March Madness–Utah-style

Even if you aren’t a basketball fan, you are probably aware of the playoffs called March Madness every spring.  We’re down to the “Final Four” this weekend and it can’t end too soon for this football fan!

However, this year, Utah was well-represented at the start of this collegiate sport insanity with the Utes of the University of Utah and the Cougars of Brigham Young University in the mix.  The Utes got knocked off early on, but the BYU Cougars made it to the “Sweet Sixteen” (a total of 64 teams start out) and hoped to make it to the “Elite Eight” grouping.  Unfortunately for BYU, Florida had other ideas and ended their run in overtime (apparently a replay of last year against BYU). 

Why am I mentioning this?  Why might you be remotely interested?  Well, BYU made the sport’s headlines this past basketball season from two different directions: the administration invoked the Honor Code against one outstanding player and another player was just voted best college player in the US for 2011.

First, the player who became a bench jockey.  Brandon Davies apparently broke the Honor Code all students, employees, staff, faculty–everone–at BYU signs off on.  If you work at or attend BYU–999 people out of 1000 are Mormon there–this well-known Honor Code which pretty much governs all aspects of life.  Here it is in a nutshell, straight from the BYU website:

    Be honest
    Live a chaste and virtuous life
    Obey the law and all campus policies
    Use clean language
    Respect others
    Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse
    Participate regularly in church services
    Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards*
    Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code

*Really strict: Men–no beards or long sideburns, hair not longer than the collar, no tight shirts, NO tattoos; Women–modest dresses (no skirt slits above knees), NO tattoos, only one ear piercing each ear, no skimpy tops, etc….   Shoes at all times for men and women.

It seems Mr Davies got his girlfriend pregnant (both may be made to leave the university) and he, BYU’s star forward on the basketball team, was benched, just at the start of the playoffs!  He broke the Honor Code and the administration stuck to it.  Whether, in 2011, you agree with the code or not, at least BYU followed their own guidelines.  If you are a student there, you know the rules.  Break them at your peril.    

On the other hand, what are the odds that the  best collegiate hoops player in the US would be a not-really-tall, white, Mormon guy from BYU?  Jimmer Fredette is his name he is graduating this year, so it will be interesting to see if some team in the NBA picks him up.  He holds all sorts of school and collegiate records and is deadly accurate in long-range shots (the ones worth 3 points) and demonstrated his prowess in the March Madness games BYU played in.  He made the cover of Sports Illustrated two weeks running while BYU was still in the hunt.  (He even has his own Wikipedia page, for crying out loud!)

Jimmer Fredette of BYU

The irony of all this is the venue for determining who would advance into the “Elite Eight” was in New Orleans, LA.  A lot of BYU fans from all over the country descended on the Big Easy for the game and to support Jimmer and the rest of the team.  The Utah sports’ broadcasters (probably LDS themselves) wondered aloud just how do BYU fans in New Orleans celebrate, especially if the Cougers beat Florida.  Mormons don’t drink, they mused, so do they party down with fruit and water?  The riffs were pretty amusing, but BYU spared everyone from finding out when they lost in overtime.

Meanwhile, the faithful back in Provo (where BYU is located) met their heros at the regional airport and cheered Jimmer and the boys almost as if they had won.  One forgiving sign, held aloft by an adoring female fan of Jimmer’s, summed it all up and put things in prespective: “At least you’re still Mormon!”

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Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Utah Pols Strike Again

If the feral animal bill didn’t stir up enough controversy after the Hot Tub Gate of last year, the state legislators have struck again in their attempts to completely undermine public trust.  The latest broughaha spins around open records at the capital and transparency.  For those who know me, I try to steer clear of political debate and rancor.  I do my best to stay informed and I vote, but heated argument is not my style.  However, thia latest mess–which has most Utahns up in arms–is a real doozy!

It seems about 2 weeks ago, at literally the 11th hour of the last session of the state legislature, HB477 was passed–no, rammed through–with no public debate, or house debate for that matter.  For those unfamiliar with this piece of Utah legislation, HB477 concerns itself with exempting text messages from public scrutiny and increases the costs and processing time of records requests (think in thousands of dollars).

After vocal public and news reporter (TV and print) outcry, the House Republicans wiped egg off their faces (keep in mind this is a VERY red state, Democratic presidential candidates don’t even bother campaigning  here) and quickly voted in a closed caucus to support repeal of the bill they had just passed.  Gov. Gary Herbert issued a special session call (cost to tax payers, about $30,000) to study and recommend ways to adapt the state’s open records law to new (!) technologies, like text messages, voice mails, and e-mail.  Oh, my heck, how many years have these things been around? 

