Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last And First Meeting


Having had to run a few errands prior (i.e. checking the old apartment and grabbing the mail), and leaving the office a little later than expected due to a delayed but very positive meeting (our year in review), I arrived at the lodge about an hour later than I usually do and with little time to space for the evening. Actually, as I pulled into a parking spot and made a final few calls, I greeted two other brothers as they walked across the parking lot. Maybe attendance would be more than I expected?

Well, I walked in a few minutes later having finally completed the calls that had occupied my commute, and saw a small round table of brothers conversing and getting a few last minute items done before the New Year began. The evening, absent of candidates, was a much more relaxed time of fellowship and an opportunity to catch up on everything that is going on not just at the lodge but in our lives. It was also a perfect time to make sure I thanked the brother who assisted me over the weekend by transporting the new couch.

As the new masonic year had started a few days prior, there was a slight change at the lodge last night. While the Worshipful Master will be serving another year in the east and I will continue sitting to his right, the Treasurer, having served in that role for the past seven years, decided to step down and have another brother assume the responsibilities of the office. Last night, it was nice to see the previous Treasurer relax a little while he offered support to his successor. While the new officer is more than qualified for the job and his commitment to the fraternity is unquestionable, I understand the process of getting comfortable in a new position in the lodge as an officer. After all, I had to do the same thing last year.

There is a lot of promise in the coming year as our calendar is filling quickly, new brothers are actively participating in the fraternity, and new candidates are brought in every month with petitions in hand. We conclude the year with more masons than what we started with, greater engagement by the brethren, and an energy that is continuously building with every passing week. It is a great time to be a brother and I am enjoying the front row seat that I have as we turn the fraternal corner and begin to grow again.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Transformation


We have now been living in our townhouse for over a week and things are starting to come together. The move was smooth, the boxes are slowly disappearing, and new furniture (mostly for the baby at this point) is showing up at our door every other day. I am pretty sure that FedEx is hating us right about now. It is all coming together piece by piece and starting to feel more like a home with every day that passes.

While we haven’t had much time to talk with our neighbors, we have met most of them and their friendliness is something that we have been seeking for some time. More importantly, the people that we have met enjoy where they are and have no plans on moving anytime soon. While there were a few like that in our previous place, the door kept swinging around with people moving in and out on a regular basis.

Of course, compared to our apartment, it is nice to have some breathing room. We have more than doubled our living space with the move and it has been nice to be able to have a little separation at times when we need to get work done, talk on the phone, or simply sleep. Even with our son on the way and the mountains of stuff that will come with him, we are still looking at a much more comfortable living situation.

Even the commute has been better for both of us with my wife only about 10 minutes from work and mine consisting of a few quick turns and letting cruise control take over for about 30 a half hour. I don’t mind the time in the car but at least now it is much less aggravating (I don’t have to take the perpetually congested roads) and much more consistent. Heck, even my gas mileage is enjoying the change.

It finally feels like we are going to be able to turn this place into a home. It has been a long search and a number of years, but we are finally making some progress in this area. It is a transformation that we have yet to accomplish and we were beginning to see the process as some kind of alchemy. Sure there have been places that have served us well on the surface but once you peeled away the plating, the lead core was clear. While I don’t expect everything to be golden, it would be nice to at least have something consisting of silver or bronze.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Some Assembly Required

It really is that simple!
These days, unless you are buying high end furniture, there is going to be some assembly required whenever you purchase larger items for your home. Over the past week, I have been putting together all kinds of items for the new place and while time consuming, it might be the most relaxing part of the move. There is something that seems to be lost on some people when it comes to using your hands and building something.

I have always been this way even though my career doesn’t require physical labor I still enjoy the actual act of creating and watching something take shape. This is part of what drives the writing process for me because whether I am typing of actually writing, it is still using my hands to shape my creation. And although I do so without an instruction manual, the results have been decent thus far.

But that doesn’t satiate that urge completely. There are times when I look forward to really working with my hands and building something or putting something together. I can, most of the time, turn my brain off for just a little while, follow the instructions, and watch the desk, couch, table, chairs, bookcases, etc. take shape. It is the simple process that relaxes me while also rewarding me with something useful in the end.

These are the moments when I can take my time and make sure things are done right. There really is no debate on how something so simple is put together. The odd thing is that whenever I say something like this I usually get weird looks from people especially the ones that firmly believe that anything that you have to put together your self will fall apart before you get any good use out of it. This is definitely untrue.

Like many projects, if you take the time to put things together correctly, tightening every screw and fastening all the joints, these pieces of furniture will last for years. While I cannot dispute the superiority of solid wood furniture over particle board, the basic fact of the matter is that if you ensure that the structure is solid, they will last. I have seen many instances where things fall apart regardless of material because of shortcomings of the constructor not the structure.

