I know there's a lot of things going on in the world today. Obama's speech tonight, the possibility that we'll know McCain's running mate by the morning. Not to mention the many things happening in other countries, like Russia's "peace-keeping" forces in Georgia.

I have other problems, though.

CBS programming in Columbus has been pre-empted by football.

That means I'll miss the special live double-eviction episode. I'll miss it for pre-season football!


On a Thursday.

In August!

I have added a poll to the right to gauge what you think about it.

I mistakenly thought the game was against two out-of-state teams. In my rage, I failed to notice that one of the teams was Cleveland, but the sentiment is the same. I can't imagine caring less about the Browns' pre-season gameplay. In fact, I can't imagine caring less about the Browns' seasonal gameplay.

More than just that, though. Football is on three stations tonight in Columbus: ABC, NBC and CBS. That's unheard of.

And again, it's pre-season football on a Thursday in August. Why?


Keep it Real

I haven't updated in a little while.

Now you know why. My candidacy has taken up a lot of time.

My main competition is Happy.



Everyone's favorite blogger/reporter to cover the Kurds has moved on to Georgia.

Of course, he covers much more than the Kurds, but that's how I came to read his work.

The point of this post is to get you to read this; Michael Totten's report from Tblisi.

One quote that stood out to me was this one:
And my translator, whose husband works for Georgia’s ministry of foreign affairs, made a similar guess that the West helped save the capital. “The night they came close to Tbilisi,” she said, “Bush and McCain made their strongest speeches yet. The Russians seemed to back down. Bush and McCain have been very good for us.”
I think Americans have a tendency to deny our country's power - and therefore, duty - in the world. This quote reminds me on things I heard from Kurdish people on many occasions.

But, we have to remember that others expect those with power to act and inaction leads to resentment.


Gold Medal!

Yearbook Yourself


I found a new obsession

It's www.yearbookyourself.com.

As you can guess, you upload a picture of yourself and you get to see yourself in yearbook pics from various years.

My coloring is off a bit in some of the pictures, but it's hilarious nonetheless.



I love it so much in, in fact, there are 6 more pictures below!!








Here Comes McCain Again

..falling on my head like a new emotion.

Wait. Is that how that song goes?

Another post from me today. I know it makes 3. I like to keep you on your toes.

This post is the least important of the three I've posted, so be sure to read the others.

Anyhoo. I read this article tonight.

It seems that people have trouble believing that McCain could be so poised while Obama seemed less so.

Angie and I watched the forum online last night and we were both very impressed by McCain and I was surprised by the allegation that he somehow heard the questions before they were asked of him.

McCain was able to answer quickly and easily because he's prepared. This isn't the first time he's been asked questions. I mean, the man's just under 100 years old* and has been elected to office approximately 56 times*!

He could answer quickly because he has something to say. He has positions on issues and actual experience related to the job which he is seeking.

I should note that my anti-Obama bias has been growing. On Friday, I may have removed a pro-Obama flyer from a public cork board and when Vanessa suggested stealing Obama campaign signs from local yards, I thought it seemed reasonable.

We didn't do it. We wouldn't do it. I'm just saying we thought about it.

* As Mr. Fisher taught me, 85% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Speaking of Trust

This post is for Brandy Shrader.

Once when we were speaking about why Angie and I left our former church she said, "I just wish you would tell people what really happened!"

I told her that it didn't really matter. It wouldn't make a difference and I didn't want to say anything negative.

I don't intend to say anything negative now, either. But I do want to discuss why I struggle with church and that involves what happened to me.

I do not have a history of involvement with the normal American church.

I found Jesus in a Bible Study at a Christian gym thanks to men named Jugg, Wiley and Fritz. I was baptized after hours in a church baptismal with my sisters with just Fritz and the church pastor in attendance. This was a direct result of answered prayers on a treadmill.

Fritz bought a truck and took supplies to tornado hit Tennessee, he bought plane tickets and went to serve the community of Littleton, CO following the school shooting. Fritz ran a Christian weight-lifting competition, he set up sign language and Spanish lessons in the gym. He stopped charging fees and relied on donations. He took his truck to inner city tent revivals where black preachers preached fire and people fell out in the aisles and carried flags for Jesus.

