Couch Communiqué

tidbits from over here

Happy Father’s Day!

Being a great father is like shaving.
No matter how good you shaved today,
you have to do it again tomorrow.

– Reed Markham, American educator

Todd Personal Protectograph Model 1500

This is a protectograph. Also called a check writer, this machine is a physical device for protecting a check by preventing the monetary amount, for which it was written, from being raised or altered. This particular model was primarily used by small businesses.

My wife remembers playing with this one in her dad’s office. i don’t know where he acquired it from.

It was manufactured by the Todd Protectograph Company in Rochester, NY. Patented in 1923, it was advertised from 1925 to 1930.


Old Things

I’m starting a series of posts featuring some of the antiques I’ve been lucky enough to inherit or acquire. None are very valuable monetarily, but some are a physical connection to my family’s past, and others just caught my eye.




by Pam Harazim

Come, look with me inside this drawer,
In this box I’ve often seen,
At the pictures, black and white,
Faces proud, still, and serene.
I wish I knew the people,
These strangers in the box,
Their names and all their memories,
Are lost among my socks.
I wonder what their lives were like,
How did they spend their days?
What about their special times?
I’ll never know their ways.
If only someone had taken time,
To tell who, what, where, and when,
These faces of my heritage,
Would come to life again.
Could this become the fate,
Of the pictures we take today?
The faces and the memories,
Someday to be passed away?
Take time to save your stories,
Seize the opportunity when it knocks,
Or someday you and yours,
Could be strangers in the box.


I really like this commercial. It’s for Motel 6’s 50th Anniversary.

My New Addition to the Tank

One of my favorite aquarium fish is the Neolamprologus Brichardi. It is an African Cichlid natively found in Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. I really like the long flowing fins and their white tips. I’ve normally seen them with a really pale color. The one I found today have a lot of orange in them. Hopefully they will do well!

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs

I bought my first computer in 1996. It was a Gateway PC running Windows 95. I was a Windows guy for many years. I started working at an advertising agency in 1998. It was there that I first became exposed to Apple and the Mac. It took me a while, but I bought my first iPod in late 2003 and my first Mac, a Mac Pro, in 2007. Then, another couple of iPods, a Mac Mini, a Mac Book Pro, an Airport Extreme, and very soon, an iPhone 4s.

Every blog post I’ve written, every photo I’ve retouched, every ad and website I’ve created, and every word I’ve written in the social media, have been done on a Mac.

I certainly never knew Steve Jobs as a person, but his company and products have captured my imagination and I can’t envision my technological world without them. He will be greatly missed.

Laurel and Hardy Dancing

I’ve always been a fan of Laurel and Hardy. Came across this video. They are dancing to “At The Ball, That’s All”, sung by the Avelon Boys, from their classic 1937 movie, “Way Out West”.

YouTube Preview Image

Ted Weems

I’ve recently discovered the music of the 1920’s and early 30’s. I particularly like Ted Weems and his Orchestra. Weems was from Pennsylvania and started a dance band with his brother while attending the University of Pennsylvania. Ted, who had originally intended to become a civil engineer, found himself attracted to a musical career. They were one of the bands that played at the inaugural ball of President Warren Harding in 1921. Going professional in 1923, Weems toured for the MCA Corporation, recording for Victor Records. Weems moved to Chicago with his band around 1928. They were among the most popular attractions on the Midwest music circuit throughout the period separating the two World Wars. I particularly enjoy the bands music during the 1920’s

A few of my favorite Ted Weems songs are “Good Morning Good Evening Good Night”, “Heartaches” and “Piccolo Pete”.

YouTube Preview Image

“Good Morning Good Evening Good Night”

YouTube Preview Image


YouTube Preview Image

“Piccolo Pete”

Say Hey!

Today is Willie Mays’ 79th birthday! He celebrated with members of the California State Senate and Assembly.

Images are courtesy of

Detroit and the Olympics

I never realized that the city of Detroit has bid many times to host the Olympic games. They bid on the Summer Olympics 7 times – in 1944, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968 and 1972. Their best chance of securing the Olympics was in 1968. Detroit was selected over Los Angeles, by the USOC, in the right to bid for the games. They then came in second place to the winner, Mexico City.

Detroit holds the distinction of having the most bids, while failing to win the rights to host the games even once.

The Detroit Olympic Committee put together a promotional film called Detroit: City on the Move, in 1965, that was presented to the International Olympic Committee in their failed 1968 bid. The film, divided into 2 parts can be seen below.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image


I came across a great website the other day. Shorpy is an online archive of thousands of high-resolution photos from the 1850s to 1950s. The site was named for Shorpy Higginbotham who was a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

The pictures on the site are absolutely amazing. The sharpness of the pictures is unbelievable, considering how long ago they were taken. I particularly like the street scenes. Many of the photos are from photographers such as the Detroit Publishing Company. Others are submitted by members. I can’t get over the quality of the pictures. Here are a few samples to give you a taste:

A couple of new pictures are posted each day. If you enjoy looking at high quality historical photos, I know you’ll love this site.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Spring has always been my favorite time of the year. I’ve always enjoyed the emerging flowers and plants after the long, cold winter.

