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2020-08-15 10:44:19
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What is not an extenuating circumstance? (2244 views)   


The following are examples of circumstances that the University does not accept as extenuating circumstances: Minor illness such as headaches and col Social obligation Minor injurie Misreading assessment instruction Poor


Tablet Hub Card Reader   


Tablet Hub Card Reader

Tablet Hub Card Reader

For connecting a USB device (e.g. a USB memory stick, mouse, keyboard), but also for simultaneous reading and writing to SD/microSD memory cards on a smartphone/tablet or notebook/PC by means of an adapter High-speed data transfer of up to 480 Mbps Great distance between sockets makes it easier to plug in wider USB plugs/dongles Micro USB socket on the product for additional power supply of the connected devices (no charging function) Especially compact, therefore easy to transport along with a notebook/tablet Suitable and tested for USB 2.0, downward compatible with USB 1.1 USB plug, type A: for connection with a notebok/PC USB plug, type micro: for connection with a smartphone/tablet PC Supports USB On-The-Go (USB-OTG) Card reader: SD/SDHC/SDXC microSD/microSDHC/microSDXC System Requirements: Operating system: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7/8 and Mac OS 10.x The smartphone/tablet must support the OTG technology


12L Dehumidifier   


12L Dehumidifier

12L Dehumidifier

The Meaco 12L-AH is a 12 litre compressor dehumidifier offering a stylish choice for those who need a dehumidifier but appreciate good design. It stands out from other dehumidifiers thanks to its cuboid like design with a double sided air intake topped off with a circular, control panel complete with large, colour changing digits. Externally the look of the Meaco 12L-AH might be different but internally it has the same quality components upon which Meaco has built its reputation for solid, reliable dehumidifiers. It will deal with mould, condensation and damp in apartments through to 3 bedroom houses. Power consumption is rated at just 183 watts at 20°C and 60%rh which would be typical of conditions in a UK home. At these conditions the Meaco 12L-AH would cost you less than 3pence/hour to run*. It has a large digital display with colour changing digits (depending on how damp the air is) to show you the current room readings and to set your target relative humidity, a 1 - 24 hour off timer and a double sided air inlet with combined dust and charcoal filter. When the relative humidity in your home is below the mould growth level the display on the Meaco 12L-AH will display the readings in blue, outside of this comfort zone it will display the readings in red or green to warn you if your home is becoming too damp or too dry. The dual air inlet has a double walled filter removing both dust particles and smells from the air thanks to its combined particle and charcoal filter. Internally the Meaco 12L-AH is one of the more energy efficient dehumidifiers on the UK market using just 183 watts at 20°C and 60%rh, typical conditions in a UK home. The dehumidifier comes with a set of castors in the box giving you the option whether to use the dehumidifier with or without castors. All in all the Meaco 12L-AH is the perfect dehumidifier for those looking to improve the air quality in a design conscious home. *Depending on local electricity tariff. Key features Includes hose for continuous drainage and castors Weight: 10.5kg Filter details: Basic dust and charcoal filter Tank capacity: 1.7L HEPA filter: No Usage restrictions: Flats through to 3 bedroom homes Dimensions: (H)49.5, (W)25.5, (D)24.5cm Extraction rate per day: 12L Airflow rate: 120m3 p/h Moisture removal: 0.5L p/h Capacity: 12L Warranty: 1 year


Journey on the Trans-Siberian: The Packing List   


Journey on the Trans-Siberian: The Packing List

This is part of a series about my journey across Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway, from St Petersburg to Vladivostok, in the summer of 2018. This part covers my packing list.

If you’re planning to ride the Trans-Siberian Railway across Russia, you can use this packing list as a starter, as inspiration, or just for comparison. If you have no intention of ever sharing a train cabin with Russian strangers for a week, then you can use this list to justify your decision.

If you don’t care for explanations then skip to packing list.

For context, nine days of the trip were spent on the train, and the rest were spent at different cities along the route. I had to be prepared for a variety of scenarios, from onboard lounging, to city flanerie, to posh fashion shows, to all-night dancing.

The train stopped somewhere in Siberia on a warm June day. The train stopped somewhere in Siberia on a warm June day.

Siberia in June is warm but not too hot or humid, and train cars maintain a temperature suitable for life. Taking the same trip in the winter would expose you to more extreme temperatures outside and inside, as the air cools to around zero degrees Fahrenheit and the heaters inside overcorrect to sauna conditions.

The packing list, for me, had several objectives:

  1. Maximize freedom of movement. Travel is more fun and less stressful when you can adapt to a change of plans, go to a new place, jump into a cab, or commit to an overnight detour at a moment’s notice. Travel is also safer if you can escape an iffy situation by swinging a backpack over your shoulder and getting out.

  2. Minimize attention on myself. Blending in with locals makes you a less obvious target. It also helps increase interaction with locals, since many will avoid tourists.

  3. Keep it simple. No need to check emails, answer calls, baby a camera lens, cry over rips and stains, or waste time on anything other than soaking and participating in the surroundings. The secret to great travel stories, besides exaggeration, is to stop focusing on yourself and to look outward.

Onwards to the list…

What I Packed for the Trans-Siberian Railway

My packing list for the Trans-Siberian Railway trip. My packing list for the Trans-Siberian Railway trip.

☑ Backpack

I travel with a small, 25-liter backpack and take only what fits inside. This requires rewearing clothes, doing laundry, and resupplying on toiletries along the way.

A small backpack lets you get on and off trains faster, squeeze past eyeing Russians in the narrow hallways without upsetting them, and easily store your belongings in the storage space beneath the bed. (In the four-person cabins, known as 2nd-class, the storage space below the bottom bunk is meant to be shared with the person on the top bunk.)

A small backpack can hold everything needed for the trip. A small backpack can hold everything needed for the trip.

☑ Kindle and charger

It’s nice to have something to read during the inevitable down time, even more so if it’s about Russia. I recommend Travels in Siberia (non-fiction), Midnight in Siberia (non-fiction), A Terrible Country (novel), City of Thieves (novel), and anything by Dostoyevsky.

☑ Phone, charger, and SIM card (buy at airport)

The iPhone is a camera, alarm clock, mirror, flashlight, emergency phone, notepad, map, translator, communication device, music player, and emergency Googling machine. I recommend restoring the phone to factory settings and removing all apps containing personal data before traveling abroad.

Major airports will have at least one cellular store where you can buy and install a prepaid SIM card for making local calls and for using cellular data. There’s cell reception in the train stations along the route, but no WiFi. There is no cell reception outside of towns and train stations, so plan to make calls, send messages, download music, and look up any information before you leaving the stations. Even at stations the cell reception can be weak and the stops can be as short as two minutes.

Conductor and passenger getting air during a stop. Conductor and passenger getting air during a stop.

☑ Airpods

Easy to pop in for a quick dose of American rock, Russian pop, or a phone call back home. Easy to lose, too, so keep them close.

☑ Outlet adapter

Russia uses round, European-style electrical outlets, types C and F.

☑ Portable battery

There are four outlets in each 2nd-class car that everyone must share. Some newer cars have one outlet in each cabin for the four occupants to share. That means you may not be able to plug in whenever or however long you want, unless you have your own portable battery

☑ Headlamp

If you need a more reliable and durable light source than your phone, such as on evening hikes or mid-night rummaging through bags, a compact headlamp gets the job done. A red-light option allows for reading in bed without disturbing sleeping cabin mates.

☑ Electric razor

Wear that scruffy russian or adventure-traveler look. This was an extravagance since a plain razor would have been smaller and lighter. One benefit of minimalism is having room for the occasional splurge.

☑ First-aid kit

A small kit with bandages, pain relievers, tablets for upset stomach, and other items for dealing with minor health issues.

☑ Journal and pens

Journaling will ensure an almost-accurate retelling of the journey months later. Also useful for writing down half-baked business ideas, interesting Russian words, and contact information of people you meet.

Dog is invited back on the train after a quick walk. Dog is invited back on the train after a quick walk.

☑ Small pouch

Small waterproof pouch for things you want to take with you kayaking on Lake Baikal, if the weather allows it.

☑ Medium nylon pouch

Any medium-sized bag or pouch would do for storing dirty clothes between washes. Also doubles as a pillow when it’s full.

☑ Small lock

Small travel lock with a braided wire to lock up belongings in hostels. Most hostels provide storage cubbies but few provide the locks.

☑ Sink stopper

A terrific one-dollar purchase. This round, flexible thing is used to cover sink drains, allowing you to fill the sink with water and hand-wash laundry. Some hostels and hotels offer laundry services for a small fee. It’s a great feeling to return from a day of traipsing around a muggy town and see clean clothes neatly folded and ready for another few days of wear.

☑ Sleeping mask

It helps to have a sleeping mask for daytime naps or early bedtimes.

☑ Passport, visa, and copies

I’m not touching the visa subject here. Just get it, bring it with you, and bring a copy in case you lose the original.

☑ Itinerary and train tickets

All train seats are assigned ahead of time and there is no flexibility. There is no hopping on and off whenever you please, so follow the itinerary.

Some conductors will have a printed or digital list of passengers, so they may just check passports and not tickets.

One day, halfway into the trip and three time zones away from Moscow, you will look at the next segment’s ticket and think you missed the train. You will then make some panicked calls and blame yourself until you realize—or someone reminds you—that departure and arrival times shown on tickets are in Moscow time. The weight of an elephant herd will slip off your shoulders.

☑ Credit card and debit card

Credit cards are accepted in many places, and ATMs abound.

☑ Micro-towel

Always bring a towel. A small, quick-dry towel works great when hostels don’t have or charge too much for towels, and for use on the train. The train bathrooms do not have paper towels.

☑ Toiletries

Everything travel-sized. You can get more on-site, although you may have to settle for off-brand options. Shampoo, body wash, face wash, moisturizer, sunscreen, bug spray, toothbrush and toothpaste, nail clippers, floss, detergent, and prescriptions.

☑ Earplugs

Noise permeates the train at all hours. The train rocks, neighbors snore, loose items shake, wheels squeak, and railroad ties creak.

☑ Face wipes

The faucets aboard trains must be pressed for water to run, so hand- and face-washing becomes a messy one-hand operation. Just as well, since the sink can fit only one hand at a time. It’s easier to use a moist face wipe than attempt any kind of hygiene routine in the bathroom.

Bathroom sink in the train. Bathroom sink in the train

☑ T-shirts x4

Bring solid-colored t-shirts and wear the hell out of them.

☑ Adidas track pants

Adidas track pants will help you blend into the urban russian environment better than camouflage. Plus, they’re great for the occasional exercise and the long hours of lounging aboard the train.

Adidas track pants might help you blend in but they won't help you get a deeper squat. Adidas track pants might help you blend in but they won’t help you get a deeper squat.

☑ Jeans

Hiking pants—especially those with cargo pockets and zippers at the knees for conversion into shorts—will out you as a tourist almost as much as an american flag draped around your shoulders. For days when you want to blend in but not look like a schlepper from the outskirts, a pair of faded jeans will suit you for walks around town, museum tours, nights at the bar, and even light hikes.

☑ Shorts

Something for the warmer days.

A simple outfit of shorts, t-shirt, and sneakers works anywhere from Moscow to the temple-laden shores of Lake Baikal. A simple outfit of shorts, t-shirt, and sneakers works anywhere from Moscow to the temple-laden shores of Lake Baikal.

☑ Underwear x5

Three pairs of ExOfficio underwear—the anti-microbial, quick-drying, $20-a-pair underwear that bear the tagline “one pair, 17 countries” on its cover—are more than enough if you can find a way to do laundry once a week. I went overboard with five in consideration of my cabin-mates in case I wouldn’t get the chance to do laundry before one of the three-day segments aboard the train. It felt extravagant.

Arriving in Vladivostok with new friends after 3.5 days on the railway. Arriving in Vladivostok with new friends after 3.5 days on the railway.

☑ Socks x4

Everybody wears socks, so bring some. What more is there to say about this.

☑ Running shoes

A comfortable pair of dark running shoes is perfect for mild hiking, running from a bad situation, walking around the city without looking like a tourist. (The athleisure trend isn’t as strong in Russia just yet, but a pair of Nikes will blend in better than hiking boots.)

When I pulled up to Washington Dulles airport after a nail-biting two-hour drive in traffic, I had 20 minutes to get on the plane before the doors shut. Although I have to thank the rule-bending check-in agents, the understanding people in the security line, the well timed terminal shuttle, and the escalator riders who complied with my excuse-me-thank-yous, my decision to wear running shoes instead of rigid hiking shoes helped me get onto the plane with a whole five minute to spare before the doors shut.

☑ Light jacket

West of the Ural mountains, in Siberia, there’s always a chance of encountering cool days or evenings. Warm weather never reaches Lake Baikal or Vladivostok, where summers are cool and overcast like Seattle. A light down jacket can serve double duty as a pillow when folded.

A cool and overcast June day in Siberia. A cool and overcast June day in Siberia.

☑ Light raincoat

A light rain shell is great for warm but rainy days, which is a frequent occurrence in Vladivostok. Layer it with the light jacket to stay warm and dry on Olkhon Island (on Lake Baikal). Also doubles as a bedsheet when sleeping on benches.

A scene on Olkhon Island, on Lake Baikal. A scene on Olkhon Island, on Lake Baikal.

Rainy drive on road-less Olkhon Island. Rainy drive on road-less Olkhon Island.

What Not to Bring

You might be wondering what’s missing or what’s unnecessary…

Expensive and bulky devices

If it’s too valuable to lose then it should be small enough to have on you at all times: passport, wallet, iPhone.

Anything larger, like iPads, will make you worry about it every time you step off the train for fresh air during during the 15-minute stops. You might forget it on the train, then the conductor will take it and ask me how to unlock it, reasoning to me that it doesn’t make sense to report it or try to find the international owner, then I will agree and look up how to reset an iPad, then I will draw the instructions on a piece of paper for her like an Ikea assembly manual.

Bedding (sheets, pillows, blankets)

Bedding is provided by the conductor after boarding. It’s delivered in a plastic bag, and you are expected to make the bed yourself. Before getting off the train, you pack up your bedding and bring it back to the conductor.

Provided bedding includes bedsheet, pillow with pillowcase, sheet cover, and blanket (not pictured). Provided bedding includes bedsheet, pillow with pillowcase, sheet cover, and blanket (not pictured).


The bag of bedding includes disposable slippers, which you might deem silly at first but then realize the cultural and practical importance of wearing slippers in Russia. Put them on.

Disposable slippers provided to all passengers. Disposable slippers provided to all passengers.

Drinking cup

All passengers get a drinking glass and glass holder to use during the trip. If you don’t get one, ask the conductor. You do not have to pay for it, but you do have to return it before deboarding. Not only is it safe to drink hot tea from it, it might as well be a national law that you do so, again and again.

Glass and glass holder provided to passengers. Glass and glass holder provided to passengers.

Snacks and food for the train

Tickets for 2nd-class cabins include one meal for the segment, no matter how many days that segment takes. You can choose whether you get the meal during lunch or dinner time, and you can choose which day you get it.

