Captain Mark in Iraq

For the second time in as many days I am posting using material that is largely not my own.  Mark, a friend to many of us, has been in Baghdad for the past few weeks as a JAG officer (aka. military lawyer) with the Air Force.  While it may seem that the words "lawyer" and "Air Force" don't tend to indicate danger, Mark is responsible for assisting the municipal court system of Iraq.  This entails rolling with the Marines in the battle gear you see him sporting above.  He's been kind enough to keep us updated via email so I'm stealing his report and posting it below.  Stay safe Marky Mark, we're praying for you!

Family and friends -
Things are going well in Baghdad.  I'm settling into a routine at work and finally feel as if I have a good grasp on the processes here.  The cases I'm seeing here are truly phenomenal: the very worst of human depravity and the very best of human courage.  What better use of a law degree than to prosecute the worst of the worst?  Few attorneys have this opportunity.  I am grateful. 
The judicial system here is beginning to stand on its own two feet.  It is independent from the other branches of government and establishing working courts in the outlying provinces. 
Violence is at a low.  Citizens are becoming confident in our ability to capture the bad guys and the system's ability to see that they are punished.  Folks are returning to the markets, kids to the soccer fields, etc.
Recently we had a diplomatic luncheon for the Iraqi Judges.  These are courageous men.  Dozens of judges have been assassinated in the past.   I've attached a picture showing the deputy ambassador, our Task Force 134 general (a Marine 2 star), and the Chief Judge in a gift exchange.  The general presented to the Chief Judge what I thought was a poignant gift: the writings of Abraham Lincoln, a man who overcame a similar situation -- a country ripped-apart by geographic and ideological strife.
I've attached a couple of photos: who's that famous guy with General Petraeus?  
Clare and the kids are doing well.  The boys just had minor surgery to remove their adenoids.  They spend every spare moment engrossed in Star Wars legos; Gracie babbling on the phone.  I get to speak to them nearly every day; it does my heart good to hear their voices. 
Also, we are very pleased to be moving back to Denver next summer.  Clare is already busy looking at homes for us. 
Finally, I'm now in a position to get mail. 
Love to all,


We'll miss you, Sis

I just recently learned that the grandmother of my longtime friend Bryan Unks passed away last week. Alma Leslie MacElhaney - I never her knew her as anything but "Grandma" or "Sis" - was a staple of my youth and will be sorely missed. I spent more than my fair share of time at their house for 4th of July and New Year's parties. Sis and her late husband Sandy always accepted we friends-of-the-family as though we were part of the clan - which for Sandy usually meant treating me like I was in his own personal boot camp, berating me for wearing my hat backwards or inside his house at all. They were amazing people and I expect that I will always think of their neighborhood off York, east of Academy as the "MacElhaney's." Below is the obituary from today's paper wherein those that knew her best pay homage to her memory.

A longtime resident of Colorado Springs, Sis went home to be with the Lord on November 19, 2007. Born in Baltimore, MD on August 23, 1923, Sis was the daughter of William and Alma Leslie. She married Alexander (Sandy) MacElhaney on August 29, 1942, and they enjoyed over 61 years of marriage before Sandy died in 2003. They had four children: Sharon Unks (Rick), Bill MacElhaney, Patti Bradley (Mike) all of Colorado Springs and John MacElhaney of Grand Junction, CO. Sis is survived by her four children, 12 grandchildren, great grandchildren, and her sister Jean Wiles of Franklin, TN. Sis' greatest joy was her family, but her influence went well beyond. She was quite a sports enthusiast and even though legally blind for the past 9 years, she continued to attend Air Force football and basketball games. She had an infectious smile and endeared herself to all with whom she came into contact. Sis had a wonderful sense of humor that had the nurses laughing right up until the end. She will be sorely missed by all who were blessed to know her. A Memorial Service will be held at 2:30 PM on December 2, 2007 at Liberty Heights, 12105 Ambassador Drive, Colorado Springs, CO with a reception to follow.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the United States Air Force Academy Association of Graduates, 3116 Academy Drive, USAF Academy, CO 80840-4475.

Published in The Gazette on 11/28/2007.

We love you, Sis!


Ukraine Move Update

I don't believe that many of you reading these lines are still unaware of our impending move to Ukraine, so I won't rehash this, but feel free to peruse some some earlier posts on our connection to Ukraine here - I'll wait.....