And I did all of that with him. He introduced me to Creflo Dollar and Joyce Meyer and how to follow Jesus like a child.

But, as things often do, it ended. I went to London and, when I came back, everything seemed different. The gym was failing for lack of money and the season for it ended. I left. I wondered for a while what happened, but, looking back, I can honestly say that the time for that in my life was over.

In early 2002, Vanessa said she was going to try a new church out in Grove City. Sis and I decided to go too. We all liked it, so we went as a family. Soon, Mom and Grandma were coming, too. As you know, it's where I met Angie.

A lot of good things happened there.

The good things culminated with my first trip to Iraq. I was excited to finally be going and nervous, too of course.

Everything was going well until the end of May 2005. If you've been a reader, you'll know that's when this blog began as a way to communicate as I went to Iraq and a few days after 13months was born, I found out that my trip would be postponed.

This, of course, was after I'd already quit my job and told everyone I was going. The Company with whom I was traveling couldn't tell me when I would be going with any certainty.

I spent the Summer and most of the Fall waiting.

It was during this waiting period that my troubles with my church began. I think that my reaction to the waiting was not the reaction that the pastor would have liked to see. I don't know this for sure, but he did advise me to call The Company and explain my situation and demand that they do something.

In my mind, that was pointless. At this point we were waiting on more people to go. There were only two of us and we needed more. I made them aware of my situation, but the only thing left to me to do was to wait and have faith.

If you asked me, I'd say that during this period, I lost the respect of my pastor. I was doing volunteer work that put me in direct contact with him, but I feel he was afraid to let me really do the work, preferring to be heavily involved instead. Nothing got done and by September 2005, I had quit the position and had begun to pull back a little from the church.

Then I went to Iraq.

In Iraq, there wasn't a church to go to and I had to rely on a very small group of believers. It was a struggle, but it may be the best thing that's happened to me. I remember at a Creflo Dollar conference, God told me not to let walls get between us. I had let the church and my experience become a wall.

That's nothing compared to what happened next.

In July 2006, I came back from the US. I was dealing with re-entry shock and somethings happened with my church that added fuel to my bitterness.

It's not necessary to get into what happened. A lot of it may only be my perception of the truth and not the actual truth. Regardless, it soured me on the traditional church.

I talked with my pastor and we discussed my new feelings. I was having a really hard time sitting through services. He was supportive and told me that maybe God was pushing me to bigger things; maybe traditional church wasn't for me anymore.

He was right, but then he said something that over shadowed the good advice. I told him that I felt the church was ignoring me and not supporting me in my return.

He said, "Honestly, we just don't think about you."

And I was finished.

And I was bitter.

Not think about me!?! You're my pastor. You're my elders. You're my community.

But not, right? Not at all.

No matter what problems I may have had with Fritz, I know he was always thinking about me.

So, Angie and I were married, I went back to Iraq, Nila was born, we all went back to Iraq and we returned home without the support of the church community I had expected to be there during the whole thing.

The bitterness of "we don't think about you" has been really difficult to work through to say the least.

Yesterday, Brandy and I went to a church plant of the original church. It's in a needy area of town and I was interested to see what was going on, but I was worried too.

I was worried because I had (have) no idea what my reputation is with these people. What do they think of me? Or worse, do they NOT think of me? What will they think to see me there?

I went anyway. The church itself was beautiful and the service was nice. It was good to worship with people again. I saw people that I really did want to see again. It was nice.

And I was greeted at the door by a woman who was truly happy to see me. Someone I bet still prays for Angie and I. It was nice.

But I don't know if I'll be able to give myself over to a church again. I don't think I'll ever be able to depend on a pastor, at least not one with 1200 other people to think about.

If I am going to place the care of my faith in someone's hands, I need to be sure he remembers it's there. Maybe I've moved past the need for a pastor other than Jesus himself. The Bible does admonish us against milk when we should be on solid foods. Perhaps, a church of equals is the next step.

The funny thing is, though, that it was the first step, too. It's where I started.

