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ResearchBuzz has a great research tool for genealogists posted on her site. I searched the site for some relatives and came up with some interesting information. You can also save the census pages to your own computer.
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Footnote Makes 1930 US Census Free Through End of August announced yesterday that its 1930 US Census is going to be available free online through the end of August. The direct URL for the resource is

You will have to register to have free access, but all the registration asks for is an e-mail address and a password.

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If you have been wondering how to review all of those conversations that people are having about various topics, your time has come.
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A Search Engine For Message Boards has mentioned a search engine for message boards called Dipity (Dopity Doo?) It’s at .

Dipiti, according to its home page, indexes over 2300 communities and almost 29 million conversations. They’re divided broadly into health, legal, money, and pet care. (So this is not the search engine to find hockey conversations or discussions of politics.) There’s a tag cloud of topics or you can search within one of the aforementioned categories (or all of them if you like.)

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Super G & her Girls 2005

Super G & her Girls 2005

Welcome to Hell.

I spent the last week dealing with the business of dying.

My grandmother died after a short, unexplainable illness and I was called away from a work conference to help deal with the aftermath.

If I sound a little bitter, I am. I really wanted to attend the conference as I missed it last year and I was really looking forward to spending some quality time with the friends with whom I stay. Still, we cannot predict what life will dish out and my family needed me.

My mom called me right as the keynote was starting. Not realizing what was happening, I texted her back saying that I would call when the keynote was over. She didn’t text back to tell me how serious things were, so I had no idea Grama was at the end. I had a bad feeling throughgout the keynote, though. She and my sister called our friends and he came looking for me at the conference. Finally, he and I connected and talked about what was going on. Should I go? Should I stay? I finally decided to go, so we caravaned back to his house where I packed up my stuff, called work, called DH, cried a little and eventually left.

I left from Monterey at about noon on Monday. I had to keep stopping because the emotions were overwhelming me. I promised DH I would try to drive if I was crying. I stopped at my aunt’s house in San Luis Obispo and had some soup and talked with her. She is not close to the family, so she is a little removed from the raw emotions. I was still in a  turmoil about going down and she said that she would call and tell them I wasn’t coming, if I wanted.

I was in a turmoil because I wasn’t sure that it was really the end. The last I heard, Grama was at home recovering from her fall. I didn’t know they had rushed her to the hospital on Sunday night. Some members of my family can be very dramatic and over the top.  I ended up continuing on.

When I got to Fillmore, I had to stop to use the restroom and get some coffee. My mom called as I was leaving Starbuck’s and told me to head to the house instead of the hospital; that Grama had died. I stopped and rented a hotel room, then I went to the house and everyone was there. Mom and Lil Sissy were on the phone calling people with the news.

The next day, I went to the house and started writing letters to her credit cards to cancel them. I cleared out old bills and marked them for shredding. I called the attorney. I called her investment adviser. I called my DH and consoled people.

My mom looked terrible. She had that taut look around her cheeks and eyes. I had never seen her like that. All I wanted to do was make it all better when I saw her.

Emotions were very high. It is so draining when people are just thinking about themselves and not thinking about the situation.

Tuesday was the day the drama started. We went to the mortuary to arrange to get her ready to be buried. This is an expensive prospect. It was $1700 to walk in the door and talk to the funeral director to make the plans. We had to decide on open or closed casket, what casket to buy ($750-$10,000), whether she would be made up (hair and make up $200), what she would wear (dressing $700 excluding clothes), embalming ($1700), refrigeration ($97/day if you don’t get your loved one embalmed), etc etc. There was a lot of other stuff, like holy cards, remembrance book. Each piece added to the bottom-line. Dying is not a cheap proposition. It also was hard to make decisions while considering cost. I felt like a cheapskate. I felt like I was shortchanging her by making decisions and thinking about how much each decision cost. Mom and Lil Sissy were ont he same page in terms of the decisions, so, at least, I wasn’t making them alone. There is a lot of up-selling that goes on in the Business of Dying.

Lil Sissy ended up making cards – they weren’t holy cards, but they had a nice photo of Grama on the front with the details of her life and death on them. We bought a bright and cheerful guest book at Hallmark -one we knew she would like that didn’t cost $150. Nobody commented on not having holy cards, or a more grim or religious remembrance book.

