Decisions, Decisions: Update from Last Time

I took an “I” in the class. I fell down in that class and could not get back up again during the semester. At least, not for my personal projects. Moving during Spring Break was catastrophic for my assignment course load for that class even if it was extremely beneficial for me emotionally.

It took forever to choose the right project, but my West Point Foundry paper from 2000 is the right thing for this. Between Omeka- ouch, painful, painful, to creating a 3 minute movie using iMovie, I need to finish this class and get on with my life. Especially since it feels like my life is getting on without me lately.

I work for one of my universities and am looking for a second job to make sure that I hit 40 hours a week. Can’t live on less, honestly. When fall semester comes around, I will be starting a new program also, Digital Humanities in a new program at one of my schools. It’s one school’s answer to the need of programming in humanities work and follows in the steps of the great pioneers of GMU, NYU, University of Nebraska, and basically anyone who is trying to keep up over the past fifteen years.

Personal thought process after attending AHA in January is THATCamp is literally the only way that history survives. Although traditional monographs are good and they establish a doctoral student as a true candidate starting on the way to tenure, I sit at this moment in a Barnes and Noble in my town roughly five feet away from a shelf of monographs with historical leanings.  When something that anyone writes hits this shelf it is a privilege, but a person does not need a PhD to do it. David McCullough is not Dr. He’s just plain good and he writes excellent material. Reading The Johnstown Flood got me first interested in public history way back when. Now, I am more interested in defining the wheel rather than re-inventing it.

The likelihood that there of a nuclear war that takes out all electricity really is not that high. People, no matter how psychotic, typically want to live when it comes down to it. That defined, there is a reason that two rows over from United States History, Military History, and World War II there are Graphics & Web Design, Apple & Everyday Computing, Windows & Office Applications, and Programming. There are not enough monographs on family history for people’s consumption. However, monographs are not where many people look for this sort of information. Online or die. Hence, Economics and Accounting & Economics are the next shelf.

I feel like I am part of a very small little niche that encompasses the whole world. I know that there is hunger for the topic. Family is the basis for society when it’s not completely blown to bits. So many people want to know the answers to who they are, why they are here, and where they are going in this world or have similar thoughts in contemplating the meaning of life. That is what I want to do. Answer that question in a practical, uniquely-applicable approach, one person at a time. We’ll see what happens.

First, however, back to West Point and getting the basic archive, storyboard, and otherwise movie trailer made. Wish me luck.




Considering New Media: Television and Serial Publications

Last night I watched an episode of Once Upon a Time, a cute show from ABC. I normally do not watch television in installments the way that it is broadcast, but I prefer watching it in blocks without having to wait a week to get the next installment.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

That said, I thought about Dickens and the world before television. Back when serials did not come on Instant Play and when newspaper was the only way of reading serial publications. Dickens was not this massive, lengthy text that takes forever to read. He was a bit writer, paid by the word and by people reading his stuff and selling papers. Seems extremely similar to how advertising runs papers today. The format changes although the stories remain similar.

Something else that came to mind is that for all the commentaries and similar pre-occupations, religion changes even though principles remain the same. I knew little about Catholicism before coming to this town. Knew enough to get by, I suppose but I never had any idea how large Vatican II was or that there had been Vatican I. It may not matter that much in my daily life, but I hang out with friends whose lives have shape from the religion and I go to school at places where Catholicism is part of the schools’ basis. Two thousand years and a LOT has changed.

Just thinking about how some methods are similar and principles remain bedrock but formats change. Students hate formatting issues, but formatting makes a difference. Considering formatting similarities and differences in life between record keeping in 2012 and BCE. History of technology- who would have thought that this had such extraordinary change over time?

Cherry Limeade Pie: New Family Tradition

Due to popular demand (3 friends), I am posting this recipe. It is from the comments attached to Easy Key Lime Pie, and is great for anyone who has less than three to four hours to go from purchasing ingredients to assembly, baking, and serving. Depending upon the city, that includes commuting time.

