Herman I. May

Herman I. May


28 November 2004

Rural freedom

My family and I returned from a Thanksgiving family gathering in Moss Point, Missisippi, yesterday evening. We had a great time visiting with family. It was also the first time we have taken the canines on such a long trek. They both did admirably. Other than some minor stress at being cooped up in a vehicle for the eight hour trip, there were no adverse effects. In fact, they thrived in the rural environment in which my brother and his wife live.

Jen and Christopher reside upon fourteen acres on a deadend road in a relatively secluded portion of Jackson County on the border with Alabama. Other than when going on lengthy morning and evening walks, they were allowed free run of the property — sans tethers. Naturally bounded on three sides by a creek and dense treeline, there was really only one property line by which they could go anywhere. Nevertheless, they did not abuse this privilege and stayed in sight and responded to calls to return.

The size of the plot of land afforded them ample space to run and explore, which they did with relish. On the evening we arrived, Catalina ran seemingly endless circles around the area in front of the house. She tried to get Oberon to follow suit, but he quickly tired of the physical exertion and contented himself with exploring the sights and smells around the yard and adjoining field.

Many who invite greyhounds into their lives and homes caution against ever allowing them off of a lead. They warn that, being sight hounds and of independent mind, they will betray any trust given them and run off. Elizabeth and I have found this to be bunk. Often when returning from an evening walk, we will release them from the leads and let them walk the final block or so to the house, ad libitum. They do so without any threat of bolting. Once, when arriving at home from school, Rebecca inadertently let Catalina and Oberon escape. They roamed the neighborhood for about an hour, evading attempts by she and Elizabeth to locate them. Upon returning home, there they were — waiting to be let into the house.

This trip was a great challenge of the loyalty of Catalina and Oberon. They could have dashed off on any one of several occasions, but did not. In fact, their loyalty seemed to be strengthened by the experience. They came when called and obeyed most every reasonable command issued to them. I doubt I would ever provide them with this level of freedom in an urban or suburban setting. Not so much for a lack of confidence in them as worry of motor vehicles. A rural environ is a totally different scenario.

It only takes love, trust and affection to win the heart and loyalty of a canid. Ours have shown that to us and we were happy to reward that devotion with the freedom to explore the backwoods of Mississippi.

24 November 2004

iPod permeation

Apple's iPod has the rest of the portable MP3 player venders tredding briskly to stay above water. Since the introduction of these harddrive based devices back in October 2001, they have dominated the market and been the envy of competitors. Dell introduced a clone last month, which has lanquished. The CEO of Creative Technology, Inc., Sim Wong Hoo, recently declared "war" on the iPod by stating his company would spend $100 million dollars(US) in an attempt to usurp Apple's dominance in 2005. Though I have seen the introductory salvos by Creative, nothing compares to this...

image of iPod banner

While walking in the CBD last week, I noted that the large mural of a toddler pulling a wagon piled high with automobiles gracing the western wall of a parking garage had been replaced by the above, massive iPod advertisement. It takes mucho bucks to afford something this big. I do not think the competition has a chance! ;-)

23 November 2004

Wily patience

Sometimes, it is possible to observe traits classically attributed to the sentient intelligence of man in other species. Such was the case recently when I watched as Oberon connived a means of robbing Catalina of the treat of a slice of bread.

One of my morning routines is to construct sandwiches for those members of the household desirous of such luncheon fare. Sometimes I bestow the treat of a slice of bread on the canids while engaged in that act. This morning was one of those days.

Almost without fail, Oberon will hear the bread bag being opened and come sauntering into the kitchen in hopes of a slice. Mostly he is ignored. However, on occasion, I will relent and give him one. Catalina is usually still asleep in the bedroom and, as the old saying goes, "you snooze, you lose". Such was not the case this morning as she was laying on her bed in front of the hearth when I gave Oberon his treat. Wanting to be fair, I provided her with one as well — by tossing it across the room and landing it in front of her nose.

Catalina is not particularly fond of bread; not like Oberon. Though she will usually eat it, many times she saves it until later. In keeping with that practice, when the bread landed in front of her, she sniffed it and did not consume it. meanwhile, Oberon was still hanging around the kitchen when I got to slicing cheese. Another of his favorite foods, fortune was smiling upon him when I gave him some of that delicacy as well. Wanting to maintain fairness, I carved some for Catalina as well.