All this time emotions were running really high and that was really exhausting for me.

Next stop was the cemetery. This was supposed to be an easy stop because she told us everything was taken care of. It was a nightmare.

Grama inherited a plot from her dad and was planning to be buried with her step-mother. Her second husband was buried with his first wife. Grama’s dad is buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, as he remarried and that is where his last wife was buried. The cemetery “counselors” told us that she couldn’t be buried with her step-mother because they weren’t blood relatives.


They told us to look at the contract, which we did and nowhere did it say that Grama had to be a blood relative to be buried in the plot. The other thing was that the contract said “family” not blood relatives, though the counselors insisted that ‘blood relative’ was in the contract. They were adamant. They said they would be happy to refund our money or apply it to another plot. Remember what I said about up-selling? If this were true, they really had us between a rock and a hard place.

No way.

I had had enough of these people. Clearly, death is an everyday occurrence to them and they have forgotten the pain and suffering a loved one’s death causes. They were immune to our pain. Their words of condolence were just meaningless sounds coming out of their mouth.

I know from working in a law firm that the legal definition of ‘family’, which, I’d like to remind you, was what it said on the contract, is not the same as the legal definition of ‘blood relative’. They wouldn’t budge. Their manager wouldn’t talk to us so we left.

I think someone in the cemetery office heard something that sounded good and started saying it. I am sure they got some extra sales out of that blood relative line. I thought it must be something like the game of telephone.

As soon as we got in the car, I called a badass litigator I know and left a message. We also called Grama’s lawyer who we were able to speak with and who was so angry about the situation that she got on the job of getting Grama in that plot right away.

You don’t have time to shop around for the best deal when your loved one dies. You don’t have time to negotiate prices or go to Costco and buy a casket. Your loved one has to be somewhere, and wherever s/he is waiting for the final arrangements costs you money.

I spent the evening emailing back and forth with the attorney, scanning contract and providing a family tree for her. In between, I spent a lot of time trying to stem the tide of anger erupting from the emotional volcanoes around me. More exhaustion.

The next day I had an appointment to see the Bereavement Team at the church to arrange the funeral. Mom had scheduled it, but I felt like I should go and help her since she was in such a fragile state. I got ready and as I was about to leave someone from the Archdiocesan Patron Services department called me back. He got more information from me and said he would call and talk to the cemetery. He didn’t promise anything and had that bland, “I am clearly talking to a crazy person” tone of voice.

I stopped at Peet’s to get some tea. The cemetery called while I was in the car. The woman tried to explain the situation, which turned out to be that they were afraid Great Grama’s (the relative in the bottom part of the grave) next of kin would come and be angry that the cemetery had opened the grave and put someone else in there. Spare me. This is not what her staff said and what she was saying was very different than not being able to put someone in a grave that is not a blood relative. I told her she would be getting a call from my lawyer and hung up. Then I called the attorney. I was done with all these people and, while, in general, I don’t threaten to have a lawyer interveneeveryday, I did that this time. I just couldn’t deal with the situation anymore. Grama’s lawyer was glad to call them. The next call I got was from the cemetery saying that everything was fine, please come and sign the papers to bury her.

They said that I needed to be there by noon to get Grama buried the next day and I reminded them that if their incompetence had not caused all of these problems, everything would have been done the previous day. I said I would come as soon as I was done at the church and if that was by noon, great. If not, Grama would be buried on Thursday if I had to drive the bulldozer myself.

I don’t understand why it takes hours of my time, a multitude of angry communications, a family tree and lawyer’s phone call for them to do what they were contractually obligated to do in the first place? The staff is poorly trained and, perhaps, poorly supervised. It seems that they are poorly organized when they do the initial selling. It also seems like they must be more concerned about getting people’s money than actually putting them in the grave.

The Bereavement Team at the church was the only bright spot in this whole process. They were clear, well organized and there was no problem. They offered appropriate guidance, acknowledged that this was a difficult time and were very helpful. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Grunnet Marker

Grunnet Marker

We headed over to a cemetery, girding ourselves for another fight. It wasn’t. Everything was ready. Mom and I had to sign a couple of things and we were done. They took us over to the grave and we saw the original marker for the first time. We looked at some other markers to get an idea of how to change it because of Grama’s name replacing her dad’s. The guy who took out to the grave was relentlessly cheerful. Clearly he enjoyed his job.

