5/31/09

Public Humiliation

Dear readership,

I just read through the posts on the main page of the blog and found no less than 3 grammatical/spelling mistakes.

From now on I request that if you read a typo or any other error, include a reprimand in your comment. I know that I should proof-read my text before I post but I rarely do. I figure that repeated public embarrassment might motivate me to be more meticulous.

Thank you for your support.

Matt

5/30/09

Premier League Table Picks and IKTS (revisited)

Today was the last English game of the season - a Chelsea 2-1 victory over Everton - and I think now is the perfect time to revisit my predictions for the season.

First, I Know the Score... after my previous post about mine and Slicky's standings, we improved greatly. Out of 182,108 he finished at 220th worldwide (top 0.2%), I was at 9563rd (top 6%) and Tammi finished strong at 21,367 (top 12%). Not a bad showing and I expect 2 of the 3 of us to improve next year.

Next...

At the beginning of the season I boldly predicted all 20 places for the 2008/09 season. Slick did the same and I think Tammi did but I can't find the email she sent which included them. The format to judge these predictions is as follows:

  • Each team is rated by how far they finished from where I predicted them
  • I'll report the overall scores for all 20 and for throwing out the worst 1 and 2 predictions
  • I'll divide my raw numbers against the number clubs included (ie. 20, 19 or 18) to determine an average deviation from the remaining... blah, blah blah.....

I even lost my own interest on that one. Ok, back to basics....

  • Full 20 teams - 66 places off; average of 3.3 places
  • Throw out 1 (either Fulham or Portsmouth) - 58 places off; average 3.05
  • Throw out 2 (both of the above) - 50 places off; average 2.78

I figure Slick will post his own at some point and we'll see how I fared against such a knowledgeable predictor... 220th in the world to be precise.

Ridiculous...

Anyone catch this story about the Pastor in the San Diego area who was sited for holding an illegal gather at the house? He was told that he might face fines for each additional weekly Bible study at his own home.

The claim is that his residence isn't correctly registered/zoned as a religious meeting facility.

Even the most ardent atheist must see the danger of this kind of thought process. I am nearly certain that this won't stand and it's not something that requires a lot of hand-wringing except in the respect that there are actually folks who think this way.

5/25/09

Tattoo Regret

I was working it out in my head today and this summer marks 10 years since I got my tattoo done at Twisted Sol just off Colfax St. in Denver. Clint Hill and I agreed to get ours done before we moved out of our Lakewood apartment - his a howling wolf on a hill and mine a celtic cross.

I figure a decade is long enough to reflect on that decision so here's some thoughts...



Good Idea? - I'm still glad I got the tattoo and kind of hope to get 1 or 2 more someday. Cam doesn't even find it odd - he just identifies it as the cross that's always been there.

Size? - I'd definitely place it on the lower/smaller end of my 'satisfaction curve.' I'd prefer it to be bigger/bolder. Since I dropped $400 for it at this size (6 inches tall), it would have run quite a bit to go much bigger.

Placement? - I still can't think of another place I'd like it more. If you asked me most days, I'd say that I'd like it a touch higher (or, based on the size critique, just bigger with the top extending higher). Recently I've been intrigued by non-symmetrical placement (ie Ryan Dobson's and Tommy C's side rib cage script) but don't know how I would like it for my cross.

Design? - I'm very pleased with the design itself but wish that it had a greater degree of individuality. I've considered augmenting the existing cross with something more unique to me and my family but haven't come up with anything that appeals to me yet.

Overall I've got to say that if you leave out my mom crying when she saw it the first time, I haven't regretted very much about getting my tat and still enjoy it.



Consider this post a chance to examine your own tattoos (or those of a loved one) and express the pleasure or regret they have brought... the tattoos, not the loved ones.

5/24/09

Project Complete


An update on the project that was started many moons ago. It didn't turn out how I envisioned... for a few reasons. First I intended for it to go above our bed. BUT Matt convinced me to move it to the kitchen after considering the fatal consequences of having a 40 lb. wall hanging fall on us while sleeping. Secondly, I was hoping to have the pictures fill the window spots but the openings were much bigger than I remembered when getting the pictures developed in the states. So this is what I ended up with. I'm still happy with it. And I'm still trying to convince the Ukrainians that "distressed" is fashionable.

5/23/09

I cried

I apologize for doubling up on YouTube clips today but I have a rule of thumb that if a video makes me laugh so hard that Campbell gets scared, it must be posted.

Trust me, you'll love this

What's the best line from this... I gotta go with "you can buy a house for the price of a VCR."


Shakhtar Champions!