I have kept relatively quiet about the root cause of my church-related bitterness. I have thought of it as a personal issue between me and my pastor. In truth, it really wasn't. It was an issue between me and me. I mean, he admitted that he wasn't thinking about me when I went to the church, so I'm sure he's not thinking about me now.

I was hurt and I let that hurt turn into bitterness and that bitterness has become a problem.

So, that's where this all ends. God continues to teach me and show me how to follow Him better. I continue to learn things slowly and to understand how my past fits into the puzzle of my now.

I see that God has been teaching me the way to follow Him. It's more than churches and Iraq and tent revivals. It's about getting rid of the walls that keep us from Him. It's about losing the pride and carrying the flag down the street, it's about losing the fear of what other people think and knowing what God thinks, it's about putting all of your faith in Him and not men.

And it's about things I don't even know yet.


It occurs to me that I have forgotten to report a very important event in my life and the life of my family.

As you may be aware, we intended to move to California this summer. You may in fact think that I have already done just that.

But I haven't.

We're still here in Columbus. We've moved to an apartment in the Grandview area.

We could (can) not afford to move to California. I was job hunting via the internet, but nothing was coming along and even though we had a very generous offer of a home, we decided that without a job, it was too risky to move across the country.

In all seriousness, with gas prices near $4 a gallon and food costs on the rise, it's scary to think about leaving our support network for joblessness in California.

We do still hope to be in California in the future; we still see it as a stepping stone to return to Iraq. We just can't do it now.

I struggled through the decision making process. Don't I have enough faith to believe that God can provide for my family in California? Don't I trust Him?

In the end, it's not a faith issue. I trust Him to provide for my family in Ohio. I'm still hunting for a job, but He provides for us miraculously at every turn. Moreover, I trust Him that His promises to me are good.

He's doing amazing things in Columbus, California, Iraq and throughout the world and He cares for us in all of those places.


Kurdish Lesson 07 - Kirkuk

I traveled to Kirkuk once in 2006. Long-time readers may remember my tale from that trip and, most certainly, this picture which caused such a stir at home.

When the A-Team (see above) decided to visit the American family in Kirkuk, we we picked up by the family's drivers, taken to a point just outside of Kirkuk, transferred to two bullet-proof vehicles and taken into the city.

I was in a separate car from the ladies. They were given bullet-proof vests, but I wasn't. I was advised not to get too close to the window and not to draw attention to myself.

I don't know anything about the layout of Kirkuk. I don't know what neighborhood the family lived in and I don't know what roads we took once we were inside Kirkuk. I peeked out the window from the safety of my seat rather than pressing my face up against the glass as I would have prefered.

The city looked just like the other cities I'd been to in Kurdistan, but it seemed sadder and poorer. I remember dirty banners hung across the road which reminded me of some long abandoned party.

At one point, our host pointed out his window, "That's where they say the prophet Daniel is buried."

I couldn't see much from my side of the car, but I wondered how dangerous it would actually be to stop and see it. I mean, it's Daniel of lion den fame. If he could make it out of the lion's den safely, why couldn't I make it out of Kirkuk safely?

We spent our weekend inside the family's home and we left the same way we came. Except, on the way out, I wore a bullet-proof vest, too.

Kirkuk is important today, not as the burial place of Daniel, but as the newest stumbling block for the Iraqi constitution.

The historically Kurdish city was not included in the no-fly zone following the first Gulf War. In fact, the Iraqi government removed their recognition of both Kirkuk and it's oil fields as part of the Kurdish region in 1974. This came following promises in 1970 to honor historical precedent.

Throughout the 1980s the Ba'ath regime of Saddam Hussein pursued a policy of arabization in much of Kurdistan, but certainly in Kirkuk. The government moved Arabs in and forced Kurds out. The city and surrounding province remained predominantly Kurdish, nonetheless.

Following the US invasion and the fall of the Ba'ath regime, Kurds who had been resettled began to return to Kirkuk. Since that time, Kirkuk has been a hotbed of in-fighting and insurgency.

The fighting is between three main Iraqi parties; Sunni, Shia and Kurd, plus a relatively small population of Turkmen. Each side wants control of the city and its vast oil reserves. At the very least, no one wants one of the other groups to gain control.

