Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Search: Who’s Next?

With the first supplemental application nearly done it is time to start looking through the family tree to see which line I will be submitting next. Now that the “easy” ones have been documented, all of the other options are going to require some more work. That being said, now that I have traced one ancestor on my father’s side and one on my mother’s side, I can at least look at all possibilities without having to limit my options. With that in mind, I have to look and see what information I do have and how likely it will be to find the supporting documentation I need for the additional lines.

Looking back at the list I compiled in March, there are certain things that still need to be worked on for each of the ancestors listed. While we have already submitted documentation for the Redcross and Noblit lines, there are still twenty eight (28) other names on that list. However, from that list, I have at least narrowed the selection down to a few ancestors where the mysteries are minimal and acquiring the documentation is realistic pursuit given my limited time at the moment.  

Jacob Duffordt, Virginia Patriotic Service, Provided supplies to the Continental Army. We have the documentation of him paying the supply tax as well as, what I believe to be his service in one of the Flying Camps. Additionally, I have all marriage certificates and other documentation going back to his grandson, my 4th great grandfather Jacob Teaford, whom I wrote about in May regarding his service at Norfolk during the War of 1812. The issue with this line is that we aren’t 100% certain as to the identity of this Jacob’s mother. It is a mystery that the family has been working on for decades but I believe that I am making some headway.

This is likely the next supplemental application that I will be completing but there are other patriots in the family that I will be researching at the same time including:

  • Johann David Von Nida, Virginia Patriotic Service, Paid Supply Tax
  • Frederick Boyer, Philadelphia County Militia
  • John Snider/Snyder, Corporal, Flying Camp Maryland Militia; Wounded at White Plains.
  • George Michael Wilfong / Wildtfang, Virginia Patriotic Service, Paid Supply Tax
  • John Cook, Private, Logan County Virginia Militia
  • William Terry, 3rd and 5th Virginia regiments
  • John Philip Mumbauer, Private, Bucks County Pennsylvania Infantry
  • John Norbeck, 1st Battalion, Berks County Pennsylvania Militia
  • John Phillip Young, 6th Battalion, Philadelphia County Militia
  • Rufus Cone, 7th and 17th Connecticut Regiments; Taken prisoner at the Battle of Long Island; Died aboard the prison ship off the coast
  • Matthias Kerlin, Pennsylvania Patriotic Service, Paid Supply Tax
Again, all have their small gaps in the documentation but I am confident in tracing these names and we will eventually be able to verify them. The real question for me is whether we will be able to trace back through the Muhlenberg line as this requires my research on one generation to be supported through documentation as the maiden name is the one that I have traced. This will require a considerable amount of effort which is why it will be worked on in the future, after a number of other patriots have been proven. That being said, I welcome any information on the Muhlenberg family tree to get things started.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

DNC Aftermath

Heading into this past week I was curious as to how the “celebration of leftist ideals” was going to progress in the wake of the WikiLeaks hack and the transition of the disgraced DNC chair from her position with the party to an integral part of the Clinton campaign. It was interesting to say the least watching the Democratic National Convention unfold this past week as speaker after speaker leveled their attacks on Donald Trump and the Republican Party. From behind the wall requiring Photo ID to get in the speakers took the stage in rapid succession: Vice President Joe “Double Barrel” Biden, President Barak “You Didn’t Build This” Obama, First Lady Michelle “I Live In A Slave House” Obama, President Bill “I Hope To Open A First Gentleman’s Club” Clinton, Bernie “Burning and Itching” Sanders, Tim “I Have No Business Here” Kaine, and many other questionable speakers.

One of those brought to the stage was the father, with his repressed wife standing beside him, of a soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country, Khizr Khan. Given the treatment that the military and law enforcement has received during the event, the level of hypocrisy accentuated by those six minutes is rather astounding. While I respect and humbly appreciate his son’s sacrifice I cannot say the same about his punditry. Add to this questionable selection of a presenter with the fact that the stage at one point was filled with the mothers of those “killed by the police” and it truly demonstrates the fact that this was more of a circus rather than a convention.

However, there were a few things that truly disturbed me about this past week. The first was the undenounced burning of the Israeli flag outside of the convention. The second was the simple fact that there was not an American flag to be found during the DNC until this exact fact was pointed out publicly in the media. But, the most distressing aspect of this whole charade was the blind sheep like accolades that kept filling social media. Seems as though there are too many blinded by gender and the eerily robotic call to “Join Us!”

And this brings me to the marquee speech of the event which really had me questioning the mentality of the American people who have proclaimed their rabid devotion to Hillary Clinton. Following her outline of countless programs for which there is no clear plan to pay for the government overreach, she insisted on promoting the idea of group think. Included in her “I alone can fix it” diatribe, she emphasized over and over the Utopian ideal that no one can do basically anything alone. Specifically, she said:

“20 years ago I wrote a book called “It Takes a Village.” A lot of people looked at the title and asked, what the heck do you mean by that?

“This is what I mean.

“None of us can raise a family, build a business, heal a community or lift a country totally alone.

“America needs every one of us to lend our energy, our talents, our ambition to making our nation better and stronger.”

And that is one of the biggest problems, if not the biggest problem, that we face in this country. We have forgotten how to be self-reliant. Too often people are turning to others to do the heavy lifting and, in some cases, take the blame. This mentality can be seen in the increased reliance that many have on government funds and also on the other side in assigning blame to a group of people rather than an individual. We must remember that individual rights still mean something in this country and we can’t simply follow the Pied Piper as she screeches from the stage “Join Us!”

