Monday, March 31, 2008

Why Giving Up Freedoms For Security Is a Bad Thing

Imagine if you from one country will that you married the girl of your dreams but she is from another second country and religion as yours. You want to learn about your new wife's religion so you travel to another third country to really see it first hand. Two weeks, as you are leaving by bus, it is stopped and you are singled out. Evidently, a third country is paying this country $3000 for each foreigner that is turned over. You are shackled and flown on a plane to another country, the fourth in this scenario.

When you arrive at the fourth country, things turn worse. You are beaten with your head held under water, with many hits directed towards your abdomen to force you to allow water into your lungs. You are strapped to a device and shocked for hours on end. You are hung by only your wrists from the ceiling of an airplane hangar for five days, only being let down for a doctor every so often to make sure you aren't going to inadvertently die on them. All the while they ask you about some terrorist group whom you have never even heard.

Eventually they charge you with being in the vicinity of a known terrorist in the fourth country of this scenario. Remember, the fourth country is where you have been in custody the entire time while being tortured over the last year and a half. You are flown to a fifth country.

By this time, your captors have written in writing that they have nothing indicating that you are guilty of any of the charges they have given you. They also have it in writing from your own country and your wife's country that you are completely innocent. Never the less, you are kept in complete isolation with no lights and forced to endure periods of excruciating cold and heat while being interrogated once a day. Three and a half more years go by.

Someone in your government finally negotiates your release. Your captors hold guns to your head and tell you to sign a confession admitting you were guilty all along or else…. You decide you would rather die and say no. They chain you in a plane and a few minutes before landing in your home country, they finally unshackle you. Five years have been taken from your life. Your wife has long ago divorced you. You can never leave your country because you are on some terrorist no fly list.

Yet another true story of a German man being held in Afghanistan and later Guantanamo Bay before finally being released. If you don't remember the last one I told you, it can be reread here. How many more stories like these are there? When you allow a government to run unchecked, I'm guessing many more.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Fooling With Mother Nature

If you recall, I took a trip of a life time down the Grand Canyon in April of 2000, almost four years after it had been flooded by one of those man-made floods that just recently ended. Because I was on a dory boat, we had a full two-week head start on the glut of rafting season and therefore pretty much could camp as we please. Although most sandbars were greatly diminished from erosion, we still had our pick of them with our relatively small group. However, the guides frequently showed me pictures of the canyon prior to the damns when the very same sandbars, now the size of a typical fraction of an acre suburban home lot, were tens and twenty times the size.

Funny things happen when sandbars are eroded away and replaced once every four to eight years by man made floods. Native vegetation that had been there for hundreds of years on a sandbar gets swept downstream with the erosion. When the sandbars are replaced with the man-made flood, a faster invasive type of plant called "piss weed" due to the odor it emits when burned quickly takes over. The native vegetation would eventually come back if given the chance but total erosion of the beach happens within a year or two and the frequency of our floods are much much longer. Given the choice, I would much rather camp among the native vegetation than piss weed.

Although fires are regulated in the bottom of the canyon due to the arid conditions and the flammability of piss weed, I went in the spring where we were allowed fires. But the dam that limits the flooding that destroys the sandbars also limits the firewood. The only firewood to be found in the bottom of the canyon is that which has been washed there from upstream. Since a dam and retention pool effectively cut that supply off, you are left with the occasional logjam washed down out of a side canyon. These occur sometimes once in a decade or longer. Needless to say, when we saw an accessible log jam, we would sometimes load up the baggage boat with some firewood to enjoy a fire or two in the evening. Most nights we cooked over gas.

Another repercussion of the dam itself is that it completely obliterated the native fish population. The fish that once thrived in the warm muddy waters of the Colorado have died thanks to the filtered and extremely cold water emitted from the bottom of the dam. It begins it's journey at the base of Glen Canyon at a chilling 46 degrees and warms up by a full six degrees by the time it reaches the cesspool known as Lake Mead. I about had a hard attack jumping into the water after a hot dusty hike. I can only imagine what goes through the fishes mind when forced to live through such a drastic temperature swing. Needless to say, any thoughts were short lived before most died and were swept downstream.

