No Hot Water

If there was any doubt that summer was here in Kiev, this sign removed it. Coming home the other day I saw it newly plastered on the bulletin board on the door to my podyezd.

What it says is starting, well...tomorrow, the hot water will be turned off in my neighborhood for annual pipe cleaning and maintenance until July 13th. Fun fun fun.

All in all, it isn't too bad. We have a hot water heater in the apartment. And in past years the municipal authorities haven't even posted notes. You just wake up one morning and get a cold shower that lasts for an indeterminate amount of time. Just have to remember to turn the water heater on tonight.


Miss Russian Army

One of the things I've learned over here is that the former Soviets absolutely love their beauty pagents. They're on TV all the time and I'm always seeing ads for them around town. They're never ending. Outside of the basic Miss Ukraine I've seen things like Miss Tavriskie Igri, Miss Nemiroff, Miss Donbass, etc...etc...etc...

Then Siberian Light posts about the recently held Miss Russian Army beuaty contest (won by a Naval Lieutanant...go figure). I just saw a report on CNN International about this contest. I think Andy is missing the real story here. According to this CNN report (and the assertion of Miss Rocket Forces), the results were actually decided in advance by the judges!

Is there no limit to corruption? Can we not even keep the Miss Russian Army contest free from graf?



Last night, the fair Mrs. Connard thought it would be a good idea to get some culture and go visit the theater. In order to accomodate my nowhere near fluent knowledge of Russian, the selected play was "All of Shakespeare in One Night." One of those wacky things where the performing troupe will run through the basics of all of Shakespeare's plays in 120 minutes, usually to lots of laughs. Oh yeah, and did I mention it was all in Russian?

Anyway, I was pretty much able to understand all of the Shakespeare translated from the English pretty well, but everything else was kind of tough to follow. I still have a bit of a lag time in processing what I'm hearing and inevitably I end up getting hung up on a certain word that makes me miss a bunch of other words and the whole comprehension thing just spirals out of control. I'd get the jokes...but at best it'd be about 2 minutes after everyone else did. What got me was how many people there were in the audience. I never would have guessed that Shakespeare was even mildly popular in this part of the world. Who knew?

Anyway, it was a reasonably enjoyable time, and Mrs. Connard seemed to enjoy herself thoroughly, so that's all that really matters. The theater was followed up by a very pleasant outdoor meal at an Italian place we like near the Golden Gate. Good times had by all.



Anyone can say something sucks. But few do it with as much panache as Christopher Hitchens

After I tortured myself with The Davinci Code, all I could say was that I felt like I was intellectually raped.

He puts it so much better than I:

"A few weeks ago, at an airport in Europe, I saw Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code staring at me across the bookstore bins. I had seen it many times before and averted my gaze, but I was facing a long delay, and I suddenly thought: May as well get it over with.

Well, of course I knew it would be bad. I just didn't know that it would be that bad. Never mind for now the breathless and witless style, or the mashed-paper characters, or the lazy, puerile reliance on incredible coincidence to flog the lame plot along. What if it was all true? What if the Nazarene had had issue, in fleshly form, with an androgynous disciple? The Catholic Church would look foolish but, then, it already looks foolish enough on the basis of the official story. 'Opus Dei,' according to Brown, is a sinister cult organization. Excuse me, but I already knew this, so to speak, independently."

Heh. Can't wait for the movie!

Fark de Connard

From Fark a couple of minutes ago:

More and more Russians are drinking"industrial spirits" (i.e. perfume, anti-freeze, etc...) in lieu of vodka.

I knew the pepper vodka that's popular here tasted god-awful...but I had no idea why until now.


Iran Elections

A bit off topic from what I usually write about, but Robert at Publius Pundit and Will Franklin from Willisms both have really interesting posts up concerning their visits to Iranian polling stations in Tucson and Houston. Definitely worth a read.


