Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Search: New/Old Records On Ancestry

Birth Certificate of my great grandfather Harry Gilmore Teaford
While I would like to be on the site more often, I am only occasionally able to check for updates to the various databases that are available online. Recently, I have had less time than usual to browse the site but was able to do so today. There are always new data sources and updates made but, especially lately, few have caught my attention like the ones I found today.

This past week, birth, marriage, and death records from Virginia were posted. While the date range is limited and they are by no means comprehensive collections, I was still able to find some new records as well as digital copies of records that I haven’t had the chance to upload. While the latter may not be new information, given the current disarray of my office, this was a welcomed discovery.

Death certificate of my great great grandfather Roy Harrison Teaford.
Death Certificate of my great great grandmother Sallie Clapsaddle. 
With these databases now available, I was able to explore a little more and find a few of the missing documents that I had been wanting to find including my great grandfathers birth certificate (albeit a registration from 1958), my great great grandfathers death certificate (I had found this information listed but was unable until now to find the actual record), the death certificate for my three times great grandfather, and the elusive Love and Redcross death certificates which I got copies of last summer but are sitting in a box next to my desk. It is interesting to go through these documents and confirm the parents (especially the mother’s surname)… I really didn’t expect to see Nicholas’ mother listed as a Terry. However, what was particularly striking was the fact that Laura and Nicholas Love’s death certificates were only a number apart from one another with them passing away only days apart from influenza (with some other contributing factors). It was just sad to see Nicholas listed as a widower when you know that Laura died only a few days prior.

Death certificate from March 9, 1939 of my great great grandmother Laura Redcross. 
Death certificate from March 16, 1939 of my great great grandfather Nicholas Love. 
Just like when the Pennsylvania records became available, I keep searching my family tree to find those that fit into the time frame. There are a few that I have been unable to find as the rural records are a little slower when it comes to digitization and there are also the ancestors who died just before the time frame of data available. Those are usually the ones that the parents’ names need to be confirmed. Also an interesting means of confirmation with these documents is that it tells you not only where they have been buried but also who the informant was at the time of death or who witnessed the birth as in the case of my great grandfather.

Death certificate of my 3x great grandfather George W. Clapsaddle.
Such is the ebb and flow of ancestry when the new sources are added followed by an extended wait and then more databases are added that are pertinent to your family research. In between is the time for digging, organizing, and finding all the more obscure sources and documents which are usually still exclusively in the physical (not digital) world. It is this back and forth multi-source process that continue to provide the results. Of course, Ancestry DNA should provide for some interesting insights as well but that is for a future post (when I get the results).

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Alumni Updates

They even changed the logo within the past 10 years. 
Over the past several months I have been receiving regular communications from my Alma mater, Endicott College. Since it has now been a decade since I graduated from the New England school, the alumni association is obviously ramping up efforts to bring everyone back for the ten year reunion. While the emails and mailings have been plentiful to the point of becoming borderline annoying, it has at least been a welcomed change from the frequent request for donations.

Obviously, with all the changes that have happened recently and the plans that we have already scheduling for the summer month, we will not be driving up to Massachusetts and the beautiful coastal campus this year. Thankfully, we made the trip just 5 years ago for our one year anniversary and so I was at least able to show my wife were I spent four years of my life. At some point we will bring our son up there and show him around too.

While I may not be able to attend, that doesn’t mean that I cannot reconnect (or in some cases connect) with many of those who finished their undergraduate experience the same day I did. In-between correspondences from the college, I got an email from a former classmate addressed to all of those a decade removed from their North Shore education. It was an invitation to offer an update and share it with everyone included on the email chain. While I didn’t know many of other students beyond the classroom, preferring the poets and professors around me, it has been interesting reading many of the updates.

It is interesting to read where people have ended up and the experiences that they have had since leaving college. While not nearly as interesting as those I have read but, so far, more interesting than those who have yet to write anything, I look forward to sharing my own update at some point within the next week. Basically, it all boils down to a simple timeline since that warm May day: published a book (and other pieces in magazines), graduate school, conversion, met my wife and got married, various jobs, moving to various places, writing, lodge, and starting a family. I think that pretty much covers everything.

So now that I have a basic template all I need to do is find the time to write the email. Of course, that will have to wait until I get over the fact that it has already been 10 years when the memories of my time there are still so vivid. I guess great memories stay with us longer than we realize.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Firearms Friday: Magazines

There are many consideration that need to be made when purchasing a firearm, especially handguns. I have previously addressed the fact that the process is an individual decision and one firearm may work for one person but not for another (some may even detest the selection). I have also written on the considerations that need to be made regarding ammunition. All in all, it is a very personal process but there are a few things that should be considered with every purchase whether this is your first time or far from your first time.

Again, we have already addresses a few key considerations that being range time and equipment. This time around I want to discuss the topic of magazines. Please note that I am not talking about clips which are completely different.

An all too common comment made by those new to firearm ownership is “why do I need an extra magazine? It came with two, I don’t need any more than that.” While that may seem to make sense to some, the reality is that you should have at least 5 magazines for every firearm you own. In addition to the simple fact that magazines break, you should have 5 or more for the scenarios that you may not be thinking of and because it makes practicing at the range an easier and more enjoyable experience. Five is the baseline but don’t just buy any brand.

