Sunday, August 2, 2015

Your Sunday Squirrel

This is my last squirrel for a month, so I might as well make it a good one.  Enjoy!

Sorry Ukraine, Maybe Next Time

I’m off to Turkey for a month tomorrow.  Usually I start out in Ukraine, visit some relatives, see a few sights and move on.  That’s not happening this time around.  I know that there are a few relatives and acquaintances from the home village of Peremilov that are Facebook friends, so maybe a little clarification is in order.  OK, it’s not that I don’t care about you; it’s just that there’s this war you’ve got going on with Russia.  Never mind this business about “separatists.” You’re fighting Russia.  Ever since I started visiting Ukraine in 1993, everybody’s been telling me that there was going to be a war like this.  I thought you guys were being delusional.  As the American, I felt it was my job to be the optimist.  I thought that talking positively about the future would make things seem less grim.  I feel a bit foolish about that now, given what’s happened over the last year and a half.  

But let’s back up a bit.  Ever since my first visit, it’s been tough to ignore that Ukraine has been poorly governed.  Elected and appointed officials methodically loot the treasury without the least thought of the people they’ve supposed to be representing or serving.  The rule of law doesn’t apply and the economy is a ruin.  The thing about the corruption is that it continues even when it’s exposed.  Politicians seem to be proud to be corrupt, just as so many Ukrainians are proud alcoholics.  What’s the supreme mystery here is that the corruption is never-ending because the people expect it.  Yeah, just look at the last guy they elected as their president, Viktor Yanukovych.  Despite poisoning his opponent and committing widespread election fraud, he eventually became president of the country (after a revolution and a very disappointing term by the guy he almost killed).  Everybody knew he’d be a disaster, but they made him president anyway.  There was something of a popular rebellion against him and he was eventually kicked out of office last year.  That’s when Russia moved in and all this crazy stuff started up in earnest.  So it’s not just about Russian aggression; that’s a part of this whole mess, but basically, it’s about how Ukrainians allow crappy government to happen.  It’s about the almost unimaginable selfishness of the ruling apparatus.  It’s about how nothing works.  Back in the Soviet times, they could curse the faceless bureaucracy and the lunacy of Leninism and appreciate the stability of a system that seemingly could preserve itself forever.  They were powerless to do much about it, but at least most everybody was in the same boat.  Everyone was poor, everything was broken and there was nothing worth buying.  Fast forward to now and they’re theoretically living in a parliamentary democracy with representatives who are supposed to represent their interests, but they still act like there’s a Soviet Union.  People don’t vote and they don’t hold their government accountable until it gets so intolerable that they have to rise in rebellion.  That, folks, is no way to run a country.  I can no longer be the optimist with my relatives, nor can I sit there and listen to why they’re not planning on voting in elections.  I love my relatives, but I simply don’t have the vocabulary to tell them all these things.  Sure, they’re a blast to drink, talk and sing with, but I can’t listen to their national plight, because it’s all their fault.  Gah, it’s totally frustrating.

OK, so on the one hand, I feel like a complete dumbass for being the pollyanna.  On the other hand, this is the kind of thing that happens when you allow bad government to operate for decades.  Of course, having a large neighbor wanting to revive its empire is a problem, too, but it’s a component that highlights the larger problem.  So tomorrow I head off to Turkey, a country that’s actually fun to visit and full of friendly people.  I will go to Ukraine again once the war is over.  Until then, I say to you: Я думаю о вас каждый день, и я молюсь за ваше будущее.  Дай Боже, родственники.  And there you have it. 

(Cross-posted over on Facebook, obviously) 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Your Sunday Squirrel

Well, high summer is here and most squirrels are on vacation.  I didn't realize this, but my scholarly squirrel book that I got for Christmas tells me that August and February are the two leanest months for squirrels.  So even though they're not on vacation, they're conserving their energy and hanging out in their trees with occasional trips to the ground to try to remember where they buried all those peanuts I gave them.  This fellow is from a few weeks ago.  He was pretty hungry.

