Archive for November, 2011


November 12, 2011

An important aspect of learning/teaching a foreign language is enlarging the learner’s active vocabulary. It may be done by using parallel translations. In my student years there were not so many texts with translated versions. At that time I translated foreign texts into Ukrainian and after a couple of days I took the translation which I had done earlier and translated it back into the source language (the so-called “back translation”) comparing my newly made variant with the original one. At present you may find lots of texts which have their equivalents in the target language. My advice is to always have in mind this method of mastering a foreign language and to store up texts with parallel variants as chances occur to come across them on the Internet, newspapers or magazines, or if you see literary works (also by classical writers) translated into another language. For example, my today’s acquisition, which I have already saved to my file “Parallel Translations” is the article by Alexander Motyl: the original version of which was published at the address and the Ukrainian translation is on the site of Radio Liberty:

The contents of the parallel texts is important too. While fiction is good for self-study, and longer article from the media (like the above article by A.Motyl) may be recommended for advanced learners, nothing can beat short trivia of the type “slightly off-center.” Even if you don’t have their “official” translations, pieces of information are usually so short that a teacher can in no time translate them and offer the two versions to students for classroom training. Students may work in pairs checking each other’s interpretations against the professional translations they have in their hands. The final stage of the work in pairs may be individual presentations (on the part of the students) of the news they have just interpreted – with a special emphasis on the words and phrases to be activated.

Incidentally, if the original and translated versions are intermingled in one workbook, the workbook may be photocopied and clippings, which match each other, may be easily prepared from the photocopies by using a stapler and scissors.

One, two, three, four, five, Once I caught a fish alive…

November 11, 2011

People keen on numbers ascribe great truth to them. For the superstitious the today’s date is a moment to be cherished. There are reports of a sharp rise in weddings on 11.11.11. I read about a couple who got married on September 9, 2009, and decided to take a divorce just today – on November 11, 2011. In all likelihood they expect this date today to change their life for the better, just as they expected the day of their marriage would do two years ago.

I also love numbers – but not for their mysticism. In fact, I do not see any mysticism in them. I have always loved them for the joy of life they gave me. As a child I was amazed to read that the future German mathematician Gauss, when he was a schoolboy, managed to find the sum total of the numbers 1 to 100 within a few minutes ­ by simply adding 1+100, 2+99, 3+98, …50+51 and by further multiplying 101 by the number of such pairs (50).

Mind-boggling for me was he thought of how much grain could be collected from a chessboard if you place one seed on the first square, two seeds on the second one, four on the third, eight on the fourth, sixteen on the fifth, and so on – with exponential increase ­ to the last, 64th square.

A special charm was in the 18th century collection of Magnitskyi’s math problems: A man can consume a barrel of drink (Magnitskyi didn’t specify the type of the drink :-)) within 14 days, and when assisted by his wife, he can consume the same barrel within 10 days. Prey, answer: within how may days will his wife drink the barrel all by herself?”

Or the well-known problem by Leo Tolstoy: “There flew a goose who met a wedge of geese. The goose said: “Good morning, one hundred geese!” “We are not 100 geese”, the geese said. “If, additionally, there was the same quantity, plus a half of the original quantity, plus a quarter of the original quantity, and plus you, one goose, then we would be 100 geese.

Question: How many geese were flying?”

On days when math was the first period in my senior forms of high school, I could (being carried away by the complexity of the problem and by beauty of the logical insight into that complexity) sit over the problem well into the afternoon – just to be aroused from my addiction by the sixth-period teacher (in literature): “Vitaliy, are you doing mathematics?”

Regarding mysticism in numbers, I remember a story about a man who had bad luck in gambling. He went to a fortune-teller a told her about his being down and out. The fortune-teller said: “You will have good luck with number 6.” So, the next six years, six months and six days the man was not gambling, he was saving up. In the morning after that “inactivity period” he got up at 6:06, took Bus 6, and went as far as the sixth stop. He arrived at the hippodrome, went to the booking office No 6 and bet all his money on the horse whose number was six. In the race that horse finished sixth.


