Sunday, November 25, 2007

Free Rice... eat! Not for me, for hungry people in places that need it. All you have to do is answer correctly SAT style vocab questions - and maybe buy something from one of the advertisers.

Check it out: Free

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving is Almost Here

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone as this most American of holidays rolls around soon. I'm excited to be visiting my big sis in New York City, and that Mom and Dad are driving in from Indiana too. It's going to be Thanksgiving with a twist!

It's hard to believe that a year ago we were preparing for the madness that was our American home teacher collective bid to make Thanksgiving dinner. It turned out pretty well in the end, but most of all I remember being totally exhausted by the time is was over. To all of out there who do it every year, every holiday! Here's to you, preparers of Turkey Day feasts!

In the news, Russian Duma elections are looming closer. The old Duma has adjourned and the current squabble is with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) who typically sends election observers. "Not so fast!" the Russian government says. "We're not going to give you visas yet!"

Oh, how things always stay interesting!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Another Killer Fact...Actually a Hypothesis...

...brought to you by my history studies at UNC Chapel Hill.

The other day we were discussion the last years of Josef Stalin's life and his relationship with those around him: largely sycophants and lightweights that Stalin found easy to manipulate.

However, like most things, it's not that easy. Stalin died in March 1953, apparently of a brain hemorrhage, despite relatively good health for a man of his age. While death by natural causes is largely accepted as the true reason for his death, there is a small but significant amount of evidence that someone from amongst his inner circle did him in in order to avoid a gathering purge of the leadership at Stalin's bidding.

It's not hard to imagine. These were men who had seen and taken part in the havoc that Stalin wrought on others, secret police chief Beriia was himself the chief agent of some of the purges. If they felt threatened, it's not hard to imagine the man who controlled Stalin's residences and body guards taking a page from Stalin's own playbook.

I guess it just goes to show you that being an evil dictator has its occupational hazards too!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

November Already!

It's hard to believe that October has come and gone already. It's still very much fall here in NC. Heck, the trees have just barely started to change on campus. It's going to be a beautiful month - made all the better by a big helping of turkey at the end.

On Russian matters, there's about a month left until Russia holds parliamentary elections. There's little doubt which party will win, but nonetheless there is still bickering over allowing foreign observers in for pre-election observation.

On a more personal level, I'm going to be continuing to study Russian in the spring and I hope to have an opportunity to spend six weeks or so in St. Petersburg this summer. It should be fun!

Now for a killer fact update!

Moscow: it's big, but you already knew that. In terms of population, it's got a little over 13 million people. If you toss in likelihood of 1-1.5 million people who live or work there undocumented, it comes out to fully 1/10th of Russia's population. Comparing to the US, it's as if you rolled NYC, LA, and Washington DC all into one and, if it had the same percentage of the country's population, would have about 30 million people!

As it relates to what I've been studying lately, Moscow was one of three main Nazi targets (along with St. Petersburg/Leningrad and the resource-rich lands of the south and Caucasus) when they invaded in June 1941. They reached the outskirts of Moscow, with the closest advances of the Wehrmacht reaching within 40 km of the Kremlin.