Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Poklonskaya rules the Universe

One personality who emerged out of the Crimean situation is Natalia Poklonskaya - a former mid-level functionary in the Crimean justice system who was appointed Attorney General after Crimea was taken over by Russia.

Here is Natasha's picture:

When one of her press conferences were broadcast in Asia, something amazing happened.  The blond hair, the large expressive eyes, and the military uniform literally drove the manga obsessed Japanese insane.  It's as if one of their comics came to life.  The rest is Internet history.

A video clip of the press conference was uploaded by a Japanese poster onto YouTube; in English it was titled 'New Attorney General of Crimea is beautiful', in Japanese the title stated 'Too beautiful'. The clip (which featured no translation) quickly racked up more than 300,000 YouTube views within a day. She went viral in not only Japan, but also China, while receiving coverage from Chinese news outlets like China News Service and Guangming Online. She was noted to have been discussed on 4chan, Reddit, the Chinese microblog service Weibo, and the Russian social network Vkontakte.
Following her press conference, an onslaught of anime-style moe fanart of Poklonskaya was created and uploaded to the internet, most notably on the Japanese artwork-sharing website Pixiv. This was reported by major Russian media outlets like Voice of Russia, Russia Today, and Rossiyskaya Gazeta, as well as international media outlets like BBC News and Bloomberg News. Natalia has stated in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda that since she is often busy with her everyday work, her daughter keeps track of all her online fanart for her.
Following the flood of Poklonskaya fanart, numerous real-life images were discovered on social media sites and also went viral around the world.
Some samples:

Friday, March 14, 2014

How to nail a job interview

Friday, March 07, 2014


To me, one of the most fascinating and terrifying aspects of the the Ukraine situation is the peed with which the revolution happened.  Overnight, the government fell in Kiev and chaos ensued.  I cannot imagine what it was like to be the regional and city governments, or the police or the armed forces.  Do you remain loyal to the "officially elected" government, even though it seems to be no longer in power - do you take matters in your own hands locally?

Ukraine is a nation of 46 million people; it is in the heart of Europe.  At least on the surface it seemed to have a mature government infrastructure.  I wonder if the same thing would happen in the US if someone took out the Federal government in DC?

Some decent op-eds on the UA situation:
Steve Chapman

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Some thoughts on the Ukraine situation

1) Never give up your nukes. After the USSR split up, Ukraine had the third largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world - more than Britain, France and China combined.  They gave them up in exchange for the "Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances" - a pledge by Russia, the UK and the USA to respect Ukraine territorial integrity.

2) In 1936, Hitler held the Olympic Games in Berlin to show off the new Germany.  In 1938, he invaded Austria, Czechoslovakia and Lithuania to "protect the rights" of the "oppressed" German minorities in those countries.  In, 2014, Putin mimics his plan...

3) Funny letters to Putin from a guy in the Vologda region of Russia asking for Russian troops to protect the oppressed Russians living there (also from Germany):
Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich !!
We learned, that you are going to send troops
to protect Russian speaking people in Crimea.

Because of this we ask you,
please send troops to Vologoskaja oblast.
My here all are Russian speaking i we are very oppressed.
Our ill people do not have medication,
level of our education is going down,
kindergartens are getting closed,
agriculture is nearly destroyed.
We suffer very much!!

With respect and hope for liberation,
Russian speaking citizens of Vologda Oblast.
 4) Not so funny, the Czechs and other former Warsaw Pact countries are freaked out - they still remember the Prague Spring, I gather.

5) Saw a funny interview of the unidentified military in Crimea by Ukrainian journalists - oddly enough - the youtube video is now blocked "for copyright infringement"???  This interview is insane - the journalist asks - "Where are you from?" - the guy answers - "Can't you tell, we're Russian".  The journalist asks - "Well, what are you doing in the Ukraine?".  It's a surreal translation of the French taunter skit from Monty Python - except it's real life.  Also funny because the soldier being interviewed is Buryat or Nenets or something, obviously Mongol or something - so when he says he's Russian it's really funny to hear...