RSS Fixed

OK. With a nice assist from Mr. Sample, I fixed the RSS problems I was having. Freaking Eurovision gets me again. I wrote that post in MS Word and then pasted the completed thing into Blogger. Apparently a lot of the tags microsoft puts into Word documents can wreck havok with RSS/Atom/Whatever feeds. So I went back through that post and took out all the bad tags. The two of you that subscribe to the RSS feed of this should have it working again.

Don't ever say that my Friday nights aren't exciting.



The weather is nice, the city is green, and it doesn't get dark until around 10. Summer is here in Kiev. So what's the natural response? I finally got cable! Yes, after seeing the local cable demonstrated on another ex-pat's TV last week I caved and signed up for it. The most amazing thing about it was how painless it all turned out to be. I was expecting a multiple week battle with filling out forms, getting stamps, "paying" people, fruitlessly waiting for technicians to show up...but that didn't happen at all. The call was placed to order it on Tuesday. A technician came out to flip a switch and give us our prepayment bill on Wednesday. After the bill was paid Wednesday afternoon, the cable company called back to say technicians would be by with our box on Thursday between 2 and 7. Then Thursday at 4, four guys showed up and finished setting it up. Amazing. No problems, no hassles, just delivering prompt and friendly customer service. Volia Cable, keep it up. You get a hearty endorsement from Blog de Connard.

Anyway, while the cable comes with a lot of English language channels, one of the things I'm most looking forward to is a channel called Ностальгия (nostalgia) that seems to show nothing but rebroadcasts of old Soviet television programs, including the news. Awsome. I'm honestly excited to get television channels that broadcast consistently in Russian. Should help with the language learning a little bit. The bulk Ukrianian language stuff I was previously subjected to was just really confusing.

I also need to be careful to not spend so much time in front of the TV while the weather is actually nice here. Come winter though...

UPDATE: I'm currently watching the 1982 Supreme Soviet Meeting that elected Yuriy Andropov General Secretary of the USSR. I think I have problems.

UPDATE II: Yes, I'm aware I spelled "Ukrainian" wrong in the title of the post. I was about to fix it, but found that that busted the link to this post. Normally that's wouldn't be a big deal...except that someone else found "Nostalgia" interesting and was sending some traffic this way. For the record, right now they're showing a concert of some guy reading poetry. It's not nearly as interesting as listening to Andropov.

Scratch that, the poet is now singing a Russian version of the Ray Charles/Johnny Cash (I don't know who wrote it) tune, "Busted." It's just got quite interesting.


That Poster

More on that poster I wrote about last week at Siberian Light.

Bad for Ukraine...Good for Me!

The Action Ukraine Report in my inbox this morning was just chock full of articles regarding the Ukrainian Parliament's inability to pass intellectual property laws in line with WTO norms.

I'd provide links, but these were all in an email. Go to the link above and subscribe to the newsletter. It's worth it. Instead I will just liberally quote from the articles below. Anything I didn't write will be in italics. No plagarism at Blog de Connard.

Anyway, because there are still loopholes big-enough to drive a truck through in the anti-piracy laws here, Ukraine will have to suffer the following consequences:

1) The US imposed USD 75 million worth of sanctions on Ukrainian imports on January 23, 2002. These sanctions will now not be removed.

2) Ukraine needs to sign a bi-lateral trade agreement with the US as part of
the agreements needed for accession to the WTO. The U.S. will not agree
to sign such a bi-lateral trade agreement until the intellectual property
rights amendments are passed

Remember when Yushenko came to Washington and Congress applauded when he asked them to lift Jackson-Vanik restrictions for Ukraine? Well, since the Rada decided that they really need their bootleg copies of Miss Congenialty 2, Jackson-Vanik Restrictions on Ukraine will not be Removed in 2005. Officials in Washington last week indicated the Jackson-Vanik issue for Ukraine was not on the Senate Committee's agenda for the rest of 2005. There were also indications it was highly unlikely the issue would be brought before the Committee until Ukraine passes the intellectual property rights amendments.

Hey, at least the country has their priorities in order. In the meantime, I need to head over to Petrovka. Hopefully they'll have in copies of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.


