Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Roots

For the last year I have been on a quest to find my ancestry, but not to find the normal stuff. That sounds weird… let me explain.
I have always wanted to be an archaeologist… ever since I was a little kid.
Have you ever sat with an object in your hand… an old object, like a piece of Native-American pottery, or with something that belonged to your great, great grandfather, and imagined them using it, or making it. I do all the time, I always have.
I have my great grandfather’s hymn book, and quite often I’ll just find myself sitting, holding it… imagining him using it… wondering who embossed his name on it for him. Was it a gift? Did he buy it himself? These are answers I’m always looking for.
So anyway, a couple of years ago, I set out on a quest to find the Father of my Great Great Grandfather. You see, his mom (my G.G.G. grandmother, Emma Porter) was a single mother, who later married a man named Bennett. So I set out to find his bio-dad. Along this journey I found many things, one of those is a 6th cousin, Louise, who lives in England. We never realized that there would be a whole branch of the family who would have stayed over there. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her through email. I also found, my G.G. Grandfather’s emigration paperwork in the Utah State Historical Society’s archives, which gave me the idea to find the ship that brought the Porter’s to America.
Well… I found it.
In the Family History Library in Salt Lake.
I found the passenger list.
They got here on the Steam Ship Nevada out of Liverpool, England docking in New York on June 1st, 1886. I found out from that passenger list that my Great Grandfather’s parents called him “Willie” and that he was 4 years old when they moved from Manchester to settle in Ogden, in the Utah Territory. They traveled in steerage, and carried 3 pieces of luggage.
The library is a very quiet place, with lots of people peacefully studying records, but when I found them, I so wanted to whoop and holler… fortunately, I didn’t.

I still have some mysteries to solve, but I’m looking forward to solving them.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Stop! George… Just Stop Already!

In 1977, I was a skinny little geek of the 3rd grader when this new movie called Star Wars came out. Suddenly, everyone at Vista Elementary School were wearing these tee shirts that had a picture of a guy in this bathrobe kind of shirt holding a sward of light straight up over his head, or had some kind of black death mask fading into some kind of big gray ball. I had no idea what these shirts were all about, and had no idea who this “Dark Vader” was that everyone was talking about, but I was bound to find out.
I was the last one in Miss Hall’s 3rd grade class to go see it. One day, and I don’t really remember why, my Dad packed up my younger sister and me, and off we went to see Star Wars. We drove to the old Center Theater in Salt Lake; because that was the only place you could see it in those days.
In the dark of the theater, with the Star Destroyer going over my head, the only thing I could think, feel or say was… Wow! This is the greatest movie ever!

I’ve grown up a lot since then, I’ve read and analyzed more works of fiction than I care to admit, and I’ve come to one conclusion that just seems to piss off everyone that I’ve ever told. That conclusion? Ok, if you really want to know…

George Lucas created a brilliant world in which to tell his story, and then he told a sucky story, full of sucky characters, who were played (mostly in episodes 1-3) by sucky actors.

Before you crucify me, and burn my body on the geek alter… please allow me to explain.
George Lucas was a brilliant writer and director. THX-1138, although I hated it the first time I saw it as a teenager, I have since become far more Dytopian savvy and have watched it again and all I can say is that THX-1138 is… brilliant. The same can be said for American Graffiti with its documentary style (way overdone these days) and continuous “doo-ap” soundtrack was absolutely delightful.
Then came Star Wars, which amounts to nothing more than a story of Swords and Sorcery… with rivets, not necessarily bad… but… I have to honest here, I liked the original 1977 Star Wars, Episode 4, (the one in which Han does, in fact, shoot first) with it’s never before seen special affects and sound. Things in the story made a bit of sense as well, even if there were sounds and aerodynamics in space. It’s the only one of the series that is even marginally watchable, followed very closely by Empire Strikes Back and then Return of the Jedi, even with those damnable killer teddy bears. As for Episodes 1 thru 3… well… all I can say is that if you were to dry them out and then grind them into a fine powder… you could, successfully, fertilize your garden.
Now… he’s come out with this new Clone Wars animated… thing. …Sigh… Even J. K. Rowling knew when to stop… about 9 books to late… but still.
George Lucas used to be a talented director, but he stopped using that talent, and has lost it. Now he’s just a shameless recycler of the same old song and dance. And I pity him.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog


If you liked the Musical Buffy Episode, you'll love Dr. Horrible
It's... kind of PG-13 so don't watch it with your kids 'til you've seen it first.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Preparedness Principles

