17 November 2014

Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

On Mistakes Made

Twenty minutes can make a pretty big difference. The problem is that you don't always know how bad your decisions are until you experience their consequences.

Such principles were presented to me in stark relief at the beginning of this summer when I was scouting out a location for our annual wilderness survival camp out.

I had recently learned that there was a canyon nearby that wasn't super-high in elevation and had access to water. It was on BLM land. Score.

I didn't have to be to work until 11am, so I decided I'd wake up early, drive to the canyon and check it out. I arrived at 7am to a dirt road inside the canyon that led to the spot I'd located on Google Maps. I was in my Expedition, so the road wasn't a problem until I reached this rocky section that looked like someone had scraped all the dirt part of the road off. I'd seen this at scout camps where rocks filled in gaps in the trail. Very bumpy, but manageable.  It took about 30 seconds to cross.

After about a 1/4-mile more, I made it to what appeared to be the end of the trail. There was another field of rocks, this time much larger, and no apparent trail on the other side. I stopped the car and got out.

I walked another 1/8 of a mile and found the water source. This was a very cool area to do a survival camp! I was pumped because I knew the boys were going to have a great experience here.

I hurried back to my car. It was a little after 7:30am at this point.

I started my car and considered how to get out. The road in was too narrow to turn around in and there were a but of level-looking rocks in front of me. While the rocky field probably wasn't a road, I thought, "I'm in my Expedition, I'll be fine". I pulled forward to turn the car around.

It turned out that the field was not so level.  There were a lot of rocks around and the car would occasionally kick back at me. I would turn or give it gas as I thought necessary, but I was starting to sense that I was in trouble. After about 30 seconds, I hear a metal CLUNK, and I was stuck.

Now, these rocks were not all that big, so I was more confused than anything, but I hopped out to see what was wrong. It seemed like it would be something simple; I even left the car running.

I looked under the car, and lo, I was somehow high-centered on a rock. A big rock about 5 feet around. I had just walked across these rocks minutes before; they weren't that big. What happened?

Upon closer inspection, the car was leaning ever so slightly on this big rock and looked like it had dented the metal casing around the gas tank.

I began to get a little nervous.

For a few minutes, I pulled small rocks out of the way to see how big the rock was that I was stuck on. I pulled out one special rock and water started to seep around the rocks nearby it. The light started to come on.

I was in a river bed.

The reason I'd become high-centered was because my car had pushed the rocks down around it and exposed this larger rock. With just the right circumstances of the minor sinkage and the big rock, I was now super-stuck in the middle of a canyon.

Of course at this point I was reminded that I had no cell phone reception and was around a 3-hour walk to get cell phone reception. I decided to try fixing this ordeal on my own.

My entire vehicle was on top of the rocks, so I didn't feel comfortable using the jack. The riverbed went downhill perpendicular to my vehicle with the big rock being on the downhill side, so it was precarious to be pulling rocks out; while it was a bit of a long shot, pulling out the wrong rock could send my vehicle toppling over me.

Still, I very carefully began to pull more rocks from around this big rock.  Rocks are not forgiving to skin, and are not always very quick to come out. Sometimes, I had to go meta and pull rocks out to pull other rocks out to finally pull a rock out next to the big rock.  My hands quickly became muddy and raw, and after 30 minutes, they ached. My body felt tired from the physical and emotional exertion.

Occasionally, I'd give the rock a tug to see if it would budge. The ground that I crouched and eventually sat on was slightly lower than the rock and the car. This lent itself to digging at the foundation of the rock but not really to pulling at it since it made me hang precariously over a downward plane. (Nothing like hitting your head on a bunch of other rocks after heaving a rock out that is now rolling over top of you!)

However, after a long ordeal, the rock came lose and rolled down the river bed 1-2 feet and then stopped. The car leaned a little bit more to the driver's side (downhill), but I was free. Phew.

I got back into the car and decided that a river bed was not the place to try and turn around. I put the car into reverse to try and get back out. Due to the ordeal, I was nearly perpendicular to the road, but due to my concern now about the river bed combined with the plenitude of trees, I wasn't in a position to turn while backing up. My plan was to back my car onto solid ground, and then carefully reorient myself with some point turns until I was parallel to the road again.

This might not have been a great plan, but I was rather frazzled at this point. The space was very tight, and I still had stark images of being stuck here for hours in my mind. At one point, my determination to turn around without getting my entire car back onto the river bed caused me to push too hard against a tree and I shattered my rear windshield.

