Everything You Wanted To Know

and a little bit more………..

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And That, Virginia, is Why Tim Kaine is Governor

October 6th, 2008 · No Comments

Drawing simplistic political conclusions from election results appears to be an ingrained habit of the Virginian Pilot editorial staff. A scant 12 hours after the polls closed the newspaper proclaimed the Kaine gubernatorial win to be a validation of the recent Commonwealth tax increase. That deduction is an insulting underestimate of the Virginia voter’s intelligence level.

Election choices are rarely about one issue. Intelligent voters (and there are many, whether the newspaper believes so or not) consider all of a candidate’s positions, then pick the candidate who they feel is the better choice. It would be highly unlikely for a voter to find a candidate that matched his or her belief structure on every issue. Therefore an election outcome is never a mandate for any one particular issue the candidate espoused.

What was the true reason for the Tim Kaine vote? It was simply the fact that he was perceived to be the best choice, given the three candidates. One candidate ran a negative campaign which included assertions that were obviously not true. How could citizens entrust the management of our commonwealth to someone who hasn’t been completely honest with the voters?

The candidate in question also overemphasized issues that are not high priority for the average Virginian. And is the inclusion of Family Values in a campaign platform anything more than a smoke screen to hide behind when one has no clear agenda? Good people from all political persuasions believe in family values. One faction alone doesn’t have a lock on morality.

I’m tired of dishonesty. I’m tired of our elected officials refusing to represent their constituents, choosing instead partisan loyalties. I’m tired of sweeping legislation that hurts rather than helps. Its time for big change at the ballot box.

And that, Virginia, is why Tim Kaine is governor.

→ No CommentsTags: Politics · Virginia

Congestion Tolls – A Terrible Idea

October 6th, 2008 · No Comments

The new “congestion toll” study proposed by VDOT is a good reason to clean house. And the Commonwealth of Virginia needs to use a big broom to sweep this malfunctioning agency clean.

The theory is to price tolls based on real time congestion on the highway in question. Should the roadway be happily moving along then there would be no toll. Barring all the other problems associated with this plan, the implementation logistics alone should send this proposal to some bureaucrat’s trash can.

Please tell me how this theory could be implemented. In order to determine actual congestion the road would have to be equipped with sophisticated sensors that would regulate the toll amount. The taxpayer dollars spent on this equipment could be put to a much higher use by applying the funds to the cost of our highway wish list.

Pray tell me how “congestion pricing” could practically be staffed. Would the highway sensors feed into some sophisticated phone notification system that would ring the toll takers at home and have them appear for work at a moment’s notice? Then would the same system send them home 15 minutes later when the traffic had cleared?

Most certainly VDOT would, instead, base the toll on an arbitrary division between “rush hour” and “non rush hour”. Such a plan would immediately void the mission. It would not be a “congestion toll” at all, but someone’s value judgement regarding when the road might logically be crowded.

An argument used to support the plan is the statement that “About 10 percent of all morning rush-hour vehicles are occupied by people on nonessential trip such as shopping or personal errands.” Has Big Brother been at work monitoring Virginia highways? How can a government agency realistically know the composition of the automobiles on a given highway? And who can make the determination as to whether a person’s trip is essential or non-essential? I would suspect that most people making a trip on our region’s highways during rush hour would consider their trip essential.

Don’t punish our citizens for driving to work, school, or a doctor appointment. If you want to use tolls to raise money for road construction then that’s an acceptable plan. But it is a fair plan only if you impose the toll on all drivers using the highway in question, regardless of the time of day. Don’t arbitrarily punish the people who have to work for a living. Toll Everyone.  Or Toll None!

→ No CommentsTags: Tidewater · Virginia

Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?

October 6th, 2008 · No Comments

It has been a long time. The sights and sounds of New Orleans had been relegated to the back room of a full middle aged mind. It took a heart wrenching performance by Aaron Neville to bring the memories rushing back. Louisiana 1927, lyrics by Randy Newman, foretold the Hurricane Katrina aftermath with its poignant story from the past:

“What has happened down here is the wind have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangelne

Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away; They’re tryin’ to wash us away.”