Ok, now that we're all on the same page, here's how we're progressing.  Our move date is December 11th when we fly out of Denver direct for Munich.  We have nice long layover there before hopping a short flight to Kiev.  We've decided not to spend a night in the capital before continuing our trip to Kerch and instead will catch the 15 hour overnight train to Simferopol where we will be met by our new bosses Andrey and Tanya for the 4 hour drive to Kerch.  Please pray for Campbell and his attitude during an extremely trying 36+ hours of constant travel.

We have come to an understanding with the lovely young lady who will be renting our house and feel confident that our humble home will be in good hands.  Diesel will be staying with my parents and his on again, off again friend and fellow canine Ginger (sometime I'll post the pictures of Ginger's scars from their dust-up).

Our support continues to come in slowly but surely and we thank all of you who have given to our ministry or committed to support us monthly.

I've been tasked with cleaning up the portion of our beach on the Strait of Kerch which continues to suffer from the fuel oil spill from earlier this month.  I read this morning that the tide is pushing the slick north and east meaning that the effect will be more devastating on the Russian side of the Strait than on the Crimean coast.

Also this morning I discovered that we will not have traditional health insurance while we're in country, instead we will use a combination of travel insurance (evacuation, catastrophic injury, etc.) and out of pocket doctors visits.  Tanya says that doctor visits run $4-$20 USD which in decidedly less than any insurance premiums available on this planet.

More updates to follow...


Traffic Blip Update

Slick made a comment on my earlier post regarding the unexplained blip in my blog visits saying that he planned to go to my site and hit refresh repeatedly to pad my sitemeter stats, but only on my birthday. This reminded me that I haven't checked my traffic in a few days so I took a peek over at the recent reports and was shocked once again.  To review, the peak was last Tuesday and after dropping slightly (though still at a good level) on Wednesday, my daily numbers plummeted on Thursday, Friday and Saturday - dropping to half the pre-blip levels.

Then the mysterious occurred.  Sunday the 25th my visits skyrocketed to more than 60% above the previous surge while in just 14 hours, today's totals rival those of the now less-than-impressive blip last Tuesday!  Since my most recent post prior this one was on Thursday, the beginning of the downturn, I am seriously befuddled as to why some days I have only a dozen visitors and the next I have close to 200.  Please let me know if you have any theories about this cyber-enigma.


Fact of the Day: G is for Gurkha

The subject for this post is one which I have been excited about sharing with you and I hope you'll find this as interesting as I do.  I first heard about the Gurkha from my dad a few years ago in reference to their service in the Falklands War in 1982 and I developed an instant respect.  As is customary, let's start at the beginning....

The Kingdom of Gorkha was centered in present day Nepal and claimed to have descended from invading peoples from further south and west.  In the 18th century the Gorkhas rose in power and prominence until their leader became King of Nepal.  Their expansion soon led to clashes with the British East India Company in India and eventually war in 1814.  By the end of the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1816 the British and the Gurkha (the Brits always find it necessary to change the spelling of native words, even just a little) had developed a mutual respect for each other's fighting prowess.  This was so much the case that the first Gurkha volunteer regiments within the British forces was created before the war-ending treaty was signed.  The peace with Nepal opened the opportunity to bring Gurkhas under the British crown en masse.  As further conflicts within India necessitated military involvement, the Gurkha units (though still commanded by Anglo officers) distinguished themselves as soldiers and gained a reputation as fearsome warriors.  This reputation was furthered by the widespread use of their distinctive Kukri blades in battle.  The knife (pictured in the hand of Victoria Cross recipient Tul Bahadur Pun) is a traditional tool and weapon with which young Gurkha men are proficient at an early age.  Part of their continuing legend is the tradition that once a Kukri blade is draw, it it cannot be re-sheathed without drawing blood.  The fact that this is simply that - legend - was irrelevant to the Argentine troops who abandoned machine guns and mortars ahead of the Gurkhas advance based solely on the Nepalis' fearsome reputation.  

Though Nepal has never been a British colony, over the past two centuries, 200,000 Gurkhas have served the crown in wars the world over and continue to do so in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They maintain their Nepali citizenship but serve an ally nation as their fathers and grandfathers - there has never been a female Gurkha - did before them.  They can still be seen in the UK, Nepal, Singapore and Brunei with their hats still jauntily cocked to the side and their Kukri on their hip.  See here for the Brigade of Gurkhas portion of the British Army site.


