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  • Trek II, the Hoedown Continues

    Posted on September 6th, 2014 admin No comments

    Got an email recently from the Bonnie Doon Stake, as a follow up to Trek.

    I was at the Hoe down you did for the Mormon church out near Cold Lake last month and I’m in charge of activities for the Bonnie Doon Stake.  We were wondering if you are available to come and do another Hoe Down for us on either October 24 or 25.  We will be holding this Hoe Down at our Bonnie Doon location….  Are you able to be our caller?
    Apparently there will be up to 300 people.   The event has been booked for Oct. 25 and is on my calling calendar.
    Repeat business is a terrific compliment.
    Thank you note
  • Rogers Rewards the Sedentary

    Posted on August 21st, 2014 admin No comments

    Recently bought a smart phone.  Loving it, should have got one years ago!

    It’s with Rogers, which has a customer loyalty program that offers points for their monthly contract and other things.  Today I got an email from Rogers offering three rewards for under 1000 points:  movies, a monthly TV theme pack, and long-distance phone minutes.

    Since our contract has unlimited long-distance in Canada, that last one isn’t of great value.  As for the other rewards, thanks but no thanks.  They’re clearly oriented to couch potatoes, sluggards, stay-at-homes, and the obese-to-be.  A one-month TV pack, oh my fat butt!

    I look forward to receiving rewards for the active and energetic.  How about a pass to a local fitness center, coupons for active wear, discounts at a bike shop.

  • Can’t Trust Leduc Chrysler Service

    Posted on August 12th, 2014 admin No comments

    Today I took my truck in to Leduc Chrysler, 6102-46A Street, for an oil change and their 15-point “Peace of Mind Inspection”

    Invoice 158364 reads “1D Lube, oil and filter change, checked and topped up all fluids, checked and adjusted tire pressures [my emphasis] and performed a 15 point visual inspection.”

    Noting that the tire pressure was not on the inspection form, I suggested to the service advisor on duty, Chuck, that I’d appreciate it if he would confirm the tire pressures, as one had been low.  He had me drive into the service reception bay and found one tire at 45 psi and three at 60 psi.  A check of the door sticker showed they should be Front 50 psi and Rear 40 psi for light loads or Front 60 and Rear 70 for heavy loads.

    It was pretty obvious that the pressures had not been “checked and adjusted”.   (A second issue was that the passenger side windshield wiper is torn.  I had been planning to replace it, but thought I’d just leave it to see if it turned up on the inspection.  It didn’t.)

    Chuck did all the right things — fixed the tire pressures,  admitted the error, apologized on behalf of the company, said he would raise the matter with the tech and service manager, and did the best he could to make things right by waiving the cost of the “Peace of Mind” inspection.

    But there is NO peace of mind in this case.  I have absolutely no confidence that anything was inspected; how do I know that the tech didn’t just blithely run down the list checking everything?  For that matter, how do I know that the oil and filter were actually changed?

    Obviously, this will cost Leduc Chrysler a customer.  And if you’re in Leduc and reading this post, you might consider going somewhere else too.

    By the way, Chuck kept the POM inspection form, and I didn’t receive a copy of it stapled to my invoice.  I think that’s odd too.  I wonder if it will somehow miraculously change to show the tire pressures.   Peace of mind, indeed.



  • Summer Oldstice

    Posted on August 10th, 2014 admin No comments

    Got to call a street dance at the Summer Oldstice on June 21, sponsored by Uptowne Olds.   It was windy and cold at first, but the day warmed up and it turned out to be a great day for an outdoor dance.

    Through some mixup,  the “angels” (experienced square dancers and volunteers) we expected weren’t present, but we went ahead anyway.   Different people came to dance at different times during the hour, and we had some older folks, a bunch of pre-teen girls, some teen girls.  Overall, I think about 40 different people took part, which I think is pretty good.

    The highlight for me was when a group of special-needs folks were watching and I invited them to dance.  So we had a square with three wheel chairs and a few others from the group.  It was wonderful to see how much they enjoyed the dancing, laughing and waving their hands.

    <IMG: An Oldstice-Fashion Square Dance  Olds Albertan Tuesday Jun 24 2014 page 1>

    PS We later ran into someone from the Olds Calico Capers square dance club, and apparently they hadn’t even heard about the event until they read about it in the local paper.  We’ve discussed the issue with the organizer and hope to be back next year with a stronger program.


    Posted on July 20th, 2014 admin 2 comments

    Had a great time calling at Trek 2014 out east of Cherry Grove, AB.

    Dawn in a borrowed bonnet

    Dawn in a borrowed bonnet

    The trek — a simulated re-enactment of the Mormon hand-cart migrations to Utah in the mid 1850s — saw an estimated 190 youth and 50 adults in an approximation of period clothing building hand-cart kits, loading up their sleeping bags and gear, and hauling them some 25 km over rough terrain.

