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Happy Independence Day

I hope you all enjoy celebrating the birth of our nation by blowing up a small chunk of it. I’m going to spend most of today doing as little as possible. My major planned activity is snoozing in my chair and drinking iced tea.

My apologies for the light posting this week, but we’ve been busy tidying up for a house guest this weekend, and yesterday I had problems with the server the blog runs on. I was down a good chunk of Thursday because of a persistent crash involving the Ethernet chip on the board. I switched over to the other interface, in the hopes that it might only be specific to that one. We’ll see. I usually will get a text when the monitoring system detects the machine is down, but the mail relay was coincidentally out on that machine, which is the one thing that could go wrong where I wouldn’t know about it.

It may come time soon to replace the blog server. If I come to that point, I might have a fundraising drive. But I still think this current machine has some life left in it yet. We’ll see if switching to the other port fixes the problem.

Thanks To All Who Commented on the Chair Bleg

Several days ago I had written a post asking for some advice on what to do about my beloved Aeron chair that had an arm break clean off. I got a lot of good advice, but the one that fixed it was the person who suggested looking on Fastenal. A pair of calipers and counting the thread density revealed the bolt was a 1/4″-28 X 2-5/8 black oxide bolt. I managed to find this bolt at Fastenal, which fixed the issue right up. The plastic part I thought I was missing it turned out was just hiding, so all parts were present. The new bolt put the chair right back together like nothing had happened.

Fixed Aeron Chair

As a person who spends an unhealthy amount of time, between working in IT and blogging in my spare time, with my ass planted in a chair I appreciate it. Now the only question is how long it will take the Glock 19 to finish wearing through the mesh on the (my) right side (which you can see in the pic if you look closely).

Office Chair Bleg

I’ve been planting my rear in a Herman Miller Aeron Chair for the better part of a decade. Back around 2003 the previous company I worked for acquired another company out in San Diego that was about to go tits up. We mainly wanted their technology and a few key employees who understood it, but it also came with a heaping shipment of Aeron chairs. I snatched one up immediately, figuring it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission. It’s hands down the best chair I’ve ever owned. When our company finally went tits up in 2011, I was the last employee out of the building, and since the wind-down team had to hold on to our chairs through the asset auction, I took two Aeron chairs home.

Everything was fine until just before we were ready to head to Annual Meeting, and I stood up from my chair and the right arm broke clean off; the bolt head having separated completely from the shaft. Given the chair is about 14 years old at this point, that’s not a bad run. But I’m loathe to spend money on a new one. The trouble with fixing it is that Herman Miller pretty heavily controls its parts distribution, and there are only certain approved parts that can be sold, like lumbar pads and arm rest pads. There isn’t a arm rest bolt to be found on all the Internets that doesn’t look like a cheap non-hardned knockoff.

Herman Miller demands you to take the chair to an authorized service center to be repaired. I have a real problem with forcing customers to screw themselves out of hard-earned cash. It’s a chair, not a Saturn V rocket engine. I can fix it myself given the proper part. My guess is Herman Miller knows the .com crash flooded the secondary market with their chairs, and they know they are very well built and last forever. So they have to manufacture ways to extract money from the used market, and probably hope you’ll just buy a new one. Except that one with all the bells and whistles, a new Aeron pushes close to 9 or 10 bills.

So I’m kind of pissed off at this whole thing. I’m wondering if anyone out there knows of either a good Aeron knockoff that’s well built and comfortable, or knows a good source for Aeron parts outside of official Herman Miller channels. I’d also be open to getting a broken one to use for parts if it’s cheap enough too.

UPDATE: I found a solution! The chair lives!

Lineage & Guns

As most of you know from occasional posts, Sebastian & I have been into studying family history since last summer. I joined Daughters of the American Revolution last fall based on the research, and I’m finding even more patriots with practically every family line that I open up. But just this morning, I found I have a new goal. I want to find a gunsmith in my family tree. Why? Because of this qualification for designating a patriot in DAR:

Those who rendered material aid such as furnishing supplies with or without remuneration, lending money to the Colonies, munitions makers, gunsmiths, etc.