November 10, 2011

Tell me what you are afraid of and I’ll tell you who you are. Businessmen are nervous about their profit, drivers are afraid of accidents, pedestrians take care while crossing streets, ordinary people are worried about rising prices, farmers are concerned about the future harvest, etc., etc. What are the fears of the high and mighty in politics?

Commenting on the recent protests in Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich said that the public is arming itself with weapons to topple the government. “They want to disrupt the financial stability in Ukraine, to disrupt the political stability and go to the streets with pitchforks,” said he. “I learned from law enforcement agencies that arms are being bought and armed attacks on government agencies are being prepared.” Yanukovich’s paranoia seems to be deepening. Since taking over as president in 2010, Yanukovych has built a five-meter high fence around his vast multimillion-dollar Mezhyhirya estate north of Kyiv. His traveling entourage includes tractors and trucks to block side roads when he is traveling from home downtown to his office, aside from the normal presidential security detail. He insulates himself more frequently from contact with the people he represents, undoubtedly sensing his current unpopularity. The Ukrainian Security Service is winning loyalty points by feeding the President with stories about planned attempts to assassinate him. The purpose of such unfounded claims is to return to a police state that curtails civil liberties.

Some politicians suggest that Yanukovich should undergo a psychiatric examination, and that should be done IMMEDIATELY, otherwise it may be too late. The reprisals of the 1930’s in the U.S.S.R launched by Joseph Stalin, who was suffering from paranoid fear, began under the same pretext.

 The other day my wife and I were talking with our son’s family via Skype. We were told about how much our granddaughter Sophia had enjoyed the last Halloween – the scary costumes, pumpkins with candles inside them, etc. The son said that Sophia is a fearless girl. “She is afraid of nothing”, he said.


November 10, 2011

This morning I sat down to my desk to check my email and I thought it wouldn’t be  bad to find a joke or two on the Internet just to get rid of my sleepiness. I was surprised to find a Joke -For-Every-Day web page. There follows one from the series of “Thursday” jokes which I liked:

On Holiday:
I was at London Gatwick airport one Thursday, checking in at the gate, when the airport employee asked, ‘Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?’ I answered, ‘If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?’  He smiled and nodded knowingly, ‘That’s why we ask.’

Besides, a couple of linguistic jokes went in a bundle with the first one. As a professional I liked them too.

Translations of Academic Jargon

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Rumour has it.

A really wild guess.


November 8, 2011

The Bulgakov House is House No 13 situated on St. Andrew’s Descent – the street mentioned in my previous blog. Now it is a museum and it displays a plaque with the address (No.13 Alekseevsky Spusk) Mikhail Bulgakov used in his novel The White Guard and in his play Days of the Turbins.

Bulgakov was a determined anti-Ukrainian and from this premise I am his determined antagonist. However, I respect him for his talent and for the sincerity of his beliefs. That’s why when I saw a Ukrainian blue-and-yellow flag over the Bulgakov House (see the picture), I got irritated. I understood that there’s a rule that the national flag should be put up over government organizations like schools, museums, all kinds of committees, etc. But for the Bulgakov House an exception could have been made. To hoist the blue-and-yellow flag over No 13 St. Andrew’s Descent was like to paint a cross on the door of a Muslim house. The characters of Mikhail Bulgakov’s books, so sympathetically depicted by the writer, had been fighting against the Ukrainian army which, in its turn, was encouraged by the blueness of the Ukrainian sky and the yellowness of the Ukrainian corn-fields. Maybe the sight of the national colors over House 13 is a source of joy for some political extremists, but I felt just … shame. For me it was a sign of callousness and distaste, and a reminder of who is controlling culture in Ukraine…

When I showed this blog to my wife she said that as far as she knew the flag over House 13 in Andriyivskyi Uzviz (St. Andrew’s Descent) had already been taken down. Having given some thought to it, I still decided to post the blog. I remembered an episode from the book Ordeal by Alexey Tolstoy when a hero stuck his head out of the window every morning and asked which army had occupied the town at night. After hearing an answer he put a flag of a respective color in his window. At the moment a full-scale “remont” (renovation) is underway in St. Andrew’s Descent. But there’s no guarantee that after the street is given a facelift, another flag (probably a white-blue-and-red one symbolizing both the White Guard and the present-day Russian Federation) will not be put out of the window in the Bulgakov House… In view of the present developments.