But, the part of spring that I enjoy most is the start of baseball season! My favorite team is the San Francisco Giants. As a kid, I enjoyed watching Bobby Bonds, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Jack Clark, Gary Matthews and John “The Count” Montefusco. My all-time favorite, and childhood sports idol, was Willie Mays. I was crushed when he was traded in May of 1972 to the New York Mets for pitcher Charlie Williams and $50,000.

Willie Mays

My favorite team has had a lot of ups and downs. They are one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. But, in my lifetime, they have never won the World Series. In 2002, the Giants came within six outs of winning it all, only to blow the lead and lose game six and then game seven to the California Angels. So close!

But, like the fresh rebirth of the flowers and trees after the long winter, the new baseball season brings a renewed hope for a successful season.

My Giants have started the season 3 – 0! Maybe this is finally the year!

Attempting a Comeback!

A year ago today, was the last time I posted to this blog. Ironically, that post had to do with the defeat of my Michigan State Spartans in the final game of the 2009 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. Well, two days ago, my Spartans lost in their Final Four game against Butler in the 2010 tournament.

I’ve decided to try and resurrect this blog. I’m not guaranteeing anything, but I’m going to try. I’ve been spending a lot of time on my other blogs, and been busy with day to day life in general. So, we’ll see how it goes!

It Wasn’t Our Day

They had a great year!

Ticking People Off

I just came across a list called “How to Tick People Off”. These are some of the ones I thought were pretty funny!

4. If you have a glass eye, tap on it occasionally with your pen while talking to others.

19. Decline to be seated at a restaurant, and simply eat their complimentary mints at the cash register.

23. Buy a large quantity of orange traffic cones and reroute whole streets.

29. Sit in your front yard pointing a hair dryer at passing cars to see if they slow down.

These came from a site called The entire list can be found here.

Royal Russian Mystery *UPDATE*

On November 27, 2007, I blogged about the last Russian Imperial Family – Czar Nicholas II , Empress Alexandra and their five children. On July 17, 1918, the Romanov family was lined up, believing they were posing for a photo, in the basement of the house they were being held. They were then brutally shot and stabbed. The remains of the family were found in 1991, but a daughter and son were not among them. Some felt the two children may have escaped the executioners. Almost 90 years later, a group of amateur sleuths found remains which them believed to be the missing children.

DNA analysis this week has proven that the two children were killed with the rest of their family during the Russian Revolution. In 2008, scientists used bone and tooth fragments to identify the remains as those of the two missing children: 13-year-old Crown Prince Alexei, the emperor’s only son and heir to the throne, and his sister Grand Duchess Maria, about 19. Researchers confirmed their findings by comparing DNA from the remains with that of living Romanov relatives.

Ruby, Please Bring Your Bottles to Town

My son and I love Ruby Red Squirt! We definitely drink it more than any other pop. But, within the last month, we hadn’t been able to find it anywhere! None of the grocery stores carry it. Nothing at Target or even Walmart. We thought that this was the end – we would never drink Ruby Red again.

Well, as a last hope, we each Facebook posted about our angst. Hopefully, someone would know where to find some. A couple of days passed with nothing. Low and behold, this morning when we were coming home, we saw two bottles of Ruby Red Squirt sitting on our door step! You can imagine our glee! On each bottle was a sticker stating they were bought at Nino Salvaggio’s. We hopped back in the car and when strait to Nino’s. They only sold it by the bottle, but we could order cases of 12 cans! So, order we did.

All is right with the world…

“Can’t I Have It Right Away?”

I spent many years in jobs related to the printing industry. I came across this poem, and what it says is as true today as it was when written in 1904.

By Strickland W. Gillilan

I sat beside the estimator’s desk one afternoon—
He hadn’t had a smell of lunch, but said he’d “join me
I know a very little of the art preservative
And hadn’t a suggestion or a helpful hunch to give.
So there I sat and listened, in a meditative way,
To tales of woe, each ending, “Can’t I have it right away?”
I didn’t understand another syllable I heard;
The articles were Greek to me to which these men referred.
They talked about the kinds of type, the grades of stock
and all,
Of picas, slugs and nonpareil, till I was like to fall
From weariness; and every man in leaving turned to say:
“I guess you understand me—and I want it right away!”
No matter what was wanted, if ‘twas letter-heads or bills,
Or circulars to wrap around some anti-billious pills;
No matter if the job would take a week or maybe more,
Or if the same job made him wait a half a month before,
Each patron turned with anxious look, while hustling out,
to say:
“Oh, yes, I didn’t tell you that I want it right away!”
“I s’pose its human nature,” sighed that printer-man to me,
“But I have yet the very first wise customer to see;
They wait until they’re out of all the printed stuff they’d
And then come rushing in to be replenished on the spot,
They’ll wait to give the order till the very latest day,
Then tear their hair and tell us they (must have it right

—Inland Printer, Vol. 33, 1904


I want to introduce you to our almost 9 month old puppy.  His name is Chester and he is a Golden Retriever.  We got Chester back in July.  He is a big boy – 80 lbs.  We never had a dog before, so this has been an interesting experience.  He just started training classes.  He is generally a very good boy.  The other day though, he ate 3 hot dog buns off the counter.  He and I had a little discussion about that!

