Monday, February 29, 2016

Mortgage Monday: An Extra Day To Assess


Well, our next mortgage payment was delayed by an extra day as we have a bonus 24 hours this month. While usually not something to write about the warm weather lately has made this extra time particularly enjoyable especially with nearly all of the remaining snow melting in the spring like air. As the white lines have receded I have been noticing the work that has yet to be done on the property as well as the yard chores that I failed to complete before the bitterness of the winter season took hold.

Walking around the driveway I can see that the retaining wall is a little more deteriorated than I originally realized but it is still holding back the earth. Thankfully, we have some time before the rotting railroad ties are going to have to be replaced. Good thing I know a stone mason living next door. Of course, the leaves wedged against the base of the wall are not helping the situation. As soon as the weather turns toward the regularity of spring I am going to have to do some significant clearing.

That clearing doesn’t just apply to the base of the wall as the flower beds and much of the lawn still has a health covering of foliage. While we already have a rake I am going to have to pick up the lawnmower attachment and switch out the snow blower. With all these things that need to be done in the near future I kind of wish that we could put this extra day in the bank and use it for when we need it especially if we could do so to extend a weekend.

However, some of the good things that I have definitely noticed during this extra time is that even with all the snow piled by the wind against the house, the basement has remained dry. Noisy with the boiler switching on and off all day and night by dry nevertheless. With that said, there are a few spots that also need to be addressed on the subterranean level as the sealant is showing signs of age in spots and a fresh coating should be applied before the monsoons of spring.

There are always projects that will need to be done… we accepted this fact when we decided to become home owners and at least there are many items that aren’t dire and that can wait a little while for when we have the time. Heck, they are probably going to be taken care of when we have all the optional work done on the house. Now that list is one that is growing much faster than that of the mandatory fixes.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Search: Digital Digging And Rediscovering


Toward the beginning of the year I was finally able to start sorting through many of the items that I tossed in my desk in an initial effort to get everything put away shortly after we moved into our new home. While there were countless pens that needed to be organized and old power cords and technology that needed to be tossed, there were also a number of digital storage devices that piqued my attention as I rescued them from the grips of the office clutter.

Once I consolidated everything into a couple of plastic sealable bags (one for SD cards and the other for flash drives), I shoved them into a pocket in my work bag with the plan of scanning the contents later in the week. A few days and then a week passed without even a single look. Then, having accidentally pulled one of the bags out by the corner while retrieving my laptop, I unsealed both bags and slid the first of about a dozen SD cards into my computer.

I was actually quite surprised when I found absolutely nothing. However, that was the only empty card as each of the others contained the photos from all of our summer trips from the past several years. Great items to hold on to for the current twigs of the family tree but nothing much more than that. Thankfully when I plugged in the first, and the oldest, flash drive into my computer, there were a multitude of documents that I hadn’t seen in at least a decade (not really a surprise given that I remember this 256kb card being the first I ever used). And as I loaded more and more into my computer, I was able to pull older photos, documents, and the entire digitized genealogy binder that my great aunt put together.

Not satisfied with these rediscoveries I tried to think of all the other means of digital storage that I have utilized over the years… this lead me to pulling out my wife’s old external hard drive as we both used this 1TB monster for many years and it primarily served as our joint computer backup in the past. Well, on this I found even more photos and documents that I had long since forgotten about including the random pieces that I had come across years ago… items that I still don’t know if they are relevant to our family tree.

The digging was almost done as there was still a group of pictures that I had yet to find. Well, actually, I had found them some time ago stored on Shutterfly but only in low resolution. I wanted the originals, I wanted to see the memories from our wedding and honeymoon the way that I remember them… as clear as the moment they happened. A few boxes and CDs later and these too where added to our story, our small leaves in our ever-growing tree. It’s nice to have most of the pieces together for at least one generation.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Something A Little Different At The Office


Every once in a while there is something a little different that happens at the office. Well, not at the office necessarily but with our clients. I’m not talking about anything major just a minor change in the routine. This was the case last week when we took a momentary step back from our usual public relations duties and assisted in the creation of a video case study. For me, this was a first, as in all my years of experience there has been an odd gap in this area… plenty of written case studies but nothing that was committed to film.

Unfortunately, due to a previous obligation, I was not on site for the shooting of the interviews or the organization at work but I have been taking part in about every other aspect of the process from coordination to script creation. Come to think of it, it has been some time since I have been involved in writing for the camera as I believe the last time I ventured into that genre was during a screen writing class in grad school the lessons and techniques from which I am still employing today.

Of course, while some may see the filming as the culmination of our work. It is really on the midpoint at best as there has certainly been plenty of work prior and there is still a multitude of objectives that must be met afterward. This includes editing, dissemination, publication, and making sure that everything is ready to go for a trade show in a couple of months. Additionally, this project might lead to similar projects with a few other customers down the road including the possibility of filming at the aforementioned trade show. It just goes to show that most of the time great work leads to more great work.

In the week since the raw footage was captured, it has been a waiting game as we are all eager to see the resulting product. We pretty much know what to expect but nothing is ever certain until you see it for yourself. In the meantime, many of those other projects are slowly unfolding and there has been a plethora of other projects both for this client and others that have occupied my time and my mind. This includes some upcoming travel and a few things that are finally coming to fruition. All of these things took a considerable amount of time and energy to get done but, in the end, our clients are happy which means we are doing our jobs and exceeding expectations.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Firearms Friday: Justice Scalia


A couple of weeks ago we lost a tremendous intellect on the Supreme Court when Antonin Scalia passed away. While there have been many who have criticized his views over the years, including in the firearms community, there is no questioning the passion that he had for the Constitution and for the true intent of the Founding Fathers who wrote it. In fact, there were times when he himself didn’t completely agree with his own decision but reached the conclusion that he did because it was the right decision. As he has been quoted as saying, “If you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.”

