Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Deaths

14th: Ricardo Montalbán, 88, Mexican-born American actor (Fantasy Island, Star Trek)
27th: John Updike, 76, American author (Rabbit Is Rich, The Witches of Eastwick)

12th: Beverly Eckert, 57, American 9/11 widow and activist

6th: Susan Tsvangirai, 50, Zimbabwean wife of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
18th: Natasha Richardson, 45, an English-American stage and screen actress.

11th: Albert Chernenko, 74, Russian philosopher, son of Konstantin Chernenko
22nd: Alex Lees, 97, British planner of the Great Escape during World War II
25th: Beatrice Arthur, 86, American Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress (Maude, The Golden Girls)

18th: Wayne Allwine, 62, American voice artist (Mickey Mouse)

23rd: Ed McMahon, 86, American celebrity, comedian, game show host, announcer
25th: Farrah Fawcett, 62, American actress (Charlie's Angels)
25th: Michael Jackson, 50, American pop singer–songwriter

6th: Robert McNamara, 93, American Secretary of Defense (1961–1968)
17th: Walter Cronkite, 92, American television news anchor

1st: Princess Felicitas of Prussia, 75, German princess, great-granddaughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II
1st: Corazon Aquino, 76, Filipino politician, first female President (1986–1992)
11th: Eunice Kennedy Shriver, 88, American activist, founder of the Special Olympics, sister of John F. Kennedy
25th: Ted Kennedy, 77, American politician, Senator from Massachusetts (1962–2009)

14th: Patrick Swayze, 57, American actor (Dirty Dancing, Ghost)

2nd: Marek Edelman, 86, Polish political and social activist, cardiologist, last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

8th: Vitaly Ginzburg, 93, Russian physicist, Nobel Prize laureate
29th: Prince Alexander of Belgium, 67, Belgian royal

16th: Yegor Gaidar, 53, Russian politician, acting Prime Minister (1992)
20th: Brittany Murphy, 32, American actress (Clueless, King of the Hill, 8 Mile)

Island At War (2004)

I just finished watching all the episodes and have to say that for the most part it was very good. Even though the show/movie takes place on a made-up island within the British Channel Islands it showed what the citizens had to endure under the German Occupation during World War 2. It was the only British territory to be occupied by the Germans during the war.
The fact that the British Government just abandoned the islands and didn't tell the Germans (which lead to the Germans bombing the docks) shows the extent of London's concern for the islands. From June 1940 to May 1945 the islands were left on their own. Only after the war did London finally come in and take control.
The islands not only had to deal with the occupying Germans (there were about 2 soldiers to every 1 islander) but also those on the island that were collaborators. There were the women who hung out with the Germans and were known as "Jerrybags", the Jews and the non-native islanders that were not born on the island (the Jews were deported to concentration camps in Germany and Poland while the non-native islanders were deported to camps in France.)
The islands also became part of the German fortification called the "Atlantic Wall." To create these defenses (since the Germans assumed the British would do anything they could to retake the islands) was to bring forced labor from Eastern Europe to the islands.
My only concern about the show/movie was that it just ended and didn't go til the end of the war. I guess it wasn't that popular in the UK - where it is filmed - and so it just left you hanging (sort of like how the London Government left the Channel Islands hanging during the war.)

Russia Online

From the Moscow Times:
"Online to Replace Waiting In Line"

If this ever really becomes law and is carried out it will do a lot to help both ordinary Russians and foreigners visiting. Russia loves bureaucracy and this will allow them to keep that system and still make it user-friendly. My only issue is that the system that will be used to register foreigners visiting Russia will only be in Russian - it should at least also be in English. I know not many Russians (especially those 30 and over) speak English, but if Russia wants more tourists and businessmen/women then they need to include languages other than Russian.

Doctor-Assisted Suicide Gains A State

From Yahoo News:
"Montana 3rd state to allow doctor-assisted suicide"

I am all for this as I have said many times before. As long as there are protocols to follow and checks to make sure they are strictly followed I do not see any issue with people who are going to die anyways to do so on their own terms and with less pain. Hopefully, many other states will start catching on and make it legal.

Monday, December 28, 2009

One, Two, Three (1961)

This is a pretty funny comedy. I just saw it for the first time a few days ago. It takes place in 1961 West Berlin (right before the Wall goes up) and has James Cagney, Horst Buchholz (among others.)
I liked that there are real German actors in the film and that it plays off the German stereotypes of always following orders and meticulousness. There are also countless references to the Nazis (in joke form) and despite 16 years since the war ended old habits seemed to die hard. The movie also gives the typical response every German old enough at the end of the war gave: "We knew nothing" and no one was ever a Nazi - but does so in a comical way (in the film that is.)
It also pokes fun at the Communists (both the Soviets and the East Germans) and while the movie has a very capitalist message (the whole idea is to get Coke in the USSR) it also does this in a very funny way. The thought that an East German Communist Party member about to study in the Soviet Union marries the daughter of Coke in Atlanta (a true capitalist) and eventually becomes a capitalist himself is beyond comical.
While the movie is a little dated it is still a very good comedy and worth being seen by those interested in the Cold War, East/West Berlin or Communism vs Capitalism.