November 7, 2011

That’s how Andriyivskyi Uzviz (St.Andrew’s Descent) looks like today. Ruts, noise of the machinery, dust… Before it was one of the most visited landmarks of the Ukrainian capital. Now tourists will hardly venture a few meters down the slope. The street which for more than a thousand years has been connecting the Lower Part (Podil) of Kyiv with its Upper City is under reconstruction. All that wouldn’t be so bad (it wouldn’t be bad at all) if the matter of reconstruction were not in the hands of those who think that Anton Chekhov is a Ukrainian poet, who spell their own (dubiously awarded) scholarly title “professor” with double “f”and one “s”, who cluttered up the central square (Maidan) with all sorts of tasteless statues and monuments, who turned Taras Shevchenko Museum in Kaniv (the burial place of the national poet) into a museum of modernistic art, who closed down the best book-shop “Siayvo”in the center of Kyiv, who moved the Museum of Kyiv History to the outskirts of the city, etc, etc. Kyivans remain skeptical and fear defacement of St.Andrew’s Descent seeing what has happened to St.Sophia’s environs when a five-star hotel and a few office buildings were erected next to the walls of the most ancient UNESCO heritage in Ukraine. An elite apartment house Fresco Sofia is being built at the moment there too. The construction is guarded by the police. As we see they are rather high-positioned officers, those policemen: the one in the picture is in the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

Incidentally, St.Andrew’s Descent isn’t only renovated: four new buildings will be built in the area. One of the buildings will house a real estate company controlled by the richest oligarch Rinat Akhmetov. I think it’s the true explanation of the upgrade itch.


November 6, 2011

After my yesterday’s entry had been put up I came across an article in Kyiv Post written by Svitlana Tuchynska. The article focuses on the same developments and the conclusion is the same.

PR campaign castigates EU for ’dictating’ to Ukraine

Oct 27 at 23:28 | Svitlana Tuchynska

As Ukraine’s hopes of signing an association agreement with the European Union fade, the government and media are blaming Brussels in an apparent bid to shift public sentiment toward a more Russia-friendly foreign policy.

President Viktor Yanukovych has been vociferously demanding that the association agreement include a clear path to full membership in the 27-nation bloc, something that officials in Brussels, the EU’s administrative center, have said will not happen.

Pro-government media, as well as high-ranking officials, have portrayed Europe as a bullying neighbor trying to impose conditions on Ukraine.

Brussels has demanded that Kyiv release former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, convicted on Oct. 11 and sentenced to seven years in prison in an abuse-of-office case seen as politically motivated in Western capitals.

In an interview on state-owned First Channel on Oct. 19, Yanukovych said he has the impression that Ukraine “is like a poor relative who asks, but is not let in.”

He added that he repeatedly voiced Ukraine’s demands, including the prospect of EU membership as part of an association agreement expected to be signed in December, but “received no reply.”

“If there is no such statement the agreement is empty,” Yanukovych said.

EU Commissioner Stefan Fule, however, has already made clear that, although the proposed agreement is aimed at bringing Ukraine closer to the EU, it would contain no such offer.

Hans-Jurgen Heimsoeth, the German ambassador to Ukraine, said the Yanukovych administration doesn’t seem to understand the values and standards of the EU and is persistently ignoring the need to carry out democratic and economic reforms.

“The prospect of the membership will appear when ‘Europe’ is built in Ukraine. For now we have rather moved farther than closer to this,” Heimsoeth said in an interview with Dzerkalo Tyzhnia weekly on Oct. 21.