Russian cabin-mates sharing food from home, as customary. Russian cabin-mates sharing food from home, as customary.

Instead of bringing a weeks’ worth of food from abroad, stop by a local food store and stock up for the next train segment. Common and practical items include:

  • Instant noodles in a cup. Just add boiling water from the water kettle—located in every car—and wait a few minutes.
  • Instant mashed potatoes in a cup.
  • Instant anything in a cup.
  • Tea bags
  • Trail mix (mix of dried fruit and nuts)
  • Fruit

A water heater provides scalding water in every car. A water heater provides scalding water in every car.

Preparing instant ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Preparing instant ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

If you get acquainted with your cabin-mates, they might offer some of their food to you. This is customary, as is accepting the offer and sharing something in return. In anticipation of this, buy something special at the food store to share with your new friends, such as premium sweets (Ferrero Raffaello was my go-to), fresh fruit, or gourmet tea.

Train-provided meal supplemented by fresh tomatoes brought from home and shared with others. Train-provided meal supplemented by fresh tomatoes brought from home and shared with others.

Many stops along the route have newsstands or food vendors right on the platform, so you can refill on necessities like tea or pickles.

Fresh produce is sold near some train stations. Fresh produce is sold near some train stations.

Typical newsstand at a train stop along the route. Typical newsstand at a train stop along the route.

Alcohol (beer and liquor)

Despite the cartoonish image we have of Russians as vodka-chugging, bear-riding hooligans, you will not encounter much drinking on the train. Drinking alcohol is prohibited anywhere outside of the restaurant car, and conductors enforce this.

Even in the restaurant car, there isn’t much drinking because the vast majority of passengers are there because they’re going to/from relatives, or to/from the army, and not to party. The inevitable individual or group that drinks too much in the restaurant car will be seen by the crew and passengers as degenerates, so don’t be one of them.

An occasional beer, purchased in the restaurant car, is fine. Some occasion might even necessitate it, such as a live concert from a Californian band or celebrating July 4th with new Russian friends. Na zdorovie.

Celebrating Independence Day with beer abord the Trans-Siberian Railway. Celebrating Independence Day with beer abord the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Previous chapter: Dear Kristina


Journey on the Trans-Siberian: St Petersburg   


Journey on the Trans-Siberian: St Petersburg

In early summer of 2018 I traveled across Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway, from St Petersburg to Vladivostok. This is the story of that 2.5-week trip told in several parts, documented for the benefit of myself, friends and family wondering why I disappeared, and anyone considering a similar trip.

The route of my trip along the Trans-Siberian Railroad, from St Petersburg to Vladivostok. The route of my trip along the Trans-Siberian Railroad, from St Petersburg to Vladivostok.

Enough has been written about planning a Trans-Siberian Railway trip, so I’ll skip all that and ask you to trust me that everything was done in an entirely legal and sensible manner.

Of all my preparation, the most useful and relevant thing was taking lessons to improve my rusty Russian. Unless otherwise noted, it can be assumed that any conversations with Russians were in their native tongue.


The plan—if it can be called that—was for Eugene, my second cousin, to meet me at the airport. I’ve never met Eugene and it didn’t occur to me to ask for a photo. The only information I had was his email address, approximate age (mine), and his one-time profession (professor of philosophy).

Upon reaching the welcome area of the arrivals the best I could do was linger until a 30-something academic walks towards me with an outstretched arm. That did not happen.

After enough time passed for me to read every name-sign and make awkward eye contact with every man in the terminal, I needed a way to contact Eugene. There were no open WiFi networks, so I walked into a mobile phone store to buy a Russian SIM card.

Thankfully, buying a SIM card in Russia is a drawn-out affair that involves lengthy registrations and passport verification, which meant I was in the store long enough to witness a bearded and panicked man rush in with arms flailing and, with his last reserves of breath, ask if he may charge his phone. Before a salesperson finished lying “no, sorry,” the man spun around and lurched out. “That must be Eugene,” I thought.

We became acquainted on the ride to St Petersburg—me, Eugene, and Russia.

Driving into Saint Petersburg, past Soviet-era monuments and buildings. Driving into Saint Petersburg, past Soviet-era monuments and buildings.

The historic center resembles Venice. The historic center resembles Venice.


The hostel was full of tourists who came for the World Cup - all men. Sasha, the hostel manager and the only female there, commanded me to take off my shoes and then we began the worldwide ritual of hostel check-ins, with a Russian twist: Slippers are there. Passport please. I’ll need to register your arrival with the government. Now I need your deposit. Why do you speak Russian? Here’s a map. We’re here. Food is there. Bars are on this street. There’s the metro. First time here? Follow me. This bunkbed is yours. Here’s a towel. Label your food. Let me show you the bathrooms…

The rotating hostel staff is comprised of all girls. I saw Sasha most often, and thought of her as the “mother” of the staff. She’s in a PhD program for philosophy, is very friendly, and speaks matter-of-factly. Dasha worked the night shift and spoke very little. Galia seemed nice. Angelika recommended a nearby Israeli restaurant. Diana was accustomed to flirty Argentinians and Brazilians who gargled out “You’re pretty” in Russian from memory.

After settling in and exploring the area by foot, I went to meet Eugene again, this time in his parents’ home. (Eugene, like many unmarried people in Russia, lives with his parents.)

Despite this being our first meeting, Vlada and Boris gave me a warm welcome with cognac, a home-cooked meal, tea, and wonderful stories. Boris, professor of philosophy, showed me photo albums from their travels. Vlada, my father’s cousin and a professor of fashion design, spoke with lightning energy and in the span of an hour managed to learn all about me, ask about the family back home, catch me up on her life story, determine my inner animal—which I now forgot, though I remember Boris is a crocodile—and arrange a personal tour of the art museum for the next day.

Boris and Vlada accompanied me partway back to the hostel. It was past 10pm, but there was a rosy-orange sunset that would remain until morning.

I'm greeted with a homemade Russian meal. I’m greeted with a homemade Russian meal.

Me, Boris, Eugene, and Vlada. Me, Boris, Eugene, and Vlada.


The Peterhof Palace is a group of ostentatious buildings, fountains, and gardens from the 18th and 19th centuries, located around 25 miles from the center of St Petersburg. I’d rather meet people than buildings, but was excited about taking the metro and a marshrutka—a minibus taxi service—to reach Peterhof. (If you want to view local life, take public transportation.)

Gilded fountains at the Peterhof Palace. Gilded fountains at the Peterhof Palace.

The palace and fountains were fine. When a ginger squirrel climbed onto my leg I accepted that that would be the most interesting thing I’d remember about the place, and turned to leave.

For the return, I couldn’t pass up a lift on the hydrofoil ferry called “Comet.”

The St Petersburg Higher Antiaircraft Missile Command Order of the Red Star School

I’ve been to the Romanian city where one of my grandfathers served in the Red Army, and the Ukrainian fort where my father served his compulsory military service. Here I had my chance to visit the military institute where my other grandfather studied before defending St Petersburg—then called Leningrad—as an artillery officer in the Second World War.

The institute is in a nondescript building on the north shore of the Neva. There is no visitor center, website, or even a sign. I had no plan besides finding the entrance and seeing what happens. On the way there, however, I noticed the Museum of Artillery. The museum, I thought, would give me better odds of learning about my grandfather’s past and lower odds of arrest.

The Museum of Artillery (red) includes an outdoor display of historic and modern Russian artillery. The Museum of Artillery (red) includes an outdoor display of historic and modern Russian artillery.

After meandering through the uniformly colored rockets, trucks, and tanks in the interior courtyard, I found a map of the museum’s layout and noticed an area labeled “Archive.” Maybe I can find something about my grandfather there, I thought.

To reach the archive, according to the puzzled staff at the ticket window, I needed to exit the museum, re-enter through an unmarked door at the eastern wing of the building, and proceed to the third floor.

The door was almost where they said it would be, and was marked “Staff Only.” On the third floor was a small and unimpressive door, which I pushed open to find a corporate-looking office with employees sitting at their desks, surrounded by bookshelves, printers, and indoor plants. Nobody seemed to notice an American just intruded their workspace.

I walked up to the nearest person, who was standing at their desk and reading the contents of a folder. “Excuse me, do you work here?” I asked. The man turned to me, blinked, and considered the question… “Yes,” he said.

An archive office, in my mind, is supposed to look like a small library where determined visitors flip through worn catalogs and comb through dusty out-of-print books. I did not expect having to explain why I barged into a government office, so the proper Russian phrasing escaped me. “I’m looking for information. My grandfather went to the artillery institute nearby and served in the war.” The man’s expression softened. “Did the secretary send you here?” he asked. “Yes,” I lied. “Well…” he said. “We mainly research pre-revolutionary history here, but give me some information about your grandfather and I can ask my colleagues in Moscow.”

I grew excited and told him the first and last name. “How about the middle name?” he asked. That’s when I realized how unprepared I was to find information about one person in an army of 30–40 million. Excitement turned to wishful thinking. “Well, hmm… How about his date of birth, or maybe an army division?” he asked. I had these details somewhere on my phone, but I understood that even a person this kind must have limited patience. This required a followup.

The kind man handed me a business card. “You can email me the details once you find them,” he said. I expressed my gratitude and walked out, glancing at the card in my hands: “Vladimir… Head of Department (Archives).”


The State Russian Museum houses an impressive collection of modern art. At Vlada’s invitation we went together so she could give me a personal tour.

Vlada meets me for a fashionable tour of the art museum. Vlada meets me for a fashionable tour of the art museum.

With a special ID and whispered phrase, Vlada got us past the ticket office and before I knew it we were examining the works of Malevich, Kandinsky, Chagal, and others.

Vlada led me to her favorite paintings and shared the history and her views on each one faster than my brain could process it. As soon as an explanation ended, we were off at a hundred miles per hour to the next masterpiece, only slowing down for Vlada to declare some paintings “weak, really weak.” All this action left me in a speechless state that I can only hope looked something like sophisticated study and reflection to an observer.


After a nap at the Chickadee Hostel and a dinner at an outdoor Georgian food stall, I returned to the river for a midnight boat ride under the drawbridges.

St Petersburg at night, seen from the Neva river. St Petersburg at night, seen from the Neva river.


The following morning called for a relaxing few hours at a book store and coffee shop. The snobby baristas—who refused to sell me one of their beautiful mugs—were balanced out with the friendly booksellers, one of whom helped me choose two Russian books that were easy to read. Then it was time to meet Andrey.

Andrey is a theater director, and he’s learning English to prepare for his upcoming semester of teaching theater in the US. We first met on an online language-learning community, and then arranged a meeting in St Petersburg.

For lunch we went to a Georgian restaurant, where Andrey recommended a few dishes and the house wine, told me of his army service in Georgia (part of the USSR at the time), and his thoughts about teaching in the US.

Next, we went to the Hermitage Museum and whirled about as quickly as we could, seeing this room and that, some containing artworks, others just royal furniture, and others—such as Andrey’s favorite Georgian Room—completely bare, with such beautiful interiors that they needed no adornments.

There were two famous madonna and child paintings by Leonardo da Vinci. I read about Leonardo da Vinci just weeks before, but failed to remember any interesting facts about these masterpieces, so we examined them in silence.

The Hermitage Museum The Hermitage Museum

Works by Leonardo da Vinci Works by Leonardo da Vinci.

One of the many sculpture rooms. One of the many sculpture rooms.

We had time for just one more exhibit. There were many options to choose from, but we agreed on the baroque artist Rubens.

Andrey admires the artwork of Rubens inside The Hermitage Museum. Andrey admires the artwork of Rubens inside The Hermitage Museum.

We found the Rubens gallery, marveled at the heavenly work, and rushed out. Andrey helped me find the right bus to head back, and in typical Russian fashion he stayed until the bus arrived and waved goodbye as it pulled away.

Hat Show

The day before, Vlada invited me to a hat show. I don’t know much about fashion, or hats, but when you’re invited to a hat show in Russia, you go.

I put on my finest available outfit—gray jeans and blue t-shirt—and went.

I arrived at the given address to find an unmarked door, and loitered outside until a sartorial woman walked up and punched in a code that caused the door to buzz and unlock. At the top of a dark flight of stairs were two guards and a door that leaked smoke and techno music. “Hello, I’m here for the hat demonstration,” I said. “You mean the hat show,” one of them replied, questioning and correcting me at the same time. “Right,” I said, imagining my Russian tutor cheering me on, “I’m here for the hat show.”

The smokey lounge hosting the hat show. The smokey lounge hosting the hat show.

One of several hat models. One of several hat models.

Vlada stood from her Super-VIP table, either glad or surprised I showed up, and sat me at a VIP table with her name on it. She promised to seat others with me and excused herself for having to return to the Super-VIP table—probably to debate and direct the future of Russian hat fashion.

My table was in the perfect geometric center of the lounge, and it looked very lonely with just me. I ordered a Negroni and assumed my best “I belong here” posture. As the lounge filled up over the next half-hour, Vlada kept her promise and sat more friends and colleagues at the table. She introduced each arrival with the flourish of a socialite at the top of her game, then sprung back to her Super-VIP table—probably to settle the hat question once and for all.

A woman with dyed red hair was Vlada’s colleague, also a professor of fashion design. To her right was a friend, whose name and occupation I didn’t catch; she had the looks and sass of an early 30-something but I later learned she has a grown son - people marry and have children earlier in Russia than they do in the US. Snezhana is an up-and-coming fashion designer who studied in the US and now has her own company that fuses tech with fashion. Albert interned for Snezhana and is working to become a fashion designer or an actor. Serge (whose real name I forgot) was preparing to apply for business schools in Canada and asked me what I thought of Toronto. Olesya wants to leave her banking job to become a stylist, and came to network. Natasha (whose real name I forgot) helps Russians apply to London fashion schools.

We had fun and exciting conversations, and then the show started. A hush fell over the lounge as deep house music and bird chirps played through the sound system, and the first of a dozen hat models cat-walked out and around the lounge, followed by another, and another, and another…

After the show we—we were a “we” by then—were invited by Vlada to the afterparty, where the conversations continued.

The hat-show afterparty. Albert, me, and Olesya on the left, Snezhana on the right. The hat-show afterparty. Albert, me, and Olesya on the left, Snezhana on the right.

Some hours later the alarm on my phone signaled it was time to go. I didn’t want to leave but there was an overnight train to Moscow to catch, and 6,176 miles of railroad ahead of me. I said goodbye, wished everyone luck in their fashion endeavors, and made my exit.

On my way out I saw Snezhana standing outside. “I have a question,” I said, “how do people say ‘bye’ in Russia? When I stood to leave the bar just now, the guys stood to shake my hand while the girls just waved.” Snezhana confirmed that men shake hands with men, but not with women, and if the two are good friends then they can hug. “Ah, ok, so, bye!” I said, waving my hand. “No,” she said, “we can hug.”