HB477 aimed to deny public access to what records should be available and, well, transparent.  Close this down and we return to the era of Back room politics (sans cigar smoke, Mormons don’t smoke) and deal-making.  Not good.

All this back-tracking, without apologies, I might add, on the heels of the governor signing this bill into law about a week ago, so it could become law in July and then “be tweaked” (whatever that means).  Herbert, trying to preserve some modicum of dignity said, “It’s clear to me …HB477 resulted in a loss of public confidence.”  Ya think?

We saw public rallies at the capitol building, a citizens’ group gathering petition signatures, Tea Party activists, and even a threatened lawsuit by the ACLU.    It really became a focal point of citizen concern and, of course, the local pundits had a field day, poking fun at the ineptitude of the guys we all elected. 

The few, lonely Democrats in the House and Senate (there are a token few) went on record as saying that the “bill was flawed from the start and should never have been passed.”

The issue of  records in an electronic era should now be studied more closely during the intrerim session.  For the record, the original Utah open records law was established 20 years ago.  Hmmmm, that would be 1991, sort of before e-mail was used widely and well before cell phones and texting.  I think we did have answering machines on phones and the trusty old 2 Dixie cups and sting.

Published in: on March 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Just Who Do I Think I Am?

I suppose it had to happen eventually….

Living out here, where geneology is a way of life (Mormon ordinance to keep families together in heaven), I finally was motivated to start researching our family tree.  (Perhaps I was also inspired by the TV show Who Do You Think You Are?)  So despite my generally avoiding writing blog posts about myself, I though I’d share–in as general terms as possible–the fun I’ve been having with Utah’s favorite family full-contact sport: geneology.

Of course, the place to start is with the website ancestry.com.  It truly has access to bazillions of historical records from census sheets to ship passenger lists from immigration voyages.  It also links you with others searching their family trees who might have shared roots.  I’m not advertising for this website (not surprisingly hosted by the LDS church), but it is an amazing tool.  In case you’re wondering, beyond the first 2 weeks which are free, there is a modest monthly charge that works out to about $1.00 per day.  Of course, after 2 weeks, you’re generally addicted to the search process and have only scratched the surface of family roots, so you sign up for more!

So, I started my family tree search.  Early on–the first night, if I recall correctly–my daughter and I, unknowingly, happened to pick the one branch of the tree on my paternal grandmother’s side that, by magically tapping into other people’s family tree work, we got back to the mid-1500s in Germany!  This is heady stuff. 

Then it got more challenging: I combed through census forms: 1840, 1850, ’60, ’70, ’80, no 1890–it was destroyed in a fire, 1900, ’10, ’20, and ’30.  (The census for 1940  won’t be released until about 2020.)  From these forms you can see the ebb and flow of families: births, missing people (death or marriage), remarriage, etc.  I’ve also looked through military records, Social Security death records, city directories, passenger lists, land tax schedules, just about anything you can think of. 

So, what have I found?  Well for my side, beside the one German branch that goes back to the 1500s, on another branch I have gotten back to the 1700s in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  One of my ancestors fought in the War of 1812.  Another fought in, and survived, the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War–no small feat for a man of 45!  I have hit some brick walls, like what ever happened to my father’s half-brother who shows up only on the 1930 census as a young adult with either his wife or his half-sister.  Then both totally disappear.  It’s a real head-scratcher.  I also discovered the man whom I knew to be my grandfather’s close friend, and then my father’s friend, was actually related.  He was my grandfather’s nephew.  Never knew that.

I’ve also been able to fill in a time line on my great-great grandfather on my mother’s side who was the bandmaster for, first, the Adam Forpaugh Circus and later, the Ringling Bros. Circus.

On my daughter’s husband’s side, I’m slowly unraveling their roots and it seems England, Wales, and Ireland figure in heavily in that family line.  Many were coal miners in the Pocono Mountains area.

During a lull in the action while figuring out my next step with the Warren/Hatzell/Finley families, for the fun of it, I started looking into a family tree of a good friend from back in Pennsylvania.  How difficult and exciting could tracing German immigrants and Kentucky backwoods folk be?  How many cafreful records would be kept by simple Kentucky farmers living a hardscrabble life? 

