Category Archives: Wasteland

Train Station Clerk Pauses for Cleaning Lady. Ugh

Train Stations are the worst. My life has gotten measurably better since I learned how to buy tickets online. Nevertheless, sometimes I still have to go to the station. Picture this:

Crowded. Long lines. Everyone is cranky. The cleaning lady pushes aside the clerk with her mop. The clerk first slides her chair back to accommodate the cleaning, then leaves her booth altogether and so the stone-faced hag with the mop can fishing moistening the floor with her dirty rag on a stick.

No way to dispose of toxic lightbulbs in Lviv.

You know those toxic “green” lightbulbs which the enviro-fascists have been promoting until recently? The ones filled with mercury?

There seems to be no proper infrastructure for disposing them in Lviv.

I even asked in a lightbulb/lamp store. They said “throw it in a dumpster, but as far away from our store as you can.”

My Reaction to the Central Bank of Ukraine’s statement on Bitcoin:

I don’t yet know how legally binding this is. It may only be the opinion of Ukraine’s central bank, but nevertheless, it’s bad. It represents exactly the type of corrupt Soviet bureaucratic thinking that Ukrainians rebelled against last winter. Worse, this statement is aimed at the tech industry — the one place talented Ukrainians consistently find refuge from corporate raiders and rent seeking bureaucrats. It’s a very, very discouraging blow at a time when so many Ukrainians have sacrificed so much in a fight that was largely about greater economic freedom. I expect a reaction from the recently formed Bitcoin Foundation of Ukraine.

The Useless, Corrupt, Goddamn Idiots in Ukraine’s Gov’t declare #bitcoin illegal

Auto Translate:


In connection with citizens about the legality of use in Ukraine “virtual currency / Cryptocurrency” Bitcoin inform that.

According to the Constitution of Ukraine (Article 99), the Civil Code of Ukraine (Article 192), the Law of Ukraine “On Payment Systems and Money Transfer in Ukraine” (Article 3) and the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine from 19.02.93 № 15-93 “On Currency regulation and Currency control “(Article 3) hryvnia currency of Ukraine as the only legal tender in Ukraine, adopted by all natural and legal persons without any restriction on all territory of Ukraine for the transfer and settlement.

One of the functions of the National Bank of Ukraine is the monopoly of Issuance national currency of Ukraine and the organization of cash circulation (Article 7 of the Law of Ukraine “On the National Bank of Ukraine”).

Volume and turnover in Ukraine other currencies and use of substitutes as a payment prohibited (Article 32 of the Law of Ukraine “On the National Bank of Ukraine”).

Given the above, the National Bank of Ukraine considers “virtual currency / Cryptocurrency” Bitcoin as a money substitute that is not providing real value and can not be used by individuals and entities on the territory of Ukraine as a means of payment, because it is contrary to the norms of Ukrainian legislation.

In addition, when using “virtual currency / Cryptocurrency” Bitcoin is a factor of increased risk associated with this service, operations or supply channels, including anonymous transactions (which may include cash), decentralization operation.

However, the international distribution of such payments for this category of services attractive to illegal activities, including money laundering, proceeds from crime and terrorist financing.

We emphasize that the risks for use in the calculation of “virtual currency / Cryptocurrency” Bitsoin responsible party payments for them. National Bank of Ukraine as a regulator is not liable for risks and losses associated with the use of “virtual currency / Cryptocurrency” Bitsoin.

In order to protect consumers’ rights, safety, money transfer National Bank of Ukraine encourages citizens to use the services of only those payment systems, settlement systems, which included the National Bank of Ukraine in the Register of payment systems, settlement systems, participants in these systems and service providers payment infrastructure.

Curt on Ukrainian incompetence

Haven’t made a “wasteland” post in a while.

So, I go to pick up my laptop. They run the charge through the card reader three times and they get an error code each time. They call me today and say they have it fixed. I show up. It doesn’t work. I find out that they have charged me 12K because each transaction DID process, and is now being refunded.

I think we need to have refunds on errors issued immediately, with the merchant absorbing the risk. Where the hell is our consumer protection?

So I am out 12K, albeit for three days, and I have no new laptop [technical problem with it]. Sigh.