I’ve found a politician (state representative from Kentucky in 1800) who is the grandson of a sometimes hard-to-prove female patriot, several refugees fleeing religious wars whose families ended up supporting independence, and a patriot documented as supplying whisky to the troops, but no gunsmiths or munitions makers for the Revolution yet. And you know I want one if I can find one.

So, this is a bit of a bleg to anyone who knows about quality historical research. Where is one likely to find sources on gunsmiths & munitions makers from that era? I assume my best bet is to try and find wills and other legal records that may make mention of an occupation, but I wanted to ask if there were potentially other sources since I know this is an audience that loves guns, gun rights, and history.

I’ve got known patriots and family lines in Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina during the war. Afterwards, some ended up in Kentucky simply because that’s the county they were in when it was divided and then those broke off to become a state, so gun makers in those areas are more likely to be of value for this purpose.

The White Menace

Posting will resume once I dig my vehicle out of the snowstorm that came through last night. The Weather Channel likes to call it Hercules, but naming winter storms is among the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard of so screw the Weather Channel. Normally I’d just wait out the melt in my home office, but I wasn’t expecting to have to start building a data center this weekend, and I need to go to New Jersey to pick up a piece of equipment I need to get started. I hope the bridges are clear.

A Holiday Visit to Hampton National Cemetery

Sorry for the lack of posting today, but I was otherwise pre-occupied with travel. Today we ventured down to Hampton National Cemetery in Hampton, Virginia to visit Great-Great-Great Grandpop Erven’s final resting place, and drop off a wreath for him. I had spent all of Wednesday scanning his pension file, so I was eager to finally complete his story, and his story ends at Hampton in the year 1906.


Wreath’s Across America had managed to wreath most of the new part of the cemetery, but fell short for the one section of Civil War veterans that represented Sam Erven’s neighborhood. Most of these Union Civil War veterans seem long forgotten, as was he until I found him. I don’t think my grandmother, who shared his last name until she married my grandfather, ever knew anything about her great-grandfather before she died. We fixed his unit’s badge to his wreath, the purple clover of the 3rd Division, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac. I thought it was a nice touch. He had been widowed for several years, and a very recent discovery that he may have decided to live out the last years of his life in sin and debauchery made me want to go the extra mile. I figured after struggling to collect a meager pension for getting his thumb and lung all shot to hell, he deserved a good bit of boozing and whoring it up behind Rebel lines at the end.

Back to the Grind

I hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend. I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, after a few days off. I spent a good part of the weekend visiting family and attempting to get more family pictures to scan. My aunt had kept a box of things she collected from my grandmother’s house after she died back in 2004. I enjoy reading old letters, because they are first hand historical documents, not history told through the lens of elites who can sometimes warp history to conform to their own biases.

I found this letter, written 5th October 1936, from a Mary Kidner who was traveling around the country with husband and children, living out of their car, and looking for work. This letter was written from a logging camp in Blodgett, Oregon, where they had stopped to find work. This letter was sent to my great-great Aunt Madeline, who forwarded it along to my then 12-year-old grandmother, asking her if she could use it in school. It’s not a terribly well written letter, but it gives an idea of what at least someone’s family life was like during the Great Depression. As bad as we might think we have things now, most of us aren’t raising a family in our automobiles and roaming the country looking for any chance of work. One thing it make me thankful for is that I wasn’t raised during the Great Depression.

One other little side rant is that the letter is hand written. I understand the schools are now going to stop teaching kids handwriting. This horrifies me, because I believe it makes the kids partially illiterate. As soon as they stopped forcing me to use long hand in the schools, I reverted to printing. I probably couldn’t write a letter in long hand today without great pain. But I did learn it, and can read it. The idea that a whole generation are going to be raised with a letter like this being no better than gibberish to them is shameful. The endarkenment continues.

Petty Tyrants & Nannies

You’ll need to pardon me for venting, but I’m just getting really sick of petty tyrants and nanny staters in all walks of life. It’s not just in the gun issue. It turns out that my newest hobby – genealogy – has some rather extreme examples, as I have recently discovered.

