Saturday, October 31, 2015

Trick, Treat, Or Video Game

My wife and I are not ones that put stock in the Halloween holiday. It has actually proven to be more of an inconvenience than anything else most years. We are actually one of those houses that simply puts a bowl of candy out as the sun goes down with the hope that some kid doesn’t dump the whole thing in his bag or bucket. Of course, we mitigate some of this by putting half out at the beginning of the night and the other half a little later after having checked the rate of depletion. Generally speaking, this keeps things pretty quiet outside our door.

However, while we don’t care much for the holiday itself, we appreciate the opportunity that this night has afforded us over the years. I am not talking about the amount of money that we have to spend on candy (seems like a waste to me) or the scant leftovers remaining in the bowl after the noise subsides. The evening gives us an opportunity to clean out the house a little bit… in the past we have handed out Starting Lineup figures (they were actually cheaper than candy that year) and this year we were able to add something even better to the bountiful bowl.

A few seconds after I finished dumping the rest of the candy in the bowl tonight, the next group of kids walked up to the front door to inspect the offerings. It is safe to say that based on their wide eyed expressions and near shaking excitement, none of them expected to go home with a free Wii video game. I have to admit that we both chuckled a little bit when we could hear the next group of kids come up to the door after being summoned by the previous visitors and proclaiming “this is the best house ever… by far.” What they didn’t realize is that they were helping us out a little.

Unbeknownst to them, we spent some time earlier in the day putting together a trade in order on Amazon after we had come to the conclusion that we were probably not going to be using the various video game systems that have been collecting dusk in the basement and laying unplugged on our shelf in the family room. All those games that Amazon wouldn’t take (that were age appropriate) were what we put out in that tiny candy bowl. By the end of the night, all the games were either packed in boxes ready to be shipped or in the hands of neighborhood kids. However, the most important thing is that it cleared out about five boxes worth of stuff that was not being used. Everybody won tonight.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Firearms Friday: Another Mass Murder!

Once again, the headline told of another mass shooting this time in Oklahoma. Based on the initial reports there were four dead and thirty wounded. However, the president as well as the usual roster of politicians and activists remained silent. And the reason for this was quite simple… it wasn’t a shooting. Ah, media bias at its finest. What actually happened was reported by CNN:

A woman suspected of drunken driving crashed a car into a crowd of spectators at Oklahoma State University's homecoming parade, killing four people -- including a 2-year-old -- authorities in Stillwater said Saturday.

Three adults were pronounced dead at the scene, while the fourth victim, the young boy, died from his injuries at OU Medical Center Children's Hospital, according to a Stillwater police statement. 

Spokesman Capt. Kyle Gibbs said Saturday night that 44 people had been injured, an uptick from previous reports.

Still no words have been spoken about the dangers of cars, the inanimate object this woman used to carry out the mass slaughter of innocent people. That’s right, liberals drive cars. They don’t fear these potential weapons so there is no uproar to be found despite the loss of innocent lives. What happened to the “if we can just save on life” line of thinking?

If the woman had used a firearm the reaction would have been much different although the headline would have been the same. If the vehicle in question was a police cruiser the story would have been different. Those details would have provided a means for the left to vilify something and someone else beside the criminal whether it be firearms, gun owners, or law enforcement. But it was a drunk woman driving Hyundai and no one is calling for prohibition or the banning of cars.

And here lies the crux of our problem and why the ills of society are getting worse and not better. The individual is the one at fault… evil lies in black hearts not in inanimate objects and groups of people cannot be blamed for the evil actions carried out by that individual. When we finally come to accept this, to make people responsible for their own actions, then we will make progress and see fewer reports of such heinous acts.

Personal responsibility is too often associated with dirt words. We have to be self-sufficient and be held accountable, as individuals, for what we do in life. We can’t rely on the support of others, especially the federal government, and we can’t keep feeding the viral sense of entitlement to our children. We need to return to a mentality of self-reliance, self-support, and self-defense. This is the kind of “me” generation that I can stand behind!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

You Have Been Wheatoned!

There have been some moments from time to time when I have considered submitting a blog post or two to other publications for consideration. The impetus for these thoughts has always been quite simple… exposure. Because I keep this blog as a hobby and simply enjoy writing the posts, sharing my thoughts, and generally keeping track of life that is all I have really been looking for in the placements. This has always been my motivation with regard to all of my creative endeavors regardless of the genre or medium in which I seek dissemination.

This has always been my choice and when the tables have been turned, the few times that I have been asked for permission to reprint, I have gladly given that permission under a couple of standard contingencies… I retain the copyright and future reprint rights and that the article/blog post is properly cited to reflect the correct name in the byline or, as had been the case recently, the link back to this blog. Nothing groundbreaking or unreasonable. Would it be nice to get paid? Of course it would but, again, this is my hobby not the means by which I support myself and my family.

That is my mentality regarding the writing that I have produced and published in one form or another over the last decade and a half. No surprise, this is not a view that is shared by everyone which what drew me in to reading a blog post by Wil Wheaton, yes that Wil Wheaton, that was shared in my Facebook feed. In the post he writes about a recent encounter with a Huffington Post editor. The basic back and forth can be summarized simply in that Wheaton was contacted by the editor to request permission to republish a recent blog post for no pay but a lot of exposure. As Wheaton points out, it would be one thing if he submitted the article but they reached out to him in this case. Needless to say, he doesn’t need the exposure and declined their offer.

He then took to Twitter and posted a few tweets in quick succession:

The two above were also followed by the following tweet: 

“This advice applies to designers, photographers, programmers, ANYONE who makes something. You. Deserve. Compensation. For. Your. Work.”

