Another gem of parenting

At the moment we're in the middle of a very important pudding break, but we were watching "We Are Marshall."  Now, I hope it isn't a spoiler for me to explain that the movie is about when the entire University of Marshall football team was killed in a plane crash in 1970.  In the film, one of the coaches (played by Jack from the TV show "Lost") was supposed to be on the plane but decided at the last minute to drive to a recruiting visit, thereby saving his life.

There is a poignant scene in which he returns home to find his wife grieving, having not heard the news that he was not on the plane.  They run to each other, embracing in the rain, filled with relief, joy, hurt and anger.  With suitably dramatic music, the scene has immense power for those who try to imagine the scope and depth of the emotions... but not for Cam.  He erupted in peals of raucous laughter as he kicked is pale and chunky bare legs into the air; hardly able to contain his glee at what he was sure was a hilarious moment.  Weird kid....

Congrats to Spain

So after 3+ weeks of international football, televised once or twice a day, we have reached the end of the UEFA European Championships.  Last night.....  

hold on, I have to share this....

I am lying in bed (as is my habit recently) at exactly 9:11am.  Sarah just walked by with Campbell in tow to get some berries for some of the kids (counselors children).  Here's how the conversation went down.

Cam: GO, GO, GO, GO
Sarry:  Cam, you don't tell your friends to go away...you can say it to dogs but not your friends.
(Cam runs from his place at the door to the kitchen)
Sarry:  Let's go bring these berries to your friends.
Cam: (Running back toward the front door) Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh yeah.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh yeah.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh yeah.

I have no idea what that was about, but I hope you can picture him doing it cause it's really funny.  OK, the Euros....

Last night was the final between Germany and Spain.  It was essentially a home game for the Germans since the game was played in Vienna, and as Kenny from WSD notes, Austrians are just Germans in tuxedos.  Paul Mirengoff at Powerline styled it as Silk vs Steel as the fleet and fluid Latins pitted themselves against the Teutonic wall of burly Germans.  This is an overly-simplistic and fairly out-dated view of European football, but it wasn't entirely disproven last night.  The Germans do have the largest back line in Europe and the Spaniards were electric in their passing and movement.  It was, however, the size and power of LFC star striker Fernando Torres that proved the difference in the 1-0 Spanish victory.

Earlier in the match, Torres powered through and rose above his marker, only to hit the post on a fantastic header from a Sergio Ramos cross.  He then scored the matches only goal by shouldering past notoriously slight German defender Philipp Lahm to chip the keeper.  In reality it proved to be the combination of efficient, accurate passing (a traditional German strength) and slick and stylish attacking (a Spanish forte) that gave Spain it's first tournament victory in almost half a century.

In a post from last week Slick indicated that this year's Euros were a disappointment.  Since his blog doesn't have comment capabilities anymore (a decision which he explained to me and I completely understand), I thought I might rebut his assertion here.  I watched a lot of the this tourney.  Of the televised games I saw most of all but 2 games and every minute of at least 75% of them; I was captivated.  Here are some of my highlights:

1. Holland's group stage performance:  The Dutch outscored their opponents from the "group of death" 9-1, including a 2-0 beating of Romania with only 2 regular starters.  They were fantastic to watch and their transition from defense to attack was a thing of beauty.

2.  Turkey - the Turks were not given much of a chance and it seemed that despite the victories, they became more and more of an underdog as they progressed.  They shocked the Czechs to advance from their group by scoring 3 goals in the final 12 minutes despite having their keeper ejected in the final minutes.  That was followed by an amazing shoot-out victory over Croatia which saw the Croats take the lead in the final minute of extra time only to concede the equalizer in stoppage time.  The Turks 36 year-old back-up keeper held firm to give them a birth to the semis.  The loss to Germany in that game in no way takes away from their amazing performance.

3.  Andrey Arshavin - The fiery Russian missed the first 2 games of the group stage due to a fight in the last minutes against Andorra in qualifying.  He returned with a vengeance to put in 2 of the most dominating performances in recent memory (and that is the assessment of people who have far more credibility than me).  He literally ran all over the Swedes and the aforementioned Dutch before being brought back to earth by the eventual champions.

4.  Italy and France - RUBBISH.  Nothing else need be said.

It was a great competition and I am excited to see what the transfer fall-out will be in the next 3-4 weeks.


Foot Update

Ok, here is the latest report on the incident that I think I will refer to as "Sandalgate":

First I would like to correct the record.  In my last post I claimed that the injury in question was sustained on Saturday morning, probably leading most of you to wonder what you were doing at work on a weekend.  Even though we are ahead of most of you (somewhere between 7 and 9 hours), I am actually not so far in the future that I experience Saturday morning sometime in the middle of your Thursday night.