This kind of incompetence is rife here.

Sh_t doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. Anywhere. It’s exasperating.

So yes, the people are wonderful, and yes, it’s beautiful and yes the food is good, and yes it’s inexpensive. But you have to put up with third world infrastructure and the all too pervasive remains of soviet bureaucratic incompetence – everywhere.

On Post-Soviet Decay in Ukraine

A friend’s observation:

“An awful lot of Ukraine is like mexico. Its tragic. All of this horrible post soviet decaying brick, concrete, and sheet metal.

No people were ever so poor with such nobility and grace. I love them.

Especially the old guys with bug russian hats. .

The middle of america is hollowing out. But the relative decline is being filled with the third world.

We do not decay as gracefully.”

US Bureaucracy, for a change

Visited the VA while I’m in the US. There’s a new system called “My Health-E-Vet”.

I did manage to sign up, much to my surprise. Now, to make the system actually useful, I need to complete these three steps:

1. Download, print, and sign the VA Release of Information (ROI) form (10-5345a-MHV) (PDF)
2. Mail your signed form to the Release of Information Office at your local VA health care facility. You can use the Facility Locator to find the address
Note: Please, allow up to 20 business days to complete the Online Authentication process.

I stand in utter awe of this level of incompetence and bureaucracy. I don’t think I could achieve it if I made an active effort.

One characteristic which distinguishes US bureaucracy is resource intensiveness.

How badly does Ukraine need gun ownership?

One of the owners of the L’viv-based, multi-million dollar video game company, Nravo, was murdered by a knife-attack in the entrance to his home. The perpetrator didn’t take any money.


Dear Ukrainians, it is neither democracy nor law-abidingness which creates a wealthy society. Hell, most of what the Bolsheviks did was in accordance with the laws they themselves passed. A wealthy society arises when there are property rights.

More Madness in Mykolaiiv

Three men, two of whom were police raped a woman who was on her way home from a disco. As is common in Ukraine, the sociopaths are relatives of important politicians. The police made no arrests. An angry mob went and ransacked the police station and continue to protest there.



80+ Attackers involved in violent corporate raid against opposition politician’s business

It happened in the village of Chausove in the Mykolaiv Oblast. The owner of the raided agriculture business is an opposition politician.

It’s crazy that there seems to have been a definite “order of battle.”

It says guards and farm workers repelled the first attack. Then the attackers brought out pistols and shot guns and split into two groups — one continued pressing the front gate, and the other went around the side.

The owner wrote that he called the police, but they ignored the incident.

He wrote on his Facebook page that there were 80 attacked with pistols and shotguns. He accuses Mykolaiv region governor Mykola Kruglov and general attorney of Ukraine Viktor Pshonka of orchestrating the raid.

It says the arrived in buses.

No on was killed, but many were wounded, five seriously.

I hate injustice. It’s hard for me not to imagine the defenses I supervised in Afghanistan, and how easily we would have slaughtered these attackers.

Just one machine gun, hell, one rifle could have stopped this attack. The hooligans are usually poor guys who work out a lot. They’re not invested in their crime. So simple. One marksman on the roof of the factory, and everything would be fine.

Of course, I had different rules in Afghanistan. I’m only thinking tactically. That’s a very narrow view. Here, such a defense would likely prompt a repose from the Ukrainian military on behalf of the corporate raider.

Where the hell is that “Zbroya” organization? They should be promoting gun ownership as a solution to this problem instead of masturbating to pictures of uniformed soldiers.

Videos here

The Wrong Phone Number

My contact at the archives isn’t answering the phone. I look their number on the internet.

The first number doesn’t work. The second rings and rings without an answer. An old woman answers the third number.

“Is this the archive?” I ask.

“Oh, no, she replies right away. Their number is 2-6 and you dialed 0-6.”

I’m surprised that she knows this, and glance again at their webpage.

“Do you know that your phone number is on your webpage?”

She says something I don’t understand. Her voice is old. Maybe she doesn’t know what a webpage is.

“They are advertising your phone number. They are saying it’s the phone number of the archive.”

“It doesn’t do any harm,” she says.