Next chapter: Moscow


Step-by-Step: Speaking iSCSI with Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V   


Windows Server 2012 and our completely FREE Hyper-V Server 2012 certainly have some really cost effective new storage options, with Storage Spaces and Hyper-V over SMB 3.0.  However, many IT Pros have already invested in iSCSI shared storage and, as a result, many Hyper-V deployments also need to be able to leverage these existing storage investments.

iSCSI? No problem! Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V Server 2012 include native support for a software iSCSI initiator as well as MPIO ( Multipath IO ) for  resiliency and load balancing of storage IO over multiple network paths.

In this article, we’ll walk through the process of connecting Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V Server 2012 to common iSCSI storage arrays.  Because most of my IT Pro friends are running Hyper-V either on Windows Server 2012 Server Core or Hyper-V Server 2012, both options without a local console GUI, I’ll be providing my examples below in PowerShell.

NOTE: In this article, I make the assumption that your iSCSI storage array is already configured and that your Hyper-V host is already physically attached and zoned into your iSCSI storage network.

  • Don’t have an iSCSI Storage Array? Did you know that Windows Server 2012 includes an iSCSI Target role that, along with Failover Clustering, allows it to become a cost-effective and highly-available iSCSI Storage Array?  Walk through the process of getting this configured in the following Step-by-Step Guide:
    DO IT: Step-by-Step: Build a Windows Server 2012 Storage Server

Let’s Get Things “Started” …

A software iSCSI initiator is installed by default on Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V Server 2012 as the MSiSCSI service.  However, the MSiSCSI service isn't set to automatically startup, so we can start the MSiSCSI service with the following PowerShell command lines:

Set-Service –Name MSiSCSI –StartupType Automatic

Start-Service MSiSCSI

After running the above cmdlets, you can check on the status of the MSiSCSI service with the following command line:

Get-Service –Name MSiSCSI

Now Let’s Get “Connected’ …

After starting the MSiSCSI service, we can connect from our Hyper-V host to the iSCSI target on the storage array with the following PowerShell command line:

New-IscsiTargetPortal –TargetPortalAddress <IP_Address or FQDN of storage array>

$target = Get-IscsiTarget

Connect-IscsiTarget –NodeAddress $target.NodeAddress

If you’re successfully connected to the target on your iSCSI storage array, you should see the connection status returned with the following cmdlet:


Now, let’s make the session for this iSCSI connection persist across reboots with the following command:

Get-IscsiSession | Register-IscsiSession

You can check to make sure the IsPersistent value is True for this session with the following command line:


We’re ready to start using our new iSCSI disk!

After successfully persisting our connection to the iSCSI target session, we’re ready to begin using our new iSCSI disk.  To verify that your Hyper-V host sees the new iSCSI disk, use the following command:

Get-Disk | Where-Object BusType –eq “iSCSI”

Note the disk Number in the first column and verify that the Partition Style column shows “Raw” ( ie. unused ) for this new disk.  To initialize and format the new disk, use the following command line, being careful to specify the correct disk number from the command output above:

Initialize-Disk –Number <Disk_Number> –PartitionStyle GPT –PassThru | New-Partition –AssignDriveLetter –UseMaximumSize | Format-Volume

After this command completes, you can use the following command to confirm the drive letter assigned to the new partition on your iSCSI disk so that you can begin using this path for storing new virtual machines and virtual hard disks!


Great! But … What about High Availability?

Good question! Highly available iSCSI connections are generally configured via MPIO ( Multipath IO ).  MPIO support is also included in Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V Server 2012, but this feature first needs to be installed with the following command line:

Install-WindowsFeature Multipath-IO

After MPIO is installed, configure it to automatically claim all iSCSI devices for MPIO with the following command lines:

Enable-MSDSMAutomaticClaim –BusType iSCSI

Set-MPIOSetting –NewDiskTimeout 60

After running these commands, restart your server for MPIO discovery to take effect.  After restarting, you can also configure a Round Robin load-balancing policy for all newly claimed devices with the following command:

Set-MSDSMGlobalDefaultLoadBalancePolicy -Policy RR

NOTE: The above commands leverage the Microsoft MPIO DSM ( Device Specific Module ).  Prior to attempting to implement MPIO between your hosts and storage array, be sure to check with your storage array vendor to confirm their compatibility with this DSM.  In some cases, your storage vendor may require an alternate DSM and/or a different MPIO configuration. Many storage arrays that are SPC-3 compliant will work with the Microsoft DSM, but we recommend confirming compatibility with your storage vendor before proceeding.

Want more? Become a Virtualization Expert in 20 Days!

This month, my fellow Technical Evangelists and I are writing a new blog article series, titled Become a Virtualization Expert in 20 Days!  Each day we’ll be releasing a new article that focuses on a different area of virtualization as it relates to compute, storage and/or networking.  Be sure to catch the whole series at:

After you’re done reading the series, if you’d like to learn more and begin preparing for MCSA certification on Windows Server 2012, join our FREE Windows Server 2012 “Early Experts” online study group for IT Pros at:

Build Your Lab! Build Your Lab! Download Windows Server 2012
Build Your Lab in the Cloud! Don’t Have a Lab? Build Your Lab in the Cloud with Windows Azure Virtual Machines
Join our "Early Experts" study group! Want to Get Certified? Join our Windows Server 2012 "Early Experts" Study Group


Super-Fast Failover with VM Guest Clustering in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V    


My good friend and colleague, Matt Hester, recently wrote a great article on Hyper-V Host Clustering as part of our latest article series, Become a Virtualization Expert in 20 Days!  In this article, I’ll build on Matt’s cluster scenario to walk through the advantages and implementation steps for another type of clustering in a Hyper-V environment: Virtual Machine Guest Clustering.   Along the way, we’ll explore some new features in Windows Server 2012 Failover Clustering that enhance Virtual Machine Guest Clustering: Virtual Fibre Channel SANs, Anti-Affinity and Virtual Machine Monitoring.

  • Want to follow along as we step through Virtual Machine Guest Clustering? Follow these steps to build out a FREE Hyper-V Host Cluster upon which you can deploy one or more Virtual Machine Guest Clusters as we step through this article together.
    DO IT: Step-by-Step: Build a FREE Hyper-V Server 2012 Host Cluster

What is Virtual Machine Guest Clustering?

Virtual Machine Guest Clustering allows us to extend the high availability afforded to us by Windows Server 2012 Failover Clustering directly to applications running inside a set of virtual machines that are hosted on a Hyper-V Host Cluster.  This allows us to support cluster-aware applications running as virtualized workloads.


While the Hyper-V Host cluster can be running either Windows Server 2012 or our FREE Hyper-V Server 2012 enterprise-grade bare-metal hypervisor, Virtual Machine Guest Clustering requires a full copy of Windows Server 2012 to be running inside each clustered Virtual Machine.

Why would I use Virtual Machine Guest Clustering if I already have a Hyper-V Host Cluster?

Great question! By clustering both between Hyper-V Hosts and within Virtual Machine Guests, you can improve your high availability scenarios by providing superfast failover during unplanned outages and improved health monitoring of the cluster services. 

As Matt pointed out in his article, Hyper-V Host Clusters alone do provide a highly available virtualization fabric for hosting virtual machines, but if a host is unexpectedly down, the VM’s that were running on that host need to be restarted on a surviving host in the cluster.  In this scenario. because VMs are completely restarted on the surviving host, the failover time includes the time it takes for the operating system and applications inside each VM to startup and complete initialization.

When virtualizing cluster-aware applications inside VMs, failover times can be dramatically reduced in the event of an unplanned outage.  When using Virtual Machine Guest Clustering, cluster-aware applications can more quickly failover by moving just the active application workload without the requirement of restarting entire virtual machines.  In addition, many cluster-aware applications, such as Continuously Available File Share Clustering and SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn, provide managed client-side failovers without any end-user interruption to the application workloads or the need to restart client applications.

Should I use Hyper-V Host Clustering and Virtual Machine Guest Clustering Together?

Absolutely! You can use both types of clustering together to match your organization’s recovery time objectives ( RTO ) for business-critical application workloads. I generally recommend building the foundation for a resilient and scalable host server fabric by first deploying Hyper-V Host Clustering.  This provides a standard base-level of platform high availability for all virtual machines deployed to the host cluster, regardless of whether the application workloads inside each VM support clustering.  Then, for business-critical application workloads that are cluster-aware, you can enhance your availability strategy by also leveraging Virtual Machine Guest Clustering for those specific applications inside each VM.

Which Applications can I use with Virtual Machine Guest Clustering?

Lots of common applications can be leveraged with Virtual Machine Guest Clustering.  In fact, as a general rule-of-thumb, if an application supports Windows Server Failover Clustering, it will be supported as part of a Virtual Machine Guest Cluster.  Common application workloads with which I’ve seen particular value when configured as a Virtual Machine Guest Cluster include:

  • Continuously Available File Shares
  • Distributed File System Namespaces ( DFS-N )
  • DHCP Server ( although, the new DHCP Failover capability in Windows Server 2012 is an attractive alternative )
  • SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn
  • Exchange Mailbox Servers
  • Custom Scheduled Tasks and Scripts

How should I configure Virtual Networks for my VM Guest Clusters?

Much like a physical host cluster, Virtual Machine Guest Clusters should have separate network paths for internal cluster communication vs client network communications.  At a minimum, each VM in a Guest Cluster scenario should have 2 virtual network adapters defined, with the option for a third virtual network adapter if using shared iSCSI storage ( see the next section for more information on shared storage ).
Separate Virtual Networks for VM Guest Clustering
All virtual networks to which a VM Guest Cluster node is attached should be consistently configured with the same name and set as “external” virtual networks in the Virtual Switch Manager within Hyper-V Manager on each Hyper-V host.  This will allow the VMs to communicate over these networks regardless of the host on which a VM is placed.

Tip: On the virtual network adapters to be used for internal cluster communications, do not configure an IP default gateway.  This will cause the cluster service to prefer this network adapter for internal cluster communications when both virtual adapters are available.

How can I present Shared Storage to Virtual Machine Guest Clusters?

Most clustered applications required shared storage that is accessible across all cluster nodes – whether those nodes are physical nodes, or in this case, virtual machines.  To expose shared storage to clustered applications within virtual machines, two common approaches can be used in Windows Server 2012:

  • iSCSI Shared Storage – Each virtual machine can leverage the built-in iSCSI Software Initiator included in Windows Server 2012 to access shared iSCSI LUNs for cluster storage needs.  This provides a very cost-effective way to present shared storage to virtual machines.
    Don’t have iSCSI Shared Storage? Did you know that Windows Server 2012 includes a highly available iSCSI Target Server role that can be used to present shared storage from a Windows Server 2012 Failover Cluster using commodity SAS disks and server hardware?  Check out the details at: Step-by-Step: Speaking iSCSI with Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V.
  • Fibre Channel StorageNew in Windows Server 2012 is the ability to also leverage Fibre Channel storage within Virtual Machine Guest Clusters, supported by the new Virtual Fibre Channel HBA capabilities in Windows Server 2012 and our FREE Hyper-V Server 2012.

I’d like to learn more about Virtual Fibre Channel Support … How does that work?

Virtual Fibre Channel support in Windows Server 2012 leverages Fibre Channel HBAs and switches that are compatible with N_Port ID Virtualization ( NPIV ).  NPIV is leveraged by Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V and the FREE Hyper-V Server 2012 to define virtualized World Wide Node Names ( WWNNs ) and World Wide Port Names ( WWPNs ) that can be assigned to virtual Fibre Channel HBAs within the settings of each VM.  These virtualized World Wide Names can then be zoned into the storage and masked into the LUNs that should be presented to each clustered Virtual Machine.

To use Virtual Fibre Channel in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V or the FREE Hyper-V Server 2012, you can follow these steps:

  1. Install NPIV-compatible Fibre Channel HBAs in your Hyper-V host servers and connect those HBAs to NPIV-compatible Fibre Channel Switches.
  2. Using Hyper-V Manager, click on the Virtual SAN Manager… host action to define a virtual Fibre Channel Switch on each Hyper-V host for each physical HBA. 
    Virtual SAN Manager Host Action
  3. In the Virtual SAN Manager dialog box, click New Fibre Channel SAN. In the Name: field, define a name for the Virtual Fibre Channel SAN Switch.
    Virtual SAN Manager dialog box
    Click the OK button to save your new Virtual SAN Switch definition.   Repeat this step for each additional physical HBA on each Hyper-V Host Server.
    NOTE: When defining the Virtual SAN Switch names on each Hyper-V Host, be sure to use consistent names across hosts to ensure that clustering will failover correctly.
  4. After defining the Virtual Fibre Channel Switches on each Hyper-V Host, add new virtual Fibre Channel Adapters in the Settings of each VM.
    VM Settings – Add Virtual Fibre Channel Adapters
  5. Modify the properties of each newly added virtual Fibre Channel Adapter in the Settings of each VM to connect to the appropriate Virtual Fibre Channel Switch on the Hyper-V host.
    Connect Virtual Fibre Channel HBA to Switch
  6. In the properties of the virtual Fibre Channel HBA ( shown in the figure above ), note that each virtual HBA is assigned two sets of World Wide Names noted below Address Set A and Address Set B in the dialog box.  To ensure proper failover clustering operation, it is important that both sets of addresses ( all 4 addresses ) be zoned properly in your Fibre Channel Switches and masked properly to your Fibre Channel Storage Arrays and LUNs.
    To make it easy to configure zoning and masking on your Fibre Channel SAN, click the Copy button to copy these WWNs to your clipboard for easy pasting into your Fibre Channel SAN management tools.
    Tip: Do not use Fibre Channel WWN Auto-Discovery on your SAN to attempt to discover these WWN addresses.  Doing so will only discover one set of addresses ( the set that is currently active ) and will not discover the second set of addresses assigned to each virtual HBA.

Completed! Once you’ve completed these steps for each Hyper-V Host and VM that will participate in the Virtual Machine Guest Cluster, you should now have storage that you can format and leverage as shared storage within your cluster!

How can I ensure the availability of the overall Virtual Machine Guest Cluster?

Another great question! To ensure availability of the overall Virtual Machine Guest Cluster, consider these additional settings to help ensure that the VMs being used as part of the same VM Guest Cluster are placed on separate Hyper-V Hosts for best overall availability:

  1. Set Preferred Owners for each VM Guest Cluster member.  At your Hyper-V Host Cluster, use Failover Cluster Manager to set a different Preferred Owners order in the properties of each clustered VM.
    Preferred Owners for each VM on the Host Cluster
  2. Set the same Anti-Affinity Group Name on each VM in the same VM Guest Cluster.  Using PowerShell on one of your clustered hosts, configured the same Anti-Affinity Group name for each VM that is a member of the same Guest Cluster with the following commands:
    $AntiAffinityGroup = New-Object System.Collections.Specialized.StringCollection
    (Get-ClusterGroup "MyVMName").AntiAffinityClassNames = $AntiAffinityGroup

    Be sure to run the last command line for each VM that is a member of your VM Guest Cluster.  Setting a consistent Anti-Affinity Group Name on each VM causes the Hyper-V Host cluster to attempt to place each VM on a separate host during failover scenarios.
  3. Configure VM Monitoring for the Cluster Service inside each VM.  At your Hyper-V Host Cluster, use Failover Cluster Manager to configure VM monitoring for the Cluster Service inside each VM that is a member of a VM Guest Cluster. 
    To configure VM Monitoring, right-click on each VM in Failover Cluster Manager and select More Actions –> Configure Monitoring from the pop-up menu. 
     Select Services for VM Monitoring
    In the Select Services dialog box, select Cluster Service and click the OK button.
    After configuring VM Monitoring within Failover Cluster Manager, configure the Cluster Service in the Services properties inside each VM to Take No Action for second and subsequent failures of the service.
    Cluster Service Properties inside each VM
    By configuring the Cluster Service for VM Monitoring using the steps above, the Hyper-V Host Cluster will proactively monitor the Cluster Service inside each VM that is a member of the VM Guest Cluster.  If the Cluster Service should fail to stop and not restart after the first attempt, the Hyper-V Host Cluster will restart and/or failover this entire VM in an attempt to ensure that the Cluster Service is running in a healthy state.