I have never been so close to cursing in my life. I said about every flip, frick, and marshmallow word I could think of.

After I had my say, I stopped to think. The patch of solid ground was too small to turn the car on. I figured I was going to have to get onto completely onto the rocks in order to have enough room to back up. I scouted out the rocks and found what seemed to be a good path. I pulled forward more carefully this time.

The river bed had more to throw at me though.  I sunk again, and I got stuck again.

At this point, I was a bit panicked. I had just spent somewhere around an hour getting just to this point. How many more rocks was I going to get stuck on top of? What happens when its one that I can't get out from under my vehicle. I started having this recurring image in my mind of some grouchy authoritarian complaining to me about having to haul my sorry butt and my sorry vehicle out of the canyon, cuz .

Was there no way out of this short of hiking down the canyon and expending an exorbitant amount of money to get some guy to swear at me for being an idiot and haul my car out of this mess?

(In fact as I type this, even months later, I still feel that same zing of nervous adrenaline and same pit in my stomach.)

This time, luckily, the car was in a less precarious spot. The back axle was over solid ground. Excellent, I can use the jack. I pulled out the jack and very carefully jacked up the car. This rock was probably about 50% bigger than the last one, though a different shape; instead of being mostly round, it was more like the top of a very big mushroom. There was no way to move it, especially after I'd expended so much energy removing the last rock. I looked at my hands and they were shaking. I took a break and ate some of my lunch.

I said a prayer, which included several apologies for being an idiot. After a few minutes, I felt better and went to the task of digging this rock out. Rock by little rock, I removed the foundation from under this huge rock. I will not admit how many times I found half of my body under the vehicle in order to get the right angle for this or that rock. Another 30 minutes pass, and finally, the rock tumbles away. I remove the jack and get back into the car.

Another prayer. I carefully give the car some gas. It doesn't budge. I give a little more, and it doesn't budge. What's wrong now?

There are no rocks anywhere under the car; I have at least 8 inches of clearance everywhere.

Then I check behind the axle. Rock number three.

This one was on the trail and was just high enough that when I was going it reverse, the axle couldn't clear it. There was also a small metal bar on the other side of this rock. (I looked at diagrams online, but couldn't locate one that showed me what this bar is for.) I wasn't precisely high centered, but I still wasn't going to be able to move without moving this rock.

How did this rock get in between my axle and this other bar? Probably when I removed rock #2, the car settled just enough to settle around rock #3.

I don't think it is perception; I'm certain this rock was the biggest of them all.

I began to feel my will slip away. I was out of energy. I figured the dirt would be hard and packed and that digging would not be much of an option. In my mind, I was working on the best way to explain my situation to my wife, my employer, and whatever individuals in the city I was going to have to call to get this all worked out.

While I waited for my mind to work, I went and picked up the glass from the accident. There was glass everywhere, but at least it was something that I could detect progress on. I tossed it all into the back of the car and mechanically pulled out the jack to lift the car back up.

About that time it occurred to me that I could use the jack screw to break up the soil and perhaps leverage the rock out the ground. It's worth a try.

I ate some more lunch, now with hopelessly dirt-caked hands, and came back. Picking with the screw was followed by digging with my hands. Pick, dig, pick, dig.

The rock was too far underneath for me to effectively tug with my hands, so I would periodically push with my legs. Of course, the rock was blocked by the rear driver-side tire, so I was going to have to pull it slightly up the trail in order to push it out of the way. Miraculously, after 20 minutes of picking, digging, and kicking, I was able to pull the rock the few inches necessary, and then shove it out of the way with one final blow.

I was completely paranoid at this point. I stood up, and I scouted every nook and cranny under my vehicle as well as about 5 feet around it. I still needed to go straight another 10 feet in order to be at the right angle to back myself back onto the trail.

I said another prayer. I carefully drove forward two feet.  Then, I stopped and checked under the car.  No problem. I drove another two foot and checked again.  Still okay.  Drive two feet, check, drive two feet check. I got to the point where I needed to be and put the car in reverse. I kept checking every two feet until all four wheels were on solid ground.

I was out.

I carefully backed down the trail about 200 yards. It was narrow and difficult driving to make sure I didn't run into any trees or anything else.  After 200 years, I saw something that I ought to have noticed on my way up:  A turn-around spot.

I used it.