Wordless Wednesday: Our Orchid Finally Blooms Again!

George Washington’s House

Remains of the house where George Washington was raised have been located and excavated by archeologists at Ferry Farm, just across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, Virginia. The archeologists have been working on the site for seven years and confirm finding the foundation and cellars. Far from being the rustic cottage of common perception, the house was a much larger one-and-a-half-story residence, perched on a bluff overlooking the Rappahannock. Washington use to swim in the river and take the ferry to Fredericksburg.

Most of the wood and other elements of the original structure are gone or were used by builders of houses later built on the site or destroyed during the Civil War. But as they dug through layers of soil, the archaeologists found remains of two chimney bases, stone-lined cellars and root cellars.

Washington grew to adulthood at the farm and eventually moved to his half-brother’s estate at Little Hunting Creek, south of Alexandria, Va., later renamed Mount Vernon.

The eventual goal is to rebuild the home as it was in the 1740s.


Well, I hope to be posting more often again. My laptop issue has been resolved!


More Than a Feeling

Ever since Brad Delp, lead singer of the band Boston, died in 2007, the band has struggled with how to continue preforming. Boston has been Tommy DeCarlo’s favorite band since he was 13. He had always dreamed of being a rock star. But to pay the bills, he was working as a credit manager at Home Depot in Charlotte, North Carolina.

DeCarlo’s daughter posted a My Space page of him singing karaoke to Boston songs. Boston founder Tom Scholz’s wife found the post and played it for Tom. He couldn’t believe what he heard. The band hired DeCarlo as their new lead singer!

YouTube Preview Image

He made his debut onstage at a tribute concert to Brad Delp last August. It was the first time in his life he had sung with a band.

DeCarlo and the rest of Boston will begin their summer tour on June 6, 2008, in Thunber Bay, Ontario, Canada.

Anne Frank Greeting Card

A greeting card sent by Anne Frank in 1937 has been found in a Dutch antiques shop. The card was sent to one of her best friends, Samme Ledermann. A school teacher named Paul van den Heuvel came across the card while looking through a box in his father’s shop in Naarden, near Amsterdam. The card had been sent from Aachen, Germany where Anne was visiting her grandmother. Aachen is just across the border from Naarden. A spokeswoman from the Anne Frank museum said she had seen another similar card, postmarked the same day and in the same town. She is sure the card is authentic.

Anne, and seven other family members and friends, hid in a secret annex at an Amsterdam canal house from 1942 until 1944 when they were discovered. She died of typhus at the German Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945 at the age of 15.

Down and out

Obviously I haven’t written a new post lately. My laptop is dying. After being on for about 10 minutes, it shuts itself off. I think it is overheating. The fan runs constantly. Good times.

So, it hasn’t been as convenient for me to blog. I hope to be back soon though!

Blue Eyes

According to a Danish researcher, if you have blue eyes, you’re related to a common ancestor. He found that every blue-eyed person descended from one person whose genes mutated some 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. Before that, everyone had brown eyes. Geneticist Hans Eiberg says that blue eyes occur when the human default – brown eyes – is turned off.

Brown eyes are caused by the pigment melanin, which also gives color to hair and skin, and builds up in the eyes. The blue-eye mutation shuts off the gene that produces melanin in the eyes. That one mutation now exists in 300 million people!

Blue Eye

Eiberg says that the mutation is extremely specific: All people with blue eyes have the exact same genetic variation, and anyone with brown or green eyes do not. As a result, the mutation must have been passed down from a single person.

Futurliner and the “Parade of Progress”

A few days ago, I came across a posting on Autoblog about a 1939 GM Futurliner that is up for sale on eBay. I remember seeing one of these once but, for the life of me, I can’t remember where it was!

So, what is a Futurliner?

Futurliners are a group of 12 stylized buses designed by Harley Earl. They were used in General Motors’ “Parade of Progress” tours which traveled to cities and towns across North America in the 1940’s and 50’s, showcasing new cars and technologies.

The Futurliners were identical with a bright red, white and silver color scheme. They measure 11′ 7″ tall by 8 ft. wide by 33 ft. long and weigh 27,000 pounds. Each displayed modern advances in science and technology such as jet engines, stereophonic sound, microwave ovens, television and many other modern marvels of the time.

YouTube Preview Image

After the “Parade of Progress” tours ended in 1956, GM held on to the Futurliners for a few years and then sold them to free up storage space. They ended up in various roles; working for a brewery, a tool company, a touring vaudeville company and to the Michigan State Police educating the public on traffic safety. Some were left in a farmer’s field in Illinois. Others found a future in Southern California junkyards. At least one found its way into the hands of the popular Oral Roberts crusade of the sixties. It was dubbed the “Cathedral Cruiser”.

Of the twelve original Futurliners, nine have been located. The bus listed on eBay was converted into a customized motor home. You can join in on the bidding that started at $ 1,000,000!

This image below is of Futurliner #10.

Restored GM Futurliner #10

It was restored by a group of some 30 volunteers, led by Don Mayton at his Zeeland, MI home. With support from GM divisions, and about two dozen other businesses that donated parts and services, the restoration project took seven years to complete. #10 is the most accurately restored Futurliner. It’s owned by the National Automotive & Truck Museum in Auburn, IN. There are many more images of it available here and here.