Airplane Security Update

1. From Deutsche Welle:
"German politicians express caution about new airport security measures"

^For once I have to say that I think the German Government is right on the ball. They do not see a reason to enhance an already tight security at their airports. I guess that if the US Government did what it preached (ie actually use the Watchlists to stop suspected terrorists from boarding planes, etc) then the extra security would not be needed.^,,5061688,00.html

2. From Yahoo News:
"In-flight security rules eased"

^ It seems a little early to consider easing some of the new rules. Now the Federal Government is allowing the pilots of each plane to decide what is alright during the flight. Not sure if that is such a good idea - at least not yet. ^

I think that there needs to be an extensive review of many people throughout numerous US and Foreign Agencies.

1st: Any airport that has direct flights to the United States needs to have the same security standards - so that flying from an airport in Africa to the US is just as safe as flying from an airport in Canada to the US. This includes an extensive check on all airport and airline employees.

2nd: All the people who deal with all the different Watchlists need to be retrained and any that do not fit the correct mode (ie those that lack the intelligence to see a suspected threat and not do anything about it) should be fired immediately.

3rd: Along the same lines as #2, the State Department (more specifically the Consular Affairs Section) needs to have it's people retrained and any that do not fit the correct mode (ie those that see a person on a government Watchlist and still keep that person's American Visa valid) should be fired immediately.

4th: The TSA needs to be retrained (while they weren't personally involved in this incident they have failed many other times thus showing their ineffectiveness.)

5th: The Director of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, should be fired from her position. It is clear from the interviews she gives that she has no idea what she is doing. The fact that she tried to cover-up her comment (the one where she said that everything on December 25th went according to plan/training) by saying she was mis-quoted just shows how unintelligent she truly is. She needs to realize that many sections of her Department failed on Dec. 25th and that the only reason things happened the way they did (ie the plane didn't explode) is because the Nigerian terrorist was stupid and the quick-thinking passengers on the plane.

Americans and foreingers flying into, through or out of the United States should not feel safe flying until the above organizations and people have been either retrained or removed from their positions. Unfortuately, most ordinary people can not think for themselves and just trust that the airlines, airports and Government agencies are doing thier jobs and keeping us safe. I really wish it didn't take an act or violence or an attempt of violence for people to wake up and question what others have been saying needs to be fixed for years.
While I may not agree with some of the rules or question my safety I do believe that you should follow all instructions you are given (by the airlines, TSA, etc) and if you feel something was wrong or you were treated badly you should take names and file official complaints.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

TSA's New Rules

From TSA Website:
"TSA Guidance for Passengers on Heightened Security Measures in Place Following Dec. 25 Incident"

Q: What additional security measures is TSA taking domestically?
A: TSA has a layered approach to security that allows us to surge resources as needed on a daily basis. We have the ability to quickly implement additional screening measures including explosive detection canine teams, law enforcement officers, gate screening, behavior detection and other measures both seen and unseen. Passengers should not expect to see the same thing at every airport.

Q: What additional security measures are being taken for international flights to U.S. destinations?
A: TSA issued a directive for additional security measures to be implemented for last point of departure international flights to the United States. Passengers flying into the United States from abroad can expect to see additional security measures at international airports such as increased gate screening including pat-downs and bag searches. During flight, passengers will be asked to follow flight crew instructions, such as stowing personal items, turning off electronic equipment and remaining seated during certain portions of the flight.

Q: Do passengers need to do anything differently to prepare for checkpoint security procedures? Has anything changed in terms of what passengers can bring in their carry-on or checked bags?
A: At this time, security checkpoint requirements for passengers departing U.S. airports remain the same. Passengers do not need to do anything differently, but they may notice additional security measures at the airport.

Q: Should passengers plan to arrive at airports earlier than normal?
A: Passengers traveling within the United States should give themselves extra time to check in and proceed through the security checkpoint before their flight, especially during the busy holiday travel season. TSA advises that passengers traveling on international flights to U.S. destinations allow extra time for security and arrive an additional hour earlier.

Q. How long will these measures remain in place?A: TSA will continuously review these measures to ensure the highest levels of security.

^ My only concern about this is that it took the TSA 2 whole days to come out with this statement. Before that it seemed that every airline, airport, government agency and person was making things up and nothing but rumors were passed around. I think had this statement come out on December 25th - the day of the incident - most of these rumors/disinformation and people's fears would have been alleviated. ^

Did You Hear About The Morgans? (2009)

I saw this movie today and thought it was good. It had it's funny parts - which is good since it is a comedy - but some of the jokes seemed forced. Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker were good together. It was one of those movies that you see when you don't want anything intense and just don't want to think.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Plane Attack Foiled

From the USA Today:
"Airport security tightens after in-flight incident"

It seems that the US Government has once again let the ball drop on someone they have been tracking for at least 2 years (the other most recent case was that Muslim soldier at Fort Hood.) The Nigerian man was on the Counterterrorism Watch List, but not the No-Fly List and even had a valid US Visa. I don't understand why the US would even consider allowing someone like that on a plane with innocent people headed towards the US. The only thing that stopped the attack from being fully carried out is the other passengers on the plane (the US Government has only them to thank.)
And of course now ordinary people will be treated badly and like criminals - instead of the actual criminals. I have heard that flights bound for the US now limit carry-ons to 1 per person, that no one can stand for the last hour of the flight, that you can't even have your carry-on on your lap and that everyone is checked again at the gate before boarding.
The one bag rule is just dumb. I remember flying from the UK when they had that rule (but flying to the UK you could have as many as you wanted.) If security does it's job right it shouldn't matter how many carry-ons you have. I guess the Governments involved in this don't trust their airport security. I am fine with all the rest of the rules as long as people are treated kindly throughout and told about it beforehand.
I really hope this forces the US and other countries to wake up and see that Racial Profiling (since all the terrorists in the last decade have been Muslims and people from the Middle East/Central Asia) is the best solution for all this. Israel has used it for decades and hasn't had a hijacking in a long time. I would rather not be politically correct and alive than politically correct and dead.
I will be flying in the near future and hope everything gets settled (ie with the lax security, threats and watchlists) and to see the government agencies involved using common sense and treat passengers as people (you can still be nice and make things secure.)