6) Unbelievable how the whole world let the Ukraine down...  Obviously there was no expectation of military aid, but even the economic sanctions are now turning out to be complete bullshit.  Europe can't afford to lose Russian natural gas.  Russia is the second largst market for Pepsi.  Shell, BP and others can't afford to lose the oil... So, bye bye Ukraine...

7) Russian media is outright lying about everything.  The other day they had pictures of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing into Russia.  Then someone blew up the photos and noticed it was the Polish-Ukrainian border crossing - I guess the easiest way to run to Russia is to first go the other way. 

8) The sad part is that even in this world of iPhone video and twitpics, it seems to make no difference.  Just repeat the lie and people eventually believe you.  Then you just accuse your opponents of photoshopping...

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Thursday, January 30, 2014

From the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft

If you want to make your own necropants (literally; nábrók) you have to get permission from a living man to use his skin after his dead.
After he has been buried you must dig up his body and flay the skin of the corpse in one piece from the waist down. As soon as you step into the pants they will stick to your own skin. A coin must be stolen from a poor widow and placed in the scrotum along with the magical sign, nábrókarstafur, written on a piece of paper. Consequently the coin will draw money into the scrotum so it will never be empty, as long as the original coin is not removed. To ensure salvation the owner has to convince someone else to overtake the  pants and step into each leg as soon as he gets out of it. The necropants will thus keep the money-gathering nature for generations.

More fun fact (hopefully true) at the museum site

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Osowiec - Part II, a little background information

Chlorine Gas

Chlorine reacts with water and water vapor to produce hydrochloric acid, which when it comes in contact with the human body leads to irritation and burns of the eyes, nose and throat as well as spasms of the chest. With prolonged inhalation, the hydrochloric acid collects in the lungs and consequently eats away at the tissues, leading to death from asphyxia. The most affected by chlorine are:
  1. Those closest to the ground (wounded on stretchers, soldiers in trenches) as chloriene is heavier than air and collects near the ground and in low places.
  2. Those trying to run away from the cloud mainly due to the heavier and more rapid breathing done by running men.

The beauty of technicalities

All the Allies, including Russia were completely unprepared for the use of chemical warfare. Since the use of chemical shells was prohibited by the Hague Convention of 1899, all chemical mask design and manufacturing was stopped as it was seen to be a waste of money. By 1915, both sides were still trying to at least formally hold to the Hague Convention agreements. However, Germany found a loophole by using gas canisters instead of shells, as the pre-war resolutions did not prohibit their use.  Fortuitously for Germany, it had a huge supply of chlorine, which was a byproduct of the manufacturing of chemical dyes, one of Germany's leading industries.

How to make a bad situation even worse

After the first gas attacks, all countries began to manufacture defenses at a feverish rate.  In Russia, the manufacturing was done by a variety of volunteer organizations.  As nobody knew how to make a gas mask, the quality of the first batches of masks was poor.  They did not lie close to the face and were too thin, at best protecting from gas for just the first few minutes.  Very few protected the eyes.  A more serious error was the choice of pure solution of hyposulfite to soak the masks.  Hyposulfite does actively consume chlorine per the formula:
    Na2S2O3 • 5H2O + 4Cl2 → Na2SO4 + H2SO4 + 8HCl
However, following the chain reaction, it produces toxic sulfur dioxide gas:
    Na2S2O3 + 2HCl → 2NaCl + 2H2O + SO2
    Na2S2O3 + H2SO4 → Na2SO4 + H2O + SO2 + S
Therefore, ignorance of basic high school chemistry lead to the situation that the first party of gas masks sent to the front in the spring and summer of 1915 not only did not protect from chlorine, but lead to a secondary poisoning from sulfur dioxide, further strengthening the effectiveness of the gas attack.  The mistake was realized quite quickly and consequently baking soda was added to the mixture to neutralize the solfur dioxide.  However, at that point, the soldiers lost faith in the masks.  Often they would either throw them away or even mockingly hang them on trees as decorations.

[information paraphrased from the Russian wikipedia article on the Osowiec gas attack]