There are varying qualities of magazines on the market these days which include factory production (the same manufacturer of the firearm for which it is intended), less expensive models (i.e. Mec-Gar and ProMag), and better quality magazines than what come with the firearm (i.e. Magpul, Wilson Combat, Chip McCormick). The prices of these can vary significantly from $10 to over $50 per magazine and those are just the ones that are readily available. And sometimes that really nice 1911 you just bought does not come with a reliable magazine (i.e. Kimber). This brings up another important consideration at the time of purchase… can I find magazines for this firearm and, if so, can I afford them?

You may find a great deal on an H&K but how many magazines does it come with and how many are you going to have to purchase at $40-50 each? Or there are some models that are difficult to find… you may have found that S&W 39 (the H&K P7 might be a better example) that you have been looking for but it doesn’t have a magazine with it. The magazines are out there but they are becoming few and far between.

What this all comes down to is a very simple rule of thumb when buying a firearm. Something that new firearms owners need to be aware of and something that all of us need to be reminded of from time to time. You need good quality magazines for your firearms… 5 or more. When you look to buy keep that in mind three basic factors: reliability, availability and affordability. Forgetting these can really be a costly mistake in more ways than one.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Three City Friendship

Our old lunch spot half a block from the office in New York City. 
After not having seem one of my best friends in nearly four years we have now had the chance, however brief it may have been each time, to get together twice in the mast couple of months. This time I was able to introduce him (and his welcoming parents) to our son who actually has the same name. It is still a little odd considering that we used to see one another nearly every day when we both worked for the same PR agency in Manhattan years ago. After having made the time on a business trip to Chicago in late March, he was in the Philadelphia area for a wedding this past weekend.

Since those days of long lunch breaks (mostly at Ben’s on 38th Street) and lengthy conversations after work while we walked to the train there have been a lot of changes that have happened in each of our lives. And I’m not just talking about geography. It is really interesting to think about how our perspectives have shifted since then and the experiences that we have both had that have brought each of us to this point in our lives.

While my wife and I have moved around quite a bit finally settling back in the area where we grew up, my friend has done the opposite by moving away from family and now enjoying a successful career in the middle of the country. Since the day that we first met at the office we have each gotten married (and were groomsmen at each other’s wedding) with my wife and I taking the next step by starting a family and my friend finally breaking free from a wife that, to put it nicely, epitomized the greed and self-centeredness that seems to becoming more pervasive in the younger generations. While completely different journeys we are both happy with where we are now and what seems to be just beyond the horizon.

Even with everything going on, good times and bad, we have always remained in contact and did our best to keep things in perspective for one another. I can’t stress enough the importance of having a friend that offer this when you need it. We have each had some great times and some difficult times of the years and it has been nice getting together lately to talk about the positive changes that have happened and the optimism that is now part of our daily routines. Even when we shared a common company this was not always the case.

Hopefully, the visits will become less sporadic in the future as we continue to enjoy life and the different paths we chose to take. If anything, it is interesting to hear about the different turns and detours that life can take us on. Regardless, we will be certain to talk on a regular basis (not always a guarantee with me as many of you know) and keep one another up to date as to the great changes and experiences that come our way.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

From Shrine To Lodge

Here is a photo of the Lu Lu Shrine from above. 
I originally started my day doubting that I would make it to the lodge last night but, just in case, I told my son not to wait up for me. While many doubt his comprehension of this fact, it has been useful to let him know if I am going to be out late that night. If I don’t let him know he tends to stay up refusing to go to sleep until I walk through the door. What can I say, he’s an advanced child. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

Toward the end of the morning I began getting emails and texts regarding a check that, upon further review, was supposed to have been drafted after the April Stated Meeting. However, once I was able to speak with the Treasurer over the phone, we came to the realization that the check was never made out. This was an issue as we were now faced with the issue of having no check written that we were supposed to present the following night, Wednesday, at an event in Norristown. Further complicating matters, all three of us that are required to sign checks were not planning on being at the lodge.

So, after a few emails, texts, and calls back and forth I had my route for the night. After work, I got on the highway and headed toward the lodge… this time with a little detour along the way (two actually thanks to the closure of Plymouth Road). For the first time since I attended the one day class and became a Mason, I pulled into the drive way of the Lu Lu Shrine and proceeded to the back door where the Treasurer greeted me with check book in hand.

We filled in the check according to the amount previously approved during the meeting and we both signed it. Having a few minutes to space before having to leave, I got a brief refresher tour of the Shrine. While I don’t have the time or finances to become a Shriner at the moment, I plan to do so in the future. In the meantime, I look forward to bringing the family to a few of the events that are coming up over the summer and toward the end of the year.

From the Shrine I drove to the lodge where I had a number of quick discussion with a few of the brothers. Some related to the lodge while others were far from masonic in substance. A few minutes later the Worshipful Master pulled into the parking lot. We are all limited on time these days so I handed him the check to sign and bring with him the following night.

After checking the mail and finishing up a few conversations I looked at my watch and noticed that I had made pretty good time. So much so that I was able to get in the car and get home in time to see my son smile at me, help my wife give him a bath, and put him to bed. It was the best ending I could have hoped for what turned out to be a hectic day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Things Have Changed In Two Years

It is that time again. It has now been two years since I began this blog. While the daily routine has basically remained intact, there have been a few small and big changes that have occurred over the last 24 months. I honestly don’t know where to begin so I am just going to ramble a bit (nothing new).