The (Detroit) Auto Show

We went to the auto show in Detroit today. The very first Detroit Auto Show was held in 1899 at the Light Guard Armory. It was organized by the Tri-State Sportsman’s and Automobile Association. This first show featured major attractions of big-game trophies bagged in Africa and an exhibit of fishing tackle, hunting equipment and sporting goods. Also on display were two steam mobiles and two Waverly electric cars.

The auto show that eventually changed its name to The North American International Auto Show, began in December 1907 at Beller’s Beer Garden at Riverside Park (an amusement park also called Electric Park), located on Jefferson Avenue near the Belle Isle bridge. It was the first show put on by the auto dealers and exhibited 33 cars vehicles from 17 exhibitors.

This show attracted 200 sportsmen from all parts of the country and so elated the promoters that they threw a party which absorbed all the profits from the show!

1910 Detroit Auto Show

Well, the Detroit show has certainly grown and changed over the years. More than 6,700 journalist from all over the world attend the show. Over 700 vehicles are on exhibit in Cobo Center, with attendance at more than 700,000 people.

We go to the auto show every year. The last couple of years, we’ve parked at the Detroit Zoo and taken a shuttle bus downtown. Since parking down there is such a pain, this has really worked out well. We got down there soon after the show opened, so we beat the crowds. They really need more space. Hopefully the powers that be in Detroit will come to an agreement to either expand Cobo or build a new facility.

2008 Auto Show

We had a great time looking at all the new cars. Our personal favorite is always the Corvette, especially the new ZR1. We enjoyed the new concepts as well, especially the Buick Riviera, the Fisker Karma, and the Cadillac CTS Coupe.

Once inside the show, it’s easy to forget about the Michigan recession and the struggles of the Detroit automakers.


Less than two weeks ago, I wrote how warm it was and how it felt like Spring. Well, that’s just a faded memory now! It was 2°F when I woke up this morning and has warmed all the way up to 10°F at 4 pm. I guess it’s a good day to sit home and stay warm and watch football. The below picture is of our Rhododendron. Look how cold and sad it looks! It’s leaves are tucked down just trying to stay warm…


“Low bridge, everybody down”

In April 2006, Bruce Springsteen released We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, a collection of songs popularized by the folk artist Pete Seeger. My favorite song on the album is Erie Canal. Erie Canal is one of those songs that I, and a lot of kids, grew up singing. But, I never really listened to the words or appreciated what the song was about until it connected with my family history.

The Erie Canal is in the state of New York, and runs from the Hudson River to Lake Erie. It effectively connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. While proposals for a canal date way back to 1699, the first portion did not open until 1819. On October 26, 1825, the entire canal was completed.

In all, it was 363 miles long, 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep. There were 83 locks along the canal. Each was 90 feet by 15 feet. A ten foot wide towpath was built along the bank of the canal for horses, mules, and oxen led by a boy boat driver or “hoggee“. In the Canal’s heyday, vessels were pulled by these animals, plodding along this parallel path.


The canal was enlarged between 1836 and 1862 to widen and deepen it. Passenger traffic on the canal waned with the advent of the railroad, and in 1918, The Erie Canal was replace by the larger New York State Barge Canal.

The impact the Erie Canal had on the settlement of this country cannot be overestimated. It made boom towns out of Buffalo, Rochester and other New York cities. It proved to be the key that unlocked an enormous series of social and economic changes in this young nation. The Canal spurred the first great westward movement of American settlers, giving access to the rich land and resources west of the Appalachians.

Thousands of immigrants arriving in New York City steamed up the Hudson River and took the Canal west. My own ancestors used the Canal to move westward, eventually settling in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.

“Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge, yeah we’re coming to a town
And you’ll always know your neighbor
And you’ll always know your pal
If ya ever navigated on the Erie Canal”

It “Feels” Like Spring

The last couple of days have felt wonderful. The temperatures have been in the low 60’s – 30 degrees above normal! We had 7″ of snow on the ground a week ago, and it’s all gone now. It felt nice to go outside without a coat on! But alas, it’s only January. Spring around here is still several months away. Freezing temperatures will be back by the weekend. Oh well, it was a great break from the cold.

King Louis

Disney’s The Jungle Book has always been my favorite. (The DVD was a great Christmas gift!) I never saw it as a kid, but was introduced to the 1967 classic with my own children. I think its my favorite Disney movie because of the music and the character voices and the memories of enjoying it with my kids.

The part of King Louie, the orangutan, was voiced by the entertainer Louis Prima. His performance of “I Wanna Be like You” is great. In it he’s joined by Phil Harris, the voice of Baloo the Bear. That whole sequence makes me laugh! It interested me in finding out more about him and hearing more of his music.