General Recipe Requirements:

  • Two 8-9″ pie pans (heavier is better for this recipe, but disposable also works.)
  • Oven (Any size, but not microwave.)
  • 3 bowls: one large one for mixing the key lime pie filling, medium for mixing graham cracker crust base (trust me, it’s worth it), small one for melting butter
  • Whisk
  • Trash can or Receptacle w/liner for discarded egg remnants/shell, cherry pie filling can lid
  • Spatula for scraping the bowl
  • fork for mixing up the crust
  • knife for cutting off the butter since you don’t need an entire stick
  • can opener
  • measuring cups and spoons


  • 1 can cherry pie filling (whatever type or style suits you best; I prefer the most cherries I can get and typically buy generic versions on sale, with sugar added) Enough to top at least one 8-9″ pie +/-. It is more as a garnish that you add after cutting the pie and before serving.
  • 1 can of whipped topping (I prefer the Land O’Lakes heavy whipping cream because it is the real stuff, but if you choose to make literally real whipped cream for this, feel free. One half to one pint should do.)
  • 4 egg yolks; could be five dependent upon the size of the eggs, whites not required.
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz. variety)– you can always add more. This is to start.
  • 1 c key lime juice: Do not bother juicing limes. Go to the store and buy a bottle of Nelly and Joe’s Famous Key West Lime Juice in the yellow bottle in the juice aisle. It is milder than traditional Persian lime juice and a little less potent. More refreshing than tart. At least use a half cup of the key west stuff and I have put in a 1/4 c of regular lime juice to substitute the other half cup as needed. Same result, less effort.
  • 1 box of crushed graham crackers or Nilla wafers. I do not mind using pre-made graham cracker crusts (rub the inside of the crust with the ground cinnamon before adding filling and it’s almost comparable but not quite for substitution purposes). Most boxes of graham crackers will list the needed ratio of sugar, butter and graham crackers for making crusts. For use of this blog, the ratio comes from Graham Cracker Pie Crust. If crushing your own graham crackers, start with cinnamon graham crackers.
  • If using 2 c pre-crushed graham crackers, add up to 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and perhaps a few shakes of ground nutmeg. If using fresh nutmeg, grate off 1/4 -1/2 teaspoons of nutmeg. Mix with the 1/2 c melted butter (I use the microwave for melting this, 5 seconds at a time) and 1/3 c melted sugar. 
Bake crust in a pre-heated 400 degree F oven for 8 minutes if you want. It matters less that the crust bakes ahead for this recipe since it is only butter, sugar and the dry ingredients.
Start with the eggs in the large bowl and whisk them to make sure that the yolks break up. Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk and make sure that all elements blend well. Finally, add the lime juice and continue to whisk. The filling will not ever turn green. If you want the color of fake key lime pie, then add food coloring or grate in some zest (lime peel without the pith). Natural key lime pie is a light yellow color and needs no extra zest. The juice will curdle the milk and egg mixture akin to ceviche. That said, the pie still must cook.
The crust is the sugar, graham cracker crumbs, butter, and spices described earlier and then patted into place on greased pie plates. Recommendations to grease using either butter or spray. Either way is fine. Add filling to the pie plate(s) dependent upon how much there is of the crust base and the filling. Can make up to two pies dependent upon ingredient amount and how deep of a pie.
Bake pie for approximately 15-17 minutes or until the center of the pie does not jiggle much and is smooth. The idea is to cook/set the custard properly before chilling. From oven, take out and allow to cool a little. Place in fridge, covered gently with either dome top, inverted plate or other item that will not touch the nice glossy surface. Can be served from the cooling station fresh, but usually better a little chilled.
When serving, add whipped cream either to the top of the pie or to individual pieces. I added a light layer of whipped cream and then covered over with cherry pie filling when I last did this. When cut, I added more cherries because I wanted to. Serve however you like. Usually best with milk or similar acid-eliminating item. Lemonade is too much citrus for this drink. Water works well.
Eat and enjoy!