Well, let me tell you, until you look, you don’t know who you are!  Seems like those folks in the “hollers” of Appalachia keep fine records, as once you leave the realm of census taking, you are dependent on family tree searches done by others, who probably–as I was able to do for my New Jersey relatives–lean on family Bible entries and other records.  Seems as though the Kentucky folks started out in the 1600s as the first settlers in Virginia and North Carolina.  From there they provided some big names in the American Revolution.  And where did they originally come from?    It works out they are a well-researched and documented noble family from France and Germany.  I soon blew past the Middle Ages and am now in the Dark Ages (try 890 AD on for size!) in the minor royal families of Saxony and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur; and I’m not to the end yet!  Just how far back did they keep records?????!!!!!  It’s quite exhilirating!

So, I guess I have a new hobby and it sure helps pass the time in a fairly useful way.  Haven’t found any rogues, scoundrels, or axe murderers…yet, but I’m still looking!

Published in: on March 16, 2011 at 3:52 pm  Comments (2)  

The News You (Probably) Missed–Vol. 4

While your strange news rolls on, so does ours.  A sampling of the odder items that earned headlines: backyard skulls, a mountainside rollercoaster, a trillion dollar lawsuit, and glamorizing your car.  I’ll betchya you didn’t catch these newsworthy items recently in the paper out here.  I can’t understand why they didn’t make the national news….

Two Human Skulls, Animal Parts Turn up in Clearfield

If the marority of Utah residents are Mormon, that leaves some room for other religions, and Utah apparently has them all–a real banquet!  Police armed with a search warrant to search a property in the next town over, Clearfield, for drugs discovered a religious shrine set up in a backyard shed with dead animals (several hundred pounds’ worth!) and 2 human skulls.  Police theorize that the owner, Mr. Casillas-Corrales, is a santero, which is a priest in the Santeria religion.  The skulls were reported to have been removed from grave sites in Cuba and sold on the open market (And who says capitalism is not allowed in Cuba?).  Mr. H., a neighbor, stated the Casillas-Corrales family had been great neighbors and he had been invited to their home for fiestas, bar-b-ques (Are you thinking what I’m thinking?), and other parties through the years.  Mr. Casillas-Corrales is not a US citizen, so INS is now involved, but all authorities investigating have to be careful not to infringe on the accused’s freedom of religion rights.

Snowbird Ski Resort Loses Rollercoaster Bid

The Salt Lake County Board of Adjustment voted against allowing the Snowbird Ski Resort building a mountainside roller coaster to help enhance summertime attractions beyond the usual ski lift ride up and back to the top of the mountain.  The board said due to the size (3,300 feet long) and the fact that it would require a bridge across the canyon highway it would have environmental impact it wasn’t appropriate.  Besides that, the board also felt the coaster isn’t snow-related.  (I don’t know, a winter rollercoaster ride through a blinding blizzard in zero degree weather might be a real experience!)

Competency Evaluation for Ogden Man Seeking $53 Trillion

Harvey Goff was arrested last week in Ogden on 14-counts including: obstruction of justice, impeding internal revenue laws, fictitious obligations, and attempting to commit mail fraud.  He was demanding to be paid $53 trillion (I think the national debt ceiling is now just under $15 trillion!).  Goff refused to stand at his court appearance and also refused counsel, to acknowledge his name or identity, and claimed he had been kidnapped from his home. 

It all began with a speeding ticket in March 2010.  He then presented paperwork to the officer claiming diplomatic immunity which protected him from detention, arrest, or prosecution.  He also asserted that he would charge $1,000 to the officer for every minute was delayed.  He filed documents under a “self-help administrative process.”  When the city didn’t pay him the trillions in damages within ten days, Goff filed liens on 77 parcels of land in Weber County, including municipal properties and private residences of government officials.  Goff is seeking $300 billion in a separate tax case and he’s trying to get $50 million off an IRS employee.   And it doesn’t stop there, but you get the picture.  Each count against the defendant carries up to 25 years and a $250,000 fine.  Geeze, he could spend several lifetimes in jail and owe all kinds of money.  Ya think he’s competent???  (Actually, I have a sneaking suspicion he may be aligned with those folks who consider themselves “sovereign citizens.  Never heard of them?  Just google the phrase.  It’s a tad scary.) 

Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge or How to Bat an Eye

Just in time for Mother’s Day and the sunny days of summer, an enterprising Utah company has developed enhancement for cars that will appeal to a lot of women (but not too many men…): stick-on eyelashes for your auto headlights.  They come in a few mascara colors (black and blue) and being about 6″ long will really glam up the look of your road presence.  Some models even come with crystal bling “eyeliner.”  They run about $15.00 and unless they are removed (or ripped off) are supposed to be fairly long-term.  If you think I’m dreaming this up, just google “auto eye lashes !  My question is: Are they legal?

The fashion-plate look
Published in: on March 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm  Comments (1)  

The News You (Probably) Missed–Vol. 3

More odd news you probably didn’t hear about:  Odgen police blimp, the city of romance, bill to abolish prostitution in Nevada, and custom guns.

Ogden Police Considering Use of Blimp

Looks like the City of Odgen may get its very own blimp.  Apparently, city officials have been in talks with the Utah Center for Aeronautical Innovation and Design at Weber State University.  The subject?  Designing and building a blimp for the Ogden Police Department.  The unmanned, cigar-shaped dirigible–52 feet long and 4 feet wide–would be piloted from the ground via remote control.  Equipped with a night-vision camera, it would allow the police to patrol the city from above.  A police blimp would certainly provide law enforcement a relatively inexpensive (does anyone know the going price for helium?) eye-in-the-sky for things like surveillance, stakeouts, and even vehicle chases–provided the getaway vehicle doesn’t exceed the blimp’s top speed of 40 mph.  Rumor has it there is other cost-effective, cutting-edge law-enforcement technology being considered by the police department: a police steamboat (if Robert Fulton can get the bugs worked out), replacing those expensive two-way radios with tin cans and string (lots and lots of string); and makeshift stun guns consisting of a hair dryer in a bucket of water to throw on suspects.

Salt Lake, a City of Romance

According to Amazon.com (that apparently can run statistics and come up with these pronouncements) has ranked Salt Lake City the 14th most romantic city in the country.  (Keep in mind that this state is really conservative and modest.)  This is based on sales data of romance novels and personal relationship books sold since January 1, 2011.  Amazon also used criteria such as sales of Barry White albums and sexual wellness products (not sure what’s included here…) on a per capita basis in citied of 100,000 or more people.  Which cities ranked at the top, you ask?  Alexandria, VA won top honors, followed by Knoxville, TN and Orlando, FL.  Another Florida city, Miami, came in 4th, but took the sexiest city in America spot for the second year in a row (can’t think of why…).

Senator Reid Suggests Bill to Abolish Prostitution

US Sen. Harry Reid (R-NV) made a visit to his home state’s legislature and in a speech aimed at cleaning up Nevada’s image (by the way, Reid is a convert to the Mormon faith), suggested strongly that Nevada’s reputation would benefit if prostitution were abolished.  He was met with a stunned and stoney silence.  He went on to say that he feels it’s awkward for children to peer out the windows of their school busses and see billboards for brothels as they’re enroute to school.  (For those who are unaware, most of the legal prostitution takes place in the town of Parrump, about an hour west of Las Vegas in the middle of a deserty nowhere.)  He says the gambling is bad enough, but the prostitution ought to go.

Making Your Mark in a Unique Way

For those of us who want a step up in personal weaponry, a West Haven, Utah company has combined firearms expertise with aerospace engineering.  For a reasonable $2,400.00 and 6-8 weeks of patience, you, too, can have a custom-made rifle that boasts no gun harmonics and accuracy up to 600 yards.  (In case you’re scratching your head as to what gun harmonics are, let me explain.  In a gun, after you pull the trigger, the barrel tries to square (align) and the bullet and chamber are also trying to square, creating a harmonic.  In a mass-produced, factory-made gun, these harmonics are always present.  Apparently, this will affect accuracy at longer distances.)  When you add aerospace technology to master gunsmithing, you get a custom rifle to die for (bad pun!).  The company, Cross Canyon Arms, boasts dozens of custom options and more than 800 different caliber combinations to build the rifle of your dreams.  One of the partners claims the performance difference is like “someone writing with crayons compared to a fine art painter.”

Place your order, the line forms to the rear.

Published in: on March 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Last of 2010 and Start of 2011 Obits

Many of the obituary notices in Utah are standard in wording, especially for Mormons: loved the gospel; had a strong testimony, held many church callings like (for women) Relief Society President, Homemaking Work Director, Primary Sunday School teacher and (for men) High Priesthood, served a mission–to be fair, sometimes women do this, too–in [fill in someplace in the world], elders’ quorum president, home teacher, stake young men’s president, bishopric counselor (clearly there are more important positions of authority reserved for men only!). 