I did not want to toss this treat across the room. So, I walked over to her and fed it directly. Oberon was hot on my heels in hopes of being rewarded with a second slice. He was disappointed. However, he did spy the piece of bread in front of Catalina. Standing in front of her, he just stared intently at the bread. Every once in a while, I could see his brow ridges shift and knew him to be looking at Catalina. He would then return his gaze to the bread. This went on for a good five minutes before he gave up and went off to lie behind the sofa. Even so, he had not forgotten about the bread.

Another morning ritual with myself and the hounds is our morning constitutional. They know when its time approaches and become excited in anticipation. One prelude to the walk is to put on their collars. Usually, Oberon is difficult to corral. He bobs and weaves even opening his mouth in a effort to avoid the restraint device, but embark upon the ambulating session. Today, however, he stood stone still and welcomed the collar placement. Once adjusted, the reason for this cooperation was apparent. He immediately turned and made a beeline to the bed in front of the hearth and consumed the abandoned bread. Catalina, none the wiser, headed for the door once her martingale was in place.

Oberon; what a stinker! :-)

22 November 2004

Scholarly Google

Coming on the heals of their IPO and the release of their "Desktop Search" engine, Google has introduced a new search tool.

Google Scholar is a specialized search interface intended to aid in the discovery of academic publications. From peer-reviewed journals to theses to technical reports, the engine is designed to distill the thousands of competing results returned during a standard Google search into a more manageable and targeted pool. Though still in beta, it appears to be quite robust and accurate. Vanity queries are easy, too. simply prefix your surname with "author:" and a relevant targeting string to hone the results.

author:may "spotted owl"
author:adame, mf

with thanks to Christopher for bringing the utility of this resource to my attention.

17 November 2004

Genetics of genealogy

Several months ago, I made the decision to participate in a project of which I was somewhat dubious. Having done so and received the results, my original reservations persist — even after having the analysis confirm, for the most part, my assumptions going into it.

The MAY Family Reconstruction Project was launched in 2001 on the crest of a new phenomenon in family history research: the use of genetic testing to determine ancestry. Having negotiated a "special" rate with Family Tree DNA, the organizers have spent the last three years soliciting the participation of all families bearing a branch populated with males bearing the May surname. To date over seventy individuals have submitted sample results.

When the project was initiated three years ago, I was contacted separately by all three of the founding members. In addition, this trio proceeded to spam just about every forum on the 'net, which could be connected to the research of the May Family surname. I found this to be quite imposing and somewhat belligerent. Of course, they meant no harm by it and I am confident that they were simply covering all of their bases. I was put off by the persistence, nonetheless. Other researchers have also contacted me over the years to encourage my participation. Some I knew, others I did not.

Having followed the project all along, I decided back in July that the time had come for me to consider participating. The results were starting to generate lineal patterns that may assist in furthering seemingly stonewalled research leads. After rereading the specifics of the project and the particulars of the analyzing process, I sent for a 25-marker test kit. Following several weeks of hemming and hawing, I collected the samples and mailed the kit to Family Tree DNA in late August.

I received the results from the first 12 alleles on 04 November. No surprise to me; they matched exactly the sample submitted by my third cousin, once removed. (The latter presumably from her father, my third cousin, twice removed.) Notice was received yesterday that analysis of the remaining thirteen alleles was complete. The results again showed an identical match for all loci, save that of position 15. All other known descendants of this line show a value of 10 for this locus; my branch returns a 09.

What does this show? Not much in my opinion. Diligent research over the past decade had already established my connection to this line of descent. It was not easy; it took a lot of work. However, the fruits of doing this work through classic channels allowed me to meet, exchange information and brainstorm with individuals whom I would not have otherwise. It also provided me the opportunity to "prove" the accuracy and validity of my results. Genetic testing establishes no truth; it merely allows one to locate other May families who share a common antecedent ... at some point in the past. The facts in between are missing; the specifics of the relationship remain shrouded in the mists of time.

My concern about this new "tool" in the family history research arsenal is twofold. First, it is likely to lead to people attempting to derive a quick solution to their ancestral research. Instead of spending the hours upon hours necessary to interview family members, acquire primary source documents and derive the specifics of a life long since gone, some will be content to pay a fee and have their ancestry delivered to their inbox. They will then proceed to badger their newly found cousins to share the fruits of their hard work for little, if any, credit. My other concern is more disturbing.

