Sunday, December 31, 2006

Broken shells

What is it about the beach that gets people, and especially Floridians, to engage in introspection, reflection, etc.?

I found myself in that situation this afternoon as I combed the beach at Barefoot Trace.

I really enjoy combing the sands for shells over there, and have to admit that it's gotten a little out of hand. I really need to be more discriminating when it comes to adding to my burgeoning collection.

So, nowadays when I go on my expeditions, I try to give myself rules. Like, "OK, today you're just going to pick up white shells." Or, "Only looking for nautilus shells."

Today's assignment came sorta by accident. The first shell I came across was a damaged shell of some unknown species. Broken but still intriguing. I really enjoyed trying to imagine what it looked like when it was whole. And, am still trying to figure out what the species is.

Thus today's assingment, "Only the unusual, and preferably broken."

As I was adding to the bucketful, I got to thinking how this bunch of shells is a lot of like people. None of us are perfect. We've all been tossed around. But, if you really think about it, you can imagine how what's left of us is still part of a bigger, more perfect whole.

So much for the deep thoughts. I'm supposed to be enjoying some time off at the beach. Perhaps, I've been enjoying myself too much, and all this philosophical talk is all attributable to those two margaritas . . .

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Swift justice for the Butcher of Baghdad

It's all over the news networks this morning. Saddam Hussein was executed last night for crimes against humanity, courtesy of a hangman's noose.

There was no doubt in any sane person's mind--or even at the New York Times--that this guy was a fiend in the mold of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Phol Pot.

His death sentence came after a conviction in just one case, in which he ordered the 1982 mass murder of about 150 people in the Iraqi village of Dujail. But, he could have been brought up on charges for his role in taking the lives of more than a million of his fellow citizens.

He was a pig to be sure.

But, the most amazing part of this whole story, at least in my opinion, was the swiftness with which the Iraqi criminal justice system carried-out the former dictator's death sentence: Just 56 days from sentencing to execution.

You don't see that type of efficiency in this neck of the woods.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Not exactly brother against brother

More like great-uncle against great-uncle. That's how I'd describe the U.S. Civil War (aka The War Between the States), at least how it pertains to my particular family.

For those of you who've read my recent book, Like the Cats of Kilkenny: A True Story of the Civil War, you know I had a great-uncle named Bob Morgan who was wounded in action during Pickett's famous charge at the Battle of Gettysburg as part of Company C, 11th Virginia Infantry Regiment.

For those of you who haven't read the book, shame on you! You're really missing a good thing!

Anyway, today I received a packet via snail mail from the National Archives, containing the pension file on another great-uncle: John J. Irving. Turns out this fellow was also wounded in action at Gettysburg. But, he was serving for the other side, as part of Company G, 5th New Jersey Infantry Regiment!

Despite the conflicting loyalties, this is a very exciting discovery for me. Most of my maternal ancestors were recent arrivals to this country, and I had no evidence that any of my mother's relatives had served in "the late unpleasantness" until the arrival of this file.

Very exciting, indeed. At least to those of us infected with the genealogy bug.

Ok, enough gushing. Back to perusing this file . . .

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Yami's Christmas photos are in . . .

Yami just forwarded me copies of all the pictures she took of our office gift exchange and lunch last week.

Most, of course, are unfit for public consumption.

But, I thought the blogosphere would at least appreciate this one taken at the Roadhouse Grill.

Left to right: Yami, Cathy, Ellen, Mom, Yours Truly, Heather, and Linda.

As they say, "A good time was had by all!"

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Leslie Lynch King, Jr.

That was the birth name of President Gerald R. Ford, who was subsequently adopted by his stepfather and took the name we all know.

Why do I know this?

Well, it turns out the former president and I share some common ancestors back in 17th Century Nantucket. I uncovered the distant kinship years ago while researching my connection to colonial patriarch Tristram Coffin.

So, it was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of "Cousin Gerry" this morning . . . or, Leslie Junior as some in the family may know him.

All joking aside, I don't believe President Ford gets nearly enough credit from historians. He did a lot to restore faith in our government. And, if just 1.5% of the electorate had switched their vote on Election Day 1976, the country could have been spared the disaster that was (and continues to be) Jimmy Carter.

Remember, Ford had negotiated a treaty with Brezhnev to reduce the nuclear threat, and had initiated economic reforms to fight stagflation. Of course, all that was thrown out the window when the vainglorious peanut farmer came to town.

I guess I should drop that line of thought, at least today. Not only can we not go back and change history, I think it would be better to honor the uniting spirit that was Gerald R. Ford.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New Boxing Day Traditions from Mike Tyson?!