Friday, July 29, 2016

Firearms Friday: Surplus Items… Why Not?!?!

As many of you know when it comes to buying firearms, the used cases can provide you with a great value. The same can be said for many of the parts and accessories available on the used market. That being said, we have to make sure that the quality is there and that the prices reflect previous ownership and/or use. We all know this and I have written on the subject before so I am going to discuss some of the other “used” items that many of us purchase… military surplus.

Personally, I am not one to buy surplus firearms parts simply because of two factors… heavy use and price. It seems that most of the surplus for modern firearms fall into one of those two categories and most of the time quality parts can be found from aftermarket manufacturers for a much more reasonable price. Of course, older firearms are a different story altogether as there are many of us who enjoy taking the old Mosin out of the safe every once in a while and peeling open a spam can.

However, this is only a fraction of the surplus market and while the old surplus stores that used to be common place along countless main streets are now few and far between, there are still places where quality merchandise can be found at good prices. And it is not just at the local gun show either. While I know of many stores in my general area, most of my surplus purchases have come through antique stores and online retailers because the prices and overall quality have been better at each.

Antique stores generally have the uniforms, manuals, and other smaller items which they basically try to move inexpensively as much of their stock is either purchased as part of a large lot of miscellaneous items or from a private individual at a fraction of the wholesale price. Usually you can find the best prices here and some of the best quality as well. However, that is just one recourse and it is one that takes time.

Usually I end up going on line if there is something I want to buy and most of the time the searches for a particular item lead me to Sportsman’s Guide. While there are some that swear by this retailer and others that have had a less than pleasant experience, I have generally had good luck with the purchases that I have made and, most importantly, they have been the best prices around because of two simple factors… price match guarantee and coupons. This site has been particularly good for the “I don’t need it but I want it” items as well as some of the more unique items like Kevlar helmets, gas masks, etc. Personally, I have found great deals on ALICE packs (with frame) and clothing items like undershirts which are tremendously useful.

I guess the point of this whole post is that while the market has changed, military surplus items are still a great value and quality items can be found if you know where to look. And, like most things, if you are patient, you can get a lot of these items for really cheap which is nice whether or not you are buying completely useful items, ‘I might need this someday’ items, or other things that you just want for whatever reason. Most importantly, enjoy these items, use them, and beat the heck out of them because that is what they were built for.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I Got A Response From @Montel_Williams

Every once in a while I get a little surprise on social media as much of the content I produce is simply caste into the vacuum to never be heard from again. Bear in mind that this is primarily due to my lack of correspondence through these sites. I really need to work on that. But, sometimes, someone catches one of my posts and comments, likes, retweets, or responds to what I wrote. Sometimes they agree and other times there is not a grain of agreement to be found.

The truly surprising part is when I recognize the name with these likes, shares, and responses. Most of the time these come from friends or family while other times they come from people whom I have never met before like back in June when Montel Williams responded to my post following the massacre in Orlando. The response was simple but addressed the core of what I was addressing in my blog. Frankly, I was just surprised that he took the time to respond which does say a lot about how he chooses to engage with people as a whole.

Bear in mind that I fervently disagree with many of the comments and confrontations that can be found when browsing through his account but he takes the time to listen and respond. Additionally, he takes the time to share his opinions and I have to respect someone who is willing to be vocal about what they believe whether or not I agree with them. However, there are many people with whom I disagree, many friends and family in fact, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t respect their opinion. Although some opinions are so far out there that I can’t respect them. But there are also times when we find a common ground like I did with Mr. Williams in our brief exchange over Twitter.

And this is the main point that I want to drive home with this post. There have been numerous people that have tested my patience and temperament through various social media sites in recent years and especially in recent weeks. And, honestly, I am sure that I have done the same through many of the things that I have posted. However, I have also invited many people to have a dialogue knowing full well that we will probably never come to an agreement on many topics. I don’t unfriend or unfollow people when I disagree with them and I don’t leave visceral comments to posts. I try to engage with them outside of the public forum.

We have to remember that we all possess different views colored by a diverse collection of life experiences. Many times there will not be any common ground to be found but, every once in a while, we find something in common… sometimes it is how similar events in our lives have taken us in drastically different directions while other times it is the surprise when we find ourselves agreeing on a topic despite our differences. This is a time for discussion not divisiveness but also a time when we cannot be afraid to share our views and opinions.

So, when you read much of what I write remember that I am open to discussing just about anything. You may not like what I have to say and I may not like what you have to say but that doesn’t mean that we can’t talk and it doesn’t mean that we will disagree on everything (although that is a possibility). How does that sound Mr. Williams?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Family Masonic Bible

There have been countless times when I have been sitting at my desk in the lodge room looking up and down the sidelines wondering where my grandfather used to sit during meetings. It is a connection that I have with my grandfather despite never having the chance of getting to know him while growing up. Lodge is something that we have in common and I am always reminded of that when I see his ring on my finder and, now, when I look at the family Bible which I have been using recently for my genealogy research.