When I originally launched this blog it was simply a means to keep myself writing, record the events in my life, and give me something to do while sitting at the front desk of the apartment building all night. It was a time when there were a lot of questions swirling around and we really didn’t know what direction life was going to take us. This is why I originally stated that there were “No guidelines or promises. No list of topics I plan to cover.

Times change and so has this blog. Actually, I have pretty much gone against that entire statement. I have my own goals and guidelines for this blog (400+ words every day despite my idea to cut that back at this point last year) and there are a variety of topics that I cover on a regular basis. Many of those topics are assigned to particular days of the week (i.e. TMI Tuesday, Lodge (mostly) on Wednesday, Firearms Friday, and Sunday Search). While I have skipped a few of these days (today is Tuesday), they have become a pretty regular part of the blogging schedule.

However, given the steady growth over the past year (19,000 views during the first year and 29,000 views during the second year), many of you seem to enjoy knowing what topics are expected to be covered. Of course, I still have to keep things interesting (well, as interesting as I can) so the rest of the days are pretty much a crap shoot regarding topics. It has been interesting watching the blog grow and hopefully I am keeping up my end of the deal (for the most part) and providing many of you with some entertainment.

So, since I have already put a stop to the no planning thing, what is on the horizon for the coming year? Well, there are always countless plans in the works but little time to see them come to fruition. I will continue to write on the various topics that have become a part of this blog and there are a few trips planned for this summer (to places not yet covered). I have reached out to syndicate the posts and that is always a possibility (even though it might be an improbability) and I am looking for additional ways to raise funds so that I can bring you some more interesting content (products, more travel, books, genealogy research, etc.).

I am always looking for new ways to incorporate the writing into my routine (which has been a little off lately) and sometimes I get behind on the posts. So far I have been able to get things back up to speed but, moving forward, I am going to look at easing this work load a bit by inviting more guest contributors as well as writing recap post which will serve as occasional reference points for some of the common topics covered in this blog. As always, time seem to be governing my activity and this is, so far, the best solution I have for keeping things going.

So, I will end this post by first asking you if there are any topics that you would like me to write about or anything that you wish to contribute as a guest blogger. Secondly, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has read, commented, and shared these posts. While this blog has served a more selfish purpose allowing me to keeping writing, researching, and recording there is great satisfaction knowing that others are interested in the topics that I have written about and some even share my views on certain topics. Here is to another year!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Lost Memorials

Picture taken while searching for family in Leverington Cemetery...
there shouldn't be any open spaces in a full cemetery. 
Over the past few years, I have visited a few cemeteries trying to find the names of family members in the vast seas of grass and stone. Sometimes I have been successful while other times it has proven to be a harder task than expected. However, during each of those visits, I remember walking by the graves of countless veterans many of whom passed away long after their service but some who were killed in action.

There were a few resting places that were well maintained and the grounds were easy to access. Others have become far from the idyllic resting place that they once were and now seem to have been forgotten. These are the places that need our attention on this day not the grills, parks, and festivities to which we have all grown accustom. In one of the more run down cemeteries that I have come across, those graves were of soldiers who died while fighting in the Civil War. It seems ironic that these resting places are the ones forgotten on this day when these graves were the original impetus for the holiday.

It makes me wonder how many parades have walked past these resting places in recent years without the participants thinking twice about those who lay, unrecognized, a few yards from their feet. I have been asked to participate in countless parades but I have never once been asked to place flags on the graves of soldiers. Maybe I should be the one who changes this lack of tradition next year.

While I enjoy the time that I am able to spend with my family, the purpose of the day seems to have been lost. The focus now seems to be on not having to go to work (different than focusing on spending time with family) and sales… the holiday itself seems to have been sold. All the while, we forget those for whom this day was meant to honor. And there is no other more visceral reminder of this change in priority than the decrepit state of many cemeteries around us especially within the city limits.

There are too many places out there that need our help not just for those for whom this day recognizes but all the families that are represented in many of these forgotten resting places. After all, you never know when you might go looking for your family and not be able to find them because their headstone has long since crumbled, sunken, or fallen to the ground. All you need to do is walk in one of these cemeteries and see the open field of grass to realize that there are countless people who will now remain nameless to realize the importance of this situation. And on this day, think about the possibility of someone buried there who gave the ultimate sacrifice who will never be recognized for their service again.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Embracing Gifts

Today is a day that is especially significant for us not just as Jews but as new parents as well. Today we celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. In the midst of the long struggle in the desert, G-d spoke to Moses and gave the gift of His words and wisdom to those who accept his covenant. We were given light and guidance during a time when we needed it. Similarly, our son granted that same gift to us giving us a higher purpose in our life.

On this day we are not just celebrating our faith but we are celebrating and embracing our family as well. It doesn’t matter if it is an event that took place over 3,300 years ago or 3 months ago, there are moments that will forever impact and influence our lives. These moments are what determine the means by which we live and set forth the goals by which we measure the remaining days or our lives.

We embrace our faith, the Torah, and the Ten Commandments by which we should all live. They serve as a means to guide and inform our actions and grant us the ability to set forth a clear set of rules to pass on to our son. Of course, this is only a beginning to the faith and knowledge which we hold in our hearts. This enduring faith, in various levels of observance throughout our lives, is what keeps us grounded in the knowledge that there is a higher power in this world and we can’t control everything around us.