    We pulled the rig in on Thursday afternoon, in time to go and watch the group playing various “pioneer” games such as tug-of-war, cow-patty toss, log-sawing, and the like.  Fun to watch, and despite having trekked some 15 km the day before, up and down hills and through swamps, the kids seemed to have a lot of energy.

    Wow, a cow-patty frisbee!  (Painted polyurethane foam)

    Wow, a cow-patty frisbee! (Painted polyurethane foam)

    The hoe-down was Thursday night, about mid-way into their trek.  Not sure if all the participants danced, but they sure spread out in the field.  I had chosen dances and music of the period to add to the authenticity of the experience.  I called some old-time circle dances, a contra, and a reel, which saw enthusiastic and lively participation.

    Mounted mobbers arrive at dusk.  "Git offa our land!  Move, varmints!"

    Mounted mobbers arrive at dusk. “Git offa our land! Move, varmints!”

    I was just starting Cumberland Squares, with plans to move into some old-time square dances, when a group of masked horsemen (“mobbers”) broke up the dance and drove the campers off the land–something that also happened in the historical migration.  One dancer complained, “But we’re having a hoe-down!”  No matter — clear out!

    The group was packed up and moving fast within a surprisingly short time.   Although I had not been directed by the mobbers to clear out, with the dancers gone there was no point to my staying; I packed up and left too.

    In preparing for the dance, I learned a lot about the trek migrations, the early history of the Mormon church, and about songs and dances of the 1800s.  And calling for all those folks in an open field was a unique experience!

    A big thank you to all those who helped with setting up equipment and dance formations; thanks especially to the Bonnie Doon Stake for organizing the Trek and for hiring me to call the hoedown.

    Followup:  Trek II, the Hoedown Continues

  • Montague Folding Bike – A Bit of Cycling History

    Posted on June 28th, 2014 admin No comments


    Last winter, at an estate sale in California, I found a bike with an interesting-looking frame labeled “BMW Wireline”.  It was a full-sized bike, but was obviously designed to fold.  It had no tires, the handgrips were melted, the wheels wouldn’t turn, the rear derailleur was bent, the headset was frozen, the brake pads were like rock, the chain was rusted in place.  Still, it had a CrMo folding frame in good condition, alloy wheels, decent quality caliper brakes.

    The owner had no idea of the provenance except that it had been in his sister’s garage for decades and he wanted to get rid of it.

    “Make me an offer,” he said.  I offered $1.  He accepted.   I threw some breadbags over the tar-like handgrips and stowed it under the RV.

    When we returned in the spring, I hauled the bike home and set to work.  The California heat had been hard on the bike.   I scraped the melted hand grips off (a sticky, icky job!) and removed the distorted pedals.  Every bit of grease was hardened to resin, so I had to soak, clean, and re-grease the bottom bracket, both wheel hubs, and the headset.  None of the cups showed wear, and I reused all the ball bearings.  I replaced the rear derailleur, grip shifters, hand grips, and chain; replaced a couple cables; put on new tubes, tires and brake pads; and tuned everything up. Oh, I also added new Globe round rubber pedals, because I thought they looked interesting and because they snag on things a lot less than the old square platforms.

    This amounts to a frame-up rebuild.   It was the most money and most work I’ve put into a rescue bike.  Still,  the outcome was an unusual bike that’s fun to use and ride.

    The frame had a sticker showing the manufacturer as Montague, which was easy to research.  Around 1988, the Montague Corporation, of Cambridge, Mass., began producing full-sized folding bicycles with 26” or 700 mm wheels. In the early1990s, Montague began working with the automobile industry,designing bicycle models for various companies including BMW, General Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Subaru, Toyota, Honda and Peugeot. In 1996, Montague folding bikes gained international attention when the Montague BMW folder was chosen as the first ever official Olympic mountain bike for the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. “Two thousand of these bikes (painted red, white, and blue) were featured in the Games’ closing ceremonies. Olympic athletes and staff rode in formation on Montague bikes to make the image of the Olympic rings,” reports the Montague web site.

    My Montague would have come in the trunk of a new BMW, and is similar to the 1996 Olympic version.  Montague staff identified this individual bike as being “from 1994 to 1995″

    Now I have a neat folding bike that I can stow in the RV or even the back of my wife’s tiny Chev Aveo.

  • Paper VS Digital in Genealogy Research

    Posted on November 22nd, 2013 admin No comments

    Mocavo sent out a “Genealogy Survival Kit” as a holiday (they’re afraid to say Christmas) gift to its subscribers.   One part of the “Kit” was a list of tips, which included this:

    Even though many people use a computer for much of their work, paper charts and forms can be very useful when you are at a research repository. Blank family group sheets can easily be filled in with information, and can also show what information is missing. Pedigree charts quickly fill in with more generations.
    It can be much easier for you to carry pieces of paper into the stacks than trying to carry a notebook computer all over the building.

