Russia books I’ve read so far

Via mostly offline random purchases, can’t remember library ones other than skimming through – A Russian Diary by Anna Politskaya. Somewhere fairly early on she mentions the Putin family & their labrador family with her opinion about labradors being distraction. It worked, having spent bits of childhood puppywalking some labs for Guide Dogs, I totally started wondering about their dogs.

A history of 20th Century Russia – Robert Service – found this really interesting because he said they had access to many sources previously unavailable. Haven’t read the follow up – too much Putin.

The new politics of Russia – interpreting change – Andrew Monaghan – interesting because he understands international relations even if I don’t share all his views.

Russia – Jonathan Dimbleby – lots of self reflection, when he does interviews – very good and some great descriptions.

Ustinov in Russia – Peter Ustinov (funnily enough) It’s pictures & text – coffee table book – great to see context (1987)

Kicking the Kremlin – Marc Bennetts ex BBC journalist & Putin critic. Very timely to read his interviews with Navalny’s campaign members in 2014 & the Russophobic New York Times admitting it over promotes Navalny.

An art tour of Russia – J Beavington Atkinson (1880s) 

Ice Road – Gillian Slovo – fiction set around early 20th century in St Petersburg

Russian Journal – Andrea Lee 

Recommended but not bought yet

Ekaterinburg: The Last Days of the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport

More cheating in British sport

A member of my family with a scientific background agrees that TUE use is cheating and yet it is is permitted as a mechanism for athletes in certain countries to unfairly compete.

The investigation of doping in British Cycling was buried by the media and the Conservative party of course.

The latest is a BBC Fileonfour investigation into paralympic cheating in classifications – that this was even published speaks volumes. Yet no media coverage, no outrage expressed unless it’s Russian athletes. 

WADA’s ransom note to RUSADA includes a demand that they accept the flawed findings of their flawed investigation. Obviously RUSADA wants athletes back and competing but why should they have to do this. It would be a terrible precedent.

And cheating will continue across British sport regardless but vulnerable young athletes in sport will see that WADA act politically against certain countries and this will only encourage thoseathletes in cheating-safe countries to think they can get away with it.

Rather than actually try their best out of genuine passion & ability for athletic competing which is how they got as far as they have already.

Taekwondo update

Still sorting out injuries but getting to class based training & helping as needed about 3 times a month. Still practising patterns most nights except recent start of term hiatus due to work & transport or lack of…

Regaining some height & stability slowly but not at reverse jumping anything yet other than some mid-high-ish reverse side kicks. That is still progress – first time in several years.

Started advertising for attendees in wheelchairs to come along – we still may link up with some ex forces personnel groups.

Hope to start running informal training sessions one early morning a week at work – staff only initially, subject to approval but informally should be ok. I will advertise once and start training at the back of one of the campus grounds once a week until it gets dark. If anyone turns up, I will train them, if not – I will still train. There’s a possibility of floodlights appearing but may not be until 2018.

Apparently tkd army champuonships were in early summer 2017 so nothing really available at the moment but if I do move in next month or so, will be training with an instructor at a different club who knows me a little and refereed my last fight (5+ yrs ago). He has someone in his club who is bit younger than me but still keen on competition fight practice so hopefully will work out.

We didn’t have anyone at nationals this year – we have some potentially really good young fighters coming through but they need more fights before competing there.

May or may not do grading this October, may leave until spring, too much going on. Looking forward to outdoors training though with change of seasons – different kind of awareness – muddier, wetter – good for stability practice. Maybe a bit of this:

Projects mini update – water sanitation module

Due to academic term start & exam board timings, a full meeting was unable to happen so we are still going round the houses – delving into content ideas before finalising outline (hopefully follow up meeting within a fortnight). This is still better than previous module for aiming at target audience.

We will be looking at why water sanitation problems exist in both urban and rural areas, also the roles of NGOs. What happens with initiatives and whether they become self-sustaining or not. 

Whilst not being able to provide equipment, the option to do some field investigation activities will hopefully be included.

As with previous module, creative commons licensing will apply as this is not being formally accredited, sponsored or branded by the university.

Slightly off track but related & so relevant – exploring water & climate change on the Russian Far East coast, well worth reading this award winning article:


Experimenting with #Yandex

I saw it mentioned on a site about Russian news last week and will be using it for search & translate functionality for now if I want to use a search engine. I’ve added as a search engine on computer and mobile versions of Mozilla Firefox and temporarily set as default on both. I’m using in English at the moment, Russian is improving but somewhat snail-like.

I’m not making a geopolitical statement, I do not follow a binary US vs Russia or Russia vs US path and if it comes to ‘controlling the world’s information’ or anything else, it is not one or the other in spite of nearly every media outlet that I follow wants you to believe right now.

Some of their data processing and algorithmic techniques are being used by CERN and others for several years. They started before Google and others – which is intriguing. They have a lot of APIs available. It offers useful examples for how to search. It has also received a favourable review from Phil Bradley.

It is performing ok so far but too early to tell. It coped with spelling mistakes. I wouldn’t expect there to be the same kind of UK results as duckduckgo or others as yet.

Its image search does not have a copyright options filter. I use and train others in using this – if Yandex put this in, I will use them more often. It’s sometimes useful to be able to compare across multiple sources e.g. something like Everypixel (although this includes limited results which are often not free), or individual sites (updated):

Images: can search by colour requires attribution

Image libraries:

Public domain:

Icons & clipart:

(Some £)






(some £)




Human Performance and Health Podcast Series – episode 1

We (Roehampton University) have launched the first episode today. At the beginning of summer, Dr Rich Mackenzie said he’d like to interview a series of experts and if possible – run as a podcast series. He is keen to get everyone interested involved not just students.

I helped discuss options then he went away and created the first audio file by teaching himself garageband on his Mac.

I don’t know who he is interviewing or about what until he sends the audio.

They are available via the site, mixcloud and podomatic.

First episode about muscles :

Why I will not read, share or support people who write for Open Democracy anymore

This is not easy because some nice well intentioned NHS campaigners have written interesting and informative articles about what has been happening to NHS.

But I have to make a stand. 

Every time an article on Open Democracy is written, read and shared, it is helping George Soros campaign fund the far right candidate Navalny in Russia.

For those not familiar with Navalny, he has in the past attended neo nazi rallies and he continues to openly maintain his far right views in the media. At the same time, Open Democracy and others are attemptimto whitewash his views as a little bit racist and clamouring about corruption.

For those not familiar with corruption. Russia is a federation and not as centralised as mainstream media like to portray. I am not defending corruption, oligarchs have existed in the region for centuries – just pointing out that many of the local corruption issues are being used by the Navalny campaign for his personal political purposes.

I am sorry to probably lose friends over this but enough is enough. There are other outlets for media and other sources of funding for non profit activity than having to suit the whims of Wall St billionaires.