Some boxes remain in our home waiting for me to set aside the time to put them together. Others have already been emptied and the items built. So there has been some assembly required over the past week but nothing that I haven’t done before as many of the pieces that we had moved I put together years ago and they are still just as sturdy as when I first constructed them. That might be the most satisfying aspect of the whole thing.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Unexpected Generosity


Yesterday started early as I had to make my way to Ollie’s to pick up the couch for which I had arranged transport yesterday. Since the E-Z Pass situation remained unresolved, I was running just a few minutes behind schedule (about the time it takes to pay and get change at the toll), but made it there only a couple minutes after my Masonic brother and his pickup truck. After a few passes through the aisles to put a few needed items in my cart, I made my way to check out, paid for the new selections, and had the three foot square box brought out to the curb. About 40 minutes later and everything was offloaded and in my office. All the while, my brother refused any and all kinds of compensation for his kindness.

Now that this task was done, my wife and I relaxed by unpacking a few more boxes before we headed out the door early in the afternoon. It was party time! Off we went to Bryn Mawr for another family holiday party where we could catch up with those we haven’t seen since the same time last year. Of course, this year was a little different as my wife walked through the doors in an obvious state.

What we found out when we arrived was that there was other news circulating around the house in that one cousin was also expecting and another just got engaged the previous week. It really was a time to celebrate all the good news which we both needed with everything else that is going on. So we made the rounds knowing what the introductory topic was going to be with each relative.

Later in the evening, while the grandmom shots were being poured and passed (this is what happens when you find an unopened bottle of Southern Comfort at the family party), my cousin (the one who is also my brother) walked up to me with a small box in hand. He had said in the past that he had something for me but I had honestly forgotten about it. As it turns out, I can now wear something representing both sides of my family at each lodge meeting… my grandfather’s ring (from my mom’s side) and cufflinks from my cousin (my dad’s side). While I have received many gifts this season sometimes it is the unexpected ones that really surprise you and appreciate the bonds that you have with family and brothers.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Banking, Internet, And A Couch


For a day that was only supposed to consist of a half day of working from home. This Friday had been on the calendar for months but, like many days, my schedule didn’t hold. While I did get the required amount of billable time in for the office over the course of the holiday week, there were other things that came up and consumed blocks of time during the day.

So I woke up early in the morning and instead of opening my computer and taking care of some writing for work, I got in the car and headed to the bank. Even this simple commute had its moments of frustration as my E-Z Pass was being difficult and required that I stop and discuss the matter with a toll collector. I got to the bank before any other brother rounded the corner to park their car.

I was hoping that this was going to be a quick stop but we are dealing with a bank here so I wasn’t able to get back on the road for over an hour. However, during that time I was able to talk to one of my brothers who was kind enough to agree to help me pick up a couch from Ollie’s that I had purchased a couple weeks prior during a heck of a sale. So back on the road, the back roads actually given my issues with E-Z Pass, and into the townhouse where my wife and I waited for Verizon to knock on the door.

While it was unpleasant at time, it was also kind of nice being untethered from the internet for the past week but it is a necessity and we were quite happy to see the truck pull into the parking lot (especially my wife). The technician wasted no time updating the box outside and within an hour we were configuring the internet and updating the Wi-Fi on our numerous devices. Two hours after that and the cable was up and running as well. These things never get done in the 1-2 hours that they say it will take.

At this point it was time for a quick dinner, picking up a few more things for the house, and finishing up my work for the long day. It was originally going to be a nice relaxing half day but I should know better than to expect those to come to fruition anymore. But things got done and our house is becoming more like a home with every small item checked off the to-do list.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Firearms Friday: PSA WTF


I wish that I was kidding when I write the following but, unfortunately, there are people out there that are encouraging children to not only break the law but put themselves and others in a very dangerous situation. While admittedly exaggerated, here is the basic message that these people are trying to teach children:

Ok kids, it’s time hand out the homework for today’s liberal lesson. Since you all just learned that inanimate objects are the most dangerous things that have ever been created by man… excuse me, people… you must go home and make sure that none of the objects that we discussed are in your home. After all, I know better than your parents who still believe in personal responsibility and the antiquated rights granted to them in by the founding fathers.

So, tonight you will search your home and look for these items. If you find anything I want you to ignore all the things that the racist people in law enforcement have told you and put them in your backpack. Don’t worry, people can’t be blamed, we can only blame the object so you won’t get in trouble. Once you have these things bouncing around in your backpack with your pencils, books, and all your other common core issued items, bring them to school and put them on my desk.

This is the kind of insanity that is being propagated by those who propagate the message of various “gun sense” groups. I couldn’t help but have that scene run through my mind as I read about a PSA that is being promoted on social media. And since they were more succinct in there reporting of this propaganda, I am going to leave it to the folks at Bearing Arms and there analysis of the dangers of such messages being aimed at kids:  

Director Rejina Sincic has created a disturbing video, advocating that teens commits multiple felonies—several of which could lead to injury or death through negligent discharge of the weapon—because of her own hysterical, irrational fear of firearms.

In the video, a boy steals an unholstered (presumably loaded) firearm from his mother’s room, drops it unsecured into his bookbag, and then carries it to school. After class the boy pulls the pistol out of his bookbag and puts it on his startled teacher’s desk, saying, “Can you take this away? I don’t feel safe with a gun in my house.”

In the real world, such an act would result in the boy facing numerous felony charges (exact charges depend on state laws) possibly including weapons theft, unlawful possession of a weapon by a minor, illegal concealed carry of a weapon, carrying a weapon onto school property, assault, and brandishing.

