This is my personal thoughts, opinions and musings place. I will also rant about things, especially politically-correct things that irritate me. And sci-fi. Did I mention sci-fi? There'll be lots of sci-fi stuff here. And movies, too. Mmmmm... Movies

Monday, June 06, 2005

USSR: The life and times of a non-ideological firebug

This is a short blogging series I'm starting about my recollections of the time I lived in the . These are not going to be in any kind of chronological order. Please note that while most people in called it , Russia proper wasn't much more than a republic(equivalent to a province or a US state) in the old , albeit the most important one. I've personally never even been to Russia proper; I was born in and lived in , , which of course is its own country these days. I left when I turned 13, so everything that happens in these stories happened when I was very young.

One of the few things I remember clearly about my childhood in the Olde Countrytm is that I was a bit(well, OK, quite a bit) of a . I liked fire, you see, or put more precisely I liked fire not for its own sake, but for what you can do with it. I also seemed to enjoy sparks, by which I mean electrical sparks, much like those you get when you plug a load into a live electrical outlet.

Which might, I suppose, explain how I realized that it's really a bad idea to plug a wire into an outlet. To this day I don't know what I was thinking. I clearly remember doing it, but what was actually on my mind as I did it is, sadly, lost in the dim mists of time. I do know that I wasn't trying to be malicious about it; in fact, I did it with my parents in full view and in the room. I don't remember how long the power outtage lasted, but I do remember that it was on that day that I learnt that it's a bad idea to insert a wire into a live electrical outlet. And by insert I mean actually insert each end of the (very thin) wire into each slot on the outlet. I wasn't hurt, and I think I scared my parents(especially my father who is an electrician) far more than I scared myself. It was an experiment gone (not so) wrong, and I certainly did learn from it.

But that was the least of my firebuging.

I never really meant to hurt anything; it was an accident, an experiment and a cosmic joke, both the window sill and my hair. I was trying to improve my understanding of the universe, and it was in that spirit that I burned half the window sill and a (small) portion of my hair. I suppose this is how Darwin Awards get handed out, but at some point in life I had decided to find out if cotton burns. Specifically, cotton balls. True to form of a never-ask-for-directions male, instead of simply asking my parents(especially my father who is basically a walking encyclopedia), I decided to conduct an experiment.

Of course, I chose a day when my parents weren't home, and gave vent to my scientific couriosity. Very carefully I stuck a cotton ball out the window and lit on fire. Unfortunately, the cotton ball exploded with fire and I jerked my hand back, neglecting to open my fingers until they were some distance on the inside. And so, my flaming cotton ball fell like a meteor in between two layers of glass and came to rest on top of... you guessed it... a thick layer of more cotton balls placed there to keep the fridgid outside air from seeping inside. The whole thing exploded in flame.

Well, what's a nine-year-old boy to do after he's set his window sill on fire? Why, he puts it out, of course. One glass of water at a time. Of course, I then compounded my error about lying about what happened. You know, the usual lies boys tell when they've set a place on fire: somebody threw a flaming stick up through our window which not only managed to fly threw a very small open window, but managed to ignore a layer of cotton between two layers of glass. My mother, bless her heart, believed every word. My father was much smarter.

This all became a lot funnier when a few weeks later in class, our torturer.. er, ahem, sorry, teacher, decided to show us crude oil and how it burns. Now, I had an excuse: I was nine years old. What was her excuse? She took a... you guessed it... cotton ball, poured some crude oil on it from a beaker, and while holding it aloft, lit the damn thing on fire. Needless to say, she spent quite a bit of time stomping on the floor, trying to put the whole mess out. I felt very vindicated at that point.

Before I end this for today, let me just add it is not a good idea to throw partly filled aerosol cans into a bonfire. They don't just explode, the top where the button is blows off and the thing takes off like a rocket, with flames belching out the back of it. When it misses you by centimeters is when you realize how stupid you had been.

Hope you've enjoyed this; it was certainly fun for me trying to remember all the things I used to get up to when I was very young and foolish.


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