Genealogy Project

Yesterday I was sitting in the living room of my Silagh’s house talking after dinner and she mentioned a book her mother made about her Italian heritage that was on the coffee table. I’d seen it a little while ago and was reminded about a similar book that my paternal grandfather made about my own family. Silagh mentioned that her mother was now working on a similar book about her Irish heritage. This got me thinking about working on doing something for my family. With all of the resources available on the Internet, why not?

The book that my grandfather made was really neat, maybe because I’m a history geek but also because it was about my own family was inherently interesting. The quality was a little inconsistent, but considering he’s not a “technology guy” it was certainly admirable and a whole lot more than most people have done. I know that there are a ton of “for pay” websites out there, and I don’t disagree with paying for access to data, if necessary, but I also don’t want to waste money paying for data that is legally available publicly from another source. Do you have any recommended sources for researching or confirming family history data?

The other thing that I’ve been thinking about is how and what to document. Obviously when you’re talking about someone’s entire life there’s an infinite amount you could document, but what are common things that people list? What’s the best way to collect the data and keep everything in order? The geek in me says that the best way would be to do something in a database, but I’m not sure if that’d be the easiest way to record it. I’m also thinking about possible ways to present the data once it’s collected. If you know of any good examples of genealogies that have been compiled , can you send me a link in the comments? I’d love to see what you’ve come up with or done on your own.


Getting The Previous Owner’s Mail

I’ve been in my house a little over nine months and during that time I have been getting the previous owners’ mail intermingled with mine. When I first bought the house I was very diligent about writing “MOVED” on the envelopes and putting them back in the mailbox so the letter carrier could pick them up the next day, hopefully to get them to their final destination.

After a month or so the mail for the previous owners more or less stopped aside from some junk mail that was addressed to “Current Resident or…” which I just tossed, since I was the current resident, so it was technically addressed to me, but now, all of a sudden I’ve started their mail again. Today it was a per capita tax bill. (I know that because it looked identical to the bill I received today.)

Does writing “MOVED” or “NOT AT THIS ADDRESS” on the envelope and putting it back in the mailbox actually do anything? I know that a change of address filing is only good for a year and apparently less time than that for certain types of mail, but it seems like some of the stuff I’ve been getting is tied to annual cycles and they just didn’t notify their banks, or the city, etc. that they no longer live here. I know that if my mail was going to the wrong place, (and as far as I know it hasn’t, because my previous address is my parents’ house,) I’d want to know about it, but this is kind of a pain in the butt. I don’t know where they moved, nor do I care, but I’d really like to stop getting their mail.

What would you do?


If You See Something, Say Something

This morning I logged in to my online banking to verify that my mortgage payment had been applied properly and as per my routine I wanted to print and save a copy of the monthly statement. Unfortunately, today I was getting a corrupt file. I tried clearing my browser cache, using a different computer, with a different operating system, using a different browser on the other computer and sure enough, I was still getting a corrupt file.

I could have gone to Twitter and said “ZOMG my bank is a bunch of stupid poop faces, their website is broken,” but I didn’t. Primarily because I don’t want to broadcast where I bank because that’s just asking for identity theft, and two, it’s not going to fix anything. Instead I called customer service to let them know about the issue.

After selecting the appropriate menu items (which was less of a chore than you might expect, though I do resent “press 1 for English”) I was greeted by the website support rep who said that because it dealt with a mortgage and not a regular checking account he couldn’t help me. They’re on the same website, so why this was an issue, I’m not sure, but I was swiftly transferred to another person who told me that apparently I wasn’t the first person to report the issue today.

While he wasn’t able to fix the problem, knowing that they’re aware of it made me feel better. He said to give it a try tomorrow and if it’s still not working within a few days to give a call back. All the while he was very polite, and, as someone who has done his fair share of phone support, I can tell you that a reasonable person on the other end of the phone makes it so much easier to be helpful.

Another recent incident about reporting something was a sign that was vandalized along my route to work. Someone thought it was a good idea to spray paint a giant blue penis on the sign. When I tweeted about how to properly report vandalism on a sign I got a few responses back along the lines of, “Oh, do you mean that big schlong on the bridge sign?” That means that quite a few people saw the sign, at least enough that people were aware of what I was asking about without even directly referencing it, yet no one said anything to someone who had the power to change it. (For future reference, you can report graffiti to the police and they’ll contact the appropriate city department to clean and/or replace the vandalized sign. In this case they were able to remove most of the blue paint.)

The lesson from this is that you can’t assume that someone knows that there’s a problem. In the case of a website, it’s not reasonable to assume that the owner is out there looking for problems constantly. With respect to the vandalism issue, where it wasn’t clear who to report the issue, I can see how some would feel it’s not worth the trouble, but to me it’s a much better use of my energy to actually do something to solve the problem than to see it every day and complain to people who can’t do anything to fix it.

This of course gets into the topic of gossip which could probably be another post in and of itself, but why do people complain about problems to others who can’t do anything to make the situation better? It’s one thing to want to air your frustration, but why not do so to the entity that can make the problem go away? Are you afraid? Do you feel that your concern isn’t valid? I really don’t get it.

Do yourself a favor and instead of griping, spend that same energy on trying to find a solution. You’ll feel a lot better, and hey, you may actually fix it. How cool would that be?


Buying What We’re Sold

Maybe it’s just me, but if I want something, anything, and the only thing available is a lesser alternative, that’s not ok with me. Whether it’s a widget, a relationship or my proximity to a sewage treatment plant, close enough just isn’t good enough for me to allocate resources to it. One example of this is cars.

I prefer rear wheel drive with a V8 engine and a manual transmission. I’m also a Ford fan. The trouble is, in their infinite wisdom Ford decided to stop offering V8 rear wheel drive unless it’s a Mustang or a pickup. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Mustangs, and trucks are great, but if I want a sedan, I’m out of luck, unless I move to Australia. Does that mean I’m just going to roll over and buy whatever they’re making at the time? No. It means I’m going with an older model or, sigh, an import.

Another example of a widget I’m looking for that is harder to find than I thought it would be are concrete splash blocks for rain spouting. Sure, they make plastic ones and every home center has them, but if you ask for concrete (and it’s not like they don’t have truckloads of decorative block for walls, paths, etc) they look at you like you have two heads. For that it looks like I’m going to have to go to a specialty landscaper or a concrete shop.

Not to leave out proximity to sewage plants or relationships: when I was looking to buy my house last year I found a house that was really nice, and at a really good price. When I drove past the house I knew why the price was so great. It was a block away from a waste water treatment plant. Sorry, there are lots of houses, I’ll keep looking.

As far as relationships go, personally and professionally, I’ve been told that I’m too picky. Maybe that’s so, but I’m not going to waste my time on someone who I know I’m not going to get along with. Sure, sometimes in a work situation you can’t control who you are partnered with, but you can certainly decide what you’re willing to tolerate.

Do I know what I want? Yes. Am I willing to deviate from what I initially thought was my ideal? Absolutely, but I’m not going to roll over and just take what the world throws at me.


Sweet Home Alabama

Yes, the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic is currently blaring from my neighbor’s back yard and somewhere nearby another group of people are hooting and hollering while detonating fireworks powerful enough to mess with car alarms.

I don’t live in a neighborhood where the houses are right on top of each other, but they’re certainly close enough that you’d think some knucklehead wouldn’t be lighting the whole street up with something in his yard. I don’t wish any harm on the hooligans blowing things up, but I can’t see anything good coming from whatever they’re messing with. At least my homeowner’s insurance is up to date.

Yeah, yeah, I’m old. Be safe if you’re one of the morons out there lighting off fireworks.