• KDOT Builds An Unintentional Express Lane

    KDOT’s recently completed construction of the 75th Street collector-distributor exit ramp lane did not alleviate traffic backups that predictably occur in that area during the rush-hour at least twice a day. Anyone who drives on I35 with any regularity would’ve predicted that before any concrete was poured into that project. Traffic jams occur not because people are trying to exit on the 75th st; they are caused by an inflow of morons merging into the traffic and immediately attempting to reach the left lane so they don’t miss their exit to I635 several miles later.

    Luckily there is a silver lining and the said lining can only be found on this blog, well-known for its optimism and positiveness. While the project completely failed in its original intent, KDOT has unintentionally created the first ever express lane in the Kansas City Metro Area.

    On this video (made by an extremely unidentified driver) you can see how the long and winding exit lane with more tunnels than a Hutchinson prairie dog town, conveniently bypasses the entire traffic jam and safely gets back on the highway.

    Now if only someone would get rid of the long stop light at the end of the exit ramp.

    In the meantime, we are looking forward to KDOT’s other poorly engineered projects and their unintentional results.

  • Marxism-Bremzenism

    We had no housing to speak of, we had no cars to speak of, we all wore the same clothes
    Anya Von Bremzen

    It rained communism and income redistribution.

    In dim light reluctantly released by the Government so the citizens wouldn’t bump into each other I was schlepping to kindergarten. It was 5 in the morning. I turned 5 just few months before and my sleeping in days were long gone. The System wouldn’t let me stay in bed past 7 for the next sixty years, when it will spit out my chewed up and worn out shell of a body patched up like Frankenstein monster by the torture they called free medicine.

    I looked around. Zombie-like builders of communism were slowly moving past me. Same clothes, same faces, empty eyes. Years of being fed just bread and fat-free ideology drained the will to live out of people. At night, when the curtains were closed and my parents covered up the listening devices, they whispered about something they called meat.  Once a year they tried to recreate meat out of contraband mayo and turnips. It was horrible but we stunned our taste buds with vodka to make it palatable.

    It was early spring but one couldn’t tell just by looking at the Communist-controlled weather. Behind the barbwire fences, system’s functionaries, the apparatchiks,  were frolicking in the sun and warmth. We got what was left.  Used air contained hardly any oxygen. I stopped to take a deep breath.

    The International Women’s Day – a holiday celebrating heavy women in cotton-stuffed waist jackets, head scarves and year-round galoshes was approaching. Communist cell in the kindergarten was preparing a concert where like trained monkeys we would attempt to entertain these never-smiling representatives of the weaker gender. Weaker? I evil-laughed on the inside, grinding my teeth. My face remained stoic and expressionless.

    I was assigned to perform a Russian folk dance. The System knew I was Jewish and it was their way of putting and extra-painful twist on the torture that was dancing. My head yearned to be covered. My feet were itching to break out in Freilach. I craved gefilte fish even though I didn’t know what gefilte was. Or fish. Instead I found myself standing next to a girl, dressed in a Russian shirt and shorts. It was so cold inside that even ever-present Lenin’s portrait on the wall was covered with frost. My legs were slowly turning blue to match the shorts.

    When the music started the headmistress’s eyes told me I had to smile and dance or I will be forced to read Das Kapital while marching around the room for the fifth time in a month. My smile felt like a grimace and my dance moves were awkward, but I couldn’t bring myself to read about the plight of the proletariat one more time.

    Scary women in the audience did not smile anyway. They just didn’t know how. After the performance the teachers force-fed us disgusting chocolates filled with Marxism and Leninism. I willed myself not to gag. This came useful later when I lived on the streets of New York doing anything for a buck. Just like Marx predicted.

    Standing there ashamed and smeared with chocolate, in a room where one could cut ideology with a knife, I had a dream that I, I someday will tearfully tell about my hardships to the American press and be quoted in every article about Russia.

    Fucking Anya Von Bremzen.

  • Behind The Iron Curtain: Stalin in Posters

    JJSinKCK asked me how Stalin was portrayed in the Soviet history books.  Instead of a thoughtful answer I picked out and translated some of the propaganda posters, commonly displayed during the Stalin era.