Prima was an incredible entertainer. His distinctive sound encompassed swing, New Orleans-style jazz, boogie-woogie, jump blues, R&B, early rock & roll, and even the occasional Italian tarantella. One of his most popular hits was “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody”. Part of the song is featured in the video below:

YouTube Preview Image

Prima’s wife, Keely Smith, is also featured on the video. His greatest period of popularity coincided with his marriage to her. Smith’s coolly sophisticated vocals and detached stage manner made a perfect counterpoint to Prima’s boisterousness. Their on-stage interactions, the happy-go-lucky husband squelched by a tart remark from the unamused wife, later influenced Sonny & Cher.

Louis Prima entertained and recorded from the mid 1930’s until the the 1970’s, passing away in 1978. I recommend the CD “Capital Collector’s Series: Louis Prima”. It is also available on iTunes.

Old Maps, Ancient Trees

In the UK, 200 year old maps are being used to locate ancient trees. These maps show how the landscape use to look before deforestation, and also help to show where the ancient survivors are located.

Ordnance Survey/Landmark has compiled a digital archive from more than 1000 maps which will be used to build the first interactive map of Britain’s ancient trees.

Because of its legacy of hunting forests established at the time of the Norman Conquest, Britain has more ancient trees than any other country in Europe. Many can be found in these old forests. Scattered groups of trees can also be found in historic parkland, wood pasture and ancient wooded commons. Small groups and individual ancient trees reside in housing estates, urban parks, farmland, village greens, churchyards and within the grounds of old historic buildings.

One of the oldest found so far is a Shropshire Yew. It was found in a churchyard in Norbury, Shropshire, in the West Midland region of England. It could be 2700 years old!

The Woodland Trust, the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity, launched the Ancient Tree Hunt last summer to find, record and preserve their oldest trees. Over the last six months, more than 4000 have been located. Their goal is to locate at least 100,000 ancient trees by the year 2011. They’ll also need the help of the public to find candidates in their home areas.


Origins of Christmas Things

Have you ever wondered about the history of some of the Christmas items we are so familiar with? Here are a few examples:

Christmas Lights – The use of small candles to light a Christmas tree dates back to the middle 17th century. The candles were glued with melted wax to a branch or attached with pins. Candle holders appeared around 1890. The first Christmas tree lit by use of electricity was in New York City in 1882. By 1900, department stores began using bulbs to light up their Christmas displays. Safe Christmas lights for trees were developed around 1917.

Christmas Cards – The first commercial Christmas Card appeared in London in 1843 and featured an illustration by John Callcott Horsley depicting a family with a small child drinking wine together!


Early English cards rarely showed winter or religious themes, instead favoring flowers, fairies and other fanciful designs that reminded the recipient of the approach of spring. In 1875, Louis Prang became the first printer to offer cards in America.

Artificial Christmas Trees – Artificial trees first appeared in Germany in the late 1800’s when deforestation was a problem. They were metal wires covered with goose feathers and often died green to simulate the look of pine needles. The trees first appeared in the United States in 1913, and were offered for sale in the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog, ranging in size from 17″ to 55″.

In the 1930’s, the Addis Brush Company developed an artificial tree using the same machinery it used to create toilet brushes! The branches were made using pig bristles dyed green. These branches were color-coded for ease of assembly.

Santa Claus – The history of Old Saint Nick and how he evolved is much too long to fit on these pages. You can read more about it here.

Have a very Merry Christmas!!

Catching Up to the Joneses

The U.S. Census Bureau has released a new report analyzing the most common surnames. Smith remains on top, followed by Johnson, Williams, Brown and Jones. What’s interesting is that, for the first time, two Hispanic names have cracked the top 10. Garcia comes in at number 8, and Rodriguez at number 9.

You can search a list of the 5000 most common surnames to see where yours fits in.


Genealogical Kindness

My great great grandparents, Nelson and Louisa, died in Florida around 1900 and are buried in a Waldo, Alachua County cemetery. A couple of the things I’m trying to accomplish with my family history research is to find out where my many grandparents are buried and to obtain a picture of their headstones. But, the odds of me going to Florida anytime soon, and seeing their graves, is not very high.

I came across a group called Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. They are volunteers from all over the country who do everything from looking up courthouse records to taking pictures of headstones. The volunteers are listed by state and county. Each has a description as to what they are volunteering to do.

So, I sent an email to one of the volunteers who was willing to photograph headstones in Alachua County cemeteries. I gave as much information as I could to help him locate the graves. A couple of weeks later, a disposable camera arrived in the mail with pictures of Nelson’s and Louisa’s headstones on it!

Volunteers may charge reimbursement only for postage, film, video tapes, cost of making copies, and possibly parking fees. There is no charge for their time. All they ask is that you, in turn, volunteer to help someone else.

I have since signed up as a volunteer and am waiting to help someone!

It’s a Grand!

We went to pick out our Christmas tree tonight. We’ve been getting Fraser Firs for many years. This year we decided to try something different. The first tree we came to was called a Grand Fir. We had never heard of it before. They told us it’s common in the Pacific Northwest. It’s much softer looking than the Fraser, and is very fragrant – citrusy. We decided to give it a try (we live on the edge!).

The branches aren’t as strong as we’re use to, so some of our real heavy ornaments may have to stay in their boxes this year.


First “America” Map

The first map ever to use the name “America” will go on display at the Library of Congress on December 13th. It was created by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in 1507, and is also the first document to show a separate Western Hemisphere and label the Pacific Ocean as its own body of water.

