Tuesday, September 29, 2009

With a Spring in My Step

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (still the dumbest decision in baseball naming history), won the American League Western Division by shutting out the hated Texas Rangers by a pleasant margin of 11-0. That makes 6 playoff appearances in the last 8 years. Awesome! The only problem is that, if the Angels happen to finally defeat the Red Sox this year, my busiest 3 weeks of the semester are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th weeks of October. I'll be extra sleep deprived if the Angels make it to the league championship. But I can sleep in November, right?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bills, Banks and Benevolence

We've been back in Ukraine for a little over a month and I'm not quite used to all of the routines yet. For instance, bills are due on the 20th of the month. The bills come in the mail between the 5th and the 10th and then you have until the 20th to figure out how much you owe (you fill out the water and electricity bill yourself) and then get to a pay place and do so. You can pay at most banks, at the post office, at some automated bill pay machines and, allegedly, online. Obviously, paying online or at an automated machine is very modernized. It's too modernized for us, in fact; we go to the bank.

Anyway, as you could guess, if you pay your bills at a counter of some kind and do so on the 15th, the lines will be fairly short. If you wait until the 19th or the 20th, the lines are much longer. If the 20th falls on a Sunday, when the post office and all banks are closed, then all the people who wait until the 20th to pay are in line with all of the people who wait until the 19th to pay and it's torturously long. Our routine is to pay on the 16th or 17th but, since I'm not yet back into the routine, I didn't put 2 and 2 together until this morning and had to rush to arrange all the paperwork and get to the bank, with a myriad of others.

Now, we usually go to one particular bank that charges a very small fee for bill processing (25 cents or something like that). This guarantees a shorter line. Additionally, this bank will process our internet bill, which some banks and the post office will not process. Unfortunately, this bank isn't open on Saturdays like it was a year ago. So, I was forced to go to a bank with a longer line and, as far as I remembered, did not take our internet bill. However, as I was standing in line I noticed that other people were holding their internet bills in their hands from our very same internet company. How cool! I'd still be able to pay all the bills at once and, since I waited in a long line, I wouldn't have to pay extra to do so.

Or so I thought. As soon as I got to the counter and handed over the bills, the teller handed me back the internet bill and said something too quickly for me to understand but that communicated that I would not be paying that bill at that place today. I'd have to come back when there was a shorter line or go the internet company and get a new form or something. (When you don't understand, just about everything is a possibility. I wasn't feeling too proud of my language abilities at that point.) Then she said the total for the other bills that I needed to pay. It was clearly higher than it should have been but, with 20-25 people behind me I wasn't about to say anything. I just guessed that, due to the economic crisis or something, all bill pay stations were charging fees now. I gave her a round sum and, being short on change, she had to go get some from her coworker. That gave me time to think about how much more the bills were than they should have been. I was coming up with about $4.50 or so (35-40 hrv.); WAY too much for a processing fee. But again, I didn't want to feel the piercing stares of 20-25 people on they out, so I just exited.

When I got to work (Josie had taken Dietrich to the store; I was not abandoning my family), I messaged a friend to see if my bank-fees-for-all-bills theory was true. It was not. I also called the internet company and asked if they might know why the bank refused to process my bill. They said that I had likely taken the wrong bill to the wrong bank. And that solved a mystery. We received 2 internet bills that looked identical. We could not discern a difference between them and so I tossed one—like a dummy—and took the other with me to the bank. And, in fact, I had tried to pay the УкрСиббанк bill at Ощадбанк. I asked where the nearest УкрСиббанк was located and, on my way home from work I tried to pay the internet bill there but, of course, it was closed on Saturdays. So I went home with an unpaid bill and a $4.50 less than than I should have come home with. Telling myself that I was making a contribution to a struggling economy provided no real solace.

Josie got home a few minutes after I did and she could tell I was down. She asked what was wrong and I told her that I'd tell her in a minute, after I had finished catching up on her brother's Los Angeles Angels blog. I was trying to lighten my spirits but I was too disappointed with myself. I started to tell the story with even more boring details than you've just read.