Ancestors: The Things You Don’t Expect to Learn

There are some things about ancestors where I did not expect to have a “Who Do You Think You Are?” moment. I am a professional and have researched family history (genealogy) for years. I have expertise in the Mid-Atlantic states areas, although I also have familiarity with Slovak, Canadian, and Californian records and I know enough of the basics for being “dangerous.” I love the topic, seemingly never stop talking about it, and I eat, breathe, and generally do things with it more likely than not.

It’s been a long time since I last researched my family. There’s been a break of a few years, full-disclosure. It’s been a rough time, actually. That aside, tonight I needed to get back to my touch-stone. I came to one of my schools in a rain storm because of their Ancestry Library subscription. Usually this means that I start asking “who wants to be found?” and follow whatever guidance there is. Not exactly the professional manner of doing things, but I always find things that way. Going by one’s gut, instincts, or other methods, it produces the same results. And training helps with knowing search patterns, but it was looking and then I came across “nothing” for a while. Searched a few people…whomever looked interesting, but nothing methodical. I was actually distracted by the people next to me.

After looking up my g^x power great-grandma, I was playing on the site and noticed ships manifests… more records were there than were on the site a few years ago. Before, it was always my great-grandfather and his sister. Been there, memorized those. This time, though, it was different.

I saw my great-aunt Regina Opacity’s record. She was a good, nice woman from all accounts. She had some sort of eye problem and came to America and lived with my great-grandfather’s family. Tonight I saw her manifest and then saw her detention record. I looked over her detention report, and although on the manifest it gave the record of who she was going to live with, she was still detained for the following reasons: “LPC Aliens likely to become public charges, P.D. Aliens with mental, physical, economic or educational disqualifications”. That ticked me off. She had someone who she was going to, legitimately. It was the same family member that my great-grandfather went to, and it was not a “fake” family member. So what if she had a problem with her eye? This was prior to EEO, but … I felt defensive for her. I tried to investigate the inspector, but came up with nothing from minimal Google searching.

All that I know is that when I was Ellis Island years ago, I felt drawn to the inspection room for reasons unknown to me. I was honestly scared of the inspection room although I had no legitimate reason for this emotion for my own purposes. I saw the stairs leading up to the room, and the thought of “The stairs! The stairs!” came to mind. Felt like a scared adrenaline rush. It was not my personal thought process. I tried to look into the room but I was too short. Still, I felt compelled to see the inside of that room. Went down the stairs and then up a side stairway to the outer balcony area to try to see into the room as it was set a little lower than the outside for sight lines. I could not see much, but I felt like something that was not positive happened there and I was the first family member back to that place since they all came through originally in the 1920’s. It had been 85 years but something was as fresh as if it was two weeks ago and traumatic. I was witness of some sort, and Regina was NOT happy with whatever happened there. She was dead years before my birth. However, there was a feeling of fiery indignation, and I could assume that whatever happened there was basically humiliating. Unknown character Inspector Marsh was on her detention sheet. I think that she was the only one detained from her ship, and she was at the most 26 years old in 1921. Come to your own conclusions.

Great Hall, Ellis Island

Great Hall, Ellis Island, 2006, Pictures shot by author.

The design of Ellis Island made the Great Hall into two wings. One was where they had the computers for the tourists. Back then, it was crowd control. Took a while to get to the other section where there was a massive glass window made up of miniature windows where there was the most beautiful New York skyline possible. Stuck between the ocean and across a very short bay to a beautiful New York skyline, waiting for a fate that could be anything, better or worse than home.

Ellis Island parapet from archives

Ellis Island Parapet through archives skylight, July 2006.

I made an appointment before arriving there to see what was in their archives on the roof of the building (I could not take pictures in the archive, so I snapped the parapet.) There was a collection of photographs taken by one of the inspectors. Striking, but every photograph had a person dressed up as if they were one step below meeting the queen yet they all had the most hateful, distrustful expressions on their faces. These were not happy people. Dressed to make the best impression that they could, fearful for their lives. Despite the nostalgic view that people on this side of Atlantic have a few generations later about civil liberties and the like, no one came here only because of opportunity. It was either America or in many cases death. Not exactly the best thing ever, but better than starving. I have no idea what kinds of features were available to the travelers, but I know that I have been extremely lucky and blessed in how people treat me thinking about Regina and her treatment upon coming to “the land of opportunity.”