60% Of Russians Want USSR Back

From Pravda:
"Sixty Percent of Russians Nostalgic for Soviet Union"

It seems that today - the 18th anniversary of the collapse of the USSR - 60% of Russians polled said they want the old Union back. The majority that wanted the Soviet Union back were from one of the following groups: pensioners, female, rural, less than average education and all lived during Soviet times. I guess those with university educations, urban, young and male did not want a return to the "good old days."
This poll and anniversary highlight only the good of the USSR and not all the bad. Everyone knows that you tend to only remember the good times and not the bad and this seems to be the case here. Hopefully, the Soviet Union has it once was will never come back into existence.

Friday, December 25, 2009

С Рождеством! Joyeux Noël! Feliz Navidad! Fröhliche Weihnachten! Merry Christmas!

Today is Christmas and unlike last year - where we didn't decorate at all since we thought we were moving right away - this year we got a 7 foot tree and put out a good amount of decorations (although not all of them.) This year my sister stayed down at our house in Virginia, my brother and his family were in their new home in Colorado and my dad is in Iraq so it was my mom and myself.
We opened presents on Christmas Eve and I have to say that I love everything I got (lots of money, a sweater, books, DVDs, calenders, an ornament, a travel scale, collectible coins and other things.)
This year I tried to spend more time (but not more money) to get things that would be personal for people (either because it was on their wish list or because it fits their personality.) I think I did a really great job this year.
We had the basics of our Christmas dinner today (roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.) It never ceases to amaze me how good of a cook my mom is (and how bad of one I am.)
Now that everything is done and Christmas is almost over I want to stop and thank all those in the military (especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan.) Without them being over there we couldn't have a good Christmas over here - I know many people say that, but most don't really mean it (I do though.)
We are supposed to get snow, sleet and ice over the next few days so we may be stuck at home looking at the Christmas decorations. Luckily we have some nice things.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

No More Dirt!

From Yahoo News:
"Roll up the pavement: Gravel is making a comeback"

This is the worst trend for those of us who live in the back woods of no where. I have to take mountain dirt roads to get to my house and there is nothing good about them. In the Summer and Fall they get muddy when it rains (this past Summer it rained for almost 2 months and part of the road was washed away.) In the Spring - during "Mud Season" there is mud everywhere (hence the name) and it is harder to drive. States, counties and towns should go back to paving the roads and stay away from the dirt. It is the 21st Century after all and money from the Government's Economic Recovery Plan should be used to pave these roads correctly.

Mexico City Says - Si!

From Yahoo News:
"Mexico City assembly legalizes same-sex marriage"

I was surprised that this happened in Mexico. It is the first place in Latin America to allow gays the right to marry. Now all three capitals in North America allow gay marriage.;_ylt=AuLioKSoGfWy26RSd.YP_uJvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJuczRmdWxoBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMDkxMjIxL2x0X21leGljb19nYXlfbWFycmlhZ2UEY3BvcwMxBHBvcwMxBHNlYwN5bl90b3Bfc3RvcnkEc2xrA21leGljb2NpdHlhcw--

3 Hours And No More!

From The DOT Website:
"New DOT Consumer Rule Limits Airline Tarmac Delays, Provides Other Passenger Protections"

I am really surprised that the DOT made this a rule and not just a suggestion. I think it is a huge step in the right direction. It shows that the Government is beginning to see air passengers as people that have basic rights. I hope this new rule will be enforced every time and that the DOT won't back down to pressure from the airports or the airlines.

Update On Auschwitz Sign

A few days ago Polish police found the sign (cut into 3 pieces) and returned it to the death camp. They also arrested some of the people involved. The sign will be fixed and hung back up after new security measures are in place. I'm glad that the Polish Government took this seriously and that it was found.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Survivor Samoa

I know it's been a few days since the season finale aired. I am really glad that Natalie won! It was no surprise that Jason was voted off, but was a little disappointing when Brett lost immunity and was then sent to the jury. I think Brett deserved to win, but out of the final 3 Natalie was the best. I am really glad that Russell wasn't voted off earlier because it was good to see his surprise and disappointment live on TV - that's not as mean as it sounds since he lied and cheated throughout the whole game. I am shocked that Shambo is still his number one fan. If I had children I would not want them to see how nasty and mean their dad was (like Russell was.)
The show said they are going to have their 20th season back in Samoa with past show "hero's" and "villains." Did they get some great discount to keep picking Samoa (like they did by having several seasons on Palau.) It's a huge world and they need to starts looking outside of islands in the Pacific. The new season will have to be very different for me to continue watching it. We shall see.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Travels 2009

The year is almost over with and once again I will make a list of places I visited this year. Unlike most years we didn't go on many trips mainly because we moved and had to get the new house ready for a New England winter (which we did.)