And then it happened. The bank called, right in the middle of my story, and told me that they had charged me twice for one of the bills. If I could come back to the bank in the next 10 minutes (before they closed) then they'd give me my money back. Unbelievable. Not only did they stop my quick slide into depression, they showed me that they care enough about the hundreds of people that pour into their bank every day to follow up. If I were them, I MYSELF might have considered the mistake as a contribution to the struggling economy. But they not only caught the error; they corrected the error. I'm a much happier person now. I've got $4.50 in my pocket and more hope for Ukraine's business future. Happy Saturday.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

If Your Last Name Starts With a P ...

... you might want to stay away from baseball altogether.

In the last few years, I've posted once (about Dustin Pedroia) or twice about bad character on the field. There was another incident last night involving Jorge Posada of the Yankees. And while I've not yet written about him, A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox carries quite the negative reputation (in spite of the fact that he thinks that's cool).

Pierzynski, Pedroia, Posada. Not a good sign.

So I say to all of the young Johnny Pattersons and Nate Phillips out there, play dodgeball instead.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Too Good Not To Share

Theologians love definitions. We love them because developing them allows us to take large amounts of data and sum it all up in a sentence or three. When you're dealing with a field as diverse as theology (or, more broadly, religion) definitions can be very helpful.

Apologists (who should be considered a type of theologian), also love definitions. I would say that of all of the proper apologetics texts that I've read, every other contained a definition of the discipline. These are particularly helpful because an author's definition will reveal his understanding of the apologetic task. I've not even written an apologetics text and I have my own definition. Here it is ...

"Christian apologetics is the theological discipline aimed at establishing philosophical foundations for the Christian faith. In addition, and more popularly, it provides evidences for Christianity, answers questions about Christianity and confronts objections raised against Christianity. Apologetics is also involved in the evaluation of worldviews, primarily providing support for the Christian worldview. Finally, apologetics seeks to strengthen the faith of believers through all of the above tasks. In all that it does, apologetics has as its goal the glorification of God by showing the rationality, evidence, coherence and superiority of Christianity."

But that is not what I want to share. A few months ago I suggested that you check out Doug Groothuis' blog. Well, he just wrote a short post on apologetics that hits the nail on the head as far as the kind of character that any apologist—and we are all apologists—should exhibit. In the course of the post Dr. Groothuis gives a less specific, but much more poetic and persuasive definition of apologetics. This is what I want to share. It's really, really good. Read it and then get off your keister and do you some apologetics!

"Our job is to faithfully give the best arguments possible from the purest heart possible."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

You Know Your Clothes Are Inauthentic When...

During a particularly busy and stressful day, while walking home for lunch, I followed a guy across the street whose shirt said the following:

I ased to do a feshi on Vicris
Llow I only wear armani

My day was much better after that.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fast Food Fantasies

Ten months in America turned Dietrich into a lover of fast food, just like his dad. I cherished the opportunities to take Dietrich to Der Wienerschnitzel or Hot Dog On a Stick for a delicious corn dog. And we couldn't go for very many days in a row without being asked if we were going to have french fries with a meal. (All of this, by the way, is tough to reconcile with Josie's growing infatuation with Michael Pollan and his campaign against the not-food food items that we regularly consume.) I'd call us junkies, but we live in Ukraine where there is one, and only one, American-style fast food option and we try to limit our visits. Maybe you could call us American fast food junkies in absentia.

The real proof of this comes from conversions with Dietrich that go something like this:

Dad: Dietrich, what would you like to have for dinner?

Dietrich: Ummm, I wanna corn dog and fren fwies.

Dad: Well, Dietrich, we're in Ukraine now and they don't have corn dogs here. But we're going to McDonalds and they have french fries. What would you like with your french fries, a hamburger or nuggets?

Dietrich: I wan nuggits.

Dad: Ok, but are you sure you don't want a hamburger?

Dietrich: No, I no like hambuhguhs. Win I was liddo, I like hambuhguhs. But den, I saw the diesoaun [dinosaur] step onna — pschhhh! — an I no like hambuhguhs any moah.