Her indifference makes me angry. “Maybe you should call them and tell them to change it so that people stop calling you.”

“Oh, I don’t get that many calls,” she says.

I thank her and hang up.

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Paid toilets — an economic mystery

First of all, please excuse the vulgarity of this post. I’m making a point. I took this picture a couple months ago at a bus station.

I had walked past an empty desk when a babushka came roaring out of some back room, gruffly demanding one hryvnia (12 cents) for the privilege of relieving myself amongst this sanitary beauty:

2013-04-26 14.34.06 2013-04-26 14.33.14

How is this travesty possible? Shouldn’t paid toilets be of better quality than the free toilets which businesses (McDonalds, among many others) make available throughout Ukraine?

Not so. Not at all. You see, the babushka is not a private owner. She’s not the innovative, risk-taking sanitation entrepreneur you might mistake her for. She is a bureaucrat squatting (no pun intended) on dilapidated, neglected Soviet era infra structure. What’s even more pathetic is the possibility that she paid a bribe to rise to her current position.

Oh, the humanity…

1990s Donbass — A Glimmer of Liberty and Prosperity

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, miners in the east homesteaded abandoned mines. Their efforts grew into a complex operation, but sadly, gangsters eventually took over (with considerable help from local bureaucracies which were — and are — indistinguishable from the gangsters).


The article references “anarcho-libertarianism”.

Translation: here


Again and again and again: Half Ukraine’s problems would vanish overnight if everybody owned a gun.

Americans who favor restrictions on guns are the spoiled inheritors of a private law culture that evolved with the frontier where people owned guns and found private solutions to the problems of security and justice.

Unwarranted Pessimism & the Reason for Ukraine’s Bureaucracy

Thank you for the condolences I received on my previous post. I’m concerned, however, that this blog tends unfairly toward pessimism.

Ayn Rand wrote that the government makes us all criminals because criminals are easier to control. In the U.S., the federal tax code alone is more than 24 megabytes in length, and contains more than 3.4 million words; printed 60 lines to the page, it would fill more than 7500 letter-size pages. (The often cited figure of 80,000 pages seems to be an exaggeration.)

In any case, the vast quantity of laws, regulations and codes leaves every entrepreneur scared that he might have violated one of them. There’s no way to be sure. Hence, success should be enjoyed quietly. Entrepreneurs have good incentive to hide any triumph over bureaucracy. Failure doesn’t invite a bureaucrat’s scrutiny the way success does.


I’ve alluded to this before. I think I’ve come to understand thee reason for Ukraine’s psychopathic bureaucracy. Where western bureaucracies were created from nothing in pursuit of a goal — education, food safety, building safety. Perhaps the worst you could say, they were created with this public goal, while the private goal was the establishment of monopoly privilege. They had to at least appear to be working. Ukrainian bureaucracy is an *imitation* of these failed systems of the west built atop the lingering habits and moral depravity of Socialism.

There was no lustration as happened in central Europe. Ukraine inherited more Soviet bureaucrats and bureaucracies than did other post-Soviet states.

Days like today make me miss America

So for the past couple weeks, a friend of mine who works in a municipal level gov’t position has been telling me that everything’s fine, that he’ll call tomorrow and tell me when I can pick up documents I’ve been waiting for. His help has been completely selfless. I’m grateful, and want to be polite, even when he never calls. I kept waiting TWO days, giving him a chance to live up to his promise, and then calling him, and receiving the same reassurance.

When I called him yesterday, he finally said everything was ready. “Travel to the regional office and pick up your stuff.”

Public transportation in Ukraine kicks my ass. I’ve written about train stations before. Same goes for bus stations: the only way I’m able to figure out when a bus is going somewhere is to travel to the station, stand in line, and then ask the clerk.

Yesterday evening, I enlisted the help of a native Ukrainian. She made an inquiry online. She said there was a bus from L’viv to the regional office at 15:00. That didn’t sound right and I decided to take a marshutka first thing in the morning to find out when the buses travel.

I take the #10 Marshutka to the bus station. I just googled the distance and see that it’s about 10.5 kilometers. The fact that a ten kilometer trip takes 45 minutes is one of the miracles of L’viv’s public transportation system. It’s a little cartel. Marshutky are filty, slow, and even more crowded than the NYC subways I grew up riding. There are never enough.

