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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

275: What a difference a day makes...

Winter, at last.
Yesterday +2, today -6 and snow.

Notice the birds and the bird feeder in the picture on the right ->

Monday, 25 November 2013

274: Bletchley Park and Alan Turing

I'm back in Moscow, nose to the grindstone.
Last week, in UK, I visited Bletchley Park with some of my family. A very interesting place, I've been there several times, it is where our brightest mathematicians worked, in great secrecy, during the Second World War breaking the codes produced by the German enigma machine. It is said that the war would have gone on a lot longer without their efforts. 
I heard one of the guides there saying that any military action taken as a result of a successful decoding had to be corroborated by other means in order to ensure that the Germans remained unaware that their codes were being deciphered. For example, if there was a message about naval movements in such and such a location on such and such a date then aerial reconnaissance would take place to suggest to the Germans that a chance finding by the Royal Air Force was the reason for their fleet being found and attacked.
Probably the brightest mathematician of all was a guy called Alan Turing. Unfortunately for him, he was a gay as well as a guy and homosexuality at that time was illegal. After the war he was put on trial for "gross indecency" and offered a punishment of either prison or chemical castration. He accepted treatment of female hormones but less than two years later, in 1954, he died as a result of cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined that his death was suicide but others suggested it was an accident. (Oh-oh, whoops, I've just swallowed the wrong tablet!)

For my video clip today I've included a very moving "flashmob" performance of Beethoven's 9th, better known as "ode to joy". 

Monday, 11 November 2013

273: Remembrance. 11th hour on 11th day of 11th month.

Yesterday was Remembrance Sunday. There was a military parade at the cenotaph in Whitehall and the Queen and many many others laid wreaths to remember those who gave their lives in the service of the country. The video clip comes first in today's blog. The nation was silent for 2 minutes at 11.00.

Next, a few more photos showing graffiti - to re-emphasize that there is 'good' graffiti in Russia as well as 'bad' These photos show some of the work of Nikita Nomerz in Nizhniy Novgorod.

Artists, though, can sometimes be 'unusual' people. Compare and contrast these pictures which, in my view, are quite magnificent, with the 'artist' who yesterday nailed himself by the scrotum !! to the cobblestones on Red Square. By the scrotum! Ouch!

To finish for today, two pictures of lifts: Schindler's lift (list) and one of the lifts in my block of flats.

Monday, 4 November 2013

272: Solnechnogorsk

Solnechnogorsk is a medium sized town on the "Leningradka", the main road from Moscow to St Petersburg. Traffic flows through it day and night. I say flows but the sheer volume means it is often just crawling. I spent last weekend there with a friend, who I met when I was at the military academy taking part in a United Nations Monitoring Officer's (UNMO) course in 2006 (when I was still serving). The military academy is called Vystrel and it has shrunk considerably. There is a fence around a small part of it but many of the old buildings are outside this fence and are boarded up and slowly decaying. It all looks very sad.
The town itself is a mix of old and new: old wooden houses still being lived in, a few "kommunalkas", some 5 floor concrete panel buildings and some more modern tall (20 floors +) structures blocking out the light of their smaller neighbours.
The first 3 photos are from my time there in 2006 - it's amazing how much vodka you can get in a helmet!

The second group shows some of the work of one enterprising citizen to try and brighten up the environment for people's enjoyment. She has created what her sign calls a fairy tale glade. We saw her working away on her creation while we were passing. It is a labour of love and I do hope it's not vandalised too quickly.

On this day, in 1956, Soviet troops invaded Hungary and crushed the popular uprising that had begun in October. Here is the BBC take on the invasion.
And a video clip