He would face the possibility of felony criminal record and mandatory expulsion from his school… and this is the kind of behavior that deranged gun control supporter Sincic is hoping that children will emulate.

What is wrong with these people?

Why just read about it when you can watch the absurdity yourself…


In summary, common sense is no longer in play and the tactics of the senseless are now putting children at risk. But, fear not, as these people have proven time and again, these kids will not be held responsible for their actions because only inanimate objects are to blame. That is how the mind works when logic and personal responsibility are removed from the equation.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Why This Day?


Like most religious holidays, especially ones that have become a piece of commercialized pop culture, it is interesting to look at the roots of the Christmas holiday and basically how it came to fall on this particular day in December. It seems that almost from the very beginning, the selection of this date has been a marketing play to ensure the success of the holiday and the spread of the religion. And you can’t really blame the early church for doing this because of the simple fact that it works. This theory is summarized on Wikipedia in the follow passage:

One theory to explain the choice of 25 December for the celebration of the birth of Jesus is that the purpose was to Christianize the pagan festival in Rome of the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means "the birthday of the Unconquered Sun", a festival inaugurated by the Roman emperor Aurelian (270–275) to celebrate the sun god and celebrated at the winter solstice, 25 December. According to this theory, during the reign of the emperor Constantine, Christian writers assimilated this feast as the birthday of Jesus, associating him with the 'sun of righteousness' mentioned in Malachi 4:2 (Sol Iustitiae).

An explicit expression of this theory appears in an annotation of uncertain date added to a manuscript of a work by 12th-century Syrian bishop Jacob Bar-Salibi. The scribe who added it wrote: "It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day." This idea became popular especially in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It is interesting in the origins and evolution of the holiday that the, for lack of a better term, mood of the holiday has changed so drastically back and forth over the centuries. What was once a means of celebration to rival that of a pagan holiday transformed into a day of reverential awe. Now we find ourselves, regardless of our own particular faith, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the season which are downright joyous. And while it is no longer my holiday of choice the messages of peace, love, family, appreciation, and joy are universal and should be embraced by all. And for everything else there is always Festivus!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Season Of Fellowship


I was one of the last to leave the office last night having to make a top at the apartment before heading off to Ardmore for the evening. Thankfully, it was the last day in the office for the week before the holiday and I would be able to make up for the few minute that I lost when I headed out the door. With a fair amount of things still left in our previous dwelling, I found the time to pack a few more boxes and get the mail before pulling out of the lot.

Just two days before Christmas and I found myself at the lodge waiting for some other brothers to arrive. While it wasn’t an inconvenience for me (even though Hanukkah was coming to an end), I anticipated that the holiday would decrease attendance pretty significantly for the night. Just as I realized that I had misplaced my set of keys for the new place, my fellow brothers began to arrive.

My mind was in a few places and I was trying to text and talk at the same time but we still managed to establish a plan for the evening and by the time everything began to settle down, everyone was where they needed to be working on the degrees that they were required to study. Even with the rush of the holiday season around us, there were a number of committed brothers who made their way to the lodge last night.

Again, this is very different than that of the previous year as I don’t recall the same participation from the brethren this close to the end of the year. There is not just a dedication that can be seen in many of the new brethren but a true desire to learn about the fraternity from their fellow brothers. While we don’t always have the answers for them, they are still asking the questions and pursuing the answers to deepen their own knowledge. I am excited to see what comes about from this thirst for more light.

Once this surprisingly satisfying evening drew to a close, I made my way, for the first time, back to the townhouse after lodge. While a longer drive than what I have become accustom, it was a relaxing commute that allowed me just the right amount of time to reflect on the night. I guess this is just another reason why this move and my decision to remain committed to my lodge (rather than transferring to one closer to home) was a great decision.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Continuing The Debate: Genealogy Roadshow Returns


A couple of months ago I posted a blog about the preferences that many of us have for Finding Your Roots or Who Do You Think You Are? This lead to a tremendous discussion on LinkedIn (in a few groups) about the pros and cons of each and, in many instances, what is missing from each show. Keep in in mind that all of those who participated in this back and forth have been researching their own family history and so many of the sticking points surrounded the lack of process demonstrated in each program.

Another prevalent point made was of the disconnect from those of us actually doing the work. Many of the participants in each of these shows are, for the most part, along for the ride without actually doing the work themselves. We all know the hours, days, weeks, years that this journey takes to make the kind of progress depicted in a 60 minute program. So the back and forth continued regarding these two current programs with a few references made to other shows that were no longer on the air.

One show that was brought up for both its positive qualities and because of the things that it lacks was Genealogy Roadshow. Many of us had seen the program when it was on but many others completely missed it and wondered what it was about. We didn’t discuss it much further than that because, at the time, it was not currently showing and none of us expected to see it return to PBS. Honestly, the conversation continued and I once again completely forgot about the short lived series until a few weeks ago when I got a press release in my email.