This is something that I personally agree with and don’t agree with at the same time. I believe there is a fine balance when your creations are the source of your livelihood. One should get paid for that which they create but there also needs to be a means of advertising your creativity. Sometimes it is well worth forfeiting the nominal pittance that would be offered by a publication such as the Huffington Post in order to showcase your creative skills and gain greater exposure. Of course, I would still push for retaining the copyright along with the contributor byline.

Keep in mind that this applies to a wide variety of publications, situations, formats, genres, and skills. I say all this not ever expecting to have a blog post picked up by the Huffington Post (many of my views and posts don’t play well with the ideologies that are regularly on display on the site) but if I were ever asked I would stick to my usual requirements. In the end, whether you support yourself with your creative endeavors or you pursue them as a hobby, exposure can be more valuable than the pennies that would end up in your pocket if you hold your financial ground.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Everyone Contributes

Every month I record the donations made to the lodge. The amounts vary but there is a pretty consistent flow coming in through the mail of brothers looking to help boost either the general fund, various projects, or the Change for the Troops program. These are pieces of mail that I am happy to receive and checks that I gladly record in the ledger. And there is an even greater flow of donations going out at the same time. However, while the financial contributions of many are welcomed and greatly appreciated, it is the other donations that truly make a difference.

Over the past year we have received donations of various equipment for the lodge to use. The largest of these contributions was of an entire keyboard and speaker arrangement that we are now using to accompany both the stated and extra meetings. Recently we also received two laptop computers to replace the antiquated tower languishing in the basement office. Not only are they newer models but they are also, obviously, portable allowing us to conduct business throughout the building. We also came into procession last fall of an industrial copier/printer formerly used in a political campaign that has been a tremendous help turning out dozens of copies whenever we have needed them.

However, the greatest donations that we receive is of time and expertise. There have been countless instances during the course of the year when professional council has been received to address both issues that have arisen as well as to move projects along. These brothers have given of both their time and expertise to further the lodge (our kitchen renovation is a perfect example of this generosity). We have also had many brothers contribute their time to help man events, clean out sections of the lodge, hold offices, mentor other masons, and just get things done. Time is an all too precious commodity for many of us and the number of hours that have been donated to the lodge is truly staggering.  

I guess the most important thing that many of us need to remember is that financial contributions are appreciated but donations of time, energy, and expertise are what lodges really need to thrive. It is not only a means of getting things accomplished but it also brings us closer together as a masonic family when we work as one toward our goals. We may not all have the monetary means to support various efforts but we have time and skills that hold much greater value in our fraternity. After all, we all become richer people when we truly value ourselves, one another, and the fraternity.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

TMI Tuesday: Your Dinner Looks Really Good Daddy!

My usual routine at the end of each day is that when I get home I make sure to spend time with our son, play with him, and put him to bed before my wife and I sit down to eat dinner. It may not be the best solution but at this point it is what works and it allows me to spend some time with our baby before having to prep and cook. However, there are times when I get home a little earlier than usual or dinner is particularly quick to pull together and we end up eating immediately after our son finishes his food.

As we are eating we can’t help but get the feeling that we are being stared at with every bite. Sure enough, when we look over we see our son watching the food as it travels from the plate to our mouth. This of course is accompanied by copious amounts of drool (more than what his teething usually produces) as well as a smacking of his lips about every other bit. This has been the same routine for months even back to when he couldn’t sit up on his own.

Lately, he has taken things to an entirely new level as he really wants to taste what we are eating. At least once during the course of our dinner he will give a little screech and babble something that we are supposed to understand given the expression on his face. Most likely it is probably something along the lines of “Your dinner looks really good Daddy. How about you give me a little taste of whatever it is that you are eating?” He will go on to repeat the babble which is usually concluded by a short burst of yelling when we don’t comply.

Thankfully, he is now able to feed himself some small puffs so we usually put some on his tray when we sit down at the table with our plates. This has been much more effective than the small rotation of toys that quickly lose their ability to calm him when food is present. We have also introduced tiny pieces of banana which the three of us are able to share… baby really like when we are all enjoying the same thing. At the same time, we are slowly introducing him to new foods and broadening his palate so that, one day, hopefully he will like what he tastes when mommy and daddy are able to give him a bite of their food.

Monday, October 26, 2015

WHO: Everything Will Kill You!

Yes, this is a real billboard outside of Las Vegas. 
Every couple of years, some university, health organization, lobbying group, or research body releases results stating that something causes cancer. Sometimes those finding are reversed or amended but lately the list seems to just keep getting longer and longer. Today, there were a number of things added to that ‘confirmed’ cancer list when the United Nations World Health Organization released their findings which stated that processed meats cause cancer. The Associated Press summed up the announcement pretty succinctly by stating the following:

The World Health Organization threw its global weight behind years of experts' warnings and declared Monday that processed meats raise the risk of colon and stomach cancer and that red meat is probably harmful, too.

Meat producers are angry, vegetarians are feeling vindicated, and cancer experts are welcoming the most comprehensive pronouncement yet on the relation between our modern meat-eating lifestyles and cancer.

The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, analyzed decades of research and for the first time put processed meats in the same danger category as smoking or asbestos. That doesn't mean salami is as bad as cigarettes, only that there's a confirmed link to cancer. And even then, the risk is small.