After sufficient testing of the pain pills (codeine I think), I decided for a further injection before bed last night.  The pain was significantly higher than what I figured I could sleep through.  It did the trick but an additional sleeping aid would have been appreciated.  Aside from the bruises that are developing on my tail end from the meds and antibiotics shots, I am feeling pretty good on the medication front.  This morning I was feel confident about my pain threshold and skipped my codeine altogether.

Every morning and night I have to have the dressing changed and the wound cleaned.    At roughly 9:24 am I realized the error of foregoing my meds when Doctor Olga started to swab the wound.  Sufficed to say, it is probably a good thing that I don't know any really bad Russian words.  While the name Doctor Olga may bring to mind a massive middle-aged Eastern European woman with a love for inflicting pain, in reality she is our small (though certainly middle-aged) and very sweet camp pediatrician.  She is very patient with me, her biggest patient (thank you, thank you! I'll be here all week), even when I start to get a little uneasy as the big needles come out.

I have been forced to swallow my pride since, in my current form, I don't appear to be all that injured...and yet I can only tolerate being upright for so long before my foot is burning and throbbing against its stitches.  I spent yet another day laying in bed trying not to seem pathetic while being... well, pathetic.  I am worried that sometime early next week my boredom and pride will combine to create a perfect storm in ignoring doctor's advice.  The worst thing is that every evening for the past 3 weeks there has been wall-to-wall football on TV; a tournament whose final game is tomorrow.  Talk about bad timing...


Lessons Learned and Random Thoughts

I want to make an attempt to get out in front of the rumors which some of you may hear coming out of the HopeCenter in the next few days.  Please know that what I present here is straight scoop and anything beyond that can be considered exaggeration (unless someone tells you exactly how white my face had become by the time I made it to the car).

This morning (Friday, June 27th) at around 10:30 I was cutting up a downed tree limb with an ax when I missed my intended target and sliced open my left foot.  As far as I can determine, the gash in about 5-6 inches long and maybe and inch or more deep.  Were I to have an arch (I have VERY flat feet), the cut would run roughly the length of it, just under the first foot bone (which I think are called metatarsals).  I was understandably alarmed at the flesh that I could see hanging out and though I didn't lose a dangerous amount of blood, it was enough to scare me.

At the time I was in the back corner of camp with Sarah, Campbell and another girl.  Sarah ran for help as I tried to limp towards where I knew the car would pick me up.  I had the presence of mind to use my shirt to apply pressure.  The security guard Artur came running and helped me limp further as my vision kind of blurred.  As I mentioned, I didn't lose that much blood but I do have a thing with seeing my own accompanied by whatever that gross stuff was that was hanging out of the wound.  To complicate matters, Campbell sensed the panic and wanted me to hold him.  What a strange scene of me limping with the help of Artur while carry my very concerned son.  Our rag-tag procession made it to the car where Cam and I joined Sarah, Jenya and Tanya.

Tanya drove us rapidly to the hospital - halfway to which my vision cleared and I began to look at the situation more reasonably.  Upon arrival, Jenya - all 5' 4" 125 pounds of him - bodily lifted me and transported me into the hospital and the waiting wheelchair.  It may seem melodramatic to be carried for a simple cut foot, but the issue was that I couldn't keep pressure on the wound while limping or hopping; I still felt silly.

We got to see a doctor quickly and was a bit confused when he looked at the wound and in all seriousness mumbled "maladietz," meaning "good job."  We were left to contemplate what I was being congratulated for (perhaps my clearly skillful sharpening of the ax in question) for only a minute before I was wheeled into a room for stitches (the actual number of which - both internal and external - I never determined).  After some wincing and a few deep breaths they had it all stitched up and the doctor declared that there was no muscle or artery damage, though it was close to doing both.  I think we'll have to see later if there was nerve damage.

I did have the presence of mind to realize that I would want some shots for this blog entry so below are some fuzzy phone photos (I'll blame the silly alliteration on the pain meds) of my foot.  

I am on bed rest for at least a few days with antibiotic shots and follow-up doctor visits on the agenda for a week or so.  That means that more than ever I would appreciate comments, emails, Twits, Skypes and blog posts of your own to pass my boring days.  Expect a high volume of post from my end as well.