Our son also reminds us every day that we must take life by the moments… one after the other. While we can anticipate and stick to certain routines, there is still a lot that remains uncontrollable. Our child is the light that greets us each and every day and reminds us of the higher purpose that we now have in our life. Our child is what ties us closer to our faith than ever before and on this holiday, on Shavuot, there is no denying the impact that our son has had and will continue to have in our life. This is summed up perfectly by the following from  

“Before G d gave the Torah to the Jewish people, He demanded guarantors. The Jews made a number of suggestions, all rejected by G d, until they declared, “Our children will be our guarantors that we will cherish and observe the Torah.” G d immediately accepted them and agreed to give the Torah.”

There is tremendous light in the world. Enough to illuminate the beauty of all that has been given to us but not enough to blind us from seeing the bounty. It is a light that must be fed and nourished to remain bright for fear of fading into darkness. As Jews, as parents, we are the temporary generational guardians of that light and we will do our part to feed the fire of faith and family in our son. There is no greater responsibility or honor in this gift we call life.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Every Penny Is Part Of A Dollar

Over the past couple of weeks I have been taking advantage of a couple of opportunities that were presented to me in order to save a few dollars. Sometimes the numbers added up pretty fast while other times it was only a little here and there. Either way, they are all providing a little bit of a return and putting a few extra dollars back into our account. Actually, by the end of the week, all those small sums added up and turned into a rather nice return.

There were really two parts to this whole operation this week… price matching and a credit card promotion. While it did take some time this week, in the end it is going to save us hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the next year. It just goes to show that if you take a few minutes and put in a little effort, you can make things a little easier.

It started a couple of weeks ago when there were a few items that I had to purchase for the house. Not the cheapest things but not really high priced either. When I had a couple of minutes free in the middle of the work day, I pulled up the Sportsman’s Guide website to see if they had what I was looking for. It turns out that they did so I put the items in my shopping cart, typed in my coupon, and selected the 4 pay plan to ease the payment pain.

Everything went smoothly but I was curious to see if there were any other websites that were offering a better deal. Sportsman’s Guide offers a price match guarantee for 30 days from the time the order is placed. There were a few sites that had the same price, a few that were selling it for more, and a couple that were a dollar or two cheaper. I wasn’t about to call over a couple dollars. And there is was… a $25 difference. With website and item number in hand I called customer service and had the price matched within minutes. However, this was a onetime opportunity to save some money. My other call this week was more fruitful.

At some point during the day on Tuesday I got an email from a company regarding my credit card. The offer was for free transfers of other accounts (normally 3%) with a 0% APR for 1 year on those balance transfers. This particular card has the lowest interest rate so has always carried the highest balance… hence no room for transfers. So I gave them a call on Wednesday to explain the situation and to see if there was some way that I could take advantage of this offer.

It never fails whenever I call them, they found a way to make it work. Now, instead of paying a nearly 20% APR on a couple other cards, we are now paying 0% for the next year and, if needed, carry a 12% APR afterward. The percentages may not mean much at first glance but, over the course of a 12 month period this could potentially save us hundreds upon hundreds of dollars (it will also lower our monthly payments pretty significantly). I am sure that many of you may think that this is boring but it saves me money so I am very interested.

The essential thing to take away from both of these is that there are opportunities to save money / keep money in your pocket if you just pay attention. I am sure there are a number of opportunities that I have missed in the past but, in this instance, I was fortunate enough to catch them. When all is said and done, all it takes is a few minutes from you day and a willingness to work with the people on the other end of the line. It was a great week for saving money.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Firearms Friday: Lower Receivers

Over the year I have come across a variety of lower receivers. Some of them have been high quality while others have been more along the lines of a basic lower. However, in my experience, I can’t say that I have ever had a bad receiver. Doesn’t mean that they don’t exist but maybe, based on the experiences of others, I have just been lucky.

Today, if you go online or walk into a local gun shop, you can usually find a wide variety of receivers to choose from. Just in my area, there are at least a couple of dozen different brands that I can chose from by visiting just a handful of stores. And they vary greatly in price ranging from around $40 all the way up to around $250. This is just for the stripped lower and nothing else.

Of course, this is in stark contrast to the environment that we faced a couple of years ago. For those of you unfamiliar, with the legislative battle raging in Washington, all of the lower receivers dried up and the prices (at most but not all places) on the ones that you could find went through the roof. Basically, you were lucky if you could find one at three times the current price.

But that ebb had given way to flow and there are countless options on the market. However, these movements are cyclical which is why I recommend going to the local shop now and picking up at least one. $40 plus transfer/pics is a heck of a lot better than $120-200 during a panic. If you can, pick up a bunch of them. Not only is it a good item to get while you can but it is a heck of a lot of fun to build a rifle.

The first thing you need to do is get a stripped lower. While you can find polymer ATI lowers for around $40 and Tennessee Arms hybrid lowers for around the same price it is well worth the extra $5 to pick up either an Anderson or Palmetto State Armory forged lower. Polymer and hybrid lowers have their place in light weight builds and sometimes there is some money to be saved during sales but for general builds, especially the first few times around, forged is the better way to go.