    I suppose this makes sense of a sort, but I don’t find it true of my own work.

    • My handwriting is not the best, and if I want to be able to read it three years from now, or if I want anybody else to read it anytime, I’d better type it.
    • I can’t keep track of a pen or pencil for more than a few hours.  Whenever I need one, it has crawled under a table somewhere.
    • I am a touch typist with recorded speeds of up to 120 wpm on a real keyboard.  I can’t write nearly that quickly with any accuracy.  Cursive is slo-o-o-o-w!
    • My laptop is not that cumbersome and I don’t mind carrying it.   “He ain’t heavy, he’s my laptop.”
    • I’m not about to hand write or even transcribe most documents.  I carry a digital camera, I photograph documents, I use OCR software to transcribe the image into a file.    And I’m not about to try to sketch images.   That’s what the camera does best.http://ed101.bu.edu/StudentDoc/Archives/fall05/malily/pencil-n-paper.jpg

    Paper and pencil are so yesterday.  At the very best, they’re a last-ditch backup.

    What do you use.   Paper?  Smart phone?  Tablet?  Laptop?

  • MyHeritage Improves Record Matches

    Posted on November 19th, 2013 admin No comments

    MyHeritage offers a social-networking site for amateur family historians.  It’s a relatively new company that’s been working hard to establish itself in the genealogy software niche.

    One thing they offer is called Record Matches (kind of like the little green leaves at ancestry.com). I checked a couple of Record Matches this morning, and found that they have been vastly improved over the last time I looked.

    Census data is now extracted for each member of the family, either manually or automatically.  (In a census, it works if you start with the head of the family.  Start with wife or child and you get only one record.)  I’ve tried half a dozen and it works almost flawlessly.   No longer do I have to copy data one by one into other family member records.  Hooray!

    After confirming a RM for the 1900 US Federal Census, I synced to Family Tree Builder (FTB, MyHeritage’s family tree database software) and checked the eight individuals involved.  The fact “Census” had been correctly added for both parents and all children.   I was a bit surprised that the citation was not attached to the fact but was instead under the Citations tab.  It turns out that the More Options for each individual allows the citation for each individual fact (birth and census, in this case).

    So there is the flexibility to attach the citation either way, which is a nice touch.  If you want to have the citation with the fact consistently, you have to repeat this with each individual, which is not nice.  In a family of 14, this is a lot of work.   Perhaps there is a way to set this as the default, but I haven’t found that setting.

    I had thought that an image of the census page would be attached in FTB under fact photos, in the way that the census image is appended to Media in Ancestry.com.   Nope.   However, the Citation contains a link, and a control button that opens to the original record in my browser, so this is all you need to review the original document for further clues.  And of course, an image link to the original record is in the individual’s online Profile.

    The More Options allows you to enter a Biography Note, which after sync shows up in FTB under the Notes tab for each individual.  Not sure how I’ll use this just yet; comments and suggestions are welcome!

    There are a few quibbles and one serious issue.

    • Parts of the citation in FTB are not properly formatted. Specifically, the identification line is run together, with missing spaces.  Here’s an example:  Census: Township:Noble TownshipEnum. District:87Line:92 County:NobleRoll:1240395Image:165 State:IndianaSheet:2 Date:1900Family:50   This will probably be easy to fix and I expect it will be taken care of soon.
    • Why does it say “Residence” in the left pane and “Census” in the right pane?  The census is simply the source for the place of Residence, not the fact itself.  The census shows where they lived (and sometimes, the occupation and many other facts.  The facts in the family tree should be “Residence” and “Occupation”.  It’s as silly to put Census as the fact for Residence as it is for Occupation.  It’s like putting “Book” for a fact, or “Website”.
    • The Extract control is a [>>] button and a hover tool tip says  “Take this information into your family tree”  After you click it, it remains [>>] , though the tool tip now reads “Undo taking of information”.  Really, this control should change to [<<] after you’ve added the info.  Would make a lot more sense to have it point the way you want the data to move.
    • When there are children listed on the census that aren’t in the tree, RecordMatch doesn’t automatically list them, the way ancestry.com does.  Nor does MH even allow you any way to add them from this screen.  The best way I could find to do this was to open FTB, tile the two screens, and manually add the names of the additional children, then sync the two, then run the record match again.   While this did work, it’s terribly clunky.    Maybe there’s something I’m missing?
    • The biggest hassle is one that was present in the original Record Match.  If you already have one census in an individual record, this function REPLACES it.  If you have the 1860 census for an individual, the Record Match for the 1870 census will replace the data of the 1860.  Why on earth would I want to replace one census record with another?