January: None

February: New Hampshire (House Closing)

March: New Hampshire (Move)

April: None

May: None

June: New York, Massachusetts

July: Texas, Florida

August: Virginia

September: None

October: New York

November: Virginia, Massachusetts

While many of these trips were scaled back to be fairly quick trips and several trips had to be cancelled we do have some places planned for next year.

Conquered, Not Defeated

The full title of this book is: "Conquered, Not Defeated. Growing up in Denmark during the German Occupation of World War 2." I asked for it for Christmas and got it early and so thought I would read it. It was a decent book. I have read many personal accounts of the War and have a good idea of what to expect. This book was more about the historical aspect of the Occupation rather than personal reflections. I guess the main reason of this is because the author was 5 years old when the Occupation started and 10 when the war ended. While it was not a very insightful, personal book it was decent. I am glad I got it as a present.

Auschwitz Sign Stolen!

The original sign hanging over the Auschwitz Death Camp in Poland was stolen a few days ago. The sign read: "Arbeit Macht Frei" - "Work Sets You Free" and is a major symbol of both the camp and the Holocaust as a whole.
The Polish Government has stepped up its search along the land, air and sea borders in hopes that the sign won't leave the country - if it does it will be much harder to search for.
Auschwitz was the largest concentration and death camp the Nazis had. An estimated 1 million men, women and children were murdered in its gas chambers. Today, the camp serves as a memorial of what happened during World War 2 as well as a learning center about what mankind is capable of.
Hopefully, the sign will be found and will be in one piece.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Avatar (2009)

Just saw this movie today and while it wasn't the best it also wasn't the worst movie. It was very long though and could have been cut in half and none of the story-line would have been lost.
The movie wasn't some new idea or story-line. The only real thing that was new was the language the Avatars speak (but of course everyone also speaks English - see it really is the "World's Language.") It was really just an old Western that was updated. The US Military are the Cavalry and the Avatars are the Indians (at times the movie seemed more like watching Disney's "Pocahontas" without the songs.) The main difference is who wins.
I don't see this film being the "best all year" as I have heard. The theater was basically empty with only a handful of people there. I would suggest people wait til it comes out on DVD and get it from Netflix.

The Tutors: Season 1

Last night I finished watching all the episodes of "The Tutors" from Netflix. I have to say it was very dramatic and kept your interest throughout. While it isn't completely historically accurate (as most shows and movies aren't) it still gave a good look into Henry 8th and his early life.
I have Season 2 waiting in Netflix, but put it pretty far in the list so I could see other movies.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Survivor Samoa

This week's show was no real surprise. I knew that Shambo would get blind-sided by Russell sooner or later because that's the kind of person he is. It is a good thing that Brett won immunity again and I hope he continues to win them since it would make Russell mad. Also today was the last time Russell could use his idol (he didn't) but from now on he could be kiced-out - if any of the others had any real brains and got rid of him.
This Sunday is the season finale. They still have 5 people so lots of them will have to be voted off. Hope it's good.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

100th Entry!

I have now written my 100th entry here on my new blog. I hope that I can continue to write about a wide-range of subjects, issues and problems that are interesting to everyone.
I like to hear back from people (both good and bad) so that I can make this blog even better.

A Farewell To Arms (1932)

I just watched this movie for the first time last night. I have to say that it was pretty good and even though it is 77 years old and in black and white it still has themes that hold today. Despite all that it had good acting by Gary Cooper.
I was very surprised by the issues that were allowed in the movie in the 1930s. There's the having sex before you are married aspect (even in the 1950s married couples had to sleep in separate beds on TV and in movies.) The "marriage" ceremony that wasn't really legal (ie there was no civil ceremony which was required in Italy at the time.) There's the part where the woman gets pregnant (again while not married.) And the part were the guy deserts his military posting during war.
I know it is loosely based on a book by Ernest Hemingway and that there have been other movies made since One in the 1950s with Rock Hudson and one in the 1990s with Sandra Bullock and Chris O'Donnell, but I still think that this 1932 version is the best one by far.

Gordon Ramsey's Cookalong

Last night I watched this show and have to say it was very boring. I usually like the shows that Gordon Ramsey is in (like "Kitchen Nightmares", etc) but this live-show was pretty cheap. It threw everything at you in one short hour. It seemed very fake, rehearsed and tried way to hard to be funny - but didn't succeed.
The Marine wives were the dumbest people you could ever find. I don't know why the producers couldn't have found different military spouses that could actually think for themselves. I am a military brat and have seen the military wives that have to be told (by both their husbands and the military) every detail of life. They can not think for themselves. These Marine wives were just such people.
I hope that this show was a one time only thing because it was just plain bad.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Where Have All The Christmas Shows Gone?

It is 10 days until Christmas and yet many channels on TV choose not to show any Christmas-themed shows or movies. It seems that every year more and more shows/movies aren't shown. The only channels that constantly show Christmas shows and movies are: Lifetime, ABC Family and Hallmark. Whoever is creating the TV schedules on the other channels need to wake up and add more holiday-related shows and movies.

