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Serendipity

The origin of this book came in the early 1990s in my family history research. I stumbled across a query in an old journal mentioning my ancestors and asking for information about their murders in 1813. Their murders?! The query was then about ten years old. I wrote a letter to the address provided on the hopes that the person had not moved or died. The bad news is that she had moved. The good news is that she had moved next door and got my letter. Martha Heineman was a retir

The Lost Cause

The tragedy in Charlottesville and ensuing cacophony has inspired me to offer my perspective of the history involved. The monuments in question, hundreds, even thousands of them, were erected by proponents of The Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War, a series of myths that sought to rationalize Southern suffering. The purpose of the monuments was to say, “We lost the war, but we will win the peace.” These edifices and their inscriptions were the work of local groups like the

A Measure of Success

The email was a surprise and then it wasn’t. The man was in my scout troop in San Francisco thirty years ago and as a teen was not the best example of the principles of Scouting. In his first interaction with my son, Matt was left in tears. The man tracked me down on the Web in order to make amends. Although unnecessary from my point of view I recognized this step in recovery and agreed to help. I became a scoutmaster mostly to insure that Matt had a safe experience. Boys can

Ham I Am

I am now officially KG7LEA for the next ten years! A week ago I took and passed my amateur radio Technician Class exam, one wrong answer out of 35. I checked this morning and the FAA database has my call sign listed and I am free to transmit on any of the authorized frequencies. I am mostly interested in ham radio to be able to help out in the event of an emergency. I’ve trained as a NERT in San Francisco, as a CERT in Seattle, and have drilled with the local volunteers with

I don’t know, Roku?

I often consider what normal features of daily life would be incomprehensible 20 or even 10 years ago – smart phones, tablets, online shopping, etc. DVD players were the coming thing 10 years ago and now are on their way to the electronics recycling center. One thing we now can no longer do without is streaming TV. I have Roku, the little set top box that allows online access to venerable Netflix and behemoth Amazon. (Be nice, they are watching.) It allows streaming of dozens

What are you reading? Hearing?

I usually have two books going at once, one a work of fiction and the other some kind of history book. With the Kindle I can have three or four going at once. I’ve been nibbling at the Memoirs of Ulysses Grant for more than a year, but that doesn’t count in the two. The basic Kindle has a limitation in history since maps don’t do well and maps are pretty important. The iPad* does maps better, but it’s not as convenient as the Kindle. The iPad is prettier, but heavier. The iPa

Home Movies

I just completed a couple of desktop home movie projects, another genre of the technology revolution. I was a participant in the growth of amateur movies starting with silent Super 8, graduating to sound, then to video tape, then to digital. Now I’ve done home movies, really good quality, on my phone. How great is that? Thomas Edison gave us the motion picture, but it was a commercial and industrial mystery with little being done by the amateur. Camera equipment was expensive

A funny thing happened to me on my way to the forum

One thing I like to do is participate in online forums (fora?). These are the discussion groups. Back in the early days of the Internet, before the World Wide Web (there is a difference), academics would keep in touch with each other’s scholarship on something called Usenet Newsgroups. These are the old soc.history.war type addresses. Sadly these venues atrophied as they were taken over by trolls and bots. Trolls are posters who purposely try to hijack and redirect a discussi

Podcasts

Yes, an entire year since the last post. Not that I haven’t had anything to write, I just haven’t written it here. Here’s hoping I do better. One thing I have discovered recently is the world of podcasts. These are web-based audio and some video shows produced by everyone from big-time mainstream Hollywood and New York entities to universities, National Public Radio, and individual academics reading their papers, down to individuals ruminating into a microphone from their kit

Games

A minor interest of mine (it doesn’t yet rise to the level of hobby) is strategy and simulation games for the computer. I have always been fascinated by things like trains and airplanes and I had a model railroad and dreamed of learning to fly. As an historian, I have studied battles and contests between nations and naturally engage in a bit of “what if.” Before desktop computers I played war games on table tops and even played by mail where we used stock indices to calculate