Friday, July 18, 2014

Wood-carved portraits

Our family has a sort of a new enterprise: creating wood-carved portraits and other images from digital photos.

This is me (top left is the original photo):


And this is my family when our elder son was born:


If you want such a wood-carved portrait, click here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My former domain estimated at USD 1,700


My personal site is currently at www.mayamarkov.com, but its original domain name was www.mayamarkova.com. I have already written how I lost this domain or, rather, how it was snatched from me by my former host-registrar company. They abused their position and told me that I either continue being their client or say goodbye to the domain. I preferred the second option. My opinion was that blackmailers should be said "no" and that, if the content of my site is of any use and value, readers will follow it anywhere.

These days, I visited my former domain to see what activity (if any) was going on there. To my surprise, it was offered for sale for $ 1,695. This is much more than my monthly salary. Actually, even in "Old European" and other prosperous countries there are many full-time workers with monthly income less than this.

Like most people, I often have doubts in what I am doing and achieving. I occasionally need something to bring up my self-esteem, and this was a good boost. Someone is hoping to make $ 1,700 from my abandoned domain! Whoever they are, I wish them good luck :-). The world isn't full of people named Maya Markova, and I don't think anyone else would want this domain.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spiritual paperwork

When a person dies, there are so many things to manage that relatives get up to their knees in paperwork. Some is normal - the certificate of death, the will etc. Some is extra. The saddest thing I remember is how my mother, about 20 minutes after she heard about my brother's sudden death, composed herself enough to tell my father that he urgently needs a visa to attend the funeral.

However, one thinks that the deceased at least has no more worries about paperwork.

Well, he does not do anything more himself, but in most cultures it is thought that something must be done for his soul, or it will have suboptimal fate. In Orthodox Christianity, the religion of my ancestors, it is believed that the soul roams in and close to this world for 40 days after death. On the 40th day, God decides where it will reside permanently: in Paradise or in Hell. On that very day, family members must hold a memorial service - as one priest wrote (unfortunately, I cannot find the quote right now), to try to influence God's decision and lean it to the wished direction.

After my brother's death, I did not care about any churches and services. And because it was known that my family was "that sort of people", a Christian friend of my father's reportedly ordered a service.

After my mother's death, however, I knew that friends and colleagues would like to gather together and remember her at the 40th day. And because there is secular funeral ceremony but no secular 40-day memorial service, I invited them to a church on Friday.

I could actually invite them to the cemetery and offer some food without calling a priest. However, I think that the cemetery is land of the dead and the living should avoid going there. Especially if they are elderly people that would just look at each other and wonder who the next would be. So I prefered a small church not far from my mother's home.

I have many times criticized the church and the clergy, and I surely will do it again in the future... so let me now state that I am thankful. I admit the church was there when I needed it, and although I have surely done some things wrong, nobody made me feel uncomfortable.

Update: A Christian friend of mine who had been guest at my mother's home wrote to me that she has taken care for my mother's name to be mentioned during the church services for 40 days. I was really moved by this.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Self-awareness

Two or three days ago, my 7-yr-old son, like his elder brother, had an existential insight. He asked,

"Mom, why am I needed?"

"Because you are a person," I replied.

"I am myself. And I am real," he stated with a smile.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Roger Cohen on European (lack of) solidarity

I have just read in the New York Times site an excellent op-ed by Roger Cohen, Poor Angry Magnetic Europe. It is so good that it made me forgive the primitive anti-Bulgarian hate campaign carried out by the same magazine several years ago. I am advising you to read the entire column, and now I am quoting parts of it below:

"BERLIN — Europe at the centenary of the war that devoured it is voting in elections for the European Parliament that will no doubt reflect the anger, disillusionment and boredom of people inclined to cast their ballots for an array of protest parties, many from the xenophobic right, some from the pander-to-Putin left...

In some ways Europe’s mood resembles America’s. Focus has narrowed and solidarity atrophied. Europe, like America, does not want to die for anyone else. It has turned inward, wanting its own problems solved, and damn the Libyans and Syrians and Ukrainians and whoever else may be making demands through their plight.

Anyone who believes the spread of freedom, democracy and the rule of law matters is a “warmonger.” The sharing economy is in vogue because it affords a better deal on a car ride or a room. Sharing politics is not because it may involve sacrifice for faraway people with strange names...

The European Parliament election coincides with a critical election Sunday in Ukraine, where Putin has created havoc by annexing Crimea, dispatching thugs to stir unrest in the eastern part of the country, and inventing a “fascist” threat in Kiev to conceal his own growing affinities with such politics (his beloved, much lamented Soviet Union of course allied with Nazi Germany in 1939 before Hitler tore up the pact in 1941; attraction to fascism is nothing new in Moscow).

On Kiev’s Independence Square, known as the Maidan, where Ukrainians died in numbers to escape the rule of an incompetent kleptomaniac backed by Putin, the European Union flag flies in several places. It is equally visible on surrounding streets. It is draped down the facade of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. It stands for something important in Kiev, something that seems almost unimaginable to Europeans in the confusion of their bile: the glowing possibility of freedom and dignity and pluralism, the possibility of a normal life...

But Europe is suddenly full of what Germans now call the Putinversteher — literally someone who understands Putin, more loosely a Putin apologist. Europeans of different stripes see him standing up to America, incarnating “family values,” countering a loathed European Union, and just being tough. Germans in surprising numbers are discovering their inner sympathy for Russia...

Europeans would do well to lift their gaze from the small world of their current anger toward those blue and gold flags fluttering on the Maidan, the better to recall what freedom means and with what sacrifice it has been attained."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

European fellow voters, think of Ukraine!

On May 25, EU citizens will vote to elect their representatives in the European Parliament. My vote will be dominated by considerations who will support the best policy with regard to Ukraine.

I am outraged that Russia is attacking other countries and grabbing land again, and EU is practically doing nothing. So I will vote for those who, in my opinion, will be most able to stand against Russia and to think long-term of European solidarity.

And I would advice you to consider doing the same, if you haven't already decided it. Forget your and your country's economic hardships, social problems, ethnic tensions etc. Because you at least enjoy peace and, when you go to bed, you know in which country you will wake up tomorrow. So let's think of Ukraine and not ask for whom the bell tolls!

Friday, May 09, 2014

I lost my mother

When my brother died 4 years ago, I feared that my mother would soon follow him. Happily, she proved strong enough to endure and somewhat recover. Although devastated, she still enjoyed watching her grandchildren grow, meeting friends, following the news, reading books. She never complained of her health, and I hoped she would have more years to live.

She died suddenly on Monday.

The day before, I had been with my sons at a dinner in her home. We did it every week. She always prepared much more food than we could eat and gave the rest in boxes, so that I would not need to cook the next day. Until her very last day, she always cared for her loved ones.

My friend once said the system with the boxes was nice but, as my mother was getting older, hopefully at some moment they would start to travel in the opposite direction, i.e. I would cook and bring food for her. My mother, however, dreaded the very thought of such reversal. She said, "I hope never to live to a day when my child would care for me." And she didn't.