Surprisingly, one of the more balanced ‘obituaries’ written shortly after his death can be attributed to Mark Sherman at the Associated Press who rightly focused on Scalia’s commitment to textualism. In part, he writes:

Scalia showed a deep commitment to originalism, which he later began calling textualism. Judges had a duty to give the same meaning to the Constitution and laws as they had when they were written. Otherwise, he said disparagingly, judges could decide that "the Constitution means exactly what I think it ought to mean."

A challenge to a Washington, D.C., gun ban gave Scalia the opportunity to display his devotion to textualism. In a 5-4 decision that split the court's conservatives and liberals, Scalia wrote that an examination of English and colonial history made it exceedingly clear that the Second Amendment protected Americans' right to have guns, at the very least in their homes and for self-defense. The dissenters, also claiming fidelity to history, said the amendment was meant to ensure that states could raise militias to confront a too-powerful federal government if necessary.

But Scalia rejected that view. "Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct," Scalia wrote.

Unfortunately, his passing leaves a gaping hole in the highest court in the land. Not because he sided primarily with one party or another but because he was an originalist. There is too much ‘selective interpretation’ in politics and in the courts today and having someone relying solely on the text is a tremendous grounding asset that has been taken for granted for too long. Additionally, the passion that he freely expressed for our founding document is something that was evident in the eloquence of his majority opinions but especially in his dissenting opinions.

It is a shame that the two things that have been talked about most since his passing is the lack of respect by the President in not attending his funeral (but he took the time to meet with the ‘death to the police’ Black Lives Matter organizers) and the ongoing debate surrounding the nomination of a replacement. Here is a revolutionary idea, why don’t we honor his memory by nominating someone who views our Constitution in the same unbiased way making decisions based on the text rather than the social flavor of the month. No politics, just focusing on the text. I’m not even asking for nine, I just want to see one Justice on the Supreme Court who takes their oath literally.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Collection Is Growing Exponentially!


Over the years I have had various business cards of different designs and for different purposes. Starting in college, I found this to be a great tool when going to meetings, networking events, and when interviewing for jobs. Having a clear, well designed business card has always made a great impression and proved to be a key early on in both my academic and professional careers.

It is actually interesting for me to look back at all of my old cards as I have kept copies from every address and position that I have held over the years. While many times I opted for a very basic design and layout, there are other cards when I used a little creativity to help them stand out. Having recently in the late fall and wanting to change things up a bit, I found myself in a position where I needed to update my cards. While in the past I have always walked into the local Staples to get the work done, this time around I decided to give Vistaprint a try.

The basic templates and stock options were all reasonable and offered a wide variety for just about any profession or service imaginable. While there was nothing with a square and compass I did find an appropriate design with just a hint of blue that I was able to tailor to my needs. With a thick linen stock, these new cards should hold up much better than the last batch and it was only a couple dollars more for the batch of 500.

Designing my personal cards was a little more of an involved process as I really wanted to change things up as compared to the ones that I have had printed in the past. With a stockpile of photos from various trips at my immediate disposal, I decided that this would be a perfect time to use some of my favorite images. So I went with a full color design on the front and back evenly spacing four photos on the front and six on the back. It seems like a lot but it actually worked out and looks fantastic.

Of course, when placing this order I was given the option to purchase an address stamp at a significant discount. With the amount of physical mail that I still send out on a regular basis this was well worth the five dollar investment. When I received the order at work the following week the cards were better than expected but the stamp fell short. More accurately, it was a little off center and tilted. However, to their credit, it took me about two minutes to get everything squared away with customer service and a new unit was in hand by the end of the week.

So now I find myself with quite the collection of active business cards as I have two personal options, one for lodge, one for work, and I am also receiving promotional business cards for each book that I publish. I have two in hand so far with two more on the way and a more that will follow later in the year. By the end of the year I may have a pocket full of about a dozen options. I think I may have a problem.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Catching Up On Correspondences


My lodge email has been rather active lately with correspondences not only from brothers from the lodge and the district but from Grand Lodge and potential candidates as well. This is in addition to what has become an abnormally busy beginning to the year more so than the previous two years. While I do my best to keep current with all inbound communications it has gotten to the point that there are moments when I find myself a few days behind and having to sit in front of the computer at night drafting email after email in the hope that I will be caught up by morning. Keep in mind that this is in addition to the calls and texts that I receive. 

However, given the nature of the letters and notes that I have received, I can’t really complain about the work that needs to be done on a regular basis. I wouldn’t be sifting through the digital pages were we not growing and increasing our activity. These are great signs for the future and speaks volumes of the present group of brothers that are active in the fraternity. With that in mind, keep the emails coming.

On the other hand, I know that many of the emails that I receive wouldn’t have even been sent if I were able to make it to the lodge every week so some of the clutter is completely on me. I simply can’t be two places at once and this is what I need to do to keep things going. Actually, come to think of it, I get more frustrated with the lack of communication from some people every now and again. This adds significantly to the work that I need to get done and the emails that need to be sent out as it is no longer a means of replying but reminding, starting, or restarting a conversation.