Genetic testing is only a small component of a much larger investment. It can allow the family historian who has reached a dead-end to glean new insights into potential new routes to follow. Conversely, it can lead to even more confusing and erroneous lineages than those already existing in the category of shoddy genealogy. Determining one's genetic blueprint only provides a general understanding of an ancestral branch. There are times when, no matter how much time and effort is invested, a precise paper trail cannot be established by conventional means. The results of genetic testing can certainly point in a plausible direction, but one must continue to persevere with classical techniques in an attempt to discover the correct point of convergence. Knowing the probable ancestry without persuing the effort to discern the precise relationship may lead to the grafting of branches to individuals or generations to which they do not belong.

I continue to reserve judgement on the whole movement. It is only a slight relief to learn that there was no hanky-panky going on amongst my ancestors and that the lineage that I have worked hard to discover is, in fact, the correct line. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of room for error and mistaken conclusions should this type of analysis be the limit to one's research endeavor. In my opinion, genetic analysis should only augment classic research techniques — after the latter has been carried to a point at wish it can no longer be readily progressed.

15 November 2004

Trade Tricks

This site has great potential. What started as a casual reflection, led to an article at The Morning News and finally a dedicated web site.

Tricks of the Trade is a web site dedicated to the task of cataloguing the secrets of various professions. These tips, when properly applied, can make the difference between success and failure. Many of the submissions are common sense, while others are truly mind boggling. Almost all certainly stimulate critical thinking skills.

The site is young. At present, there are only three months worth of collected information. It is well worth the few minutes of time it will take to browse.

14 October 2004

SorryEverybody / ApologyAccepted

It would seem that the fallout of our recent national election has resulted in a curious level of pathos. Many are creating sites as a means of catharsis and, seemingly, to reassure the rest of the world that the entire country is not composed of mindless dolts.

With nothing better to do at the time, I was browsing the web a while ago when I came across an interesting domain, SorryEverybody. Created in the days following the general election, this site adheres to the concept that "a picture is worth a thousand words". Those sympathetic to the premise are encouraged to submit an image and/or a message. To date, over five thousand have participated

The world is not turning a blind eye, either. In response, ApologiesAccepted appeared less than six days later. Originating in The Netherlands, the site's admins stress that "This is an initiative of some worried Dutch civilians. This website is not supposed to be a Dutch or European view on this topic: anyone in the world outside the US is invited to join."

Whether or not one agrees with the philosophies of either site, it is imbecilic not to recognize the power of the 'net to bring disparate peoples together for a common cause or for and equally devoted following to shout back in concordant response.

13 November 2004

Black and tanned

This evening, while enjoying a meal with some of my favorite relations, I made a discovery that has be scratching my head. Being somewhat of a brew connoisseur, I am always on the lookout for new beers to try. Yet, to date, I have never tried a "Black & Tan". In honor of the special occasion, I ordered one at Bennigan's.

Dark, syrupy stouts are among my favorites. So, the layered combination of Guinness and Harp's Lager (or Bass Ale — apparently, there is some contention about which is "correct") was really a no-brainer as I enjoy both. :-) The result is quite delicious and I am likely to enjoy this treat in the future — though perhaps not at a public establishment.

I got spanked when the bill came. It was expected there would be a small premium for the "Black & Tan", but Bennigan's scalped me! Elizabeth ordered a pint of Killian's Red and, comparing the cost of that brew with mine, it became apparent that I had been charged a 60% premium for the "Black & Tan". Now, I am all for rewarding a competent bartender for their efforts, but charging the equivalent of twenty-seven dollars per hour for that expertise is ridiculous. (The latter is derived from the assumption that the layering may have taken at most an extra five minutes to accomplish.) To add insult to injury, the layering left something to be desired in that it was more like a "Black and Amber and Tan".

Live and learn!

Any future orders in a public context will come only after a price comparison. However, I will definitely be trying my hand at the concoction and will expand the experimentation to other favorites. How about a Russian Stout and IPA? ;-)

11 November 2004

Shunning "Private Ryan"

Today is Veteran's Day in the US and Armistice Day across much of Europe. In celebration of this fact, ABC television is planning to show the Spielburg film "Saving Private Ryan". Sadly, around sixty-six ABC affiliates are preempting the broadcast for fear of rebuke from their viewers. Cited as justification for this maneuver is the use of profanity and the presence of war related violence in the film. They are all gun shy in the wake of the Janet Jackson incident during the Super Bowl broadcast earlier this year.

This is carrying the ridiculous too far. The "wardrobe malfunction" of the Super Bowl was an unscheduled exhibition of flesh. The "Saving Private Ryan" broadcast is a known commodity. If a parent or guardian has reservations about their child seeing an accurate depiction of war, then they can choose to tune-out or turn-off. There is no mystery here. The content of this critically acclaimed, award winning film is well known. Nevertheless, these sixty-five plus broadcasters prefer to coddle their immature viewers and take a paternalistic approach to the supposed controversy. Corporate ABC has even offered to indemnify its affiliates should a backlash occur. Apparently, this will have no sway upon the timid.