It turned out my Ukrainian friend was wrong. One bus leaves at 8:30 in the morning. I learned this at 8:45. The next one at 13:00. I waited in a nearby restaurant for almost four hours.

I eventually took the bus to the region where my paperwork was being prepared. During the two-and-a-half hour ride at a snails pace to avoid pot holes, I telephoned a cousin and asked him to meet me. We went together to the office where everything was supposedly ready. Nothing was ready.

I couldn’t even pay the 26 uah fee (about $3). I was told the following week not to return there, but to go to the Oblast center to get my documents, and then later to the regional office to pay the three bucks.

It would have been a foolish, rookie mistake to try and figure out why I’d been asked to go there in the first place when apparently I had to first picking up the documents in the Oblast center. The fact that the question didn’t even occur to me until much later is a sign of my maturing to the reality of Ukrainian bureaucracy. It has no logic, no center. It is idiocy for the sake of idiocy. It is a cruel joke without a punchline. It just keeps stumbling along, but without ever actually getting anywhere.

I waited another two hours for the bus back to L’viv.

Here’s what really made today special:

I had intended to take Marshutka #10 back toward my apartment. I thought I saw a #10, and moved to secure my place in the crush of people. (There are never enough Marshutky.) It turned out that it was #40. I zoned out for what I expected to be a 45 minute, 10 kilometer trip, and didn’t realize my mistake until I was in a little town beyond the municipal boundary of the city. My cell phone battery died.

I was able to take a different Marshutka back to the bus station, and arrived just in time to see the last bus departing toward the city center. Of course, I didn’t realize it was the last bus until after a good twenty minutes of sitting on the cold bench.

I started walking home, and found a big crowd of people at a different Marshutka stop. I waited with them for quite a while, but felt reassured by their number. Thirty one. I counted. I took that Marshutka. One lady told me it was the last of the evening. After a half-hour ride, it may or may not have gotten me closer to my home. Not sure. I exited and walked across what seemed like half the city, climbing piles of snow and wading through ankle deep slush.

It was after midnight when I returned home.

My day has been as smart and efficient as a bag of hammers.

My Post Office Experience

My landlord slipped a note under my door. It came from the Post Office. I had received a package. I had been expecting one — a French Press — a personal gift from a dear friend in Prague.

I carried the note to the main post office where they told me to go to my local post office, number 18 or something.

The next day, I walked to a post office near my apartment. They directed me to yet another one near the bazaar. At that post office, they told me packages are handled in the adjacent building, but they only worked until three pm. It was almost four.

I left and made a mental note of the adjacent door, which had no sign or distinguishing markings. It did not seem like a post office, but it was the only thing even remotely matching the clerk’s directions. I returned the next day.

The door opened into a small chamber which could have been foyer or waiting room. There was a table with one tall stack of papers leaning heavily against the adjacent cabinet.

One of two chairs was occupied by a middle-aged woman who ignored me. I sensed her fanatical indifference to the world. She seemed capable of ignoring a locomotive, should one ever come crashing through the wall of that chamber. If indifference was a religion, she’d be a high priest.

I felt very much the outsider in a world loathe to acknowledge me. Perhaps it was my own insecurity, but I felt like Alice who initially struggled for the attention of Wonderland’s denizens. They ignored her as another uninteresting fixture.

“Is this the post office?” I asked, breaking the silence. I had the suspicion the lady would look right through me without seeing me. For some reason, I felt started by the fact of her reaction.

She said nothing, but waved her hand to a door opposite the entrance. I tested it. Its bolting mechanism was sufficiently ill fit that the door gave a centimeter or so before the bolt banged against the latch hole.

Immediately, I felt guilty of something, though I wasn’t sure what. The noise of the deadbolt had echoed in the chamber announcing my effort. Perhaps the noise condemned me as a sinner in this wonderland, guilty of desiring some outcome and working purposefully toward it.

The lady’s indifference remained. One might think of a Buddhist monk, but without any hope of reaching of Nirvana. Hers was a more perfect harmony, without hope and without fear. If you ever find yourself by the bazaar, please find this door and peak inside. I suspect she’ll still be there.