And the work continues to pile up on my virtual desk as there are a few other tasks that need to be completed this spring including various audits the biggest of which, for me, are going to be the membership and records audits ensuring that our numbers are accurate and all our information has been correctly migrated to the new site. This could possibly be the task that I am least looking forward to but I know that it has to be done by the spring. I expect many corrections, correspondences, and long nights to stem from this endeavor as well. But, right now, I am going to focus on projects that need to be taken care of before the meeting next week.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Hungry Baby


The whole back and forth during meal time is something that we expected to encounter with our some but we were happily unaware of many of the factors that come into play during these parts of our daily routine. Our son can be fickle at times when it comes to what he wants to eat. Sometimes he doesn’t like the taste of something while other time he simply prefers having something else, something he knows he likes better than what is being offered. It is a back and forth at times but something that we remain cognizant of as we don’t want his pickiness to persist.

However, lately there has been a different issue that has arisen during meal times that has him turning his nose up at certain foods being offered. There actually three reasons that we have discovered for his disagreement actually. The first is that he has so many teeth coming in that there are some foods that do not agree with swollen gums and new oral protrusions. The texture has to be just right at times. The second sometimes relates to the first as he is now preferring larger pieces of food… too small and he will sometimes refuse to eat, too big and we are cleaning up more than pieces dropped on the floor. Too hot or cold will also result in the same kind of reaction. I guess you could call all of these things contributing factors to the Goldilocks conundrum.  

When all of these things are at play at the same time it can make for quite the difficult meal and usually ends with various pieces of edible confetti strewn about the kitchen floor. Other times everything goes as ‘planned’ or at least pretty close and he stuffs his face like he is late for a meeting or something. The latter is particularly funny when we give him a whole cereal bar and he proceeds to devour it just as fast if not faster than most adults.

Overall, we have learned to not get in the way of a hungry baby as there is a possibility that you might lose a finger in the process. Mmmmm, meaty! In fact, we try to give him his space once we put food on his tray as there are times when he won’t eat if someone is watching him. This works out for us as we can either get a few things done in the kitchen or, gasp, eat dinner at the same time. After all, that is the goal that we are working toward as we want this to be a time spent with family around the dinner table.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mortgage Monday: A Means To Reconnect


There has been an unexpected benefit to moving into our own house that we have enjoyed over the past several months. Since the day the movers unpacked our furniture and belongings at our new address, we have been able to get together with a number of people with whom we have lost contact over the last couple of years. With all that has transpired we, for lack of a better term, closed ranks for a while just trying to get through some of the tougher moments that we have encountered. Since moving we have been able to open up and reconnect with a myriad of people that have been nothing but supportive and understanding of all that has gone on.

Recently, we were able to invite our Rabbi and his wife to our new home for lunch. I personally owe this man a lot for helping me become who I am today most notably in serving as my mentor during my conversion. My wife and I owe them both a great deal for providing us with the support and guidance over the years specifically during a rather interesting Aliyah experience. We were lucky to have them close by when we were living in Israel and were able to meet with them on several occasions to help us with our difficult decision to return.

As I mentioned previously, this has also been the impetus, or at least one of the contributing factors, in motivating us to restart our family newsletter. It is reassuring to know that in future years these annual reports will always be coming from our home… there is no longer the question of from where the newsletter will be sent. And we no longer have to include a section about moving. By the way, after a few unexpected delays, they are finally in the mail!

Most importantly, over the past few months, our home has been a means to reconnect with people. As I have admitted before, I am not the best person at keeping in touch with others. This has proven to be a great way to restart long dormant conversations and a means to discuss updates with friends and find out what they have been up to. Of course, now the goal is to keep myself from reverting back into old habits and putting forth the effort, and finding the time, to have substantive conversations with friends and family that I truly enjoy talking to and with which I continue to have great conversations.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Search: Paper Or Plastic


Over the past couple of weeks I have been scrambling to find documents and pictures both on my computer and in my files. It seems as though whenever I needed a physical copy I only had it digitally and whenever I needed a digital copy I could only find the physical one. It have just been one of those streaks but it also reminded me of the importance of the need to have family pictures and documents stored both physically and digitally. Simply put, you never know what might happen in the future and you don’t want to be in a position where you find yourself without all the research that you worked so hard to compile.

In my search for certain records and in the stories passed down the family, there are numerous examples of physical photos and files being destroyed by fire, water, or things that have simply vanished. All of these instances happened at a time when the digitization of these records was not possible making their loss permanent. There isn’t a week that goes by when I wonder what information could have been found in those records and the details that we will never have again.

On the other side of the equation. I have gotten to know a number of people in the genealogy community over the past few years and there have been moments when I have spoken to someone who had amassed a massive database of family history which they stored on their computer. Unfortunately, they had not gotten around to printing out all the documents and pictures when their computer crashed. While most of the time it is possible to retrieve the data from the hard drive, in this instance all the records were lost. All they were left with was a few physical pictures and documents here and there… they hadn’t even gotten up to loading everything on Ancestry. It was basically a return to the beginning.

While I am admittedly behind in this endeavor, I am slowly chipping away at syncing my research so that I have digital and physical copies of everything. Note that this includes storage on my computer and on an external hard drive. Once this has been achieved I will begin loading everything onto Ancestry. That’s not to say that I don’t load things to my tree from time to time but there is much more to be shared, more than most people in the family realize. Maybe I will be able to relax once this first big project is done and the ongoing maintenance becomes manageable. However, just stick to remembering the important thing… when someone asks you whether you prefer paper or plastic always pick both.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Shots In The Middle Of The Work Day


It is always an odd feeling for me getting up in the morning on a week day and not rushing to get out of the house and on the road. Sometimes it is a holiday and the office is closed while other times it is because of weather. However, Friday was one of those days when it just made more sense for me to work from home due to an appointment right in the middle of the afternoon. Believe it or not, it was time for our son’s one year wellness check and I wasn’t going to miss this one.