A European diplomat in Kyiv, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the intensification of demands by Ukrainian leaders could be a way to find an “exit strategy” to save face if Europe backs away from the association agreement in December.

“To demand membership when you are offered a step in the direction of membership seems like a justification of not wanting membership at all,” said political analyst Vadym Karasyov.

The opinion voiced by Yanukovych dominates media coverage. “They say that the EU does not have the right to dictate their rules, does not respect our sovereignty and does not want us anyway. All major TV shows, including [talk show host Savik] Shuster’s, have debates over these provocative ideas and spreading these messages forms suitable public opinion,” Karasyov added.

On Shuster’s show on Oct. 21, broadcast on state-run First Channel, the audience was asked to vote on the loaded question: “Does the EU have the right to impose its rules on Ukraine?” Seventy-six percent of the audience answered negatively.

Shuster denied any controversy. “On the show, we ask questions that get people debating,” he said, reached by telephone.
But Oleksandr Sushko, an analyst at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, said most media seem to be providing full support for the campaign of “blaming the EU for blowing relations with Ukraine.”

The pro-government daily Segodnya, owned by billionaire Rinat Akhmetov who is a lawmaker in Yanukovych’s ruling Party of Regions, published a scathing travel report on Brussels on Oct. 19.

The report depicted the city as full of “Arabs, Gypsies, drug addicts and homeless people,” describing “stale fish” served in “Arabic and Turkish cafes,” and “Gypsies” who “of course beg and swindle.”

Experts say it is likely that media will be used to prepare public opinion for further changes in Ukrainian foreign policy.

“The easiest way is to publish paid stories in local media and use Internet. We have already seen this campaign start,” said Natalia Ligachova, head of Kyiv-based media watchdog Telekritika.

Karasyov said the message the authorities are sending out is: “They do not want us there (in Europe) – so let’s go somewhere where we are wanted: Russia.”

Ukrainian officials have hinted they may turn to a Russian trade deal if the European agreement falls through.

Four state-owned local newspapers in western Ukraine on Oct.13 ran an article by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin advocating the Eurasian Economic Community.

This trade bloc consists of former Soviet republics Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. “The future which is being born now” reads the headline in Volyn and three other regional newspapers, featuring photos of Putin, Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko and Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbayev.


November 5, 2011

Some two weeks ago President Yanukovych was supposed to go to Brussels but, facing the perspective of hard questions there about the imprisonment of the opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko, he headed for Cuba and talked with Fidel Castro instead. The redirection of the trip is rather symptomatic. Of late, the tendency (on the part of officials and the government-supporting media) to demonstrate that Ukraine and Europe are quite different entities has become quite clear. The other day the President spoke critically of the financial crisis in Europe calling on the Ukrainian government to look for markets in those parts of the world where economic growth is observed. “We see how the (economic) growth rates have slowed down in Europe!” he said, implying that the rates are higher in Asia. Alongside, in the media there’s much emphasis on economic and social protests in Greece, Italy, Britain, the U.S.A., etc. The last weeks have seen practical steps to integrate Ukraine into the Russian world: gas is going to be bought from Russia for rubles, the advantages of joining the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus are being discussed, the required quota of  Ukrainian radio- and TV product (programs, songs, etc) has been cut from 50 per cent to 25, representatives of the Russian show-business are being invited to Ukraine while the Ukrainian singers, musicians, etc. (no less talented!) are barred from concerts and talk-shows in their own country.

The primary cause for this U-turn is more prosaic than the “historically formed” fraternal ties with the Russian people, regardless of how much the premise of fraternity may be touted. The Ukrainian government takes care only of ITS OWN INTERESTS (an example: the government bureaucracy is financed to the extent comparable with the share of the state budget channeled to public health service). The “oriental” pattern (Russian, Kazakh) of the relationship between the government and the people, whereby the government becomes a “god”, fits the objectives of the present-day Ukrainian rulers. If the pattern is European – i.e. when people are equal in the eyes of the law, when the rights and property of all groups of people are respected, that will be in direct conflict with the instincts and habits of the nomenclature. Incidentally, that’s the real reason why small business is subdued and big business is put under control here: the powers-that-be want to make everyone depend on them: from earning money to getting passports for going abroad.