But we the human race are on top of it and after creating a recent man made flood, we have built up the sandbars. People are already oohing and aahing at our progress. Yet all the work will be undone by this time next year and the next flood will come in another four to eight, if ever. For you see, too many cities built in the middle of a desert during the worth drought in recorded history have come to depend on the water in those stagnate cesspools behind the dams and think we are crazy for letting the water go. I think Nikolai Lash summed up the situation the best. I leave you with a quote from him.

"It's kind of like when President Bush landed a jet on the aircraft carrier and held up a banner that said `Mission Accomplished,"' said Nikolai Lash, senior program director at the trust. "Reclamation has come in with a lot of show and fanfare from last week's event and we're seeing the benefits of doing these high flows. But we know that they're short-lived and the Grand Canyon deserves long-lived benefits, long-lived restoration."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Learning One of Life's Lessons

Mrs. Abbey was tucking Little Abbey into her car seat while I was putting away the groceries. I shut the rear hatch and Mrs. Abbey shut the side door while I walked around to the driver's door. That was when the van started beeping like it had some sort of anti-theft alarm except with horn honks that weren't quite as regular as they should be. Puzzled, I grabbed the driver's door handle only to find it locked. I asked Mrs. Abbey to unlock the door since she had the keys when we left the grocery store but she said Little Abbey had them. That is when it hit me like a ton of bricks.

As we were checking out our groceries, Mrs. Abbey started off with Little Abbey to walk off some of that endless energy. I tossed her the keys so she could start getting Little Abbey into her car seat while I come behind them. We ended up meeting back at the van at approximately the same time and that is when all this happened. So for a minute or two, there were two parents peering through the side window of a honking van as Little Abbey contentedly sat inside pressing the door lock button on the key fob and listening for the honks.

Deciding that the chances of Little Abbey hitting the other button on the fob before getting upset and tossing the keys was slim and none, I hurried into the store and back to the service desk. I told the lady that our 21-month-old daughter had locked herself in the car and us out and could she please call someone to unlock our car in this emergency situation. Within minutes I was talking to a man named Keith who said he was on his was to pick up his tools and would be right there.

When you have an upset kid crying in a locked vehicle, (she had by then tossed the keys and her milk to the floor), fifteen minutes can feel like an eternity. Here I was a father, standing two feet from my daughter and could do nothing to soothe her tears. Fortunately like I mentioned, the locksmith was there in about fifteen minutes and less than a minute later had the car unlocked, which by the way seemed ridiculously easy to do and made me feel as if locking the vehicle was only a minor nuisance to a thief. Little Abbey was soon comforted with something from the grocery bags and the locksmith was $30 richer for one minutes worth of work.

As soon as he was gone and we were on the way home, the giggles hit due to the obvious humor in the situation. I laughed almost all the way home. Things could have been much worse. It could have been extremely cold or very hot, where the balance between life and death was on a lot finer point. Fortunately, we both learned a valuable lesson this weekend and the penalty was a few tears and a snack bag intended for my wife's lunch bag. Fortunately now, I can still find the humor in it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

John Henry Baker's Parents: Part Two

During the next week after getting Steve's emails, I was able to locate the 1880 Federal Census with who I now thought were my great great great grandparents but John Henry Baker's name was not listed. His confirmed brothers and sisters from the obituary were listed but not him. For some reason he was gone and I haven't been able to locate him. So I still had two of three pieces of information that proved that someone else’s thoughts might be valid but no conclusive proof. That is when I unexpectantly received yet another email from Steve.

In his spare time, he had gone to the Waterloo courthouse and looked up John Henry Baker's marriage license, which not only conclusively proved some things, but also provided an interesting story to boot. On the license, his father was listed as Joseph Baker and his mother Fannie Boller. This is sufficiently close to Francis (Fannie) Bolton to be one and the same. It also lists the brides name (John Henry Baker's second wife) as Katie Jaynes. If you recall, Katie's last name was Stevens on all the Census records. But in the space for maiden name if widowed, Katie Stevens was written. So I knew beyond a doubt, that I had the right people.