So, back to the post title... what lessons have I learned?
First and foremost, forestry and sandals are ALWAYS a bad idea.  Secondly I would like to say that Jenya and I have become blood brothers.  Not just because I bled on him or in the Hepatitis sense of the word but in that I was there when he took a pit bull tooth straight through his right foot and he was instrumental in helping me this morning.  He made the hilarious comment that he and I would be awesome in a 3-legged race; provided we teamed up my gimpy left leg with his gimpy right (I'm calling that one as the Line of the Day).

In all seriousness, even though I think I could have made it into the hospital myself (I had already made it the 60 yards to the car mostly under my own power while simultaneously trying to care for Campbell), it was an amazing thing to see this man of small stature but enormous heart.  I was honored by the effort that he put forward on my behalf and I love him that much more for what he did for me today.

Remember, I need your comments and questions or I'll be stuck scouring YouTube for hilarity... for which I am also accepting recommendations.


LotD - Danny Baker

"There's a lot of nonsense talked about alcoholism; there really is.  If it's a disease, it's the only one that comes with buffalo wings as far as I'm concerned."
-Danny Baker, hosting BBC's 606 Football Phone-in


LotD - Silvia Martins

"The death of my father actually brought sorrow to my life."
-from 'Silvia Martins', in her emailed plea for me to help her free up the $11 million inheritance from "respected security firms in the Ivory Coast."  I'm emailing her my bank account, credit card numbers and SSN as we speak...

Excursion Day

In a situation that is very new for the HopeCenter but looks to be the way our regular schedule will look for the rest of the summer, the camp has been over for almost 3 days and yet the team is still here.  The short explanation is the discovery of a two-day/week direct flight from Frankfurt to Simferopol taking at least 36 extra hours off the total travel time yet leaves us stuck with the same travel days.  Yesterday we had planned to go to the Black Sea all day for shashlik, swimming and fun in the sun.  It initially seemed odd that we decided to drive an hour to go to the beach (since it's only a 4 minute walk to our own beach), but after Tuesday I completely understand... more on that later.

Since the weather wasn't very "beachy" in the morning we decided to wait a bit and take a short walking tour around our south-Kerch neighborhood.  One of my favorite things about the area is the 2 orthodox churches.  This one is just beautiful and I plan to come back for a full building shot when the current painting project is done.

After lunch, the weather improved greatly and we decided to risk a trip to the Black Sea.  Contrary to what I may accidently type at times, Kerch is actually not on the Black Sea.  It sits on the waterway between the Black and Azov Seas known as the Kerch Strait.  For a variety of reasons, the Black Sea is much more desirable place for swimming and beach fun.  The sand is softer, nicer and sometimes cleaner.  Look at these little toes.  If you look close enough you can see that Sarry has a little mutant toe... extra points if you can call which one.

I think this picture of Paul shows how nice the sea was yesterday.  You can kind of see one of the things that we don't get in Kerch... real waves!  I tried body surfing but failed repeatedly to ride the 3-4 footers.

The water was nice and warm even with the wind.  Nice little family shot, eh?

Cam was surprisingly brave despite the waves breaking taller than him.

I had so much shashlik and kvas that I almost couldn't run back to the water.  I eventually managed to do so and well within the "30 minutes after eating" rule.  I hope to make this a regular event.


Russian Football Surges Forward

As I predicted earlier, I was allowed to live through wearing my Sweden jersey for that game due to Russia's victory in the encounter.  The win took the Ruskies into a match up with the team unquestionably in top form this tournament; The Netherlands.  Unlike an aged Swedish team, Holland is absolutely packed with stars in their prime and with only their reputation for internal conflict standing in their way, had cruised through the group stage.  A three game run with a combined score of 9-1 saw them beating both of the last World Cup's finalists and then dismantling a dark horse Romanian team with basically a second team squad.  The so-called "group of death" was only that in the battle for second place.

So Russia's impressive victory against Sweden still left them immense underdogs against the Dutch but Hopes at the Center were high.  When, after 90 minutes the score was still tied at 1 each, the guys were almost overjoyed; having avoided becoming the Netherlands next embarrassed victim.  The first extra time ended with no change and with Sarah nodding off we decided to pick up the second extra time on the miniscule TV in the security building.

So, there we were, 7 or 8 of us at almost midnight crowded in a tiny room watching a 12" TV that continuously fuzzed as Russia sent wave upon wave of attacks against the stunned Dutch defense.  We lost our minds when Russia scored once... then twice to ice the game.  The goals were beautiful, made even more so by the level of anticipation, the late night and the overall skill shown by man-of-the-match Andrey Arshavin.  

He was like a pale, elfin version of Maradona (but faster) as he seemed to freeze the hapless defenders time and time again before finally sending in a cleverly chipped cross for the winning goal.  He then capped it off with a solo shot from the right which squirted between the legs of vaunted Dutch keeper Edwin Van Der Sar.  The thrilling finish kept most of us up for another few hours; a decision which we paid for the next morning at early morning exercises.