By Wednesday midafternoon, we were done with all of the organizational details. Thank heaven. We went out to a mediocre lunch and then reconvened at Super G’s house. I continued to sort old bills and papers and write letters to people who needed to know Grama had died.

Thursday morning, I got up early and went to the Van Nuys Flyaway terminal to pick up the boys. They had flown down that morning for the funeral. By 8:30 or so we were back on the road to Grama’s house. When we got there, they ate some breakfast and then we headed over to the church. Mom had put together some photos to display at the mass and reception.

At about 10am, we all headed over to the church. We set up the table with the remembrance book and the photos, arranged some flowers. We stood around a bit waiting for things to get started. Eventually the priest and the Bereavement Team got the readers and the cousins, who were bringing up the gifts, oriented. I talked with the mortuary staff who arrived with Grama. A bit later we got the pallbearers organized and started greeting people.

People came and wanted to hug us or be hugged. I had been pretty stoic until this time, but I started to break down. At the end of the mass when we were processing out, I broke down when my step-dad broke down. I couldn’t be strong any longer. Thank heaven for mom’s cousin. She just held me and didn’t let go or encourage me to stop. If I couldn’t have my own mom, I would love to have her as a mom.

There was a reception in the church hall. The church ladies decorated, made coffee and lemonade, baked and cleaned up. It was wonderful. That church has a wonderful community.

After the reception, we went to the cemetery and buried Grama. We had a family only internment. We didn’t want another big hoo-ha. The burial part of the service was short. My mom was angry that the priest kept his portable holy water in plastic piping. I thought it was tacky.

And then it was all over. I said good-bye to my boys and my friend took them back to the airport. Everyone else scattered for home. Several of us went back to Grama’s and sat around chatting about her life and other details.

Friday, I finished up paperwork. Mom and I went with two of her cousins to find Grandpa George’s grave at Hollywood Forever. They were setting up for their Dia de los Muertos celebration so the place was a zoo. We found him and were glad he is no longer lost. We also saw a memorial to Toto, Nelson Eddy’s grave, Jayne Mansfield’s grave, Johnny Ramone’s mausoleum and the crypt where Marion Davies rests. It is actually quite a beautiful cemetery and, though unplanned, we took a little time to walk around the graves and say some of the names as a small prayer to those resting there. There were a number of people there looking for celebrity graves. I thought that was a bit odd, but to each his own.

Saturday I packed up and checked out of the hotel and took one last trip over to Grama’s. Mom and I wrote thank you notes and then I drove home. I didn’t really feel like stopping anywhere, so I only stopped when I needed to. I didn’t visit with anyone or shop for fabric. Now I am home and working on getting my life back to normal.


Everyone is going to die. I am sorry if you think that is an indelicate statement, but it is true. If you want to go through what we did, don’t do anything. Close this post and go ride your bike or sew or mow the lawn. There are a lot more options if you plan ahead. If you want to avoid the nightmare and allow your family to grieve peacefully and completely, here is what you need to do:

  1. Think about what you want to happen after you die. Take notes on those thoughts. Perhaps create a file on your computer that you can add to as things occur to you.
  2. Talk with your loved ones about what you want done when you die.
  3. Go to the mortuary and start making plans and paying for those plans. There is a company that will bill you by the month and put the fees in an account so they are ready for your use when the time comes.
  4. Make all the mortuary related decisions-hair, make-up, embalming.
  5. If you will be buried in a cemetery, go to the cemetery where  you want to be buried and buy a plot. Get together with your family and go in together. The afterlife will be more fun, if you have people you care about around you. if you want to be buried at sea, get in touch your preferred company and make those arrangements.
  6. If you want to buy a casket at Costco, go figure out how that is done, where to store it, etc.
  7. Decide where you want the celebration, mass or service to be held.
  8. Do you want a viewing the night before?
  9. Organize the service as best you can. What poem or readings do you want? Who do you want to be pallbearers? Do you want people to remember you by making speeches? Are there people you do not want to attend? Spell it all out.
  10. Contact those people and see if they have a pay-in-advance plan.
  11. Contact an attorney and make a will or get a Nolo Press book and do it yourself.
  12. Make a book, collage or poster or note the photos you want displayed at your funeral or wake.
  13. Write everything down including: what you want to wear, whether you want an open casket, do you want to be cremated, what mortuary and cemetery you want used, or whether you want to be scattered at sea, made into a statue, or cryogenically frozen and where you want the wake, what color you want the vault to be, who you want to do the catering. AND where the money is to pay for all of this. There are a thousand details. Start now.
  14. Make copies of all of your arrangements and give them to the people who will be doing the planning.
  15. Save the arrangements to the cloud.
  16. Pay for the arrangements. Your accounts might be frozen after you die. Make sure your kids don’t have to come up with the money in advance.

