4/29/08

La La La's with lots of Dah Dah Dah's

May 6th we will be holding a 5K (or 3 1/2K if I'm feeling sorry for them) run for the IVA students.  None of them are too thrilled about this either.  Only a couple of them actually enjoy running, but they will all be participating in the race.  If any of you have run in a race, I'm sure you will agree that a well thought out event can make for a really fun time... even if it is running.  But to pull this off, you need good music and lots of people cheering.  Since the work team will be here, we will have the fans.  Now I need some good music.  This is where you all come into play.  Give me your top 5 good running songs (that can be played at the Hope Center :)).  You know, the songs that get the entire crowd singing at the tops of their voices and inserting a lot of "dah dah dahs" and humming on the not so famous parts... "Come on Ilene...dah dah dah".  I need everyone to participate on this!!!  

The Concrete Fiasco

Yesterday with the work crew was very productive with quite a few small pours being completed and the framing on the main patio moving ahead nicely.  We did however have a small non-meeting of the minds; a sort of minor, low-grade Cold War between the Americans and the Ukrainians.  As an American who sympathized with the points being made by the Ukrainian folks (plus being the only American who understood much of the frustrated discussion in Russian), I was sort of in the middle, trying to mediate between the 2 camps.  

Basically the problems stemed from the pouring of a new concrete floor in our main workshop skladt (which just means storage).  The work team brought a professional concrete guy who deemed that in order for the front of the slab to be as thick as he wanted it, the back needed to be about 7 inches thick.  Upon seeing the mass of this section, every Ukrainian present was astounded by the wastefulness of, to paraphrase Andrey, "putting a gold floor in a nasty block workshop."

After this opinion made its way around to everyone on staff it quickly became a divisive issue that broke down along national lines.  I really saw both sides of this; the Ukrainians see the camp on a daily basis and are more than aware of the financial issues that face the HopeCenter.  To use vital resources for such a unnecessary project was unthinkable.  On the American side, one must only have heard the tome, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right."

As with many disagreements, the initial problem stems from miscommunication.  While the HC staff knew how much money was on-hand for the work team, the Americans were fully willing to finance what they considered necessary overages.  These issues were sorted out and all is proceeding very well.

Today, one of my favorite guys Vitalik decided that his work shirt was just too plain so he gave it a personal touch.  This drawing was all done with a permanent marker.  I am trying to think of an idea to have him draw for me before he leaves.  Any suggestions?

4/28/08

Fauxhawk; part 2

Sarry's is out working on some crafts for this afternoon...I have the boy with no instructions other than to find something fun to do.  What better time to test my aforementioned fauxhawk theory.
Not too bad for just using water....

4/27/08

A ____-hawk kind of day

Today I've decided to deal with an issue that plagues me regularly.  For reasons that I don't understand yet blame on my father, my hair has an unrealistic aspiration towards a fauxhawk; unrealistic in that it refuses to stand UP - a necessary feature of this hairstyle.  This is what it looks like most mornings when it starts to get longer.

Since the fauxhawk is a mainstay of European football, I thought I would make a pictorial comparison.  Below is Cesc Fabergas of Arsenal.  Notice that his hair length and cut isn't appreciably different from mine but look how well his behaves.
Now look at my boy, Jamie Carragher of Liverpool.  He and I are fellow anti-fauxhawk sufferers.  Our hair will gladly go forward and together in the middle but all we get is a rockin' Eddie Munster widow's peak.

In celebration of another disappointing almost-fauxhawk day, I decided to develop a "soulhawk."  I'm sure that I'm not the first person to think of this and even if I am, it would be much better introduced by someone with a patch that doesn't look like corn silk.  Still, I'm sportin' a short beard and longer soul patch for Easter this year.


LotD - Slicky

That's right, Slick has made the LotD 2 out of 3 days (and would have been 2 in a row if I'd caught his comment earlier.

Let's all pool our money together and get a 4-level, 4000 square foot house in D-20. We each get 1 floor, 1000 feet each. Think of the benefits...built in baby-sitting, friends a floor away, hearing things you wish you didn't hear, etc. Priceless! If you're thinking "compound", don't worry...we'll leave 1 window un-boarded... :)

4/26/08

First Hard Day at Work

The '08 Spring Work Team from the US (representing Minnesota and Michigan) arrived at the Hope Center around midnight of the 24th.  Today was the first hard day at work, and I'm sure there will be plenty more in the next couple of weeks.  The ladies have started teaching the IVA girls sewing and the men are working on the concrete projects.  Check out the slideshow!  More to come...


video

4/25/08

Hotmail Rant and poopoo@yahoo.com

I got a Hotmail account sometime in the early 18th century at a time when the only options were AOL, Yahoo, MicroSoft (Hotmail/MSN) and your work address.  I thought, "It's hot, it's mail...what could be better!?!"  Since then, it's gone through a variety of changes in look and functionality but I've kept my same matthewgaw address.

Sometime last year I think, hotmail transitioned to its "Live" format which was a major advance if you enjoy allowing Bill Gates' minions to access every aspect of your computer.  It required a download to tell you instantly when you get mail, to integrate your MSN chat with your email contacts and to periodically upload all your vital information to the mothership.  I had it on my work laptop and everything cruised along just fine until I decided to unplug from the MS Matrix.  With a few notable exceptions, my beloved MacBook handles living in a PC wold just fine, but it encountered a "glitch" when it comes to logging in to hotmail.  Since their entire setup is geared around the "Live" format, if you don't download it and/or have a MicroSoft Mafia incompatible computer, in technical terms, "it jacks up your whole program."