OK, if you don't know what Boxing Day is, check out my post on this date in 2005 to catch up to speed.

Moving forward now, I heard on the radio on my way into work this morning that former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson is apparently breaking some new ground.

Instead of fighting other heavyweights (not to mention chewing-off their ears), he has now decided to spar with women and children.

No, I'm not kidding.

Apparently, this is all supposed to be for charity. But, come on! This guy likes the taste of human flesh!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas from the First Coast!

Dawn crept up on us slowly at the condo this morning. It was so grey and overcast that we couldn't tell where the horizon was, no color difference between the ocean and sky.

I guess these are ripe conditions for Santa Claus to sneak into a beachside condo.

After all, we don't have a chimney . . .

Anyway, the jolly old elf did indeed manage to slip a few presents under the tree while we were sleeping.

But, at the risk of sounding trite, let's keep in mind that the gifts are not the reason for the season.

OK, 'nuff preachin'. Pass the eggnog!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Three Weeks with My Brother

No, Alice did not have gender reassignment surgery.

That's the title of the book I just finished reading. [ISBN 0-446-53244-4]

I find the beach a perfect place to catch up on my reading, and this is one of the books I've been trying to finish for quite a while. It's hard to find time to set aside for leisurely reading in my day-to-day life. But, it's amazingly abundant over here!

Anyway, it's a great book. The author is perhaps more famously known for his bestsellers The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, and A Walk to Remember (among others).

His name is Nicholas Sparks, and as the title suggests, this book was co-written by his brother Micah during a trip they took around the world back in 2003. They used the time not only to see some exotic places (Machu Pichu, Easter Island, Malta, etc.) but also to reflect on all the trials and tribulations they've been thru with their family.

If you want to learn more about the story, check out Nick's website at

It's helped me gain some perspective, which is good any time of the year but particularly during the holidays and particularly this year.

OK, enough of the heavy stuff. Time to go get festive. It is Christmas Eve, after all!!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The weather outside's delightful

And, I'm not being spiteful.

Since we don't care about snow,
to the beach we will go, we will go.

Before we all say goodnight,
we'll stroll in the sand to and fro.

It's so powdery and white,
let it get in between your toes!

Okay, so that's the best I can do on short notice . . . but, I was listening to "Let it snow" on the car radio on my way to the beach, and thought I should come up with a Florida version of the old carol.

I'll be expecting my royalty checks after the first of the year.

Cheers to you less fortunate souls up north!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Twin Sonic Booms!

Wow, that surprised me just a little!

I had been hearing on the news all day that the weather over at Cape Canaveral was so bad that the Space Shuttle would have to make a landing out in New Mexico for the first time in about 20 years.

So, imagine how startled I was at 5:28 when those familiar twin sonic booms that accompany every shuttle landing shook every window pane in my house this afternoon!

I didn't know what to think, so I turned on the news and found the weather in New Mexico wasn't all that great, either. And, the eggheads at KSC decided to go ahead and make the landing here in Florida.

Probably saved us tax payers a wad of cash in so doing.

But, this tax payer sure was startled!

Ain't livin' in Florida always an adventure?!

The Day After

If you've had a chance to get a copy of my recent book, you've probably admired the old portraits by George Caleb Bingham it contains.

(If you haven't gotten a copy yet, shame on you and go to:

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I was flipping thru channels this evening and ran across "The Day After," that old movie from the 1980's about a post-nuclear-war America.

Near the beginning of the movie, the Jason Robards character is talking to his daughter in a Kansas City art museum.

Well, if you pay attention to the background instead of the character's "riveting dialogue," you will spot what I am absolutely sure are some Bingham portraits. In fact, I think a few of them might even have been some of my ancestors.

I know the original portraits featured in my book are supposed to be hanging somewhere in Kansas City.

I guess I'll have to check to see if I can get a DVD or old VHS tape of this movie to see if I can freeze a couple of frames to double-check . . .

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Saxons, Vikings, and Celts

That's the title of Professor Bryan Sykes' latest book. [ISBN 0393062686]

I got it as a stocking stuffer for myself, but couldn't wait til Christmas to start reading it.

It's a follow-up to "The Seven Daughters of Eve." [ISBN 0393323145] That book explored mitochondrial DNA, the genetic material we inherit exclusively from our mothers.

Obviously, the topic is fascinating to people like me who study family trees.

Well, this new book explores the other side of the coin, so to speak. It's all about the genetic material passed from fathers to sons, the Y-chromosome.