I have a mania for good customer service. In my job, I tell my staff that customer service is everything. I am constantly amazed that organizations do not seem to care about customer service or they pay lip service to it. Wells Fargo Bank is in my crosshairs today.

Recently, I received an email from Wells Fargo saying that my address had been changed and if I didn’t make the change, I should call them immediately.


I didn’t make the change so I called the number in the email. The customer service person had no record and couldn’t see anything. She said she would put in a research request.

Usually, I receive an email when a bank research request is logged. After two weeks of not receiving the expected email, I called again. My accounts were all fine and the rep couldn’t see what I was talking about. We talked for half an hour and, yes, he did try and sell me additional services, but couldn’t figure out the problem or why there had been an address change, so he said he would input a research request.
Again, a few weeks go by with no research request email. Now I am getting angry. What if some clever hacker hacked into the Wells Fargo system and changed addresses and was now laundering money through accounts including mine? I was surprised that Wells Fargo was not taking this seriously AND worried that Homeland Security would come knocking. I don’t think I am a conspiracy theorist, but you just never know.

As I am fairly social media literate, I dashed off my frustration in a tweet.

HA! The social media team at @Ask_Wells Fargo saw the tweet and said they would help. YAY!

My joy is shortlived, because, again, a couple of weeks go by and they cannot find someone who can solve problems they find via social media.

Finally, they find someone and he calls me. He is my new best friend. I send him the emails, tell him my sad tale of woe and am reassured that he will get to the bottom of the problem. During this whole time, with every new person, I have to explain the problem over and over. Nobody has taken notes or, if they have, departments can’t see what other departments have written. Or they don’t have a customer relationship management (CRM) system.

No call back, no resolution, no contact from my new best friend at Wells Fargo Advisors. Finally, a few more weeks go by and I get a call from someone I have never heard of in my local branch. Yes, apparently, customers are assigned to local branches.

I yell at him.

I am fed up with all the people I have spoken to about this problem and all the time I have spent explaining the issue and waiting on hold.

No, he doesn’t deserve it.

No, it isn’t his fault, but I am past being nice and fair. It is my money, my credit rating and my door that Homeland Security will break down. I want to know who is allowed to change my address without my knowledge and, apparently, without the knowledge of anyone at Wells Fargo. The poor child is stunned. He had no idea, because nobody told him and they do not have a CRM system that would have told him how many times I had been in contact with his company. He assures me he will get to the bottom of the problem.

Famous last words.

Now it is September. Still no word. Nearly 3 months have past. I call the same poor child back. He doesn’t remember me. When I tell him I am the person who spoke to five people before him, he remembers and tells me that he passed it along to his assistant. I yell at him again, asking him why he didn’t have the courtesy to call me and tell me he had passed it on. He has no answer. He transfers me to the new guy, thrilled, I am sure, to be rid of me.

The poor child did not inform the new guy of how angry I am, so the new guy gets an earful as well. Really, I am not a mean or vindictive person, for the most part, but Wells Fargo Bank was on my last nerve at this point. To make matters worse, the new guy keeps telling me that he cannot help me. I use phrases like:

  • is there nobody in your company who will take responsibility for good customer service?
  • is there nobody in your company who will take responsibility for resolving my problem?
  • do you care that I have money with you?

The new guy has no answer. Even though he is a Vice President, he is low on the totem pole and can do nothing. The soft-hearted good side of me felt bad, but the angry Tiger didn’t care. I know it wasn’t the new guy’s fault, but how many people do I need to call to find out why this address change happened?