Regina had a happy life with her family, but she never married and never had children. All that I know is that years ago when I was at Ellis Island, I did not expect to see or feel any of that. In going there, I was so happily expectant to make this connection of being somewhere where family members had been and figured that “Yeah. I’m part of America. My family came through Ellis Island,” and I bought two of the same shirt and still wear them. Then I learned more about the struggles of Americans that had nothing to do with military, but had everything to do with freedom. Now, seeing her detention record, I have documentation to back up those impressions. Although my experience was personal, the documentation was there and I found it. I doubt that anyone of my family has seen this since it was first typed over 90 years later. Digitized years after my trip, the document and experience did not come together until tonight and I remembered what happened.

Leaving Ellis Island

Leaving Ellis Island, afternoon July 2006.

Somehow I think that I am not the only person who something like this has happened to, but I wanted to write it down. There’s a lot more out there than natural senses explain and sometimes documents help. Had that not happened, this would be just another document. Her basics vital stats were recent enough that the family knew parts about her life that she came to America, lived with the family and was “everyone’s favorite aunt.” I did not know what else she had been through, and both experiences make her life more fleshed out. I do not know other aspects of her life, but I feel like she is determined to matter to her great-grandniece. I am listening and learning.

Quick Note for Historical Reference Mapping Tool

For the best use of wiki ability, the tool will need embedding features to allow libraries to embed their information on the site and vice versa. At the least, it involves hours and days open and contact info. Better, though, and more because of current trends, we need a tool that correlates all of these groups together. I will look over the RootsTech videos to see whether someone has done this already. It seems incredibly obvious. I’ll be lucky if someone hasn’t made this by the time I graduate.

Fair Treatment of Religion in Media

If you read what I write, then you know that I am religious. It is not a belief in an institution, per se, or a dogmatic exercise in principles that keep me from having any fun. It is not the “effect of a frenzied mind,” nor tradition based upon upbringing. While upbringing helped in a few of my decisions in regards to religion (as in knowing that there was such a thing in the first place) I am a religious person beyond age 25 because I choose it. My religious convictions are pretty open, and I have gained and lost friends over following my faith. Not my decision about whether they were my friend or not in those cases.

Respect, honor, charity, and trying to keep a clear conscience are things that I hope that most people share in common whether or not they hold any religion sacred, or simply try to live a decent life. Over the last few months, I continually notice that Hollywood movies treat religion badly. This is nothing new to most people, but I have interest in ratings systems and who chooses what goes into the media that comes to the fore-front of culture. Video is a huge teaching tool. Its explosion into mainstream creation, akin to MySpace, iTunes, and YouTube reshaping the music sphere within the last decade opens up interpretation and its abilities to teach to a new level.

Highlighting impressions of how others react to religion makes me think of the Gregory Peck movie,

Title Poster of Gentleman's Agreement, 1947 film starring Gregory Peck and Dorothy McGuire

Gentleman's Agreement poster

Gentleman’s Agreement, which is about how there was a certain unspoken rule where treating one group of people badly was “acceptable.” The movie began changes in talking about treatment of various groups and nearly blacklisted everyone involved in its production during the 1950’s.

What people think that they know about a religion versus living it daily are often as separate as possible. In polite conversation, people usually do not talk about it because opinions run deeply and it’s as if no one is right and nothing is wrong. It’s a fast way to make people uncomfortable in a group setting. I like to keep my mind open, but not so open that my brains fall out the other end. I wish that talking about religions without putting them down was more how people spoke about groups in normal parlance versus simply in academic circles. I think of Gandhi’s ways of looking at life. Growing up, there was the idea of being an example of goodness to others around me. Not to look down on anyone, but instead being the best person that I knew how and to treat others well. Seems pretty standard Christian doctrine to me.