Anderson and PSA are quality manufacturers that provide the no frills lowers that just work. The same can pretty much be said for those made by DPMS and Spikes Tactical… which are slightly higher quality but are about double the price. While there many billet lowers on the market I don’t have any direct experience with them so any opinion would be useless. However, given the quality and precision machining of the billet class I would reserve them for higher end builds and those looking to but tens of thousands of rounds through their AR annually. Forged would suffice but billet is made for these roles.

I have heard and read countless opinions from a variety of sources of one company being better than another but, honestly, for the enthusiast there aren’t enough differences to justify the price jump. Polymer has its place and billet lowers have their place, for everything else a basic forged lower will do just fine. No matter what you decide, enjoy the process of building, of creating something with your own hands, and learn from the process. There is no better way to learn about a platform than building a rifle from the ground up. And while you’re at it, pick up a few extra lowers and put them aside for later.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Not The Same

Last night I did something that I haven’t done in a long time… I stayed up to watch David Letterman. This being his last show, I wanted to see what kind of sendoff he would be given... especially the last Top 10 list. I guess you could say that curiosity got the best of me as I kept on thinking back to the night when I watched Johnny Carson sign off one last time before heading into retirement.

The evening was definitely not the same as the one I watched back in 1993. Not just in my perception and perspective but the final night had a completely different feel then that which happened 22 years ago. And that pretty much sums it up, the Carson departure was a happening while Letterman’s last night was something that happened. There were, of course, memorable moments (including an overdue (for many reasons) standing ovation for his wife and son) but it was not the same sad farewell that I remember so many years ago. However, I do prefer Foo Fighters over Bette Midler. 

With that said, I still recall many nights watching Letterman over the years. Once Carson retired, there wasn’t much of a choice for me as I was never a big fan of Leno and some of the newer hosts just didn’t catch my attention. Nothing compared to the classic Tonight Show but Letterman seemed to be the closest (albeit a tremendous departure itself) to that feel. At least that was the case years ago… since then things have most certainly changed and I have pretty much foregone  the late night shows altogether. 

Over the past 20 years Letterman and late night have changed. The politicizing dialogues / monologues that he and others have employed in recent years haven’t made me want to watch these shows. This is what truly differentiates Letterman from Carson. The Tonight Show was not a place for politics (decides a few light jabs during the opening) as Carson knew that his job was not to form public opinion or influence public policy (or the supply of toilet paper). This is why politicians were seldom seen on the set. Letterman has made his views very clear both in his monologues and in his banter with guests.

Carson was a mainstay in the media and on the television. We watched him to wind down and forget about the day. All the BS that happened during the daylight hours were put behind us as we were entertained for an hour each evening. There were other places to turn to get riled up and/or discuss politics. While he once embraced that basic concept, Letterman veered to the far left as time went on and that evening respite slowly evaporated.

The new crop of hosts seem to be turning back to that formula and reaping the benefits. This is why there are many that will continue to miss those evenings with Johnny and why Letterman’s departure seemed to be more of an inevitability rather than a surprise. Hopefully, with the last of his generation stepping down, we can continue our progression back to the way late night was supposed to be. I guess, like many things, only time will tell.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lodge Or Vote?

Not very Shakespearean but a bit of a dilemma nevertheless. This was the decision that I had to make last night at the end of the work day. As I got in the car I still wasn’t completely sure as to which direction I would travel… fellowship was at 7:30 in Ardmore but the polls closed at 8:00 with my polling place more than 30 minutes away from the lodge. While I was leaning heavily toward heading toward home, you never know when the phone is going to ring and you have to adjust your evening by heading over to the lodge.

 Even though there weren’t any seats of major significance up for grabs in my area, there were still campaigns being run and candidates that shouldn’t be allowed near any public office. This seems to be the pattern every election and yet people never learn and keep voting those individuals into public office. With no urgent calls from the lodge and wanting to get home as soon as possible to spend time with my wife and son, it was not a hard decision to head down the street from the house on a small detour to cast my vote.

While it should be no surprise that I didn’t vote for any of the people to the left of the ballot, there were a number of decisions that had to be made and a variety of issues that differentiated the possible choices from one another. As with many of my political decisions at this point in my life, it really came down to a simple concept… who supports my rights and who believes in individual responsibility? That is the basic foundation to many of my views (also the reason that I previously made known my support for Rand Paul).

And here is where everything comes around and demonstrates the flow of thoughts and ideas from one day to another. As I write this Senator Paul has been on the floor filibustering the renewal of the Patriot Act. One of the few willing to take a stand, stand up for our rights, and defend the constitution. While some will surely say that this is a political stunt to get his name out there to support his campaign I will simply remind those making that assertion that this is something that he has done before.

While there is no doubt that his stance will galvanize his base the more important take away is the fact that there is someone willing to fight for our rights and uphold the Constitution. The Patriot Act is something that I have never been able to fully support especially as it has been leveraged time and again from the day that it was passed to broaden the scope of its reach legitimizing a federal invasion of privacy. It is nice to know that there are still some people willing to fight for our rights which is why I will continue to exercise my right to vote whenever I am given the opportunity.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

TMI Tuesday: Adjusting And Replacing

Our son is growing. This is far from a surprise but that doesn’t mean that the rapidity of his growth is something that we were necessarily prepared for. We knew that we would be changing clothing sizes on a regular basis according to months but we are quickly finding out that those numbers on the back of the clothes are merely a suggestion (diapers too). Currently our three month old son is fitting comfortably in six month clothes. What can I say, we have a long baby… and a heavy baby too.