    I had informed MH of the replacement bug on 11 Oct 2013 but it is still present.   On the MyHeritage user forum, staffer Marianne offered a workaround for this, which involves a couple of steps that are totally not obvious:   Click the “Show more options” [on the right side]  and check the “Add as alternate” checkbox [appears on the left side after the first step]. This will extract the new information in addition to what already exists and will not override the information on the individual’s profile.

    Thank you, Marianne.  This does work.  But consider this:  for a family with 14 children, for whom I have just entered the 1900 census, I need to do these two steps SIXTEEN TIMES to add the 1910 census.  And another SIXTEEN TIMES for each subsequent census I add (or as many times as there are children present in the residence at the time).

    Gotta wonder what the programmers who designed this were thinking.    Didn’t it strike them that it would be far easier from a user viewpoint if “Add as alternate” were the default mode?   Evidently not.

    Overall, though, this version of RecordMatch is a significant step and a vast improvement.   There is a lot of power and flexibility in this function and once they fix the various quirks and the “replaces data” mess,  they’ll have it nailed.

    A big THANK YOU to the MH developers for getting this working at least provisionally.

  • Gray Land Records in Noble County, Indiana

    Posted on November 17th, 2013 admin No comments

    One reason I enjoy doing genealogy is that I enjoy solving puzzles.

    In 1989, some of our family put together a collection of family writings and memoirs called Ancestor Pioneers.  In that booklet was a hand-drawn map of Noble County Indiana which showed land holdings of various ancestors in 1856.   The map showed section numbers but unfortunately did not include pertinent information such as the township name or the meridian.   Copies of the original land records had not been among the records I got from my parents.   I had never quite gotten around to tracking down whatever cousin had made the map to see if she had them,  nor had I yet begun searching online for these land records.

    A few days ago, I got a letter from another cousin (Thanks, Jenny!) who happened to include a sheet from Ancestry.com showing a parcel of land purchased in 1837 by a many-greats grandfather. Since I happened to have my copy of  Ancestor Pioneers open on the desk, I checked — yes, it was one of the parcels on the hand-drawn map.

    The hand-drawn map of Gray Land Holdings in Noble County, IN

    Never mind what I wrote last week about focus!  Here is a wonderful distraction!  I needed a break from the JK Gray biography anyway (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).

    With Jenny’s lead about where to look, I dug into ancestry.com’s databases and found not only the other parcels on the hand-drawn map, but others in a township to the north.  Cross-checking against census records to confirm that these were likely our people, I pushed further into the land records,  and have so far located a baker’s dozen of parcels in York and Noble Townships, Noble County, IN owned by our kinfolk.  I’ll continue looking this afternoon and expect to find even more.  With the legal land descriptions, I may be able to dig even deeper and find who got them after the family sold out (or who inherited them).

    So I have a satisfactory outcome, having solved a minor puzzle,  found a lot of new information, made a note of clues for future research, and taken a break from a long-term project.  A pleasant way to spend a couple of cold winter days

  • A Single Family History Focus

    Posted on November 10th, 2013 admin 1 comment

    One tip that has been given in a couple of genalogy seminars I’ve attended:  Focus.

    “When you first start doing  family history, everything is new and exciting,” said the presenter, forensic genealogist Lyn Meehan.   “It can help if you learn to focus on one thing at a time.  It helps keep you from being distracted.  The focus might be on one specific ancestor or one particular geographic area.  Then, when you hit a ‘brick wall’ — which you inevitably will — you can start to find a way around it by looking at collateral branches and other techniques.”

    John Kepford and Phoebe Ellen Gray, c. 1910

    I had already decided to work on the life and times of my great-grandfather, John Kepford Gray, so I was pleased to hear Lynn’s advice.  It meant that I was on the right track.

    We have an amazing amount of material on this man, once I started to put it all together.  Mom and Dad had started with some of the physical records, gathering his letters and papers, looking up some census records (back when there was no Internet).  His grandchildren, my dad included, had recorded stories and anecdotes.  There were clues in the letters and other family documents that opened fascinating stories, such as

    • His treatment for alcoholism in the Keeley Institute in Kansas City Missouri in 1893
    • A letter from the probate court in the administration of his father’s estate, referring to a smallpox outbreak and the local pest house
    • References to family squabbles, misfortunes and trials
    • References to friends, relations, get-togethers, church events
    • His participation in buffalo hunts, including the last great hunt of 1878 that drove the southern herd to extinction

    “Genealogy is not just names and places and dates,” said Meehan. “It’s the story of people, who they were and how they lived and why they moved around.”

    And once you start to focus, you see that.  Great-grandpa, a man I never new, is becoming real to me in a way that would never have happened without an interest in family history.

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