The memory of days long past rushed to meet the present as fabulous New Orleans jazz musicians continued the Hurricane Relief performance. Those sounds, so long forgotten, were suddenly familiar and welcome. The sad thought entered my mind that there were now probably millions of Americans who would never hear those sounds in a French Quarter jazz club. But let me take you back decades in time.

It was the 60’s – a great time and an awful time to be young and in college. There are eery similarities to today. An awful political war was raging afar, draining our resources and killing our boys. College deferment from the draft, which required continuing good grades, saved many. But those who partied freshman year lost that deferment. Many were helicopter pilots in Viet Nam sophomore year. The news each night began with body counts. Even more frightening were the pictures of protesting college students gunned down at Kent State University. Such trying times required periods of R&R, not just for the military, but also for college students.

It didn’t take a lot of convincing when the phrase “boiled shrimp” was circulated down the hall of Rice Dorm at Mississippi State University. The immediate response was “New Orleans!” Someone’s car would soon be packed with coeds excited about the fact that the French Quarter was only hours away.

The New Orleans of the 60’s was a paradise for college students. During that period of time French Quarters establishments required little identification other than hard cold cash. Food and drink, along with gasoline to reach its streets, were cheap and plentiful.

Upon reaching the French Quarters, one’s first stop was the requisite boiled shrimp – a food not easily found in northwest Mississippi. That immediate need met, the next step would be to visit the clubs and jazz establishments of the French Quarters. No matter the time of year, there were always college students from other parts of the country. Frat boys from Tulane were happy to escort Mississippi State coeds on their night on the town. Around sun-up the establishments of the French Quarters would close for a short time as the streets were washed down and prepared for the coming day. Tired college students would then choose to end their visit with the fabulous beignets and café au lait that are such a New Orleans tradition.

College days soon gave way to French Quarter vacations with individuals long banished from one’s memory. Then time moved on. And one’s life moved on. The excitement of New Orleans was forgotten in adult life – that is, until the sheer existence of its treasures was threatened by a menace over which its people had no control. It took a tragedy and a song to bring it all back.

An awful thought has entered my mind that I can’t put away. Are the elderly people dying in the hospitals and street corners of New Orleans some of the talented jazz musicians I heard perform in the 60’s?

Its time for all the resources of our great nation to be brought into service to save the people of New Orleans and Mississippi. There is no greater need.

→ No CommentsTags: The Nation

New Orleans – A City Abandonded by the Federal Government

October 6th, 2008 · No Comments

If this were a disaster in a third world country we would immediately begin to see cargo planes from the United States arriving with food, water, and medical supplies. Where are the C-5A’s that should be arriving in New Orleans?

The pictures and sounds are heart wrenching. People are dying of dehydration. Families haven’t eaten in three days. Dead bodies are abandoned on the sidewalk still seated in wheelchairs. People are begging for help to anyone who will hear. And no help comes.

A few thousand people are bussed to a sports arena with cots and long toilet lines. What kind of answer is this? Human beings need a private space in which to house and nurture their family. They need lodging and hope for feeding and clothing their offspring.

What would adequately serve the purpose are abandoned military bases all over the country. House the families in empty barracks. Bring in relief workers to provide food service in the facilities that served the same purpose for the military. BRAC has been at work closing bases for decades. Let’s put them to use for the Americans who paid for them to be built.

The abandoned of New Orleans are Americans who have paid taxes all their life. At this time of crisis in their life their basis human needs are not being met. The taxpaying public fund huge legions of government workers who should be hard at work right now saving these citizens from starvation. There is nothing facing our country today that is of more immediate need. Forgot the rest of the world for the moment. Its time to save Americans.

→ No CommentsTags: The Nation

Great Genealogical Collection at Cincinnati – Hamilton County Library

October 6th, 2008 · No Comments

There are definite pros and cons to an offspring’s college career. Out of state tuition charges can cause one to shed crocodile tears each time a check is written. But sometimes there are unexpected bonuses. Our child’s four years at the University of Cincinnati offered an unforeseen “pro” in the form of The Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County.