In the Kurds favor is Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. It allows for a referendum on the status of Kirkuk. The article allows for the iof Kirkuk to decide their own future; to become part of the Kurdish region or not. There is little doubt that the majority Kurdish population will choose inclusion with the rest of the Kurdish region.

This vote was to take place in November 2007. As of August 2008, that has yet to happen.

The problem is that each ethnic group, with the exception of the Kurds, has strong regional backing. The Shia have the support of Iran, The Sunni of Saudi Arabia and the Turkomen of Turky. Each nation has pressed the Iraqi government to postpone the vote in the hopes of weakening the Kurdish region.

Although, in the case of Saudi Arabia it may have much more to do with keeping it for the Sunnis rather than weakening the Kurds. The Saudis would much prefer a strong Sunni Iraq to a strong Shia state in its place.

Up to this point, the Kurdish government has supported the Iraqi constitution. In the past month, the Kurdish bloc has walked out of parliament sessions over election laws related to the Kirkuk question. The Kurdish region is beyond a doubt the strongest and most stable region of Iraq. If the Iraqi government loses the support of the Kurds, the government collapses.

The question becomes, how long will the Kurds wait on Kirkuk? The peshmerga could take control of the city and region and hold it . This is one of the reasons that both Turkey and Iran continue to shell Northern Iraq. Claims of PKK or PJAK support is a pretext to keep armed forces on the border and, should the Kurds claim what it rightfully theirs, one can be sure that Turkey and Iran will use the same pretext to attack.

Like Halabja, there is much more to this story than I can provide. Below are some good websites to check out if you want to know more.

Kirkuk on Wikipedia
Kirkuk on GlobalSecurity
Council on Foreign Relations

Out of the Darkness

Why did I change the blog? Because I felt like it really.

I was looking at lghg.blogspot.com. That's the former Laurel Green Home Group blog. I really like the header I made for that blog and the clean look of the layout, so I decided to do something similar here.

Some have asked about the header graphic. It started out as a photo of me in Las Vegas. I cropped it to just include my arm and the graphic from my shirt. Then I manipulated the picture until I was happy with it. I was more concerned with getting the right colors than anything else, and I'm pretty happy with it.

I hope you like it as much as I do.



I am watching the Olympics. It seems I am addicted, but it's for a couple of weeks every two years, right?

I want to take the time to applaud NBC for really cutting back on the athlete biography crap during their primetime coverage. We're watching for the sports, not the saccharine.

Here's the challenge:

Grab a piece of paper and a pen or open Word

Write the words to the Star Spangled Banner!

Don't just sing it in your head, but write it down so you can see how you did.

I'll post the correct lyrics in the comments so you can check.


Important World News

So, we've got the Olympics, the invasion of Georgia and now this tragedy on Switzerland.
Art Causes Chaos

A giant inflatable dog turd by American artist Paul McCarthy blew away from an exhibition in the garden of a Swiss museum, bringing down a power line and breaking a greenhouse window before it landed again, the museum said Monday.

The art work, titled "Complex S(expletive..)", is the size of a house. The wind carried it 200 metres (yards) from the Paul Klee Centre in Berne before it fell back to Earth in the grounds of a children's home, said museum director Juri Steiner.

The inflatable turd broke the window at the children's home when it blew away on the night of July 31, Steiner said. The art work has a safety system which normally makes it deflate when there is a storm, but this did not work when it blew away.

Steiner said McCarthy had not yet been contacted and the museum was not sure if the piece would be put back on display.

You can click anywhere up there to see the original article.

In real news, Russia has invaded well beyond South Ossetia in their campaign against Georgia and threaten to cut Georgia in half. US manages more lame responses and McCain upstages Bush on the issue.


13Months Goes for McCain

I have to admit that 13Months has been leaning that way for some time, but the article below clinches it.
Well, not the article so much as what is contained therein. And, truth be told, it's a blog post, not an article. Nonetheless, the outcome is the same; 13Months for McCain!

The post discusses the McCain and Obama responses to the Russian invasion of Georgian territory. If you've been keeping up with the story, you'll know that Russia has been attacking well outside of South Ossetia in Georgia, including an attempted attack on a major oil pipeline.