Here's the scenario.  My Mac is set to remember my logins so generally when I go to log-in page, it enters this automatically and sets me up at the main site page.  With Hotmail, this doesn't work and leads my browser on an endless and circular URL wild-goose chase - never actually going to my account.  Thus, here is the necessary process:

1.  Select Hotmail from my bookmarks
2.  Realize that for the above mentioned reason, this actually takes me to the main MSN site.
3.  Click "log out"
4.  Click "log in"
5.  Enter entire email address and password
6.  Upon opening my Hotmail home screen, click on my inbox
7.  Notice that I have no new emails
8.  Click "log out"
9.  Close browser widow

*If I stay inactive for too long, the process must be repeated starting at step #3.

So this brings me to what is becoming a cyber-generational issue that is increasingly common (see Stuff Christians Like for a similar topic).  When and how do you change an address of longstanding?  When does a "handle" that seemed funny or cute when you were 14 become embarrassing to add to a resume?  I don't want to pick on any particular person (mainly because I know she reads this blog sometimes), but can a new college graduate go very far in the world with an email address like: purpinkpoodle@somethingoranother.com.  Or, what do perspective employers think of guys whose address obviously contains their high school athletics number?  I'd be tempted to tear up the resume on the spot.

What do you guys think?  Any of you still have that first address?  I know for a fact that Tammi does...anyone else?

LotD - Carlos Whittaker

Ok, today's LotD has a visual component, but I promise that it's worth it.

This is Carlos Whittaker.  His blog is one of my favorites despite him being artsy and me...um...not.
This is Carlos' wife Heather.  She has a blog but I don't read it.  You can probably Google her if you're curious.
So here is the line from his post "I am a Wuss":
When I landed here 7 months ago I was drinking my coffee like I like my women.
Strong and black.
(Heather loves it when I order coffee anywhere and say that. The waitresses usually look straight at Heather with a confused look on their face like…”Um, honey? You look a little latte to be his cup of coffee!?”)


(Emphasis added)

4/24/08

Happy Birthday Cam-Bam

We love you buddy!

music by Andrew Peterson
video

4/23/08

LotD

Twitter and blogs can be a great way to stay in touch. Unfortunately, they both usually become podiums for the self-absorbed. It’s something we all need to keep in mind (myself included) when “tweeting” or writing a blog. There is a fine line between the two. 
A mysteriously vanishing line (it appeared in my Bloglines version but was missing from his actual blog) that is a good reminder... 

Liverpool Champions League Disaster

So the game was a crusher...of my soul.
Dirk Kuyt scored yet another improbable goal and Chelsea was absolutely NOT dangerous for a full 90 minutes.  The last kick of the game, a Chelski corner, was a decent ball across the face of the goal but not a single blue shirt had a legitimate shot at it.  This mattered for naught since Reds reserve defenseman John Arne Riise, in a supremely unwise clearance attempt, snuck the ball past Pepe Reina for a disastrous own goal.

Chelsea's reputed 20 million Euro striker Didier Drogba couldn't find his feet, let alone the back of the net and winger Joe Cole botched their only real opportunity with an attempt so awkward, it would have embarrassed most high school players.  It was an undeserved draw for CCCFC and it gives them an undisputed edge heading into next week's return leg.

I don't even want to talk about it, so please don't comment.  As my fellow Red Tim (a true scouser by birth not merely heredity) Skyped me seconds after the final whistle....GUTTED!!!!!!

4/22/08

Liverpool - CCCFC; Champions League Semis, Game 1

I just wanted to warn you that I will be "live twittering" the Liverpool - Chelsea game that starts in just over an hour and a half.  Slick, if you're recording it and don't want to know the score, don't visit the blog starting at about 12:45 your time.

GO REDS!!!!!

Work Projects

Today's task was to take some vocational school students and continue working on the basic structure of the new patio for the building that we share, known as "the annex" or "the administrative building."  Since neither of those names make any sense - it has neither housed administrative offices nor does it appear to have been constructed later than the other buildings - I usually just call it "our house."  The patio will be accessed from the kitchen of the living area on the other side of our wall, unfortunately not giving us access from our side.

The peculiar thing about this patio (and those of you with trained construction eyes will see this) is that there was already a solid, though ugly patio on this building.  Given a choice, I probably would have just re-finished the majority of the existing structure while increasing it's size - sort of like capping a tooth but with more rebar.  Instead  the old one was completely demolished and we are in the process of reconstructing it larger and with only one set of steps.  We should be almost ready for concrete by sundown tomorrow but will have the work team from Minnesota handle this task (they're bringing professionals).

Differences in method aside, this will be one sweet place for teams to hang out this year.  I may even get to fulfill my perpetual goal of having a couch on the porch - redneck-style. 

As you can see, we're refilling the interior with rubble...mostly from the demolition of the old patio.  I feel a bit like a digger/filler in that regard (if you don't know what that means, ask someone who works for the city; they do it all the time).

4/21/08

LotD

"The Bible's really interesting...sometimes I wonder why I don't read it more often."
from Sweet Sarry's sleep-deprived and candy-impaired mind; 11:02 pm


She's not a heathen, just wasn't thinking that clearly when she opened her mouth.

4/20/08

Convenient Conservation

Today I was reading some blog where the writer had added Twitter on her sidebar.  I liked the idea enough to give it a shot (see right), but that's not my point here.  One of her Twitters (is that even what they're called?) was regarding how sites with black backgrounds hurt her eyes.  As a dark-screen type of guy, I immediately got defensive - my natural cyber reaction.  I recalled that on Earth Day or Vegan Day or Organic Day or one of those enviro-days Google had gone black screen because it apparently uses less electricity than a light background.  In stumbling over myself to defend my current blog settings, I realized something...