As the day progressed and a surprising amount of work was accomplished, the minutes and hours seemed to evaporate. Before I had a chance to stop and assess where I was in the day, I looked up and found that I only had about 15 minutes before heading out the door. With a little bit of time left and about twice that amount of time in work remaining, somehow I managed to power through and get out the door with a couple minutes to spare. Well, that is what I thought.

On my way to the daycare to pick up our son, I couldn’t have encountered more delays if I tried. Between the slow cars (clearly not knowing where they needed to go) and hitting every red light possible, I barely made it into the classroom with enough time to grab all of his stuff from the week, turn around, and try and make up some time on our way to the doctor. Thankfully, our son was quietly watching the scenery the whole was and we did make it to the doctor on time about a minute before my wife pulled into the parking space beside us.

As we checked in and handed the woman at the front desk the forms to transfer our son’s medical record to a new doctor, our name was called. This may have been the first time that we didn’t have to wait since we first started bringing our son to this office right after he was born. While there were a few things that we specifically asked the doctor to check (and yes we actually saw the doctor this time), the great news of the appointment was that our little baby isn’t so little anymore falling within the 75th percentile in nearly all of the usual measurements. And that is when the calmness came to an end and the needles entered the room.

While the tears began almost as soon as we laid him on the examining table, he surprisingly wanted his daddy when everything was done. By the time we left with a multitude of papers and forms in hand, our big boy had calmed down and was clearly ready to go home. With my wife taking our son home, I was able to get a few local errands done before joining them back at the house and taking the time to play with our son before his abnormally early bed time. It was a long day and an appointment we weren’t really looking forward to but it went about as well as we could have expected. Sometimes, that is the best day especially when the result is that our son is pretty darn healthy!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Achieving The Improbable!


When I first started this daily blog I had what I thought was a rather far fetched goal. I had never kept a daily blog before (heck, even my old journals have days missing here and there) and I knew that it was going to be a challenge but I still wanted to set a milestone that was possible even if it wasn’t probable. We all have these kinds of goals stored in the recesses of our minds many of which are forgotten regardless of whether they are actually achieved. Well, I clearly haven’t forgotten and now the improbable has happened as I find myself writing my 1000th post.

Obviously, things have changed quite a bit since those first words were made public and the title of the blog has gone from descriptive to ironic but, overall, the basic purpose of the blog remains the same… honest reflections and reports about my life including my thoughts on topics and current events that piqued my interest. With that said, I have held myself to the basic guidelines of 400+ words per post which will be posted every day (although there are a few times I have had to play catch up). It has certainly been trying at times but, looking back, I am happy with the overall content that I have been able to produce and the ability that this blog affords me to look back at the details of certain moments in my wife especially those surrounding the birth of my son.

Not only has this blog served its basic purpose of pushing me to write but it has also forced me to pay closer attention to the world around me, the experiences that I have had, rework some of my long forgotten creative projects, keep in touch with people (family, friends, and followers), and simply appreciate all that has happened in my life. This is a record of my life which I can now pass on and while I started this for more selfish reasons I am now motivated to keep writing so that my son has something to look back on. This is now his life too.

One of the other ideas that developed in my mind as this milestone inched closer over the years is what I was going to do to celebrate this achievement. Well, sometimes the best way to celebrate the present is to revisit the past. Prior to this month, the last time that I published a book was in the summer of 2005 and now I have two additional books that have been resurrected from my hard drive, Paintings In Under A Thousand Words: Nature Poems and What Was Not Said: Echoes from the Holocaust. Both of these collections where compiled years ago and relegated to the confines of a small USB sitting in my desk. Now, having found the motivation in keeping this daily blog, they are finally in print.


However, that is just the beginning of the celebration as I am also turning many of the posts found on this blog into collections. They will, of course, be compiled based on topic and should be published throughout the year. The first two of these books are currently in the editorial process (I had forgotten how much “fun” there was in reviewing a galley proof), Out On The Limbs: Searching For Answers In the Family Tree and The Good, The Bad, and The Adorable: My First Year as a Father. These should be available within the next month. Again, those are just the first two with other collections from the blog to follow soon after as well as a few other creative projects unrelated to the blog that I have been working on.

So, I will end this post in much the same manner that I have concluded other milestone entries by offering my thanks to all of you who continue to read these simple words, those who continue to support this endeavor, and the family, friends, brothers, and colleagues that make these posts possible. Here’s to you. Here’s to the first thousand. And, here’s to the thousands that are to follow! It is only going to get better from here!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Editing And Emailing


A couple of weeks ago I was making the final round of edits to my new book when I decided to do a quick search of my previous titles to see if they were still available for sale. Given the fact that this new volume would incorporate basically all of the previously published works I was going to pull the printing of the previous collections…. Don’t want multiple versions in the marketplace at the same time. Well, that was my original intent but it wasn’t what I found.

As it turns out, the publisher for my previous collection had gone under in the decade since my chapbook was put into print. I guess you could say that this issue was resolved much faster than expected. However, when I dug a little deeper, I did find a couple of websites that had scanned the contents and basically made the book available for digital download. This is not something that I approved or appreciated so I did some research and found the people with whom I needed to speak from the websites.

For those of you who may run into this issue of copyright infringement, here is the DMCA Notice letter that I sent:

To Whom It May Concern, 


My name is Sean and I am the author of Kaddish Diary. Your website, SAMPLE.net is infringing on at least one copyright owned by me.