The local ABC affiliate, a Belo subsidiary, will be among those preempting the broadcast. Our household does not usually watch any programming on this station anyway. This could have been an opportunity for them to reach a household they normally do not. Instead, we will continue to shun the garbage on this network. It is their loss.

09 November 2004

Get Firefox!

The Mozilla Foundation has officially released version 1.0 of its Firefox browser. For those not in the know, the latter is a standards-compliant, open-source browser which sports all sorts of customization features. The 'net is ablaze with praise and endorsement of this capable alternative to IE.

Internet Explorer (IE) has long been the dominant browser in cyberspace. The latter is due largely to its being embedded into the Windows operating system, which we all know to be the most "popular" OS. However, IE is fraught with security and compliance issues. Nary a week goes by during which some new exploit does not make an appearance to wreak havoc upon the poor coding underlying this browser. Add to that the lack of adherence to W3C markup criteria and proprietary tags which have no analogue in the browser universe for a bastardized mess.

Take the sites hosted under this domain as an example. They do not render correctly in IE. I make no apologies for that, nor do I have any intention to address that fact. Visit with ANY other browser and everything appears as it is meant. However, IE does not properly handle the CSS code resulting in position shifts and improper placement.

Many people avoid the use of developmental software. Often, there is merit in this aversion. With the maturation of Firefox to a stable version 1.0, I heartily recommend that all cybernauts install and designate this excellent browser as their tool of choice when cruising the 'net. Beginning today, a badge has been added to the navPanel across all subdomains of #kempiWeb to facilitate this suggestion.

07 November 2004

Bearing fruit

Our mini-reunion of Friday has begun to bear fruit. Robert reports that Cynthia has become the most recent member of the class mailing list. That brings the current roster to fifteen. Tony mentioned an intent to join us and perhaps Rosa will soon do so as well.

06 November 2004

Aping in ignorance

Some parents do a great disservice to their children when they fail to encourage free thought and intolerance of dissenting opinion. This was exemplified today during a seemingly innocuous scout outing.

Collin and I attended the 2004 Cub World with his BSA troop earlier today. He has been looking forward to this event for the past several weeks as the highlight was a scheduled water balloon fight between two competing pirate clans at Camp Wisdom. Nothing untoward happened during the event; rather is was something which occurred at the conclusion which concerned me.

Following the battle, during clean-up and head count, some of the boys started chanting "Bush...in the Whitehouse" over and over. I am not quite sure what instigated this overzealous display of apparent patriotism and support. For the most part, I ignored it and chalked it up to brainwashing by their parents. However, during the course of the chant, one of the kids made a comment tot the effect that Bush was an idiot. It may even have been Collin who said it. Nevertheless, one of the kids started tattling and saying, "Ummmm, he said 'Bush is an idiot'!"

Since when has a dissenting opinion become grounds for tattling? Of course, nothing became of the event. I am not even sure that many of the adults or the other boys even heard the comment or even the narc. It struck me, nonetheless, that an opposing sentiment would even elicit a response at all. Given the conservative nature of the BSA and the SPS community, that support for Bush would be a popular sentiment was no surprise. However, the divisiveness reflected in such a seemingly abhorrent response to an alternative view is telling of what the Nation can expect for at least the next four years.

"Out of the mouths of babes."

Blackjack breeze

Collin and I returned to Tyler yesterday evening to attend the 2004 Homecoming game of my high school Alma Mater, Thomas K. Gorman. This is an event I had not attended in nearly twenty years. I likely would not have done so this year had it not been for the reunification of several members of my class through the previously mentioned mailing list, TKG_Class_of_1984.

Approaching its nintieth day of active participation, our class mailing list has been quite active. Many of us have been able to catch-up on nearly two decades of being out of touch. It has also allowed us to plan rendez-vous of one sort or another. An example of the latter was to plan a dinner and attend the 2004 Homecoming game together.

The location of our planned gathering was Gilbert's El Charro. A contributing factor to this decision was the fact that one of our former classmates is the proprietress of this restaurant. Attempts were made to contct Rosa prior to our descent, but they were unsuccessful. So, in addition to enjoying a good meal together, we surprised Rosa.

One of the most interesting aspects of the evening was how easily we all seemed to slip back into our relationships. Even though many of us had not seen one another for close to two decades, we quickly resumed the camaraderie of our youth. Only this time we had more experiences upon which to draw for conversation.