Simply put, Genealogy Roadshow is back! New episodes will be airing on PBS beginning on Tuesday, January 13 at 8:00pm ET. In the end, all genealogy shows are going to have faults but the important thing is that they are on the television and people are slowly becoming exposed to the importance of knowing who they are and where they come from. While I am sure there will be continued debate on this subject, for now I will simply leave you with the episode descriptions for each of the six episodes that will air this winter:

New Orleans – Cabildo (January 13th) – A team of genealogists uncovers fascinating family stories at the famous Cabildo, home of the Louisiana State Museum. A couple whose ancestors hail from the same small Italian town explore the chance they may be related; a woman is desperate to find out who committed a gruesome murder in her ancestor’s past; a home held by one family for more than a century renders a fascinating story; and a woman discovers the difficult journey her ancestor took on the path to freedom from slavery.

St. Louis – Central Library (January 20th) – At Saint Louis’ historic central library, a team of genealogists uncovers fascinating family stories from Missouri’s famous gateway city. A mystery writer discovers her mother has hidden a life-changing secret; a woman finds out if she is descended from the infamous pirate Blackbeard; a mother and daughter seek connections to a famous author; and a young man seeks connection to the Mali tribe in Africa.

Philadelphia – Franklin Institute (January 27th) – At Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute, a team of genealogists uncovers fascinating family histories. A man learns that the event that drove his family to the City of Brotherly Love changed the course of history; a man may be a Viking descendant; another’s family could have part of one of history’s biggest scams; a young man hopes to confirm his relation to a signer of the Declaration of Independence; and two sisters learn their ancestors were part of the great Irish migration.

New Orleans – Board of Trade (February 3rd) – A team of genealogists uncovers fascinating family stories at the New Orleans Board of Trade. A local man seeks to recover essential history washed away in Hurricane Katrina; a woman discovers she has links to both sides of the Civil War; another unravels the mystery behind her grandfather’s adoption; and one man explores a link to the famous New Orleans Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau.

St. Louis – Union Station (February 10th) – At St. Louis’ historic Union Station, a team of genealogists uncovers fascinating family stories from Missouri. A musician hopes to find connections to a famous St. Louis jazz composer; two sisters explore links to a survivor of the legendary Donner party; an Italian-American woman finds out if she is related to Italian royalty; and a schoolteacher who has all the answers for her students has very few about her own past.

Philadelphia – Historical Society of Pennsylvania (February 17th) – A team of genealogists uncovers fascinating family histories at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. One woman’s ancestor may have sparked historic labor laws; a pastor may have an outlaw in her family tree; a woman learns about slave genealogy and, with the help of DNA testing, gets the answer she has waited for; and another woman learns her ancestor may have helped others escape the Holocaust.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Three Men, A Truck, And A Fast Move


I woke up on Friday morning a little earlier than I usually do during the week despite not falling asleep until well after 2am that morning. It wasn’t because I had a meeting, call, or had to get something done for the office but because I had movers which were scheduled to arrive sometime between 8 and 9. Unfortunately, there was still a lot that I had to get done before they arrived so I rolled out of bed, sore and half asleep, picked up a box and continued packing until I heard a truck pull into the parking lot.

After negotiating with a resident to move their car out of the way (they have a bad habit of shuffling their cars in the morning so that they perpetually occupy a space in front of our apartment), I blocked off the spot just as the truck was turning the corner. Shortly after 8 a truck pulled in, parked along the side of the entrance across from the apartment, opened the doors, and walked through the apartment to see what needed to be moved into the truck and off to the townhouse.

Within a few minutes of their arrival, the three movers from Two Men And A Truck, were already grabbing boxes and stacking them neatly into the truck. They wasted little time and had me scrambling to finish up the few things that I needed to get done and ready for the move. A little over two hours later and they had wrapped, packed, and cleared out the space which we had occupied for a little over three years (including the last minute boxes that I had thrown together).

So off we went to the new place about 45 minutes away. While I waited for the truck to pull in, I started unpacking the contents of my car (I cleaned it out at the office the day before to make more room). About halfway through the truck backed into the parking spot in front of the townhouse. After walking through and letting them know where everything goes, they didn’t wait a second before beginning the offload.

About an hour and a half later and everything was moved in! 4.5 hours after they arrived at the apartment, the move was done and we went over the bill in which they only charged us for 4 hours rather than the 5-6 that they originally estimated over the phone the week prior (they also deducted a 30 minute break during their travel). This was, by far, the fastest and easiest move that I have ever experienced and it was about the same price as U-Haul. I am glad that my boss recommended this moving company and that everything (well, almost everything) is now done.

My wife was able to leave for work from the apartment and drive the 50 minutes to work and come home to the townhouse about 5 minutes away. Now all we have to do is unpack everything. What a fun experience that is going to be!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Donuts, Presents, and Dinner


Following my morning visit and photo session with my son, it was a rush to get to the office for a day full of internal meetings and conference calls. My calendar is full of such calls and meetings for the next week and a half due to the usual end of the year chaos and also the additional logistics required by account transitions. While I usually head into these meetings a little sluggish, the morning memories carried through and brought a different light to my day.


However, I had to make a quick stop along the way to pick up a “holiday treat” for the office so off to Wegmans for a box of donuts. With the detour behind me I got back on the road and made it to work just in time for my first meeting. Of course, now I had another errand that needed to get done but with little time to do it… I still had to pick up a “Secret Santa” gift which I needed to have in hand by the end of the day.