A book was copied onto your servers without permission. The original book and poems, to which I own the exclusive copyrights, can be found at:


The unauthorized and infringing copy can be found at:

http://SAMPLE.net/kaddish-diary

This letter is official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (”DMCA”), and I seek the removal of the aforementioned infringing material from your servers and website. I request that you immediately notify the infringer of this notice and inform them of their duty to remove the infringing material immediately, and notify them to cease any further posting of infringing material to your server in the future.

Please also be advised that law requires you, as a service provider, to remove or disable access to the infringing materials upon receiving this notice. Under US law a service provider, such as yourself, enjoys immunity from a copyright lawsuit provided that you act with deliberate speed to investigate and rectify ongoing copyright infringement. If service providers do not investigate and remove or disable the infringing material this immunity is lost. Therefore, in order for you to remain immune from a copyright infringement action you will need to investigate and ultimately remove or otherwise disable the infringing material from your servers with all due speed should the direct infringer, your client, not comply immediately.

I am providing this notice in good faith and with the reasonable belief that rights I own are being infringed. Under penalty of perjury I certify that the information contained in the notification is both true and accurate, and I have the authority to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright(s) involved.

Should you wish to discuss this with me please contact me directly.

Regards,

Sean

Unfortunately, after sending off this request and continuing the search for some of the other books in which my work has been included, I found that Charles Fishman’s anthology, Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust, was also out of print due to the publisher discontinuing operations at the end of last year. I guess I chose the right time to work on the manuscripts that have been sitting on my computer for the last ten years. Stay tuned for details about this and other books that I am releasing to the masses this year!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Stacking Meetings

This is what needs to be done every night I go to the lodge...
At the last stated meeting I made arrangements with the new Treasurer that we would meet every third Tuesday of the month. It is a schedule that works out for both of us as I am usually able to make it to lodge on those days and he has greater flexibility during the second half of the month. So, being that yesterday was the third Tuesday, we were both there to have our monthly discussion. However, that was only one of the meetings that I scheduled.

Before any of the other brothers arrived in Ardmore, I met with a new CPA who is also a brother of the lodge and was recommended by another brother with whom I have conducted some personal business. Frankly, I have become fed up with the previous CPA firm that we have been using as their prices are astronomical and there is no regularity from year to year. Basically, I have no idea who will be preparing our taxes. The connection we once had with the firm is long gone and the time for change is long overdue.

As expected, the meeting went very well and I am happy to hand off our taxes this spring to someone I can trust. Of course, by the time we were wrapping up our conversation, there were a few others that had arrived and just as we were about to part ways my next meeting quickly started. Having gone through the requests for information that the lodge has received recently, I scheduled some time to meet with another prospective candidate (I was originally going to meet with two prospects but there was some unavoidable family matter that came up with one of them). I prefer meeting in person and actually having a conversation rather than relying on email or phone conversations.

He may have been the youngest prospect that I have corresponded with so far but he was actually very well informed and we were able to answer many of the initial questions that he had for us about the lodge in particular and Freemasonry in general. Honestly, I am just glad that I was able to answer his questions as, despite recent interest, I have been a little rusty in handing such questions. In the end, honesty never gets old, and that is how I respond to queries that I receive. After the great introductory meeting, I gave him a quick tour of the building, and we parted ways with a plan on meeting again for dinner before the March stated meeting.

By this time the evening was already getting a bit long and it was time to sit down with the Treasurer, and a past Treasurer, to review the books. This is an ongoing issue lately as we want to make sure everything is in line for the current year especially with the audit deadline rapidly approaching. There was some clear progress that has been made and, after our most recent meeting, I am both thankful for all the help that we are receiving and confident that everything will be ready for submission by the end of next month.

By the time that we were all walking back to our cars I was exhausted but also satisfied with the work that I was able to get done both during the day and while at the lodge. We have a great group of brothers that come out on Tuesday nights and there is a lot that is being accomplished during these meetings. Now more than ever, I am looking forward to the progress that will have achieved by the end of the year and the positive changes that will have taken place (more than what already has transpired). Until then, we just have to keep getting our work done.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

TMI Tuesday: More Presents!


Over the last couple of weeks my wife and I have been picking up supplies, coordinating food, and ordering a special cake (the product from the local Walmart was surprisingly good). It was all for a very special day and a memory that we wanted our son to carry with him in these early recollections of life. So, with the Mickey decorations strewn about the kitchen and lining the driveway, this past weekend we had a very small gathering at our home to celebrate our son’s birthday (even though we think the calendar is lying to us). It was a great, low key, get together which actually required less preparation and clean up than my wife and I were expecting.

While he is now playing shy around most people now, it was great seeing him play and watching his face light up when a present piqued his interest. After lunch and presents it was time for cake and while most kids would love to smash the heck out of the confection and get icing on their face, our son wanted nothing to do with this and was displeased when the blue icing founds its way to his face (with a little assistance… and no it wasn’t me). After that it was just about time to pass out for the afternoon and to recover from the mid-day activities.

In the few days since this gathering we did our best to continue making this a special time for our son. In addition to the plethora of presents that were brought or sent to the house, we have continued to celebrate his birth and giving him a little more leeway regarding play and television time… Mickey is just as entertaining the second, third, and forth times on the loop. However, with so much activity and simulation (plus some intense teething), his schedule is a little off and, when playing, he sometimes has trouble deciding what new toy to play with. While we originally put his other toys away before the party as a means of keeping things clean, it has actually served us well as there is now a whole new host of toys at his disposal.  

It has been a great couple of days celebrating our son’s birthday and I am glad that we spread the distraction over the entire weekend. Even though there have been moments of readjustment after so many days following an alternate routine, it has been well worth the effort and few hiccups along the way. I guess you could mark this down as another first experience of parenthood… the birthday party hangover.