Despite having fallen desperately far behind to Dynamo Kiev in the Ukrainian league, Shakhtar have claimed the UEFA Cup against Werder Bremen. Werder would have been heavy favorites had they been able to field their full squad but the victory is no less sweet for my squad from Donetsk. The 2-1 scoreline (after extra time) was fair with each squad's keeper making one howler apiece.

In honor of the victory, I'm posting a clip of one of the most unique goals I've ever seen. It was scored by Shakhtar's former captain, Brazilian midfielder Matuzalem against Sevilla in the 2006/07 UEFA Cup.

This (along with the 2 goals scored by Luiz Adriano and Jadson against Werder) is why Shakhtar brings in Brazilians. Enjoy....


5/22/09

Potty Training

Potty Training is on, we are currently 26 hours in and 8 outfits, 4 indoor successes, and 1 solo outdoor success later.

5/20/09

My new daughter-in-law

We've chosen a future wife for Cam at the ripe age of 3. Kremena is a bit older at 25, but a good choice for him. She speaks 3.5 languages, is a lovely Christian (twice) young lady and Cam is infatuated with her... plus, if she doesn't marry Campbell, Andrey's planning to sell her to the highest Turkish bidder.

That's a win-win situation for all of us.

Oh, and please notice Campbell's new haircut. For those of you who haven't seen him in while, he's the smaller of the 2 boys.

video

5/19/09

Conscience

We currently have an outside group staying at the Hope Center that has been - to be charitable - challenging. We love hosting people to do their ministry here in the Kerch area. In fact, we wish we had more people willing and capable of utilizing this great facility.

Unfortunately, we haven't been seeing eye-to-eye with the folks who are holding their seminar here this week. There have been a few specific issues but the frustration basically boils down to a cynical aversion that we have towards the very up-front, confrontational method of evangelism that they are learning in the course here. Our intern Kremena just accepted the Lord today... again... at the persistent insistence of one of their leaders.

Most of the staff and volunteers here (of a variety of nationalities and backgrounds) chafe at what seems to be a numbers-game strategy of evangelism...

They track the number of folks that they approach, how many are willing to talk and what are the results of the conversation (apparently Kerch has no less than 24 people not willing to chat about their salvation with a stranger on the street - a current Ukrainian record). Further, if someone seems more interested in a debate than in the set of prepared questions and answers, they need to be cut off so that the evangelist can move on (ie. "not wasting their time" - that's a direct quote from a lecture) to the next victim... err, heathen.... err, perspective salvation prayer sayer.

Despite my serious skepticism of their methods, I think one of the root causes of my cynicism is actually my own feelings of guilt. Techniques aside, they are out there doing it passionately without embarrassment or shame. I am not. I'm doing stuff to be sure, but not with that unhindered drive and focus.

I don't want to do exactly what they're doing - I think in many cases it can do more harm than good to beat someone over the head with your faith. However, these are folks who are sharing their stories, their faith and the gospel (albeit in a very cookie-cutter, formulaic way).

Kremena says I shouldn't feel this guilt because these people are learning to make general nuisances of themselves with very little in the way of relationship to offer.

What do you guys think? Can you be jealous of a persons passion while thinking their efforts are foolish or even counter-productive?

Yalta Trip '09

Realizing that we do less blogging and more facebooking and also knowing that my parents are going to check this soon, I've decided to put a slideshow up of our trip this past weekend. The intention of the trip was to instruct 12 volunteers from the Kerch area on how to mentor teenage girls who are at risk for prostitution and human trafficking. The seminar was taught by Kremena our Swedish-Bulgarian intern and it was great. A bit overwhelming once you realize the enormity of the problem here, but assuring that individuals can indeed make a difference.

We were even able to fit in some sightseeing of beautiful Yalta. There's a little bit of everything in this slideshow. For those of you missing Hope Center staff, you'll get to see them at their finest. For grandmas and grandpas, you'll get to see the little boy who isn't so little. For those who've never been to Yalta, you'll get to see all the tourist traps... i.e. Livadia Palace where the "Yalta Conference" between Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill was held, boat ride to Swallows Nest (tiny castle on cliff), cable cars to a war memorial, orthodox church, gondola to highest point in Crimean Peninsula, descent into a cave to touch snow, beautiful waterfall in the lush forest, and of course lots of silly dress up pictures and fun stuff for the kids.

Pictures by Kremena
Music by U2 (Beautiful Day)
video

5/11/09

Russian Season

On my last 2 trips to Simferopol I couldn't help but notice that we're moving into Russian season here in Crimea - which reminds me of the classic Colorado joke, "Why do they call it tourist season if we're not allowed to shoot them?" The sentiment behind that line holds true for Russian season here.