A few meetings into the day and I now found myself in the middle of the afternoon without a gift in hand and still a few other errands that needed to be taken care of since I was not going to get back to the apartment until late that evening. And then I thought of a gift that was both thoughtful and something that I could take care of in a few minutes. So I made the long trek to the internet and found exactly what I was looking for… a digital gift card to BedandBreakfast.com.


One item off the list and a couple more to go so I did something that I really hate to do during the week… I stepped out of the office. I was only going a few blocks away to the bank and Home Depot but it is still not something I enjoy as there are a bunch of other things that need to be taken care of at my desk. Thirty minutes later with a new debit card and a back seat full of packing boxes, I got back to the office with enough time to knock out a few items before my next marathon meeting.

By the time that we all walked out of the conference room nearly everything was checked off my list for the day with a few things added for Monday morning (I had to take Friday off). It seemed as though we were all relatively in sync as late in the afternoon, we all gathered around a table and signed our names to the holiday cards that would be going out the following week. 400 scribble signatures later and it was nearly time to head to dinner.

We all met down the road at Bar Louie for a company dinner and party. With drinks in hand and appetizers on the way, we all took turns revealing the name we pulled from the box and exchanging gifts. As it turns out the person whom I had gotten a gift also pulled my name and we both purchased perfect gifts for one another. She was excited to have an excuse to get away and I was happy to have a Phillies outfit for my son!


Everyone was happy with what they received and we all had a good time chatting and relaxing around the dinner table not thinking or talking about work. It was a great night that seemed to fly by and a good way to bookend a day that began with me being able to see my son again. However, this was just the beginning of a long night and a tiring weekend…

Saturday, December 20, 2014

3-D Baby


Thursday was a hectic day which will soon be evident over the next couple of posts. But they were hectic in a good way as the early morning was a filled with coffee and anticipation at seeing our son again. It was almost as if he knew he was going to have his picture taken that morning. He was squirming from the moment we got out of bed and was pushing closer to the surface trying to get just a little bit closer.

He was calm for a time and very active at other points in the morning. Once the ultrasound began, he seemed to both want his picture taken and wanted nothing to do with the process at the same time. Of course, like the rest of the men in my family, he had his hands up and ready to block his face.

Even with all of the moving around, kicking, and punching, the nurse was able to take all the measurements that she needed… more than enough to tell us that our son is developing normally and maybe a little bit ahead of schedule. She was also able to catch him in the middle of one of his shifts with his face uncovered taking a nice 3-D image of our baby. A second later and he put his hands back up and didn’t move them away for the rest of the morning.


And now we have a face without a name. The latter will come in time but, for now, we know he takes after my side of the family both in his mannerisms and some of his facial features. And, yes, he still listens to daddy when I ask him to move, kick, etc. I am going to enjoy his cooperation while it lasts!

Kick!
 The doctor soon followed and double checked everything that had just been done and all the measurements that had been taken. Thankfully, everything was confirmed and our son is expected to be approximately 8 ½ pounds by the time his birthday comes around. While a big baby, we were expecting this as I was about the same size when I was born.

While everything has gone as smoothly as possible thus far we still have a lot of things that we need to take care of not the least of which is figuring out a few more options for his name. Other things that we are working on are pulling together his room, setting a delivery date, and bracing ourselves for the changes that are ahead. We will get them done I just don’t know when and in what order!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Firearms Friday: Army Sidearm Competition


Every once in a while, the United States Army makes it known that they are opening up competition to see if the current designs and technology are what they are looking for to replace the Beretta M9. Essentially, every time the Beretta contract begins winding down, there is new talk as to what will be the next sidearm issued to soldiers in the Army. While talks are frequent, it doesn’t mean that a change will be made as since 1911 the Army has only had 2 pistols, the aforementioned M9 adopted in 1985 and the M1911A1 adopted in 1911.

There are numerous factors that will be considered this time around that weren’t really part of the equation 30 years ago. Polymer frames have become an industry standard and preferred material for modern shooters, modularity is both readily available and cost effective as modern materials make for the faster and easier production of such parts, and manufacturing costs have gone down considerably with the advent of new processes and materials.

So what criteria will hold over from the last trial?

While there are some forces that prefer the larger .45ACP round, the Army is still set on issuing 9mm NATO rounds which provide greater round count, better recoil management, and less wear and tear on firearms in comparison to higher pressure rounds such as .40 S&W and .357 Sig. Parts interchangeability will be essential as servicing the sidearm will require readily available and standard sized parts… they want the armorer to be able to drop in a new barrel rather than have to fit it to the individual gun. Cost will be a major consideration as well especially given the history of Sig Sauer previously falling short to Beretta based on this criteria. Also, all firearms must be manufactured in the US.

Of course, the biggest requirements of them all are durability and combat accuracy. As was outlined in a recent Guns America article on the subject:

Whichever guns get entered will have to average 2,000 rounds between stoppages. The guns will have to run an average of 10,000 rounds before a true failure. And the guns will need a service life of 35,000 rounds. They will need to put 90% of rounds within a 4″ circle at 50 meters, which breaks down to about 7MOA. And they’ll need to be able to handle hot loads (at least 20% over SAAMI specs for their caliber).