The next day all of us that watched the game couldn't walk past each other without hugs, shakes of the head and mutterings of "amazing."


Last day of Camp 1

Today was the last day of camp so most of the kids trickled out to their respective homes and institutions.  I thought I should add a few pictures from the day and I hope to convince Sarah to post about her impression of her first camp in the next few days.

My aim wasn't to get a great shot of 8 nostrils but I was very close to achieving that nonetheless.

This was an impromptu shot but I like the way it turned out.  Jenya looks very intense yet thoughtful when in reality we were sharing his MP3 to listen to an Ozzie song.

It has taken a few captions for me to realize that these are not at all in chronological order.  Below is the shot of some of the kids when I made a surprise visit to their train car to give them some food for the road... or the rails as it were.

Here's Sarah with some of her girls.  All three are from Kerch but from 2 different internats.  Please pray for these girls as they will soon graduate and be on their own at 15 or 16.  The statistics are pretty bleak for girls in this situation.

This is Mark... no, seriously, his name is Mark.  He was great fun, a huge help in all things and one of the most joyful people I've ever met.  We hope to head over to Simferopol sometime to visit all our new friends from that area.

Sergey and Yuri are also from Kerch so I hope to be able to see them more regularly

This one was great.  Ira wanted me to take this picture and Cam liked the idea.  What she thought would be a cool shot of her with a newer car turned out more like one of those contests where the last person touching the car wins it.

Little Jenya.  He's a tough one because he can be a great little guy one minute then moody and home sick the next.  He came with an internat group but was constantly trying to wrangle a phone to call his mom (even though she already told him that he needed to stay here).  His little brother Dima was the exact same way.  


Camp 1 Kids

As promised, here are a few random activity shots from around camp this week.

Camp Update: Biffer with our new friends

Since I realize that nearly no one is familiar with the game of "Biffer" if you haven't been to the HopeCenter and it is a major part of the camp experience, I thought I should explain it at the beginning of the summer... just so we're all on the same page.

Basically the kids have to complete a series of stations such as...

...jump rope...
...ball toss...
...shooting baskets...
...all while being chased...
...by people trying to beat you with tube socks filed with flour...
...who are dressed sort of like this...
...and are usually older and faster than 99% of the campers...
...with your only salvation coming by way a friendly "doctors" who come to patch you up after you have been "biffed".
We've been having a great time even with the weather not cooperating for going to the sea.  Contrary to what I expected (both from experience and anecdotes) this camps problem children have been in the YOUNGEST ward while the older campers have been a joy.  I have been talking a little with the older guys at night regarding being gentlemen and becoming a man and not just an adult male human and Sarah has been working with the girls too.  We really will miss this group when they leave.  I have some more photos of the kids which will be in the following post.


Sweden-Russia and the picture you may be seeing on milk bottles everywhere

To quote a previous post and James Richardson, "in a move unlikely to increase goodwill," I decided that today - the day in which Sweden and Russia battle in a loser-goes-home qualifying match in the European Championships - would be the time to unveil my new Sweden jersey that Paul brought me.  Reactions ranged from being labeled as "the enemy" to rage followed by hours of the cold shoulder treatment.

I suspect that all will be forgiven if Russia wins but if Sweden pulls of the upset, expect the word of my disappearance to spread quickly immediately following the final whistle.  Whether I survive or not, I thought I should record the moment for posterity.


A Day is like a Thousand Years

We've been a bit behind in getting you posted with the first summer camp.  This is due to our nonstop busyness and packed schedule.  I think we mentioned before that we have a small team for Camp 1, so Matt and I have been recruited.  Our days consist of morning exercises, prayer, breakfast, Bible lesson (oh yeah, I've been recruited as music person since their keyboardist backed out... luckily I just have to push a play button), beach, lunch, meeting, afternoon activity, dinner, craft, another activity, and bedtime story.  PHEW!  Oh yeah, and raise a 2 year old.  On top of that, two of the six team members had one of those nightmare stories trying to get here and didn't arrive until midnight Sunday.  They've been great though... jumping right in and doing morning exercises, Bible stories, and crafts.  It's the reason why I am now able to do a little posting.  

First day of camp was Saturday.  While the campers got checked out by the doctor, we did balloon animals and had bubbles for the kids while they waited.  Here is the leader of our group, Paul, and one of the team members, Steve.  Steve also acts as another translator for us as he is Ukrainian (living in the U.S.).  He's only been in the U.S. for a couple of years, but they all make fun of his American accent.  We pick on him a lot, but he's a good sport.  