Located at 800 Vine Street in downtown Cincinnati, the Main Library has a genealogy collection that would make many State Archives bow their heads in shame. At first glance one recognizes a paradise. Rows of state of the art microfilm copiers share a common laser printer between each two machines. Cubicles furnish semi-private work spaces fully equipped with power plugs for laptops, and what might eventually be internet connections. Stacks of transcript books furnish a well stocked boundary. Copies, both microfilm and paper, can be accomplished efficiently without pocket change by inserting one’s library card into a machine followed by currency or change.

A few questions at the main genealogical reference desk yields the information that the library has on microfilm all the federal censuses for every county in the United States. The bad news is that the microfilm are in closed stacks and must be pulled by reference librarians. The request process is cumbersome, involving a paper request slip which must include microfilm number. The numbers have to be obtained from published books that detail the reel numbers for each state and county. As one would expect someone is always using the book that you need.

Although these are rows of transcript books in open stack there are also many that are filed in closed stacks. To obtain access, one must request the volumes with a paper request slip furnished to a reference librarian. This is an enormous hindrance to the researcher and greatly limits access to the library’s collection. An additional problem is the fact that the reference librarians are not at all friendly. They give the impression that they are empowered with the task of protecting the collection from the general public.

The open stack volumes are not organized in the manner normally found in genealogical libraries. One does not always find each county’s volumes offered as a single grouping. The feeling emerges that the organization is strictly by card catalog number and that the organizing librarian was not a genealogist.

Beginning this article with such praise, my reader has probably come to doubt my feelings regarding the genealogical collection at The Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, Ohio. Doubt no longer. The collection is wonderful. The organization and employee demeanor is not. With a change in attitude this library could be a Mecca for researchers in our country’s heartland. Yes, I really do miss Cincinnati and its wonderful downtown library. But not the out of state tuition……

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For Virginia Research – Choose Richmond & The Library of Virginia

October 6th, 2008 · No Comments

Just about everyone who descends from a Southern family can claim Virginia roots. The English Colony that began with Jamestown in 1607 is now a flourishing Commonwealth approaching its 400th birthday. As a salute to your Virginia heritage, who not plan a research trip to Virginia?

One would expect to center a research vacation in the location from whence one’s families came. But in many family groups this would require numerous stops in various counties throughout the Commonwealth. For those of us not retired or wealthy, such an extensive trip might be a logistical problem. The answer to our quandary lies in choosing, as one’s only stop, our capitol city of Richmond.

Richmond is home to the well stocked Library of Virginia, which holds the Commonwealth Archives in addition to the State Library. A portion of the building houses open microfilm stacks containing reel copies of original county record books. In addition one can find on microfilm military, church, newspaper, tax, and other records of genealogical interest. Original documents can be requested and viewed in secure search rooms. Experienced librarians/historians are available to assist with answers and advice.

Absolute gems for genealogists are the Bible Record and Genealogical Notes files, which have been contributed throughout the years by families who wish to assure their availability for future generations. Digitization of the Bible Records have made many of these family treasures available for viewing and printing on the internet. Indexing projects, such as Death Record and Will indexes, provide not only documentation but also a method of quickly locating records when one arrives at the library. Numerous indexes are available for search at: http://www.lva.lib.va.us/

An extensive research library is housed in another section of the building. The library is well stocked with not just Virginia transcribed records, but also transcription books from other sections of the country. The lobby gift shop allows one to carry treasures home, offering many genealogical volumes such as transcriptions of extant Virginia Parish Registers.

Are you looking for one location where you can research all Virginia’s counties? The answer is NOT the internet. It’s Richmond! Choose the Library of Virginia. It’s a great “one stop” genealogical supermarket.

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Let’s Elect a Woman President

October 6th, 2008 · No Comments

Its time for a woman President. After all, the current class of political men don’t seem capable of handling the task.

The entire governing scene in Washington has digressed into a partisan propaganda battle. Whatever has happened to the constitutional responsibilities of defending the founding fathers’ mandates and standing up for the rights of constituents? I don’t remember unwavering loyalty to one’s party leadership being in the list of responsibilities.

