• Pothole: In Memoriam

    Only five months after first being reported on this blog the famous Kansas City pothole is no longer with us.

    Over its short but storied life this pothole brought joy and adventure to children, small animals and many drivers, as well as plenty of material for no less than 5 posts on this blog. Continue reading →

  • Everyone Runs!

    Couple of weeks ago we went out to Woodlands to see the dog races. If you’d never been there before, it’s actually fun and inexpensive way to enjoy a day off. My daughter actually won about 7 or 8 dollars – enough to make her happy. You don’t have to know anything about betting or the rules and you can bet on dogs….

    ….or their handlers…

    Two dollars on the fat kid to show…

  • Kansas Roadtrips: Chanute – The Real Cradle of Aviation

    Chanute is located on U.S. Route 169 between Iola and Coffeyville and is definitely worth a detour. While we didn’t have time to stop at the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum, we drove around downtown, stopped at the The Chanute-Wright Brothers Memorial and unknowingly crossed the default center of Google Earth (for Mac). That would be this painting in the middle of the intersection. If I knew it was significant I would’ve tried to take a better picture.

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  • Around The World In Seven Lunches

    When I was growing up® we thought that the American food was magically delicious, something like what unicorns would eat, if we knew what the unicorns were. That’s why when we had foreign visitors in our schools, there were specific and strict instructions not to show our guests that we have any interest in  their snacks and especially chewing gum. Chewing gum was worth more than its weight in gold and the sneaky elderly capitalists knew it when they were throwing it out by handfuls from the bus window, just to see the kids swarm and fight each other for the precious sticks. It was not uncommon to hear “Let me chew your gum” from someone in school and they didn’t mean a new wrapped one. Slowly but surely the American foods made their way Behind the Iron Curtain, first it was Pepsi in a long and complicated international deal, then McDonald’s.

    The line to the first McDonald’s was so long, they made a whole video clip out of it.

    Since then most people had enough time to realize that’s not everything is as good as one imagines it to be. Even people who invented McDonald’s and made it in what it is today, a place to get formerly cheap foul-smelling slop, are now looking to previously shunned ethnic cuisines to get their fill of interesting, healthy, unique and delicious foods.

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  • Behind the Iron Curtain:Young Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union

    Pioneers In the USSR May 19th was celebrated as the “Pioneer Day”. Pioneers were the members of the Young Pioneer organization of the Soviet Union, which was a second step in the official Soviet brainwashing pyramid. After a general but unorganized brainwashing from ages 0 to 7,a child entered the first stage of the pyramid by becoming a Little Octobrist. By age 9 being a Little Octobrist wasn’t cool and exciting anymore and kids were looking forward to joining the Young Pioneers. Pioneers wore red ties. They went to summer camps. They had meetings. They were cool. Or so it seemed. I was honestly looking forward to the day when a red tie would be tied around my neck. I really didn’t care about the communist b.s or stories about wise grandpa Lenin, by 1979 I didn’t know anyone who did. Most kids just learned to repeat what was expected of them and move on. Nevertheless, for many of us the day when we were accepted into the Pioneer Organization was a long-awaited holiday. We just wanted to be like older kids and that day couldn’t come soon enough.The picture above was taken on that day in 1979 when we were finally accepted. Joining the Pioneers required some preparation. We needed to know the motto, the rules and, most importantly,…in the presence of … comrades solemnly promise: to love and cherish … Motherland passionately, to live as the great Lenin bade us, as the Communist Party teaches us, as required by the laws of the Young Pioneers of the Soviet Union. Long-time readers of this blog would notice that the ceremony was conducted near the Monument to the Unknown Soldier to make it more solemn and memorable. What made that day even more memorable for me was an afterward trip to the Odessa Catacombs – a series of underground tunnels which during the WWII housed the underground (literally) resistance unit and in peaceful time – a museum. Part of the tour included walking through the tunnels with candles imagining yourself being a partisan. I don’t know about the partisans, but upon the exit I realized that my new pants were completely covered with melted wax, which my Dad had to iron out for a long time. By the way, while writing these posts I discover a lot of stuff I didn’t know before, like the real story of the catacombs which was very different from the official version. With years red tie went from the object of pride to just a dirty wrinkled patch of silk to a dark place in a pocket of the school uniform. The next step was joining the Komsomol, but that’s the subject of another story.