Here are some of the cuties.

And of course Campbell had to get in on the fun.  Campbell is a huge hit with all the kids.  I'm not sure Cam knew what hit him when 90 new kids came to live at "his place", but he's handling it well.  We certainly don't have to fight for bedtime or nap time.  

Here are the ever famous foam visors.  If you've ever been to this camp, I'm sure you will recognize them.  The kids still love making them.  The two boys on the left have quickly become Matt's, Campbell's, and my buddies.  Mark is in the middle and... I'm a bad person for forgetting the boy's name on the left.  I should know it too, because he follows me everywhere, but it's an unusual name and quite frankly I am horrible at remembering names.  

We also had a "Draw a portrait of  your favorite International Team Member" contest.  This was one of the winners.  Matt likes the fact that I am gazing so lovingly at him... I like the fact that Campbell is doll-sized (this would be so much nicer on my back as he is actually over half of my size).  Doesn't Matt look like Danny Bonaduce?

Beach pictures will come soon.  We've been down a few times and had a great time.  Campbell loves being in the water and tries out his swim moves.  Like I mentioned before, going to the beach can be a lot of work so I haven't felt like taking an expensive camera.  


My Sweet Bride

In a strange twist of the calendar today is both my 5th anniversary and Fathers Day - just as was the day we married.  Today, instead of asking my still slightly skeptical father-in-law to give away his baby girl as a Father's Day gift, we will spend the day busily taking care of a child of our own as well as the 90 Ukrainian kids who we've temporarily adopted for the next 10 days.  It's not exactly the height of romance but in a way it's a more fitting tribute to a relationship than to spend stupid amounts of money on a tasty but too-small meal at the place we were married (that was our first anniversary, I believe).

Someday when we look back on our long life together I suspect that we will be very proud that in 3 of our first 5 years of marriage, we celebrated June 15th SERVING together rather than being served together.  I can think of no more attractive image than seeing my wife unselfishly and gladly lavishing love on our boy and a pile of other kids on the day that all of society says she should expect lavish gifts.

Sarry, thank you for having me and for continuing to be the girl of my dreams.  Happy Anniversary!

Just so all of you know, in the 2 weeks following this camp we will have time to get away and spend some special time together celebrating our 5 year and 3 week anniversary.


LotD - James Richardson

Heard on The Guardian's Football Daily podcast recorded live in Vienna on 6/12/08 during the Poland-Austria game.  For maximum effect imagine the line being delivered in stereotypical British understatement with the accompanying accent:

"Poland have just taken the lead... a man is showing his Poland underwear to the Austrian fans, in a move unlikely to increase the goodwill between the two nations"

The team has arrived... mostly

Yesterday the 6-person camp team was scheduled to arrive in Simferopol at about 4pm with Andrey and I planning to pick them up in two cars.  Upon waking up yesterday we learned that 2 of the members had missed their flight out of Chicago, leaving us with only 4.  Just as we were preparing to leave, Paul (the team leader who was coming from Sweden) called from Frankfurt to inform me that we had lost 3 more members in transit.  If you're keeping track at home that is exactly 1 of the 6 members expected to be at the airport in Simferopol.  Needless to say we were a bit flustered by this situation until I got a last second text from Paul letting me know that the 3 prodigal members had just snuck on at the last minute.

We followed through with our plan to grab the remaining 4 members with 2 cars and had them back at the HopeCenter just in time for the end of the first half of the Germany-Croatia game... er... I mean dinner.

Most posts and photos of Camp 1 will be forthcoming soon...


Jesus, Satan and mimes walk into a bar...

Do you ever have one of those conversations in the dark of night at a sleepover, camping or with your spouse that is absolute comic gold?  The kind of thing that you swear that you simply CANNOT afford to forget?  Sarah and I had one of those the other night which I need to get written down before the memory of it fades.

It all stemmed from a legitimate discussion regarding the skit which usually accompanies the salvation message at the end of our summer camps.  I will once again be playing Jesus (either because I have a beard already or because everyone else wants to play the people who kick "Jesus" in the sketch) and Sarah wanted to know what the basic outline was.  I mentioned that there is Jesus and the requisite sinners; generally alcoholics, gamblers, materialistic workaholics and if the translators are feeling crazy that day, a few prostitutes.  Sarah, having grown up in a church that was big on drama, asked if there would be a Satan character dressed in black and slinking around nefariously.  She did a spectacular reenactment of how that should be done, nearly bringing me to tears... of laughter.

