make custom knives for sale.

It is possible to make living that way, others have managed it so why not me? However should it come to that, there are three realistic scenarios:
1) I flop and after a time of trying to establish myself on the market I will have no other option than to get employed again.
2) I will get a foothold on the market big enough to live by for reasonable time, perhaps even until retirement.
3) I will get a good foothold on the market to the point that I will not be able to satisfy the demand for Charly made knives on my own, so after a while I might need to employ for example part-time employees to help with some lower-skill jobs whilst I myself would concentrate on the high-skill jobs. Like the Finnish knife-maker about whom I posted a video a few weeks ago.

This example shows the transition between a small-scale producer and a big scale producer. In scenario 2 there is no ambiguity whatsoever – the person who uses the means of production owns them. In the scenario 3 it gets a bit murky – the owner of the means still does work rather a lot, but their employees do not own the means of production at all. And really, would it be fair in such a case for me to give them a portion of my shop in addition to the wages? I do not think it would.

However of course then there is the american dream, where one makes it through the stage 3 to stage 4, where one does only the employing, and not the actual working. I personally would never wish for that, but there are people who do. And then there is the stage 5, where one does not have a hand in making anything ever but simply inherits the company, or buys it wholesale.

Like so many other things in life, this is not black-white, there is actually a nearly continuous spectrum of options.

The problem with the regime was that it dealt with this spectrum by completely ignoring its existence. Any and all ownership of means of production that was not via the proxy of the state was illegal, period. All the little artisans, small shop owners, small farmers etc. who indeed worked their own asses of in addition to perhaps employing a few people were viewed as no different from big factory owners who never lifted a finger to work in their lives. For the regime, there was no difference between Charly making knives in his workshop on his own and Donald Trump cheating his contractors and not paying his employees fair wages. They both were bourgeoise exploiters and both had to be dealt with harshly.

As a result not only the big factories with awful working conditions got confiscated, but also all the little workshops, shops and farms. The whole middle-class was wiped out and made illegal without any nuance.

In the 60s there was an effort to rectify this injustice (along with others), but it was quashed by military intervention from USSR.

As a result, a lot of people rightfully resented the regime, because they were in very real sense of the word robbed by it.

Take a look at the wide side

Ever since getting my camera I’ve been expanding on my lens arsenal. After getting the tele last year, I wanted a wide angle one. With a little bit of unexpected money I finally got myself one and took it out for a stroll. Sadly the day was overcast and the light faded too early, but I like what you can do with it.

Small pond

©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

That little pond is probably 3m across. You can also see that at 10mm, I have to decide between a UV filter or a CPL filter because both are too much.

woodland

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Part of my daily walk. The little green building is a water station.

tree crown

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Tree

©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

One of the fun things: shooting up trees. The lens makes it look like the trunk is 100m high.

dead tree

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trees

©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The trees are tall and narrow, but the lens adds some more.

dead tree

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I’ve been wanting to take pictures of those cut off and dead vines for ages, but I couldn’t with my other lenses because I couldn’t move away enough. to give you an ides, this pic and the other two were taken by minimally moving the camera.

dead tree

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Dead tree

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fallen tree

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Another illusion of distance. In reality, the point where You can see the branch is about 2m from where I took the pic.

©Giliell, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Autumn colours

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Tree crowns

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Probably my favourite one. another upshoot.

Hoverfly

It’s another well captured critter from Avalus, who tells us that this hoverfly was enjoying the cucumbers that his mother had planted. I’m enjoying everything about this photo from the beautiful light to the sunshine yellow flower to the rich detail of the hoverfly itself. Thanks for sharing, Avalus.

©Avalus, all rights reserved

 

Behind the Iron Curtain part 20 – Comedy

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


Current political climate in USA is truly horrendous, but from afar it seems that comedy thrives on Trump news, and it will thrive until comedians start getting shot for making fun of The Leader.