The Seafair Torchlight Parade

Sure, it was cold.  It was rainy, and there were more than a few weirdoes in the crowd, but the parade occurred.  Here are some shots:
 It began like so many things - with cops.

There's Felix Hernandez, so close you could PUNCH him.  But why would anybody want to do that?  As you can see, he got all dressed up for his grand marshaling.

There's Robinson Cano.  Didn't the Mariners have a game last night?  Did these guys skip out on that?
Here's Dow Constantine.  What kind of name is "Dow?" It's more like a sound than a name.
My favorite float of the night and perhaps ever.  It's a pickle.

 Orca balloon...

Alaska Airlines balloon...

Giant potato...

On the corner of 4th & Blanchard, I was surrounded by all these skeevy people.  At one point, a nearby lady with kids asked a couple of the guys if they wouldn't say the word "motherfucker" so much.  They said they'd try and then started saying it even more.  There were also these bummy guys from the senior low-income building on 3rd panhandling everybody in the area.  And this one drunk woman kept running into the street to high-five marchers and tell them that she was a viking because her mom was Norwegian.  She kept hugging me and telling me that she was a viking.  I decided to move down the block when all of these elements combined.  This is the last picture I took.  It's Army guys with all the state flags.  They were just kind of standing there for a long time.  The pacing was not very good.  When there weren't two-block gaps, people were standing around.
I usually hang out till the dragon passes, then leave.  This year, I left early.  This is a picture of the dragon on TV.  So at least I got a shot of the dragon.  Hooray for me.

So OK, even if the weather had been warm and non-rainy, it still would have been kind of a bummer of a parade.  Well, I hope next year will be better.

I Went out Rowing and This Is What I Looked Like

Stacey found out that if you have a library card, you can take out a rowboat from the Center for Wooden Boats for a free hour - otherwise, it's $30 per - and that's what we did.  I rowed.  The strangler gloves are to thwart blisters.  But we weren't out long enough for anything like that to happen.  We got about halfway down the lake, turned around and then got buzzed by a very low seaplane.  It was momentarily alarming.  Anyhow, we had a maritime adventure and didn't die.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Your Sunday Squirrel

OK, I realize that this is a blurrel.  But it is pretty interesting to look at on account of parts of this fellow being in focus.  I'm not saying that it's a portrait for the ages, but it does feature some in-focus feet.  I went to Denny Park this morning hoping for some meaningful shots and this is the best of the bunch.  Yeah, so the others are way worse.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Your Sunday Squirrel

I met this fellow yesterday.  I offered him a perfectly good peanut, but he was more interested in sniffing the crack in the path.  Squirrels are weird sometimes.

Speaking of Losing a Parking Lot...

This is what's happening on 3rd, between Battery & Wall:
There used to be buildings on this lot.  Remember Exotica Imports?  It was a record store.  Remember record stores?  Anyhow, the one-story building stood at the corner of 3rd & Battery, but was knocked down around 10 years ago.  It has been a parking lot ever since, but the mowing down of trees seems to indicate that they're getting ready to build something.  Let's hope it's not ugly!  

They Built a Very Large Thing Yesterday

And it's just a block away:
 OK, so there's going to be one less parking lot in Belltown.  They're building something big at 2nd & Virginia.  It's a little bit of a mystery why, since they're no doubt going to be condos or high-end apartments.  But the thing is that the Sound and Queen Anne views for most of the units will be blocked by other buildings.  Oh well, I guess they know what they're doing!  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Your Sunday Squirrel

This guy looks like he's about to start throwing some heavy squirrel-punches.  But no, he was pretty friendly.  I met him yesterday morning.  He was playing with a stick.  You don't really think that squirrels play; only that they behave erratically all the time.  But no, they do.  After a peanut or two, he went back to playing with his stick.