Want more? Become a Virtualization Expert in 20 Days!

This month, my fellow Technical Evangelists and I are writing a new blog article series, titled Become a Virtualization Expert in 20 Days!  Each day we’ll be releasing a new article that focuses on a different area of virtualization as it relates to compute, storage and/or networking.  Be sure to catch the whole series at:

After you’re done reading the series, if you’d like to learn more and begin preparing for MCSA certification on Windows Server 2012, join our FREE Windows Server 2012 “Early Experts” online study group for IT Pros at:

Build Your Lab! Build Your Lab! Download Windows Server 2012
Build Your Lab in the Cloud! Don’t Have a Lab? Build Your Lab in the Cloud with Windows Azure Virtual Machines
Join our "Early Experts" study group! Want to Get Certified? Join our Windows Server 2012 "Early Experts" Study Group


108025 "Probo" FlashPen, USB 3.0, 16 GB, 40 MB/s, Black   


108025 "Probo" FlashPen, USB 3.0, 16 GB, 40 MB/s, Black

108025 "Probo" FlashPen, USB 3.0, 16 GB, 40 MB/s, Black

Providing USB 3.0 data transfer speeds of 40 MB/s, the "Probo" USB flash drive is the perfect solution for transferring full HD videos or for viewing files directly from the pen. The flash drive comes with a sliding mechanism to extend the USB connector. Removable storage medium with USB 3.0 technology that allows data to be written and erased as many times as is required With sliding mechanism Ultra fast removable storage medium USB 3.0 super speed for even faster data transfer rates Suitable for terminal devices with a USB interface The reading speed of 40 MB/s can only be achieved with a USB 3.0 interface. If a USB 2.0 interface is used, the speeds differ. The Probo USB Flash Pen from Hama provides the perfect portable solution for data storage and transfer, with its highly compact design that allows it to slip into a pocket or bag and detachable neck strap permitting secure wear as a pendant, for quick and convenient transportation. Built to last in durable plastic outer casing, its glossy, piano lacquer finish and sleek black curves give it an attractive, modernistic edge to provide outstanding reliability and style at home, in the office or on the run. Transferring files back and forth between computers or viewing files directly from the pen couldn’t be easier due to integrated USB 3.0 technology, allowing an ultra fast data transfer rate of up to 45MB/s between all terminal devices with a USB interface and Windows XP/Vista/7/10 or MacOS 9.X/10.X operating systems. Simply use the easy sliding mechanism to extend the USB connector, plug the pen into the USB slot of your computer or chosen device and drag and drop files to start the transfer. There’s a huge amount of space to spare with the 16GB capacity, ensuring that larger files or volumes can be stored and transferred easily so none of your important files have to be left behind! Either remove the pen and insert into the USB slot of another USB compatible device in order to transfer and view files or store it somewhere safe as a back-up, data can be written and erased as many times as is required.


TFS - Get List Of Software Installed On Build Agent   



It is common for your code projects to reference Microsoft or Non Microsoft SDKs, this requires that the build agents has the SDK’s installed. It is also natural that some of your projects may have a hard dependency on the version of the SDK. For example, some of your projects may only compile with Azure 1.6 SDK. The absence of the required SDK may cause your builds to fail. I tend to use the TFS Service cloud Build Service a lot, a list of software installed on the provisioned build agents will make it simple for me to analyze if I have the SDK's and their correct version installed on agents. This doesn’t really stop at TFS Service, even while building on premise a list of installed software on the build service is equally useful.


In this blog post, I’ll show you how to customize the TFS build process template to get a detailed list of software installed on the build server. This post is applicable to TFS Service, TFS 2012 and TFS 2010.

Note – If you have access to log on to the build agent, you can very well get this information by logging onto the build server and looking at the add remove programs window. For those of you, who don’t have access to log on to the build server or would like a list of installed software without having to manually figure this out from the build server may find the steps below useful.


As you can see in the screen shot below, the build output includes the list of software installed on the hosted build agent.



I have a PowerShell script that returns the list of installed software on a machine…

PS> gp HKLM:\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\* 
                           |Select DisplayName, DisplayVersion, Publisher, InstallDate, HelpLink, UninstallString |ogv



I’ll have to customize the build process template to add an InvokeProcess activity which will call into my PowerShell script and print the output in the build activity. 

Let’s get started…

  • Create a copy of the build process template


  • Add a new argument called “DeploymentScript”


  • Set the appropriate settings in the metadata


  • Scroll down beneath the TryCatch activity called “Try Compile, Test, and Associate Changesets and Work Items”. Add a new If activity and set the condition to "Not String.IsNullOrEmpty(DeploymentScript)" to ensure it will only run when the argument is passed.



  • Add in the Then branch of the If activity a new Sequence activity and rename it to “Start deployment”


  • Click on the activity and add a new variable called DeploymentScriptFilename (scoped to the “Start deployment” Sequence)


  • Add a ConvertWorkspaceItem activity on the “Start deployment” Sequence


  • Add a InvokeProcess activity beneath the ConvertWorkspaceItem activity in the “Start deployment” Sequence. This is the important step, this is where we will specify that the PowerShell process needs to be called to execute the PowerShell script.


  • Click on the ConvertWorkspaceItem activity and change the properties. This will allow us to convert the server script path to the local path on the build workspace.

         DisplayName = Convert deployment script filename
         Input = DeploymentScript
         Result = DeploymentScriptFilename
         Workspace = Workspace

  • Click on the InvokeProcess activity and change the properties

          Arguments = String.Format(" ""& '{0}' "" ", DeploymentScriptFilename)
          DisplayName = Execute deployment script
          FileName = "PowerShell"


  • To see results from the PowerShell command drop a WriteBuildMessage activity on the "Handle Standard Output" and pass the stdOutput variable to the Message property



  • Check in the customized build template. You can download a working copy from here.
  • Check in the PowerShell script to get the list of installed software into the version control under a folder of your choice. I have created a folder Script and checked it in as in the screen shot below,


  • Create a new build definition using the Customized Build Template. Make sure you choose the CustomBuildProcessTemplate.xaml, set the logging verbosity to Detailed and in the Scripts section set the server path of the PowerShell script


  • Save the build definition and fire off the build, once the build completes, look at the build Log,


Voila! Job done… Please download a working version of the custom process template from here. Hopefully here on you won’t have to request your environment management team for a list of software installed on the build server and should just be able to self service this with each build run on the server.

I hope you find this blog post… If you have any feedback please feel free to leave a comment. Thank you for taking the time out and reading this blog post. If you enjoyed the post, remember to subscribe to Stay tuned!


List of Software on TFS Service Hosted Build   


A couple of weeks back I had posted a blog post on getting a list of software installed on the build agent by simply customizing the build process template. Building on top of the same solution, I have created a website” which gets updated once every day with the list of software installed on the TFS hosted build server.

In this blogpost, I’ll show you how I have implemented this solution, but first a screen shot of what information the website carries,

  • The name of the software installed on the TFS Service hosted build
  • The version of the install on the TFS Service hosted build
  • The Publisher of the software installed on the TFS Service hosted build
  • When that software was installed on the TFS Service hosted build
  • A link to help documentation


The Implementation

The implementation is fairly straight forward,

1. Configure the build process template to run power shell script 

2. Create a SQL Azure database and add a table SoftwareDeployed, at the very basic level, the table should carry these columns,


3. Change the powershell script to import sql ps snapins, store the results of the powershell query in the sql database

$ErrorActionPreference = "Stop"


if (Get-ChildItem $sqlpsreg -ErrorAction "SilentlyContinue")
    throw "SQL Server Provider for Windows PowerShell is not installed."
    $item = Get-ItemProperty $sqlpsreg
    $sqlpsPath = [System.IO.Path]::GetDirectoryName($item.Path)

# Set mandatory variables for the SQL Server provider
Set-Variable -scope Global -name SqlServerMaximumChildItems -Value 0
Set-Variable -scope Global -name SqlServerConnectionTimeout -Value 30
Set-Variable -scope Global -name SqlServerIncludeSystemObjects -Value $false
Set-Variable -scope Global -name SqlServerMaximumTabCompletion -Value 1000

# Load the snapins, type data, format data
cd $sqlpsPath
Add-PSSnapin SqlServerCmdletSnapin100
Add-PSSnapin SqlServerProviderSnapin100
Update-TypeData -PrependPath SQLProvider.Types.ps1xml 
update-FormatData -prependpath SQLProvider.Format.ps1xml 

$db_server = ""
$tblSoftwareDetail = "SoftwareDetail"
$username = "dbUserName"
$pwd = "dbPassword

# First, clear existing table
$sql_query_del = "Delete from $tblSoftwareDetail"
Invoke-Sqlcmd -ServerInstance $db_server -Database $db -Username $username -Password $pwd -Query $sql_query_del

# Get list of software installed on the build server
gp HKLM:\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\* | Select DisplayName, DisplayVersion, Publisher, 
InstallDate, HelpLink, UninstallString | foreach {
    $name = $_.DisplayName
    $version = $_.DisplayVersion
    $publisher = $_.Publisher
    $installDate = $_.InstallDate
    $helplink = $_.HelpLink
    $uninstallLink = $_.UninstallString
    Write-Host " Display Name: $name, Version: $version, Publisher: $publisher, InstallDate: $installDate, 
Helplink: $helplink, UninstallLink: $uninstallLink"

    $sql_query = "INSERT INTO $tblSoftwareDetail (Name, Version, Publisher, InstallDate, Helplink, Uninstall) 
VALUES ('$name', '$version', '$publisher', '$installDate', '$helplink', '$uninstallLink')"
    Invoke-Sqlcmd -ServerInstance $db_server -Database $db -Username $username -Password $pwd -Query $sql_query

4. Configure the build to run on a daily schedule to ensure that the software repository list stays up to date.


5. Create a windows azure website and publish a simple website to surface this information to the UI.


I hope you find this blog post… If you have any feedback please feel free to leave a comment. Thank you for taking the time out and reading this blog post. If you enjoyed the post, remember to subscribe to Stay tuned!



Constructing the Self, Constructing the Other   


In her essay US-Turkish philosopher Şeyla Benhabib criticises the current lack of any serious multicultural dialogue between the civilisations. Instead, European and US intellectuals continue to focus on "Islamo-fascism", thereby blocking any constructive debate on Islam and migration in the West | Last year marked the 50th Anniversary German-Turkish Recruitment Agreement, when Turkish guest-workers began to arrive in Germany, and this was celebrated with big fanfare by Turkish and German politicians on all sides. But the ink had hardly dried on some of these articles and the speeches had hardly ended, when the immigrant community in Germany was shaken to their core because of a set of murders committed by a neo-Nazi terrorist cell from the east German town of Zwickau, disregardfully referred to with the phrase "Döner-murders". These so-called Döner-murders involved Turkish street vendors, some of them selling flowers, some of them selling Döners. The murders were committed in the years from 2000 to 2006 but came to light only in the spring of 2011. This reminded the immigrant community – now going on to 60 years of presence in unified Germany – of the arson attack in Moelln in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, in which three Turkish women in were killed in 1992 when a house was set on fire and a grandmother and her grandchildren were burned down. Is the German state protecting its citizens properly?: I don't want to be alarmist, nor do I think that German society is collectively looking down on Turkish migrants. But there is something very wrong in the fact that, even after three generations, hate-crimes against migrants, against visibly foreign migrants, are continuing to take place. And perhaps even more worrying than that is something that migrants and Turkish intellectuals within the migrant community are pointing out to, which is that all this is leading to a decline in confidence that the German State is there to protect them as well. ​​So this is the current situation. But how did it get there? The "guest-workers" were first brought to Germany to help get underway the post-war economic miracle. Even the use of the term "guest-workers" suggested from the start that they were not to be seen as regular migrants. European countries actually do have a labour-migration policy and they have a family unification policy: not all foreigners who come to Europe are simply there for political refuge or for asylum purposes. There has been an active economic policy of recruitment in many of these countries. But what are we talking about, even today, in terms of figures? Sometimes it helps to get our facts a little straight about these matters. The largest foreign-born communities are in Germany and Austria with 10-9 per cent of the population; the Netherlands and France are in the middle range with about 6 per cent of the population that count as foreign; in Italy and Spain it is much less with about only 4 per cent. But, when you look at these numbers – which at least for many countries are not that alarming –there has been a process of what I would like to call "othering": othering of migrant workers from Morocco, Turkey and increasingly of political refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq. Europeans here, Muslims there: And this "othering" has taken place partially because in the process of European unification, Italians, Spaniards and Greeks, who were also part of the economic miracle in countries like The Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany, now became "Europeans". And what did the others become? The others became "third-country nationals" and increasingly "Muslims". So there is also a kind of reconstruction of the migrants' identity under conditions of immigration. It seems as if migrants coming from these countries has the label "Islam" written on his or her forehead: this is nonsense. Every migrant's identity is dependent upon both what are called sending regimes – regimes that are sending migrants – and reception regimes. Migrants' identities are constituted dynamically in interactions between countries receiving them and countries sending them. ​​The Turkish migrant community became more and more religious, as a result of developments in Turkey itself, as a result of the rise of the AKP, but also because, beginning in the 1980s, many of the German conservatives started introducing Koran-schools. The Koran-schools were first introduced into Germany to teach the Muslim community – the Turkish community, as well as the Moroccan and Afghan communities – by the CDU-CSU, who thought that it would be a good idea for them to have increasingly religious education. To this day, there is a big debate about whether or not the way to integrate the Turkish community is to build the institutions of the so-called Islamic community. Partially, this is the dynamic of Germany, which recognizes Protestantism, Catholicism and Judaism as official religions. Discrimination against Muslims in Germany: Germany is not a laïque country, and if you belong to either the Church or the Synagogue you pay a certain tax called the Kirchensteuer, i.e. 'church tax'. The problem is that this of course is discrimination against Muslims in Germany, because they don't have the State helping them to build the mosques or their own free association and so on. So there is an issue of the neutrality of the State, and this neutrality is supposed to be balanced constitutionally by recognizing the community. But what this means is that in effect you are reinforcing one definition of collective identity over other definitions of collective identity, while in Turkey itself the struggle between the laïque and the Muslim identity, and what exactly this Muslim identity means, is being debated. So we should pay attention to the construction of religious identity, and particularity Islamic identity, within the European context. Currently, a perfect storm is gathering more and more momentum since September 11th with regards to Islam in Europe. The first point is, and here I agree with Ian Buruma, that we are dealing both with a situation of economic insecurity – Europe is facing one of its worst economic crises probably in the last thirty years and also dealing with a process of political alienation, because this construct called the "European Union" is becoming more and more technocratic and less and less intelligible to normal people. ​​There really is a problem of technocratic rule and domination now within Europe to be solved. Within this context, to use Zygmunt Bauman's phrase, "strangers are dangers" and they become even more significant dangers under conditions of political and economic alienation. Charade of American politics: Second, we are in the midst of the profound bankruptcy of political elites, not just in Europe, but globally. I think that the techno-media-globalization has killed the independent and honourable statesmen or stateswomen. We have politicians who are liars, entertainers or masters of kitsch, and this has something to do with the televisual politics of our age. Just look at the way we do and undo candidates, the charade of American politics of the last months. "sex sells", but it also diverts, and makes us not think about anything else that is significant. Third, I believe that there is also the opportunism of the intellectuals. I call this 'opportunism', because the response to the Salman Rushdie affair is not to condemn Islam, but it is to have made the distinction between Khomeini, who announced the fatwa against Rushdie, and everyone else. ​​Like any civilizational tradition, like any great religion, Islam has its own arguments, its own debates, its own fanatics and its own tolerant people. I mean, where are we if the European intellectuals – particularly the French and the Dutch – keep thinking that the Enlightenment means engaging in a kind of "Protestant Fundamentalism"? Now, is there is one single model of the relationship between religion and politics? No, there isn't. There are multiple models of the relationship between religion and politics. Turkey, for example, imitates France, which is one of the most laïque countries. In USA we have the First Amendment, and you tell me how you can construct the history of this Amendment in terms of these banal oppositions of "toleration" and "fanaticism". You cannot. So what I see spreading is that – instead of having actually generated the serious multicultural intercivilizational dialogue, by trying to understand the standpoint of the other and engaging in a conversation – what some European intellectuals did and some in US as well, who keep taunting "Islamo-fascism", is simply to block channels of conversation. Hope from the margins of Europe: Hence, we had the scarf affair – "every woman who covers her head is an oppressed minion" – we had honour-killings – "every Turkish brother or father is about to murder his daughter or sister if she goes off with someone else", we have the problems of arranged marriages etc. It is not that migrant communities do not have these problems. But when you pick these incidents up as the way to talk about the "other", you reduce the otherness of the other to scandal. And scandal is not reasonable conversation. If you are really serious in working with these communities you have to do what some of the women's groups have done, namely go into the community and try to generate the kind of dialogue that is necessary within these communities. I am not very hopeful, at the present, about European politics. For me hope comes from the margins of Europe. It is coming from this new generation of migrants who are calling themselves "mishmash" Turks, who don't properly speak the language but who are now capable of talking back and not just being talked about. I also think that, with all its problems, the "Arab Spring" has taught us that Islam is capable of changing itself. And that, in effect, it wasn't just the fact that Osama bin Laden was murdered that brought Al-Qaeda to an end; but that al-Qaeda has come to an end in many parts of the Arab world and North Africa because the young people have rejected it, and hopefully that they will re-enter the conversation with Europe. Seyla Benhabib | © Reset DoC 2012 | Seyla Benhabib is Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University and Director of its Program in Ethics, Politics and Economics. | editor: Lewis Gropp/