Monday, February 15, 2016

One Day Makes A Difference


Even as I type these words and watch them appear on the screen I still can’t believe that it has already been a year since we met our son for the first time. Our lives changed in an instant and I can still remember the feeling of shock that originally hit me when my wife’s water broke. While I was able to pull myself together, collect most of our things, and drive us down the snow dusted highway to the hospital, that daze didn’t really lift until hours later when our son grabbed my finger for comfort as the nurse cleaned him off.

There are moments from that day, and from the week for that matter, that remain a little hazy having melded together in a jumbled memory but there are also moments, good and bad, that remain clear as if they only happened an hour or two ago. That is what makes this passage of time so unbelievable. And while there have been trying moments to be sure during this first year of parenthood, I wouldn’t never want to go back to the way things used to be. Being a father, sometimes even a good father, is what I enjoy most each and every day.

It has been an interesting year full of first experiences, difficult moments, and challenging situations. It has been a calendar full of change but one that has brought us to a great place in our lives. There have been the funny moments of dodging poo and casting wee rainbows, nurturing times when our son got sick or was overwhelmed during his growth spurts, and adorable moments when he would smile, laugh, or nuzzle in our arms. And the daily joy beaming from his face, some days it is more prevalent than others, is enough to make even the most difficult days disappear.

Of course, we also find ourselves in the unique position of celebrating and mourning at the same time. While our son’s birth and my mother-in-law’s passing technically happened on the same day, this is one of the times that I insist on going by the Hebrew calendar. By doing so our son's birthday, the 26th of Sh'vat, 5775, is separated from the date on which my mother-in-law passed away, 27th of Sh'vat, 5775. Having that single day of separation makes a huge difference at times. It is interesting how faith can be comfort in the most obscure ways in addition to the guidance that it provides during times of struggle.

However, while there are no trips to grandma’s house that our son will remember about growing up, he still knows his grandma and recognizes her in pictures. It hasn’t been easy but there is a bond between the two of them that we both wanted for our children long before our baby became a reality. We didn’t plan on it happening this way but the important thing is that they are connected, our son knows his grandma, and his laugh when he sees her picture eases just a little bit of the pain from that day.

And this is just one of the many ways that our son continues to change how we look at life and the world. At times he has been our sole reason for happiness but mostly he has provided us with the love that permeates every moment of life and makes us remember that the love is what we always need to remember. Whether someone is here or not, the love remains. As I have said before, I will forever be thankful for that gift which our son has given us.

It is a complicated day, couple of days actually, but one that comes down to the most simple of statements… Happy 1st Birthday my adorable baby boy! Mommy and daddy love you!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Search: Valentine’s Day Genealogy


Today I thought I would do something a little different but completely appropriate given the Hallmark cards that are being handed out. One of the interesting things I frequently find myself pondering when researching the various ancestors in my family tree is about how these two, sometimes completely different, people met? Most of the time this information can only be found in the stories passed down from generation to generation.

When looking through many of the documents that my great Aunt has shared with me over the years, I came across a single page on which she has typed up what is basically a summary of her father’s life. Many of the facts are easy to find in the census, birth certificate, marriage, and death records but there were also details not contained in those documents including a little about his work history as well as, and what is most appropriate given the subject of this post, what brought my great grandparents together. Here is exactly what my great aunt, whom I have written about before, wrote about her parents:

Harry was the son of LeRoy and Sally Clapsaddle Teaford. He was one of nine children. He was born in 1895 and died in 1963. His first employment was as a quarry worker in a local mill that his father managed. He became interested in farming and had a love for horses. In 1916 he met Nettie Love of Sugar Tree Hollow. Nettie and her sister were accomplished equestrians. Nettie won several awards at local fairs where she rode English (side saddle) style. Their mutual interest in horses brought Harry and Nettie together and they were married in 1917 at the Eagle Rock Baptist Church. Shortly after they moved to Lorraine, Ohio. They stayed in Ohio only a short time and moved back to the Eagle Rock area. Harry began working as a farmer and over the following years worked for several large farm owners. His favorite position was with the Graham Burhnman Farm in Gala. During their time in Virginia the family had twelve children. All twelve children were born in Virginia.  


However, more often than not, we don’t have these stories written down for us. Many times we have to try and find and fill in the details with the documents that we do have. Such is the case with my great grandparents on my mom’s side of the family. Basically, the census is what really reveals how they met and given the fact of with whom they were each living at the time, it really is a matter of what some would call fate. My great grandparents, William J. McKannan and Helen W. Fulton, can be found listed in the 1910 census living next door to one another. Both 19 at the time, Helen’s family was living in her grandmother’s house while William was living with his mother and sister at his uncle’s house… his father, my great great grandfather, was working for the Pennsylvania Railroad in Trenton, New Jersey at the time. Two years after the census was taken William and Helen were married. Unfortunately, as I have written about before, it was a marriage that wouldn’t last.  

Sometimes other forces intervene in order for fate to take hold ensuring that what was meant to be becomes reality. It is true in my family tree and it is true in how my wife and I met. There are countless factors that brought us to that Barnes & Noble in Bryn Mawr that particular night when I, having just published my book "Kaddish Diary”, was giving a reading and my wife was working the floor. It was that instant when we, coming from completely different backgrounds with vastly different experiences, met for the first time each of us taking the chance and getting to know one another. The same chance that my great grandparents took when they first saw one another.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Caucus Results: Thinning the Hurd


Regardless of your party affiliation, it is always entertaining to watch the first votes cast of the year. Of course, having both tickets up for grabs makes for a much more interesting few weeks. As the results are tabulated in Iowa and then New Hampshire the following week, you can see the energy shift from one candidate to another. Sometimes the results are expected as they essentially meet the predicted percentages that the polling reflected days or weeks prior. However, sometimes there are little twists that basically throw the nomination back up in the air.