When I was raised just over three years ago, my mom pulled me aside and handed me my grandfather’s Masonic ring. She knew that I would appreciate and take care of it. She also knew that I was one of the few people in the family who would actually use it as there are not many masons in my family. The ring meant a lot to my grandfather, it means a lot to my mom, and it certainly means a lot to me. Now, just over three years later, my mom again pulled me aside and told me that she wanted to give me my grandfather’s Masonic Bible. The ironic thing is that my grandfather was presented his Bible just over three years after being raised and now I am being presented with that same bible just over three years since I was raised.

Not only was this the Bible presented to him by his lodge but it has also served as the family Bible with my grandparent’s marriage having been recorded in its pages and my grandmother having recorded many of the births and deaths throughout her life. Between the covers there are names across many generations from the death of my great great grandfather all the way through the birth of my niece... my name can be found in these pages too. All written in my grandmother’s hand.

I remember seeing my grandmother with the blue binding on her lap flipping through the book and pulling out the papers tucked between the pages. This became a more and more regular occurrence toward the end of her life. It was also one of the few things that my mom wanted to hold on to after my grandmother passed away. I know how much this Bible meant to my grandmother and I know how much it means to my mom. I am being entrusted with its safe keeping and it is not something I take lightly. After all, this is not just an item that resonates with me as a mason, it is a connection to my grandfather, my grandmother, and my mom.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Hey, This Isn’t Camp!

Given the length of time that our son had been away from daycare, my wife and I decided to send him to camp this summer. This chaos that ensued during the spring took him away from the classroom and his friends so we thought it only right that he enjoy a few weeks this summer with others and, more importantly, outside of the house. Of course, it also helps that my wife gets a little respite as she has been caring for him and taking him to various places and get-togethers constantly these last few months and that is a lot to ask of her. There are also a few things that need to be scheduled and having the flexibility during the day is more of a necessity rather than a luxury.

The first few days that we restarted the routine our son seemed a little thrown off but went with it as he is always looking for an excuse to go for a ride in the car. Although he did give me quite the interesting look the first couple of days when I said that he was "going to camp" (see picture above). As he has readjusted to the routine, he is less enthused about possibly going somewhere new and now simply looks forward to “going to camp” every morning. Of course, he does give me a look as if to say, “You’re not fooling me daddy. I know that this isn’t camp. It’s the same school I was going to before.”

And part of this routine is that he is really tired when he gets home at the end of the day. Don’t get me wrong, he still insists on staying up so that he can see daddy but, if he had the choice, he would probably go to bed at around 6:30. But this seems to be getting better as well. The longer that we have had him going, the more that he has adapted to the schedule and he is getting a lot better at staying up at the end of the day.

I guess the important thing to note is that, like countless instances before, we can’t simply fool our son. He knows where he is going, he knows the routine, and he knows the daily schedule. Sometimes he doesn’t like it (especially if he didn’t sleep well the night before) but he, for the most part, accepts it. And, for mommy and daddy, while there are difficult moments, it has allowed us to get a lot more done around the house and has given us, my wife in particular, the flexibility to make some appointments during the day.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mortgage Monday: And Then That Happened…

Last week, in the early afternoon, I was in the middle of a project at the office. The deadline wasn’t until the end of the day and I was looking forward to taking care of a few other things before leaving the office that evening. After my phone had vibrated for the fourth or fifth time I found a good paragraph after which I could take a quick break and read the messages. I knew that they had to be from my wife but I had no idea what she was writing to me about.

Well, it could have been worse but it also could have been so much better. It turns out that the air conditioning, a project still lingering in the middle of our to-do list, decided to stop working in the middle of the day. And, of course, it was one of the hottest days of the year. That short break from the project I was working on was no longer a short break as I had to make half a dozen phone calls before a “solution could be found”.

Between the calls with my wife to get some additional details, texting my brother in law (this is what he does for a living), calling and emailing the home warranty company (the AC is covered under our policy), and finally trying to get a hold of the referred service company, all that time that I once had quickly went up in steam. Thankfully, I had gotten enough written before the chaos and I was able to get the project completed by the time I left the office (which was a little earlier than usual so I could meet the repair person when he arrived at the house). Driving home, I was expecting the worst as the half sized unit had been struggling lately.

I arrived at the house just as the service window was opening. Not surprising was the fact that it was another two hours before the technician pulled into the driveway. Almost immediately he began making comments on the small AC unit tucked away behind the garage. What did provide us with a rather pleasant surprise was the fact that it was a relatively simple solution to our problem with a loose wire (likely due to the constant usage) being the culprit. Thankfully, the air conditioning was restored quickly allowing for the house to cool a little before we put our son to bed.

Of course, this little hiccup has really put our renovation list in focus as the overhaul needs to be completed in the near future as I doubt that the next stoppage will be remedied so easily. We really are just waiting for the next time at this point and hoping that it holds off just a little longer until we can budget for the replacement system. But, for now, we are just going to enjoy the cool air for as long as it lasts.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Search: Documentation For My Supplemental Application

Ever since I received the letter from the Sons of the American Revolution saying that my application was accepted (actually, our applications), I have been working on my first supplemental application. As I have previously outlined, the first application was tracing back the Redcross line on my dad’s side of the family and now I am weaving my way through my mom’s side. It should be no surprise that the line that I am using for this application is tracing back to John Noblit.  