When was the last time I used the "Well at least I'm environmentally friendly!" defense?  Not that I don't care about reasonable conservation measures - as a hunter, I count on natural habitat to be protected - but I am not a Nazi about it.  Yet, there I was jumping on this typical, negligibly beneficial, energy-saving bandwagon.  Why do you think that is?

I think that this may be a prime example of convenient conservation.  I like a black background on my blog, but the choice of colors is really me saving the planet from imminent destruction.  Were I not to like that layout, well....it's not really that useful anyway.  Plenty of people will drive a Prius despite its being pointless in comparison to its sibling the Echo, which gets virtually the same milage for 1/3 the price - without hybrid technology.  What's important is to LOOK green.  A relatively small percentage of the population recycles (outside the states with enforced 10 cent deposit laws) because very few people think better of a person for collecting, sorting and temporarily storing their garbage.  Same with low energy light bulbs.  They are not exactly taking the market by storm despite the advertising blitz and their purported 10 year lifespan.  No one expects to be praised for what's under their lampshades.

It must be human nature to analyze something that you're already partial to and parading any ancillary benefits as proof of your sterling character.  We truly are pathetic creatures.

4/19/08

New!!! Lines of the Day

I have been reading some great stuff on blogs lately, but I realize that you don't all have time to visit all the great sites available.  Thus, I have decided to distill hundreds of lines of text into my favorite lines of the day.  They may be a few words, a phrase or a paragraph; they may not be everyday but I assure you I will proffer the greatest hits of my blogroll as often as I find them.

Today's Line:

"I kissed dating goodbye and it promptly punched me in the neck."

Update:
I've decided that LotD (I like that - it's catchy) candidates my also be oral...conversation, podcasts, etc.  With that in mind, here is another entry for today.

"Our last call of the day goes to Moses in Canada...we're very sorry about Charlton Heston, mate."
from Steven Cohen, WSD April 17th

4/18/08

I'm back

I got a tip from my favorite Mac guru and I am back in the game.

Basically he clued me into a service (known as a VPN) that makes a secure "tunnel" through your existing internet provider; thus eliminating KerchNYET's ability to yank me around with their shenanigans.  It runs me $15/month but it is infinitely more secure than my previous situation.  I really should have been doing this all along.  The only downside is that it is currently slower than running without the VPN connection - a situation that will probably be mostly corrected once I am able to change to a European-based server.

For those of you that track your traffic, I will show up as a visitor from reliablehosting.com from Canada (or maybe soon The Netherlands).  

Friday 15?

I am so annoyed at our internet provider that I decided to do a Special Edition Friday 15 of the sites that I can no longer visit directly (I thank my lucky stars for Bloglines or I wouldn't be able to read your blogs at all).  Since I can't comment on your posts I figure I can give you all some link love - in no specific order.

14.  Whatever that site was that I needed for the trailer hitch I was looking for today
11.  Indexed
2.  All the rest of those places I tried to quickly pop into this week

AND


Sorry to those of you who haven't posted to your blogs in more than a century...I can't really say that I have missed checking in on yours since you have no new content.  Since I can't go to these sites, please do so in my stead and leave a comment when appropriate.

Resolution of Innermet Issues...not really

I made reference in an earlier Thursday 13 (see number 8) to the fact that it is not uncommon to call our Internet provider to inform them that our service is out and have them tell us "We know" and not much else. We decided to switch to another provider and now I have another such situation. As correctly diagnosed by several of my much smarter friends, the aforementioned issue with my computer was one of non-compatibility between the ISP and my Mac.

Yesterday our techie friend called them to suggest that this may be the issue and would anyone like to guess what their response was? The told him, "We know but there are only 1 or 2 Macs on our network so we don't want to make any updates to correct the issue." As I understand it, it is a simple and standard procedure to stay up-to-date on just this kind of compatability software...and yet they refuse.

It's a good thing that my T13 list of aspects that I love about Ukraine was posted before I learned about this or it may have never been published - out of spite.

4/17/08

Thursday 13: What I love about Ukraine

I already did my less than flattering "you know you're in Ukraine" list so now here is my 13 things I love about living here.

13.  Learning a language by necessity and everyday usage.

12.  Being able to be drive a bit crazy and not even get a glance from the other motorists.

11.  Living in the only county on the planet where the currency is worth LESS than the dollar.

10.  Being surrounded by people who are willing to help with no expectation of remuneration (this is mainly just a Hope Center thing).

9.  Bologna and pickle soup...seriously, I love it.

8.  Going to my house for lunch break, coffee break, pee break, etc.

7.  2 blocks from the sea...how great is that?

6.  Getting paid in room and board; I haven't seen a bill since I arrived.

5.  The ice cream.  You'll just have to come here to try it for yourselves.

4.  The peacefulness of the camp (when our neighbors aren't jackhammering).

3.  Liverpool games coming on at 5...in the evening!

2.  We have our own basketball and volleyball courts, soccer field, park, running trails, garden, dinning room for 100, ping pong tables, security guards and cooks.  It's sort of like being a millionaire.

1.  It's where the Lord put us. 

4/16/08

Updates

Update #1:  Hope Center UTV - We have just gotten confirmation that the last 2 committed donations for this vehicle will be in TODAY.  I would link to my previous post about it, but I can't (see update #2).  It is a Polaris Ranger 500 side-by-side utility vehicle equipped with a 4000 lb winch and a plow.  Trust me when I say that it is MUCH needed here.  To prove this maybe someday will publish the in-progress plans to add a trailer hitch to our self-propelled lawn mower.