Best Campaign Ad in the History of Man (Mike Huckabee and Chuck Norris)

I don't think I even need to comment on this one. This is easily the funniest ad I've ever seen a Presidential candidate be man enough to put on the air. Huckabee has my respect and maybe my vote too.

Interesting blip and why sitemeter is cool

I realize that this is too small for most of you to read but the bar graph at the top makes my point just fine in this scale.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I have been much more interested in the sitemeter feature on my blog in the past few weeks. Most mornings I pop by the page and see if I can identify who's visited recently based on the ridiculous amount of information that sitemeter provides. I've also started checking what brought them to my page (ie. Googled keywords, blog aggregator, specific input of my address, etc.) and occasionally I check my overall traffic numbers. Sitemeter can plot this on a graph like the one you see above by hour, day, week, month, or year.

This morning I half-heartedly checked to see how I'd been doing the past 7 days. I was shocked to see that yesterday (November 20th) had massively more numbers than I ever recall seeing. I expanded my parameters to look at the past month and saw that this wasn't my imagination. As you can see above, the 20th (those without magnifying glasses will have to take my word for it) is by a factor of 3 higher than my average for the past 30 days! The division of color in the bar for each day denotes visits (yellow) and page views (orange). Apparently if Google identifies my blog as matching a search criteria, this qualifies as a page view even if the searching party doesn't actually visit my blog. Even so, the graph shows over 90 actual visits, where I'd never even hit 40 in the past. Sorry to cover my sitemeter addiction again, but I got excited and I hope that the numbers spike indicates that more people are reading.

If you are reading this and have no idea who I am....thanks for making my day by inflating my numbers (and ego).


AIDS Numbers Worldwide Decline

Have you ever come across a story or article that by the time you've finished reading, you have gone through a half dozen reactions/emotions? This story had that effect on me. The essence of the piece is that AIDS numbers worldwide have dropped significantly - from 39.5 million to 33.2 - but that the decrease is mainly on paper.

Here's my progression of reactions as I read through the story:

Stage 1, Elation - "Great news! Whatever is leading to a lowering of instances of this horrendous disease is fantastic! Praise the Lord that fewer people are suffering from AIDS. But wait........"

Stage 2, Disillusionment - "It's an illusion, dang it! It isn't so much that fewer people have AIDS, it's just a statistical correction. So all the money being poured into the developing world isn't doing a thing for these people?!?"

Stage 3, Cautious Hope - "Wait, apparently the AIDS epidemic peaked in late 90's....there is improvement, just not as much as the numbers have been revised. That's good news!"

Stage 4, Suspicion - "How could the number be off by over six million cases, that's almost 20%?!? I smell an agenda at work here...."

Stage 5, Cynicism - "Oh look, the story quotes two epidemiologists from elite universities who believe the numbers have been knowingly inflated to create greater urgency and increase funding! As with global warming, science has become political."

Stage 6, Frustration/Anger - "Apparently the immanent death of over 33 million people isn't spectacular enough. It cheapens the tragedy of the people who ACTUALLY have AIDS (particularly those who contracted it through no fault of their own) to play number games with the issue."

Stage 7, Acceptance - Because all emotional stage processes must end with acceptance.

Give this article a read and let me know your reaction.


Fact of the Day - F: Fasces

The Fasces, as pictured at left, is quite simply a bundle of rods lashed together around a staff or ax. Dating to Roman times, the bundle represents the strength of a sum being greater than the individual (similar to the proverbial rope of three strands which is not easily broken). As such, it has traditionally been used to symbolize strength through unity or simply power and jurisdiction. It is one of the most common images in crests, coat-of-arms and national symbology.

It has been utilized as a symbol from ancient Rome to Mussolini's Italy and from Europe to America. The fasces is present in edifices for all three branches of US government (and both houses of Congress), the back of the Mercury dime, the Lincoln Memorial and numerous other places in DC and the state's capitals. It may be the most commonly represented object in our government buildings that most of you could not even identify...until now.
I had some trouble finding something even somewhat interesting for my "F" fact of the day. Please stay tuned for Gurkha...