To my knowledge, comedians were rarely shot in former ČSSR, but they did not have easy life – but some of them managed to thrive. In fact, there was really great tradition of comedy both written and in TV/movies. The problem was more often not that comedians made fun of politics – they knew they are not allowed to do that – but that state censors were overtly sensitive. In previous Slavic Saturday I mentioned the comedy evening short stories for children “A je to!”. What I did not mention is that one of the characters had originally red pullover, and this, in conjunction of the yellow pullover of his colleague was seen as a jab at SSSR – China relations and the show was originally canceled. So the duo had to perform with grey and yellow pullovers until 1989, after which the creators could go back to original design.

But some comedians managed to both get past the censors and get a political message across – appearing to support the regime, or being apolitical, but managing to subtly criticise its unsavoury aspects whilst doing it. Especially towards the end of the socialist era, which is of course also the time from which I have the most memories.

One such group was The Jára Cimrman Theatre. You might know the movie “Kolja”, which unfortunately is probably the only Czech movie some Americans probably know. The main protagonist in that movie is played by Zdeněk Svěrák, and he is one of the founding members of The Jára Cimrman Theatre.

I will not go into depth here, but the ensemble of The Jára Cimrman Theatre has also made a few movies, which were all hugely popular. And regarding politics and critique of the regime, one of the movies – The Uncertain Season – was essentially a “Making of” documentary for the theatre group, but made as a full movie. It documents the struggles of the theatre group they had to endure in order to get their humor past the censors – even humor that was definitively and unequivocally not political. Because some censors did not only see themselves as arbiters of what is politically acceptable, but also what is funny.

The Jára Cimrman Theatre is to this day deeply embedded in Czech culture, and some of their quips became part of our wider oral tradition. To its popularity speaks the fact that the titular, fictional, character Jára Cimrman has won the contest for The Greatest Czech in 2005 and great grumbling ensued when it was announced that only real people are eligible and the honor went to Václav Havel instead.

I will part with you with one Cimrmanian quip that sums up the life of comedians in totalitarian culture pretty well:
“We are not allowed to even imply.”

This got past the censors because it is an answer given by Death to a man who is about to die and asks him about the future. But with the context of the rest of the play, the audience got what it really says.

Bookbinding

One of our regular readers and commenters, Anne Cranky Cat Lady, makes journals by hand and she has kindly shared her latest project with us. Every journal is unique and Anne has chosen a lively and interesting range of papers so that each one is sure to please its recipient. Thanks for sharing, Anne. Your work is inspiring and I’m sure that everyone on your list will be thrilled to receive such a beautiful gift. I’ll let Anne introduce them.

This year’s crop of gift journals are finshed. Done, done, cleaned up after, done! 

All but three which I made a few years ago were put together either last Friday or today. So you can see that they’re pretty quick. They’re made with Books by Hand kits or refill sets of boards and page blocks, assorted papers and ribbons, and, of course, lots of glue. The dimensions are small 4×4″, medium 5×7″, and large 4×8¼”.
The wood-grain one is going to Paul for our anniversary, the rest will be Christmas gifts or get stashed for later giving.

 

Small journal, open to show accordion page structure, ©Anne, Cranky Cat Lady, all rights reserved

 

Group 1 Small and Medium, ©Anne, Cranky Cat Lady, all rights reserved

Group 2 Medium and Large, ©Anne, Cranky Cat Lady, all rights reserved

Life, Death and Love

In a weird sort of mood, I think it’s the mountains – there’s so much space, but simultaneously a sense of enclosement, because there’s a lot less sky than I’m used to. And I have a distinct feeling that they’re not real; I can’t reach out and touch them. Even taking a walk did no good. It’s surreal and beautiful, and yes, I took lots of pictures. Of mushrooms and faraway horses.

Anyway, this picture struck a chord:

I’m not sure who to credit, if anyone knows, please let me know!

So you get that picture and a song by Leonard Cohen.

One of his best, I think.