DC Chooses Gay Marriage

From Yahoo News:
"DC City Council votes to legalize gay marriage"

Whether you are for gay marriage or not you have to admit that the DC City Council is smart in voting to allow gays to marry. Now it forces the Federal Government (which has to approve all DC's laws) to make a decision on whether to allow gay marriage or not. I think that if gays had all the same legal rights as regular married couples (ie inheritance, insurance, etc) then gay marriage wouldn't be such a big deal, but since that is not the case then the gay marriage fight continues. I am curious to see what the Federal Government (especially Obama) decides about all this.

An Arrogant BA

British Airways' crews have voted to strike over both Christmas and New Year's. It seems the airline and it's employees are choosing to be Scrooge rather than Tiny Tim. The airline is constantly plagued with problems and strikes and yet everyone who works for British Airways seems to be very arrogant regardless of the lack of service they provide their customers. It should be illegal and any major company to strike around a major holiday since it only affects the paying customers.
I personally don't care at all for British Airways. I have flown them several times and just find everything sub par. I prefer to use Virgin Atlantic when I fly to the UK - as they are much nicer and their Premium Economy Class is great!
So in short, people should see through the airline's arrogance and take their money to airlines that actually care about you - ie Virgin Atlantic.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fines For Affairs

From Yahoo News:
"Adultery still crime in NH after 200 years"

I think that it should be kept on the books here in NH and also be made in the rest of the US. It's not jail time but why shouldn't someone who has an affair not be made to pay a fine too? Maybe it will make cheaters think just a little bit the next time they want to be unfaithful. Anything that can be legally done to these scumbags should be done.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Markets

I have to say that I really like going to Christmas markets (especially the ones in Europe.) The lights and stalls full of candy, food, toys, homemade decorations just seem to bring out what Christmas is traditionally all about. The only thing I don't care for is the mulled wine they sell.
I wish they were more popular here in the US. Christmas markets are a lot better way to spend the holidays than shopping in a mall.

900 May Be 900 Too Many

From Yahoo News:
"Georgia to send 900 troops to Afghanistan"

If you noticed that I put this entry in the Russia/CIS and Europe sections. I did that because Georgia left the CIS due to it's war with Russia last year. I do not think it is very wise for Georgia to send so many troops to Afghanistan when it has so many issues back home. Why send so many soldiers out of your country when you could be having another war (with Russia) any day? I guess the only reason to do that is to gain favor with the US and EU (especially the EU since they as a whole aren't sending that many troops to Afghanistan.)

Airport Sleeping

From USA Today:
"Airport napping rooms let you sleep your layover away"

I have spent many hours of a layover at different airports around the world. The article says that these sleeping rooms are popular in Europe, but I have been to many European airports and have never seen them. I don't think business travellers will use them since most have companies that will pay for hotels. I think it is really geared towards the budget tourist (although the price in the US - $30 - is a little steep.) I'm not sure if it will catch on here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Julie And Julia (2009)

I just got done watching this movie and have to say it was very long and very boring. It is about a crazy woman who has nothing in her life and so decides to "cyber stalk" Julia Childs. The only good parts of the movie were flashbacks on Julia Childs. They should have just made a movie about her life and skipped the crazy woman. There's even a scene in the film where the crazy woman learns that Julia Childs doesn't even like what she is doing - take a hint. Instead of getting a real life the woman continues to use her made-up experiences with Julia Childs and writes a book and then gets a movie made.
One last thing: at the end of the movie (where it tells what happened to Julia Childs and the crazy woman) it says the crazy woman "had a movie made." Of course she did - it's the movie I was watching. Some people are crazy and that's fine, but they shouldn't be allowed to make dumb, boring movies about nothing and make money from it. I'm really glad I didn't go see this in the theaters (and really wish I hadn't ordered it on Netflix.)

Survivor Samoa

This week they voted two people off - first Dave and then Monika. For a split second in the 2nd voting I thought they would vote Russell out, but like I have constantly written - the people on this season are all just very stupid. They could have at least gotten Russel to use the idol if nothing else. I really don't care who wins as long as it is not Russell. I don't really think any one is more deserving to win (as has been the case in other seasons.) Only two more weeks and then it's over.

Snow Storm

Yesterday when I got up at 5 am (to feed my dogs and let them outs) there was no new snow on the ground - only the couple of inches that have been there for a few days. Then I went back to sleep. When I woke up again a few hours later the snow was coming down hard and it continued non-stop all day (sometimes it was coming down an inch an hour.)When it finally ended we had a foot.
We have a new plow service (they do the whole town) and this storm was the first time we got to see them in action. They come at the end of the storm and last night came around 8 pm. After they left I went outside to check the driveway and to clear our car and the walkways. The driveway was 90% done right. The only issue I have is that they pushed the snow up and around the car. So not only did I have to shovel the original foot but also all the snow that was pushed against it. It took me a while, but I eventually got everything cleared and sanded.
Today I will go out again and clean up some more. I will also try out my new snowblower and see if I can't widen our driveway and make it more usable (at least the end by the house.)
Looks like I will become an expert in snow removal by the end of winter. I have lived in places that get a lot snow before (New York, Massachusetts and Russia), but in New York I had the rest of my family to help me. In Massachusetts I was at college and only had to take care of my car and in Russia I didn't have to clear anything. I have also lived in Virginia, but they barely get any snow and the stuff that falls usually melts in a few days. No place I lived before compares to living in the mountains of New Hampshire.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Top Chef

Tonight was the season finale. Unlike all the other seasons I liked all three chefs so it didn't really matter to me who won. Kevin always made Southern food and didn't really seem to know how to do anything else. Michael is very creative, but it seems that he is so obsessed about beating his brother. Bryan had good, stable ideas that tended to work out. I would have liked to see Bryan win, but in the end Michael did. I kind of wish the show had told Michael that Bryan had won - just to see if he would go postal or not.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The USSR: 18 Years After The Collapse!