Okay, read it from this link.


Atlanta Burning

I couldn't help it.

The situation in the nation of Georgia is not funny, but I can't stop making jokes about the Peach State.

If you haven't been keeping up with the recent Russian invasion of Georgia, you should be. Read this article from the BBC, to catch up.


The Kroger Interview

So, today it finally happened.

I interviewed at the Kroger near my house.

The woman with whom I interviewed said, "You're the fourth person I've met this week with a college degree who can't find a job."

We discussed where I could be the best fit. In other words, we talked about the best way for me to earn my $7.15 an hour. Actually, there are many things to do at Kroger and they don't all sound like they'd drain the life out of someone. The only thing I told her I didn't want to do was work as a cashier; I think it would kill me.

I had to take a drug test and they'll do a background check. The hiring manager said she'd call me early next week.

Before I left she said, "I'll call you next week and we can discuss which job would be best. Unless, you can tell me that you've found you're dream job before then. Wouldn't that be great?"

Yes. Yes, it would.


From Chuck Smith

Now God wants to bless you. God wants to work in your life. God has a work He wants to do in your area, in your community, a greater work than you have yet seen, a greater work than you can even imagine. And God wants to use you as His instrument in accomplishing His work in that community. But relationship is first. And thus, your relationship with God has to be the first priority of your life. And may God just really help you to draw close to Him, to be open to Him, to get that relationship established; so that God can begin to do the work in your life that He wants to do. He will do through your life what He wants to do.

-Chuck Smith


Kurdish Lesson 06 - Halabja

Lesson 05 was a written about 6 weeks ago and, at the end of it, I promised that the next lesson would cover Halabja.

Today, Kirkuk is arguably the most important Kurdish city to which we should be paying attention. In fact, just this week the Kurdish members of the Iraqi parliament walked out over it. Kirkuk will probably be lesson 07.

Kirkuk's prominence in Kurdish news today is directly tied to the events which led up to the tragedy of Halabja; Saddam Hussein's genocidal campaign against the Kurds.


On March 16, 1988, the Iraqi government attacked the kurdish city of Halabja with chemical weapons killing 5,000 people and injuring 10,000 others. As of today, it's the worst chemical attack on a civilian population in history.

This image of a man shielding a young child has become an icon in Kurdistan.


The grinding Iran-Iraq war was coming to a close in 1988 and the border city of Halabja was caught in the middle. Claiming that the Irani army was in the city, the Iraqi air force attacked.

The air force began bombing the city with conventional weapons driving the people of Halabja into their cellars. The gas used in the chemical weapons were heavier than the air, so the cellars where perhaps the worst places to hide. This is one reason why the death toll was so high.

This attack on the Kurds can be considered as part of Iraq's Anfal campaign. Anfal was the systematic genocide of the Kurdish population of northern Iraq. From 1986 to 1999 up to 200,000 Kurds were murdered by the Ba'ath regime. 4,000 villages were destroyed and 250 towns and villages were exposed to chemical weapons (see wikipedia article).

Recommended Reading:

Obviously what I've written is only a brief summary. The US Department of State published an article on their website which I highly recommend.

The Lessons of Halabja

In truth, it was probably written as propaganda during the build up to the invasion. However, that doesn't make it any less true.


Now that Saddam is gone and the Kurdish region of Iraq has autonomy, the Kurds of Halabja are still dealing with the aftermath of the gas attack. The city was made virually unlivable following the attack, but many of the survivors stayed.

In 2003, the Kurdish government erected a memorial for the attack and in 2006 an angry mob burned it down.

This to me is one of the most interesting parts of the story. 18 years after the attack the city of Halabja still had yet to receive any significant government assistance - and since 1991, that means Kurdish government assistance. On the anniversary of the attack each year, Kurdish politicians would make the trip to Halabja and make promises to the people and use the events of 1988 as a rallying cry for unity behind the government in power.

In 2006, fed up with empty promises, the people of Halabja staged a protest on the anniversary and torched the monument reclaiming their tragedy from the hands of their ineffective leaders.

Ok, that's all I have. Be sure to read the article I referenced above.