She then started to delve into her memories of church dramas, but combining them all together into one presentation, eventually bringing on the climactic line of our little family comedy club, "Jesus, Satan and some mimes walk into a bar.  No one says anything and everyone was saved.  Yeah Jesus!" (Line of the day, baby)

It sort of reminded me of a classic Monty Python bit where a guy comes into an ad agency with some ridiculous amount of string that he wants to sell - the catch being that it is in 3 inch segments.  The ad-man starts running through what is needed in the advertisement to make sure all the marketing bases are covered.  He eventually ends up with an ad in which there is a woman in a bathtub (sex) surrounded by the Pope (religion), some kids (children), a puppy (animals) and probably a bunch of other stuff that I'm forgetting (help me out on this one, Coach).

This isn't intended to be a Stuff Christians Like-type post but we do seem to enjoy hitting people with Jesus, sinners, Satan and some miming all in the same presentation.

Ok, I got that all out so I'm done.


Euro 2008 Mascots

So I have now watched the vast majority of every one of the 9 games that have so far been played in this tournament.  It's been pretty good if overly tactical football and on the whole I've enjoyed it.  One thing that is involved in watching these games is the animated music video of the twin mascots Trix and Flix that is played during the halftime of every match.  It's a 3.5 minute mixture of choreographed breakdancing, freestyle street running and football tricks all in a silly Alpine-ish village inexplicably set to a Shaggy song called "Like a Superstar."

While I try to fein ambivalence towards it, I am strangely unable to leave the room once it starts.  Campbell also suffers from the addiction and has even started mimicking some of the easier and more obvious dance steps.  Our night time routine involves him bathing, brushing teeth, watching the first half of the first game until Trix and Flix do their thing and then off to bed.

Here's the full video so that you can tell me what a dolt I am for being stuck on it and please don't ask me what they're supposed to be.  My best guess is that their heads resemble the logo for the event itself.  Enjoy:


Common Misconceptions: Soccer/football

I promised this one earlier when I broached the subject of the Common Misconceptions (henceforth CM) posts.

I think that most people assume that since the vast majority of the football-playing world use that term and Americans say soccer - or as it is caricatured by Brits, "siaker" - then we must have invented the word.  The roots of this split go back to the mid-1800's when the rules of the game were being codified.  For the latter part of that century, several varieties of the game competed for supremacy and adherents with the current format coming out on top; eventually becoming known as Association Football.  Other varieties which included rugby and the fore-bearers of American and Australian rules football ended up making their way around the world as well.  Soccer was coined as a shortened slang for the word "Association" in Britain and eventually become the preferred term in most nations in which another football format is dominant (ie. Australia and the US).

Thus, the smug correction of the word "soccer" by non-Americans lies not in the fact that they are Euro-centric but in their continued gloating that their version of football has been proven by a century of global test-marketing to be the most exciting and compelling rule-set conceived.

Ok... a mandatory portion of the CM posts is that you must comment and let me know if this was a misconception that you had prior to me "enlightening" you.  Anyone?


A Day of Rest

What's the best cure for the common cold???  Head to the beach, of course.  On Saturday, Campbell and I came down with nasty colds, but that wasn't going to stop us from enjoying a Sunday afternoon at the beach with Daddy.  As far as we can tell, no oil on the beaches! Hooray!

Campbell did a little venturing out into the water with his new beach shoes.   Thanks Grandma and Grandpa!!  

A great big bathtub in which you can do all the splashing you want and not get yelled at by mom!  It also helped keep the jellyfish away. :)

I forgot how messy going to the beach with little ones can be.  Flying sand on wet, lotioned skin... yuck.  But still worth it.

Isn't he just so cute?  I don't even think I'm being biased.  


Triple Benchmark

In the past week I've had 3 blog-related firsts/events.

One and two are basically related in that I hit 20,000 visitors to my site as well as 30,000 hits overall.  This is more a testament to my lack of self-awareness or shame - in continuing to write a blog very few people read for a year or so - than to my popularity or talent as a blogger.  Those 6-visitor days in the beginning really added up...

Number three is one that I am almost as proud of.  On my way back from napping on the beach (yeah, suffering for the Lord) today, I started thinking about another possibility for a post.  For the first time in my blogging career (can I call it that?) I honestly couldn't recall if I had done a post on the subject.  I have done enough writing that I can officially say that it is more than I can recall.  As it turns out, every blogger page has a search box for looking up content on that specific site so I was saved and you can expect to hear from me regarding the blessed substance called kvas.

Happy Sunday.