In addition to the previous difficulties tracing what was a line unbeknownst to us until recently, there was also the task of pulling together some of the documentation for recent generations. Surprisingly, there has been a lot of material uncovered and some tremendous recourses discovered which leaves little doubt about the family line prior to the 1940’s. Not including myself, the recent work has been in pulling together the documentation for the recent generations. Just last weekend, I finally got those last few items that I need to complete my second mountain of paperwork.

I have known about my grandfather’s Masonic Bible for most of my life and I knew that my grandmother would pull it out every once in a while not necessarily for what was written on the pages but to remember the family members represented by the scraps of paper between the pages. That being said, I had never taken the opportunity to sit down with my grandmother or my mom to really see what was contained within the blue covers. When my mom gave the Bible to me last weekend, I couldn’t help by start paging through the chapters and examining the documents that continue to buckle the cover.

There were certainly some interesting pieces of paper floating loosely between the pages containing names, marriages, birth and death dates, and some clippings from others moments in my grandmothers life including a photo from the local paper and a small clipping announcing a party for my grandparents’ 25th wedding anniversary. Of course, bound deep within the pages of the book is something that I had been looking for… my grandparents’ wedding certificate from 1940. In the subsequent pages I found not only the births of my mom and her siblings in my grandmother’s handwriting but also some of the deaths in the family from the time they were married through the passing of my uncles.

It is a unique opportunity to use this family record in my most recent SAR application and it is also an honor to be entrusted with the history contained in its pages. It is not only a connection to my family history as a whole but a real, tactile, connection to my grandmother and my grandfather. In both regards, I consider myself a caretaker of the family history and I hope to preserve not just the pages that have been passed down but also the documents that have been discovered over the years so that we are never again in a position to forget. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

RNC Recap

Well, it certainly was an interesting week in Cleveland as the Republican National Convention officially make Donald Trump the party candidate for President. It was also a week that introduced many voters to the other half of the ticket as Governor Mike Pence took the stage for his first significant speech since being named as a Vice Presidential candidate on July 15th. And, of course, there was the speech given by Senator Ted Cruz who spoke for many of us when we said to “vote your conscious” in November. Simply put, Trump was never my first, second, or third choice (which I have made clear over the past year on this blog) but he is the party nominee and I will be voting for him. After all, for all of his flaws, he is the best option on the table.

What was rather surprising was the lack of protesting surrounding the event and the whispers that Bernie Sanders supporters were saving their energy for next week in Philadelphia. Not surprisingly is the fact that Trump received a rather significant bump following the pomp and circumstance from the previous week. It will be interesting to see if the Democratic inmates in the Philadelphia asylum will have the same impact on the polls. However, given the WikiLeaks announcement yesterday, that is becoming less likely and will probably result in some significant changes in the race bating party.

One moment that stood out for me was the emotional speech given by Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed in the 2012 Benghazi attack in Libya, who stated “I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son — personally." Some have criticized the organizers for allowing such an “emotional attack not rooted in fact” but, honestly, what do you think the Democrats have been doing every time there has been a shooting in this country? The other “controversial” speech was that of Melania Trump plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech from the DNC in 2008. The amount of media coverage on this was astounding especially when you consider the fact that the questionable section is generic political filler for any candidate and by no means a verbatim copy. If that is what you are looking for you must turn to the President himself during his 2007-08 campaign.

For all the ups and downs that are usually associated with political events of this sort, it was interesting overall to see the mix this time around of ardent supporters, those who are just going along for the ride, and others whom you could tell were really hoping to see someone else on stage accepting the nomination. Honestly, it didn’t seem like the rallying moment happened until late on Friday evening when the WikiLeaks announcement was made regarding DNC emails. Could have been better, could have been worse, but, in the end, I’ll take it. Now all we have to do is wait, vote, and hope that some common sense is realized in this country come November.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Firearms Friday: Fulfilling A Request

Following my previous Firearms Friday post, I received a request from a friend on Facebook. This is someone who has demonstrated time and again an even temperament regarding a variety of topics whether or not they agree with the stance that I am taking. It is because of this thoughtfulness and willingness to discuss various issues that I am honoring their request for the Firearms Friday post this week. Their request was as follows:

“I fully accept your premise that mental health is significantly lacking, however I don't believe focusing solely on mental health with solve the problem of gun violence. (Some people really are just are evil.) I would be happy to support legislation that limits evil people's ability to do harm with fire arms, while still allowing gun owners to own fire arms. As a non gun expert I can only guess. I've been thinking in terms of limits on clip sizes, the rate at which bullets could be fired, or the maximum force behind the bullets. My requested topic is this: As a gun expert, how would you make firearms safer so that if they were to fall into the wrong hands they would do less damage?”

They later added the following:

“Fundamentally all I care about is a reduction in gun violence. Propose something I can get behind and I'll happily advocate for that when I call my representatives, otherwise I'm forced to stick to the generic "do something!" plea… We may not always agree, but I appreciate the effort. Our end goals are the same. The best polices come from listening to people on all sides of the aisle.”

Again, they were reasonable and respectful in their approach so my response was rather simple… ask and you shall receive. Of course, I made sure to point out that there it is likely that they will not agree with my response but I can't expect everyone to agree with me. In the end, we all have our own views. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don't. So, here is my response…

First of all, it is very important to note that I am by no means a firearms expert. This is an enjoyable hobby and a means to defend myself and my family. I enjoy and respect this right. I may have more knowledge in this field than others but I am by no means an expert. 

