Fact of the Day - B, "Blackjack" Pershing

John J. "Blackjack" Pershing

Pershing was the only living General of the Army, the highest rank a US soldier can attain ( George Washington also achieved this rank but was so-named posthumously). He earned his distinctive nickname through his outspoken belief in the skill and professionalism of his African-American troopers during his time commanding the self-labeled "Buffalo Soldiers" of the 10th Calvary Regiment in the late 1800's. He was the commander and inspiration for the American Expeditionary force to Europe during WWI. In this, he commanded, either directly or indirectly, and was the inspiration for nearly all notable World War II-era US generals.


Every Runner Needs a PaceWheel

I am a firm proponent of the rugged individualism and entrepreneurial spirit that made thi country great and it is with that in mind that I find it necessary to promote any and all non-pyramidal, money-making schemes that my friends and family devise. I didn't have this venue when my dad was doing consulting as a defense specialist or when my sisters had shaved iced and fashion accessory companies, but I darn sure have the ability to promote the PaceWheel. My near-lifelong friend The Coach has recently perfected this race-training instrument which is second to none in it ingenuity and simplicity. In short, it gives even the most dim-witted runner the ability to set training paces based upon goal times and past performances. Its calculations are derived from the most scientifically up-to-date data available on the physiology of running and racing. If any of you intend to train for a race from 5k to marathon, you need this item. It is affordable, simple and the brain child of great guy.


This is a funny passport

I don't care who you are, that is funny.

Campbell received his first passport in the mail yesterday in preparation for our departure to Ukraine and I can't stop laughing when I look at it. The part that I find so strange is that he is 17 months old, he has drool all over his shirt in the photo, his listed height is 2' 8" and yet the document is valid until 2012! He will be in 1st grade traveling on this same passport. Don't get me wrong, I have no desire to renew annually, but it just seems odd. I guess that's the nature of getting your first passport around the time you learn to walk.


Interesting things I learn on a daily basis

In a discussion with Slick in past week or so, I confessed that I am worried that while we are in Ukraine, I may struggle to find continually interesting topics on which to post. OK...so this may not be a change from the current state of affairs but I still hope to increase my readership while we're overseas through stimulating writing. It was with this in mind that an epiphany hit me this morning.

What is my most redeeming conversation skill?

Clearly it must be the recitation of irrelevant but nonetheless interesting facts - generally about history. Why not translate this into short, sweet blog posts?

So, here is the first of many installments in my new alphabetical "Fact of the day" (which is not synonymous with "A fact a Day") category...

A is for Australia:

I must confess that Australia is a country about which I seldom think, at least until Mike loaned me a book called "In a Sunburned Country" by the fantastically funny Bill Bryson. It is essentially based up on the same premise I just stated...Australia is a fascinating country about which we know virtually nothing. If you'd like to remedy that, check out Bryson's book but I will convey some of my favorite random facts from his book:

  1. In 1605 Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, a Portuguese explorer for the Spanish crown, endeavoured to find and claim the mythical southern continent for Spain and the Church. He left the Peruvian coastal city of Callao with 3 ships, one piloted by Spaniard Luis Vaez de Torres. Though successful in crossing the South Pacific (Torres' ship was the only one that completed the voyage), our friend Luis managed a miraculously unlucky threading of the needle. You see, after sailing over 9000 linear miles he was able to miss the 2500 miles of his target continent's eastern coastline, instead sailing obliviously through the now aptly-named Torres Strait between Australia and what is now Papua New Guinea - a mere 80 miles wide.

  2. Though the interior of Australia - including the fabled Outback - is some of the least hospitable land on the planet, flora and fauna from elsewhere seem to love it. Today the desert-like interior is growing, encroaching on the natural grassland due to the ever increasing population of rabbits. The non-native animal was introduced to be hunted and proceeded to breed like...anyway...they have no natural predator on a continent of deadly predators. They continue to decimate the plant life, thereby turning plains into desert. Another example is the prickly pear cactus. Never a part of the Australian landscape, it arrived along with other seeds intended for cultivation. Now there are fields of cactus that nothing eats and nothing can kill - individual plants that span acres.

So that is Australia. I hope to make these more interesting when I have more than a lunch break to write.


How to Follow the Gaws in Ukraine

As the time for our departure draws steadily nearer, have you been thinking, "I enjoy reading the Gaws blog - I mean, the author is fantastic! - but I wish there were an easy way that I could be notified when they have a new post - and while I'm at it, all my other favs as well!"?

Here's what I do.

There is a website called Bloglines that allows you to subscribe to any number of blogs or websites which you enjoy reading and it will notify you about the latest offerings from your favorite pajama-clad writers. The blogoshpere goes well beyond just random thoughts by friends and acquaintances. It is a good source for breaking news, opinion and topic-specific commentary. You can set it to show my blog (or Slicks or Kacie's), Drudge Report, ABC News, Barclay's Premiership, The Food Network....the list goes on. Nearly any website that is periodically updated can be subscribed to.

Give it a shot and you'll be amazed how useful a tool this can be. Mine is set as the top site on my favorites list and it logs me in automatically. I keep it up all day just to keep a finger on the pulse of my friends and the world at large without wasting time checking each site, only to find nothing new.

Ukraine Experience (part 3) and why we're moving there

This is apparently my third and long over-due post on my time in Ukraine. I have been back in the US for almost 2 months now and after most overseas trips my thoughts would have turned (permanently) to other things...and yet the experience still holds my attention. This time (as in the previous 2 Ukraine posts) I am going to facilitate my point through the story of one of the children I met.

This is Natasha. I'm guessing she is somewhere in the 13-14 age range and she lives in Kiev at the group home that I spoke about previously. As I mentioned, the Children's Center in Kiev is not an orphanage. It is a Christian group home for children whose parents are incapable - either for financial or lifestyle reasons - of caring for them. The top photo is a picture of a picture from a bulletin board at the home. Many of the children that we met have "before and after" pictures on this board. One side shows them in their previous environment while the other was frequently a shot of them at the Center's school, bettering themselves. The "before" shots are heart-wrenching, showing filthy, cut up children - barely recognizable, even if you know at whom you're looking - living in boiler rooms, sewer pipes, and abandoned buildings. They snarl at the camera like starving dogs as they scrounge just to survive.

The picture quality makes it difficult to see Natasha's eyes and the deadness that they hold. The closer one examines the first picture, the more amazing the second becomes. Lil' Natasha (as I think of her, to differentiate her from our team member and the adult Ukrainian helper of the same name) was one of my favorites - though I think I've said that about all the kids. She LOVED my buddy Paul and was with him at nearly every opportunity.

My main reason for this post was to give example of the work being done in Ukraine of which I cannot wait to be a part. The difference between the cold Natasha, so young and yet already beaten down by the pain of life, and the sweet smile of Natasha today is so drastic that I cannot help but be drawn to making that kind of a difference in the lives of children half a world away.

I know that I am a little hit or miss on my blogging schedule but please stick with me for the next few months of preparation. Upon arrival, I plan to be intentional about keeping you updated on progress in my new hometown.