This year, Iowa gave us the first culling of the heard on both sides with O’Malley, Huckabee, Santorum, and, unfortunately, Rand Paul, suspending their campaigns following disappointing support. At the same time, there were a few candidates that got a surprising level of support in the first round with the socialist Sanders nearly edging out Clinton, Cruz winning by a surprising margin over Trump, and Rubio nearly taking second place from the lewd Billionaire. However, when all the votes were tallied and the concessions faded into the campaign records, Rubio seemed to be the most presidential both in the support that he received and the gracious yet substantive speech that he made. 

The Iowa Caucus made for some intriguing foreshadowing for what was to transpire in New Hampshire Primary where the outsider candidates, Trump and Sanders, claimed victory. Not surprisingly, following a poor debate performance over the weekend, Rubio fell a couple of spots. However, in the end, the primary did just what it was designed to do… it narrowed the field as both Christie and Fiorina suspended their campaigns following single digit turnouts.

If you want to know what role these initial dry runs have on the process, this is exactly it. We can’t head into November with a dozen candidates on the ballot. In a matter of two weeks a half dozen campaigns came to an abrupt halt. However, it seems as though the vote is still quite divided, more so than it has been in some time, and this whole process could drag on into the summer when Pennsylvania has a darn good chance of determining who will represent their party in the Presidential election. This is clearly case on the Republican side but is also a possibility on the Democrat side as the FBI may finally catch up to Clinton and the vacuum could draw a few more late entries into the fray… makes you wonder why Clinton’s campaign slogan isn’t “Catch me if you can!”

Anyway, it should continue to be an interesting race throughout the year especially if Trump keeps putting his foot in his mouth and Cruz keeps hiring actresses that will put anything in their mouths. Maybe we get lucky and both happen opening the door for Rubio. Of course, this is only half of the ticket and I am curious to see the candidates that have been bandied about as running mates. Could Rand Paul still be in the mix? I guess we will have to wait and see.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Firearms Friday: A Tale Of Two States


The laws that have been proposed, speeches given, and legislation that has been passed over the past few years is troubling to say the least and unconstitutional at worst. While we have been able to fight and defeat many of these bogus promises of safety, there are a few that managed to get on the books and have been restricting the rights of second amendment practitioners ever since. One of the more egregious and confusing laws which was brought to my attention recently is one that comes from, don’t be shocked, California.

A number of years ago (effective January 1, 2001), legislators in the Fool’s Gold state enacted PC 12131 which established the “Safe Handgun Roster.” While sold to the public as a means to limit the sale of unsafe firearms in the communist bloc, the reality of the legislation is that it was a means to shake down the firearms industry by imposing unnecessary testing and exorbitant fees on an annual basis. No wonder why Leland Yee turned to the black market!

The definitions of those firearms that meet the criteria to get on this list was then expanded upon in 2007 as “legislators passed AB 1471 which mandated that all semi-automatic pistols must employ microstamping technology.” What this now means is previous generations of firearms are safely housed on this arbitrary list while new generations are considered un-safe. A perfect example of this is the cluster that one law enforcement finds themselves in as they attempt to transition to the 4th generation Glock 19 as their service weapon. According to the Attorney General, the office of which previously exempt law enforcement from selecting from the list, they are a generation too late and therefore cannot use their newly purchased roster of service side arms.

There is a much more comprehensive blog post on Full30 at the following link, which was referenced for much of the material above, if you would like to read more about this SNAFU: https://blog.full30.com/ca-gun-law-stupidity-knows-no-bounds/.

However, not all the news recently makes you want to slam your head against the wall repeatedly. Come to think of it that might make that a semi-automatic assault wall which would also be illegal in California. It also used to be illegal in Maryland until the good news was handed down by the Maryland 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Kolbe v. Hogan decision. The case challenged the 2013 Maryland arms prohibition statute which bans the sale of firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and also bans many firearms, by labeling them as “assault weapons.”

Some of the important highlights which were reported in the Washington Post include:

In a 2-1 decision written by Chief Judge Traxler [appointed by President Clinton in 1998], the Fourth Circuit held that strict scrutiny is the proper standard of review for bans on common arms, such as those at issue in Kolbe. The case was remanded to the district court, which had applied the wrong standard, namely a weak version of intermediate scrutiny. The Maryland attorney general announced that he will seek en banc or Supreme Court reversal of the Kolbe decision. Below is a summary of the most important parts of the Kolbe decision.

Why the arms are part of the Second Amendment
Magazines holding more than 10 rounds are “common” and “standard.” There are more than 75 million of them in the United States. Indeed, “most pistols are manufactured with magazines holding ten to 17 rounds.” In fact, “Virtually every federal court to have addressed this question” has found that magazines over 10 rounds are in “common use,” and thus are covered by the Second Amendment.

Why strict scrutiny is appropriate
First, because the prohibition “burdens the availability and use of a class of arms for self-defense in the home, where the protection afforded by the Second Amendment is at its greatest.”

Second, because the burden is substantial, “not merely incidental.” For example, the statute imposes “a complete ban” on “AR-15 style rifles—the most popular class of centerfire semi-automatic rifles in the United States.” Notably, the ban “also reaches every instance where an AR-15 platform semi-automatic rifle or LCM [large capacity magazine] might be preferable to handguns or bolt-action rifles–for example hunting, recreational shooting, or competitive marksmanship events, all of which are lawful purposes protected by the Constitution.”