Today is the 18th anniversary of the signing of the Belavezha Accords (Беловежские соглашения) which is the agreement that declared the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Союз Советских Социалистических Республик) effectively dissolved and established the Commonwealth of Independent States (Содружество Независимых Государств) in its place.

Wikipedia has a good summary of what happened next.

1. While doubts remained over the authority of the leaders (Stanislav Shushkevich - Belarus, Boris Yeltsin - Russia, and Leonid Kravchuk - Ukraine) of three of the fifteen Soviet Republics to dissolve the Union, according to Article 72 of the 1977 Soviet Constitution, Soviet Republics had the right to secede freely from the Union. On December 12, 1991 the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR ratified the accords on behalf of Russia and at the same time denounced the 1922 Treaty on the Creation of the Soviet Union.

2. All doubts relating to the legal dissolution of the Soviet Union were removed on December 21, 1991, when the representatives of all Soviet republics except Georgia and the three Baltic states, including those republics that had signed the Belavezha Accords, signed the Alma-Ata Protocol, which confirmed the dismemberment and consequential extinction of the Soviet Union and restated the establishment of the CIS. Given that fourteen out of fifteen republics now exercised the constitutional right of secession and agreed with the extinction of the Union, the plurality of member-republics required for the Union's continued existence as a federal State ceased to be in place. The summit of Alma-Ata also agreed on several other practical measures consequential to the extinction of the Union.

3. However, for four more days a Soviet Federal Government continued to exist, and Mikhail Gorbachev continued to hold control over the Kremlin as President of the Soviet Union. This ended on December 25, 1991, when Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the President of the Soviet Union and turned control of the Kremlin and the remaining powers of his office over to the office of the president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, thus accepting termination of the Soviet Federal Government and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Gorbachev's televised resignation speech and the subsequent lowering of the flag of the Soviet Union and hoisting of the flag of Russia on the flagpole in front of the Kremlin was a historic event broadcast around the world. On this day, President of the United States George H.W. Bush, a former head of the CIA, gave a short speech on national TV in the United States to commemorate the ending of the Cold War and to recognize the independence of the former states of the Soviet Union.

4. The following day, December 26, 1991, the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, formally the highest governmental body of the Soviet Union, recognized the collapse of the Union and dissolved itself, an event that marked the final step in the extinction of the Soviet Union.

5. The Summit of Alma-Ata also issued a statement on December 21, 1991 supporting Russia's claim to be recognized as the successor state of the Soviet Union for the purposes of membership of the United Nations. On December 24, 1991, Russian President Yeltsin informed the UN Secretary General that the Soviet Union had been dissolved and that Russia would, as its successor State, continue the Soviet Union's membership in the United Nations. The document confirmed the credentials of the representatives of the Soviet Union as representatives of Russia, and requested that the name "Soviet Union" be changed to "Russian Federation" in all records and entries.

^I can not believe it has been 18 years since the Soviet Union collapsed. There are now adults in the former USSR that were not alive when the Soviet Union existed. While the official date that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ceased to exist is December 25, 1991 the events leading to this event started on Dec. 7, 1991. It is amazing that the Soviet Union that lasted for 69 years disappeared almost overnight with little bloodshed. I know that there are many Russians and other former Soviet citizens that wish the USSR was still here, but I believe that there has been more good than harm over the last 18 years. While many former Soviet Republics still have the same people in power as they did under Communist times I still see many slight differences that have benefited the people for the most part. Whenever I ask a Russian about what they think of the collapse of the USSR I get the same response: "the Soviet Union did not collapse. It just went away." Regardless, the USSR is no more. With it also ended the Cold War with the United States of America as the victor and sole Super-Power.^

Dual Citizenship

Ever since my mom got her Canadian citizenship restored and is now a dual Canadian-American I have looked up (on my different sites) about dual citizenship around the world. Some countries allow it, some have restrictions on it and others ban it completely.
One thing that is universal in the countries that allow dual citizenship is called The Master Nationality Rule of 1930. This means that if you have dual citizenship and are travelling to one of the countries that you are a citizen you have to enter that country with that country's passport. An example of this is: a Canadian-American must enter Canada on their Canadian passport and enter the United States on their American passport.