Update #2:  Interwebby weirdness (I stole the interwebby thing from some other blog that I can't recall) - I am still seriously limited in my internet usage not just in viewing blogs but many other sites.  iTunes won't even connect to it's store which makes it impossible to download the latest episode of the podcasts to which I subscribe.

Our tech guy Vita is supposed to be here sometime tomorrow to take a look at what can be done.

Update #3:  We are just 10 or so days away from the arrival of the first (not counting our parents) American team for 2008.  We will be focused mostly on concrete work which I will document with some great before and after pictures in the coming weeks.

Update #4:  Liverpool made it through to the quarter finals of the Champions League where they will meet Chelski (and hopefully knock them out again) in the most boring matches ever to be played in the history of football.

4/15/08

The Proverbial Dead Horse

I have talked several times about traffic blips but I wanted to put the mystery mostly to bed (of course, it could rise again in zombiesque fashion).

Most of these occurrences, like yesterday's 500+ visitors, are concentrated on one particular post regarding illegal immigration.  It wasn't a particularly brilliant piece of writing, but not horrible.  What makes it so popular is the Mexican flag that headlines the post.  Here's an exercise...

Go to Google Images and search "Mexican flag"...

Unless Google runs different in the States than here in Eastern Europe, the top result should be my blog.  Now, in my version, just below the jpg, it gives the following excerpt from my post to provide context:

"illegal immigrants are Mexican"

This is unfortunate since the actual sentence reads something like:

"I realize that not all of the illegal immigrants are Mexican, but it is a high enough percentage to use them as an example."

I can't view my blog to check the exact phrasing but I assure you that the full version is much less controversial-sounding than Google's excerpt; which clearly draws enough attention to bring a hundred or two visitors to read that post every day

I'm going to bed now but I just wanted to let all of you in on my secret little traffic-booster.

I'm flying blind here people!

So this is weird...
I can't view my blog anymore.  Obviously I can post, but only after a massively long load time.  It takes about 5 or 6 minutes just to open the blog writing template and I won't know until I finish this one how long it will actually take to hit the site.  My original theory was that my previous post on Mark Steyn raised a red flag and blogger sanctioned me as a hatemonger.  Only later did I surmise that it was probably that our server's new firewall that accompanies our new internet access is blocking all blogger sites (I forgot to mention that I can't visit the rest of yours either).

The upshot is this:  I can't see the general awesomeness of my posts.  I can't post any responses, no matter how witty your comments.  I cannot view your blogs to make my own witty comments.

I am hoping to have the security tweaked a bit by the time you wake up tomorrow morning so just be patient.

Mark Steyn, Public Enemy #1 and great writer

Mark Steyn is a guy I discovered while listening to talk radio.  He's a writer that regularly appears on a variety of shows; always with wit and great satire.  He's currently being indicted by the CHRC (Canadian Human Rights Commission) also known at the GNTCC (Great Northern Thought Crimes Commission) for having the temerity to suggest that traditional Islam is fundamentally at odds with liberal western democracy.  Whether you agree with that assertion or not, to litigate the author is contrary to the the freedoms we (and our northern neighbors) hold dear.

I just caught a great piece that he wrote regarding the American left's infatuation with the idea of revolution and simultaneous refusal to accept the facts of actual revolution.  If you don't follow current events very closely and sometimes wonder why liberals elites and Hollywood folks are demonized as simple-minded, read on.

HAPPY WARRIOR
from 
National Review

There was a sad little interview in The New York Times the other day. Carmen Peláez is a playwright and, therefore, a liberal, but she’s also a Cuban-American, and she was a little disappointed in her ideological soulmates’ reaction to her latest play. Rum & Coke examines in part the west’s cultural fascination with Castro and the revolution that time forgot. You know the sort of thing – the Che posters decorating the Obama campaign offices in Houston; Michael Moore’s paean to Cuban health care, though it doesn’t seem to have worked out so great for Fidel. The enduring sheen of revolutionary chic is in forlorn contrast to the decrepitude of the real thing. “When I started writing the play, I thought people just didn’t know what was happening in Cuba,” Miss Peláez told the Times. “But the longer I live here, the more I realized, they don’t care… They would rather keep their little pop revolution instead of saying it is a dictatorship. I had somebody come to me after a show and say, ‘Don’t ruin Cuba for me!’ Well, why not? They’re holding on to a fantasy.”

“Don’t ruin Cuba for me” the way the Vietnamese ruined Vietnam for Tom Hayden. The old leftosaurus went back for the first time in 36 years to see the country he and his then wife, fair Hanoi Jane, had saved for Communism. Alas and alack, he found the ingrate natives in the midst of a capitalist frenzy. It’s been like that awhile on the Ho Chi Minh trail. A few years back, I ran into Mrs Thatcher’s daughter Carol in South Kensington looking for a taxi to Heathrow. This was in the grey days following the Conservatives’ act of matricide, when the Iron Lady’s wan successor, John Major, was trying to keep the party’s ramshackle show on the road. “I’m off to Hanoi,” said Carol, cheerily. “It’s a boom town. These Vietnamese chaps seem to have got the hang of capitalism a lot better than the Tories.” As he glumly informed readers of The Nation, Tom Hayden did not enjoy hearing his old revolutionary chums regaling him with a lot of stuff about GDP per capita: Don’t ruin Vietnam for me.