In addition to the bassinet that we previously moved him out of because of space limitations, we are now finding ourselves having to purchase a separate changing table for the same reason. We originally decided to purchase the changing table attachment for the crib that we selected. The thought that this would last a bit longer than it has was obviously a mistake. He is now only an inch away from the top and bottom which usually leads us to change him diagonally. We knew he was growing but we thought we had some more time. Looks like another visit to Amazon.

We have also been frequently adjusting his car seat. When we first started driving him around we got an insert to keep his head up and to just make things more comfortable for him. The insert is now gone and we have now had to adjust the straps twice so that he fits. All because he is getting to long for the previous setting. Again, we thought we had a little more time but that is simply not the case… time is flying and our son is growing way ahead of schedule. We wish we could slow things down and enjoy more of the moments and him as a certain size but that is one of the many things beyond our control in this adventure in parenting.

While we should probably start trying to plan for the continued growth of our, not so little, baby it seems as though any timeframe that is suggested as the ‘norm’ just doesn’t apply. He is growing faster than all of the books, websites, and the doctors originally thought and he is slowly becoming more aware of everything around him. In nearly all categories, he is ahead of schedule regarding all means of growth. His coordination is progressing, his strength is dramatically improving, and his size is beyond what we expected. We have a healthy baby boy and that is all we could have every hoped for.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Three Months!

It seems like I just posted the two month blog yesterday but here we are just over three months since our son was born (three months and three days to be exact). There have been good times and hard times throughout the last month as our son has become aware of more and more of the world around him. He is slowly learning little pieces here and there and now communicates in his own way with us (especially when daddy comes home from work). That moment when he turns his head and smiles at me is, by far, the highlight of my day.

Everyone said that these days go by fast and while there are certainly times when time seems to move very slowly, I really don’t know where the last three months have gone. It is a blur of work and baby with a few memories from lodge meetings and other events. Everything seems to have faded into unimportance while the specific moments of seeing my son do things, see things, react certain ways, and sooth us remain vivid in my mind. Even some of the unpleasantries that have been experienced are quarantined into the recesses of memory. It is a hard thing to explain but many of you know exactly what I am talking about.

There are times when I have come through the door after a particularly long day at the office and everything seems to just fade away. Other times I have come home later than usual knowing I have to get some more unavoidable work done but lacking the energy to do so… sneaking up to his crib and watching him sleep is all I need to keep going and keep working that night. And when I am at work and my mind begins to drift, I think about my son and I get back on task knowing that if I don’t finish things up during the week, I am going to have to spend some time away from him on the weekend tethered to my computer… I have managed to avoid working on the weekend for some time now.

It has been an interesting and quick adventure so far. There has been a lot of poop and a lot of laughs, many headaches and numerous giggles, a few hard days and countless beautiful moments. All the while we have watched him grow still not quite believing that he is here and that we are a family of three. Things have changed so much and as he understands a little bit more of the world around him we are eager to introduce him to new places and experiences and that is exactly what we have planned for the next three months.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

When Was The Last Time I Was Here?

The view from my seat.
Thursday was another late night in the city as the entire office (at least those not on vacation) headed to the Pennsylvania Convention Center for the Enterprise Awards. While I would much prefer spending the evening with my family at home, it is an evening that only comes around once a year and it offers many of us a chance to catch up with those with whom we rarely have a chance to run in to during the course of our usual week. For me, it is also the event when I can personally thank the person who introduced me to my current employer two years ago. Thankfully the night was uneventful and I didn’t have any encounters with potholes on my way into the city!

I have never been one who has enjoyed driving in the city and I really don’t care much for cities in general (of course, there are exceptions to every rule which has been evident in previous posts).  As I circled around the block and into the parking garage I tried to think about the last time that I had been to the convention center. Unable to think of the event, I corkscrewed up to the 5th level and found a space in close proximity to the 13th Street elevator.

As I got out of the car and began walking to the far end of the floor, I joined a couple of other people also wearing tuxes. As we chatted during our decent to the ground level, out the doors, and made our way down the sidewalk it was an interesting twist on what is usually a common occurrence for me. As it turns out, they were the ones headed to a lodge meeting while I was off to some other event. So we parted ways at the entrance to the Grand Lodge and I waked a couple more blocks and into the main lobby of the Convention Center. This is when it hit me… I hadn’t walked through those doors since Fan Fest right before the 1996 MLB All-Star Game. Wow, nearly twenty years.

The networking before the awards dinner was the usual affair with many of us catching up with various companies from the area and reconnecting with those we met last month during Philly Tech Week. Before we knew it (partly because it took so many of us to get into the city and find parking), we were heading up the escalators and finding our seats. While I preferred the venue from last year (Valley Forge Casino) the format for the evening made much more sense combining the awards with dinner (although it would have been nice to have an option other than salmon).