Second, the concept of "making guns safer" is simply an impossibility. Capacity is a moot point when you watch people dedicated to the sport conduct speed reloads. The same can be said regarding rate of fire when you consider the capabilities of the British Army conducting "Mad Minute" drills during World War I. Of course it should be noted that while the media and politicians may use the term "automatic weapon" we are really talking about semiautomatic firearms that fire one round per pull of the trigger. Finally, regarding lethality of the projectile, I wouldn't even consider this as plausible because while I can understand the perspective of the questioner I also have to consider the fact that, if put in a situation to defend myself and/or my family, I don't want to question the lethality of the rounds I am using... I just want to eliminate the threat. 

That being said, I will do my best to address the larger subject at hand. 

The sad fact of the matter is that there is no way to stop all violence committed with firearms. Bad and/or evil people will always find a way to get them and thinking just because something is illegal that criminals will stop using them is lunacy. Evil people will find a way to commit evil acts and the most recent Terrorist attack in France is a prime example of that fact. This is the world in which we live, like it or not.

As I previously mentioned, mental health is the primary means of further decreasing the number of crimes committed with firearms in this country. I specifically used the term “further decreasing” as PEW research shows the steady decline since the early 1990’s. Unfortunately, the media coverage of “gun violence” has not only distorted public opinion but also has offered a tremendous incentive to those looking to commit such a heinous crime… fame. What further sickens me is the fact that the individual who committed this act, the one responsible for the death(s), is seen more as an accomplice rather than the perpetrator… the ones “found guilty” are gun owners in general. As I have said before:

“…The most commonly used of which was a quote from then Governor Ronald Reagan when he addressed the Republican National Convention in Miami Florida on July 31, 1968 amid a time of tremendous racial turmoil which erupted in riots. The excepted says simply “We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”” 

What I am getting at is that there needs to be a drastic shift in the mentality of the American people. We can’t glorify violence on a daily basis and we can’t assign blame to those who had nothing to do with the crime. We have to return to a society that accepts individual responsibility and promotes self-reliance. Too often, people are blaming others for crimes, addiction, health issues, financial situations, living conditions, and limited employment opportunities. We need to take responsibility for our own lives.

Education is fundamental to a healthy and thriving society but the idea that institutionalized settings are the only place that offer this is a misconception that is continuously perpetuated in every political circle. In this instance, on this topic, people need to be familiar with firearms and have at least a basic understanding. This used to be part of growing up and it was slowly strangled from the consciousness of the schools. We need to teach children and adults not just about how a firearm operates but also, and more importantly, proper gun safety. Firearms should be respected not something that should be feared or, even worse, painted as an innocuous piece of video game memorabilia.

These things would take time but, per the request above, what can be done NOW? My stance is rather simple in this regard. What we need to do is enforce the volumes of laws that are already on the books before any other measures should even be considered. Besides, overzealous kneejerk local laws work so well, right? Additionally, we need to spend the money allocated, through legislation, to improve the NICS system. By the way, it was signed into law by President Bush. Here is an overview that I previously wrote:

“Lastly, the other part of this whole equation that is being overlooked is the fact that even when bills are passed, they are not being enforced and/or the funding is not being spent (i.e. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System). The NICS Improvement Amendment Act was signed into law by President Bush on January 8, 2008 with the explicate mission to improve the background check system in this country. The law, endorsed by the NRA by the way, allocated Congress $1.3 Billion to improve record keeping in states which would allow greater transparency and improve the Federal gun background check system. To date nearly 90 percent of funding has never been spent and the Obama administration will further reduce spending from its peak in 2015 of $78 million down to $55 million in the President’s 2016 budget request.

This is something that really bothers me as it seems as though the intentional “spenddown” is being leveraged to paint a completely different story about the system and the way it should be working. Again, even the positive actions taken are spun to accommodate a political objective. After all, if you improve the system you can’t blame it and try to pass additional legislation.

The final “recommendation” I would make is that we need to increase the penalties associated with crimes (violent or nonviolent) with a firearm. I’m talking decades not simply years. Basically, instead of the mandatory minimums for drugs, why don’t we change things up and have mandatory minimums for these crimes. This would also apply to those using something (i.e. a toy) to misconceive people in thinking they had a firearm. Those found guilty of straw purchasing (including members of the media) should be brought up on criminal charges. Those found in possession of a loaded firearm while intoxicated need to be penalized as well.

Lastly, we need to eliminate gun free zones. They have been proven time and again to be ineffectual. In fact, rather than offering real protection they have presented wicked people with targets of opportunity. In addition to the multitudes of accounts, police reports, and stories about firearms being used to stop crime even the CDC has noted in one of their own studies that the use of firearms in “Self-defense can be an important crime deterrent.” Again, we need to be more self-reliant and willing to take control of our own lives in every situation rather than relying on the faux fairy dust sprinkle around certain places in the community.

So, let us review.