Kerch's Perfect Storm

I was shocked last night when I realized that I'd completely neglected to keep some of my newer readers up-to-date on an ongoing crisis which directly affects our new hometown in Ukraine. On Sunday, in the midst of a near hurricane-strength storm on the Black Sea, multiple tankers and transport ships sank or ran aground in the Kerch Strait. This channel - between 3 and 11 miles wide - connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, divides Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula from mainland Russia and is a major shipping lane. At least 5 sailors lost their lives and others remain missing. Ecologically the storm was equally devastating. A decrepit Russian tanker broke in half on the huge swells, spilling over a thousand gallons of oil. Additionally, several other ships carrying sulphur sank and are feared to be leaking chemicals into the Strait.

We have heard from our people in Kerch that the Hope Center (the facility that will be our home) is fine and suffered no damage, however the massive pollution from the spills will likely inhibit our ability to utilize the beaches for camps this summer. Please pray for Andrey, Tanya and the rest of our Ukrainian staff as they cope with the program issues and the humanitarian concerns that this storm has created.


Fun Blog Addition - sitemeter

I hadn't thought much about the little sitemeter tag that's been at the bottom of my blog for the past 6 months until I was playing with it this morning. My surge of posting in past few days made me curious whether increased activity led to increased viewership. For those not familiar with sitemeter, you create an account and then submit your blog/website to be monitored for traffic with the option of having reports sent to you on a regular basis. You even get the html code for sticking a little logo tab somewhere on your page.

Since my report is scheduled for Monday morning, I received mine today - thus creating the aforementioned curiosity. I started to look at some of the more obscure facts which are available and was simultaneously amazed and slightly disturbed. With this account, I am literally able to determine the geographic location, network, operating system, browser type and even the resolution of the monitor being used by a visitor to my site. I know how they found my site, what content on my blog was viewed and how long they were they were there. Truely interesting and scarey. I felt like a character from "Hackers"! I highly recommend you check this out if you care at all who and how many visitors are viewing your page.


The iPhone or something like it

Since its release, Slick and Kacie have blogged their delight about the new iPhones and, feeling a little left out I decided to write about my high end handheld.  Here it is, the true Crackberry:
This particular piece of electronics (with the emphasis on piece) was somewhere near middle-of-the-line when it was purchased 2 1/2 years ago.  It has a state of the art abacus calculator, email only matched by that of machines 1/4 it's size, a processor that rivals first generation Ataris and a full 3- or 4-shade color screen.  Its web-surfing capabilities function at nearly twice the speed of smell (credit for that quote to comedian Ron White).

As you can see in the advertising photo above, it can be upgraded in many ways.  I opted to remove 3 of its 4 main screws to shed valuable ounces while adding a strip of lightweight duct tape to maintain the structural integrity of the hand held.  For a touch of uniqueness and individuality I added the reflective patches on all sides of the massive 3 inch display through a special process of "pumice shining" (achieved by keeping the phone in my pocket with warehouse grime).  For additional grip when making speedy calls, I "drop roughed" all the corners, utilizing the pavement of countless warehouses and storage facilities around the country.  As part of my contract with Verizon, I am informed fortnightly about my outstanding balance which occasionally gives me a period of peace from those pesky (though important) emails, voice mails and phone calls.

All in all, the RIM Crackberry is a phone of epic capabilities and aesthetics.  If you'd like to own this PIECE of custom electronics, you can pick it up in the bottom of my office trash can on December 11th. 


Formerly Broken Torres Lifts Reds

Fernando Torres made a successful early return to the Liverpool side, subbing in 71 minutes into today's game against Fulham.  After leaving the Arsenal game 2 weeks ago with an injury said to keep him out for at least 3 weeks, Torres returned to the training field unexpectedly earlier this week.  While not able to participate in the record-setting 8-0 Champions League victory against Turkish side Besiktas on Tuesday, the Spaniard was eager to play at Anfield today.  Manager Rafa Benitez, seeing points slipping away midway through the second half, decided to bring in Torres to give the offense a much needed boost.  The move appeared to be a stroke of brilliance when, in the 81st minute Torres controlled a long pass from keeper and fellow Spaniard Pepe Reina and beat Antti Niemi to the near post to open scoring.  A questionable penalty on Red's Jolly-Green-Giant striker Peter Crouch gave captain Steven Gerrard the opportunity to bring the game to 2-0.