It occurred to me that I might not have sufficiently twisted the doorknob. Surely, anyone inside in the room would have heard the clatter. Should I test the door again?

I waited, hoping for some sign of sentient existence beyond the portal. Nothing.

I grabbed the door knob again, with both hands this time, twisted with all my strength. I clearly heard a latch-bolt retract, but when I pulled the door, again, what must have been a deadbolt pounded loudly against the latch hole.

I felt glad for my second try. Though it didn’t represent progress toward to my goal, I helped me understand the situation. I felt confidence of two things:

1) The door was indeed locked.

2) The second chamber was almost certainly uninhabited, because any occupant would certainly have reacted to my noisy appeal.

Though the outcome was unfavorable, I the issue’s resolution filled me with an albeit miniscule sense of accomplishment. I had tried exhaustively, but failed. Now it was time to move on. Perhaps this wasn’t the adjacent building they’d told me of. I would ask a local friend for help. Now it was time to move onto the next task.

Perhaps the pleasant thought of leaving wonderland, of returning to civilization is what inspired a playful feeling in me. I flippantly rapped the door with my knuckles before turning contently. I walked half way across the room before the sound of an opening deadbolt froze me in place.

I felt the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. Did I really hear it? Surely, a human would not have waited for me to knock. Surely, a human would have understood the meaning of clattering deadbolt in a public building during business hours. I turned slowly to the door, bracing for whatever demon or alien life form might hurl itself toward me.

I felt my heart pounding. Looking at the door, I adjusted my stance, braced to move quickly, to dodge or to flee. Nothing. There was only silence. The door did not budge. Only it’s deadbolt had been pushed open by someone, or someTHING. Was this an invitation? Was it a dare?

The woman did not return my gaze. I felt lost. I did not know the rules of this world and reminded myself that I had once been a paratrooper, that I was a three time combat veteran, a warrior and leader of men.

I turned the knob and the door opened with a squeak. An office. Definitely an office. Perhaps a Post Office. Two desks. A woman at one of them. She doesn’t notice me.

I had reassured soldiers en route to Afghanistan that things are much less scary up close. This certainly seemed to be the case here. I closed the door noisily. There was nothing to fear, but much to puzzle over.

I surveyed the room. The strongest hint of a postal vocation was the cubby shelving on the wall. Other than that, it could have been any sort of office: Cabinets, two chaotic desks, one with an old Cathode Ray Tube monitor atop it. There was no sign of a computer. The strangest thing seemed to be the woman scribbling busily at one of the desks and not acknowledging me whatsoever.

I imagined her ignoring the pounding of the deadbolt. I imagined her, annoyed by my interruption, eventually rising from her desk, slamming open the bolt and returning to her place. I stood in utter awe of her capacity to ignore me, and didn’t even think to say anything until she finally looked up from her work and said something so quickly that I understood nothing beyond the irritated tone of her voice.

I did not react to her impatience, though, as my sensibilities had not yet adjusted to this strange world. I would have felt no less baffled had I discovered a troop of Kozaks sipping coffee in my kitchen one morning, their horses drinking from my toilet.

She spoke again, pointing the scrap of paper which I had forgotten I was holding, the paper my landlord slipped under my door. For the first time since entering her office, I felt I was interacting with a human.

My wonderment ended, and I stepped toward her, offering the paper. She responded angrily, indicating that she did not want the paper handed to her, but placed on the desk. Clearly, these were self-evident rules in this wonderland, and I, very much the clumsy, bothersome tourist. I placed it on the desk, and she immediately snatched it up.

With surprising animation, she shuffled through some papers and boxes in one part of the room, then in another. She found my package, much to my delight, then placed in on the table and asked to see my passport. I signed two or three slips of paper, and she returned to her previous posture, huddled over her desk, scribbling.

“Is that it?” I asked.

“Yes, yes,” she said impatiently. “That’s it.”

“Thank you,” I said.

It seemed she no longer heard me, or saw me, but I was happy. I left, gently shutting the door behind me. The woman in the first room also seemed oblivious to my passing.