What is the current situation that we find ourselves in?
  • Violence is a Part of the Real World
  • PEW: Gun Violence in Decline
  • CDC: Self Defense is an Important Crime Deterrent
  • Mental Health Resources are Lacking
  • Government is NOT Spending Allocated Funds on NICS
  • Firearms Education is Lacking
  • More Gun Laws are Ineffectual
What needs to be done to address the problems crippling our society?
  • Increased Focus On Mental Health
  • Firearms Education (with Particular Focus On Safety)
  • Reintroduce Self Reliance and Self Sufficiency
  • Stop Assigning Blame to Others
  • Acknowledge and Refute Media Bias
  • Use The Funds Allocated To Improve NICS
  • Increase Penalties for Crimes Committed with Firearms
  • Eliminate Gun Free Zones
Of course, these are just some of the thoughts that came to mind over the past week since being presented with the original question. Again, I didn’t say that they would necessarily agree with my perspective on the topic but I hope that I have been able to answer their question. If you have a question or request, on this topic or others, please feel free to contact me or comment below. You never know, I may end up writing on that topic.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Surprising Statistics

Recently I noticed a rather staggering number when scanning through my social media accounts. It turns out that, somehow, I have had over one million profile views on Google+. That being said, of the social media sites that I use on a regular basis I am the least familiar with Google+ so I had to do some digging to figure out how that number is calculated. This led me to a post by Mark Traphagen on the Stone Temple Consulting website which provided some useful bullet points:
  • Posts are counted for any view of them in any Google+ stream. A viewer does not have to click on or otherwise engage with a post for it to count as a view. So even if the viewer scrolls by the post in her stream, a view is counted. Basically, the post just has to have been seen on someone’s screen. Interesting tidbits: 
  • Photos/images (UPDATED!) must be “opened” only need to go by in someone’s stream (or be seen on Blogger, Picasa, or Chromecast) to count for a view.
  • Profiles & Pages only count as a view when someone opens them in their own tab or window.
Even with this “explanation” it is still a surprising figure to me as I am one that uses social media but doesn’t really leverage it to the best of my ability. When you factor in that I only have just over 160 Google+ followers, 3,536 LinkedIn followers, 1,000 Twitter followers, and exactly zero people following my blog through Blogger, it still doesn’t add up. I could dig a little more and try to find a proper accounting of this figure but, in the end, this isn’t really important.

The numbers that I am focused on are the daily goals that I have set for myself by writing a blog a day, every day, with a minimum word count of 400. That is what I focus on with everything else being a pleasant surprise. It is with this in mind that I find the nearly 90,000 blog views much more gratifying than the magical one million figure under my Google+ profile picture. The growth of the blog has been steady over the years and knowing that I have been able to keep the promise I made to myself (and later my readers) is what keeps me writing every single day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

And The Phone Rings Again…

Another week and another unpleasant phone call. I was in the middle of my workday when my phone rang out from my shirt pocket and when I pulled it out and looked at the screen an unknown number was displayed on my caller ID. After the second or third ring, I answered the call not really knowing what to expect as I have made so many calls the past several weeks that it could have been a call from any number of companies or publications. Well, as Monty Brewster would say, it was from none of the above. It was, in fact, one of those call that I dread but also comes with being the Secretary of the lodge… another brother has been called off from labor.

Unfortunately, over the past few years I have spoken with a variety of funeral homes in the area as well as families of brothers who have been called off from labor. It is never an easy conversation. In fact, it is just as difficult now as it was the first time I answered one of these calls. After all, we are losing a brother not just a number in our membership… a member of our lodge, our masonic family, is no longer with us and all that knowledge that they had attained is forever silent.  

However, I am appreciative of the opportunity that the family has given us to honor our brother one final time. Too often I have found myself finding about a brother’s passing long after the fact. I consider the request to conduct a Masonic Funeral Service as a gift from our departed brother and his family to big farewell and thank him one final time for being a member of our fraternal family for over 65 years. The least we can do is honor this final request.

It is with great melancholy that I write this knowing that these events will be repeated again and again as our brothers continue to advance in age. It is a sequence of events that has become near ritual in recent years. However, as we hear of each brother being called off from labor, we can look to our lodges and see our new brethren take those initial steps in Freemasonry. The same steps that our departed brother took decades prior when their journey was just beginning. Such is the cycle of life and how we honor our brothers past, present, and future.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

TMI Tuesday: No More Highchair!

For well over a year our son has been using a highchair at home and at restaurants for all of his meals and snacks. Wheeling the cumbersome contraption had become part of our daily routine at home but one thing that we had been noticing whenever we would go out to eat lately was that our son really enjoyed being at the table rather than eating off a tray. We put off looking for a home alternative for some time but it finally got to the point that it was time to switch him over to a booster seat.

So, with a few ideas in mind as to what we were looking for, all three of us headed over to the local Walmart and made the trek to the back of the store where all the baby and toddler equipment lined the shelves. Once my wife and I found a few options we turned to our son, who was not annoyed and fascinated at the process, and let him pick out his new chair. Surprisingly, he was pretty concise in his selection process almost immediately pointing to the one he wanted and watch me as I put it in the cart behind him.

Within the week, we had switched him over at home, without the tray of course, so now he sits at the table with mommy and daddy proudly feeding himself as he enjoys the additional freedom that his new chair has to offer. And, of course, since then we have picked up place mats and other toddler accouterments which he seems to be enjoying as well. However, we still ask for a highchair whenever we go out to dinner as the boosters are a little too precarious for our squirming toddler and we don’t want to have to pick him up off the floor along with his crayons.

He doesn’t seem to be bothered by the different seating arrangements as he is simply enjoying being at the table. For me and my wife, it is just amazing how quickly time is going by and how many changes keep happening. He is becoming a little more independent with each change that we make with this being only the most recent. But, the most important thing is that he remains a happy and energetic toddler that enjoys reading and playing with mommy and daddy. So, for now it is time to wave bye bye to the highchair as we take it upstairs and put it into our storage area.   