As most awards programs do, the evening ran quite a bit longer than expected and we didn’t start clearing out of the building until well after 10pm. Overall, there were come really interesting companies, nice acceptance speeches, a great recognition ceremony, and a couple of people that should never be asked to speak publicly again (they should have had the music ready for some of the acceptances like at the Oscars). But, we all parted ways having reconnected for an evening and hoping to stay in touch a little more over the next year. At the very least, there are a few more people that I will be certain to say hello to next year at the next awards banquet.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Military Ties Past and Present

Today I am not just thinking about those currently serving in the armed forces but I am also thinking about all those with whom I have crossed paths with in my life, my family members who served, and my ancestors who wore a uniform. When I stop for a moment to reflect on all of these people it is amazing to think about how extensive that list is. And that list only gets longer when I consider those I shared a barracks with in the summer of 2002 and those I only knew in passing while at Norwich prior to my time in basic training.

When I think of my family my thoughts first turn to my father, my grandfather, and my great grandfather. I know a little about each of their times in the military and the rest I have done my best to put the pieces together. My father served in the Army during Vietnam, my grandfather in the Navy during World War II, and my great grandfather served in the Army during The Great War. These are only three men without whom I wouldn’t be the person I am today for a myriad of reasons.

When I look further back in the family and across the many branches, all branches of the military are represented including my uncle on my mom’s side who served in the Coast Guard, my uncle and great uncle on my dad’s side who served in the Air Force, and my great Aunts who enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War II. All branches represented throughout the course of history from the French-Indian Wars to the present day with several cousins still under contract with the government. It really is quite the extensive history.

While the family stories are things which come up on occasion (and there are some good ones), I hear a story or two at least once a month from many of the brothers at the lodge. These men represent over 75 years of military history from both peace time and times of war with many of them sharing vivid accounts of their service when the moment calls for their wisdom. It really is an interesting mix of experiences that have been shared before and after meetings.

Of course, there are the men with whom I attempted to serve. Some I remember vividly while others remain nameless in my memory. I have lost track of nearly all of them with only a single connection remaining to that brief time in Missouri. I regularly wonder about what happened to many and I think about what might have been the result had I completed training along with the rest of the “House of Pain”.

I am grateful to all these men and women that have served as well as those to whom I have no personal connection and I encourage you to think about the connections that you have to the various branches of the military. You may be surprised as well to find so many links to the branches that have safeguarded our country. Not everyone serves but we all benefit from the service of those who have honorably donned the uniform.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Firearms Friday: Secure Your Carry!

We all have a box of crappy holsters somewhere.
We have all seen it and have ready countless gripes about it… someone buys a high quality firearm and shoves it in a dirt cheap holster they got at Wal-Mart... this is also known as 'crap carry' (in addition to having a few other choice descriptors. When you see it you can’t help saying something but there are few words that have ever gotten through the excuses… it does the same thing as the expensive holsters so why spend the money; I would rather spend the money on the firearm, everything else doesn’t really matter; it’s going to wear out anyway so why bother getting an expensive one. It is really a sad situation that such a fine piece of machining and mechanical art is tucked away in something that wouldn’t be fit to carry your phone.

I have never been a high end firearms aficionado or a big dollar holster buyer so don’t expect any suggestions along those lines. I like to have quality items that are moderately priced… the kind of items that people think you spent a lot of money on but that is far from the case. Along those lines, there are some great options on the market to make sure that your firearm is secure when you make the decision to carry. They meet all of my criteria: affordable, high quality, durable, secure, comfortable, and they fit the firearm properly.

Don Hume IWB holsters.. a good start. 
Early on, when I carried quite frequently I turned to a simple holster that got the job done. Not the best but certainly not the worst. During that time my Don Hume inside the waste band (IWB) holster held up pretty well. It retained its shape, secured my Glock 17, and it was only about $20 at my local gun shop (I got it on sale, I believe the full retail is slightly higher). Overall, it wasn’t a bad option at the time but there is one holster company that I use now that is far superior and only a few dollars more.

Alien Gear... better quality and warranty at half the price. 
I was first introduced to Alien Gear Holsters when I came across a number of their ads in various firearms related magazines. I also read and watched a lot of reviews at the time as I was looking to upgrade from my current accessory. When I finally explored the website I was surprised by the simple fact that the high quality holsters were half (and in some instances a quarter) of the price of their competitive counterparts. This opened up a variety of options for me and so I opted to take advantage of the 2 holster combo to replace my Glock holster and add another to the rotation. With combos starting at $50 there is really no other company that comes close to the value offered by Alien Gear.

DALTECH FORCE... maybe the best belt on the market. 
So, I now moved up to a good quality holster for those times when I make the decision to carry (I know, don’t give me crap for being inconsistent). However, a good holster (no matter the brand) can only do so much if you have a cheap and flimsy belt. Again, I was on the hunt for an affordable option as most gun belts hover around $100 and many are much more than that. Thankfully Pete from The Armory Channel on YouTube posted a video at the perfect time. We have similar mindsets (maybe because we are both from the Philadelphia area) and when he showed the quality offered by DALTECH FORCE I was intrigued. When he revealed the price I knew that I had to order a couple… they are the best belt (gun belt or otherwise) that you can find for around $40. On top of that the company offers free shipping on orders and Pete arranged for a 10% discount by using the coupon code “thearmorychannel”.

 So, in the end, you can buy a cheap holster and belt at Wal-Mart for about $40-50 and run into a variety of issues on a daily basis: unsecured firearm, sagging pants, unnecessary wear and tear on both your firearm as well as on your clothes and accessories, potential mocking by other concealed carriers, among many other issues. It just isn’t a safe or responsible way to carry. Plus everything is going to wear out in about 6 months (if you’re lucky) and you will be spending another $40-50.