“America” was named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Waldseemüller read Vespucci’s letters describing his explorations and used these, in part, to create the map. The map was rediscovered in 1901 after spending 400 years lost in the library of a German castle. It is mounted in a 6-foot by 9.5-foot display case machined from a single block of aluminum.

But, experts are puzzled as to how he was able to draw the shape of South America so accurately, given what Europeans were believed to have known at the time. Why did he put a huge body of water west of South America years before it was discovered by European explorers? According to history, Vasco Nunez de Balboa did not reach the Pacific by land until 1513, and Ferdinand Magellan did not round the southern tip of the continent until 1520.

Also, why did he name the territory “America” and then stop using the name several years later?

You can read much more about this map at the following links:

Evel Knievel and Topinka’s

Evel Knievel passed away today. He made quite an impact on us kids in the 70’s. Soon after we moved from California, we were eating dinner at Topinka’s, a long-closed restaurant at Seven Mile & Telegraph roads. It was September 8th, 1974, and Evel was attempting to jump the Snake River Canyon in Idaho. I just remember asking the waiter if he made it or not. I’ll never forget that.

YouTube Preview Image

90 Year Russian Royal Mystery Possibly Solved

One of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century may finally be solved.

The last Russian Imperial Family – Czar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra, daughters Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, and son Aleksei, were executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries. On July 17, 1918, the Romanov family was lined up, believing they were posing for a photo, in the basement of the house they were being held. They were then brutally shot and stabbed.

The remains of the family, with the exception of two of the children, were found in 1991. The bodies of Aleksei and one of the daughters, were not found. Because of this, there was speculation that the two may have survived. In fact since the killings in 1918, people from all over the world have claimed to be a Romanov survivor. The most famous was a woman named Anna Anderson. She died insisting that she was the real Anastasia, even though DNA evidence had dis-proven her claim.

So, 90 years after the brutal slayings, a group of amateur sleuths, working on their weekends, have seemingly solved the mystery. They analyzed secret reports in Soviet-era archives and came across a single phrase that gave a clue as two where the two bodies were buried.

The chief executioner, Yakov Yurovsky, said he had buried two corpses separately from the other nine bodies. People had searched the area where the other bodies were initially dug up, but didn’t find the missing two.

The sleuths focused on a Russian phrase Yurovsky used – “tut zhe,” which can mean “nearby.” It was originally translated a “right here”, meaning it was next to the others.

They figured out that this translation meant the two bodies were near the other graves, but not with them. Below a cover of trees, about 70 yards from where the others were buried, they found the final two Romanov bodies, believed to be Prince Aleksei and a sister. The sister is believed to be Maria, though that is not entirely clear.

Scientists in Russia and the US are DNA testing the newly discovered remains.

Buried Belvedere

As Oklahoma celebrated its 50th anniversary of statehood in 1957, the city of Tulsa commemorated the occasion by sealing a gold and white 1957 Plymouth Belvedere Sport Coupe in a watertight concrete vault under the lawn of the Tulsa County Courthouse. The car would be unearthed 5o years later, in 2007.

Among the items included with the car were 10 gallons of gas, motor oil, a case of beer. A metal time capsule contained an American flag, savings account passbook, a bumper sticker, and other documents. Also, the Belvedere’s glove compartment was stocked with the contents of a typical woman’s handbag including, a bottle of tranquilizers, 14 bobby pins, a compact, a package of cigarettes, matches, two combs, and unpaid parking ticket, a tube of lipstick, a package of gum, a plastic rain hat, facial tissues and $2.73.

Townspeople were asked to submit guesses as to what the population of Tulsa would be in 2007. The winner would receive the mint condition 1957 Plymouth Belvedere!

YouTube Preview Image

Well, the day of the unearthing arrived on June 15th, 2007. The crowd anxiously gathered in anticipation. As workers removed the huge concrete cover of the vault (it was built to withstand a nuclear attack), they found about 2 feet of standing water and indications that, at times, it may have been filled to the rim. The Belvedere remained encased in its supposedly water-tight material. But the material was no longer sealed well, and what showed of the car was a hint of what was to come. It was lifted out of the vault with a crane, loaded on a trailer and driven to the Tulsa Convention Center to be unveiled that evening.

Instead of a pristine car, what the townspeople saw was a lot of rust. After 50 years of sitting in various levels of water, some of the tires were flat, the upholstery disintegrated and the engine a very large doorstop. Unfortunately, many of the artifacts were unrecoverable except for two glass jugs of gasoline, a cigarette lighter and some thickly encrusted cans of Schlitz beer.

But, the story didn’t end there. The winner of the guessing contest, Raymond Humbertson, passed away in 1979, and his wife in 1988. The couple had no children. After some debate, the car was awarded to his sister. And what about the Belvedere? It’s headed for New Jersey, to a rust remover company. The company says it can remove the corrosion while leaving the metal unharmed. It also leaves rubber, plastic, seals, and most paints untouched. So, stay tuned for further updates!

Flickr user milesj has a large gallery that chronicles the unearthing of the Belvedere.