“Pop revolution” is a fine coinage. Pop stars have been peddling revolution for nigh on half-a-century, and they’re still doing it. At the Live8 all-star gala for Africa a couple of years back, Madonna urged us to “start a revolution”. Like Africa hasn’t had enough of those? Along with her fellow members of the aristorockracy, Madonna lives in a whirl of hyper-capitalism – agents, managers, lawyers, accountants, publishers, all tussling over rights to her songs, her children’s books of recent years, her sex book of earlier years with the nude photographs of her bottom hanging over the garden wall while a gay black dance troupe cavorts below with a German wolfhound, her digitally remastered mouthwash gargles… For a quarter-century, every aspect of Madonna’s life has been lawyered up to the hilt and leveraged to the max. In real revolutions, the mob rises up, pillages the CD factory, torches your inventory. Royalty statements become optional and occasional. All a bit of an inconvenience frankly. Still, if you can hold the revolution somewhere else, I’ll certainly wear the T-shirt. And, anyway, where’s the harm in it in Somalia or Congo? When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose. Don’t ruin Africa for me.

“They’re holding on to a fantasy,” says Carmen Peláez. But, once a fantasy’s taken hold, it’s hard to dislodge. On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, 55 per cent of Iraqis polled by the BBC and ABC said their own lives are going well. True, 73 per cent of Kurds and 62 per cent of the Shia reckon things are swell, compared with only 33 per cent of the Sunni, but that’s what happens when you spend the first few years after liberation pining for the ancien regime. Did that poll get a lot of play in your local paper? Didn’t think so. Don’t ruin Iraq for me. The Code Pinkers at Berkeley know it’s a Bush quagmire, even if the Iraqis don’t.

What is Iraq? What is Vietnam? What is Cuba? Well, each is a state, but it’s also a state of mind – or mindlessness. These are real places where real people live, real Iraqis and Vietnamese and Cubans, but they’re vague and amorphous, like the anonymous natives in the British Empire yarns of my boyhood, disposable extras filling out the background who only rarely get to play a scene with a star – as when Cameron Diaz was obliged to apologize to the citizens of Peru for swanning about Machu Pichu with an attractive designer bag bearing a red star and the Maoist slogan “Serve The People”. Unfortunately, the last time a bunch of Maoists showed up in the Andes it was the Shining Path guerillas and instead of serving the people they slaughtered them, some 70,000 or so.

Well, what do the Peruvians know, or the Vietnamese, the Cubans, or any of them? Don’t ruin the frisson of vicarious revolution for me. Meanwhile, the careless disdain for the peasantry gets closer to home. The Archbishop of Canterbury says the introduction of sharia is inevitable in the United Kingdom, which is a tough break not just for those Brits who believe in quaint concepts like Common Law but also for Muslims who left their moribund homelands in search of free societies unencumbered by Islamic jurisprudence. Don’t ruin Britain for me? Hey, sometimes radical transformation isn’t just for T-shirt slogans.

4/14/08

Celebrating Unlimited Internet in Ukraine

I read somewhere recently that if you are trying to attract people to your blog, two of the easiest ways to do so are to use post titles that include frequently searched words which nonetheless accurately explain the accompanying text and to label the photos that you use with what they actually portray.  I image that the above title and the photo below titled "frog boots" will absolutely not draw people to this site.  Oh well, I can just pretend that I am going out of my way to not be corporate - to stay underground, grassroots and edgy.

I wanted to celebrate our new internet connection by sharing a great video of Cam.  He is sporting his new football boots (AKA soccer cleats) for an afternoon at the pitch (soccer field).
If you doubt that this is the correct footwear for sport, check out the included video (which has already been sent to all the major English clubs).
video
Not bad for a kid that hasn't even seen his second birthday, huh?

4/13/08

It's funny and true so I stole it

I caught this on The Coach's blog and I thought it was brilliant.  He posted regarding his school's unnamed diversity club and their use of similar looking Hate-Free Zone signs.  In response he created the masterful graphic rebuttal pictured above.  The disclaimer at the bottom of the sign is every bit as funny as the rest but you may have to go to his actual site to get an image capable of being sufficiently enlarged.  You'll need to go there to get the full story anyway.

Sometimes I think that Coach just needs to quit messing around and actually write his manifesto.  Unfortunately for the nation, he is far to reasonable and trustworthy to ever run for political office...I can always dream though.


4/12/08

Kerch Nyet

I just walked in the door from a rousing game of Phase 10 in which we got tired of always getting stuck and actually only played Phase 7.  That is irrelevant but during this game which was all Ukrainian minus me and Jim, I was reminded that we are changing out internet service as of Monday.  We will pay a significantly lower rate and have....wait for it.....UNLIMITED ACCESS!!!!!  That's right, no more $130 movie rentals and no more stinginess on video chatting.  If you are reading this and you don't know my Skype or iChat addresses, well....it's probably because I didn't give it to you, nor do I plan to.

We are switching from Aironet (or something like that) to Kerchnet, which in Russian sounds like "Kerch, NO!"  It's a funny linguistic coincidence.  Sort of like when I try to say in Russian "That's not very Christian," I usually say "That's not working class" (if you're curious, it's the difference between one hard C and a guttural HK-type noise). Or like the Chevy Nova sounds like "won't go" in Spanish or the Toyota MR2 closely resembles "poop" in French.

I realize that this post has 2 wholly divergent topic, neither at all interesting, but I figure it's better than 2 separate completely uninteresting posts, right?