For ʹPalestinian peace processʹ read ʹIran war processʹ   


The success of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process model is there for all to borrow and copy. Create a regional ʹprocessʹ sponsored or led by the U.S. and attach to it ʹpeaceʹ, ʹwarʹ, or any other temptingly big carrot, then woo and blackmail the desperate parties you are targeting by turns. Essay by Khaled Hroub | During this ongoing process – lasting more than a quarter of a century – the Palestinian donkey has run itself into the ground chasing an elusive carrot: the hope of a Palestinian state. Over this period, the donkey has been sent hither and thither, swinging the carrot this way and that. While any form of meaningful peace on Palestine was truly buried, the genius process continued to run the show. Martin Indyk, Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs and former ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration, once said "We are using the engine of peace-making to transform the region." Indeed they were and they have succeeded. The process created the diplomatic context and the excuse for Israel to carry on with its own agenda of occupation in Palestine, while reflecting an image desirous of peace back into the regional and international arena, under the pretext that peace with the Palestinians was ʹin progressʹ and that reaching a final settlement was just a matter of time. Under cover of the peace process Israeli achievements accumulated: the territory of the future Palestinian state, the carrot that got decayed over years of chasing, became dismembered by frenzied settlement activities.The Palestinian Authority that was supposed to be a mere interim administration for five years and the nucleus of any future state became a de facto security apparatus, operating to protect settlers and arrest angry Palestinians daring to put up any resistance. Palestinian politics and geography were manoeuvred into a destructive divide between Fatah and Hamas, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with Israel playing both off against each other, allowing the rivals enough leeway to fight each other, but not to harm Israel.Time for a new process Now, however, a new regional "process" in the Middle East is reaching maturity, and this time round it is a "war process", stripped from the outset of any claims to peace. The Israeli-American war tattoo targeting Iran has resumed recently: first with the Trump administrationʹs announcement to end sanctionsʹ waiver for import Iranʹs oil, and secondly with the deployment of a naval strike group to the Middle East, as the clamour of anti-Tehran voices gets louder. In recent decades, we have grown accustomed to bouts of sabre-rattling, of varying degrees of intensity, being directed at Iran. However, this time things seem to be embedded within a greater concept: the creation of a regional "Iran war process" by the U.S. and Israel designed to be of maximum benefit to Israel, even if it means maximum damage for other countries in the region.For many years Israelʹs standard attitude of belligerence towards Iran has been intended to keep the world on its toes, soliciting external support and cultivating internal cohesion. Central to this discourse is the oft-repeated fiction that Iran wants to erase Israel from the map. Statements by more hot-headed Iranians, such as former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13), have indeed included such rhetoric. Yet the emptiness of those pronouncements is well known, likewise the intention of blowing the lid off of any coming negotiations with the U.S. and the West over sanctions and Iranʹs nuclear facilities. Tehranʹs bear-baiting behaviour has inflicted real damage on the Palestinians, diverting international attention away from Israelʹs consolidation of its military occupation and settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Obviously, Israel is merely seeking to strengthen its northern borders, with the aim of weathering any future attacks that might potentially involve Iran!Such "threats" have also allowed Israel to continue accruing more military and diplomatic support in a bid to face up to Tehranʹs instrumental menace. Recently and in line with its stockpiling of achievements, Israel managed to secure a blessing from the U.S. for its illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights, which it occupied during the Six Day War in 1967. Wooing the Gulf states With the Golan no longer an issue and in order to further maximise the exploitation of the "Iranian threat", Israeli and American efforts are now gearing up to manufacture what could be termed the "Iran war process", founded on an assumed and exaggerated interest shared by the Arab Gulf states of "facing a common enemy". It is a process that is spreading Iranophobia across the Gulf region, using the excuse of war against it to invest in a regional phalanx of targets, which includes the normalisation of relations with the Gulf States. Although proxy conflicts will be kept well-fed to nurture this fear, a fully-fledged war between Israel and Iran will most likely never happen. The process will do a better job and will continue to thrive for years to come. Paradoxically, the "Iran war process" is also bringing significant benefits to Iran. Tehranʹs combative rhetoric against Israel is an integral part of its strategy to assert regional influence. Projecting itself as the "leader of the resistance axis", Iranʹs interventions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, as well as its support of Hamas and the Islamic jihad movement in Palestine, are all justified as part of this claim to resistance. In reality, and contrary to the pomposity of "erasing Israel", Iranʹs position on the Israel-Palestine conflict is ultimately to accept what the Palestinians would accept. In a nutshell, Iran accepts the two-state solution, much as the Arab states do, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which offered the recognition of Israel and a normalisation of relations in return for a Palestinian state along 1967 borders. At the 2017 summit meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation in Istanbul, held in response to Trumpʹs recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Iranʹs president Hassan Rouhani and foreign minister Javad Zarif voiced no objection to a statement issued by the meeting that called for a two-state solution.Ironically, the Israelis and the Iranians pursue an almost identical strategy: war-mongering rhetoric combined with the use of proxy conflicts that help them increase their leverage in the region and attain strategic goals. In reality, neither party is interested in fighting each other directly, nor is even seeking to put an end to "the threat" of the other. If the "Iranian threat" were to be totally removed, Tel Aviv would lose its most cherished pretext, which is always at the ready for exploitation domestically, regionally and internationally. Similarly, if the "Israeli threat" and "resistance" were to be subtracted from Iranʹs discourse, Tehran would lose its powerful king in this regional chess game. Feeding the spectre of war The prime intention of the Israeli-American "Iran war process" is to engage Israel with the Arab Gulf countries. The core of this process is the manipulation of Saudi and Emirati fears, their resentment of Iran and the latterʹs increasing regional influence. An unspoken premise of the process is that Israel – and only Israel – can stand up against Iran, and thus the Gulf Arabs should succumb to its leadership with gratitude!The trade-off for Israel is the gradual and public normalisation of political and commercial relations across the Gulf. The Israeli contribution to this trade-off is negligible to say the least. Realistically and in a nutshell, Israel would never fight a war on behalf of and for the Gulf States, nor would it risk its resources to serve their interests. All this is helped by the short-sighted politics of both the Gulf countries and Iran, which effectively play out in the interest of Israel. If a fraction of their wasted effort in regional rivalry was spent in serious thought and diplomatic dialogue aimed at establishing security arrangements that safeguard their mutual interests, they would not have ended up being played off against each other by the U.S. and Israel. The enormous resources allocated for building military arsenals benefit none except American and Western manufacturers. Figures indicate that the Gulf countries are spending more than $100 billion on weapons this year, not to mention the astonishing figure of $450 billion worth of military deals that the Saudis signed with Trump in 2017. It is no exaggeration to suggest that keeping the region boiling in conflicts, tensions and wars is a vital American interest. Thanks to sky-high arms expenditure, money continues to pour into U.S. banks. The best way to protect these huge investments for years to come is to invest in a process that maintains the spectre of a Middle East haunted by war. Khaled Hroub © 2019 Khaled Hroub is professor of Middle Eastern Politics at Northwestern University/Qatar.


Iranian society in shock   


Every year German-Iranian artist Parastou Forouhar travels to Iran to commemorate her parents who were killed by secret service agents. This year, the funeral service coincided with the nationwide protests in Iran. Interview by Farhad Payar | Parastou Forouhar is one of the most prominent voices in Iranian contemporary art. She fell out of favour with Iran's rulers because of her struggle to solve the politically motivated murders of her parents Dariush Forouhar and Parvaneh Eskandari. One of her works of art earned her a prison sentence. Nevertheless, the artist continues her activities to preserve the memory of her parents and the political murders in Iran in the 1990s – in her works, at political events and in the international media. *** Ms Forouhar, bearing in mind you hold a memorial ceremony for your parents every year in Tehran, did you experience any harassment this year from officials? Parastou Forouhar: Until three years ago the memorial was banned. However, my immediate family and I always spent the day in my parents' house, the venue of the event, subject to certain conditions – for instance, we were not allowed to leave the house. Nevertheless, many people attended every year and, standing at the barriers, refused to be deprived of their right to remember and honour the victims. For three years now, however, the security authorities have not taken any action in advance. That said, we do not know until the last minute whether or not the memorial will be prevented. This year, the event was advertised for 22 November from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., but by noon, many plainclothes police were already standing in the lane leading to my parents' house. How was this year's memorial? Forouhar: This time the memorial took place when the unrest was at its height. The whole country was in a state of emergency. The oppressive machinery of the system was in full swing. We, like many others, thought the ceremony would be banned. The government had blocked the Internet. So we couldn't issue any invitations via social media and the telephone network only worked sporadically. As a result, we only managed to publish one advertisement in the daily newspaper Etelaat, which appeared on the deaths page. Few people attended the ceremony than in previous years. Although the plainclothes officers did not harass the visitors, they had remarkably large cameras with them and photographed them all – intimidating in its own way. For the last two years we have always remembered my parents in silence, but this year I gave a couple of readings.What kind of readings? Forouhar: Passages from texts I have written over the last twenty years, memories of my parents, texts about the importance of memory, or about my insistence that political crimes in Iran be addressed. What was the mood like in Tehran? Forouhar: I arrived on Friday 15 November, the first day of the protests. During the flight I had heard nothing of the riots. When I was picked up by friends at Tehran airport, I sensed the stiflingly depressing atmosphere immediately. My friends said that everyone is simply in shock – both the rationing and the petrol price increase came completely out of the blue. Then they told me about the roadblocks and petrol station blockades by angry citizens. I was speechless. How did you experience the unrest? Forouhar: It was like walking through fog and knowing that violence was going on here and there, but there was no way of getting the right information about what was happening. The Internet was down and the national media acted as if everything was in order. It was like being in communications quarantine. There were occasional reports of unrest on the outskirts of Tehran, where the demonstrations were most violent – of violent clashes, deaths, the destruction of cars blocking the roads by police officers, and of arson attacks. The government says it was a small minority, instigated by the USA and Israel. What do you say? Forouhar: As far as I am concerned, people – very many people – are angry. My conversations in Iran were coloured by their frustration. Where does this anger come from? Forouhar: For decades, people have tried using the legal means at their disposal to persuade the government to recognise the rights of citizens, stop corruption, curb nepotism and take steps against mass impoverishment, but to no avail. The anger and the volatile atmosphere are understandable. People taking to the street are then beaten up and arrested by the police. The violent backlash is inevitable. There is a huge danger that society will become more radical as a result. Did you get an inkling of this yourself? Forouhar: The massive presence of the security forces could be felt everywhere. Wherever there were crowds, in the main streets, in large squares and at crossroads, they stood in rows. One image particularly stayed with me: at a large intersection stood the so-called anti-terrorist units, shoulder to shoulder, hundreds, behind them a row of paramilitary basijis, and next to them normal everyday life was taking place: the shops were open, people were coming and going as usual. It was like a collage, displaying the simultaneous existence of everyday life and the machine of oppression. Apropos collage: how do Iranian artists and creative feel about the current developments? Forouhar: My stay there was too short, so I was unable to spend much time with them. The means of communication were also paralysed. But then, ten days later, an open letter was issued from dozens of people involved in culture condemning the state's action against the protesters. This is a new development, because many of them had so far remained silent about human rights violations in Iran. I welcome this measure, which is why I signed the letter. Have Iranian artists abroad adopted a similar position? Forouhar: Not that I know of. In some of your works you combine the beauty of ornamentation with politically difficult content or your own experiences with the Islamic regime in Iran. Will you be processing your latest experiences in Tehran artistically? Forouhar: Artistic processing of one's own experiences is a long-term thing. Of course, observations and experiences always flow into my artistic work, but I don't have any specific plans for processing my experiences this November. Interview conducted by Farhad Payar © Iran Journal / Qantara 2019