Thanksgiving and Pilgrim Myths

I am a direct descendant of William Bradford, a leader of the Pilgrim settlers, who crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower in 1620. He was Plymouth Colony’s longest serving governor. In learning more about him and his fellow settlers, I’ve come across many “facts” and stories about the Pilgrims that aren’t as accurate as we may have thought. As we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States, I hope you find some of them interesting.

Myth – Pilgrims Dressed in Black and Wore Big Buckles

Not only did they not dress in black, they did not wear those funny buckles, weird shoes, or black steeple hats. Inventories of Pilgrim’s estates show items such as red waistcoats, green gowns, violet cloaks, red caps, and a violet coats. Black and white clothing was usually worn on Sundays and formal occasions. Buckles came into fashion in the late 1600’s, and the blunderbuss gun, which is often depicted, was mainly used to control crowds. It wasn’t a hunting rifle.

Myth – The Pilgrims Landed on Plymouth Rock

According to the Pilgrim Hall Museum:

“There are no contemporary references to the Pilgrims’ landing on a rock at Plymouth. There are two primary sources written by the Pilgrims themselves describing the landing in Plymouth in 1620, William Bradford’s journal Of Plymouth Plantation and the 1622 book popularly known as Mourt’s Relation. Both simply say that the Pilgrims landed. Neither mentions any rocks in their account of the landing. The first references to Plymouth Rock are found over 100 years after the actual landing.”

There is very little factual data that supports the story that Plymouth Rock was the spot on which the Mayflower passengers set foot in Plymouth. There is one slender thread which, cannot entirely be dismissed. In 1741, a ninety-five year old man asked to be taken for what he thought might be his last look at a specific granite boulder on the beach in Plymouth. Before a small gathering of people, he identified a rock, directly below Cole’s Hill, as that which was the very spot “which had received the footsteps of our fathers on their first arrival.” He had been told this by his father.

In actuality, Plymouth was not the first spot the Pilgrims went ashore. They first stepped foot on land at the tip of Cape Cod. In 1620, they signed the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown harbor, agreeing to settle and build a self-governing community, and then came ashore on the west end. Although the Pilgrims did not start their colony at Provincetown, they remained in its harbor and explored its shore for a month before moving on to Plymouth.

Myth – The Mayflower Passengers Were Mostly Old Men

The oldest Mayflower passenger was 57. Only five of the 104 passengers were over 50, and only fourteen were over 40. About 60 passengers were between 20 and 40 years old, with an average age of about 32. At least 30 were under the age of 17. As for a gender breakdown, there were 51 men, 22 boys, 20 women, and 11 girls. The oldest Mayflower passenger still alive to partake in the first thanksgiving was William Brewster, at the age of 54. William Bradford was only 31.

Myth – The Mayflower Passengers were Puritans

Puritans wanted to purify the Church of England, while Separatists wanted to separate entirely from it. Mayflower passengers (those belonging to the Pilgrim’s church) are properly classified as Separatists. Some Pilgrims (“strangers”) came to America in search of riches, others (“saints”) came for religious reasons.

Puritans came to America starting in about 1629, and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony under the leadership of Governor John Winthrop. They came strictly in search of religious freedom. After the English civil war, Puritan and Pilgrim-Separatist movements became indistinguishable, though they and their descendants tended to keep to separate Colonies even into the 1690s, primarily because of differing Church-State views rather than differing religious views.

Myth – The Pilgrims Were Celebrating a Great Harvest

Actually, the harvest of 1621, wasn’t great at all. The barley, wheat, and peas the Pilgrims brought with them from England had failed. Fortunately, the corn did well enough that they were able to double their weekly food rations. The Pilgrims were very happy to be alive. 47 of them died the previous winter – almost half of their colony.

Myth – The Pilgrims Ate Turkey

So how close was the Pilgrims’ thanksgiving feast to ours? They didn’t have corn on the cob, apples, pears, potatoes or even cranberries. No one knows if they had turkey, although they were used to eating turkey. The only food we know they had for sure was deer, but they also probably ate beans, squash, corn and fish. (And they didn’t eat with a fork – they didn’t have forks back then.)

Myth – The Pilgrims Watched Football

Even though they were in a celebratory mood, do you think they could handle watching the Lions? :-)

The first official Thanksgiving Proclamation made in America was issued by the Continental Congress in 1777. Six national Proclamations of Thanksgiving were issued in the first 30 years. President George Washington issued two, President John Adams issued two and President James Madison issued two. After 1815, no more Thanksgiving Proclamations were issued until the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln.

President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a Federal holiday as a “prayerful day of Thanksgiving” on the last Thursday in November. President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939.

The Pilgrims, incidentally, didn’t become part of the holiday until late in the nineteenth century. Until then, Thanksgiving was simply a day of thanks, not a day to remember the Pilgrims.

Happy Thanksgiving!

My, how you’ve grown!

For those of you who haven’t seen Oscar in a while, here he is. I bought him last year around Labor Day. He was only about an inch long at the time, but now he’s close to 9″. I feed him mostly commercial pellet food, but he also nibbles on raw fish, lettuce, earthworms, beefheart and brine shrimp. He always seems to be hungry.

