Mikhail Gorbachev (1931-2022)

In the summer of 1961, the Russian-controlled East Germany started erecting the Berlin Wall to keep people from crossing over to West Berlin. This would be the start of over three decades of cold war between Russia and the World. The East German (GDR) border guards were permitted to shoot anyone trying to flee. It is estimated that 600 people were shot while trying to escape. In some places the wall was 12 feet tall and 4 feet thick. It seemed that it would never be broken. Below are images of the wall being erected.

Then something bizarre took place. This is from an excellent article from https://www.worldhistoryedu.com:

Additionally, the 1980s came with hopes of relative peace between Soviets and Americans. Due to change of leadership, U.S. President Ronald Reagan of the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union had several meetings to lessen tensions between the two countries. Gorbachev wanted to revive his economy; so he had to welcome liberal changes by extending a warm hand to the West.

During a press conference on November 9, 1989, Günter Schabowski of East Germany answered questions about emigration reforms. His answers appeared to have given the go-ahead that the Berlin Wall would be opened that day.

As rumors of the Wall opening spread throughout the nation, larger crowds went and gathered at the checkpoints and demanded border security to allow them entry. At about 10:30  pm on November 9, a guard stationed at the Wall – Harald Jäger – out of anger, frustration, and security concerns, controversially disobeyed orders by opening the Bornholmer Straße border to traffic.

Hell broke loose to redefine German history; 30 years down the line, pundits still question whether the fall of the Berlin Wall was accidental or a well-thought-out strategic decision.

I distinctly remember seeing the interview re-aired and translated. Günter Schabowski was very casual when he said, “Das tritt nach meiner Kenntnis … ist das sofort … unverzüglich.”

(To the best of my knowledge, that occurs…is that immediately…immediately.)

Even the interviewer paused to recover when he heard his answer. Below, one of many groups tearing down the wall.

As the Soviet Union collapsed, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan became close friends and even spent time at the Reagan Ranch.

Here is a story I love. When we lived in Moscow, Terese had the job of finger-printing applicants for visas. One day when all the applicants had finished, her Supervisor asked her to stay a little longer. After a few minutes, in walks Mikhail Gorbachev! The hairs on my neck still rise when I think of that, yet as I write this, sadly I realize the Millennials today have no idea who he is, so allow me to explain. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was the eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union, having been General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, when the party was dissolved.
(Wikipedia). There is a famous speech by Ronald Reagan, when he profoundly stated, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The Berlin Wall divided West and East Berlin since 1961. This was an astounding moment in History, and the man who dissolved the USSR to become Russia stood before Terese to be finger-printed! Terese usually spoke the process in Russian for those who did not understand English, but her natural diplomacy asked Mr. Gorbachev if he wanted the instruction in English or Russian, thus acknowledging his proficiency in our language. He smiled and said, “English, please.” Afterwards, as a show of respect, she complimented him on his excellent language skills. A few months later, Terese finger-printed Irina Mikhailovna Virganskaya, Mr. Gorbachev’s daughter.

I would have loved to see Terese’s reaction when he walked in. He was always a man I respected deeply, as well as Ronald Reagan himself. There were many people who made the world a little better, and sometimes, a great deal better. Mikhail Gorbachev was one of them.



Ever heard of barklice?

We have a large tree in our backyard which has barklice. Sounds bad, huh? When we first noticed it, it looked like I would have to make another trip to Home Depot to ask the guys in the garden department what this was. I took these pictures of it.

It looks like a long spider web and travels up into the top branches. Click on the pictures and you will see better details. So before heading out to Home Depot, I did some research first. I found it is not caused by lice or spiders, but by a small bug about an 1/8″ in size. This little critter eats algae and fungus and has no ill effect on the tree. I remember earlier seeing algae growing on one side of the trunk, which then became covered with barklice, which has since moved elsewhere. So since it is not a deadly organism that will kill me dead if I touch it, I touched it and found it to be like fine fur.

Mother Nature is an incredible Woman, yet what we know of her is minuscule. I often think of those who pass on before us and wonder how amazing it must be to see how all the Universe is connected.

Next time I want to tell you about a recent chicken I sacrificed with a can of beer up its butt.


Action from the Backyard

As the previous postings told, the birdfeeder has many creatures taking advantage of the free food. Unfortunately, the squirrels are chasing the birds away and gobbling up the seed. The below image I captured capped off my anger for them. It’s as if they are taunting me.

So my research has told me that I can use safflower seed, as the squirrels do not have a taste for such, or I can add cayenne pepper to the seed. Since I had just purchased a large bag of seed, (not safflower) I have to use this up first. So, it’s the cayenne pepper.

Now, if you are like me, your first thought would be, doesn’t the birds mind the spicy taste of cayenne? Well to determine this idea, I took about quart measure of the seeds and added cayenne to it, and poured it into an empty bird bath in the yard to see what critter would eat it.

A sparrow came in first and touched the seeds here and there while looking all around for cats, dogs, humans and the occasional pterodactyl, then flew away. I realized the bird bath was too close to the ground. So I scooped up most of the seed and went ahead and put it in the feeder.

So, while sitting in the sunroom at my writing desk, watching the backyard, I spotted a squirrel at the bird bath chowing down. So, my thinking is I did not put enough cayenne in the seeds, but it gave me an opportunity to use my slingshot and some paint balls.

If you are like me, you are thinking I have perfect shooting abilities with the slingshot after dealing with monkeys, barking dogs nine floors down and the unsuspecting pedestrian on their way to the subway in Sao Paulo; not to forget the occasional police car at the intersection below, but not so. When I unpacked my slingshot, I decided to replace the bands. I ordered some red ones which anyone would think has got to be better that the regulator yellowish ones. But they are stiffer and I will have to get used to them before I am a deadly shot like I used to be.