But written at the top of the page was something strange. There behind where it generally says that the bride and groom are of legal age and meet the legal requirements for obtaining a marriage license, the annotation written in stated: …except that Katie Jaynes has the right to remarry within one year as per decree of this court. 13th of May 1916. Fortunately Steve took the initiative to search further into what that meant and found an article printed in the Cedar Falls Daily Record. I have attached it below but due to the binding of the article, part of the second column got clipped. Still, what you can read remains an interesting story and I'm sure was very scandalous back then.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

John Henry Baker's Parents: Part One

I think my quest to find John Henry Baker's parents, a quest that has spanned almost two years, may finally be over. When I first wrote about him here, I had found a granddaughter who believed he was born in Illinois. Though I would think a granddaughter would know the truth, I had no reason to believer since I had a mound of evidence saying otherwise and she had no evidence to support her belief.

Almost a year later after this conversation, I discovered a second page to the 1925 Census which only further discounted the granddaughter's story and I wrote about it here a couple weeks ago. I had pretty much figured that my questions were pretty much always going to remain question without a trip to Cedar Falls where John Henry Baker spent most of his life and even then, I wasn't sure if I would find anything.

I had posted what facts I knew along with my theories etcetera onto a message board specifically for those seeking Baker ancestors but received no reply. I had done that early in my search and again after I had recently written about him. Then on spur decision, I posted it on a genealogy forum for Black Hawk County where Cedar Falls is located and a few days later, I met someone whom I own a huge debt of gratitude too. His name was Steve.

In his email was the obituary for John Henry Baker and it says that he was born in Colchester, Illinois, precisely where his granddaughter had claimed. The reason why I never could find a record was because they were there from the years 1871 to around 1874, in-between major census records. The obituary lists all his kids which census records that I have confirm so I knew I had the right guy. The only thing that stuck out was the name of his second now widowed wife, Hattie Jaynes. According to the census, his second wife was named Katie Stevens. Now I can understand how Hattie might be read as Katie with sloppy handwriting sometimes found on census records but Jaynes and Stevens are kind of hard to reconcile. This problem would be reconciled a few days later by Steve but I will blog about that on another day.

Sadly, this obituary didn't say the names of his parents but did lend credence to his granddaughter who said their names were Joseph Clark Baker and Francis Bolton. Remember I had a census record that said their names were John and Fannie. But I did check and I found Joseph and Francis Baker in Parkersburg just as the obituary said which also added to the scales tipping towards those names. But before the week was over, there would be no denying that I, with the help of the kind Samaritan named Steve, had finally found the names of my great great great grandparents, the final missing pair.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Miss Independence at 21 Months

Has it really been 21 months already? I've lost count as I ran out of fingers and toes. Every day, Little Abbey has something new or different and yet I hardly can press myself to sit here and list things. So I will just go with the flow. Mom was doing some laundry and needed the stain remover so she enlisted Little Abbey by telling her to go get the spray. Little Abbey responded by getting down on her knees and bending over. It took us a second or two to realize Little Abbey had thought we had told her to pray. Melts your heart doesn't it?

She still has her shyness/stranger anxiety though it is getting better. This weekend we through an impromptu party and it took Little Abbey only about 15 minutes to break out of her shell and soon she was drag racing another boy on scooters through the house. For the first time in months, she took an almost two hour nap.

Little Abbey is also showing signs of wanting to be potty trained. This weekend, she sat on her potty for almost a half hour and refused to get off and put her diaper back on. Several times over the last week, she has been off doing something only to come back naked from the waist down. NO, she doesn't have NUDIST TENDANCIES! She wants to be potty trained and as a father, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Miss Independence refuses to allow anyone to help her especially when it comes to eating. It's her food and she will do it and so we let her, even if it means we have to leaves some rice on the floor to dry out so that we can clean it up. (Sticky rice is very hard to clean off the floor.) Her independence has spread through other aspects of her life, such as…

…when yesterday we went for a walk. About halfway through our normal route, we let her hop out of the off road stroller we have a walk. She walked almost the entire way back and only with protest allowed us to put her back in the stroller for the last 50 yards up a very ice sidewalk to our house. Once in the driveway, she was back out of the stroller.

It has also manifested itself in her choice of shoes. If you don't put the shoes she wants on, it is like trying to shoe an injured crocodile in a muddy pit. Pick out the right shoe according to her, and she sits still just as pretty as you please. I guess I'm to blame since I look at shoes in terms of comfort and favoritism and not fashion. I care not a lick if brown does or doesn't go with black or white doesn't come acceptable until after Memorial Day.