Tuesday, February 24, 2015

This Old House

As a second part to our post titled, "Home buying and home repair TV shows," we must add our recommendation of This Old House. I remember watching this show many, many years ago with my parents, but the show has new meaning to me now that I am fixing my own house.

For a do-it-yourselfer with no experience, it was initially a little hard to me to watch teams of workers with every tool imaginable take on a project in a fraction of the time it takes me to stumble through something similar. I annoy Yulia several times each episode with comments like, "Wow! There's literally a special tool for every kind of job out there! I would have never imagined!"

I also envy the professionalism that building contractors have in the United States. We hired a team of three workers to change our roof last summer and were not totally pleased with the result. Several weeks ago I had to climb up to our chimney to examine our internet cable and antenna and saw that they lied to us about caulking around the chimney. I'll have to do it myself and replace the flashing that is already beginning to detach.

But Yulia and I have warmed up to the show considerably after getting over the shock of how much money, resources, and skill are available in America. We are fixing our house for a fraction of what it takes in the States, and we are paying close attention to the experts on This Old House for when the time comes for us to take on similar projects here. I'm already thinking how to better waterproof our house when we replace our siding in the summer.

In general, the show is not only about the construction site, but about different themes. Usually, the homeowner has some sort of style or preference, and the hosts of the show explore those themes in greater detail by traveling to different places to learn more about history, style, and building types. So far we have watched projects that explore the "Scandinavian Modern" style (which can be found in the video above), "Universal Design" (that is, designing for elderly and disabled homeowners), and the history of the "Dutch Colonial" home.

The show has turned out to be a hit for Yulia and me. Whenever we find some spare time, Yuila suggests we watch This Old House. It's not only educational, but interesting and entertaining.

Thanks to our reader, "Saint Coemgen," for recommending this show to us! You were right on in your recommendation!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Chaos for the sake of chaos

Like most Ukrainians, Yulia and I want to get on with our lives. We are not interested in living in a state of perpetual war. We moved to Ukraine to grow a beautiful garden, fix an old house, and maybe even enjoy ourselves. We are doing that and try to blog about it whenever we get a breather from our very busy lives.

But we also came to Ukraine because we love the country. We love the land and the people. I have more family than I ever realized living here. Yulia and I try and treat everyone with respect, whether it be family or strangers. We are doing our best to be responsible caretakers of our land.

Along with that responsibility comes the job of protecting it from people who want to destroy it. We have attended protests and railed against international fossil fuel companies who were planning on drilling for shale gas in our immediate area. Thankfully, that threat has passed for now. Unfortunately, war has been spreading across our country for quite some time now, and we can't ignore it. We do not relish writing about it on our blog. We wish we could write about eating healthy and planting trees (and we will). But I just wanted to share some thoughts that came out of a conversation Yulia and I had not too long ago.

Like many people who live far away from the battles, we read about the war in the news. I was particularly sickened by the attack on Mariupol, where rockets were fired from behind Russian lines into the city. Thirty people were killed. All but one were civilians who were going about their daily lives when they were suddenly killed.

The Russian side has been called many names since this conflict started. People say that they are "zombified" (due to the high level of brainwashing happening in the Russian world) and refer to them as potato beetles because of the orange and black striped ribbons the separatists often wear. However, the fact remains that they are human just like all of us. I believe that very few people are actually evil by nature.

What would prompt someone sitting in a truck to fire unguided rockets into a city of 500,000 people is beyond me. Trying to understand a person with such a mindset has been sobering. I've lost my former naivete. I no longer think our enemy in this war is just trying to build what they think is a better country. I think they are trying to create an environment of chaos as their end goal. Up until now they had a chaotic environment provided for them by Ukraine's criminal presidents (most notably Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yanukovych). Now they face the prospect of Ukrainians building a more enlightened, democratic society, and they are frightened that they will have to start living like responsible adults.

I shared these thoughts with Yulia, and she said she thinks that this war began long ago. It has grown out of a collective culture which allows people to act without fear of consequences. I think she's right. These are broken, traumatized people whose psychological disorders have never been addressed. Their sicknesses did not just develop overnight, so I don't think it is accurate to say that these people are simply resisting the democratic changes that have swept Ukraine in the past year. The sooner the Ukrainian side realizes this, the better. Their psychological wounds have been festering for a long time. Sadly, Ukraine still faces a long road of collective rehabilitation after the violence stops.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

VIDEO: "Russian Myths About Crimea"

Yulia and I live in Ukraine, and we are often let down by non-Ukrainians' misunderstandings about our country. If we hear that Ukraine is just a province of Russia one more time, we may scream.

The video above takes on the myths about Crimea that are circulating due to Russian propaganda right now. In several weeks, it will be one year since Russia invaded, staged a referendum, and annexed Crimea. It's important not to forget this first step in the Kremlin's attempt to dismantle Ukraine.