DC Socialist Realism

So a friend of mine emailed me the above picture, taken at a MARC station somewhere between DC and Baltimore.

Brilliant idea really. Let's see...a transit agency is going to put up posters encouraging riders to REPORT suspicious activities or packages to the authorities...so the obvious choice of design style to use is one pioneered during the reign of a brutal dictator characterized by it's terrors and repressions! People in Moscow in 1933 "reported" their neighbors...people in Greenbelt in 2005 should do the same thing, right?

I don't know why I've been trying to find a source of original Communist propaganda posters over here, when it seems I can just go back home and find them actually being used.



If there was one pundit whose opinion I wanted to hear on this whole Amnesty International/Guantanamo/Gulag silliness, it was Anne Applebaum. Her Gulag: A History was easily one of the best books I've read in the past 5 years.

Writing about Amnesty today, she didn't disappoint.


Quick Learner

So after having iTunes and using it religiously for the past year, I just figured out yesterday that I can add in my own album art if it isn't already embedded in the file (which is the case for most of my songs, as I burned them in off my CD collection, downloaded them from somewhere, or got them for an unbelievably good price at Petrovka).

This discovery has suceeded in absolutely vaporizing any free time I have had in the past two days as I update 20 gigs worth of music and search for album art on amazon or anywhere else on the net.


So there was this Camel walking down the Street...

No seriously. There was a camel on my street yesterday. I'm trying to read the Sunday papers yesterday afternoon when I keep hearing this drumming coming from the street outside my window. I go down to check it out, and there was a film crew getting shots of a bunch of circus performers marching down my street. I mean, I knew that this country was run like a circus, but this was just re-god damn-diculous.

Outside of that, what's been going on in the week that I took off from posting?

Well I finally was able to see Episode III, about two weeks after the rest of the planet stopped caring about it. Verdict? Inconsistancies with the original trilogy aside, it more than made up for the previous two atrocities. Great flick.

My ongoing search for original Commie propaganda reached its to-date zenith when I found a literal hole in the wall shop that had the largest collection of Communist posters I think I've ever seen in my life. I probably spent about an hour and half going through maybe a third of their collection. It's within easy walking distance of my place too...which could be dangerous for my wallet. The woman who worked there was aboslutely great too, making snarky comments about all the slogans and offering me great discounts (apparently the owner of the place used to produce these posters for a living and charges too much for them as they have sentimental value for her). I'll put up pics of my purchases later.

EU fallout continues as the Dutch did what was predicted and voted down the EU Constitution. When I listen to BBC on the shortwave in the morning, every other freaking story they have is about what's going to happen to the EU. Neeka had a great post linking to an IHT article about the now infamous "Polish Plumber," from the perspective of the Poles. It wasn't even three months ago that I was reading a deluge of commentary pieces about how responsbile the EU was for the wave of democractic movements in the post-Soviet space. The theory was that the prospect of EU membership was what drove all these countries (including Ukraine) to turn towards democracy and to reform their government, military, and economic systems by getting in-line with EU requirements. I now have to seriously ask, what happens now? It's seems obvious to me that further EU expansion is a dead issue. I really have to wonder if Bulgaria and Romania will become members in 2007 as currently scheduled. But what happens to all those in Ukraine, Georgia, Serbia, Croatia, etc...who set their countries down a more democratic path with the promise of future EU as a future reward in return for the initial transistional pain required in moving a country from an undemocratic government and planned economy to market economy and democratic system? Will they still be taken seriously?

How did this post manage to start with camels and end with the EU?

Might as well end this borderline incoherent post with another tangent. Damn, that new White Stripes album is really good.



Instapundit linked to this frog bashing post today. It amused me greatly, so I'll link to it as well. I'm not sure why (it isn't Shadenfreude) but all the EU handwringing this week has been really amusing to me.

Posting has been admittedly light. Mrs. Connard returned to Kiev this week after 3 weeks away and I started at a new job yesterday. Cut me some slack, I'll get back into the swing of things in another couple days here.