LotD - Mark Steyn

From Steyn's post "Killing her softly" in reference to the practice of sex-selective abortion.  Sort of self-defeating to feminism don't you think?

In practice, a "woman's right to choose" turns out to mean the right to choose not to have any women.


European Championships picks

The vast majority of you have already tuned this one out but trust me, if you stick with this one it will be interesting...

We are in a contest with Slick (his picks are here) to pick the Euros this year and by we, I mean Sarah, Campbell and I.  I explained to Sarry who was good and she picked her own biases but Cam had trouble making up his mind.  We had to put pieces of paper in a hat and have him draw.

The question is... will my hours of listening to football analysis every week pay off or will Cam and Sarry randomly pick their way to victory.  Here are our picks for the group stage, which BTW you can see on ESPN this year.

Group A
Matt - Portugal and Czech Rep.
Sarry - Portugal and Czech Rep.
Cam - Czech Rep and Turkey

Group B
Matt - Germany and Croatia
Sarry - Germany and Poland
Cam - Germany and Croatia

Group C
Matt - Italy and the Netherlands
Sarry - Italy and Romania
Cam - Italy and Romania

Group D
Matt - Spain and Russia
Sarry - Spain and Greece
Cam - Spain and Russia

Speaking of Misconceptions...

I mentioned that I was adding a feature in which I'll explore common misconceptions.  In honor of this I thought I would give an example of how I plan NOT to do this.

Above is a picture of a modern pamphlet (2004) that we have here for some reason.  If you could read backwards (you can blame Photo Booth for that) and in Russian, you would see that it is titled something like "The misconceptions that you have about Christianity."  As far as I can tell, it is a Russian-language outreach to the local Muslim populace.  I honestly can't make any assessment as to the quality of the material inside but judging the proverbial book by the cover doesn't inspire confidence.

Presumably the artwork is depicting a native Russian/Ukrainian/Cossack and a Muslim (Tatar or some other similar people group).  It starts out positively in it's presentation by acknowledging that the Christian - Muslim issues in this area are longstanding.  Then it just goes off the rails.  The Cossack character stands upright and proud, handsome in his traditional garb.  On the other hand, the Muslim stands somewhat hunched; almost cowed; his clothes more peasant and plain; a gut to emphasize his physical limitations.  His skin is darker (not necessarily accurate from my experience), his nose large and "Semitic" for some reason.  It is every bit the stereotype; in how Slavs traditionally view Muslims and in how Muslims assume that they are viewed.  Despite the fact that it looks like a scene from Lord of the Rings, this could be a very accurate presentation of an actual meeting between a Cossack and a Tatar, but why use is as cover art for a pamphlet designed to break down the barriers of preconceived notions?

Not really sure why I decided to share this but, hey, it was what I was thinking about today...


Pharmaceutical "Specialists"

One of the challenges of living here is that if you need medicine, you kind of have to roll the dice.  Generally the pills we get are labeled in Russian and are not FDA approved.  Also, because most anything is over-the-counter here (and no, I don't mean in a black market sense), you can end up with some serious medication for relatively minor issues.

One of the pills that we have for pain relief is called Pentalgin.  We usually try to research the meds before we use them so I Googled it tonight.  The top hit was a random forum site which seemed promising until I got the following comment:

Ok I just finished some research and found this.

PENTALGIN (Metamizole sodium 300mg, Paracetamol 300mg, Caffeine
50mg, Codeine phosphate 8mg, Phenobarbitone 10mg)

So these pills have 8mg Codeine, not bad because I have like atleast 50 of them lol. However, what about the other idgrediants? Can I do a CWE? 

Are any of the other ingrediants recreational?

Anyways I dont wanna kill myself, so somebody knowledge please help me.


That's right, in the 3rd to last line he asks if any of the ingredients are "recreational," meaning high-inducing.  My suspicions were confirmed 2 comments later with this one (my family-friendly editing):

codeine with the phenbarb its almsot as good as hydro (-:
a little puff puff and you're set! just be carefull with the APAP(paracetamol), over 2g and your liver is on its way to the moon.

speaking about barns, I popped the last seconal pill i had...%@#$...i want to get some more for my veins...with H

I suspect that I am not getting what would generally be considered a professional opinion.

Seis de Junio

No cooks this week.  We've been craving some Mexican food, but no tortillas (or anything Mexican for that matter) to be found.  So, I thought I'd be adventurous and make my own... and it actually worked!!  I can't make borscht to save my life but I can make tortillas.  Maybe I'm in the wrong country.  I must say, I would not want to make this a daily ritual.  It took me almost 3 hours to make our taco meal as I also had to make the salsa... and God forbid... grate my own cheese!  
...but they actually look like real tortillas!  I'm just so proud.