While there are hundreds of potential participants, and even more opinions in the community as to what should be selected, there will no doubt be designs that we have seen previously and ones that will be a complete surprise. Those mystery entries are what is going to really make this competition interesting as there are always designs or features that will be developed for this competition that will eventually make it to the civilian market. I guess, in the end, the real question is how the previous finalists will fair against newer and younger competition?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Oh, The Stuff You Find When Packing!


As I have stated before, over the last few weeks I have been busy packing boxes. Whenever I have been home I have either been putting together or stuffing boxes. It really is amazing how much stuff that you can cram into a small apartment… that much is apparent when the closets and book shelves start to empty.

No matter how much I have tried to stay organized I can’t do much more than put general labels on boxes in the hopes that they are put in the right room. There are no specifics mentioned. I guess you could say, given the time of year, that they are mystery presents filled with crap that we have already bought. The good thing is I know that my wife will like what I give her.

However, one of the interesting aspects of this whole process is that after over three years in our current apartment there is stuff that made its way onto a shelf or into a corner that we have long since forgotten about. At least until now. Maybe we didn’t have to buy it when we did.

There are also other things that met the same fate and upon discovering them again it was a “I was wondering where that had gone to” type of feeling or a “I was thinking about picking one of those up”. While this was more common with documents than things it was still an interesting time of discovery even more prominent than when I was simply cleaning.

These documents were things that I was most excited to find. While it wasn’t the same, it was close to the feeling of when I originally found them and put them aside. It was a feeling of rediscovering family and/or memories depending on the piece of ephemera that came to the surface. Maybe this time I can get around to checking that last item off my genealogy wish list.

Just as I would discover these things I would once again relegate them to the spaces out of sight. I would find them, look at them, and put them in a box to be unpacking in our new place and, hopefully, stored in a more efficient manner. While the documents will be going with us there are also items that we just don’t have any use for anymore and will be making their way to either the dumpster or a donation location.

So we will soon be in a new place filled with the same stuff from our previous residences. And, of course, we will be getting more stuff to fill in the extra space. Thankfully we have good reason for the additional accumulation. Baby needs his stuff too!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Genealogy Wish List

This time of year, regardless of a person’s faith, everyone puts together a wish list of what they would like to receive or see happen during the holiday season. Sometimes it is as simple as Ralphie repeatedly pleading for a Red Rider BB Gun while others are more complex or impossible to fulfill. This list, my genealogy wish list, leans more toward the latter while I hope that some will turn out to be as simple as Ralphie’s request. So here it is:

  1. Redcross/Beverly Marriage License: This is the last remaining piece that we need to definitively prove our genealogy back to the Monacan records. While we know where it should be and have seen the document listed in the indexes of the local courthouse, the actual marriage license has disappeared and no one knows where it is. There are some theories however but it is going to take a lot of time and significant effort to either prove or disprove them.
  2. Monacan Nation Membership: We don’t know if this is going to be possible without the aforementioned document but we need to at least give it a try. Maybe the index will be enough as it is still a state document but we just don’t know. Everything else is in place we just need to pull all the documentation together, pay the application fee, and see how things pan out.
  3. John Uttley’s Service Record: While I have been able to track down when he was sworn into the Philadelphia Police Department and I have found his badge number and highest rank achieved (that was a long couple weeks of calls), there is little else that I can find regarding his service. During this research process, I found out that all the old police records were destroyed and that nothing is left but a basic database of names, badge numbers, and ranks. Maybe there is a copy somewhere… let’s hope that is the case.
  4. McKannan Arrival Date: The original surname was McKenna. First name was William. Arrival was during the potato famine. This shouldn’t be challenging at all. This is going to take more luck (maybe luck of the Irish) than anything else as all existing leads have proven very little and, if anything, have created more possible links than verifying any. It’s a long shot but I am going to keep pushing and sorting through records.
  5. Percy Teaford’s Service Record: While I have been able to find a good amount of information regarding my grandfather’s service in the Navy during World War II, I haven’t been able to get any additional information on his service in the Narberth Fire Department. This is one of those things that is just going to take time and me driving over there to see if they have any information. It would be interesting to read about this.
  6. Autocar: Both my great grandfather and my grandfather worked at Autocar in Ardmore. While the factory is long gone I am curious to know if the records are still floating around (if they survived the fires just before the plants closed). I have reached out to the current incarnation of the company but have yet to hear anything. It would be nice to have an answer as to whether or not the employment records even exist.
  7. Jacob Teaford’s Story: The second first generation to be born on this continent (before the founding of the United States). We know very little about him. We have more details about his father, the immigrant, and the generations since but he has remained a mystery for years. Heck, we can’t even figure out who was the mother of his son Jacob from which I am a descendant. He is the reason why we are green dot bastards and it would be nice to fix that.
  8. Nicolas Love’s Parents: We have the names from his recently discovered death certificate but we no little else about them. We can’t find a record of their marriage and we can’t find any census records. While there are theories, like many other areas of the tree, we have yet to prove any of them no matter how probable one seems.
  9. Maiden Names: This is always an issue in anyone’s tree as even death certificates of siblings can differ from one to another about their mother’s maiden name. This is just going to take more digging, marriage record research, and looking at census records for possible clues.
  10. Revolutionary War Ancestry: There seem to be more and more connections found whenever I spend some time working on the tree. Many of them are confirmed but some connections remain tenuous at best. Even today I made the interesting discovery that my 6x great uncle was the inspiration for the movie “The Patriot”. It would be nice to confirm them all and have those findings verified by the Sons of the American Revolution. Shocker, more paperwork!
  11. The Yeagle Connection: I reached out to that side of the family before but the connection didn’t last beyond the scope of our brief conversation over the phone. While I don’t know what thoughts may have been going through her mind, it would be nice to reconnect and find out a little bit more about this line that has been largely forgotten about by my family.
  12. Organization (Not Just Lists): All of these things need to be organized both physically and digitally. Right now there is a mix of physical and digital records spread across a couple of computers, ancestry.com, shelves of binders, and books tabbed for the relevant passages. Eventually, they will all be pulled together, organized in binders, and uploaded to the tree so that everyone can benefit from the work that has been put into this continuous search for answers.
Some of the records are nearly impossible to find as they are either confirmed as missing or destroyed. Some of the things on my wish list are just a matter of me finding the time to commit to the various projects. In all reality, I would be happy just to fill in a couple of these pieces of information and have everything available so that the entire family can learn and appreciate where we come from. So, let’s see if I can be good this year and at least get a few of these things checked off!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Time To Eat The Donuts!