Preparedness Principles: The Complete Personal Preparedness Resource Guide
By Barbara Salsbury (and Sandi Simmons)
Horizon Publishing
Large Format Paperback
364 pages (incl. Appendix and Index), $26.99

Many years ago, when I lived in Taylorsville, I joined a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which required me to go to several weeks of training in order to learn simple first aid, triage, search and rescue, disaster preparation, and team organization during an emergency. After passing the 3-hour mock disaster drill (and getting myself “trapped” inside a “collapsing” structure of some kind in the process) I was graduated with a certificate, a green vest, and a helmet. I couldn’t wait for THE earthquake; you know, the big one, the one that’s going to teach us all to live in the bottom of an ancient lakebed by swallowing up all of our homes. So I slept with my CERT gear within reaching distance, and I had 30 gallons of water and a couple of cases of Top Ramen in the basement… I was set. Bring on the disaster!
Here’s the thing… I’ve moved to the west bench, I have no idea where my CERT gear is, I’m no longer a part of the Taylorsville team and I know that there is no Team organized up here. Plus, after reading Barbara Salsbury’s book, I realize that I am in no condition for any kind of disaster.
Preparedness Principles is an easy to understand manual that doesn’t just tell you to be prepared for a disaster, it doesn’t try to scare you with a bunch of dooms-day scenarios, and it doesn’t just hand you a list of what you’re going to need with no regard to your personal needs or preferences… as other preparedness books seem to do. The author lays out her ideas and principles in very plain, very practical language. At no point does she say to go out and buy 1.3 tons of flour because bread is the staff of life, instead the opposite is true, she basically says, if you have flour and water you don’t have bread… you have paste. (Those aren’t her words, but I liked the way they sounded) To have bread, you do need flour and water, but you also need eggs, milk, some kind of leavening, so on and so forth, then she tells you how to go about getting these items, lets you know how to store them and how long they’re going to stay usable.
I think that her main message in the food storage sections of this book is that just because you’re in a state of emergency, it doesn’t mean that you need to eat like it. Yes, preparing your food might be a bit of a challenge. You might be using your dining room table for a makeshift growing room for your indoor, winter vegetable garden. Yes, your oven and stovetop might not be working because the gas is shut off, or because of some downed power lines, but with a little bit of inventiveness, and preparation, you should be able to get through it just fine. She even includes some recipes to help you out.
The book works for almost any situation (I didn’t find anything on what to do in the case of alien abduction, or Monkey Revolution) and gives ideas for any budget, in fact, the first section has to do with getting yourself financially prepared for hard times, which is something I usually don’t associate with earthquakes or floods, but is still a really good starting point.
I did find that the information did overlap just the slightest bit from section to section, but sometimes we need things repeated to really get it.
This is a very valuable book to have, but not to keep on your bookshelf. This book needs to opened and read often, and the ideas need to be learned and used as much as possible so that when the big one does strike, you’ll be prepared.