Countries that allow Unrestricted Dual Citizenship (with year it became legal):
- Belgium (2008), United Kingdom (1948), Finland (2003), Greece, Hungary, Sweden (2001), Serbia (2004) - doesn't include Kosovo Citizenship, Morocco, Barbados, Canada (1977), Israel (2002), Australia(2002), Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg (2009), Malta (2000), Portugal, Iceland (2003), United States (1952), Switzerland (1992), Brazil (1994), Mexico (1998), Iraq (2008), Philippines (2003), New Zealand (1949)

Countries that Restrict Dual Citizenship:
- Austria, Czech Republic, Netherlands, France, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Armenia, Norway, India, Taiwan, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, Peru, Macau, Hong Kong

Countries that Ban Dual Citizenship:
- Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine, Liberia, China, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore

* I don't know why any country would not allow dual citizenship - especially since you have to enter each country on that countries' passport. Most of it is due to the country's history (ie many former Soviet Republics do not allow dual citizenship so that they citizens can not be a Russian citizen as well as a citizen of the other country - ie more Russian-Ukrainians living in the Ukraine holding a Russian passport and a Ukrainian passport.) I am just waiting on my Canadian documents so I will officially be a Canadian-American (or American-Canadian.)*

Sunday, December 6, 2009

In Love And War (2001)

I just got done watching this movie and found it a little odd - until I saw it is a made-for-TV movie (from Hallmark) and then it all made sense. It is based on the true story of an English officer (Eric Newby) who is captured by the Italians in Italy in 1943. He is kept in a "prison" - although it is rather nice for one - until the Italians leave the war and the Germans come.
With the Italian soldiers it was very slap-stick comedy, but with the German soldiers it was the typical German thoroughness that was shown. Eric escapes from the Italian collaborators (the Black Shirts) and is helped by a series of different ordinary Italians (including one in particular named, Wanda.)
In the end Eric is captured by the Germans and sent to a POW camp. The war ends and he returns and marries Wanda. The end of the film said that as of 2001 they have been married for 55 years - although I believe Eric is now dead. I don't know about Wanda.
It was a decent movie. The storyline was good. Collum Blue (who played Eric) and Barbora Bobulova - who is really Slovakian -(who played Wanda) were both good actors. I just didn't expect all the comedy in a war-romance movie.

The Amazing Race

Tonight was the season finale. Meghan and Cheyne won! I know I said earlier that as long as the Harlem Globtrotters didn't win (which they didn't) I wouldn't care which one of the last 3 teams won. I changed my mind watching this last show. I really did not want Ericka and Brian to win. She is just so loud, annoying and always complains. She had said that she hopes her mom now accepts Brian even though he is white (talk about reverse race discrimination.) Although Brian deserves a medal to deal with Ericka everyday.
The two brothers were good, but the one was constantly complaining - even to the very end. It seems that this was the season where all the women and the one brother (every single last one of them) did nothing but complain the whole time. It got very annoying.
This was a good season and one of the few ones that didn't go to China or India. I know they are already filming the next season and I hope that it is ever better than this one and that the teams have more characters - and less complainers.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Last Thursday I tried to start my car (after it had sat for a very short time from when I drove it to Manchester) and it wouldn't start. I tried both the key and the automatic starter, but nothing worked. I then called AAA and they said they would send someone to check it out. Within 30 minutes a guy had come and tried to jump-start it. He said it needed a new battery and so my mom and I followed his truck to his garage. It turns out he is in the next town. He changed the battery and it didn't cost that much.
Things could have been much worse since we live in the mountains and only have the one car. If we had to have it towed someplace and fixed we wouldn't be able to get a rental or loaner car (apparently no one up here has a loaner and the rental car - Enterprise - guy was a jerk.)
I was impressed by both AAA and the local garage. It is the first time I used either and everything worked out well (knock on wood.) Now I feel more confident that AAA will be there the next - hopefully that won't happen - and I think we have a new garage in town to use.

North Korea Money Revalued!

It seems that the North Korean Government made the North Korean Won illegal throughout the country on November 30th and new Wons won't be made public until December 7th. Many stores and restaurants catering to the ordinary North Koreans have closed for this period while those Dollar and Euro stores and restaurants that cater to foreigners and Government officials remain open.
There are lots of reports that the North Korean Government is limiting the amount of money that each citizen can convert into the new currency on December 7th and so many will simply loose whatever amount over the official limit they have. Japanese and South Korean media have reported protests in North Korea (something unheard of in a tight, isolated, Communist country)over the officially allowed currency limit and because of these protests the limit was slightly raised.
I am not sure why the North Koreans are changing their currency (some say because of the black market) but I think it is just being done because the Communists in power there can do it. Maybe they want to see how the people will react.
It is the first time I have ever heard of a new currency being introduced with a lapse in between when the old currency is made illegal and the new currency is distributed. Usually the old currency is allowed to be used to pay for things for a certain time while any change is given in the new currency and prices are displayed in both currencies. I guess it shouldn't be too surprising that North Korea is doing everything differently.

2012 (2009)

I just got back from watching this movie and have to say that I thought it was pretty good. I like "end of the world" movies - especially ones that don't just destroy NYC as the majority do. The special effects in the movie were also good.
One scene I didn't think portrayed what the director had wanted to show was when the scientist is trying to convince all the leaders to open the doors to their ship to the people outside. The scientist says it will make them more human. What really gets me about that scene is that all of those people (except for a handful of Chinese workers) had paid billions to be on the ships in the first place so it wasn't as though they were going to do any charity (ie for people who couldn't pay.)
I also didn't think Danny Glover was that good of a President as some others I have seen. I also do not think the leaders of the Western World would allow the ships to be in China since it would mean trusting the Communists with their own survival.
Also none of the "Russians" in the movie were real Russians. The guy who played Yuri is really Croatian. The woman who played Tamara is really French and the guy who played Sasha is really Estonian (although he is the closest to a real Russian as the movie got.) When they spoke Russian even I could hear a strong accent.
Despite these small things the movie was good and full of action and special effects.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Survivor: Samoa