Eventually, I reached the other small rock patch. I drove with much whiter knuckles and much less confidence than I had the first time through. I prayed again. I was through.

I stopped the car and checked the clock. It was 10:00am. It had taken me 2-1/2 hours to get out; I had a busted rear windshield, a dented undercarriage, and a damaged pride, but I was going to be okay. I prayed.


I was once told that all failures are good when you learn from them. Now that I look back, I still get the jibbies when I think about it in a lot of detail, but I did learn a few things:

1. Always take a buddy.
2. Always tell someone when you should be back so they can realize something is wrong early on.
3. Cars aren't invincible, especially their windshields
4. Take breaks and stay calm
5. A shower feels really nice after wallowing and scraping in a river bed for 2-1/2 hours
6. Don't wear nice shoes when going to explore a scout camp site.

Oh, and:

7. Don't ever complain to your scoutmaster that something is too hard! He's probably been through a lot worse!

15 November 2014

Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

I don't know you from Adam OR How to Tie Yourself Back to Adam in 150 Easy Steps

Last Sunday, I was working on my genealogy on familysearch.org, a free site provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for doing pretty extensive family history. While looking for information about a Thomas Neal, I found an individual who had done a bunch of work on his family including is tie into the Garland family, which tied in through Thomas's wife.

So, while I was pondering what to do about Thomas Neal (who's parents I still haven't found), I clicked up the Garland line. It was pretty cool because it went really far back; it's always fun to see that there were real people who you are really related to back in the 14th century or what not.

As I worked my way back through the tree, I noticed it dead-ended at Sir Thomas Morieux, who, according to the chart, was the maternal grandfather-in-law of Humphy Garland (b. 1376).  The name sounded pretty official, so I thought I'd Google him. I learned from Wikipedia that Sir Thomas Morieux married Blanche de Plantagenet in 1381.

I added Blanche de Plantagenet and found that a great deal of research had already gone into her line. In fact, it was there that I learned that Blanche was the daughter of John of Gaunt who was one of the five sons of King Edward III. How exciting!

At that point, I just started clicking around seeing how far back a kingly line could be taken. Click by click I would go further and further back, Henry III, Alfonso IX, and on and on. I alerted my wife who was, at the moment, unimpressed. "It's a royal line," she kept saying.

However, she and I both started to become intrigued when we saw that the line stretched *way*, *way* back. We found ourselves in the 800s, the 600s, the 200s. We had followed the Plantagenet family's ancestry through Spain, Portugal, and France until we came back to England through King Coel (yes, Old King Cole).

We somehow found ourselves looking at the record of Bran the Blessed, son of James the Just. We didn't really know what we were looking at until we reached two names, the parents of James the Just, who were "Joseph Ab Heli" and "Mary the Virgin".

My first thought was:  "That's pretty ostentaceous, naming your daughter 'Mary the Virgin'. I'm pretty sure that's already taken."

Then, it began to dawn on me:  James, the brother of Jesus. I pulled out my Bible and looked up the genealogy for Joseph and for Mary. To my amazement, there in my family tree, were THEE Joseph and Mary!

Of course, you can't stop there. Now, there are 70-something generations listed right there in the Bible for the taking. And so it was:  I clicked back until I saw "King David", and continued on to "Abraham" and the tree finally stopped at "Adam". :)

(Funny thing about software, by the way; it allowed me to add a mom and dad each for Adam and Eve. :))

So now, of course, I was obligated to work my way back and do some counting. How many generations are there between me and Adam, the father of man? It turns out that you can put a number to something like that and it turns out to be 141.

141? That seems low. Given a 30-year generation gap, that would put only 4230 years between me and Adam. A quick check at the bible, though, shows that there are 1556 years between Shem (one of Noah's sons) and Adam, which is much larger than the 300-year gap that it would be where the generations 30 years apart.

So, now we are at 5486 years, which is a bit closer to what the bible claims. From Shem to Abraham, there is a 417 year gap, again, higher than average, but only by a bit. That puts us at 5633 years, closer still.

Remembering that Abraham was 100 years old when he had Isaac gives us another 70. At that point, it's close enough for me to be about right on the number of generations, even if the chart isn't quite right...

So, is it all correct?

Well... As I fairly quickly found out, many genealogies online borrow from other online genealogies instead of going back to the primary source, much like reading someone's blogs or tweets without doing background research as to their authority.