Of course, as I originally stated, these are only the most recent additions to a long list of things found in everyday life that will give you cancer. While many of the obvious chemicals and addictive habits are listed, there are also items that we encounter every day that would have a hypochondriac hyperventilating each morning when they open their eyes. Basically, if you are a smoker who eats red meat and works in the automotive, construction, wood working, or tanning industry (or does any of those as a hobby) you should be dead in about 48 hours. Heck, pretty soon they will probably find that laying down while sleeping causes cancer.

And things are only going to get worse as was reported today by Bloomberg Business:

Next year the WHO is likely to make headlines again. In addition to evaluating several industrial chemicals, it is revisiting two beverages that, like meat, are dietary staples for millions: Hot mate, a traditional caffeinated drink popular in Latin America, and—brace yourself—coffee.

So, how can we sum up these findings? What would give a full picture of the hazards found in modern day life? I think it is best put by saying that living will kill you. Sure, you can avoid all the things that the WHO lists and that doctors try to steer you away from but if you do that what kind of life are you going to live. We can’t avoid everything that the “experts” say will cause cancer, the only thing we can do is live. Does that mean that everyone should run out the door and light up? Heck no. But we can’t be afraid to live life and not worry about all the dangers that are, literally, floating around us.

Leave it to the UN to try and shift our focus away from the real world and the things that are truly important to living a full and meaningful life. Our focus should be avoiding the drunk driver heading straight at us rather than on the person driving next to us smoking a cigarette. There are other things in this world that require our attention, our focus, and our energy. This applies to both the dangers and the beauty that surrounds us. The one inevitability in life is death so enjoy the time that you have and live!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Search: Lost Children

One of the things that many people overlook about genealogy is the fact that it is not always about making the remarkable link to some historical figure or event. Sometimes it is about making sure that people are not forgotten. This doesn’t just apply to those names that may not be part of the usual family discussions, it is about the names that may not have even carried over to the next generation. I have written about many of the people that lived interesting lives, some that may have died too soon, and others whom I simply wanted to learn more about. To date, the list is rather extensive and includes the following leaves from my tree:

Those are just a few of the lives that I have tried to bring back to the forefront of my family history. Many of the details were already known to various family members but there have been a few that have come as a surprise (at least some of the details). These stories are fascinating to me and I will certainly be adding to that list in the near future but, for now, I wanted to take the time to share some of the names that can too easily be forgotten. Some lives are cut short while other lives never had a chance to get started.

When looking through the census records it can be a little startling to see the two numbers listed a few columns over from the mother’s name. These columns stick to the factual… number of children followed by number of surviving children. The census is a form full of facts and numbers and doesn’t provide any additional insights as to the discrepancy. Seeing these do, usually different, figures has become routine for many of us conducting research on our families. However, when we dig a little deeper, when we find a name, that column is no longer filled with simple numbers. Below are just a few of the names that I have been able to find…

  • I knew about my great aunt Frances Reba Teaford from the time I initially became interested in the family history. A few of her siblings are still around and have shared stories about her with me and the short life that she lived. Frances was born in Eagle Rock, Virginia to Harry Gilmore Teaford and Nettie Love in 1926. She succumb to the ravages of Tuberculosis a few years after the family moved to Pennsylvania in 1943. However, I didn’t find out until later about a baby brother that was born in August 1930. Unfortunately, he passed away three months later still without having been given a name.
  • Samuel Ardis and Sarah Myers had three children together including twins born on April 18, 1902. Thomas died in July 1902 (a month before his father) and Edna died in March 1903 (seven months after her father).
  • My great great grandmother, Susan Laura Corner, was one of nine children born to Jacob Corner and Tamise Culp. However, by the time she turned five year old, she had already lost three of her siblings including her twin sister. Calvin was born two decades before my grandmother and never made it to his first birthday. Hannah was six when her baby twin sisters were born but only knew them for five years. Emma Flora, Susan’s twin, was just over two years old when she passed away.  
  • William McKannan and Susan Corner had three children, two sons and a daughter. Their youngest son, Reuben (named after Susan’s brother), was born in July of 1893. He was laid to rest in what would become the family plot in May of 1897.
  • By the end of 1919, William Jacob McKannan (Reuben’s brother) and Helen Fulton had four children, two boys and two girls. By the close of 1922, William was a widower caring for two sons. His two daughters, Marion (1916-1920) and Helen (1919-1922), both preceded their mother in death. Helen succumbed to a stroke on September 7, 1922.  
  • Over the course of a single year from 1879-1880, John Uttley lost both his first wife Sallie, who passed away in January 1880, as well as their only child Charlotte who was born in February 1879 and died three months later.
  • Jacob Wirth and Mary Eppright had four children. By August of 1864, Mary was a single mother of one. Their oldest daughter, Emma, didn’t even make it to her first birthday passing away at 10 months old in October 1858. The day following her father’s death aboard the USS Tecumseh at the Battle of Mobile Bay, Laura died just over a month shy of her second birthday on August 6, 1864 and Mary succumb to her illness (likely yellow fever) three days after her sister on August 9th.
Genealogy is about ensuring that the family history is passed down to future generations. Sometimes those facts and events are obvious and quite well known, other times it takes some digging to ensure that we have as complete a picture as possible. As many of you know, it is usually about the tiny details. Sometimes, even just ensuring that the name of a lost child it remembered is the greatest thing that we can accomplish. This is why I continue to try to make the connections and put the pieces together to tell the larger story but take the time to make sure that these children are part of the story and not forgotten. After all, each life is part of the family.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Yay (Or Nay) For UN Day!

In all honesty, I have mixed feelings every year when UN Day comes around. There have been so many great things that this institution has accomplished in its history and yet so many things that it continues to get horribly wrong in its current incarnation. If only they could look at what they have done in the past and applied those same virtues to the present the situation would be completely different and many questions regarding its modern viability would be alleviated. My personal opinion (i.e. detest for the current body of politicians) is one that is formed from the current positions that the United Nations has taken but it is also curbed by the things that, historically, this international body has allowed to happen.  