Getting into genealogy, you quickly learn that you will never stop learning and that you’ll never know everything. You have to understand people, families, history, local issues to where everyone was living, etc. The best example of just how complicated it can get just doing the paperwork genealogy is in this summary of a shifting political boundary situation highlighted in a DAR brochure: “Thus, in 1800, a man who had lived on the same land in Mason County for less than a quarter of a century had resided in two states and five counties, and he had not moved an inch!” This doesn’t include the nightmare of different record keeping requirements for different times and states. In other words, you have to be a naturally curious person who is eager to learn in order to effectively and correctly conduct genealogical research.

Now, mix in genetic genealogy. This means taking DNA tests to discover genetic cousins who you might not have found yet doing traditional genealogy. This also means learning even more about science so you know how to use those results, along with everything you need to know about traditional genealogy. In other words, you have to be a seriously inquisitive person to really take up this hobby. Sebastian and I are pretty inquisitive folks, so we’ve been learning quite a lot as we go along.

To supplement our learning, I joined a Facebook group set up by super users of an atDNA comparison tool to learn from the conversations and questions that come up there. It’s administered by a couple of women who are very experienced with genetics, so I have learned some things. (For example, there’s a ~50% chance that any of your given 4th cousins won’t show up as a DNA match, despite the fact that you both likely carry at least some DNA from the people who were your common ancestors.) However, I recently discovered that these women are kind of psychotic gatekeepers. It’s like the worst stereotypes of the church trying to keep the masses uneducated for their own good in that place.

I merely argued that Maryland’s current system that restricts DNA testing through companies like 23andMe is silly because people shouldn’t be given barriers to their own genetic information. Good lord, it’s like I advocated for complete anarchy. “But people might get confused!” “But people might not interpret something correctly!” “What if someone makes a bad decision?” Suggesting that people make poor decisions every day and that there are already many things that confuse many people, and that maybe confusion is what inspires learning got me banned. Yup, banned. (More about the NY & MD restrictions on DNA testing here if you’re interested.)

We’re not talking guns here, folks. We’re talking education. They were appalled that I would suggest opening up the doors of testing that might lead more people to better understand their own personal DNA. I was actually criticized for being possibly more reasonable than other people and daring to assume that others are even capable of being as logical as I might be.

But it didn’t stop there.

Someone posted a link to a genetic genealogy blogger who recently solved a 30-year genealogy mystery through DNA connections and she used thresholds lower than normal to do it. They are normally thresholds of measuring DNA that aren’t worth investigating because they are too small to easily point you in the right direction. However, because this woman has discovered many genetic cousins and identified their common ancestors, she knows how to effectively use these smaller connections and tells people about her success. In the group run by petty tyrants, she was condemned for daring to share her discovery because somewhere, someone might possibly read it and get their hopes up about making connections on these small shared DNA segments.

So, in other words, they are against giving people access to their DNA results since someone might get confused. They are against bloggers blogging about how they have successfully used DNA results to make genealogical discoveries because someone might get confused. They are against allowing conversation on topics which might confuse people, too. (They recently announced a ban in the group on conversations about smaller segment DNA matches since even the conversation might confuse people.) To me, it was like the BS that Chicago initially tried to pull after McDonald – you need training, but we won’t allow ranges where you can learn. The same thing in Boston (assuming they still do this) where you have to shoot a certain score on a target to get your gun license, but you can’t buy your own handgun to practice with until you get the license.

I don’t know how you solve this problem when their ultimate goal is to keep people stupid. Clearly, this is not a new attitude in human history. We’ve seen it repeated over and over. Regardless, it still drives me nuts since I can’t seem to get away from them, even when I take up a new hobby!