The first thing I looked up was who Bran the Blessed was. There is a legend embedded into English Christian history that St. Phillip sent a commission of brethren including Joseph of Arimathea over to Britain in order to introduce Christianity to the masses. The story goes that Bran married Joseph of Arithmathea's daughter Anna, also called Enygeus, and was instrumental in converting the island to Christianity. Decended from this lofty heritage are the legendary Grail Kings of Briton.

Is this true? Well, there is no real record of it other than tradition, so historians say "no". Oral traditions have a tendency to evolve over the years, but maybe.

On a couple of different lines, I'm tied back to King Coel. There are a couple of different ways to get there, but one is based on a claim that Saint Helena, mother of Constantine, was King Coel's only daughter. The belief is that this is where she was trained in royal traditions and where Constantine became a Christian. There is a book that claims that Constantine "picked up" his Christianity in Britain, but nothing that states that she was British herself. It seems like the most likely birthplace for Saint Helena is in Drepanum, Bithynia, Asia Minor since that location was renamed to Helenopolis by Constantine after her death.

Once we get to King Coel, the theory is that we tie back to Bran the Blessed through a couple more generations.
In my research of the legend, I found a fascinating pedigree chart entitled the Desposyni which claimed not only that the British royal line was descended from Joseph of Arimathea and that Helena was descended from King Coel but also that Jesus had descendents! These included great-grandson Aminadab who was the ancestor of the Grail Kings of Briton from the paternal line.

Given all of that, folks who tie back to the Fisher Kings (as my genealogy purports) have at least some people in the world who would then assert that they are *both* descended from Jesus and from his brother James. Wow.
It all sounds pretty apocryphal from my vantage point, but I learned about entire faith traditions that firmly assert this pedigree. There is even a book from Latter-Day Saint Vern Swanson that asserts that Joseph Smith's father and mother both descend from Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

Well, what about the rest of the line?

Okay, so this is going to take a bit to unpack, but for now I'll start at the beginning of the line.  Going back to original records, there seems to be some doubt that not Elizabeth Morieux is actually the daughter of Sir Thomas Morieux. The argument, basically, is that Thomas married Blanche de Plantagenet in 1381 and died in 1387, leaving no issue. Further, Edward Lucas was born after they were married (by about 25 years). There is a different Morieux, though, referenced in the visitation records: One Sir John Morieux who was born in 1310. It clearly states that Elizabeth is the daughter of John. This basically shoots the entire line out of the water unless John Morieux is somehow related to the rest.

Well, darn.
This precipitated more research; I wasn't able to find Sir John Morieux's spouse, but I found another line via my maternal grandmother that goes back through the Singletons into the same general mileau. It turned out to be pretty easy. So, then I started thinking...

Is this really that special?

While doing my research, I fell onto an article entitled "The Probability of decscending from Edward III". Sounds very intriguing, no? It turns out that the probability that a specific ancestor of mine is Edward III is about 0.52%. On the other hand, the probability that *none* of my ancestors is Edward III is near 0.0003%. So, it is almost certain that I and anyone of significant British descent will be related to King Edward III.

However, I believe it *is* cool, because I found my particular story. Using similar research strategies (from other lines that didn't have the Morieux linkage problem), I found that I'm descended from Richard II of Normandy, William the Conqueror, Rei Alfonso Henriques, and more. Probably most people have a way to tie back to these individuals, but discovering my own branch was ethereal.

It was totally awesome seing Rei Alfonso Henriques in my lineage because he was born in Guimaraes or Viseu, Portugal, died in Coimbra, and was the first King of Portugal. These are all areas in the Portugal Porto Mission where I served from 2000-2002. It's neat to think about the Portuguese, whom I served, were likely my distant relations.

Find your own story

This was so much fun researching my family line and finding some pretty amazing people in it. It was a complete paradigm shift for me to even think about there being real people who lived and died in a part of the world and in a time that was completely out of my peripheral vision.  Quite honestly, short of a handful of historical individuals, I have always packed the years from about 400 AD to 1000 AD into the same basket as I did Herriman, Utah before I moved there myself ("what, there are people that live there?").

Oh, and for my own family, if you want to find what I found, look along the Singleton line through Great-Grandpa William Shelton. If you don't mind suspending reality for a minute, I haven't disconnected the Edmund Lucas -> Thomas Morieux line yet, which you can find through Thomas Neal, through the Laker line from Grandma Dora LaRee Laker.