I can’t help but maintain my focus, above all other work being done, on two current issues in which I hold a personal stake in the outcome. The first is the ongoing push for the UN Arms Trade Treaty and the impact it could have on my rights. In an article published on April 14, 2013 in The Wall Street Journal, former United States UN Ambassador John Bolton summed up the push for this distasteful policy when he wrote the following:  

While much of the treaty governs the international sale of conventional weapons, its regulation of small arms would provide American gun-control advocates with a new tool for restricting rights. 

Like many international schemes, this treaty has seemingly benign motives. It seeks to "eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and to prevent their diversion to the illicit market," where they are used in civil wars and human-rights disasters. The treaty calls for rigorous export controls on heavy conventional weapons, such as tanks, missiles, artillery, helicopters and warships.

But the new treaty also demands domestic regulation of "small arms and light weapons." The treaty's Article 5 requires nations to "establish and maintain a national control system," including a "national control list." Article 10 requires signatories "to regulate brokering" of conventional arms. The treaty offers no guarantee for individual rights, but instead only declares it is "mindful" of the "legitimate trade and lawful ownership" of arms for "recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities." Not a word about the right to possess guns for a broader individual right of self-defense.

Gun-control advocates will use these provisions to argue that the U.S. must enact measures such as a national gun registry, licenses for guns and ammunition sales, universal background checks, and even a ban of certain weapons. The treaty thus provides the Obama administration with an end-run around Congress to reach these gun-control holy grails. As the Supreme Court's Heller and McDonald cases recently declared, the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right "to keep and bear Arms" such as handguns and rifles. Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce remains broad, but the court's decisions in other cases—even last year's challenge to the Affordable Care Act—remind us that those powers are limited.

The other reason for my disdain is rather simple… the United Nations ongoing efforts to vilify Israel and attempts to prevent the Jewish State from defending its boarders and living in peace. In addition to the outright deplorable statements made related to Israel’s acts of self-defense, the UN’s unwillingness to recognize the terrorist states that surround the country and levy harsh penalties for their actions is borderline anti-Semitic. It is amazing how much this international body has devolved from one that supported the country’s right to exist to now defending those who seek to destroy it.

It is because of these reasons that I cannot support the United Nations nor will I celebrate this day. It is a shameful institution full of people who cannot see past their utopian ideals and view the world through the prism of reality. If justice is blind then the United Nations is Helen Keller.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Firearms Friday: A Long Absence

It had been over four months since I was last in a gun shop so it was nice to return to Tanner’s Sports Center this week and catch up with some of the guys behind the counter. While most of my visits in the past consisted of looking around to see what interesting items had come through the door and what I would like to add to my wish list, this time it was a completely different trip as I was seeking some information regarding the current prices should I do a little bit of safe cleaning. Even with conversations such as this, knowing they are not going to be making a sale, I got help from at least a half dozen employees who were happy to help figure everything out. Try getting that service just before closing time at some of the retail chains (and some of the other local shops).

Of course, while we were chatting I couldn’t help but take a look through the used cases just to see what was being offered and how much some of the firearms were selling for. And, as many of you know and experience on a regular basis, when you look you can’t help but ask to touch. This was the case when I caught a glimpse of a FN Five Seven in excellent condition. I had only handled one other in the past but that is years ago at this point. I keep forgetting how light, functional, and comfortable those handguns are. But, I was not there to buy (and I have never spent that much on a firearm) so I handed it back for someone else to steal at $899. That might be right up there with the Desert Eagle as a couple of my lottery guns.

After chatting a bit more I left wondering when I would be able to make it back to the store again. Time is not something that I have a lot of and it will be difficult to make it back (especially with the ongoing construction that is still jamming things up for mile surrounding the store. Maybe there are a few other, more convenient, places that I will have to reluctantly explore. Now the next task will be to find a few minutes to get on the range and enjoy this difficult and relaxing hobby. However, my next trip may be sooner rather than later to the store to take them up on the prices that I was offered. I guess we will have to wait and see.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Looking Back On Back To The Future Day

It seems as though it is a requirement that all bloggers write a post on this subject so here is my attempt…

Yesterday was kind of odd for many of us that grew up in the 1980’s. I remember that there were a few movies when I was younger that I would watch over and over again. Three of those movies were the Back to the Future trilogy. These movies are not just representative of my movie watching habits from my youth but also many others including my wife. It is actually something that we have in common from when we were growing up.

While I was always partial to the third installment I was also intrigued even at a young age by the second movie which showed a prophetic glimpse into what at the time was the future. Well, yesterday the “future” became the present and while there are many things that are still far beyond the realm of everyday reality there are some interesting things that were actually pretty accurate. The movie and our current reality both demonstrate a number of commonalities which include a black man in a position of political power, instant news, drones, google glass, flat screen televisions, silent cars, voice activated lights, fingerprint identification and security, a baseball team in Miami, and a Cubs team that isn’t dwelling at the bottom of the standings. Oddly enough, the first version of reality also showed Michael J. Fox having issues with his hand which is a strange coincidence.

Of course there are also things that have yet to come to fruition such as the National Weather Service, hover boards, flying cars, rehydrating dinner, and a few other things that were seen as fictional conveniences. However, there have also been some things that have been developed since the time that the movie was made that far exceeded any predictions that could have been made such as digital music, smart phones, and, most importantly, the internet (although these things could be seen as having been implied by the immediate availability of news, payments made via card swipe at home, and officers immediately checking identification through a handheld device.