Reading outside the box   


Mullahs, dictatorship, nuclear conflict – Iran could be reduced to these keywords if one were to rely only on the articles in the daily press. But to really understand a country better, you have to study its literature. And Iranian literature is just as diverse as the country itself. By Gerrit Wustmann | Iran is once again in the headlines in Western media. The usual topics can be found: Iranian-American disputes, the nuclear conflict, police violence against demonstrators, religious fanaticism, and so on. It goes without saying of course that all these things are only a small part of what Iran and Iranians are concerned with in everyday life, but it is nonetheless something that should be kept in mind in order not to succumb to a distorted image. If you really want to understand a country, or at least to try to understand it better, you can't avoid one thing: literature. In the case of Iran, this is of course not so easy if you do not speak the Persian language, because the translations available are sparse. This is unfortunate, especially in the case of Iran, a country that can look back on a literary tradition that is thousands of years old. From Hafez to today – there are still many treasures to be found. Poems, short stories, novels. We will focus on the latter here. A tale of heroes and martyrs The Iran-Iraq war (1980–88) still dominates the narratives of Iranian domestic politics. The story is that of a country that, immediately after the turmoil of the Islamic Revolution, stands together against an external aggressor. A story of heroes and martyrs, after whom countless streets are named today. There are war museums and martyr memorials, there are songs, films and books looking back on that time. Most of them have one thing in common: they tell a propaganda story. The writer Hossein Mortezaeian Abkenar went against the grain of this narrative in his debut novel "A Scorpion on the Steps of Andimeshk Railroad Station" from 2006 (German translation by Kurt Scharf, Kirchheim Verlag 2013). For the author there are no war heroes, only losers. Shortly before his release from the army, he looks back on the blood, misery, death, mountains of corpses and killing. He remembers his sympathy for the Iraqi soldiers and that on the battlefield it doesn't matter which side you're on. The protagonist and his comrades do not want to become martyrs. They are desperate and distraught. All they want is to stay alive. Abkenar tells of his own experiences here. He was a young solder at the front. The content of his book is as disturbing as it is fascinating and ambitious. By constantly changing the narrative perspective, switching between first and third person, and sometimes reproducing gruelling streams of thought completely without punctuation, Abkenar formally mirrors his characters' inner turmoil. There is no happy end, and the Scorpion leaves behind nothing that could be used to promote national unification. Dubious honour for Cheheltan's novel Amir Hassan Cheheltan's novel "Iranian Dawn" (German translation by Jutta Himmelreich and Farsin Banki, Kirchheim Verlag 2015), on the other hand, was even recognised as the Book of the Year by the Iranian Ministry of Culture in 2007 – but only after the censors excised large passages. The German edition is the only complete edition to date. When Cheheltan tried to refuse the dubious honour, the ministry insisted that he could not refuse the award because it was for the book, not the author. "Iranian Dawn" brings home the enduring complexity and controversial nature of this revolution, which created a regime that has now been rejected by four-fifths of the population, according to a parliamentary study conducted a few years ago. In 1979, Cheheltan's protagonist Iraj returns to Tehran after 28 years away. He is looking for his country's new dawn after the abdication of the Shah regime, but all he finds is a gloomy dusk before another long night. The peaceful atmosphere of his childhood has vanished, just like the streets, which he no longer recognises. His relationships with his wife and father are broken beyond repair. His shattered private life reflects the condition of his country, which careens from one nightmare to the next. It is an oppressive panorama of hopelessness, in which politics pervade the lives of the protagonists so deeply that all of their personal life plans are doomed to fail. Selective criteria Based on these three examples, it might appear that war and revolution are dominant themes in contemporary Iranian literature, but that's not the case, although they certainly play a major role. Sometimes, however, the seemingly narrow selection of themes has more to do with the criteria according to which publishers select books for translation. In the past twenty years, numerous authors have devoted themselves to completely different subjects. Modern Iranian literature is shaped by women. The authors Fariba Vafi, Zoya Pirzad and Sara Salar all write books that are bestsellers in Iran.Fariba Vafi's novels, three of which have German editions so far, are delicate, linguistically sophisticated gems. Hardly any other author has so perfectly mastered the art of looking behind the scenes of everyday life in Iran. At the core of her stories is the family and mostly young women whose wishes and dreams do not differ so much from those of their peers in the West, but who have one thing in common: their ambitions fail due to social and family expectations, economic constraints and the narrowness of the political system, which always has an impact on the private sphere.  Vafi skilfully bypasses the mechanisms of censorship by letting all critical issues smoulder just below the surface, though still impossible to overlook. This is the case with Scholeh, for example, the protagonist of her latest novel with the distinctive title "The Dream of Tibet" (German translation by Jutta Himmelreich, Sujet Verlag 2018). Her uncle Sadegh has just been released from prison, and the context and certain hints make it clear that he was imprisoned for political reasons. Sadegh just wants to get away, seeing no future for himself in Iran. Scholeh becomes increasingly withdrawn as she observes the desolate expressions on the faces all around her The "Iranian Madame Bovary" The Neue Zuricher Zeitung called Zoya Pirzad's hugely successful novel "I Will Turn off the Lights" (German translation by Susanne Baghestani, Insel Verlag 2006) the "Iranian Madame Bovary". The story by the Armenian-Iranian author takes place in the 1960s, in the Shah era, but between the lines also reflects the present state of mind. Protagonist Clarisse is in her late thirties when, worn out by household chores and taking care of the children, she wonders when she has ever done anything for herself. She is only marginally interested in the political ambitions of her left-leaning husband, which sometimes worry her, although their relationship is pretty much dead anyway. Soon she makes the acquaintance of a new neighbour, whom she instantly gets along with. If only it weren't for her over-protective mother with her endless concerns. "I Will Turn off the Lights" is an easy-going and by turns funny and melancholy novel about interpersonal relationships, midlife crises, and the ups and downs of everyday life in the Armenian-Christian milieu of the Iranian city of Abadan – as far removed from the capital's affairs as can be. In the chaos of Tehran Broken relationships are also the subject of Sara Salar's novel “I'm Probably Lost” (German translation by Jutta Himmelreich, Kirchheim Verlag 2014), which was hugely successful at first and was then banned. In the middle of the chaotic traffic of Tehran, the protagonist, who has just picked up her little son, has an identity crisis. She begins to question all of her life choices. Did she marry the right man? Was having a child the right decision? Wasn't her long-lost friend Gandom, whose voice haunts her thoughts, always right in all of her criticisms? Can the psychiatrist actually help her, or is she just wasting her time? All these questions, this inner unrest and dissatisfaction, send her hurtling into an outbreak of self-determination – something that is still often taboo for women in Iran today. To rebel against husband, family and society, even if only in small details. Salar's novel is captivating, the voice of her main character as lifelike as if you had known her for a long time, as if you were sitting next to her in the car. Her voice becomes a symbol of a life that has hit a dead-end and cannot continue in its long-suffering meekness. Speaking of continuing: These six novels, these six very different literary voices are merely a start; an entree. They can open doors for all those who are interested in contemporary Iranian literature and who want to get to know the country beyond all the agitated headlines. Gerrit Wustmann © 2020 Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor  


Faith and the coronavirus    


The "holy" city of Qom, the centre of Shia scholarship, was the starting point of the corona epidemic in Iran. The ayatollahs vehemently and successfully resisted quarantine and the virus spread rapidly throughout the country. But corona is not the plague, Iran is not in the Middle Ages and the virus is not divine retribution. By Ali Sadrzadeh | Omnipotent and omnipresent: at breakneck speed, the novel coronavirus in Iran has eliminated everything that makes up the Islamic state – Friday sermons, pilgrimages, visits to mosques, gatherings of mourners, seminars by the ayatollahs and state-organised street parades, both religious and political. Yet the Islamic Republic is unimaginable without these highly symbolic mass events. Indeed it virtually no longer exists, at least not in the way it has presented itself to the rest of the world for 41 years. Even the clerics have disappeared from the streets. They are either in domestic quarantine or in hospital. Since last Sunday a YouTube clip has been causing a furore in Iran: at the airport on the island of Kish in the Persian Gulf, a crowd of people are demonstrating against the arrival of 300 mullahs from the city of Qom who want to escape the virus and seek refuge on the warm island. Plague in a holy place After all, Qom – the "holy" city and pilgrimage destination of twenty million believers annually – was the starting point of the coronavirus epidemic in Iran. The first two deaths occurred in Qom. For weeks, images and reports had been making the rounds on social media, showing how the virus was spreading rapidly throughout the city. Travellers from Qom reported full waiting rooms and overcrowded hospitals in the city. The first official reaction was that this was just fake news, trumped up by enemies seeking to sully Islam. That Qom of all places, the centre of Shia scholarship, should be the hotspot of the COVID-19 epidemic, that this plague should have started in this haven of holiness? Impossible, unthinkable. Such a lie – an insult to faith, God and conscience – could only have been invented by enemies of the Islamic Republic. But regardless of the denials and the clericsʹ holier than thou attitude, Iran's Qom is now on a par with Wuhan province in China. An explosive issue, politically and religiously.  Today Qom may be in the news because of the coronavirus epidemic. But the city was and remains – for the time being, at least – the beating heart of political Shia. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini taught in this city for decades. It was in Qom that the Islamic revolution began, and it is here that those clerics who hold key positions in the Islamic Republic are trained today.In Qom, 40,000 foreign seminary students are currently studying Shia theology. Subsequently they are supposed to promote Shia Islam with missionary zeal in their home countries and, if necessary, fight for it. Seven hundred of them are from China. Truly, the soul of the Islamic Republic resides in Qom. Yet surely God would never allow the inhabitants of such a city to be afflicted by such a terrible plague. On 17 February, Gholamerza Jalai appeared in front of the television cameras in the uniform of the Revolutionary Guard, spoke about the God-given immunity of the holy city and categorically denied everything that was already an open secret: there was not a single coronavirus case in Qom or anywhere else in the country. Jalai should know; he is the head of Iranian civil defence. But the lies and denials did not last long. Lies no match for the virus Seventy-two hours later, the deputy health minister reported the death of two people infected with COVID-19 in Qom. Three days later, 12 people were dead, but only 47 infected. No one believed these numbers. On the same day, Assadollah Abasssi, a parliamentary representative from Qom, told journalists that he had personally given the names of 50 coronavirus deaths to the deputy minister. The latter replied that Abasssi should prove that these deaths had indeed been caused by the virus. The deputy minister has since disappeared from public view, because he himself became infected with COVID-19. The tissue of lies surrounding the shooting down of the Ukrainian passenger plane by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on 8 January lasted only three days. The coronavirus fairy-tale lasted several weeks. The reason: for one thing, there was no pressure from abroad. Secondly, the rulers had two important dates in this period for which they needed organised crowds: 9 February – the anniversary of the revolution – and the parliamentary elections on 21 February. Once these important dates had passed, a few journalists and doctors dared to ask whether one should not learn from the Chinese and quarantine the city of Qom. A wave of outrage, a deafening outcry from the most influential ayatollahs immediately swept across the country – and the questioners fell silent. The sick of this world sought and found healing and health at the shrine in Qom, no one was allowed to quarantine the holy city, said Ayatollah Saidi, the Supreme Servant of the holy shrine. So Qom remained accessible to everyone, the virus had free rein. And thus it spread rapidly throughout the country. Thirty-one provinces of Iran are now affected. Gilan and Mazandaran, the two northern Iranian provinces on the Caspian Sea, have now replaced Qom and are now the most dangerous places for the virus to spread. Officially there are 514 dead and 11,364 infected in Iran to date (as of 13 March 2020). But social media and independent websites give a completely different picture. No one believes anyone anymore; the stewards of faith have utterly forfeited their credibility. Powerlessness wherever you look Whether the rulers in Tehran can cope with this drama and how is difficult to predict. In its more than 40-year history, the Islamic Republic has lived constantly in and from crisis. But the coronavirus crisis surpasses everything that has gone before, because it has struck the country when it was already in desperate straits. To all intents and purposes, the regime is diplomatically and economically isolated, and now an epidemic quarantine has been added to the mix. Every one of Iran's borders with its neighbouring countries is sealed. This is a turning point in the history of this hybrid state, which calls itself a republic.Future generations will certainly perceive this epidemic as a milestone and a profound caesura in the history of the Islamic Republic. One will read how influential ayatollahs first encouraged the spread of the virus and later declared it as possibly bioterrorism against the Islamic Republic. One will read in the history books how some mullahs travelled all over the country to promote Western medicine and Islamic medicine, and how the security forces forbade the living to speak about the numbers of the dead. More importantly, through these stories, the survivors will recognise the great gulf that has opened up between reason and superstition, and will learn of the loss of confidence that has spread even among believers. The impact of COVID-19 on Iran’s state religion is likely to occupy many people for a long time. Because the coronavirus isn't just killing people. It is also attacking the very sanctities on which the peculiar state system called the Islamic Republic is based. There will be a pre-corona period and a post-corona period in Iran. Nothing will ever be the same again. If the Europeans in the Middle Ages regarded the plague as divine retribution for human sin, if at that time religious end-time madness was rampant, if flagellants marched through the country and whipped themselves as a sign of their atonement, or if one sought protection by turning to God and his servants on earth, then exactly the opposite is happening in Iran these days. People are fleeing the clerics. Every day new names of Shia scholars from Qom who have died of the coronavirus appear on social media. Up to now there have been twelve. The king is not naked The king is not naked. On the contrary. The people see him well protected and veiled via the Internet, even though he lives in secret. Since the virus officially arrived, Ali Khamenei, religious leader and the most powerful man in Iran, has only appeared twice and very briefly in the virtual world. Once, his personal doctor sat next to him, on a sofa and at a proper distance. The second time Khamenei was seen planting a tree in his garden, his shovel-holding hand protected by a plastic bag. It was the day of environmental protection. The sale of alcohol has been authorised within Iran to improve and increase disinfection. State television is showing dancing and singing medical staff in hospitals to spread optimism: just two signs of the prevailing helplessness. Nor is it clear who is ultimately responsible for combatting the coronavirus. On 11 March the President of Parliament asked Khamenei in a letter who should be in charge of the response team. Hassan Rouhani, Khamenei is said to have replied. But even the President of the Republic hardly appears in public anymore. And even the Revolutionary Guards are in quarantine. Their barracks are the best protected places in the country, the news agency Fars quoted a commander as saying. They are apparently preparing for the time after coronavirus. Whether they will find the same country after that remains to be seen. Ali Sadrzadeh © Iran Journal 2020