New post type - Common Misconceptions

Today while sweeping I was hit by a new concept for posts on the blog.  It sort of bridges Facts of the Day, historical topics and cultural commentary in what I hope will be an interesting forum.  I plan to take something that is generally held as truth or common knowledge and reexamine the basic facts behind the assumption.  Some of the topics I was thinking about were, "Are Americans the only people who refer to soccer by that name?", a very timely "Do price controls on commodities help the consumer?" or if I feel really brave "The underlying facts of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict."  I hope that most will more light-hearted than that but it's one of the issues that comes to mind.  Also if you have a suggestion for a topic, I'll give it a shot.

There may be occasions in which what I consider to be a misconception wanders into some of your strongly held beliefs so please feel free to comment or attempt persuade me.


This election coverage is making me sick

Update:  I changed the post time on this one to leapfrog it to the top of the page because I really am interested in your thoughts.  Don't worry, neither I nor any other commenters will berate you if you're a closet Obama fan...  What do you folks in the states think about this election?

I haven't done a good political rant recently but the coronation of Barack Obama is bringing one on.  I have no problem with him being the nominee since, even though I disagree with him on most issues, he was selected by the Democratic party of which I am not a member (they don't care what I think).  My nausea is due to the coverage of this week's end of the primary season.  I understand that "identity politics" means that there is a certain pride in there having been a historic contest between a woman and an African-American in a nation that in the past disenfranchised both groups.  I get that, I really do.

What I have a hard time stomaching is this paternalism from international elites.  Like people in Britain (a country which has also never had a black head of state) saying that it is a step in the right direction for the US; as though they have been trying to guide us but we are just a big clumsy child who needs remedial training.  I just caught an article from the Washington Post which covers some of the reactions to Obama's earning the nomination.  It quotes a political scientist in Japan (not exactly the epicenter of racial diversity) saying that this shows the US as the place of freedom that they thought it to be - as though a rejection of Obama's platform would have discounted our status as a society of equal opportunity.

I have to quote my favorite one:

"This is close to a miracle. I was certain that some things will not happen in my lifetime," said Sunila Patel, 62, a widow encountered on the streets of New Delhi. "A black president of the U.S. will mean that there will be more American tolerance for people around the world who are different."

First, this is infantile logic.  A president, no matter how amazing cannot affect the "tolerance" level of a nation.  Second, as a South Asian, she represents nearly 1/4 of the planet's population; far higher than white America or even people of European background overall.  Since she is much closer to the majority, perhaps it is she, not we that should be tolerant of people who are different.  After all, India still retains a rigid caste system that is based at least partially on skin color, ethnicity and religion.  Specks and planks, madam.

Ooh, here's another section...

"In many nations, Obama's youth and skin color also represent a welcome generational and stylistic change for America. Obama personifies not the America of Bush and Vice President Cheney but the nation that produced Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods -- youthful, dark-skinned sports stars who are deeply admired household names around the world."

Ah, of course.  He's black so he must be an athlete or at least looks like one.  This drives me crazy!  It's apparently only OK to use these stereotypes when it serves the purpose of the mass media's agenda.

...I had a great conclusion paragraph for this post but it didn't save and I lost it.  

I'm tired and going to bed now but let's discuss this.  Am I wrong?  Overly sensitive?  The US isn't perfect but it's the best show in town; with or without an Obama candidacy.

Smiles and WooHoos all around

Yesterday Tanya and I packed up the kids and headed to the new park!  There are actually 5 kids in the back of this Chevy Aveo... and yes Campbell is not in a car seat (nor seatbelt) and yes he is loving it!  I still get a bit anxious when we don't use the car seat.  I've still got that crazed "car seat until 16" mind set, I guess.  But at the same time, I have great memories of cramming in the back of a honda civic hatchback... and I mean very back... and so I'm able to let it go at times. 

So here are the new digs!  I was quite impressed as you will not see anything near as modern in the city of Kerch.  Kiev, yes... Kerch, no.  The governor has promised a total of 7 for the city... when that happens, we don't know, but a great asset when it does.  This was just a fourth of the actual play area.  There are two more play areas and a very nice basketball court as well.  They've even painted rainbows, suns, and balloons on the apartments to brighten it up.  I don't know that the residents are too excited about that, but it certainly makes it kid friendly.

Campbell loved climbing and trying out all new ways of going down the slide.

And of course, he had a great helper, Tonya...

And what day at the park doesn't need a bully.  I was just proud that Campbell didn't hit back... at least with this little girl. :)

What I used to think