Sykes has collected thousands upon thousands of DNA samples from around the world, but this book focuses specifically on the genetic makeup of the British Isles.

Really fascinating stuff. At least I think so. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've been using connections made thru my own Y-DNA markers to advance research on my Morgan line.

To find out more about Sykes and his research, check out his website:

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Whack a penguin

OK, this will crack you up. Click on this link:

Then, click on the Yeti to start the "game."

A penguin will nosedive off the mountain above.

When he gets close enough, click on the Yeti again to swing the bat.

If you time it just right, you can send the little tuxedo-clad birds flying across the arctic tundra.

Try to beat my high score of 316.3.

Go ahead. Make my day!

Monday, December 18, 2006

What's in a name?

A lot, in my opinion.

Here are the most popular baby names according to the Social Security Administration:

Boys: Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Matthew, Ethan, Andrew, Daniel, Anthony, Christopher, and Joseph.

Girls: Emily, Emma, Madison, Abigail, Olivia, Isabella, Hannah, Samantha, Ava, and Ashley.

I don't know what happened to good, solid names like William, John, and Robert. Or, Mary, Anne, and Jane.

My friends John and Kristen are having a little girl early next year, and have chosen a good old-fashioned name: Anna. It peaked in popularity back in 1907, and stayed in the top 10 until the "Roaring 20's." Now, it struggles to stay on the radar.

I guess nowadays, everybody has to be "different." Ironically, this type of groupthink keeps everybody the same, at least generationally speaking.

My niece was named Morgan for obvious reasons, not because it's "cool." In fact, according to the statisticians, it hasn't been "cool" since about 1976. (Currently only the 33rd most popular name, and that's combining usage for both boys and girls.)

My nephew is burdened with the name Charley, which hasn't appeared in the top 1000 since 1981. Probably because most people would only use that as a nickname for Charles. But, there's also that deadly hurricane from 2004 to consider. That's why I prefer to refer to the little nipper as "Tater." (And, that is nowhere near the top 1000 list!)

Anyway, I am not impressed with people who give their children names that are gender neutral or otherwise applicable to a household pet. Let's get back to the basics, folks!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A true-life riddle

Here's one my Uncle Oui-oui told on himself at last night's party. See if you can figure out the answer.

Back in 1962, when he had first opened the old Conway Barber Shop on Curry Ford Road in Orlando, a young man came in to get a hair cut.

The very next day, what he thought was the same young man came back in the shop to get a haircut.

"Young man, weren't you just in here yesterday?" Oui-oui asked.

"Oh, no, that must've been my brother." The fellow replied.

"But, you look SO much alike!" My uncle declared. "You MUST be twins!"

"No," he answered with a sly grin. "We're not twins. However, we were both born the same day, within an hour of each other. And, we have the same mother and father. But, we're not twin brothers."

How could this be true?

I know the answer now. Do you?!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas Open House

Just a reminder to those of you fortunate enough to have received an invitation, tonight is the Morgan family's annual Christmas Open House.

We throw the doors open at 4pm, then it's come-and-go as you please.

Hopefully, SOMEBODY will remember their digital camera and I'll be able to post some pictures of the shenanigans here later.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Tater is One Year Old Today

Happy Birthday wishes go out to my nephew Tater this morning.

I'm not sure exactly why, but my sister actually celebrated his birthday two weeks ago.

I guess she thought the real date fell too close to Christmas.


Today is the real day, but I thought the blogosphere would still enjoy the pictures I received of the cake smashing from earlier this month.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Becky's Broken . . . for now

Those of you who know Becky Mosteller know that she's been running around muttering "I'm broken" for about a year now.

Ok, so she wasn't running around mumbling that. More like limping around.

Anyway, today she's finally doing something about it.

Surgery is scheduled for her bad knee at 12:30 this afternoon.

So, please try to send some good thoughts her way, and hope for a quick recovery!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Lecture and book-signing tomorrow

Just a reminder. I will be speaking at the Marks Street Senior Center in downtown Orlando tomorrow at 7:30pm.

The topic is supposed to be about researching Civil War ancestors, but I'm also going to throw in some Christmas-related stuff since we're so close to the holiday.

Afterwards, I'll be signing copies of my recent book.

Come one and come all!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Santa and the Niblings

"So, what's a nibling?" I'm sure you're asking yourself.

Well, I got to thinking . . . we have a collective word for moms and dads: "parents."

We have a collective word for sons and daughters: "children."

We have a collective word for brothers and sisters: "siblings."

But, in the English language, we don't have a collective word for nieces and nephews.

At least, not yet.