Instead, you can spend a little more (around $60-65) and know that you have a quality belt and holster that will allow you to securely and confidently carry your firearm with you. In addition to the fantastic warranties offered by Alien Gear and DALTECH, you will get a lot of use out of each of the product and won’t have to worry about replacing them at any time in the near future. So, basically, if you’re cheap at the onset, in addition to being unsafe, you are going to end up spending 2, 3, 4, or more times the money in the end.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Where Did Those Emails Go?

Not a message you want to see pop up on your screen!
Lately I have been having some issues with my computer… again. I stepped away from my computer just before noon on Monday and when I got back to my desk the automatic updates had already kicked in. Normally this is just an annoyance so I decided to take a lunch break and resume the multitude of projects immediately after. However, when I returned the icon on my laptop was still swirling… this was followed by error messages and a frozen screen. An hour and several expletives later and I was finally back on the home page backing up all the files… almost like I knew what was going to happen next.

Shortly after I finished the data dump onto my external hard drive, the screen went blank and my laptop nearly sailed across the room and through my window. After informing IT about the problem (still waiting for the laptop to be fixed by the way), I was able to resume my work on the office backup computer (i.e. the old laptop of a former coworker). Even though I had all the files I needed I still had to deal with web access for email and rely on the small Seagate to retrieve all of my documents.

However, two issues persisted. The first is the fact that when Outlook and my computer crashed, all the emails that I had written and sent over the past hour never made it to their destinations and I couldn’t find them in the outbox, drafts, or sent files. Basically I lost half a day of work and had to redo all the edits and responses that should have been communicated. There are also limitations in Outlook functionality between desktop and web access which is proving to be an ongoing issue. 

The second issue I am still dealing with which some would consider minor while others understand the frustration that this can bring about… I am now typing on a completely different keyboard. While it still does the same job, many of the keys are in a slightly different place and so the typos have increased along with a significant decrease in the speed of my typing and subsequent productivity. Furthermore, my work computer also serves as my personal computer which is proving to be a pain in the you know what.

This isn’t the first time that I have had issue with a computer. I can’t even recall how many laptops I have gone through over the years. I have had issues with email, applications, and I have burned out computers in the past. I guess it is about that time anyway so I really should have seen this coming… Well, at least I already had an external hard drive ready to go which was actually fairly up to date. I have also been dumping documents onto the server as of late so I am better off this time than I have been in the past.

It is still annoying and a complete time suck… especially when there is no progress from IT and the broken laptop is still sitting on my desk doing nothing. However, while no other information seems to have been lost beyond the confines of email, I am still taking another step to combat the inconvenience. It is time to get another personal computer. Actually, since I won a DELL Venue Pro tablet (with Windows 8.1 already on it) last month at the Philly Tech Week Signature Event, I think I will go that route and simply add a wireless keyboard. 

That’s right, somehow I keep getting new technology for free… first a Kindle and now a DELL tablet. At least my wife wasn’t there when I won the second one and now I will be better prepared moving forward. So while I transition over I am going to try not to toss (with great vigor) my old laptop into a wall… and do my best to not slam my fist into the keyboard of the one I am writing on currently. This is despite the fact that those where reasonable ways to fix a computer 20+ years ago. Darn dainty temperamental modern technology.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Not Too Early

Last night, still enjoying the satisfaction from the previous meeting, many of us convened at the lodge last night to discuss our plans for 2016. We are fully aware that we haven’t even made it to the half way point this year but the planning needs to happen now for the following year. There are a lot of things that still need to happen this year and a number of initiatives that we want to get started in 2016. All of these take time to accomplish and having a good roadmap is essential to being successful... in this instance you can call it a Masonic GPS. 

From what I have heard, this is about the same time of year that other lodges put together there programs for the following year. With a new Worshipful Master in the east, we want as much time as possible to go over the schedule and the details for each event and figure out to whom many of the tasks will be delegated. The timeline for this planning also allows for input from various brothers of all different levels of experience. While I would have liked to have seen a few long standing brothers and a few past masters in attendance, sometimes there are other commitments that need to be taken care of.

However, the round table discussion was full of quality ideas and valuable input especially from the newer members. The ideas kept flowing and the various interests of the brothers present were shared. By the end of the evening, we had a long list of options both for meetings and beyond the confines of the stated. More so than years prior, we had a long list of public events and community projects that we hope to hold next year both at the lodge and in the community.

From education and appendant bodies to fundraising and masonic charities, from dinners to blood drives, from family night to ChIP, from guest lectures to past masters night, and a well-rounded host of other evenings and events that we would all like to see. While I don’t see everything taking place, it will be interesting to see how many of these ideas we can cram into the calendar. But the calendar wasn’t the only thing that we discussed last night.

There were other ideas that were bandied about from awards to building improvements. However, all the conversations that took place in the hall centered on the same objective of making the lodge and this fraternity as a whole better than it is. It is part of the stewardship of freemasonry. In the short term, we hope to have the lodge better off when we leave office than when we first took our place in the chairs. In the long term, when the day comes when we are called off from labor, we hope that we are leaving a stronger fraternity behind us then when we were raised. That goal requires nights like last night as well as the motivation and determination to follow through.