What might be the most important aspect to all of the movies is the simple fact that the human dynamic remains the same regardless of the year and what technology (or lack thereof) exists. There are always pleasant and not so pleasant people, the strong and the weak, the confident and the meek, the passive and the aggressive, the predator and the pray, the mental and the physical. People will remain the same contrary to the utopian and antiutopian worlds displayed in Demolition Man and Idiocracy (just to name a couple “recent” films). There will always be a Marty and a Biff no matter where or when you are. Just do us all a favor and stop asking Tom Wilson, a fellow Radnor High School Alum, about the movies.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Digital Cleanup

The office situation at the lodge is pretty obvious to all the brethren who have ventured down into the basement. One thing that they don’t see is just how much digital clutter is accumulated on the weekly, monthly, and annual basis. Not only that but there are other documents and lists that need to be updated and organized in order for me to do my job without pulling my hair out. It is definitely a process but at least I don’t have to actually be at the lodge in order to make progress on this front. It is all on the computer and on the email server which makes it both easier and harder at the same time.

Over the summer I did my best to try and make some headway with the dozens of folders and thousands of unfiled emails but there never seems to be much progress when time is limited and the emails keep coming in. Besides, this project, while important, is well down on the list of things that I need to get done on a monthly basis. However, it seems as though there is now a time limit to this virtual endeavor as there is a new system rolling out in the spring which will switch over everything from what I know to a platform of which I am familiar but with which I do not agree.

At this point it is really a question as to how much work I want to put into this digital cleanup when I am not sure what the transition is going to mean over the next few months. I agree that the other ancillary files on the computer, those not reliant upon the online portal, should and will be updated but what about all the records being housed there? I actually believe that, having had some previous experience with the provider chosen, I should be backing everything up, copying it from the current portal, and hoping that I don’t have to manually input it later. In this highly digital age, there is something to be said about the additional security locally housed data (and hard copies) can provide.

So I guess this is all a roundabout way of saying that while the digital housekeeping will continue, it will be more strategic than productive. We are a fraternity full of history, tradition, and ritual most, if not all, of which relies on the accuracy and completeness of our records. I don’t want to run the risk of losing any of that. Sometimes it is best to stick with the way that things have always been done. At least for now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

TMI Tuesday: My Remote!

Our son already has a bad habit. While we keep the television time to a minimum, he still insists on reaching for the remote every time that he thinks that he can grab it. It got to eh point that we had to order a toy remote so that he would stop trying to play with the real thing. We even turned the sound off on the toy to make it more realistic (a.k.a. keep us from throwing it out the window and running it over with the car nine or ten times). It works most of the time but, every once in a while, he still reaches for the real thing… he probably knows that the toy is simply a BS ploy.

It is also interesting to see what shows he enjoys watching. There are a few children’s programs that he tolerates (Chuggington and Mickey Mouse Club) but, overall, he likes more of the adult programs especially those that daddy like to watch too. For our son there is nothing more entertaining than a new episode of Deadliest Catch or watching the occasional appearances of Norm Abram on This Old House. There are plenty of other shows but the main thing that they all have in common is that he like the reality programs more than anything. Not the useless reality shows mind you but the ones where you can tell that he is storing some random knowledge that he will use later in life.

We have tried other shows but there is nothing that really holds his attention. Thankfully, he agrees with daddy that Elmo is probably the most annoying thing to fill the screen. Well, it is at least pretty close to the women on The View. Those are the faces that when they show up on the television he either squirms and looks away or he outright screams at the horror that he is now witness to. He is definitely smart beyond his years.

The funny thing is that when there is something on that he doesn’t want to watch he puts aside his ploy of a toy and does his best to reach for the real remote. And you better either give it to him or change that channel really fast or the frustration becomes evident in his mood change. Just hope that there isn’t a Joy Behar rant going on or you will see him go from calm to crazy at ludicrous speed. And no one wants to see a baby go plaid.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Alumni Update

I received a few emails a couple of months ago from the Endicott Alumni Association asking for updates from my graduation class. It has been interesting reading the scattered responses and ever since the request came in I have been planning on sending an update. The problem has been that over the past decade there have been so many changes (heck, over the past year) that it is difficult to know where to start. Well, here is my attempt at providing a summary of what life has been like since I received my degree from Endicott College ten years ago…

It is hard to believe how quickly ten years can simply evaporate and I am sure that there are very few of you that were even close when you thought about where you would be as Dr. Wylie handed you your degree. I sure didn’t expect to be where I am today working as a PR Account Executive outside of Philadelphia focusing on the tech industry. I guess you never know where you will end up (especially for those of us who were English majors).

So, how did I get here? With my degree in hand I returned home to the Philadelphia suburbs, published some work in a few literary journals, magazines, anthologies, and pulled everything together in a short collection of poetry which was released by Pudding House Publications. Local readings followed including one at a local Barnes & Noble where I met my wife. After a year away from academia, I couldn’t help myself and soon enrolled in the MFA program at Rosemont College. While studying at Rosemont I was also pursuing a greater spiritual endeavor which led me to my conversion to Judaism a month before receiving my graduate degree.

Here is where things really started getting hectic. That same summer I was offered a Business Writer position at a PR firm in midtown Manhattan. By the fall of 2008 I was living in Brooklyn riding the F train to work every morning. By the spring I found myself in a difficult position as my Fibromyalgia was getting the better of me forcing me to take some time off before my wedding in June. My wife and I were married in Philadelphia in June of 2009 and spent over a week in Jerusalem with a couple of days in London tacked on at the end. It was a life changing trip that followed a life changing event.