Strict scrutiny was also appropriate for the magazine ban, because “a citizen’s ability to defend himself and his home is enhanced with an LCM.” For example, the inherent difficulties of some defense situations mean that citizens often need the ability to fire multiple shots, and changing magazines while under violent attack may not be possible.

A statute that “completely prohibits, not just regulates, an entire category of weaponry . . . might be ‘equivalent to a ban on a category of speech.'” (Quoting D.C. Circuit Judge Kavanaugh’s dissent in the Heller II case.) The extensive prohibition is “akin to a law that ‘foreclose[s] an entire medium of expression.’ City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43, 55 (1994). Such laws receive exceptionally rigorous review in the analogous context of the First Amendment, id., and we see no reason for a different method here.”

Unlike some other courts that have upheld magazine and firearms bans, the Kolbe majority did not purport to be expert in gun-fighting tactics, or to claim that judges know what law-abiding citizens “need” for self-defense. To the contrary, the 4th Circuit recognized that under the Second Amendment and Heller, choices about self-defense are reserved to the defenders. For “whatever reason” particular arms are preferred by particular law-abiding citizens, “The right to self-defense is largely meaningless if it does not include the right to choose the most effective means of defending oneself. . . . The extent of danger—real or imagined—that a citizen faces at home is a matter only that person can assess in full.” (Quoting 7th Circuit Judge Manion’s dissent in Friedman v. Highland Park).

In the short term, this reestablished the second amendment rights of the citizens of Maryland but that it the short sighted measure of this case. The reaffirming ramifications of this decision could potentially be applied across the nation serving as the judicial support, firepower if you will, sometimes needed to protect and defend affronts to our Constitutional rights. Nicely done Maryland. Glad there are some in the courts will to take a stand and do something that the President refuses to do… defend the Constitution of the United States of America!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Funding Campaigns


Well, the time has come. While I have tried to avoid this for as long as possible, the time that it takes to maintain this blog and the resources that it requires (and the simple fact that I am running out of free ideas) that I start a fundraising campaign. I have also been asked about donating on a few occasions so this also provides the means for me to now accept those generous offers. Actually, because of the projects that I am working on, I am actually starting two fundraising campaigns through Patreon and Kickstarter respectively.

The Patreon campaign is ongoing and is designed to help with the recurring costs of maintaining this blog and raising the funds to take the blog to the next level. To this point, I have funded all research, travel, equipment, review products, and other expenses to maintain the daily stream of content. Obviously, this has come on a pretty tight budget and has hindered the growth of the blog which currently receives over 2,000 views per month. Patreon allows readers to donate monthly to the blog to support these efforts. Additional details about the campaign as well as incentives and ways the funds will be used can be found at https://www.patreon.com/SeanMT4D.


Understandably, not everyone is able to contribute on a monthly basis and many readers have specifically asked me about one topic in particular… genealogy. With those suggestions in mind I have started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 to really dig deep into my family tree. I admit that it is a lofty goal but it is also one that would allow me to expedite the process. The project is titled “Pruning The Family Tree: Questioning Facts and Fiction” and will result in a book most likely with the same title. Overall, the purpose of this project is not only to find those elusive answers but also to give shape and character to the lives of my ancestors and tell their stories, as eventful or uneventful as they may be, to the world. Additional details about this campaign, how the funds will be used (there is some overlap with the Patreon campaign), as well as the incentives for these onetime donations can be found at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1751333165/pruning-the-family-tree-questioning-facts-and-fict.

If you have the means to contribute I would greatly appreciate your support with one or both of these campaigns. If your finances do not allow for such an expense I completely understand. I never have and never will maintain this blog solely for profit and to change that now would be disingenuous. I appreciate all the support that I received in maintaining this blog and I will continue to provide you with the free content that you have come to expect. Thank you all for your support.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Monthly Delays

I think it got stuck!
There is always a little carry over at the lodge from the previous year. Sometimes it is as simple as some events that have postponed or votes that have been delayed from the previous leadership. Of course, there are those other moments when a complete review is need of everything that transpired over the previous twelve months. That is the situation that I find myself in now but, thankfully, this is also why I make sure to keep overly detailed notes and basically records of anything that crossed my desk.

While the last stated meeting went smoothly and we closed the lodge at a completely reasonable time, the conversations that took place after the meeting came to an end filled the remainder of the night. Long after all the other brethren departed and were on their way home, a few of us slowly made our way down the stairs, shut off the lights, and headed out to our cars. Just one of those nights that happens every once in a while.

And that is where the work only really just begins. Now is the time when a couple of us have to make the calls, send the emails, and twist some arms to get all the information that we need to ensure that our records of the previous year are complete. There isn’t really an issue it is simply a matter of collection… there are many things that just need to be brought back to the lodge and filed. Heck, there are some records that I keep at home because it is more convenient given the times when I am able to get work done between meetings.

This was just one part of the delay for the evening. The other part comes down to the fact that I enjoy discussing ideas and plans with the brothers from the lodge. More often than not, this is what adds that extra 20-30 minutes to the end of the evening. While it has been less prevalent lately with the schedule that I need to maintain, it still happens every once in a while and can actually be a quite productive part of the night. These walking brainstorm sessions in the parking lot have produced numerous viable and useful plans and projects during the year.

Sometimes I kind of wish that the work would stop when I leave the lodge or at least get into my car but, at the same time, I enjoy the moments here and there outside of the lodge when progress is made or ideas are turned into reality. However, on the other side of this are the moments when I have to hunt down brothers through every means of communication available to take care of things that should have been wrapped up by the time we replaced the calendar on the wall. Either way, the work never ends at the doors of the lodge and, overall, I am okay with that… for now.