4/11/08

Blogging and other Stuff Christians Like

Blogging is a strange process.  You begin by writing posts knowing full-well that you will be the only one reading them.  Then if you have a very patient spouse and ultra-supportive parents, you may move into the realm of having a regular readership (3 or 4 hits a day).  Generally this progresses until you either; A) Realize that it's less effort to just tell those 3 or 4 people what you are thinking OR B) Get hooked enough to start trying to develop your site outside your immediate circle of friends.

If you choose the latter, you will probably start to read and connect with more successful bloggers who also had very supportive parents and at sometime in the past chose option B.  It's a peculiar cycle, is it not?

Anyway, as an option B person, I sometimes come across a blog which opens my eyes to a wholly different style.  I've mentioned previously Carlos Whittaker's Ragamuffin Soul and long ago Jessica Hagy's Indexed as being this way.  I have discovered another such site - coincidentally through Carlos.  It is called Stuff Christians Like and it is absolutely hilarious.  I just found it yesterday and have already read at least 5 laugh-out-loud posts.  Actually in the intervening moments between when I last checked it and when I just went there to cut and paste the hyperlink, there has been a new post called "Getting Freaky Deaky with the Song of Solomon."  If that doesn't compel you to visit, here are a few more titles of great ones that should peak your interest.


I'm getting sick of the cut, paste, link, etc. process...just check it out.  If you've ever been to a church, I promise you'll laugh.

The promised Campbell picture

I promised some pictures of Cam on his new used tricycle so here they are.  He is also sporting his super-sweet shades which make him look like Stevie Wonder - not because of the glasses so much as the fact that in order to keep them on his head, he has to tilt his head back (button noses are a curse) and sway it back and forth to look around.  For any of you who are keeping track of the number of points of bad fathering; yes, that is a broken barbecue lighter he is playing with.

Some days he gets to hang out with his friends like Flag.  Ok, his real name is Vlad (which surprisingly is not short for Vladimir) and he is generally perturbed by the mispronunciation - which of course, I whole-heartedly encourage.

I know this looks a bit like a picture from a ransom note, but Flag is actually a great kid and is very helpful with Campbell.  On the left side you can see his other friend A-woash, AKA Alosha.

4/9/08

My new project

Can you believe Matt was going to throw this gem away?!!  I've taken it upon myself to try to restore this monstrosity of a window as a wall hanging for our bedroom.  To be continued...



Signs of Spring

Now that the rain has cleared and the sun has resurfaced, we have been blessed with the following signs of spring...

"I can almost see the cherries growing, mom!"


Jim making our "yard" look so nice.

Liverpool - Arsenal trifecta update #2

So here it is...the last Liverpool post that you non-futbol-lovers will have to endure until the next Champions League round (or stellar PL event)...

WE WON!!!!!!!

In a game in which only a victory would send us through this tie, we defeated the evil Arsenal 4-2 in a thrilling back and forth game.  I predicted a 2-1 victory and there was a point where that looked very likely.  The Reds were controlling possession and Arsenal didn't look at all dangerous.  That all changed when the much maligned Theo Walcott made a spectacular solo run from box to box before passing to wide open Adebayor.  For the crap north London team, this was a good as a win.  It was the perpetual bench sitter, 19 year old Dutchman Ryan Babel that broke it open by drawing a penalty in the box and then scoring one of his own in the dying minutes.

I watched the match with Jenya during his security night shift.  He, a fervent Gooner, kept tensions high as the momentum swung wildly back and forth for 90 minutes.  Great match, great win.

4/8/08

Ukrainian Expertise

Since arriving in Ukraine I have consciously tried to see the high points of the culture.  Knowing how easy it would be to compare everything here to what I am used to in the US, this was my way of trying to avoid an "Amero-centric" outlook.  In this, I have had a hard time finding an area in which Ukrainians do things in a better, more efficient way, but yesterday I bore witness to just this.  Prior to visiting tire stores here, I would have expected the exercise to look much like the photo below.

However, yesterday we took the camp Chevy over to a place to swap the studded snow tires for the regular set.  I pulled up to Авто Дом expecting to wait our turn in the office and was promptly chastised by Andrey for not pulling in straight next to the vehicle being service out front.  I remedied this and before I was even out, Andrey had spoken a few words with a service tech and they were already starting to floor-jack the car.  The 2-man team quickly had the wheels off one side and while one changed the tires on the rims, the other finished pulling the wheels from the other side.  As each newly-mounted summer tire was completed, it was replaced on the vehicle.  All of this was smooth as silk despite being done manually (without pneumatic tools or floor lifts).  We stepped into the salesroom to look at the $100-apiece sedan tires and by the time we finished, the car was essentially done.  The work was done well and quickly and we didn't need to wait for the office guys to put someone on the task.  The garage guys were free so they started as soon as we arrived.  An altogether pleasant experience...

And who says NASCAR is uniquely American?  They obviously are doing some sort of pit crew training.

4/6/08

Recent Community Activities in Kerch

I have a few decent shots from our regular ministries in the Kerch area and I thought you might like to see some.
This lovely lady lives in a village south of the city.  The chief of this village (whose name I always have trouble spelling - even transliterated) is a great advocate for her community.  She is always working with us to ensure that we are aware of the disadvantaged in her town.  Thus, she is a great resource when it comes to distribution of humanitarian aid.  She guided us to this woman as we delivered a much needed portable toilet.  Since most restrooms (frequently outhouses) in the villages are what I not-so-lovingly call "squatties," you can imagine what a relief this seat will be to old legs.

Many times for larger recipients (ie hospitals, clinics, etc.) of humanitarian aid, the representatives pick up the materials.  In this case they brought a 30 year old dump truck...
...into which they could cram a prodigious amount of bananas....
...but don't worry, we have plenty more and an extremely alert security guard to ensure their safety...