Monday, July 18, 2016

Mortgage Monday: Water, Garage Doors, And Security

Last week I spent some time working from home but, just like the days that I decide to “take off”, it was for the simple reason that there was work that needed to be done at the house. Actually, I wasn’t doing any of the work, I was there so that could answer any questions that may come about from the minor projects around the house. Namely, over the two days at the end of the week we had Martin complete an inspection of our filtration system, Shank install the garage doors, and ADT check a few of the sensors that we have had to adjust lately.

Surprisingly, all of these appointments went about as smooth as possible beginning with the garage doors on Thursday. The old doors were exactly that and with the one destroying itself a few months ago, it was something that needed to be done this summer. Now seeing the new doors in place, the features that Shank includes, and hearing how quiet the new motors are, we are really glad that we made room in the budget to get this done. Of course, it helps that the person installing them really knew what they were doing and had the full swap out (doors, motors, tracks, sensors, etc.) done faster than I was expecting.

Friday morning the door bell chimed at about a quarter to eight in the morning. While I am all for being on time or even early to appointments, it isn’t as pleasant when ADT has already screwed up the scheduling (I made the appointment for and confirmed it with customer service at the time for the 12-5 window). This on top of the fact that the technician expects our full attention as we are in the middle of our son’s morning routine. Just one of many issued that we have had with that company so far. After a few unexpected (and without warning) triggers of the alarm and a few moments of puzzled contemplation regarding the use of adhesive, the work was completed and the rest of the morning could begin.

Martin Water was the third and final appointment of the week and as they were the ones who maintained this system previously, it was a pretty straightforward process. And it was great that they took the time to go through the steps that I need to follow to properly maintain the system. I was shown once before when we bought the house exactly what needed to be done but I can’t say that a whole lot of information was retained that chaotic week.

So, it may not be a big dent in our overall plans for the week but we were able to at least get things started while making sure a couple of the other things in the house don’t become future projects. And while ADT may be lacking at times the important thing is that the security system and monitoring are still solid. As for Shank Doors and Martin Water, don’t hesitate for a second if you are in need of their services… their prices and the quality of their work is exceptional. That is all… for now.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Search: Virginia Versus New Jersey

While searching through the pages and pages of Revolutionary War documents I happened to stumble across a very familiar name, Jacob Dufford. While we have been aware for some time of our immigrant ancestor providing supplies to the Continental Army on 17 December 1780, this document was completely different. This document which caught my attention was the “Names and ranks of those killed or taken on Long Island the 27th day August 1776.” The second name on that list, clearly printed, is Jacob Dufford. While an exciting find to be sure, it was quickly tempered, as I am familiar with the various Dufford families in the colonies at the time which begged the question, is this the same Jacob Dufford?

First, let’s consider the candidates…

Given the death of their original immigrant in 1767, the New Jersey line of the Dufford family has one possibility, Jacob Dufford from Morris County who was born in 1745 and died in 1822. Note that Morris County is immediate west of Northampton County, Pennsylvania. When conducting a further search into records, no other reference could be found regarding this Jacob Dufford and the Revolutionary War. In the Virginia Dufford tree, given the fact that the second generation Jacob was only 12 at the time, there really is only one possibility being that of our original immigrant, Jacob Dufford who was born in Alsace Lorraine on 12 January 1734, arrived in Philadelphia on 27 October 1764, and died in Augusta County on 12 April 1800. At the time, Augusta County extended well beyond its current boundaries all the way to Pennsylvania. Those are the two possibilities, the only two names that match.

Second, let’s consider the service document…   

The document which I discovered listed Jacob Dufford as having been killed or captured during the Battle of Long Island on the 27th day of August 1776. It also notes his enlistment date being 13 July 1776 and his discharge date being 1 December 1776 (the date on which the Flying Camps were disbanded). This information was confirmed when I was able to find his official service record. Despite his length of service being recorded as 1 month and 15 days, this second document, the only other document I could find and produced in November 1776 in Elizabethtown, provided me with some further details regarding the service of Jacob Dufford. As it turns out, he was a part of the Pennsylvania Infantry serving in Captain John Arndt’s Company of Colonel Baxter’s Battalion of Northampton County in the State of Pennsylvania of the Flying Camp… the Spartans of Long Island. While Baxter’s Batallion later fought at Fort Washington, it is doubtful that Jacob Dufford was present and/or able to fight as the prisoners taken by the British at Long Island were kept in inhumane conditions and nearly starved to death during their incarceration.