But I took the opportunity to try my luck at the squirrels while they were feasting at the bird bath. Below is a picture of the bird bath and my shots. Not perfect, but I will eventually get there.

If you look closely at the image above, you will see where my paintballs hit. They are circled with a kinda red circles, but you will also see a squirrel that was accidentally captured in the image.

I am convinced the birds don’t mind the cayenne as shown in the video below.

All I can do, is keep up the good fight. Will let you know more when I know more.

An Addition to the Damn Bird Feeder

Eventually, the software started identifying the bird species. It is not very accurate as it keeps trying to tell me the squirrels are birds. Last count, it identified them as 17 different species. I could get more accurate identification by having my daughter doing it from 1700 miles away. (crow flight)

This bird feeder camera has the ability to share with others. Since my wife’s sister who lives down in the Southern Hemisphere loves birds, we sent her the link so she can watch them in live time. To make this even more interesting, her little 6 year old daughter also finds it fascinating so she watches them almost continuously.

But the little niece has discovered a microphone icon on the screen that enables her to talk to the birds & the damn squirrels. So, she sits in a house 5000 miles away (crow flight) and talks to birds and the damn squirrels in my backyard. I haven’t been out in back to hear her, but it find it fascinating. … the little stinker.

As you can see in the image, the feeders of the feeder has emptied the feed again, and I filled it the day before yesterday. I found my nefarious slingshot and now trying to find where I put the 68 caliber paint balls (red). When I do, I will sit outside with whiskey and cigar and patiently wait for one of the squirrels to come and feed again,  …. after running back to Walmart to get more feed, or course. I just need to make sure the little niece doesn’t see me.

Unfortunately, there is a side effect to this scenario. It seems when she is watching the feeder, I cannot connect to the live camera. It appears only one viewer at a time can watch; but that itself is inconsequential as I love the idea she is talking with them from 5000 miles away (crow flight)

Find the fascination of things in Life and you will never be bored.

As We Age …

We tend to become like our parents.

Remember how Mom and Pop would sit and watch the birds?

I purchased a bird feeder with a built-in camera. It would have been the perfect gift for them, especially for Mom in the past few years to be able to sit in her house and see what birds have come to feed in her yard. This model has an AI (artificial intelligence) that can identify up to 6000 species.

So, below are some of the videos taken of the birds:







Now if you are sharp-eyed like me, you noticed that one of those is not a bird, and you would be correct.

The camera is amazing, but most unfortunately, the software is not. I have not been able to get the AI to identify the birds. So, even though I noticed one of those is not a bird, the software didn’t notice any of them. I am communicating via email with the manufacturer and so far I am not pleased.

But I find myself thinking how MotherDear would be in awe at seeing birds like this in her yard, even if the software is not working.

I will keep working.

BTW, they finished off all the seed I had in it, so back to Walmart.

Arisaka 99

With the Internet it is easy to do research on items I find interesting. Back when I was just a gleam in my Dad’s eye, my uncle brought back a Japanese rifle from the Pacific Theater. I asked an engineer of Japanese descent at the manufacturing plant I worked at if she could interpret the insignia. She said it means, “Model 99.”

That just fed the interest in finding out more about it.

With the help of a decades old book and the Internet, this rifle is called Arisaka Model 99. There is a fascinating history to it I am going to share with you unless you fall asleep.

Its predecessor was a different caliber. The one my uncle brought back is a 7.7mm caliber, which equals to .303 inches, whereas the previous version was a 6.5mm, or .256 inches.

The decades old book I have that is pre-Internet, points out that the Japanese army went to the 7.7mm (commonly known as 7.7 Jap) so that if any of the Allied forces captured any of their 7.7mm ammunition and tried to shoot it in their 7.62 (30 caliber) rifles, it would cause over pressure and destroy the rifle. And if the Japanese captured any Allied ammunition, they could shoot it in their 7.7 mm rifles. It would not be too accurate but would work.

So I am in possession of my uncle’s rifle (with bayonet) which I heard over the years was a training model. Those models have no rifling and cannot fire a real cartridge. I was happily surprised, even to the point of giddiness to find this rifle is not a trainer. It has rifling and not only that, I purchase a box of 7.7 Jap ammo from the Norma Manufacturing and have shot 10 of the cartridges through it.

History books say that in order for these rifles to enter the US, they had to have the imperial ownership seal, a 16-petal chrysanthemum known as the Chrysanthemum Flower Seal stamped on top of the receiver in all official imperial-issue rifles, filed down. See below. This rifle unfortunately had it removed.

Because the Japanese are little people (do not confuse with Munchkins), the butt of the rifle is short and has a metal butt-plate, so it tends to want to jam itself into the shoulder of a grown Texas man, really hard.

Further research says this rifle is a low pressure weapon designed for only 38,000 psi. The modern day rifles usually tops out at about 56,000 psi. So when I fired the cartridges from Norma, I noticed the primers were flattened. Now I realize I probably lost you there, but understand it means the cartridges from Norma are for high pressure rifles.

So I acquired a Lee-Loader® so I could reload the cartridges to a safe pressure. I used the 7.62 mm (30 caliber) bullets and used less powder. It was not an accurate load but would hit a pie-pan at 100 yards without a scope.

That is actually impressive for an undersized bullet, So if the Chinese or Russians attack us, I will pull the 7.7 Jap from under the bed and head into battle. If any of you want to join, please send me your name, address and phone number.

P.S. Bring your own rifle, … and your own snacks.