The win represents only the second time this season that LFC have been victorious at what was once known as "Fortress Anfield."  An international break threatens to slow the Reds momentum drawn from a 2-0 record and a 10-0 goal differential in the past week.  Next on the schedule are struggling but still dangerous Newcastle on November 24th and a must-win meeting in Champions League qualifying with FC Porto on November 28th.   Go Reds!


I can't believe I survived bachelorhood

Sarah and Campbell left for a week in Michigan on Wednesday, a departure that in conjunction with the tail-end of my vacation that I didn't need for hunting, leaves me in a position similar to my single, young-adult years.  After dropping her off at the airport I took the opportunity to hang out at Bass Pro in Denver until only the prospect of getting stuck in traffic induced me to leave.  In short, I've had the past few days completely to myself.  No responsibilities, curfews, checking in, asking for opinions or permission and after 48 hours of total freedom I have decided that it is...BORING.  I have no idea how I made it through my roughly 3 years of adulthood prior to meeting Sarah.

It has also brought me face-to-face with the reasons behind my former troubles with alcohol.  The lack of daily responsibilities - even if only being aware of the physical and emotional needs of your wife - retard a man's ability to mature and without maturity freedom is destructive.  I thank the Lord that he brought Sarah into my life to give me an object of focus outside myself and thereby drawing me toward a healthy maturity.  Had He not, I shudder to think of where my behavioral patterns would have led.

I make these observations in order to give greater emphasis to this point:

I need my Sarry back!  I know she's having a great time in Michigan so I will wait patiently for her and little Campbell-cito to come home.


Sorry for the delay...

I know you've all been waiting patiently for me to give you a full update on my new computer, but I'm not going to bore you with it.  I do need to tell you that though I now have a computer, I'm not working all week, thereby rendering me incommunicado in the internet arena.  Being resourceful person, I've come to Slicky's place to use his wireless while trying not to seem like a complete mooch.
The purpose of this particular post is to inform you that buried in the hubbub surrounding the new computer, I neglected to mention that this past Friday I left for my last hunting trip before we embark for our time in Ukraine.  This particular trip was rifle hunting for mule deer bucks in northern Colorado.  To ruin the surprise, I successfully took a buck that was larger than last year but not so big as to spoil me for future hunts.  I was also successful in not taking a single picture of the event, save the one from Marshall's phone.

I apologize for the semi-graphic nature of this particular photo, but as I mentioned before, it's all I have (it's for this reason that I kept it purposely small).

So here is my second successful deer hunt in as many years and the third big game animal in the past year - in fact, all of my successful hunts have been within 365 days which ended on Saturday with the taking of the animal that you see at left.


Mac Today?

I was hoping to have written my next post on my new MacBook but it seems that this isn't to be. I couldn't keep waiting and leave my blog responsibilities unfulfilled so I am writing ABOUT but not on my new computer for what I hope will be the last time. I am now even more excited to receive my Mac since I have discovered via the FedEx tracking page that Apple actually has the ability to bend time (a power that I hope is standard on my laptop as I didn't purchase any upgrade in this respect).

According to FedEx, my package arrived in Anchorage, AK at 8:47pm yesterday evening. I found this odd primarily because I happened upon this information at roughly 10:30am yesterday. Before any of you make fools of yourselves and mention time zones, let's recall that it is always earlier in Alaska than here. As a further trick, my computer proceeded to depart Anchorage yesterday at 3:30pm; a full 5 hours before it supposedly arrived in said city. It's on the internet, it has to be true!

I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised that Apple CEO Steve Jobs can manipulate time as his company guaranteed me that my computer would arrive 7 days from the time of my order via FedEx ground service from Shanghai, China. Now that's amazing!

Upon my arrival at work I checked with the mysterious FedEx tracking system and both my MacBook and the international adaptor kit (separate shipments) arrived at the FedEx location in Colorado Springs early this morning, giving me hope that they will be delivered to my house today. Please cross your fingers with me.

Update: I have heard from my wife that the MacBook has arrived and will be in my hands at the office today at 11 or so. Good news!

Update 2.0: During the period of time between last Saturday and today when my MacBook arrived, its graphic capabilities have become obsolete. Luckily for us, Apple is pretty cool about these things so tomorrow I am doing a straight swap for the upgraded version at the Apple store at Park Meadows Mall in Denver. If you get a chance, give these people your business because they understand customer service.