...ok, that isn't completely accurate.  It is not uncommon for hospitals to hire construction-style trucks to pick up the materials which are being donated.  This particular group had already taken a truck-load of rolling walkers by the time I grabbed these pictures.  The banana boxes are actually used clothing; each box meticulously labeled with the age and gender.  These garments are stylish and lightly used, not thrift store trash - I even noticed Sarah looking at them with interest.  As to Dima leaning on the pile of boxes in the storage building...I am guessing that he was forced to take a break because he got too far ahead of the rest of the crew.
Sarah also gets into the act weekly with her craft time at the orphanage.  I hesitate to share too much as she is always looking for topics for her next post, but as you can see, the kids made some pretty sweet stuff this weekend.

Liverpool - Arsenal trifecta update

As promised, here is my follow up on the previous post's European kickball predictions.  I stated that Liverpool would drop Saturday's game to Arsenal 3-1; likely due to fielding a squad of back-ups.  I was correct about the game being full of subs, but I had not expected both teams to do it with such earnest.  By my preliminary count, there were a combined 6-7 regular starters out of the 22 that took the field.  Fortunately for my Reds, the Gooners have been showing their lack of depth more and more as the season wears on.  Had I known that it would be two second-team squads that would face each other, I would have had a little more faith.  In fact, our subs were potent enough to play to a 1-1 draw away from home.  I great result with Peter Crouch scoring yet again.  This 6'7" striker almost never gets a run out, but anytime he does, he scores.  Here's hoping for another good result at Anfield on Tuesday.

As a sidenote, I will be doing a Hope Center Programs update soon but it was delayed by my botching a software update which necessitated reloading all our applications for the second time this month.

4/4/08

Liverpool - Arsenal; Part 2

Inspired by my recent unpublished, but nonetheless accurate assessment of the Liverpool-Arsenal Champions League match on Wednesday, I have decided to make a call regarding the remaining 2 matches this week.  For the uninitiated, I should probably explain why these two storied clubs are playing 3 times in only 7 days (this isn't the World Series!).
The CL semi- and quarter-finals are 2-game, home and away match ups with the score being aggregate (ie. the sum of both game's goals).  Liverpool and Arsenal were picked at random to play in the quarters which happened to be scheduled on back-to-back midweeks bracketing an already scheduled Premiership match up.  Thus they played Wednesday at Arsenal and will tangle there again tomorrow (Saturday) before heading to Anfield next Tuesday.

Wednesday had all the makings of a snooze-fest as I felt that LFC manager Benitez would slow it down for a 1-1 draw if not a 1-0 win; I was wrong about the pace and entertainment.  Arsenal struck first with a great header by Emmanuel Adebayor but we equalized when Stevie G. (no relation to Ali G) smoked 2 Gooners and crossed to a crashing Dirk Kuyt.  It ended 1-1 as I had suspected.

So here is my call for the next 2 games:

Saturday, Premiership, Emirates Stadium - This is throw away game for both teams in that they are each fairly secure in their current league places with little opportunity to move up.  Each squad has gone through a period of poor play (Liverpool in January and Arsenal in March) which have left them out of title contention, leaving the CL as their main season focus.  Playing away with nothing on the line, Rafa Benitez will likely go back to fiddling with his line-up, leading to 3-1 loss.  Truth be told, I would accept a 5-0 loss in exchange for a win next week.

Wednesday, Champion's League, Anfield - Games like this are why Rafa still has a job in Merseyside.  He is a fabled tactician in these 2 leg European competitions.  Back home with a full-strength side (barring any injuries), I can see the Reds taking it 2-1 or going 1-1 at nicking it in extra time.

You heard it here first.  I will be posting briefly as to the accuracy of these guesses...er...predictions on Saturday and Wednesday.

4/3/08

Fuel Prices

As a follow up to my earlier post about high oil prices; I caught this on Powerline before the internet went out earlier in the week.  It's a great synopsis of why I dislike politicians and the Democratic ones in particular.  They're nearly all style-over-substance reactionaries.  They did nothing about ensuring that the US had a stable energy future (in fact, generally the opposite) when it would have made a difference and now that it is largely too late to do anything that will help us in the near future, they hold meaningless hearings to beat their chests and posture.  Pathetic.
In the linked story, one of the Congressmen does have a good line when he mentions that the oil companies have a lower approval rating than Congress and "that means they're down low."  One thing that isn't mentioned in this assessment of Congresses theatrics is that the cost of fuel is significantly increased by the fact that the oil industry has been blocked from building a single newer, more efficient refinery since the 70's.  Thanks for that, Congress.



Today House Democrats appealed to ignorance, in their usual fashion, by summoning executives from the five biggest oil companies to berate them for high gasoline prices. This is fundamentally stupid in at least two respects.

First, these same Democrats purport to be worried about "global warming" and committed to taking strong measures to combat it. Needless to say, the simplest way to reduce carbon consumption, if you really believe that carbon consumption will cause an environmental disaster, is to increase the price of energy. This is why some honest global warming advocates have argued for huge increases in the gasoline tax. Conversely, if the price of gasoline were to decline as House Democrats said they wanted today, the result would be increased consumption and increased carbon emissions. If the Democrats aren't willing to pay the price to reduce energy consumption (i.e., higher gasoline prices), they should quit yammering about global warming and admit they knew all along that the alarmism was BS.

