• How Many Years Can A Building Exist…

    There are multiple predictions about the future of the Earth after the humans are no longer populating it; scientists, writers, movie directors are guessing how long it will be before the Planet erases all the traces of our existence. These predictions are not very hard to make: there are multiple examples of abandoned and lost cities from the ancient times and not so ancient like Chernobyl.

    And then there is former Benchmark Express Furniture store in Olathe, KS – a slowly deteriorating reminder of a failed business I drive by several times a day. The store closed around 4 years ago, when the economy was still doing fine and people still were spending the money they didn’t yet know they didn’t have. Recently one of the large signs fell down and I thought it was a good time to stop by and take a few photos.
    Apparently the letter X is the first to go:

    This sign crashed a month or two ago:

    No one backed up to the loading dock for a long time:

    Concrete is slowly converting back to its original ingredients:

    Customers are long gone…

    …and trespassers are not welcome:

    Grass is growing on the parking lot:

    This sign may last a year or two before it falls:

    Formerly grand facade is sprouting cracks:

    Even the parking lot signs are tired of standing idle:

    Wind is blowing through the banner:

    Soon after the final sale was over with and the store was closed for good, the developers promptly constructed more retail space across the street.

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  • This Is Why Your House Got Robbed

    Sorry for two billboard posts in a row, but what can I do – they are putting them up faster than I can stop and take a picture.

    A thought about making this one into a caption contest but I don’t think you can beat mine (see the title of this post). If you manage to do better than I did, I might come up with a prize – a beer or a magazine subscription – something. Good luck and remember to lock up your jewelry stash or someone will get paid to party!

    This Is Why Your House Got Robbed

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  • Old Photos: One Day In The Soviet School

    Continuing with the old Soviet photos, the next batch was taken at a typical school.
    Wood-shops were very popular in schools even in my day, not to mention 30-40 years before that, when people were still rebuilding after the war.
    In this photo the kid is learning pyrography or wood burning. Many parents received these works of charred art as presents, but due to my lack of talent and patience my parents had to satisfy their decorating needs elsewhere.


    Another tool for patience development was a coping saw (I had to look this up in the dictionary). Hours of trying to follow the intricate ornaments usually ended with an ugly piece of plywood with holes and a pile of sawdust.

    I don’t want to get repetitive here but I sucked at the wood lathe as well.

    This looks like a biology or natural sciences classroom. Sometimes there was a fish tank or a pet hamster to add to the atmosphere of learning.

    By the time I was going to school the uniforms changed to a less military style but the pioneer ties and bows in girls’ hair remained.

    This looks like the 1st or 2nd grade…

    …4th or 5th…

    and this is probably the 8th grade.

    After-school pioneer meetings were pretty common, but for the life of me I can’t remember what we discussed. Another type of a meeting was a “political minute” when kids presented current news and world events, usually positive happenings from our socialist friends and exploitation news from the capitalist countries.

    Musical schools were separate from the general education and required mostly talent-based admission, so the music lessons in a regular school were mostly singing and learning about composers.

    Nurse’s office:

    Some extra-curricular activities:
    Chess was huge, Soviet chess champions were treated as national heroes and people closely followed and replayed championship matches.


    Although I entered the school in 1976 it’s amazing how relatively little the things have changed since the 50’s. I still learned to use an abacus and a slide rule, and ballpoint pens were still considered an enemy of good penmanship. Mine was probably the last generation to get a complete Soviet school experience.

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  • Behind The Iron Curtain:To Russia With Love

    On this day 22 years ago a young German pilot Mathias Rust landed a small Cessna in the middle of the Red Square in Moscow, bypassing all the “impenetrable” air defenses. In the aftermath a huge shake-up was conducted in the Soviet Army leadership, and Rust spent 432 days in jail. Just 35 years before that it would have been a bloodshed. Times, they were a-changing…


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  • Cruiser’s Guide To Key West

    Key West is an island infested with drunks, roosters…

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