If the men can’t handle the job, lets give the women a try. But its got to be the right woman. Our President shouldn’t be one who serves only as (forgive the pun…) a Yes Man. There are such women in our Senatorial corps who shouldn’t be offered a chance to serve.

Our President should be a woman who stands up for her beliefs. She should be one who fights for the rich, the poor, the working class, and the middle class. With current partisan battles raging, the participants seem to have forgetten that we’re all Americans.

Our lady President should be a true believer in justice. She should be a staunch defender of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. After all, generations of American patriots have sacrificed their lives for these freedoms. She should be above partisan smear tactics. She should get a lump in her throat and a tear in her eye when she sees our great flag and hears the strains of the Star Spangled Banner. And she should be able to command the respect of our neighbors throughout the world.

Lets give the women a try. The men aren’t doing a very good job.

→ No CommentsTags: Politics

Daylight Savings Time Extension is Fabulous

October 6th, 2008 · No Comments

After years of bad legislation the fact that Congress has passed an energy bill that includes a four week extension of Daylight Savings Time is very welcome news. Daylight Savings Time is a wonderful invention of modern times. Who but Scrooge himself could fault a day that lasts into the evening hours?

Sunshine is uplifting. After a long day’s work, heading home in daylight hours can give one a second wind. Walking the dog, pulling weeds in the back yard, or jogging around one’s neighborhood are all real possibilities. Just sitting in a lounge chair on the deck can be exhilarating following a stressful day at work.

Driving home in the dark is depressing. It seems as if the day has ended before one has been allowed to do anything fun. After all, the possibilities for evening hours are very limited for those of us no longer young or single. Who wants to shop and return to a darkened parking lot space? A jog in the dark holds little promise of health or recreation. There are, of course, the options of surfing the internet or channel surfing on one’s vast cable television network. But such activities provide little variety from the activities of one’s work day.

Give us Daylight Savings Time, sunshine and outdoor activities. And make those long daylight hours last for a greater part of the year. Thank you Congress! You’ve finally given us something that we want and need.

→ No CommentsTags: A Little Bit of Everything Else

Research in Washington Should Include DAR Library

October 6th, 2008 · No Comments

Most Americans have some familiarity with Constitution Hall. But how many individuals are aware that a fabulous genealogical library lies in DAR’s stately headquarters building? Open to the general public for the meager charge of $6 per day, the DAR Library holds many treasures for those researching family history.

One would expect the library to hold a plethora of volumes documenting the military history of the Revolutionary era. In that there is no surprise. But military records alone are a small portion of the volumes available in open stacks. County record transcript books, including church and cemetery records, are meticulously organized by state and county. In addition to the standard fare, DAR library contains numerous volumes of genealogical records that are available nowhere else. A regular function of DAR chapters around the country is the transcription of previously unpublished records for inclusion in the DAR library. Those volumes are presently being indexed with the results available for on-line search at www.dar.org. But to see what the record actually contains one must visit the library.

Are you interested in the work that previous genealogists have done on your family lines? Look no further than DAR. An entire section of the library is filled with family histories from A – Z.

A brightly wrapped Christmas present couldn’t hold as much promise as the ancestor loose documentation files. A small request slip results in a librarian returning with a manila folder packed with documentation sent as proof with DAR applications for one’s ancestor. The packet can contain Bible records, tombstone pictures, Wills, and other wonderful treasures.

Holding a place of prominence on the basement level is the Seimmes Microfilm Center. One can sit at a microfiche machine and view previous DAR applications submitted on one’s ancestors. Each holds documented names, dates, and places that might fill big holes in one’s research file. The application collection is but a small portion of the Seimmes collection, which continues to grow as DAR chapters contribute reels from the center’s wish list.

On-line data base subscriptions are in the works with additional funds contributed by Friends of the DAR Library and Library Life Members. Comfortable research tables equipped with outlets to power laptops add to one’s research ease.

When a researcher visits Washington, DC, she shouldn’t just choose the National Archives and the Library of Congress. The trip won’t be complete without a visit to DAR Library.