Second, if you really want the price of gasoline to fall, there is only one way to achieve that goal: increase supply. Yet these very same Democrats have made it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to do so. Had Bill Clinton not vetoed oil development in northern Alaska, enormous amounts of oil would now be flowing to American consumers, reducing the price of gasoline for everyone. Further, as one of the oil executives pointed out today, 85% of our coastline is off-limits to drilling.

In short, pretty much every policy that the Democrats have pursued for the last three decades has contributed to the shortage of oil, and resulting high price of gasoline. For the Democrats to pretend that high prices are the fault of the oil companies--which, unlike the Democrats, actually go to great lengths to bring energy to American consumers--is beyond hypocrisy.

Our Very Own Bucket of Love!


"When it rains, it pours."  It seems like we go through these periods of time when everything bad that is going to happen in a months time, happens in about 24 hours.  Okay, so maybe more than 24 hours... but back to back for certain.  It started off with our goodbye to Matt's parents on Sunday.  We so enjoyed having them here and as usual had a hard time saying goodbye.  (we realize we have been so blessed to have visitors!!!)  Then the rain came... bringing with it dreariness and as mentioned no internet... tough, but certainly doable.  I had a quick rollercoaster ride thinking that my brother was going to get a chance to come visit us with one of the work teams, but as it turns out won't be now... again disappointed, but okay with God's decision.  Then Matt's ATM/Debit card gets eaten by the ATM machine... okay starting to get a little tired of this now.  We were informed that a scandal has been going on with the mafia stealing cards this way... long story short... after lots of calls, a new card will be sent and our tens of dollars are still safe and sound in our account.  Finally last night after eating some kind of fish loaf my middle finger decided to go numb and turn deadly white soon followed by my big toe... VERY weird but thankfully resolved rather quickly.  I must say I am glad to be "allergic" to the fish loaf... maybe I will become allergic to the liver too!  ALL this to say that when God sends a little ray of sunshine after days of rain, you appreciate it so much more!  

Today, we were pleasantly surprised with a care package from our friend Max Forrest... and boy were we spoiled!  Max has been our encourager from Michigan... praying for us, sending us letters and packages.  Thank you so much Max!  And thanks for your perfect timing God!  

If any of you know people living overseas (excluding us :)), I highly suggest sending them a magazine and a box of candy.  It can sure lift the spirits.

Tech note

I wanted to let you know that if you notice a pause in our blogging or expected correspondence seems delayed, take a look at a global weather site.  Every time it rains here (which has been all week), the internet shuts down and we lose almost all of our communication avenues.  This morning is dry so we will try to connect with as many of you as possible before the deluge shuts us down again.  In the meantime, I want to leave you with this picture I took yesterday in the village of Prezeornia.  I just love this guy.

4/2/08

Thursday 13: The top items from my childhood that I wished I still owned

I am encouraging Sarry to do a 13 of her own this week.  We'll see if that comes together (probably dependent on when the boy takes his nap).  In the meantime, here's mine.

The Top 13 things from my childhood I wish I still had...

13.  The wallet I lost in the bedroom of my old house that had $6-$7 in it...I mean that's real money!

12.  Some baseball or football card that was in my grasp and I'm sure is now very valuable.

11.  My innocence...

10.  My toddler "polka suit"...oh wait, my mom DOES still have that.  Good thing we're in Ukraine or poor Campbell would already have his own picture in that thing.  If your pants come up past your nipples and your belly still overhangs them, you have got a problem...

9.  My walkie-talkies that were as big as a Volvo, had a battery life of 7.5 minutes and a range of 19 inches.  They sucked but the antennae made great whips for sibling fights.

8.  Big Wheels; I think that one is obvious.  Even with a split front wheel (you guys know what I'm talking about) those suckers were the fastest things on 3 wheels!

7.  My love of liver...it would really help to have that back over here.

6.  My FULL thick blond hair.  If you haven't seen the back of my head in the past couple years, you'll just have to trust me on this one.

5.  $1/gallon gasoline.

4.  My first hand-carved whiffle ball bat (I know for a fact that some of you remember this one).

3.  The machete that my grandpa gave me when I was 7 or 8.

2.  All the money that my parents spent on Ritalin.  Put that in a savings account and I could have gone to a real college!

1.  My full set of Star Wars bedding.  Nothing helps a boy sleep at like laying his head on Boba Fett.

As before, give me at least your top 5 if not all 13.

4/1/08

Dictator's Elbow


Tennis Elbow
(a.k.a Lateral Epicondylitis) - inflammation of the lateral aspect of the distal humerus and tendons surrounding the lateral part of the elbow due to repetitive wrist extension activity.  What will probably develop in Matt soon from all the table tennis he is playing.


Golfer's Elbow (a.k.a Medial Epicondylitis) - inflammation of the medial aspect of the distal humerus and tendons surrounding the medial part of the elbow due to repetitive wrist flexion activity.  What Matt suffers from now from hacking away at a tree with an ax for hours at a time.


Dictator's Elbow (a.k.a. Mussolini-itis) - overall general soreness in forearm muscles and elbow joint pain due to passionately shaking fist in the air with loud yelling.  Campbell seemed to develop this rare diagnosis during lunch yesterday.  

Since reading the book Green Eggs and Ham, he has been shaking his fist in the air and saying (with much authority) "Sam-amaaaam!"  (translation... Sam I am!)   Yesterday at lunch Campbell started shaking his fist in the direction of the students and passionately told them something profound (I'm sure), and then immediately grabbed his forearm, rubbing it and saying through gritted teeth "oooohhh". 

Nothing a little Rest Ice Compress Elevate can't cure.  And I thought I wouldn't be using my PT skills here.

What I used to think