Now living in Metuchen, New Jersey, and with my Fibromyalgia in mysterious remission, that fall I was faced with the reality of a diabetes diagnosis. It was a moment that made us assess what we really wanted to do with our lives. The following summer, after visiting Endicott and showing my wife the beauty of the campus, my wife and I started on another adventure that would take us back to the Middle East. A year later, in July 2011, my wife and I made Aliyah. However, some things aren’t meant to be and we soon after found ourselves returning back to the United State (although we will always be Israelis). This would later prove to be a 

2012 was a difficult year having moved back to the Philadelphia area, Bala Cynwyd to be exact, to be close to family and, by doing so, putting our careers on hold. It was tough working overnight shifts, living paycheck to paycheck, and watching our debt slowly climb but we made it through that tough time and we both found ourselves back on track in the professions we are truly passionate about by the fall of 2013. This tough time also afforded us the opportunity, the freedom if you will, to explore much of Pennsylvania as well as get involved in a few local community organizations. It was during this time when I became both a Rotarian (former President Elect) and a Mason (currently serving my second year as Secretary). And given the monotony of the hourly position I held, I was also able to start a daily blog, Time To Keep It Simple, to which I continue posting on a daily basis. Finally, it gave us the time to explore our roots as we worked to pull together the dispersed details of our family trees and finding out where we come from and exploring the details of each generation. Again, this is something that we still enjoy doing when we have the time.

There are a lot of other things that have happened in the 10 years since I walked through the door of Trexler Hall one final time but I have already written more than you were probably expecting to read (if you even made it this far). So I will end things rather simply. Today, my wife and I are doing our best to enjoy every minute that we have with our eight month old son. We live a bit further from the city than our previous places of residence, but we are still close enough to see our families on a regular basis. We are busy, sometimes too much so, but we are happy. It has been a busy decade but I am sure it will pale in comparison to the decade that is unfolding before us.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday Search: The Samuel Ardis Mystery

One of the first things I noticed when I initially began compiling my family tree was how many ancestors grew up not knowing either their mother or their father. One of the other examples that I have previously written about was that of Jacob Worth who remains interred with his fellow Union soldiers at the bottom of Mobile Bay having fallen victim to a Confederate torpedo while aboard the USS Tecumseh. This is a tragic tale but one which has the documents and facts by which we can determine exactly what happened. That isn’t always the case which is what I faced when looking at the life and death of my great great grandfather Samuel Warner Ardis.

The day following his early demise, on Monday, September 1, 1902, The Philadelphia Inquirer printed a story under the sensationalize headline “DEATH USED PHILADELPHIA AS A TARGET” with one of the many bulleted subheads stating “Element of Mystery in Case of Samuel W. Ardis Dispelled by Investigation”. Having been printed only a day following his death, the coroner’s inquest was still pending but the details suggested that heart disease played a factor. However, some of the details remained a bit fuzzy.   

To that point the investigation suggested that Samuel Ardis, who was employed as a clerk with the Reading Railway Company, was taken in by a stranger on his way home after falling ill shortly after his departure from work. Early the following morning, Sunday, the police were notified that Samuel Ardis had died suddenly at the house at some point during the night. When questioned later, my great great grandmother stated, according to the report that she was in “total ignorance of her husband’s movements since Saturday”.

While the autopsy later revealed, and was recorded on his death certificate, that the cause of death was pneumonia, we will never have a complete picture as to what transpired that night. The only facts that we know are that he died just over a month after his 3 month old son, Thomas J. Ardis, passed away and left his wife to care for their only remaining child, my great grandmother, Sarah Mabel Ardis, who turned three only four days after he baby brother died. In the span of just over a month, my great grandmother lost her father and her brother with her birthday falling in between. I can’t imagine what must have been going through her, or my great great grandmother’s, mind as all of this is happening.

We know a little but the mystery, and questions, still remain… Did he knock on a door or was he found and brought inside? Did he know the people / person who took him in? If so, how did they know one another? Did he know that he was sick? Did anyone notice at the office or was he seemingly ‘fine’? Why weren’t there any signs that this could happen? All these questions I want to have answers to but know that will probably never happen.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Thy Will Be Done!

Before our son was born my wife and I had the conversation that we should really consider getting a basic will put together. It is a subject that has come up from time over the past year but there was always something that would come up to take our attention away from what needed to be done. Finally, at the last stated meeting, I was able to pull one of the brothers aside, who happens to be an estate attorney, and got his contact information. Again, it was a very simple will that we were looking for but something that we now, finally, had the time and opportunity to complete.

The impetus for getting this done really had nothing to do with our financial situation or the possibility of us owning a home in the near future. The motivation was much simpler, we want to make sure, should anything happen to us, that our son would be taken care of by those people that we believe would raise him right and would have his best interests in mind. That is really what we wanted to legally put in place leaving no question as to where he would go and who would take care of him.

The process was actually much easier than we were anticipating as my masonic brother was able to pull everything together in less than a week following my email to him with all the information (names, addresses, special requests, etc.) that were required for these basic drafts. Actually, we had two wills drawn up, one for me and one for my wife. Each mirrored the other as we have been in agreement ass to the contents from the beginning. The only difference being that, motivated by previous discussions at the lodge, I specifically requested a masonic service.