→ No CommentsTags: Genealogy

Salt Lake City is Amazing

October 6th, 2008 · No Comments

If a genealogist has the choice of one research trip per year the destination could only be Salt Lake City. Its as if every courthouse in the country were transported to one location and made available six days a week to the researching public.

The Latter Day Saints Family History Library is an amazing place. The research center is a meticulously organized five story library. The main level consists entirely of open stack United States transcript books. This floor is where you will find county record books and local histories. Heading up in the elevator one reaches level two, which houses United States microfilms. The Mormon church has gone into most of the courthouses in our country and filmed original court record books. Level two also contain priceless gems such as military and church records filed in numerous rows of open stack cabinets. A researcher checks the library catalog for microfilm number on the scores of computers on each floor, then locates and returns the microfilm herself. There are few shelving errors. Serious researchers understand that the success of their research effort depends on the applicable book or microfilm being in the correct location. If one heads up the stairs again you arrive at level three, which houses family histories – open stack, or course.

The most amazing place is below ground level. B1 is the International Floor. The large International desk is manned at all times by experts in Western Europe, Scandinavia, and Latin America. A researcher can carry her microfilm of old German church records to a machine mounted on the help desk. A translator will not only interpret your record but will also provide valuable advice regarding the customs, practices, and traditions in the area of your interest. The LDS experts are equipped with international atlas volumes, indexes that detail church parish districts, and scores of similar research aids. And yes, the microfilms are actual copies of original church records. And they are fabulous!! German Lutheran birth, marriage, and death records are like a history of the family, sometimes even containing occupations of the grandparents. Who can fault one for spending thirteen hours a day underground?

One level down from the International Floor is B2, which contains books and microfilm from the British Isles, Canada and Australia. You will also find regional experts staffing its main desk.

Each floor of the Family History Library contains row after row of computers, microfilm machines, and a copy center. The computers are all connected to the internet, the family history library catalog, and the LDS research databases. Each floor’s copy center consists of microfilm and conventional copiers and a CD writer. Microfilm copiers are dedicated to different lens and paper sizes. One can choose the machine that best fits her needs. And there’s always a missionary handy to help you operate an errant machine.

The library opens at 8am and closes at 9pm Tuesday through Saturday. It is closed on Sunday and on Monday night. Research seminars featuring varying areas of the world are conducted daily in its many meeting rooms and auditoriums. The free informational sessions are regularly publicized with flyers, bulletin boards, and over the library intercom. First time visitors are treated to library orientation sessions. Private companies specializing in genealogical research assistance conduct classes for visiting groups in nearby hotel meeting rooms. Brown bags lectures combine lunch breaks with research tips.

The Joseph Smith building contains a computer center than is open on Monday night when the library is closed. This facility allows one to access the LDS genealogical databases from a massive computer laboratory during library down time. The Joseph Smith building also houses a store in the basement which sells research guides and many popular LDS extracted record data bases on CD at very reasonable prices.

If one is a true genealogical addict she waits in line for the morning library opening and rushes up or down the stairwell to quickly lay claim to a microfilm machine on the floor of her choice. She brings instant meals consisting of tuna or pasta so that not one valuable minute of research time is lost to boring things such as lunch or dinner. When she hears the announcement that the library will be closing in 15 minutes she suffers an instant panic attack regarding the research time lost to sleep and rest. When Saturday arrives the pressure is intense – only thirteen more hours in the library before the return trip home. What secrets might still lie in the rows of microfilm that will have to wait until next year’s research trip?

Before catching the airplane bound for home, one has to speak to the hospitality of Salt Lake City and the LDS church. Temple Square is a friendly place. Wherever one wanders, there is always someone available to offer directions or assistance. “Can I help you?”, is offered at every wrong turn by a nicely dressed person with a smile on their face. They seem to not mind at all if one is a Virginia Episcopalian navigating someone else’s turf.

Thank you LDS! The contributions you have made to family research have truly allowed genealogists to step into the 21st century. One has only to look over her shoulder to see ancestors smiling.

→ No CommentsTags: Genealogy