    With Lenin's book in hand,in front of Lenin's and Stalin's complete works

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  • 20 Years Without The Iron Curtain:Military Draft

    Last year I wrote about the day I was drafted in the military. I tried to convey the atmosphere of that day, the feeling of getting into something scary and unknown, leaving one’s home and family, and realizing that there is no way back after one crosses the gate. Yesterday, when the photos of a modern day military draft in Ukraine went around the Internet, I realized that besides the new uniform not much has changed since the day when I showed up at the draft processing location.
    The military didn’t allow to keep the civilian clothes, so whatever possessions we had were either thrown away or taken by older soldiers who were allowed to bend the rules a little. I thought I was being clever when I showed up with a short but not bald haircut, like some of the recruits on this photo. Clever wasn’t one of the desired qualities in the military, so I was told to cut my hair again.
    Ukrainian conscripts arrive at a military training centre, the biggest in the former Soviet Union, in the village of Oster, some 90 km (56 miles) from the capital Kiev, October 29, 2009. About 19,500 thousand recruits were called up to the Ukrainian army this autumn.
    Here we see a group of “fresh meat” and a group of soldiers already processed. Typical barracks on the left.

    I never looked this good, nor was I ever a fan of walking around naked around people I don’t know. When I was taking my pre-draft medical test, I was lined up together with 5 or 6 more recruits in front of the table with several doctors; we were told to drop our pants down all at once. I guess they were trying to see that all of us had correct equipment down there, they were sitting a few yards away and couldn’t have possibly determined anything else. The arrow-sign on the wall says “doctor”.

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    In this shot the recruits are united with their new long underwear. In summer it was usually blue boxers and who-knows-what-color tank top. Winter season came with long underpants and long-sleeve undershirt. Every week at the showers the dirty underwear was taken away and the clean underwear was brought in a big stack. If you were slow you’d end up with a wrong size underwear for the whole week or even worse – see the streaks from the previous owner.

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    Somewhere along the way they were issued a piece of soap.

    Now on to the uniform.

    Boots are a definite improvement from what I had to wear.

    Hats stayed the same but there is mo emblem on the front.

    Last look at the old life.

    And now all ready to go. I have no idea what’s in these boxes.

    What stands out in all these images is a scared look in these kids’ eyes. Some things never change.

  • Checked Off My Bucket List: Cataratas del Iguazú


    Picking the right time of the the year for your trip is probably even more important than learning the native language. Even if you graduated from an unaccredited school district you probably know that Argentina is located in the Southern Hemisphere where the seasons are opposite to ours and people are walking upside-down at all times. Going during the South American summer will probably not be so pleasant if you are visiting Buenos Aires and areas to the North, where it gets pretty hot; at the same time Southern Argentina won’t be frozen and snowed in. Going during the winter, like we did, is likely to be the the most pleasant time in Buenos Aires but you are gambling on being rained on for days in-a-row. During our visit the day temperatures in Buenos Aires were around 65-70F and 35-40F at night. Beautiful, sunny weather was a huge factor in our enjoyment of the city, made long walks and sightseeing pleasant and refreshing, considering the heatwave that was hanging over Kansas City at the same time. During our 10 day visit it rained only once and not for long. At the same time, our trip to the Cataratas del Iguazú fell on three most coldest, rainiest, foggiest days in the history of the waterfalls, not what we expected in the tropics even in the wintry August. It was so soggy and chilly that the hotel personnel started a fire in the lobby fireplace. Sitting near the fireplace and seeing palm trees in the window is something you don’t expect to go together.

    If you are to inquire about the must-see wonders of Argentina, the Iguazú Falls will probably be at the top of the list, and deservedly so. Competing with the world-famous Niagara and Victoria falls in beauty and size, Iguazú (which most of the time in Argentina is referred to as “cataratas” , meaning “waterfalls”) should be on your itinerary if your time and finances allow. However, despite what your travel agent might tell you, you can accomplish this trip in one day. Leaving from Buenos Aires around 7am will put you in Iguazú little after 9, which will give you all day to explore the waterfalls and return to Buenos Aires late the same evening. Granted, it will be one long day, but unless you are a waterfalls connoisseur and would like to see every inch of the natural wonder from every possible direction (including Brazilian side, requiring a visa which costs $140 per person), you will have a sufficient look of the waterfalls and be back in Buenos Aires for your morning cafe con leche. We used a local travel agent and got stuck with a 3-day trip. Little town of Puerto Iguazú where you’ll be staying is nothing to write home about, where numerous hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and a bus station compete for your attention with the omnipresent red mud. Besides the waterfalls, the only other attractions in the area are the precious stone mine and a place called Tres Fronteras, where one can see both Paraguay and Brazil while standing in Argentina.

    Just in case you don’t know what to do with your time but want to save some money, you can take a bus from Buenos Aires to the cataratas which is said to be super-comforable and takes about 17 hours.

    Seeing the waterfalls on the grayest day ever probably wasn’t as impressive as it should have been; even the parrots that are rumored to live there were gone and the tourists had to take photos of a lone bird who was too lazy to find shelter. I am saying this to preface my mediocre photos and a short video.

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