Now that we are in the midst of the Hanukkah holiday, Jews around the world are lighting their menorahs and stuffing their faces with latkes (potato pancakes) and Sufganiyah (jelly donuts). I might be doing the same if I had planned ahead a little better. Oh well, there is always next year.

Over the past few weeks I have been packing as many boxes and bins as I could in the little free time that I have had. One of the many things that has long since disappeared is the menorah that we have lit the past couple of years. While I could rummage around in the tightly organized containers, there is even less time available and too much more that has to be done between now and our move.

So this year is going to be chalked up as a moment of transition in our lives (like we needed something else to carry that moniker). Maybe we need to take the holiday off this time around and start fresh with our son next winter. So while we do not have the hanukkiah out right now, we already have a place picked out in our new home. Maybe we will even have the time to light some candles toward the end of the holiday.

But there is much more to Hanukkah than lighting candles and eating carbs. At its core, Hanukkah “celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.” Those of you who might be brothers will see many parallels to this in Freemasonry. In fact, it summarizes quite nicely the core of masonic teachings. This of course is in addition to our teaching new masons about the construction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

However, I digress. The story of Hanukkah, which can be found on Chabad.org, is as follows:

More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.

When they sought to light the Temple's menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.

It is the holiday of miracles and morality, dedication and determination, holiness and humility. It is during these eight nights that we stand in awe of the gifts that abound around us and thank G-d for everything that we have been given. This year, we have a lot to be thankful for and I look forward to sharing this holiday with my son next year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Birthing Class, Pizza, And A Hospital Visit


Having gotten up early the day before and out of the apartment all day, Sunday was not a fun experience getting out of bed. But we had good reason for an early rise as we were off to class yesterday! We had signed up for the birthing class about a month ago and opted for the one day variety instead of the multi-week long process that just doesn’t agree with either of our schedules at this point.

A little sluggish and having been held up by anything and everything along the way, we were the last ones to arrive but thankfully the class had only started a couple minutes prior to our arrival. Obviously, we jumped right in as soon as we were able to take our coats off and take a seat. Another new experience during this new adventure.

The class went well offering up a lot of information and answering numerous questions that everyone had. It was led by one of the nurses from Bryn Mawr Hospital whom you could tell was well verse in fielding all of the different questions that new parents have. While the class was interesting it was a little repetitive and the warm room did not mix well with the lack of sleep from the prior week. I did stay awake and pay attention but there were a few touch and go moments here and there.

Halfway through we all left to get some lunch with a time set to resume the educational portion of the day. I didn’t have to say much knowing that my wife would probably like to go to Peace of Pizza. Not surprisingly, we found the majority of the class at the counter ordering their meals when we walked in the door.

There were also a number of families there for lunch with gaggles of young kids circling them like hyper sharks. We didn’t think anything of it and smiled at the situation before taking another few bites. However, my wife and I were amused when we saw the looks of terror on the faces of our classmates. I guess they weren’t quite ready for the dose of reality.

We returned to the class and finished up the sitting portion of the day with a few games that brought a little perspective to the situation. After these we completed we got back in the car and we all met at the hospital for a tour of labor and delivery. While those terrified looks seemed to creep back onto many of their faces I could feel the two of us getting more and more excited (and more nervous). Time is going so fast and it won’t be very long before we return expecting to leave as a family of three.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December Extra Meeting: Take Two


I’m not usually at the lodge on the weekend but there have been a few changes in the schedule this month which had me walking through those doors yesterday for the second Saturday in a row. After a successful, albeit small, blood drive, many of us returned to confer a couple of degrees. That’s right, the second extra meeting of the week… it has been that kind of year and while I am not a morning person I am definitely not complaining about being so busy.