Last night's shows was alright. I still do not care for Russell and wish he would just get voted out. Instead he acts as though he is the smartest person on Earth - just because the others on the islands are dumber than mud doesn't make him that smart. I also would like to see Dave gone - he always tries to create plans to get people sent home and in the end they never work.
Shambo always gets in it with others and then wants them immediately sent home. This week her alliance tricked her and then voted someone else off. The look on her face when she learned that she was blind-sided was priceless.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dresden (2006)

It took me a little while to see the whole 2 part movie (because I had to wait for Netflix), but it came today and I just finished watching it. It is a German movie with English subtitles about the Allied bombing of Dresden in February 1945.
I have to say that it was really well made. The acting was good as was the action and blending of original war footage with the modern.
As for the story it is focused on a German nurse (Anna) and her well-off family. Anna's father is the head doctor and so is her fiancee. Anna meets a man (Robert) who turns out to be a half-German, half-English bomber pilot who was shot down over Germany. The two fall in love despite the Gestapo, the military and Anna's father and fiancee chasing after them. In the midst of all this is the bombing of Dresden.
Of course the movie brings up the question (several times) as to whether the Allies had to bomb Dresden or if it is a war crime. The movie answers this if you look closely (although I don't think it's the answer the German director wanted you to see.) First it is the way that the majority of the ordinary Germans were living after 6 years of war - especially in Dresden. They had prospered from the war and while the Germans were murdering innocent men, women and children the German homefront was carefree. Second is the numerous scenes of anti-Jewish discrimination. There is the scene of the children chasing and shouting at a Jewish man (wearing the Star of David he was forced to wear) and then the Block Warden not allowing the Jews from the air-raid shelter. For all those Germans alive at the time and said they knew nothing about the Holocaust (either against the Jews or all the other "sub-humans") it is oblivious they are lying to make themselves look and feel better. Even as late as 1945 there were open displays of anti-Jewish acts - not only in the camps, but also in the cities (like Dresden.) Third is best answered by one of the scenes where Anna asks Robert how he can kill innocent women and children and he replies "Didn't you start the war and bomb our innocent women and children first? Or have you forgotten?" That right there proves that the bombing of Dresden or any German city is not and never will be a war crime.
It is so convenient for Germans living back then to "forget" what their leaders, their fathers, their mothers their husbands, their wives their sons and their daughters did to all the millions upon millions of Russians, Poles, Jews, Dutch, British and all the other nationalities that the Germans occupied and/or bombed during the war. From the German's bombing Warsaw in 1939, to Rotterdam in 1940 to them bombing the UK during the Blitz the Germans not only started and supported the war, but also were the first to bomb cities, by airplanes, over innocent targets. The British and the Americans only followed the Germans' lead and just because we were better at it then the Germans were we should not have to ever justify ourselves. Every bomb that was dropped by the Allies was one day closer to ending the war in Europe and freeing all those enslaved and starved by the Germans (both in the concentration camps, the POW camps and the places that used forced-laborers.) It makes me sick to hear a German (even one that wasn't alive back then) to say "We may have done horrible things in the camps and the occupied countries, but we are victims too." There is no excuse for what the German Government (which was fully supported by all aspects of ordinary German life - from the railways, to the bakeries) did during the war and fact is that the majority of Germans were not victims. The only German victims of World War 2 are those who were 17 or under in 1945, German Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, Freemasons and the handful of German resistance groups (ie the White Rose.) All the others are guilty - if nothing other than supporting and following the racist policies of a few.
I believe this German-made film meant to show the horror and unjust bombing of Dresden during the war yet, as I stated above, while it was a good movie it did nothing to show me that the bombing wasn't deserved to end the war nor that the Germans were ever victims.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Schengen Expands Visa-Free Travel

The map above is from Wikipedia. The blue are countries in the EU, the green are countries that can go to the Schengen countries visa-free for 90 days every 180 days, the red are the countries that need a visa to enter the Schengen and I'm not sure what the countries in brown mean.

The countries that make up the Schengen Agreement will allow Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia 90 days visa-free travel starting on December 19, 2009. It is odd that from the 1950s-1990s Yugoslavia (present-day: Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina) could travel out of the Iron Curtain and to the West with no visas (and Westerns could travel to Yugoslavia without visas) something no other Communist country allowed.

Obama's Plan Isn't Peaceful Or Even Good

From Yahoo News:
"Obama boosts troops in Afghanistan with exit plan"

I will never understand how Obama can be considered "peaceful" and then add 30,000 more American troops to the War in Afghanistan. Someone who prolongs a war (whether it is a just cause or not) is not peaceful. I think it was very stupid to announce when we will start withdrawing our troops (in 2011.) We just told the terrorists, the Taliban and any anti-American group in Afghanistan - "Just wait 18 months and then we will start to leave and you guys can take over again."
This is one of the first things he has actually done - rather than talk about doing - and the only real part I don't like about his plan is announcing when we will get out of Afghanistan. Why add thousands upon thousands of new American troops if we are just sending them back home in 18 months? You can tell Obama is not a good military thinker nor does he seem to have any good military advisors around him. Maybe he should do what he does best - talk and create a "military czar" to handle things.