This review was supposed to end with an author’s interview, but as of posting time… now… I haven’t heard back from Ms. Salsbury. I’m sure that it has nothing to do with the fact that I asked extensive questions about preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse… Hey! It could happen… or that I asked whether the family pet could be a practical source of fresh protein and a highly mobile extension of your family's food storage pantry.
I’m sure those questions have nothing to do with the fact that she won’t return my emails… really.
Update August 5, 2008
Yeah! We finally figured out what was wrong. Barbara Salsbury doesn't hate me with a white hot hate! As it turns out, I goofed up and she never got my email... I'm an English Major... need I say more. So... Here's my interview with the author.
Murph: Ms. Salsbury, it is a pleasure to be able to talk to you about your wonderful book.
Barbara Salsbury: Yes, it really is a wonderful book, and I am well known for my unbiased opinions. Hopefully it will help a lot of people.
Murph: You seem to be very knowledgeable in the area of Emergency Preparedness, how did you get started teaching these principles?
Barbara Salsbury: It's called survival with out any budget and becoming the visual aids for all kinds of disasters - such as losing our business and existing without a payday or government welfare for almost two years. I began by giving workshops, doing lots of research, continuing to survive our own disasters, giving more workshops - and then started writing it down. I've only been able to get it into twelve books so far, with another one coming.
Murph: Food storage to me, and probably to a lot of people, means that you have a couple of garbage cans full of wheat, oat bran, and pinto beans. I was very happy to find out that food storage really means that you store what you normally eat. Where did that concept come from?
Barbara Salsbury: Which concept... the old wives tale about just wheat, etc.?. I think it is one of "they says" that got diverted into several recipe books. I am a firm believer that personal preparedness is a lot more than wheat!
Murph: So what you're saying is that, I might get a little tired of eating Ramen Noodles... everyday... for a year. What if I supplement the noodles with... say... YooHoo Chocolate Drink?
Barbara Salsbury: Oh not just a chocolate drink. You must have a well rounded diet to stay healthy, such as fruit and protein! Surely you have discovered chocolate covered raisins and double dipped chocolate peanuts ... and really good solid milk chocolate.
Murph: What's the shelf life of Goobers? Hummm... I didn't find a section on what to do during a Zombie Apocalypse. You've seen Night of the Living Dead right? I mean. it could happen.
Barbara Salsbury: I'm sorry to be the one to set you straight on this one. It's not the Zombies that one needs to worry about. I have been noticing they have been fleeing in droves every night at 12:10 AM. It is the WOLF SPIDERS! We are being invaded by gazillions of wolf spiders. They have eaten the wheat under the beds and can move extremely fast when one tries to catch or squish them (EEwwwww)
Murph: Sorry, I've been having a little bit of fun with you, but seriously... it could happen!
Barbara Salsbury: Fun!!? I don't think wolf spiders are fun!
Murph: Wolf spiders? I was talking about zombies... Um... Okay, moving right along. I realize you don't write fiction, but who are your favorite authors?
Barbara Salsbury : Having three books published in the last year or so, about all I have read is research. Sorry, I am not a great reader of the literature masters, even the current ones.
Murph: Have you heard of the book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks? You should look into it.
Barbara Salsbury: Sorry. I'm thinking of writing The Real War Is With the Bugs and Spiders and then start selling bug squashers on a web site.
Murph: Okay... No more Zombie... or bug... talk. I promise.
Barbara Salsbury: It's OK
Murph: They... who ever "They" are... have been talking about "The Big One" for a long time. do you seriously think that a monster earth quake is in the works for the Wasatch Front? Or are the news folk just trying to scare everyone?
Barbara Salsbury: Having lived through A BIG ONE (7.2 Loma Priets, CA) I think an earthquake could very well be in the future of a lot of people. It is scary, but there are a lot of scary things out there - in addition to "just" and earthquake. And I haven't met the "They" organization yet... But "they" are influential.
Murph: You do say several times, that you should plan for a food supply for your pets... don't you think that things could get desperate enough that... say... Fluffy becomes a part of your food supply?
Barbara Salsbury: Only if Fluffy is YOURS and a Zombie! (Another EEEwwwwwwww!)
Murph: Sorry... I would never eat a cat... I'm alergic. Moving right along... Are you really sure that putting a Bay leaf in the flour doesn't work? I've had a several bay leafs in my flour bucket and there is no sign of weevil. I totally believe in it.
Barbara Salsbury: Yes, I'm really sure. You are one of the lucky ones whose weevil have learned to hide when the lid comes off. They are well fed and turn the color of the wheat. NO, Bay leaf will not keep bugs out of food. In the book I describe how often weevil need to be fed and how to make house pets out of them, you know like dust bunnies :] sorry couldn't resist.
Murph: Okay, my turn... EEEEeeewwwww!
I tell my kids to eat their beans all the time, because to me they are the perfect food. But despite my best efforts they just won't eat them... any advice?
Barbara Salsbury: Beans have to be prepared properly. First you soak them, cook them and then double dip them in milk chocolate and, for kids, roll them in sprinkles made from soy.
Murph: Do you think that their really is a world rice shortage, or is it really just NPR crisis talk?
Barbara Salsbury: In my opinion there may be a shortage of rice in various countries for various reasons, but when the press release was issued here in the USA there was/is rice available. The rice crop in Northern California is about ready to harvest. Remember the press release could have been another "they say."
Murph: Are you a Joss Whedon fan?
Barbara Salsbury: Again sorry. I'll have to go to Google as soon as I finish this.
Murph: Thank you for sitting down to... write... with me, and congratulations on writing a very valuable book.
Barbara Salsbury: It truly has been fun "writing" with you. I continually try to teach people that preparedness can be fun... SEE?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Breaking Dawn

Last night was the Breaking Dawn party at the Barnes & Noble... My wife and daughter went and had a great time.
I went so that I could look at the sheep.
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