A literary cocoon   


For decades, lovers of literature would gather at the house of writer Amir Hassan Cheheltan's family to debate classical Persian works – until politics forced its way into the readers' cocoon. By Gerrit Wustmann | Once more, the Iranian writer Amir Hassan Cheheltan is taking his readers to the point of rupture in his country's history, to the days on which he has focused in so many of his novels, not least in his much-lauded Tehran trilogy: the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But this time, the focus is on literature, rather than on political events. Every Thursday, an illustrious group of authors, translators and readers would gather in the guestroom of the Cheheltan household in the well-to-do northern part of Tehran. For decades, from the final years of the Shah era to the period of reform under Mohammad Khatami, this circle of literature lovers mentioned in the title of the German translation by Jutta Himmelreich  ("Zirkel der Literaturliebhaber") became an anchor for Cheheltan – and a mirror of Iranian society. An essayistic work, not a novel One thing should be pointed out right away: the publisher describes this book as a "novel" – probably for the sake of marketability. But this is seriously misleading and does both the author and his readership a disservice because this is a work of non-fiction. It is a well-founded, essayistic work about Persian literature, woven through with the author's personal memories. Anyone expecting a novel will undoubtedly be disappointed; anyone who is looking for a work of non-fiction on the topic may well overlook Cheheltan's commendable book. This decision on the publisher's part is impossible to comprehend. Once again, the book is only available in German for the time being. It would undoubtedly never receive permission to be published in Iran. The teenager's sexual awakening is only the most banal of many taboo themes that Cheheltan addresses very openly. Other taboos include a criticism of what the conservatives claim to be the role of women. In the Cheheltan household, a role reversal demonstrates how far the reality of people's lives is from the ideas of the religious hardliners. Cheheltan's mother worked as a teacher, while his father was the one in the kitchen, wearing an apron and cooking the family dinner – which he adored doing when he wasn't engaged in his favourite pastime: reading.  "The West only sees us from the outside" The house, one suspects, must have looked like a library, and the literature lovers' Thursday meetings, which went on for hours, were the highpoint of every week. That became clear to the young Amir Hassan Cheheltan early on; his curiosity was awakened among other things by the fact that he was banished from the room when they were debating passages by classical poets that weren't suitable for children's ears. This explains why Cheheltan's delight was all the greater in later years when he studied the obscene and pornographic elements in Saadi, Rumi and many others – elements that are inseparable from Persian literature, but that are now either officially ignored or mitigated by means of ludicrous interpretations. But Cheheltan also takes the outsider's view of Iran to task, in particular the huge number of Orientalist works that attempt to explain these classics to a Western readership – and he comes to the conclusion that "the West only sees us from the outside", not from inside. "It has been trying to explain the East for three hundred years. At present, with the intensifying crises in the Middle East and phenomena like the Taliban, al-Qaida and ISIS, it is more obvious than ever how badly the West is doing at this, and how little it knows about us." He reinforces this argument with various historical examples, and it becomes clear that talking about the East rather than to it is the main problem here. When it comes to Rumi, who is one of the most-translated and most-read poets not just in Iran but worldwide, Cheheltan generally opposes the urge to interpret his work. Instead, he quotes passages in which Rumi draws his strength from clear language and very unambiguous images and metaphors, and points out that during his lifetime, the poet read his verses aloud in public to ordinary people. A cryptic, intricate, symbolic language would have prevented this audience from accessing his work. He therefore has little time for the mystics' approach of reading hidden meanings into every word. Focus on homoerotic poetry Cheheltan pays great attention to the homoerotic poetry without which classical Persian literature is inconceivable: "At that time, homoerotic love wasn't seen as a disgrace. And one can without exaggeration describe the eleventh century AD as the epoch of homophilic Iranian poets." He provides a wealth of examples, with similar trends to be found in Arabic literature. ReaLit Amir: Hassan Cheheltan from Reportagen on Vimeo. According to Cheheltan, we should not shy away from comparing Susani Samarghandi with De Sade. Homosexuality, which is taboo and even criminalised today in many countries, was for centuries a normal part of life in the Islamic world. The change came only when – and unfortunately Cheheltan does not address this – it was imported by pleasure-hating western invaders who brought with them their skewed sexual morality. The political reality in Iran forces its way into the circle of literature lovers almost imperceptibly, a little at a time. They felt themselves to be in a cocoon, closeted away from the outside world. But then things begin to unravel: first, a spy for the Shah's secret service (SAVAK) is discovered in the group. Later, after the Revolution, Cheheltan's mother resigns from her teaching job because she would otherwise be forced to wear a chador in the classroom. Finally, Cheheltan himself has to spend several years on the front lines of the Iran–Iraq war. Their supposed idyll was shattered for good in the 1990s, when the new regime began systematically producing death lists that featured the names of writers and other creative minds, and had these people murdered. "To this day, the people who are driving this agenda still do not realise that everything a government politicises for its own ends will sooner or later also be used against it politically," Cheheltan concludes from this attempt by the regime to co-opt culture for itself and silence critical voices. In his novels – first and foremost "Iranische Dämmerung" (Iranian Twilight) – Cheheltan has written a great deal about the last hundred years of Iran's history, and particularly the period of the Revolution. By contrast, "Der Zirkel der Literaturliebhaber" is above all an invitation to read and to discover; it is a door through which we can gain access to the great, timeless works of Persian literature. Gerrit Wustmann © 2020 Translated from the German by Ruth Martin


Hansard - 4 - Hon. Erin O'Toole (2019-12-10 10:11)   


Hon. Erin O'Toole
Durham, Ontario
Conservative Caucus

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important debate that our Parliament is seized with today and I want to thank the leader of the Conservative Party and our caucus for bringing this to Parliament. This is an example of how this Parliament can fulfill its function, challenging the government, holding it to account for a record which on foreign affairs is quite weak, but also proposing methods that allow for better resolutions. That is what this opposition day motion and the proposal of a special committee of Parliament on Canada-China relations are all about.

I want to start off with two reflections. The first is that today marks one year since Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were arrested by Chinese state authorities and detained without charge, and without access to a lawyer or to the rule of law. They were arbitrarily detained as a diplomatic response to a lawful extradition arrest performed by Canada, a rule of law country, on behalf of the U.S. and a decision by a U.S. court. Canada acted with full respect of its rule of law traditions and China's actions have reflected and reminded us that there is no rule of law.

I am sure I speak for all Conservatives, parliamentarians and Canadians in saying that we stand in solidarity with the families of the two Michaels. We want their well-being to be safeguarded and we want to see them return home to Canada as quickly as possible. Today, we will be talking about many facets of the Canada-China relationship with its many challenges and some opportunities. However, we are not going to speak further about the two Michaels, out of respect for that case and the need for a resolution.

What is promising about this motion is the specialized committee that we are proposing. It would be all-party and multidisciplinary, with the ability to look at all aspects of the Canada-China relationship from complex consular cases to national security issues, to trade, to global affairs, within the context of a committee that can go in camera and respect secret and sensitive information. That is probably the best venue to come up with a plan for a swift resolution for the situation of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig. I hope the government takes that into consideration when they consider voting on our motion later today.

I hope all members of this House realize this could be an opportunity to actually take the politics out of it, but allow us to do our job because Canadians are concerned about the well-being of these citizens. Canadians are well seized with issues related to China, from the South China Sea islands, to Huawei, to the situation with the Uighurs, to Chinese ambitions in the Arctic as a self-declared “near-Arctic state”, a new diplomatic term that really did not exist until they created it.

The challenge of the China relationship is the foreign policy challenge that Canada will face over the next generation. This is a perfect opportunity for a specialized committee of parliamentarians to examine it to make sure that Canada gets the balance right.

The second thing I will say at the outset of my remarks is that there are tremendous opportunities in China. However, for those opportunities, many of them business and many of them export-driven, Canada cannot and must not relinquish our unbridled support for the rule of law, for human rights and for standing up for our allies and friends around the world. In many cases, economic opportunities would not be worth it if Canada had to sacrifice the values that we are respected for and have been respected for since Confederation.

All governments in the modern era, going back to that of the Prime Minister's father, have tried to balance the need to engage trade, do business and help develop parts of China, alongside the need to push on human rights, democratic reform, rule of law and a higher standard in global affairs, so there is a tremendous opportunity.

I am frustrated that in recent years the Communist Party of China seems to be stepping back from its path of engagement as a serious law-abiding world power.

Years ago, before my election to Parliament, I spoke at a business luncheon in Toronto. The law firm I was at, like many exporting companies in Canada, saw the tremendous growth potential in China, the second-largest economy, with growth rates in the double digits in recent decades. I introduced the ambassador to China at the time, who was speaking to a Toronto business audience. I used a Chinese proverb: One generation plants the trees, the next generation enjoys the shade.

The hard work going into the early development of modern China was started by Pierre Trudeau and continued through all prime ministers, and goes back to iconic Canadians like Norman Bethune and hundreds of missionaries and other Canadian citizens who engage with China. These relationships have planted the trees. We have done the hard work. We should be enjoying the shade now. That proverb ended up being the ambassador's favourite expression, because it gets to the heart of diplomacy: We do the hard work so that future generations can benefit.

Canada has been a leading partner in China's development from its being a truly developing country into the world's second-largest economy, a global power. We have been at the forefront with Dr. Bethune and have been there to help with agricultural practices. We have been there with our CANDU technology to provide greenhouse gas emission-free power through nuclear generating stations in a country that is too reliant on coal. We have been there to trade. We have seen pandas come; we have seen trade missions go. We have tremendous companies in financial services, agriculture and transportation, leading companies like Manulife, Bombardier, Agrium and others that have done billions of dollars of business with China in the last decades. We should be very thankful for that but should also be very cautious.

In recent years, particularly in light of the 19th national congress, China has been stepping back from serious engagement on the world stage. The Communist Party has been exerting its influence through all levels of Chinese life, including through state-owned enterprises and their global effort. We have seen the belt and road initiative, making countries beholden and in debt to China for infrastructure and other projects.

We have to be cautious with the turn that China has taken in the last 10 years. Rather than this generation walking in the shade of the trees that were planted in the past, we are now almost lost in the woods on how best to handle this important relationship without sacrificing Canadian values.

Why are we bringing forward this debate on our first opposition motion? It is because we have had serious concerns with the Prime Minister's ability to govern in Canada's national interest on the world stage. All Canadians now have no confidence in the Prime Minister when he goes abroad.

We used to bemoan the fact that Canada was never talked about on the world stage. Now we cannot see a late-night talk show or Saturday Night Live without seeing our Prime Minister being lampooned for his actions on the world stage, gaffes that hurt Canada's national interest. At the NATO meetings, the Prime Minister mocked the U.S. President, the very person we need to help us apply pressure for the release of our citizens in China.

This is at a time when NATO is being questioned by the President of France and the U.S. President. Canada could play its traditional role as a linchpin, as Winston Churchill described us, between Europe and North America. We are a G7 nation, we are a NATO nation, we are a NORAD nation and we are a Five Eyes nation. Canada is never the biggest, but we have those relationships that normally we could use to influence our national interest, the freedom and liberty of others and the interests of the Western alliance. That has eroded. Canada is now seen in a way that is probably best represented by the Prime Minister's state visit to India, where he put photographs, his brand and the Liberal Party's fortunes ahead of Canada's national interest.

With respect to China, our concerns have been grounded in the very earliest actions of the government. I am hoping many of the new Liberal members of Parliament listen, because their role now in caucus is to ask questions. They should be just as worried as Conservatives are when it comes to China.

Former Canadian ambassador to China, David Mulroney, has called the Prime Minister's approach to China naive, and I would agree. I will not make much of the comment he made before the election that he had admiration for the basic dictatorship. I am not sure if it was a joke or if that is just how it was received, because it was such a ridiculous answer.

However, the influence of a very pro-Beijing element in the Prime Minister's core team was evidenced right in the earliest days. The Liberal transition team in 2015 was led by the president of the Canada China Business Council. He is now sitting in the Senate at the appointment of the Prime Minister.

In May of 2016, the first year of the Liberal government, the Prime Minister was revealed to have been in some cash-for-access fundraisers with major figures, oligarch-level people with close ties to the Chinese state. I remember my friend from Red Deer—Lacombe brought up the point in the House, with great delivery, that not only were the Liberal Party coffers being filled, but a $200,000 donation was made to the Trudeau Foundation by a wealthy business person connected to the Chinese state. In fact, money was put aside for a statue of Pierre Trudeau. These were the earliest days.

In their first few months of government, the Liberals also reversed a decision that stopped the sale of a technology company to a Chinese-controlled company. In fact, late in the Harper government, the sale of ITF Technologies to O-Net Communications was blocked by the Conservative government on security grounds. There was direct energy research and development that could have been weaponized or militarized, and the sale was stopped in July 2015. Within the first few months of the Liberal government, the Liberals set aside the blocking of that transaction and a few months later approved the sale, with military-related technology, for a Chinese state enterprise.

Mr. Speaker, do you not think our Five Eyes allies noticed that? It was seen as reversing a responsible security decision by the previous Conservative government because of the new Prime Minister's desire to engage with China on a free trade agreement.

It did not end there. The next year, the Liberals approved the sale of Norsat to Hytera, another Chinese-controlled enterprise, leading to outrage from the Pentagon, which had contracts with this Canadian military communications company. In fact, a trade commissioner in the U.S., a Democrat appointed by Obama, said about the sale:

Canada's approval of the sale of Norsat to a Chinese entity raises significant national-security concerns for the United States as the company is a supplier to our military....

Canada may be willing to jeopardize its own security interests to gain favour with China.

He also said that Canada should not put the security of a close ally at risk in the process. This was the commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a Democrat appointed by the bromance partner of the Prime Minister, President Obama.

This is not agitating language. These are serious concerns that were brought up to the foreign affairs committee when its members travelled to Washington. Right off the bat we saw the ability to sweep through sales, which likely should have been stopped on security grounds, to curry favour in the relationship.

There are also a significant number of human rights concerns. I have raised in the House this week that millions of people over the last few months have been protesting on the streets of Hong Kong. The government has been virtually silent on that. There are 300,000 Canadians living there. Seventy-eight years ago this week, Canadians from the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles were fighting in defence of Hong Kong. We lost hundreds in the battle that ended on Christmas Day and lost hundreds more in POW camps in Japan. We therefore not only have our national interest and our citizens, but also our blood, represented in Hong Kong, and the government has been reserved in its comments.

It has also been reserved in its comments on the very disturbing internment and re-education of up to one million Uighurs. This is an area where we must be able to balance our values as a country and the need for us to speak out with the commercial interest.

Under the Prime Minister, all other issues have taken a back seat. In fact, before his state visit there in 2016, the Liberals were pre-positioning for a free trade agreement announcement. It is clear that the commercial interest has been overriding with the Prime Minister and the Liberal government regarding national security issues, the Huawei decision that has never come, our virtual silence on many significant human rights cases and the fact that our Asia-Pacific partners are very worried about the militarization of artificial islands built in the South China Sea. Seventy per cent of global trade passes through those waters. The last Pacific naval visit by one of our frigates was surveilled by China the whole time the frigate was there. China is making efforts to keep Taiwan away from bodies like the World Health Organization, an organization meant to stop contagions from spreading around the world, isolating countries like that. Canada is once again not being as forceful as it should.