Wells Fargo: here is what you need to do immediately to improve your customer service:

  1. Teach your employees manners, if they don’t already have them. Make the first person who receives a call responsible for seeing it through and making sure the customer is happy.
  2. If the responsible party needs to pass the problem to another person or department, they are in charge of calling the customer. (see #1 about good manners)
  3. If you have an email, Twitter account, Facebook account or a phone number and you want to communicate with your customers, the communications must be two way. You should not use these media if the email account is a do-not-reply email and nobody monitors Twitter and Facebook. If you don’t trust your employees enough with outgoing phones, perhaps you should hire someone else?
  4. Don’t use social media if you don’t have a social media plan that you commit to constantly update and tweak. Have your social media plan specifically address situations where a customer is unhappy. If a problem is detected via social media, have a person who can deal with it. Social media is about relationships it is not just about sales. AND a reputation takes 20 years to build and 5 minutes to destroy.
  5. Decide where the buck stops. If a customer is an ongoing problem and is angry and wants to send an email or letter, there should be someone to receive it. The buck has to stop with someone.
  6. Install a customer relationship management system and USE it, especially in situations like this.
  7. Send snailmail letters with explanations and apologies in severe situations. yes, someone has to write it and you have to find an envelope and pay for a stamp, but it might be a small price to pay for not losing a customer.
  8. Create a position on your C-Suite team for Chief Customer Service Officer.


Resolution: someone called me (even though the new guy said the people in that department couldn’t call out) and told me it was an error. They don’t know why the email was sent out, but it was an error. They refused to send me a letter to that effect, so Homeland Security could still come knocking.

I saw this image while doing another search and just love the image. I really want a bike like that! It makes it all the more wonderful that it is a logo touting gluten free goodies!
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John Di Giglio has a great review of EverNotes, an online notetaking software.
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Welcome EverNote!  A free tool designed to let you easily and quickly “capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and [which] makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere”.  EverNote is accessible via smartphone (I have it on my iPhone), desktop (I have it on my Mac), and also via the web (click the link above).  It supports various devices and multiple platforms.  EverNote can be used to capture information / text, photos, audio, and even video. And did I mention that it is free?!?!?

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Participate in the poll to show what you use to organize and share your books.
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Bloggers Search for Best Social Networking Books Site

Here are the results so far, after 206 votes: 27 percent use Library Thing, 20 percent use Shelfari and 25 percent use GoodReads. 45 percent don’t use any social networking site for books. Follow this link to participate in the poll.

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Christine posted this on FB and I thought it was really interesting. It makes me think about some of the traditions, rituals and practices that have been created or done over the years and why. Perhaps it wasn’t just “always done” that way. Perhaps there were specific reasons that nobody every researched. Interesting concept of “we know it works, but we don’t know why.”
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For Good Self-Control, Try Getting Religious About It

If I’m serious about keeping my New Year’s resolutions in 2009, should I add another one? Should the to-do list include, “Start going to church”?

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Rebecca's Tale Rebecca’s Tale by Sally Beauman

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
The book, Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier was on my mind for awhile. I thought I would look up some scholarly articles and read analyses about the book. Before I could do that this book came to my attention.
The books starts out with very intense emotion in the voice of Colonel Julyan. I had a hard time reading the first part, because it was so intense, and I really thought I would have to abandon Rebecca’s Tale entirely. The voices, however, change as the book progresses and I found that the text became easier to read as they changed. It is interesting to see the different points of view as all the characters speak.

I enjoyed the book, but found that I needed more information about post-war England or there were parts of the book that were a little too unbelievable.

I liked the section where Ellie speaks and would love to see another book about her and her life before this book and then after. I thought she was a good character.

The tone has a bit of the confusion that I find in Rebecca, which, I suppose, is a link between the two books. This book is a bit clearer in what happened, but not completely clear.

There are some parts that are unnecessary like references to Tom’s, and Rose’s, personal situations. I suppose they explain why Tom acts the way he does towards Ellie, and explain the choices that Rose made in her life, but I found them to be unnecessary. These and Colonel Julyan’s end seemed overly dramatic and out of place. has an enlightening description of Rebecca, mentions of sequels and further reading at the website of the organization

This might be a good adjunct to SLA’s free online tutorials. I am constantly trying to learn to make my digital photography better and use my digital photos in better ways. Perhaps this site will assist?
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Today we’re going to continue our Breaking the Rules of Photography series by suggesting you experiment with a high ISO.

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