Given how easy it was, the fantastic rate which we were charged, and the simple fact that this brother will go above and beyond to assist us and offer us advice, I have already recommended is services many times over to both friends and family. So now the next stop is to the safe deposit box so that we will not have to worry about misplacing the originals. And I must say that it feels great to have this important document now completed and the worry about what we hope will never happen has now substantially subsided. We are now at ease knowing that, should something happen, our son will be taken care of and will be raised the right way.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Firearms Friday: Taking Over The NRA?

It really isn’t a surprise, especially with the campaigns in high gear, that following another incident of evil there are numerous politicians taking aim at gun owners and the NRA. This has been a potent topic for years and was particularly prominent during the first Democratic debate this week with Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continuing to be a vocal proponent of gun control. Oddly enough, this was in direct contrast with Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders who has a long record of voting against such legislation. Of course, that kind of stance never lasts with a socialist leader so I don’t give much credence to his past performance. Basically it doesn’t matter who ends up being the nominee for the Communist party, the rights of ALL law abiding citizens will be a particular point of contention between the parties.

While all of this back and forth was happening on the national debate stage, there were also a few headlines being grabbed by a New York State Senator, Liz Kreuger, who is advocating her fellow rights abolitionists to join the NRA and force a change in stance on the issue of gun control from the inside. As was reported by the New York Daily News, “Krueger first raised the issue at a roundtable on gun violence issues hosted by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) after someone suggested meeting with the NRA to try to find common ground on a gun control law, the New York Observer reported.” Yes, this is how far and how demented their ideas have become.

First of all, as was noted in the same article, Thomas King, president of the state Rifle and Pistol Association and an NRA board member, “the NRA has more than five million members and scoffed at the suggestion there are enough "anti-gunners" to make an impact on the organization.” This is true, and those of us who are proud members would not stand for that kind of drastic “change” in policy… that is not why we donate our hard earned money. We choose to support and strengthen our rights be fighting those who wish to continue limiting our freedom.

Secondly, keep in mind that the same people who support this kind of radical action are the ones that would be filing suit if every Republican in this country were to register as a Democrat in order to change the party and support candidates that would oppose those policies that they currently hold so close to their empty hearts. Either action should be seen simply as perpetuating a fraud against those who support the basic principles of the organization. And what they are underestimating is that by proposing such actions they are actually galvanizing support for the NRA by the current membership (especially those of us who are life members), including me, which is why I have decided to join the NRA Golden Eagles. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Weathered By The Change

It has now been two thirds of a year and the weather is slowly returning to what it was when our son entered the world. The seasons have changed so quickly that it is hard to believe that soon the slight chill in the breeze will become a bitter wind and we will find ourselves looking out the window at the falling snow thinking about the inches that coated the ground when we left for the hospital that morning. Eight months and a heck of a lot has changed since it was just the two of us.

It certainly hasn’t been the easiest experience but it is also one that we wouldn’t trade for anything and we now understand the fondness with which people look back on those early months. It may not seem like it at the time, but those days are full of great moments and memories that will undoubtedly continue to fill our minds as our son grows. All the changes and milestones are things that are both surprising when they happen and amazing when we think about how big he has gotten and what he is now able to do all by himself.

Lately it has been a bit of a challenge with the constant colds and teething but it is the brief moments, even glimpses that put things in perspective and make it all worth the bags under our eyes and the fog in our minds. Even now, watching him peacefully sleeping in his crib, all of those tough hours seem to fade away. And knowing that, when we walk up to the crib to get him up tomorrow morning he will give us the biggest smile that his face can handle, all of those instances when we have doubted ourselves will be forgotten. It is the dichotomy that many people tried to explain to us before he was born but that we were unable to fully comprehend until now.

While there were nights and hours that felt like they would last an eternity, eight months has seemed to be but an instant, almost a singular moment in time. Our memories may contradict that sentiment but the reality is that this is all going by so fast… sometimes too fast. If anything, there are times when I wish I could slow down the hands on the clock, look around, and take everything in. Of course, there are also moment that I wish we had a fast forward button but they are definitely outweighed by all the joy and happiness that we get to hug each and every day. Happy 8 months baby!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Overdue Project

Of all the projects that have been talked about at the lodge time and again there is one that piques my interest each time that it is brought to the forefront of the conversation. The discussions have been ongoing about reallocating different spaces in the lodge to fill our various needs one of which is moving the Secretary’s office to the main floor. I fully support this idea but I also do my best to stay out of the back and forth unless someone asks for my opinion. After all, it is just a room, I can do the work no matter where there is a place set aside in the lodge whether it remains in the back of the basement or it is right off the main hall on the ground floor. The change would be nice but it doesn’t really matter.  

Not long after being raised I began spending a fair amount of time in the basement assisting the previous Secretary with the various tasks that fill the weeks between gatherings and the nights after the meetings. For all of its flaws, it has always been a bit of an escape for me. However, when I assumed the office shortly after that, it was painfully clear just how much work needed to be done in the space to simply make it functional again. And in my first year as Secretary, the situation didn’t get any better when a leak was discovered streaming down the outside wall. Needless to say, the “organization” project never got back on track after that and I rarely venture below grade these days.

That is a projects that is long overdue… finding some sanity in the office and turning this old fallout shelter (designated by the town years ago) into a fully functional working space not just for me but for any of the brothers who need a place to privately meet at the lodge. What it really comes down to is setting aside the time, convincing a few brothers to do the same, coordinating with the Trustees to sort the material crammed within the walls, and cleaning out the entire room. It actually might be best to just hit the reset button and start from scratch.