An NPR broadcast recently talked about how Americans have lost hope with every institution in society. That includes religious institutions. The analysis that I took away from the broadcast was that while Americans are disparate about their own lives, they would rather hurt others. Helping (creating) takes effort and investment of time (most precious intangible commodity) while destruction (hurting) is easy and the natural manner of the ethos of the world. I know of no one who is looking for something else to insert into their schedule because they have so much extra time that they do not know what to do with it. Everyone that I know is at capacity and usually complain about not enough time for x or y, etc.

The people who are the most confident give less credence to societal pressures and honors and give the most credence to who a human is as a person and where their efforts lie. In “The Last Lecture” the Cornell teacher talks about removing anything that a young man says from the equation and seeing how he acts as his mark of character. My actions aren’t perfect, but there is wisdom in this. I have friends in my different programs and at least a few teachers who are good people and treat others in kind.

What brought my attention to the bashing of religion in media were examples from movies that I otherwise liked for their humor or comedic intent and do not have ratings above PG-13. These are movies that are technically appropriate for most ages and seem pretty harmless from the outset. The phrases or inclinations were small and simple, but when added together in my mind made me pause, concerned over what such videos are actually teaching people. Every video or medium teaches something.

The example from movies here mentioned are parts of pieces that may not find offense normally but when added together make an imprint. In Ella Enchanted, the pivotal phrase, “I will not be obedient,” as taken in the context of the movie expressed finally choosing free will and breaking a spell. I thoroughly agree and believe in people having agency and in exercising it for good purposes.

However, the phrase, “I will not be obedient” also implies that obedience is condescension of sorts. Perhaps it is the absence or removal of free will whereas this author suggests that it is more about exercising free will than any rebellious campaigns or charges. Depends upon who or what one is being obedient to and the motivations and intentions of that entity.

Law-abiding Americans follow paths of responsibility frequently without considering that what they are doing is choosing obedience. Whether or not for religious purposes, the word obedience makes a lot of people uncomfortable. It’s not a case of “doing any thing that you want to do anymore” but thinking about consequences and believing in responsibility and a removal of at least portions of otherwise selfish behavior.

For my life, obedience to God keeps me freer than otherwise. No, I’m not perfect. My ideals are high even if execution of the ideals is not completely consistent. That said, blind obedience is a misnomer. Unless a person has a full understanding of what they are doing or are getting into (availing themselves of the fine print, etc.), then it is not obedience.

I grew up with a healthy ability to ask questions and to look for answers to said questions and not to believe everything that I see and hear. Also not to judge what I see and hear or feel and toss it based upon one sense group alone and act as if there is only one way to understand imperfect or perfect knowledge. Obedience for me is an act of free will and exercising that will in a positive manner with knowledge attached.

From there, in “Easy A” the religious girl had a monotonic personality. She was snobby, selfish, demanding, hypocritical, and a person with whom no good and kind person would want association. Two-faced and otherwise a horrible example of a believer of anything to do with Christianity. Her caricature was quite compelling as the de facto antagonist. The heroine was nice although she continually kept rumors circulating. Her last rebellious act against the gossip and backbiting that occurred from the so-called religious girl, nearly anything would work at that point outside of something pornographic. Religious girl was the antagonist, but good she was not.

Anti-heroes are often the people most rooted for, and I normally prefer them to people who act self-righteous. Being laid back and open-minded are normally good qualities. The film makers assumed correctly that a portrayal of someone religious being horrible to someone who was not was acceptable for the viewing audience. This was a hit comedy. If this view was not something acceptable for parody, it would not have its creation in this genre, but be part of a drama.

There are other forms of media that directly attack religious groups and pass it off for comedy. It is not a case of defense to call this out, but thinly veiled minstrel shows are debasing and incite disrespect. Crass, rude, and nothing to do with how the people of that group see themselves but everything about making a group of people look ridiculous in a climate where being anti-religion is the powerful standard.

It’s not a case of taking something too hard, or of not having a sense of humor. Far from it, having a sense of humor should uplift and there is good sense attached to positive humor, while there is something else that debases. I would give a lot for people to choose positive and uplifting entertainment. Not prudish or self-righteous or always serious, etc. but of good report or praiseworthy and something that increases respect. It is possible. There is other humor out there that helps and inspires goodness but it is up to the public to choose it.