Ticking things off the list

And “the phone call” came and went. One more thing sorted. All the scanning I’m going to do has been done (I think). Going to run a back-up (remember those?) on the PC. The list is definitely getting shorter! 🙂

My daughters are doing “The Merchant of Venice” in English. Reading through it last night, this speech by Portia caught my eye:

“…The brain may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps o’er a cold decree; such a hare is madness the youth to skip o’er the meshes of good counsel the cripple…”

Background for the forthcoming trip to Novosibirsk

History and Geography
Novosibirsk is the 3rd largest city in Russia. It has a population of 1.5 million. That makes it a little bigger than Dublin and a little smaller than Birmingham.
Novosibirsk was founded in 1896 at the point where the Trans-Siberian Railway would cross the River Ob. It was originally called Novonikolayevsk in honour of both Saint Nicholas and Tsar Nicholas II. At first the town grew rapidly. Following the Russian revolution in 1917 there was a period of great instability. The town suffered a great deal during the Russian Civil war (1917-1923). There were epidemics and for a while the population declined. In 1926 the town was renamed Novosibirsk (New Siberian City).
Novosibirsk underwent a period of rapid expansion on either side of what we call the Second World War, and the Russians call the Great Patriotic War. The town was not directly involved in the fighting, but became home to heavy industry and many refugees from the war.
Modern Novosibirsk is still growing rapidly. Some of the residents discribe it as “Chicago of Siberia”. It is a modern industrial city. It has skyscrapers, a metro and a well-developed public transport system.
Why Am I doing this?
I learned Russian Feltham School (what is now Feltham Community College). Over the years I continued to be interested in the language and the country. Now that I have time, I have been improving my Russian, but had reached the stage when living in the country for a while seemed the most effective way of making further progress.
I chose Novosibirsk precisely because it is not a tourist destination. It has a language school, but relatively few people there speak English. It is also somewhat cheaper than Moscow or St Petersburg. Further reasons for choosing Novosibirsk were the romance of going to Siberia and the opportunity to visit some nearby places like Academgorodok (Academy Town).
How am I going to get there?
I am going to fly from Heathrow (T1) to Moscow (Domededovo), change planes and fly to Novosibirsk (OVB). The code makes more sense when you know that the airport is actually in the town of “Ob” (same name as the river).

Forms and loops

My Plan for the day

The sun is shining. Laundry day today. And send off the passport forms. And complete a Tax form. And drop the twins at a friend’s house (farm) for a last day of real freedom. And re-weigh and re-pack luggage. Want to get the weight down further and will sacrifice shirts for text-books (and I’m cutting down on them!). And, and, and… Energising and fun! 🙂

Last night I showed the children how to make Mobius loops, draw lines round them and cut them down the middle. They’re bright enough not to take it at face value. I don’t think I’ve had such good value out of two sheets of A4 and two pens for a long while!

I announced this to the world on Facebook and to my surprise, some people were interested. The interest turned into a “stream of consciousness” exchange which I thought I would edit into something a bit more coherent here.

“Mobius loops” are much easier to make than explain. Take an A4 sheet of paper and cut it half length-ways. Tape the 2 pieces end to end so you have a long strip. Now give one end a half twist, loop it round and tape it to the other end. You now have a twisted ring. This is a Mobius loop. Now the fun starts. Place it on the table and draw a line round the middle of ONLY THE INSIDE of the loop (like the dotted line in the middle of the road. You may be surprised by what happens! Now, take a pair of scissors and cut along the line you’ve just drawn. You may be surprised again. Now repeat the last two steps; line (if you want to), and cut (essential). You may be surprised yet again! Try it yourself. This involves weird mathematics and even has practical applications, but most important, is just fun! Has been used to entertain; small ones, teenagers (my two) and middle-aged men (me). Ever so simple. Seems like magic, even/especially when you are doing it yourself. See the picture here.
Everyone seems to find them truly amazing. Found another surprise… Try this: Make your loop. Draw the line in the middle “round the inside”. DON’T cut! Remind them, or ask them what happened last time. Now draw a second line, between the middle line and an outside edge. Get them to examine what they’ve done. Now cut around the second line. Surprise! When they’ve got over that, draw a line around the second loop and cut along that. Surprise! How did that happen? You’re right. Perfect for a wet day anywhere. All you need is paper (and not much of that), sellotape, scissors and a pen. The trick is to get “them” to do the work. To start off with, they think they are doing something wrong (especially when I say “I told you to draw the line on one side only!”). Have fun!

This is an activity for all ages. Well worth trying it out by yourself, even if you are an adult. Perfect for an evening with half and eye on the TV. They really are amazing. And so simple. The explanations are much more difficult than the actual doing. Some of the time it actually FEELs like you’re doing magic. I know what I’m doing and still don’t really understand what I get!

Banks, bills and passports

Today was an admin day. The plan was to start with arranging to move a bank account, then move on sorting out passport applications for the children, and finally clear some minor action items from my eMail inbox. As things turned out, I have been pretty successful.
Moving the bank account turned out to be straightforward. In the end all it really amounted to was signing a form. This was made just a little more complicated by me having to provide a copy of my passport which had been certified as a “true copy”.
My daughters passports will run out in the not too distant future. The forthcoming trip to Russia has prompted us to check various bits of documentation, and we found that it was time to renew them. Since some recent (2008) changes in the legislation, applying for a passport has become more complicated. I think the objective is to prevent fraudulent applications.
Filling in the forms (one for each daughter) took a little while. And once the forms had been completed all four off us had to go to the Garda (Police) Station, to get the forms witnessed.
Each passport application requires: a signature from each of the parents so say they don’t mind the child having a passport. Each of these signatures has to be witnessed by the Garda. Presumably, this is to stop one of the parents taking the children without the other’s knowledge. Then the applicant has to sign the application and the Garda has to sign that. And the Garda has to write application numbers on the back of the photographs, and sign them as well. And the Garda has to log this whole palaver in a book. Bear in mind this all has to be done twice, and we are all being careful that we don’t accidentally mix up the photos and application forms of identical twins. I think the lot of us, parents, children and garda were a bit frazzled. I don’t think Irish policewomen (or men) are all that keen on passport applications, and I think they are entitled not to be.
In between filling in the forms and the trip to the Garda Station, I did a little ironing. I don’t do much ironing, but I did some today. I’ve literally been laundering money (in a legal way). I needed a few single dollar bills (good old greenbacks) for emergencies on the trip. The ones the bank supplied me with were really scruffy, so I’ve ironed them. They’re much better now. It was a surreal but strangely satisfying experience.
I addition to all this, I reduced the number of items in my inbox. So, progress on all fronts. The passport forms will be posted tomorrow.