So, I'm starting a movement on behalf of aunts and uncles everywhere. I mean, we don't even have a collective word for ourselves!

But, when it comes to our nieces and nephews, I think something should be done.

That's why I've come up with the word "nibling." It's sorta like "sibling" because, after all, our nieces and nephews are the children of our siblings, right?

Anyway, hope you at least enjoy this Christmas picture of my niblings, even if you don't start using the new word.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Richard Libby, RIP

Condolences go out to Heather Hollants-Parker and her family. Her grandfather in California died yesterday after a battle with cancer.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Company Christmas Party

We had our annual company Christmas party at Barney's Steakhouse in downtown Orlando last night.

Here's a picture for your viewing pleasure.

Front row (crouching) are Heather and Linda.

Middle row are Nigel, Jeff, Derek, Paul, Dan the Man, Randy, and Dave.

Back row are Duran and Cathy.

Yours truly is trying to jump into the picture at last minute between Dave and Randy (in the green sweater).

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Royal Family of Apopka

That's King Grin in the center (aka Jacob) and his mom and dad Valda and Duran.

We all went to see Jacob perform in his school Christmas play, an adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's "The Snow Queen."

He was awesome, as expected.

If his football career doesn't pan out, maybe we can send him out to Hollywood.

No, we wouldn't do that to our Jacob!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Happy Birthday, Becky!

She deserves a great birthday, considering all the grief "we" give her around here!

Plus, it's a good excuse to order out lunch and eat cake.

Like we need any excuse, this time of year, right?!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Reminder: Book appearance tonight

I will be speaking before the North Lake County Civil War Roundtable about my recent book at 7:30 tonight, in the Tavares Civic Center (100 East Caroline Street).

The civic center is part of the Ridge Park complex that includes the public library and historical museum. It's just one block off of Alfred Street (Highway 441).

To find out more, you can check out this website:

Or, you can call the organizers: Mike (352-357-8476) or Bob (352-343-4403)

Oh, yeah, and I can't close this post without acknowledging the fact that on this date back in 1919, my Grandma G was born. Of course, back then she was just called "Baby Ruth," like the candy bar. And, she wasn't a G, yet. But, now I'm getting WAY off track!!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Better late than never, I guess.

Harold Moore finally got around to forwarding the pictures he took at our company picnic this summer.

Left to right: Simon Goodman, Harold Moore, Dan Morgan, Bruce Mixer, Willie Littles, and Johnny Key.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Gator Claus . . . or is that Santa Gator

Yes, that's Becky from my office, all decked-out in her Gator holiday attire!

The funny thing is that we were just talking about how she has never been able to find a Santa hat that would fit on her big ol' knot-head.

Then, my mom found that cool Gator hat at Walgreens. I told her she HAD to buy it and bring it in!

Fortunately, Becky is a good sport, and let Cathy take pictures.

Now, we're all hoping the REAL Santa will deliver us a 10th anniversary National Championship!


Orange and Blue, you know it's true!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Troupes' trials and tribulations

Just received an email from my high school classmate Lisa (Johnson) Troupe.

Without going into any specifics, she tells me that her husband Paul is having a tougher than usual time at work right now and is asking for prayer.

So, to my prayer circle in the blogosphere, you know what to do.

It's happening!!

Just heard the official announcement from the BCS.

Step 3 is complete.


The Gators are going to the National Championship game.

Mark your calendars: January 8th, Glendale, Arizona!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I love it when I'm wrong.

Okay, that's a lie.

I hate to be wrong.

But, in this case, I will make an exception.

I was totally wrong about the Gators not having any real chance of winning a 10th anniversary National Championship.

Sometimes, the planets align and all is right with the cosmos.

Like today.

UCLA unexpectedly knocked-off #2 USC out in California.

Step 1 complete.

Then, the Gators decisively beat Arkansas to win the SEC championship.

Step 2 complete.

Now, if the computers and witchdoctors at the BCS realize that Michigan has already had their shot at Ohio State this season, Step 3 will be complete, too!

Stay tuned!


Orange and Blue, you know it's true!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

State Semi-finals Disappointment

Condolences to John Burden and the rest of the Boone Braves, who really poured their hearts and souls into a state championship run this season.

Unfortunately, they fell to near-neighbors Lake Brantley tonight in the semi-final round.

The score was 34-31.

One stupid field goal was the margin, frustrating.

Let's just hope we don't have to worry about a close game in tomorrow's SEC championship up in Atlanta.

A blow-out of the Razorbacks would be a great way to kick the holiday season into high gear.

See what you can do to deliver that for us, will ya Urban?!