Val’s 11th!

Each year near to her birthday we take a picture of Valerie in the same dress, one of Olga’s. I got this idea from Life magazine years ago. It’s fun to watch her grow up:

 

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4th Birthday:

Val - Birthday - Dress

4th Birthday

5th Birthday:

Val-5th Continue reading

What a Surprise

My jaw dropped when I saw this.

The worldwide human population in the year AD 1 was just 170 million people. That’s less than half the current population of the USA!

  • 1000 AD: 250 million
  • 1400 AD: 343 million
  • 1600 AD: 538 million
  • 1800 AD: 1 billion
  • 1900 AD: 1.6 billion
  • 2000 AD: 6.1 billion (!)

Worth watching:

So Far and Yet So Near

music

Valerie has a weekly piano lesson. Her teacher is in St. Petersburg, Russia while we sit in Athens, Georgia. It’s actually a pretty good arrangement. We use Skype for the call, so Valerie and the teacher can see and hear each other. It works well.

We do this because, interestingly, the Russian names for notes are different from the American names, which makes sense because the languages don’t share an alphabet. Americans use letters to name notes and Russians use the familiar Do-Re-Mi. For instance,  C in America is Do in Russia, D is Re, etc. In the States we’d say that we’re playing a C major chord, and in Russia it is a Do major chord.  The notation is the same, just the names of the notes are different.

Christmas Cards Past

I posted this last year but thought some people might like to see it again —

I recently told some Russian friends about something I did before I moved to Russia, and they asked if I’d post it on the web:

Years ago, when I was an old bachelor, I had the idea that it would be funny to have a different family each Christmas on my Christmas card.  One year at a church cookout I decided to go ahead and do it.

A friend from church was my ‘wife’, and we had three children.  I can say that it was quite a surprise to people when they got my card that year.  Several people thought I’d gotten married and hadn’t told them. (If you look closely, you’ll see that I have half a mustache; that was my way of saying ‘this is a joke’.)

mike_christmas_cards_1995

The second year, I had a different wife and different children, a LOT of different children:

mike_christmas_cards_1996

When my cousin got married, her mother (my Aunt Rose) asked if she could be on my next card.  We took this picture immediately after the wedding; the bride and groom are our best man and maid of honor.

As you can see by the groom’s expression, he was a bit befuddled as to why we were taking this picture on his wedding day, using the official photographer.

mike_christmas_cards_1997

My church was located in an old movie theater in a strip shopping center.  One day after church, as I was walking to my car in the parking lot with many people going to and from the nearby shops, one of the ladies at church yells across the parking lot to me —

‘I want to be your wife this year!’  I yell back, ‘you’ll have to ask your husband!’  Later I thought about how very strange that must have sounded.

The next year, I was on hard times –

mike_christmas_cards_1998

But by the last year, I had a trophy wife and a nice house!

mike_christmas_cards_1999

And that was really my dog, Hank.

The story behind the last picture is fun.  I had scouted out this house to use for the card; it was on a large piece of property and quite imposing.  The day of the picture, we showed up and knocked on the door.  It took a little while for the owner of the house to understand exactly what we were asking, but once he got it he was pretty entertained and gave his permission.

I was soon to be married, and so the tradition ended.  Now I’m very happy to have the same wife each Christmas.

Our Travels

In case anyone is interested, here is a map of our recent travel from Russia to Montenegro and back. The return trip took us through countries we’d never visited before: Romania, Moldova and Ukraine.

rus-mne

We started the trip at dacha, about two hours south of St. Petersburg. We spent the first night in a motel near Warsaw and the second night with Jan and Nada Dudas in Bački Petrovac, Serbia, arriving in Podgorica, Montenegro on the third day. We had great fellowship in Montenegro.

After two weeks in Montenegro we headed to Moldova. On the first night we stopped again in Bački Petrovac after a 9 hour drive. The second evening was spent in Sighișoara, Romania where we met some great people and enjoyed seeing the town. The next day we arrived in Socora, Moldova after driving through the Carpathian range in Romania. There we visited with the Urasinov family.

From Moldova, we crossed into Ukraine and drove through L’viv. We had no trouble crossing the borders or driving through the country, though there was a clear military presence in the country. (I didn’t have a Belorussian visa, so we had to avoid that country.) We crossed into Poland near Lublin and spent that night near Bialystok, Poland. From there we drove into Russia, spent a night at dacha and arrived home in St. Petersburg yesterday.

On this trip we visited Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, Moldova and Ukriane. Total: 8043 km (4,997 miles). The trip from Montenegro was 3,660 km (2,274 miles) with a moving time of almost 52 hours.

A Need for Balance

There is a gate on the lane leading to the little cabin where we stay in Finland. One of Valerie’s chores, assigned a couple of days ago, is to open the gate when we come and go. She enjoys it, and she’s almost a perfect counterweight for the counterweight . . . .

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She actually gets some air time:

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