We need to consolidate the furniture and figure out what is really needed in the space. Part of that will be consolidating the filing cabinets after sorting through the draws full of files with the Trustees overseeing this operation. And finally, it is about simply getting rid of all the trash and clutter that has accumulated over the years from old phone books and computers to empty boxes and brittle desk organizers. It seems like a quick and easy endeavor but I know that it’s not. This is going to take some time and some significant effort but I do have a plan together to finally get it done next year. Let’s just hope that it sticks on the calendar.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

TMI Tuesday: I’ll Bite Your Finger!

Over the past few weeks our son has been going back and forth between the kind and loving baby that likes laughing and smiling to one that needs to snuggle with his mommy and daddy while a look of pain and fear crossed his face. The later usually coincides with nearly his entire hand shoved in his mouth mere millimeters away from making himself throw up (sometimes he does go too far). We are now in the midst of the teething period when there is little that we can do besides keeping things pressed against his gums and trying to make sure the resulting congestion is cleared away especially during the night.

Most of the time a binkie will suffice but there are moments when there isn’t enough pressure and either a cold rolled wash cloth or a knuckle are what he needs to munch on for a few minutes. Even with his teeth slowly protruding further from his gums it doesn’t hurt (my wife disagrees with this point) and he is rather entertained by the fact (sometimes) that he is biting daddy. It is hard to watch when he realizes he is in pain and all we want to do is make it go away. In the end there is little that we can do but the things above and the occasional dose of Tylenol… whiskey might have to be next or a Manischewitz lollipop (which did wonders in the past). After all, it would be watered down by all the drool anyway.  

Since he now has a couple of teeth that have come in and a couple more trying to break through, we have also added brushing his nubs to the morning and bedtime routines. This is something that is still a little odd for all involved and definitely an activity that our son does not enjoy. But we are all slowly getting used to it and his reaction could be worse like when we try to clip his fingernails… that is a scream I could have lived a full life without hearing.  

Also adding to the misery is the constant ebb and flow of various viruses that he either picks up from other babies or things that mommy and daddy happen to carry home from work. All of these things combine to make sleeping a crap shoot and our evenings a test of both patience and endurance. But even when he has those bad days or nights he knows that mommy and daddy are right there to help him and that is really what is important during this time in his life.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Reason To Celebrate On Columbus Day

For all the lessons that were drilled into my memory in school while growing up, Columbus Day is not something that I celebrate. Like most people, as I have gotten older, I have learned a lot more about the man who “discovered” this once unknown continent. The more I learn the less interested I am in dedicating this day to the famous European explorer. This is why Columbus Day is just another day on the calendar… we didn’t even close the office.

However, this year there was reason to celebrate on Columbus Day and thankfully it was because of something completely unrelated to the historical figure. Today is also my wife’s birthday. Albeit completely different from all other birthdays she has had in the past. With all that has happened since her last birthday, this year there was good reason to both be sad as well as excited about turning another year older. Of course, I wish I would have done a better job of making the day special… time seems to be getting away from me too often lately.

While there have certainly been a number of tough days this past year, my wife has shown a strength in her that few possess. Even though she may not be able to see it let alone admit it, there were times when it was quite evident when she made the choice to keep pushing forward rather than giving up. That alone is enough to celebrate this day but it is only one of many reasons.

This, of course, is also the first birthday in our small family since the birth of our son. What a change from previous years. With such an amazing gift that we both received it is hard to think of something to give my wife that she would like. And it shouldn’t be a surprise given all the things going on this year and lately in particular that the gift that I did order has yet to arrive (completely my fault as I should have ordered it sooner). I was holding out hope on Friday but by the time I left the office without a package in hand I knew that I was in trouble.

Hopefully I can be forgiven for the late present but that is only the half of it. I found something that I think my wife will like but I need to figure out a way to incorporate something of our son in it. I don’t think that the current idea floating around in the empty space that is my head is going to be enough. I already know that I have some making up to do but I just don’t know how much I am going to have to make up for later. I guess we will have to wait and see.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday Search: Exploring The New Ancestry

It has now been some time since I updated my account to the new format. I was a little hesitant to do so as I felt I was just starting to really get a handle on the old site. Besides, what would I really get out of the new format if I wasn’t able to find everything that I wanted? But, not having the time that I used to have to comb through the digital volumes that I once had and getting tired of the constant requests to upgrade, I finally just decided to go ahead and make the change. After all, the constant promotions promised an enhanced experience far superior to the supposedly antiquated site that I had been using so let’s see what all the fuss is about.

Well… there isn’t much difference between the old site and the new one. At least, nothing significant that I have noticed in my occasional browsing through files, searching for documents, and skimming across the vast family tree that I have constructed. While I can clearly see the shiny new layer of digital shellac, where is the revolutionary change in functionality? It was really a letdown when the new site was laid out before me on the computer screen.

With that said, there is one minor feature that I particularly enjoy but it isn’t anything that will rock the genealogy world. While I am constantly cognizant of the world and sometimes local events that took place during the lifetime of my ancestor, ancestry now has those historical reminders integrated into each family member’s timeline. And I have to admit that it is helpful from time to time having those simple reminders clearly displayed on the screen.

Other than that, I haven’t come across anything that is making things easier or more interesting… of course, my family history is already deeply fascinating so it would be hard to enhance that. At the same time as the update were occurring, kept making more and more collections available for search… these have been more useful than the prettier package that the website is now offering. This is what made me think, what if they put their money and effort into making more documents available rather than redesigning the website? How much more data would we all have access to? What could we have already discovered?

That is, first and foremost, where the focus should always be not on how fancy the site looks but what information the site contains. So I ask to spend those membership dollars on data not on spit and polish. After all, the reason why we give you our hard earned money is to learn more about our family not the fanciness of the page framing the digital document.