Conservatives are asking for this special committee so that Canada can make progress toward having a balanced position on China after four years of no balance under the Prime Minister.

Since we are acknowledging the one-year anniversary of the detention of our citizens, in the last year alone Conservatives recommended a travel advisory. It took the government three months to implement it. Within weeks we asked for the Prime Minister to engage directly. He refused and claimed it was just a regular consular case, when it was not. By the time he and the previous minister tried to engage, they could not get their calls returned. We said there was flexibility within the Extradiction Act to move Ms. Meng's trial to a faster jurisdiction. That would have shown, within the rule of law and the act, an expedited process in return for favour to our citizens. The Liberals did not act on that.

The committee called Mr. McCallum to appear in camera. I cannot talk about it, but I wish it had been televised. Members can probably understand why he is no longer the ambassador. He contradicted himself several times and had to resign. We wanted an ambassador appointed immediately and the Liberals waited until the election to appoint Mr. Barton, without consultation with opposition parties. We asked them to withdraw Canada's participation in the Asian Infrastructure Bank. We asked them to immediately bring a WTO challenge with respect to canola and other commodities unfairly impacted by trade. The Liberals waited until two days before an election, a delay of six months. Our allies are not there for us, because of the current lack of seriousness the Prime Minister has on the world stage.

Let me leave everyone with Mr. McCallum's final comments, which illustrate why we need this committee and need to be serious with China. When he was leaving for the assignment, he said:

When China and Canada have disagreed on something, and this sometimes happens, all three prime ministers I have served have drawn on this friendship to speak respectfully but frankly to their Chinese counterparts. I know this long tradition will continue.

It did not continue. With this special committee it can continue, and we can be serious and have a balanced approach when it comes to China.


Hansard - 37 - Garnett Genuis (2020-05-25 15:15)   


Garnett Genuis
Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta
Conservative Caucus

Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, presented on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, be concurred in.

I will be sharing my time with the member for Flamborough—Glanbrook.

It is critically important that we have this opportunity to discuss the horrific developments taking place in Hong Kong as we speak. However, before I get into the substance of my remarks, I would like to address a few words directly to the Chinese-Canadian community.

May is Asian Heritage Month, an opportunity to celebrate the rich contributions of Canadians of Asian origin. During this pandemic, we have seen how Asian community organizations and indeed a broad range of cultural organizations have stepped up to support people within and outside their communities. I want to particularly thank Friends of Hong Kong Edmonton for delivering a large quantity of masks to my constituency.

Asian Canadians were among the first to call for a stronger response to this pandemic. We should have listened. In the midst of important and necessary conversations about holding the Chinese government and specifically the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP, accountable for this global outbreak, some Asian Canadians are feeling pressure associated with increasing racism and even hate crimes. Some have tried to use this pandemic as an excuse to justify anti-Asian racism. Others have tried to use this racism as an excuse to demand that we dial back criticism of the CCP. Extremists on both sides, xenophobes on the one hand and CCP apologists on the other, seek to falsely conflate the oppressive political structures in China with Chinese people, culture and values. These two seemingly opposite evils, xenophobia and CCP support, can have a common intellectual root: the effort to associate Chinese people, culture and values with the political system of their oppressors.

Unfortunately, Dominic Barton, the Prime Minister's hand-picked ambassador to China, gave credence to this false conflation when he told the special committee on Canada-China Relations, “They place an importance on the values of collectivism and harmony, owing to a Confucian heritage. Understanding the extent to which China values unity and the needs of society at large, rather than freedom of individual choice...we just have to understand that.”

Ambassador Barton is wrong. He is wrong about Confucius, wrong about China and wrong about Chinese people. As an alternative to this distorted frame, we must advance a decoupling of these ideas, a recognition that Marxism's dehumanizing materialism is deeply alien to China's rich and ancient traditions of personal responsibility, reverence for beauty, continuity with the past and respect for the non-material aspects of life.

It is no contradiction, and in fact it is quite a natural combination, to love China and hate communism. Chinese people desire freedom at least as much as the rest of us. Former British prime minister Tony Blair said it best when he said, “Anywhere, anytime ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same: freedom, not tyranny; democracy, not dictatorship; the rule of law, not the rule of the secret police.” We know in the particular case of the Chinese people that this is true, not just through general reasoning or abstract philosophy, but through the direct observation of events, including events in Hong Kong.

Last week, the member for Steveston—Richmond East and I co-hosted a webinar with leading figures in Hong Kong's democracy movement, under the title Why Hong Kong Matters. That is a good question for us to consider: What exactly is the particular importance of Hong Kong?

During the webinar, we discussed Hong Kong's commercial significance, both to China and to the rest of the world, and how efforts by the CCP to undermine its unique legal status will damage China's economy. We discussed how the new law imposed by the CPP violates China's international commitments under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. We discussed our obligations to defend human rights and our particular obligations toward the many Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong.

However, all these critical points undersell the most important answer to the question. Why does Hong Kong matter? It matters because Hong Kong provides the key to the whole world in terms of the challenges and conflicts that now confront us in the 21st century. It is because we have a competition between two irreconcilable political systems, between, on the one hand, the freest societies in human history, and on the other hand, the most serious attempt in human history to turn George Orwell's 1984 technology-enabled dystopia into reality. The 21st century will provide the world with an emerging choice between these two options, with both seeing themselves as the culmination of our social and technological evolution.

Why does Hong Kong hold the key?

Hong Kongers have given so much to defend their freedoms, not only because those freedoms were promised in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, but also because these freedoms accord deeply with China's own history, culture and values. Hong Kong is no less Chinese than the mainland, no less informed by China's Confucian heritage, yet its people love their freedom with an electrifying and inspiring passion. Just like the brave protesters killed in the Tiananmen Square massacre, just like the people of Taiwan, just like the members of China's rapidly growing faith communities, these are Chinese women and men who love and defend their freedom.

When extremists on both sides of the spectrum try to conflate China with the darkness of communism, the reality of Hong Kong and its defence of its freedom shines its beacon of light to prove them wrong.

The CCP is trying to use this pandemic, a pandemic of its own making, to snuff out Hong Kong's light and to suppress this great city, and to hide the desire of Hongkongers, and of all Chinese people, to be free. The CCP understands why Hong Kong matters and so must we.

Today, we are considering a motion of the special committee on Canada-China relations, moved by the member for New Brunswick Southwest, objecting to the arrest of pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong. The shocking arbitrary arrest of heroes of freedom and democracy appears now to have marked the beginning of a coordinated plan to end the effective meaning of the “one country, two systems” concept and replace it with direct rule from Beijing in the name of so-called national security.

Hong Kong's political system, though characterized by relative economic and personal freedom, is not a proper democracy. The presence in its legislature of representatives of so-called functional constituencies distorts results and limits popular control of the territory's government. These problems have led to growing calls for proper universal suffrage democracy, calls which I strongly support but which Liberal ministers in Canada have failed to support.

Hong Kong's undemocratic government has attempted to advance various security-related laws which would dramatically undermine Hong Kong's freedoms. These attempts have always been met by strong opposition. The latest protest movement, sparked by a proposed extradition law, expanded into a strong and sustained call for real democracy. In the midst of these protests, the Hong Kong government withdrew the extradition bill and pro-democracy parties won a historic victory in local elections.

In the face of opposition in the territory to their draconian plans, the government in Beijing now intends to eliminate even the pretense of respecting local decision-making by putting in place new sweeping security measures without even consulting Hong Kong's compromised institutions. These new imposed from Beijing measures contain no limitations on the ability of the CCP to invoke national security as an excuse to pursue whatever arbitrary measures it wants. This new law imposes a de facto single system on the whole of China decisively ending Hong Kong's freedom.

A recent article in Chinese state media openly declares that Jimmy Lai could be prosecuted for pro-democracy tweets under this new security law. It is making up crimes in order to prosecute those who it has already arrested. These measures are bad for China, bad for its economy and bad for its international reputation. However, the CCP has always shown that it is willing to put its desire for control ahead of the national interest and ahead of the people of China.

The CCP believes that any case in which Chinese people live in freedom is a threat to its system's survival because freedom is more contagious than any virus. When people have it, they do not want to give it up. When they see others have it, they want to get it themselves. Hong Kong reminds us that China, in all its beauty and complexity, is made up of women and men who desire and who deserve freedom, who stood in front of tanks because they did not want to live in a basic dictatorship.

The Canadian government in response to these events thus far has lacked the strength and moral clarity that is needed. Our foreign affairs minister chose to take a wait-and-see approach, while the Prime Minister simply called for de-escalation of tensions and genuine dialogue. It is disgraceful that we have such a mealy-mouthed response from the government on a clear-cut moral issue, which also involves the violation of international law. One wonders if after reading about the American civil rights movement, the Prime Minister reflected that what was really needed was just de-escalation of tensions.

There is no honour in trying to play the disinterested and neutral broker between the oppressor and the oppressed. There is only honour in championing the cause of the oppressed and working to advance the cause of justice.

That is what Canada did after Putin's invasion of Ukraine. We drove an international consensus which isolated the Kremlin, punished it for its actions and supported the Ukrainian people. We used a combination of economic and political measures to support victims of violence and to deter future aggression. A government with a principled foreign policy would be doing the same today.

In the last five years, we have seen a rapid slide away from principled foreign policy leadership to a policy of accommodation and appeasement that betrays our fundamental values and prioritizes the interests of a few well-connected companies and UN Security Council politics over questions of human rights and fundamental justice.

In the absence of government leadership, we have and we must continue to use the tools of the minority Parliament to compel the government to do better. We need to resume meetings of the special committee on Canada-China relations as soon as possible. The government opposed the creation of that committee, but all opposition parties stood together to advance what was right. In this perilous time for Hong Kong, and for the whole world, we must do so again.


Episode 6 - Improve your club finances: Your 101 guide to the Community Amateur Sports Club Scheme    


Hosted by Rob Arnott, Communications and Member Engagement Manager, Sport and Recreation Alliance (@RobArnott99).

This week we dive into the Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) Scheme which allows local amateur sports clubs to register with HMRC and benefit from a range of tax and giving benefits, including Gift Aid.

With the latest Sports Club Survey showing a worrying trend of rising costs and falling income at many clubs we wanted to share more detail about the CASC scheme so clubs can make an informed decision about whether the scheme makes financial sense for them. 

We are joined on the pod by our tax advisor, Richard Baldwin MBE who brings 30 years of experience to the table and we also have a chat with Dave Stubley, Club Management & Volunteer Manager at the RFU, about his experience of supporting numerous rugby clubs in their journey to becoming CASC registered. And to help us make sense of it all is our very own Policy Manager, Leigh Thompson. 

Below you’ll also find some handy resources and further reading around CASCs:


Episode 7 – Crowdfunding your way to success   


Hosted by Alex Sexton, Communications Manager, Sport and Recreation Alliance (@Alexx_Sexxton).

This episode we take a look into Crowdfunding and how, when used effectively, it can help to supplement income generation among sport and recreation organisations.

With funding being a very real and regular concern among a large proportion of our membership, therefore alternative funding options are being taken more seriously and Crowdfunding online is one such avenue which can provide several advantages.

We are joined by two of our members who share their success stories and the impact it has made. 

Carey Davies, Hill Walking Development Officer at The British Mountaineering Council provides an insight into the Mend our Mountains campaign. The award-winning, headline-grabbing campaign raised more than £100,000 to repair Britain’s hills and mountains

Following the success of their Glide Britain campaign, Dave Latimer, chairman of the Development Committee at the British Gliding Association explains how their project has reached new audiences to get more people involved in gliding.

Below you’ll also find some handy resources and further reading around Crowdfunding:


Episode 1: The King's Secret Son   


King Karel the second, son of Philip the Handsome, Lord of the Netherlands and Emperor of Spain and Rome decides to send his illegitimate son Polder Van Dijk on a voyage to prove the Earth is flat. Christopher Columbus tries to impress, Polder struggles with orders, reading, companionship and intimacy. 


Episode 8 – The Social Impact of Sport and Recreation   


Hosted by Alex Sexton, Communications Manager, Sport and Recreation Alliance (@Alexx_Sexxton).

This episode we welcome three organisations who are effectively targeting hard to reach communities in order to get children and young people active.

Each has fascinating stories to share on their success, their challenges and their impact.

It is a fantastic opportunity for other sport and recreation organisations to share best practice and to learn from those making a real difference in local communities.

In an open and engaging conversation, we are joined by London Youth Rowing CEO Matt Rostron, Co-Founder of Gloves Up Knives Down, David Edgell and the Community Manager of Snow-Camp Charity, Dan Keeley.

Below you’ll also find some handy resources and further reading around the impact being made:


Episode 10 - Increasing inclusiveness for sport and recreation   


Hosted by Alex Sexton, Communications Manager, Sport and Recreation Alliance (@Alexx_Sexxton).

This episode celebrates World Mental Health Day as we look at the issue of inclusiveness in the sector.

We are joined by the Alzheimer’s Society ambassador Tracey Shorthouse and Programme Partnerships Officer for Sport and Leisure, Steve McFadyen.

As somebody who lives with Alzheimer’s, Tracey discusses her relationship with sport and recreation and highlights the barriers and opportunities that exist to keep everybody physically active.

Mental Health is an area that the Sport and Recreation Alliance is passionate about as showcased by our work with the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation.

Providing insight from within the sector, the Alliance’s Rasteen Riyahi-Boni, Policy Support Officer, also joins the panel.

Further Reading:

Mental Health Charter – 

Mental Health Resources - 

Dementia-friendly sport and physical activity guide and information – 

Dementia Friends -

Tracey Shorthouse blog on making facilities dementia friendly – 

Alzheimer’s Society website for support and information – 

We are Undefeatable campaign –


Episode 16 - The Power of Volunteers!   


Hosted by Alex Sexton, Communications Manager, Sport and Recreation Alliance (@Alexx_Sexxton).

With BBC Sports Personality of the Year celebrating our wonderful volunteers this weekend, we take a look at why these unsung heroes are so important across the sport and recreation sector.

We are joined by Sarah Webber, Outdoor and Adventure Project Co-ordinator at Girlguiding (@Girlguiding) and Chantel Scherer, Director of Marketing, Communications and Member Engagement at the Alliance (@ChantelScherer).

As an organisation with over 400,000 members, Girlguiding relies on an intricate network of supporters and volunteers. Sarah discusses their value and how they are kept engaged with central office.

We then take a look at the #BigThankYou campaign which accompanies Sports Personality of the Year and provides the platform for our community to share their stories and highlight their volunteering heroes who keep sport and recreation running.

Further Reading:

Volunteer Finder -

Recruit, Retain and Reward Volunteers –

GIVERS research on value of volunteers -

Become a volunteer with Girlguiding –


Spreading The VD Madness   


Our Valentines Day Special! We do "Where not to take your date for Valentines Day", We give pickup lines for the singles to get a date, and Runion tries new food!  Don't miss this VD packed episode oh and madlibs

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