Right about the time that the weather starts getting warm, it seems to bring with it an influx of folks from the other side of the Kerch Strait. In our part of the country they stand out with their Range Rovers, BMWs and Porsche Cayennes or maybe their big CC Japanese sport bikes... of course their Russian plates are also dead giveaways. They drive at least 20 kph faster than the rest of us (which is really saying something in my case) and seem oblivious to general orderliness on the road.

They come down here (either on the fairy across the Straits or straight down via mainland Ukraine) to throw money around like important people in the Russian-speaking world have been doing for centuries. They dress like wanna-be (or actual) mafiosi, flaunt trophy wives and pay exorbitant prices at tourist traps. They speak in that funny, drawn-out, nasally Moscow way - something akin to a slavic version of a Boston accent - all the while firmly believing that Vladimir Putin is the world's greatest ever leader.

Honestly I don't have anything against Russians specifically but there is certainly a subset of them who make nuisances of themselves down here in the summer. There's a similar group of Ukrainians - presumably from Kiev - who do the same but since it's their own country it chafes a bit less.

Either way, with a trip to uber-expensive Yalta in the works, I'm sure I'll be seeing a lot more of our rich friends.

5/8/09

Man's best friend

I don't think I've posted about Diesel (our 5 year old boxer) and his protective instincts. He's a serious pain in the butt some days but I am thankful for his loyalty. On a few occasions he's shown that if Sarry and Cam are threatened, he's willing to protect them.

Sometimes I wonder what makes dogs do this.

This morning I was reading an amazing story about a 3 year old kid who was recently lost in Missouri for 3 cold days in only a diaper, t-shirt and shoes. At the end of the story, it mentions that when he was found he was attended by 2 stray dogs.

An amazing and strange story, made even stranger by the fact that it almost exactly mirrors a case of another 3 y.o. who was lost in DECEMBER in Virginia last year. Here's the weird thing... that kid was kept alive by 2 puppies! Is that a coincidence? What are odds that 2 toddlers survived in the forest alone within 6 months and they were both accompanied by a pair of dogs?

I guess there's something to that 'man's best friend' moniker.

5/6/09

Conversations with Dad


I didn't post about it while he was here but I just returned Pops to the airport yesterday after nearly 2 weeks visiting us at camp. It was a good time but as always I wasn't able to hang out with him like I had wanted.

I don't know if I just need time to get the hang of having guests or if the schedule didn't allow it, but I really didn't fulfill the 'good son' role very well. We didn't get to work side-by-side as much as I'd have liked and our evening routine wasn't all it could have been.

That said, I loved having him here. He knocked out some very difficult projects with no complaints, was a great help with Cam and we did get to chat and just hang out.

On the way back to the airport in Simferopol last night we were talking about some of the surreal experiences that come up when you're here.

My dad's was riding in the back of a Chevy past Soviet-era radar stations in Crimea - the exact radar stations he trained for years to destroy - all the while being serenaded by a Russian-accented rendition of 'House of the Rising Sun' from the front seats.

My most vivid was sitting in the guard shack of a former Soviet base with former Soviet officers watching a Russian dubbed version of Top Gun - the quintessential cold war movie of my generation.

We both agreed that the Lord indeed has a weird sense of humor sometimes.

PS. As an unrelated fact that has no bering on this post, the Soviet Union lost roughly 15,000 soldiers in their invasion of Afghanistan as compared to the US's 58,000 or so in Vietnam... in case you were curious.

5/3/09

Reality

The older I get, the more aware I am of my own crappiness. When I was in high school, I thought of myself as a generally nice person - generous, kind and considerate. Later I decided that while I usually displayed these admirable characteristics, I was also capable of scumminess. Both of these periods occurred during my single years and I think that status lead to my inaccurate impression of my own character.

Since I've been with Sarah I have gradually begun to realize (culminating in an epiphany today at church) that I am actually more prone to selfishness, meanness and coldness than I am those attributes listed above. Is it marriage that made me this way? Obviously not, I've always been fallen. What marriage has done is put into contrast my self-impression, then and now.

When I was single, it wasn't critical that perpetually I empathized, that I gave of myself, that I thought of others first. Rather, I was able to temporarily call upon those things when I felt it made me look good.

Now, of my own power, I'm not able to sustain the effort through the entirety of my day with Sarah - sometimes barely at all. My relationship with her (and now Campbell to an extent) has served to show me the reality of my fallenness. When I am not the man that He has called me to be for them, it hurts. My love for them reveals to me that I suck - that I must improve.

You hear catch phrases in church all the time and they resonate more or less depending on where you are and what's going on at the time. But today I have to say - more of you, Lord and less of me.