Thanks to All the Veterans

Sebastian’s Story:

Yesterday I traveled to central Pennsylvania to give my dad his DNA test kit so I can use him for our DNA Geneaolgy research. While I was out there, I decided to get a picture of my grandfather’s medals, ribbons, and various other items from his service during World War II. My grandfather, John Milligan (1920-1996), was in Europe for about a month before a German sniper punched his ticket home. He was engaged in pushback operations around St. Vith, Belgium. Like many veterans, he rarely and reluctantly spoke about his service. I never saw any of these items until his funeral. As a kid I knew he had been wounded, because I could still see the scars the 8mm bullet made, but I only heard the story once. He was firing at the sniper’s position when he was hit, and the bullet entered his support arm, if you can imagine holding an M1.  It traveled down his arm, exited his arm, entered his chest and then finally exited out his back. If the sniper had shot a few inches more true, I wouldn’t be writing this. He was expected to be disabled in the use of his left arm, but he mostly recovered. Here are his ribbons, along with a picture of my grandmother and grandfather with me at my high school graduation, a few years before they both died.

RibbonsPatch PurpleHeart


Bitter’s Story:

Both of my grandfathers served in WWII, but I know relatively little about their service. One was a 1st Lieutenant in the Army and he died before I was ever born. I only know that much because it was carved on his headstone. The other, well, he’s alive, but he didn’t talk about his service much and he long ago disowned his children and grandchildren. I did write to him several months ago and asked if he would be willing to share a bit of his story since I’m now into family history and genealogy, but he has opted not to respond.


However, despite his grumpy old man ways, Sebastian has been fabulous about digging up what he can given just a few clues that my mother brought for us to scan when she visited. My grandfather served in Carrier Aircraft Service Unit 44 from its inception in Feb 1944. He was sent to Oahu, something he just called “a Pacific island” since, as a minimally educated country boy from Oklahoma, he likely didn’t know anything about our little territory of Hawaii. From there, they went to Tinian shortly after we took control.

This is where the documents stop telling the story because he was there for a several months before being shipped to Aiea Naval Hospital back on Oahu, and then to a hospital in New Orleans before being discharged honorably. If he had managed to stay on Tinian just a bit longer, he would have likely watched the Enola Gay take off on it’s mission to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Much of what I’ve learned about his service history comes from a website hosted for/by other vets he apparently served with. During her visit, we asked my grandmother to go through the many pictures on their website and see if she recognized my grandfather. Unfortunately, he doesn’t look like he was the most social of guys and isn’t in any photos they have posted. (This isn’t surprising.) It’s interesting that in digging up the papers my mom had, my grandmother started talking more about my grandfather’s post-war behavior. It’s pretty clear he had some significant issues with PTSD. Maybe one day I’ll know more about his service. One benefit to his serving in the Navy is that his records are likely still available, unlike those of my grandfather in the Army.

A Woodpecker Control Bleg

I’ve had a female Downy Woodpecker whose taking a liking to the Type 111 siding on my house, like she has a calendar that says “From 11AM to 2PM: Go Peck on That Dude’s House.” Since it’s not the right season for woodpeckers to be drumming, and since female woodpeckers don’t do that anyway, my first belief was that I had wood boring insects. A quick romp around the attic with a flashlight and a knife showed no sign of insect infestation in the studs or siding. Whew.

I came across research that showed woodpeckers like Type 111 siding painted in earthy colors. There are insects that like to lay eggs in the channels, which the woodpeckers eat, and then peck around at other parts of the hollow sounding siding to see what else they can find. She doesn’t seem to be boring, as if to make a nesting site. She’s chipped away not very deep in a few areas. It could also be that she just like the sound my house makes when she pecks on it.

Now, if I lived in the middle of nowhere, this would be a prime opportunity to practice the three S’s, but I’m not living in an area where that can exactly be done discretely, and I’m concerned that she’s pecking pretty high up on the house, and a miss with an air gun could damage the flashing or overhang on the roof. So I’m stuck with other forms of control. She didn’t seem too impressed with me chasing her off with a super soaker. She’d leave for a while then come back pecking just as before. I thought about an airsoft gun, but I’m concerned that would maim the bird, and I don’t think that would be very humane.

The only solution I could come with is appeasement. If she’s hungry, she can have her fill of suet, rather than peck at my house.


What other control techniques have people found effective for dealing with woodpeckers, short of lethal means or trapping? So far she hasn’t done very serious damage to the siding, but it’s bad enough I’m going to do some puttying and repainting up there once I’ve been rid of her.

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