In his recent speech the Ukrainian President denounced the former veterans of the war in Afghanistan of the 1980s and the 1986 Chornobyl clean-up workers whose benefits (as he put it) were as much as 30,000 UAH (some USD 3,750 USD ).  He said that “honest” people must “be silent and patient, and they must wait.”

Until recently newspapermen were wondering which way – European or Eastern – President of Ukraine would choose for this country. It seems that having gone westwards to see “our Fidel”, Yanukovich actually went to the East.


November 4, 2011

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft

I had the pleasure of hosting Alec Ross in Kyiv from October 25 to 27. Alec is the Senior Advisor on Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and is one of Washington’s leading voices for internet freedom and the use of social media in foreign policy.

Alec and his deputy Ben Scott spent three eventful days in Kyiv learning about the local status of internet freedom and discussing Secretary Clinton’s 21st Century Statecraft agenda. Their visit was part of a regional trip with stops in Estonia and Russia.

21st Century Statecraft is an ambitious agenda to use new online tools and the increasingly networked nature of the world to transform the State Department’s approach to diplomacy and development.

As Secretary Clinton said in January 2010: “On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas
lec and Ben came to Kyiv with fascinating ideas to share about the disruptive change caused by the internet.

But their main goal was to hear from a diverse range of Ukrainian businessmen, politicians, journalists, activists, and bloggers about how the internet is affecting Ukraine economically and socially, and its future potential in the country.

Alec discussed internet freedom, foreign policy, and economic innovation with over 250 students at Kyiv’s Polytechnic Institute, and spoke to a similarly large crowd at the House of Teachers as part of our Ambassador’s Forum speakers series.

He met with journalists and freedom of speech activists to learn about the flow of news and information on the internet in Ukraine, and to hear their concerns about possible misguided attempts to impose controls in the name of anti-terrorism or anti-obscenity.
He also met with leading businessmen to hear about investment opportunities in the online sphere, and with telecommunications executives to learn about the challenges in expanding internet access in Ukraine beyond the current level of about 30%.

Alec met with Hanna Herman at Bankova, and also with a group of Rada deputies and other politicians who actively use social media – they told him how the internet has changed their relationship with voters and the general public. He also met with a group of leading bloggers to discuss how they can be “citizen journalists” in the new world of online media.

Meanwhile, Ben found time to meet with journalism students at Kyiv Mohila Academy to discuss how the internet is radically changing the media landscape in Ukraine and around the world.

He also met NGO activists to talk about how civil society activists can organize online. We already have an ambitious follow up plan for Ben to run a tech camp in Ukraine in 2012, focused on developing online interactive English teaching and learning tools.
Alec’s visit to Kyiv helped spread the word about the importance of internet freedom for protecting free speech, promoting economic innovation, creating more open government, and strengthening civil society. He laid the foundations for future cooperation between Ukraine and the U.S. in these areas.

I was pleased to help him meet the right people to gain a better understanding of internet freedom in Ukraine. We hope he will visit us again soon.


November 4, 2011

Ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year prison sentence after her Oct. 11 conviction for abuse of office while in power. She is actually a political prisoner, the victim of revenge after a show trial. President Viktor Yanukovych knows about life in prison as a twice-convicted felon, for theft and assault, in 1967 and again in 1969, before his release from prison in 1972. The convictions were overturned in 1978 and his record expunged. Yanukovych has said that prison made him a better man. In an interview with TV host Savik Shuster, Yanukovych said: ”Of course it was a traumatic experience, but one that gave me the opportunity to think about life more deeply. When a person receives a test in life, he suffers and gains experience. The realization that something awful can happen to anyone at any time forces me to pause, to meet people halfway and, at a minimum, to understand them and empathize.” (from Kyiv Post)

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