Our eventual arrival at the game was no different. We were able to see several friends whom some of us had not seen in many years. Very little of the game was watched as most of the time was spent in conversation with picture taking and the like.

Of the fourteen of us currently subscribed to the list, seven of us were able to get together. Those in attendance were Cedric, Dennis, LaGayle, Molly, Robert, Veleshia and myself. Over half of us brought along members of our family as well. In addition to Rosa, we chatted by phone with Cynthia and, saw Tony and his children at the game. Hopefully, we will soon see one or more joining us in cyberSpace! :-)

03 November 2004

The people bleat

The general election is, for all intents and purposes, over. For many it was a disappointing finish. Defying both logic and reason, a popular majority have elected the village idiot to a second term. It took no time at all for the Bush spin machine to kick into high gear and morph a narrow, three percent majority into a landslide.

At 0530 this morning, Andrew Card was spewing garbage at whomever would listen; many were apparently willing to do so. He started out by suggesting that the 48:51 outcome represented an mandate for Bush's policies. A mandate? That might be the case if he won by an overwhelming percentage or, even at 51%, if the remaining 49% were split pretty evenly between Kerry and one or more other candidates. Instead, Bush was barely able to squeak out a majority.

Just to add icing to the cake, Card then declared that Bush won by more votes that any other presidential candidate in history, thus reflecting monumental support. Wrong again! While it is true that the number of ballots cast in his favor surpassed that of any other presidential candidate in history, Kerry also received a record number of votes. Clearly, this election delivered neither a mandate, nor overwhelming support for W.

The 2004 presidential election did underline one important point, though. Despite his 2000 election mantra to the contrary, Bush and his record over the past four years have divided the country into two contentious camps. In his acceptance speech earlier today, he called upon Kerry supporters to, basically, let bygones be bygones and unite with Republican supporters to carry the nation forward.

Not in this lifetime.

01 November 2004

Flawed priorities

For almost as long as I can recall, the >Dallas Morning News (DMN) has dedicated a small portion of its Monday issue to science reporting. Over the years, it has gone from being a portion of the Texas Living section; to warranting its own section; and back to the headline theme of Texas Living. This information dense offering has repackaged the dry technicalities of scientific endeavor into a form capable of being read and appreciated by the average citizen.

The chief architect of this section has been its lead columnist, Tom Siegfried. Through his ability to distill the cold hard results of science, he has presented difficult concepts in a vernacular that could be readily appreciated by the common man. As a reporter, he has penned articles that deliver the current trends in biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy to an audience that may otherwise never encounter these concepts. Sadly, the DMN has lost sight of the benefit of this weekly resource.

Missing from this week's Monday edition of Texas Living was the "Discoveries" header many of us have come to expect. In its place was a diminutive subheader in italics. Gone also was Tom's column. Instead one had to read the small print in the sidebar: "[Smart Living] replaces Discoveries. Tom Siegfried's column has ended its run.". Ended its run? Has the end of existence arrived? All scientific mysteries have been answered? Certainly, the editors of the DMN are engaging in disingenuous spin.

Following further investigation, the truth was discovered. Tom was among the 65 newsroom employees laid off by Belo. The publisher could not fess up to their illogical decision. Instead they chose to imply that Tom had retired or that the mysteries of the Heavens and the Earth had ceased to exist. In a sign of the times, the News is supplanting the "Discoveries" section with "Smart Living". The latter is hyped as "offering strategies for women to simplify their busy lives...get organized at home, make the most of relationships, be your best at work and find style solutions." So, bringing the wonders and discoveries of science to the masses has been trumped by more mindless coddling of whiney soccer moms.

Tom's final column appeared on 24 October. Entitled "Disdain for science portends decline of nation", the subject showed the author to be either prescient of the coming turn of events or providing a sublime farewell address to his loyal readers all the while twisting the knife in the gut of the shortsighted editorial staff. To add insult to injury, the admins have poisoned the published eMail address for Tom. Attempts to mail him result in a disingenuous response indicating the "content length of the message is too long for the recipient to take delivery." A response received even when a single word missive is dispatched.

The Dallas Morning News has been headed down a steep slope for quite some time. Between the generation scandal ridden subscription reports and feeble attempts to appeal to the short attention spans of "Gen Xers" through its Quick rag, the paper is perilously close to losing this twenty-plus year subscriber.


continue to the October 2004 archive

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last BBEdited: 2005.10.06