Monday, August 25, 2008

Plant of the day: Gentiana punctuata

I know a place where three or four specimens grow and I won't tell anyone where it is.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

The 40th anniversary of the Soviet invasion

Yes. The armies of our great friend in the East and allied countries came to fight our counter-revolution which demonstrated itself in free speech and passports given to anyone who asked. Politically, there was this idea of combining democracy and socialism and the Soviet leaders didn't like, obviously, the idea of people saying what they want without the possibility to lock them up so they sent some people (and tanks) to help fighting the stupid renegade Czechoslovaks.

Read something historical on Wikipedia or somewhere. I'm a historian but as for that one, I got stuck in the Middle Ages. This is emotional. My history, part of me. I don't remember the actual invasion, sure. My parents do but for whatever the reason, they don't talk too much about it. I expect there's not much to talk about. When my grandparents still lived in the countryside, we drove to them once and mom was showing where 'they were lying in the ditches'. In my hometown, there was a huge garrison of the Soviet armies (although East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria took part in the invasion, their armies withdrew within days) seated in my hometown. There were whole neighbourhoods inhabited by Russians (generic term for the citizens of the Soviet Union, just to be clear). The Orthodox church was in one of them, accidentally, but it had been built before, in the 1920's (it was a fashion to convert to Orthodox church after the fall of Austro-Hungarian empire which supposedly oppressed the Czechs with Catholicism as the state religion and between the wars, there was this Panslavic idea of the big brother in the East who will take care of all the smaller Slavic nations. Go figure) and the priests say that some of the Russians would go there but it was rather the officers' wives - the soldiers would have troubles and the officers themselves even more.
Two streets away from our house, there was another Russian area. The garrison houses and a heliport where the fighter helicopters nested. (Should there be some army freak, an advice on what type of fighter helicopters it could be is welcome, I may add a link, then.) We lived on a little hill in the third floor and the pilots happily ignored all regulations for aviation, such as the limit of 200m above ground in residential areas and flew at the eye level of ours. I was a kid and I was scared of them so I would hide under the sofa or kitchen table.
Another Russian area was close to where my grandma's garden was. It looked like slums, the Russians had a tendency to use newspapers instead of everything - toilet tissue, sanitary pads (a family friend of ours studied Russian. In Russia. She was told to bring half a year's supply of those and it was needed), curtains.... and the houses looked like slums. (It needs to be admitted that many other places inhabited by the natives looked like slums, too, since all the houses were owned by the state which wasn't always too good with maintenance. Did I already say that all this communism thing is a total crap?)

The invasion is rooted in people's minds. It's a part of us although some do not want to admit it. The time that came after, of no freedom of speech or freedom of anything but to shut up and march in the line is a part of us, too - sadly enough. When Russia started messing things up in Georgia a few days ago, the people here felt Hey, that's like here in '68. People still dislike Russians here, for many they are the occupants, invaders, enemies. Sure, it doesn't prevent the natives from selling them souvenirs or property.

Some time ago, in Cyprus, we were in a restaurant and at the next table, some Russian people were sitting. Young people, around 30. They heard us speaking Czech and came to apologize for the invasion although it happened before they were even born. The whole thing was painful for them, too,

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Progress.... somewhere

I packed a few things. Then I ended up tagging blog entries and got as far as ice ages.
To my great displeasure, I found out that some ofthe old posts received a dose of comment spam. I spent a considerable time weeding it out, I don't read my old rants too often. I'll disable anonymous comments.
Now, I need to pack something more.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Kitchen geology

Last winter was dry and warm. Or maybe the stars were badly aligned. Whatever the cause was, our house moved. The south part of the kitchen drifted away from the north part, creating a milimetre wide rift valley between the stove and the sink. In the bathroom, the west bit with the tub moved south whereas the east bit stayed in place, creating a bajillion of tiny cracks on the floor and the cement between the tiles fell out. The worst thing happened in the hallway where the same movement that lifted the Himalayas almost 9000m from the seabed to the today's peaks peeled off the tiles and created a miniature hill that effectively blocked the main door from opening properly.

After half a year of sneaking sideways in our own house, mom asked my cousin who is a locksmith and who knows people, to find someone to fix it. Cousin knows a guy who can do this type of work and since this type of work includes building safes or door frames in the walls, the guy is able to manage even without a major mess. He peeled off the tiles that stuck out and I was sent with him to get some matching tiles for the patch.

In the store, the shop assistant inspected the tile suspiciously, said that there's no way of having anything in this colour and that it's a porous tile and.... it's not a floor tile, it's a wall tile. Which explains why the floor in the hallway had been lousy ever since and why every dropped object caused a chip. I would like to point out that this is one of the less nice bits of living under the Commies: you bought what they had, not what you liked or wanted. And, since my parents are not idiots who would place wall tiles on the floor, notably on the floor that was expected to be used, it means that the idiot was the shop assistant.

I said that the tiles could be cobalt blue. It would be nice in the dark brown hallway. Mom screamed that cobalt blue is awful and dark and no, no, no way. We argued, she said that maybe some beige or gray would go nicely with the browns. Or orange or yellow. Erm, orange or yellow along with Vandyke brown would cause a creative diarrhoea effect, I explained in veiled terms. Then mom pointed to a ceramic bowl saying that this sort of blue would be nice. I said Indeed, cobalt blue, that's what I've been telling you all the time. No, she replied, not that dark one, the light blue one. Yes, cobalt blue, I said again. No, cobalt blue is the deep blue one. No, that's Prussian blue, I explained. It went for a while but the good point is that I had my way.

Life is sometimes fair so they had nice cobalt blue tiles with matching surface structure and I bet they'll be pretty. They should be laid when I'm back from work. Hopefully, no home version of the continental drift will appear too soon.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Rant time

No more organic matter today. Or, later on.

My book is out of print, hallelujah. Looks fine but the adrenaline surge of getting it finished is long gone. Hopefully it sells well. No pics, camera no worky.

Last week, relatives visited. My cousin with her new baby - well, the boy looked and behaved like any other 3-months old so no exciting story. The older boy spent quite some time chasing the cat and he was very disappointed that she didn't want to socialize with a screaming and stomping human kitten. After mz cousin left, auntie and other two brats cousins arrived. One spent a year in Britain, studying at University of Podunk. Before he went, I thought it would do him only good - a bit of detachment from mommy the emotional vampire, a bit of decent English, broader perspectives. Results: The boy wants to be an officer. He meant working in an office, not in the army, apparently. The boy never left Podunk because going those few miles to Leeds (or was it Manchester) would be too complicated and.... and anyway. All pics he made were his room,his kitchen, meals he cooked (I guess that for a mommy's boy, it was a grand experience. Aunt should get a high dose of feminist thinking. Or at least teach her sons to make bacon and eggs), groceries where he shopped - what an excitement, they have Tesco even in Britain. Yeah, and he bought a suit and a tie there, in which he spent most of the weekend. I wonder whether he was showing us, unworthy, his cultural superiority. The other cousin is doing his IT studies, wants to get his Bc. next year and then some nice job that would bring him, say, 1500 euros/month at the beginning. Brats, I said that.

I got my sanity back with M. and his trip to hunt some darn grass. He's a botanist, does his research, I go with him sometimes because it's fun, I learn things and.... and anyway.
The darn grass is called Brachypodium rupestre. Looks like grass - but I'm no good in grasses - and M. needs to know how many chromozomes it has.

I was told that I actually could go and study botany. That I ask much more sophisticated stupid questions than some 3rd year students ask:D

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