While this initial reading of the documentation suggests, based on county proximity, that this was a member of the New Jersey Duffords, I had to be sure and decided to look more closely into the history of the Flying Camps since I was unfamiliar with that term. Among the various writings on this obscure organization of militia forces during the Revolution, John Allen Miller’s article “The Flying Camp Batallion”, published on the Emmitsburg Area Historical Society webpage, proved to have the most complete history. In this article, Miller writes on the formation of the “Flying Camps”:

On June 3, 1776, the Continental Congress resolved "that a flying camp be immediately established in the middle colonies." For its part, Pennsylvania was called upon to provide a force of some 6,000 men. Delegations of one officer and two enlisted men from each of Pennsylvania's fifty-three associated battalions met in Lancaster, on July 4, 1776, for the purpose of selecting this force. Then, on July 10, 1776, the Bucks County Committee of Safety, citing "the Resolve of the late Provincial Conference for embodying four hundred of the Associates of this County," appointed the following officers to command. (Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Vol. V; History of Bucks County, Davis)

The flying camp received little support from New Jersey. Pennsylvania sent some 2,000 associates, many of who were quickly drafted into service by Gen. Washington in New York. More men soon arrived from Maryland and Delaware, but despite the best efforts of Gen. Mercer the flying camp was fraught with difficulties almost from its inception, and never realizing its full potential was disbanded by the end of November, shortly after the fall of Fort Washington. (Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Vol. V; History of Bucks County, Davis)

There was little mention of Virginia which seemed to strengthen the possibility of this being part of the New Jersey Dufford family history. And then I came across this paragraph later in the article which once again had me questioning which Jacob Dufford fought at Long Island:

A (Flying Camp) Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment was authorized June 17, 1776 in the Continental Army and was assigned to the Main Army. The Regiment was organized June 27, 1776 to consist of the three existing companies two from Maryland and one from Virginia, plus two new companies to be raised in Maryland, and four new companies to be raised in Virginia. The regimental organization was disbanded with the surviving Virginia portion being transferred on February 3, 1777 to the 11th Virginia Regiment and the Maryland portion provisionally reorganized in November 1776 as a single company under Captain Alexander Lawson Smith and attached to the 4th Maryland Regiment.

Taking all the evidence into consideration…

Given the later enlistment date of 13 July 1776 and the fact that few from New Jersey volunteered for service in the “Flying Camps” (and those who did volunteer would have likely done so in June and the early part of July, it is possible that the Jacob Dufford mentioned in this service record is, in reality, my immigrant ancestor. Of course, it would be nice to have additional evidence, even circumstantial, to now tilt the needle in one direction or another. While there seems to be little information about the Jacob Dufford from New Jersey (there is no service marker on his grave), there are a number of interesting facts regarding my Virginia ancestor that have swayed my opinion.

First, in looking at the family tree, there are no children conceived or born during the year 1776. Following his arrival through the Port of Philadelphia in 1764, he married his wife Christineh in Pennsylvania in the 1760’s and had his first child in the commonwealth as well. His subsequent children, Jacob and Johann (John), were born in Virginia and Maryland respectively. Later, the first mention of him owning land was when he purchased 268 acres in the newly formed Shenandoah County in 1778. He would later purchase 200, 205, 323 acre lots in Augusta County Virginia in 1780, 1788, and 1794 respectively. At the time of his death, according to the entry in the deed book on 29 October 1801, Jacob Teaford (Dufford) owned approximately 882 acres at the time of his death.

All of these things wouldn’t necessarily equate to anything except for the fact that when Jacob Dufford first arrived in the colonies he did so as a poor farmer. Somehow, over time, he amassed hundreds of acres by the time of this death. While much of this can be a testament of his work ethic, it is also logical to assume that some of this land acquired was from his service during the Revolution (not just a donation to the cause). This is why when considering both the hard evidence and the circumstantial facts surrounding the life of Jacob Dufford of Virginia, I believe that, despite his age at the time, he is the one who served in the Flying Camp as a member of Baxter’s Battalion and was captured at the Battle of Long Island.   

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Prime Day Done Right

Last year most viewed Amazon Prime Day as nothing more than a ploy as the online retailer didn’t really offer up any of the amazing deals that everyone was expecting. While I didn’t have as strong a response last year, there was clearly room for improvement as I only found a few items that were of interest with most of those small purchases being for my son. When all was said and done, the real deals were on items that only a few people were looking to purchase while the rest of us not finding any discounts beyond that which we have been seeing for years in the daily deals. This was the expectation that many of us had when Amazon announced that they would, once again, have an Amazon Prime Day on July 12th.

This was probably why it wasn’t until later in the morning when I decided to log into my account and see if there was anything that piqued my interest. Scrolling through the pages upon pages of discounted products I did find a couple that I considered purchasing and subsequently added them to my cart. However, none of those things I would qualify as anything that I needed to purchase so I decided to take a closer look at some of the things that my wife and I had been looking to purchase that were, at the time, saved in my cart for future consideration.

It was in these items, varied as they may be, that I noticed the huge difference between the flop last year and the vastly improved experience this time around. While I couldn’t find anything that was singled out as a deal, I did find that most of the products and items in my cart were part of a larger category or collection of items that were being offered at 10, 20, and 30 percent off. This is the kind of sale that many of us were looking for last year and were now ready to take advantage of this summer.

And this didn’t just apply to the new items. I also noticed that many categories in the “Amazon Warehouse” carried with them the same discount. The compounded savings on a few items finally pushed me to purchase some of the things that I had been thinking about for some time and now, at nearly 70 and 80 percent off, it was definitely the time to buy.

It may not have seemed likely but Amazon did actually learn something from the tepid response that they received the first time around and now, it is safe to say, most of us are looking forward to how they will improve the experience in the years to come. Of course, those beyond the 1 hour delivery areas are just waiting for our packages to arrive. And some of us are just letting them take their time so that we can further our frugality just a little bit more with the digital credits we are earning because we are willing to wait. Safe to say that next week should be an interesting UPS experience.