He also has quite a personality. If I’m rearranging things in his tank, he’ll lay on his side on the bottom. I think he’s sulking! He recognizes us when we come near, but cowers when strangers come close. At feeding time, if he’s really hungry, he jumps up to my hand above the water. His head comes about 3″ out of the water. Of course, when he comes down, he splashes on the couch, the wall, the window…

Oscar‘s latin name is Astronotus ocellatus. He is a South American Cichlid and is native to Peru, Colombia, Brazil and French Guiana, living in the Amazon river basin. In the wild they can grow up to 18″! They are often found for sale as a food fish in the local markets.

Who’s really older?

A North Carolina mother gave birth to twins early Sunday morning on November 6th. Sounds pretty normal. But it happened right around the time Daylight Savings Time was ending. The first twin, Peter, was born at 1:32 a.m. Thirty four minutes later, Allison was born. But, because the clocks moved back an hour, Allison’s time of birth was officially 1:06 a.m. So, she is 26 minutes older than Peter, even though he was born first!

Here’s the link to the full story.

The Gales of November

On November 10, 1975, the bulk lake freighter S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald sank during a violent storm on Lake Superior. With a length of 729 feet, she was the largest boat on the Great Lakes when built in 1958.

The Fitzgerald left Superior, WI on November 9th with a cargo of 26,116 tons of taconite pellets. She headed for a steel mill on Zug Island located at the mouth of the Rouge River just south of Detroit, MI. About 17 miles north of Whitefish Point, the captain radioed that they were taking on water. She was listing to port and had two of three ballast pumps working. She had also lost her radar. All 29 officers and crew went down with the ship, which lies broken in two sections in 530 feet of water. There is still controversy as to how the Fitzgerald actually sank.

I’ve seen the Fitzgerald’s two lifeboats and other artifacts aboard the Museum Ship Valley Camp in Sault Ste. Marie, MI.

In 1976, Canadian Gordon Lightfoot recorded the song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald“, commemorating the events surrounding the sinking of the ship.

Joseph Fulton put together this video tribute to those who died:

YouTube Preview Image

Leaning More Than Pisa

A 90 ft. church tower in the Northern Germany village of Suurhusen, has been officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most lopsided building. It bumped the Leaning Tower of Pisa out of the top spot. The church was built in the middle 13th century and the tower was added in 1450. The tower was build on a wooden foundation and that, in combination with wet soil, causes it to lean 5.19 degrees. In comparison, the Tower of Pisa leans 3.97 degrees.

The tower was stabilized in 1996 to keep it from leaning more. The church is still in use, but because of the perceived danger of the tower falling over, church services are held only on occasions such as Christmas or Easter.

Unlocking the Vault

FamilySearch, the family history arm of the LDS Church is undertaking an ambitious project of digitizing their entire microfilmed collection of family history records. They have more than 2.3 million rolls of microfilm, which is equivalent to about 6 million 300-page books.

These records are held in their Granite Mountain Record Vault, located twenty miles southeast of downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. It was constructed between 1958 and 1963 and reaches 600 feet into the north side of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Specially constructed fourteen ton doors at the main entrance are designed to withstand a nuclear blast. In the storage chambers, nature maintains constant humidity and temperatures optimum for microfilm storage.

The first part of this project is called Scanstone. It’s a system to rapidly create digital images of the microfilm records. They will be able to convert 370,000 rolls of film per year and could have the digitizing project completed by 2012. You can read more about the technicalities of the scanning process here.

The second part of this project is to index these scans so that anyone can search them online at The LDS Church is recruiting thousands of volunteers to complete the indexing project. If you would like to volunteer, go to Once you register, you download their special software and then choose from a group of projects to work on. The project images are then downloaded to your computer. You transcribe the information and then upload it back to their site. The types of images include censuses and birth and death records from various states.

I’ve been helping to index for the past year. It takes about twenty minutes to complete a project. If you have some free time and want to contribute to making these important documents public, give it a try!

OS X Leopard

So, I upgraded to Mac OS X Leopard over the weekend. It took about 45 minutes. I didn’t run in to any problems. I have a 2.66 GHz. Quad-Core Mac Pro with three internal hard drives. One contains Leopard, the second, Windows Vista Ultimate, and the third is a shared drive containing music, photos and other stuff that is accessible from both OS X and Vista. I’m running Boot Camp and VMware Fusion, and both upgraded just fine.

I haven’t had a lot of time to spend playing with it yet, but I really like the new Quick Look feature. I can preview all kinds of files, such as PDFs, images, movies, and Microsoft Word and Excel files, without actually launching the applications. It’s going to save a ton of time searching for something in all my family history files!


The Last Supper Scan

Leonardo DaVinci’s mural painting, The Last Supper, can now be viewed up-close by anyone on the Internet. The Italian imaging firm HAL9000 has posted a 16 billion pixel digital scan of the famous work on their website You’re able to zoom in on specific areas of the image as if you were standing right in front of it.

The original mural measures 15 ft. × 29 ft. and can be found on a wall of the refectory (dining hall) in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. DaVinci began working on it in 1495, and finished The Last Supper in 1498. He was a known procrastinator and did not work on the mural continuously during that period.

It’s amazing to analyze.