There is usually a pretty light turnout for extra meetings and having one on a Saturday was definitely no exception. While we didn’t start the meeting until mid-morning, we all had the look as though we had just completely a rather long week. Thankfully there was plenty of coffee ready for consumption prior to walking up the stairs to the lodge room.

The degrees conferred demonstrated a beginning and an end to this stage of the masonic journey as we started the morning with a third degree and ended with welcoming a new brother who had just received his first. The third degree is always an interesting thing to watch as it is something that the new mason has never experienced before and watching that person go through it does say a lot about what they are feeling at the moment. Some are visibly uncomfortable while others go along with what is happening trusting the brethren around them. Our newly raised brother was one of the latter.

The first degree which immediately followed is also interesting to witness as a man is guided into the room completely blind of what is about to happen. He must trust those in the room and be confident in his decision if he is going to move forward. Those that choose to proceed are soon welcomed as brothers and the smiles that I have seen when they are given that appellation are something I will always remember (and I remember what I was thinking when I was first called brother).

It just goes to show that these degrees are not just moments to be remembered by those going through the process but also by those who take the time and look forward to seeing our brothers advance in knowledge. It really is a feeling of pride in seeing a brother succeed… it is as close as one can get to familial bond without actually being family. While some may prefer to do nothing during a weekend (I know that is my preference now and again), putting in the work to welcome and advance new brothers adds more value to those days off than almost anything else they we could do as men and masons.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ugly Sweater Breakfast

They have to specify Christmas or Bill Cosby would win every year!
Every once in a while everyone at the office we all go out and just enjoy ourselves away from work and the deadlines streaming through our email. Sometimes it is as simple as having lunch together in the conference room (although there is usually at least one computer out and everyone is checking their phones for emails and calls). Yesterday was completely different as we all got on the road a little early and met for breakfast at Cracker Barrel dressed in our finest ugly sweater.

The commute wasn’t bad even in the midst of the morning rush hour and I was able to get there just in time having given myself a bit of a buffer for the drive. Others we not so lucky as an accident and general congestion kept them from joining us and put them two cups of coffee behind. However, the important thing is that we all made it to the meal and filled the table with good, non-work, conversation and compliments on the classy designs adorning each of us.

We did the same thing earlier in the year minus the sweaters and with a slightly different crowd around the table. While one person has left, three great coworkers now joined us for the morning relaxation. It was a great time but, as is the case with the piles leaving this country kitchen, we were all left a little sluggish as we drove down the road and to the office.

The light morning was soon followed by round after round of meetings where we continued the transition process set in motion by the departure of one of my coworkers. It is a bit of an odd situation that I find myself in as she is the only one that started working at the office before me having assumed her role a day before I began coming to work. While I am no stranger to having outlasted people at certain jobs, it is weird to be the one with the longest tenure (albeit only by a few days).

Honestly, given all the perks and the family like environment in which I work, it is hard to think about leaving this company. I understood the need for change at previous employers but this is a completely different environment. It is safe to say that I am here for the long haul. I was hear during the chaos of the first few months and I look forward to being here as the company grows even though the faces around the breakfast table may change.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Firearms Friday: PEW Research Shows Increased Support Of Gun Rights

While it may not occur every week, I am starting a series of posts called “Firearms Friday”. This is where I will do my best to keep all of the firearms related posts (unless there is a more pressing topic that week). This is when I will discuss different topics in the industry, review products, and share any other information that may be of interest. I will also be seeking guest posts for this series so if you are interested in writing on a topic or contributing a review please email me at timetokeepitsimple@gmail.com!


It has been an interesting week in firearms news especially with regard to public perception and support of the right to own firearms. While there have been many instances when I have be, let us say, displeased with the results of PEW Research surveys, it looks as though they are finally tracking a trend that many of us have seen progressing over the past few years. Overall, the survey concluded that “52% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership.” Again, many of us have seen and experienced this over the last few years despite the reports that keep flooding the news.

However, the results become much more interesting when you really delve into the numbers. Let us first look at the concept of guns as a means of protection:

“The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Dec. 3-7 among 1,507 adults, also finds a shift in attitudes about whether gun ownership in this country does more to protect people or put people’s safety at risk. Nearly six-in-ten Americans (57%) say gun ownership does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime, while 38% say it does more to endanger personal safety. In the days after Newtown, 48% said guns do more to protect people and 37% said they placed people at risk.”

Looking even deeper into the figures there is nearly an across the board rise in support for gun rights over the past two years with the only outliers being those who consider themselves to be liberal democrats.


Even more recently, the support has increased over the past year regardless of age, gender, political affiliation, and level of education with only a couple of exceptions where we see a minor decrease.


The important aspect that one must look at in this poll is that this is increased support for the individual right to own firearms. People, regardless of the background of the individual, seem to be coming around the realization that there is a limit to what you want the government to control. It is a constant struggle, especially with regard to the topic of firearms ownership, to maintain that right. However, people are beginning to see how misguided and downright combative the antigun groups really are and the nanny state mentality that they all promote. Many people may not be gun owners, but they understand that the right isn’t reliant upon them personally exercising it. Who knows, maybe they will become a responsible gun owner in the future… if they support the right now they will still have that freedom in the future.