However, I’ve again been gathering snippets of the more unusual kind from the obituary pages since I last shared what I had extracted and here they are, in all their interesting glory!

Oh, and one more item, in today’s paper, a mortuary and cremation business has advertised on the obituary pages.  Their ad includes the following testimonial as a selling point: “My wife’s funeral was so unique, we all got butterflies.”  I’ll let you make of it what you will!

M.W…. “Never a conformist, he loved music and secretly (his son thinks) wanted to be Bob Dylan.  His brother said when told of his passing: ‘A whole lot of cool has just left the earth.'”

C.S…. “Growing up, C. was a member of the Superior High School Marching Band.  ‘We could march and we could play, but we couldn’t march and play!'”

L.M…. “L. was born in November of 1947 at home on the kitchen table in a blizzard in South Dakota….His first motorcycle was a Cushman; his first Harley-Davidson came in 4 boxes, 6 coffee cans, and a 5-gal. bucket which he transformed into a 1947 Knucklehead.”

E.C…. “E. enjoyed making wall clocks, planting flowers, going shopping and on walks.  She loved pastel colors, canning (especially salsa), playing the organ, and dancing at the Berthana Ballroom where she met her sweetheart.”  [Talk about eclectic diversions!]

C.K…. “”Pseudonyms for C. are Foxie, Boxie, Wifey, Mom, Chick, strong, beautiful, intelligent, and Krypto Master of the Universe.  Always protective of her children, [had breast cancer not claimed her] she would have been the one to greet dates at the door with a freshly cleaned shotgun.”

P.B…. “T. is survived by her husband, her dog Pooperz and her cat Little One.”

T.G…. [Very brief notice that only gave birth and death dates and which mortuary would handle cremation.] “Still traveling.”

Y.W…. “Married L.J. and they had four daughters.  She divorced him, married P.L. and they had three daughters.  She finally met her soul mate, B.W., married him and had four more daughters.”  [Just couldn’t get that son…]

C.H…. “Crazy Legs” [Unfortunately, no explanation for the nickname.]

M.B…. “As a person who could never walk away from a good deal, M. may have bought and sold more cars in a year than most people owned in a year.”

D.C…. “D. spent his 40+ year career fighting the dark forces of the evil mosquito.”

W.L…. “W.’s passion was his 50 year project of putting the King James version of the Bible in chronological order without modern technology.”

R.L…. “He dropped out [of school at age 14] in his sophomore year to work at a gas station and play pool on the side.  By age 16 he became on of the top players in the state of Utah.  He traveled the road hustling from town to town making his living.  In 1982 he won back-to-back [pool] tournaments in Las Vegas.”

G.A…. “…You always knew where you stood with G….she could be stubborn and blunt…she lovingly called her grandkids ‘her little sh*ts’ [obit spelling retained] on occasion before pouncing on them and ‘kissing their faces off.’  Enjoy your long-awaited reunion with your eternal sweetheart.  Go down to Maverik [Utah’s version of a quick stop for gas and snacks] and fill up those old orange cups and have a Diet Coke together again, it’s been too long.  You both deserve it.”

F.Q…. “At the request of the deceased, there will be no memorial service.  Instead, friends and family should gather at Peppy’s Pizzaria on Saturday at 5:00 to remember the good times.  Those with Harleys are encouraged to ride ’em over.”

S.E…. “She was known in the community as the ‘Tamale Lady,’ but she was so much more!”

V.B…. “V. had many hobbies; most notable in her younger days she was considered quite the Pinochle player and could shuffle a deck better than any Las Vegas blackjack dealer.

S.W…. “No matter the situation or the day, S. was dressed to the nines, primped and accessorized, even while boating, hiking, or driving school bus #35, which was the most pampered and best-smelling bus in the state.”

And finally, a true free-spirit:

B.C…. [Notice accompanied by a recent photo of B. in a full-brimmed hat, V-necked blouse and bead necklace; he’s in full drag (in Utah, this is really courageous!)] “Beloved friend, family member, poet, artist, and aesthete left this world on Feb. 9th.  HE was an excellent patron and supported of local arts, restaurants and unique stores.  A wake to celebrate B.’s life will be on February 20th at the Borrowed Earth Emporium.  this is a potluck event, so please bring something to share.”

Published in: on March 1, 2011 at 4:06 pm  Comments (1)