How Much Are You Willing to Pay to Have Free Speech?

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James McHenry was born in Ireland in 1753. His Scots-Irish family send him to America in 1771 after he became sick from studying too hard. He may also have been sent to check out the colonies in anticipation of the entire family’s eventual immigration. In fact, a year later, the McHenry clan settled in what were then (for only a few years more) the British Colonies.

McHenry finished his studies in Philadelphia before serving as an apprentice under Benjamin Rush. You may remember Rush as the doctor/patriot who signed the Declaration of Independence, the founder of Dickinson College and the mentor/teacher of both Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) and future president William Henry Harrison.

Perhaps influenced by Rush, or maybe the whole Philadelphia experience, McHenry joined the cause of the patriots. After the British captured and then released him, McHenry served on the staffs of both George Washington and General Lafayette.

Two things about McHenry stand out in his long and illustrious career as a Founding Father. It’s likely you don’t know his connection to either.Continue Reading “How Much Are You Willing to Pay to Have Free Speech?”

Growing Old With The Sandman

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I’ve been to Bills games. I’ve been in Bills games’ traffic jams. I know how to navigate those slowdowns. I don’t have the patience to wait. I see the shortcuts like I see the back of my hand on the steering wheel. Most get overcome with frustration at the sight of these roadway snarls. I buckle down with calm confidence. I know the way out. And I’m not afraid to take it.

The Adam Sandler “I Missed You Tour” wasn’t supposed to be a Bills’ game. Even a sold-out Blue Cross Arena would require only a fraction of the people.

And yet, there we were. Stuck in traffic on 490 West.

It seems like everyone made the same decision. Park at the Civic Center Garage and stay out of the rain. Or sleet. Or snow. Or whatever decides to precipitate from the skies above.

I wanted to make it a relaxing evening. A casual drift down memory lane. A respite from Continue Reading “Growing Old With The Sandman”

How Will You Repay Your Debt To Humanity?

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What legacy will you leave to mankind? Your answer may very well depend on how one asks the question. Be warned. The particular framing of the query I just posed can lead you mistakenly astray.

What’s the difference between the lead question and the question in the title?

Take a look at them both. How do the specific words used make you feel when you read them? What does “leaving a legacy” conjure up in your mind versus “repaying a debt”? And how does your picture of “mankind” contrast to what your mind sees when reading the term “humanity?”

It’s all about connotation, not denotation. Denotation means the raw dispassionate facts. Connotation favors the emotion. And, being a human, emotion rules. (Sorry to all you Continue Reading “How Will You Repay Your Debt To Humanity?”

Blasdell, The Beatles, And Brotherhood

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There was always The Beatles. Or at least it seemed that way.

I was too young to remember a time before The Beatles.

Strike that.

I certainly do remember the years before The Beatles (or, more appropriately, their music) landed on American shores. I can recall several memorable scenes from the time I was one or two years old.

I remember watching Mercury launches on the black-and-white TV in the living room of our apartment. I remember waiting for my mother to return home (from either work or school—that part I can’t remember) in that same living room on 83 Victory Avenue. I remember taking walks on that same street.

I remember staying at my grandparents on Ingham Avenue while my parents went out. I slept in the crib in the back room. Rather, I was supposed to be sleeping in the crib in the back room. What I really did was Continue Reading “Blasdell, The Beatles, And Brotherhood”

What A Whirlwind Week It Was

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Adrenaline does amazing things. It can give you a sense of superhuman strength. It can push you to accomplish things you can only dream of. It can keep you awake and alert until the job is done.

How long can an adrenaline rush last?

That’s a tricky question. The length depends on what triggers the initial rush. It might be 10-15 minutes. It might be an hour or two. It might be a day.

And what happens when you experience a series of adrenaline rushes?

OK, I’m going to stop right there. I’m not a doctor and an “Adrenaline Rush” clearly has Continue Reading “What A Whirlwind Week It Was”

Life (With Strings Attached)

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Sitting in the balcony at the First Presbyterian Church on North Main Street in Honeoye Falls, I couldn’t help but wonder. It was Ray Milne’s funeral service. He was an amazing man. Long ago, during my term of public service, he offered sound and wise advice. He was a man many could look to as a community role model. I only wish I could accomplish half of what he did.

But that’s not what I was wondering about. The setting itself took me back. When I first moved back to Mendon in the late 1980s, I joined many civic groups, hoping to discover what I could offer my adopted hometown. Several of those groups convened in the meeting rooms of the church.

That was a time long ago. I started thinking about all the people I knew back then. Some of them were in that church celebrating Ray’s life. Most of them were celebrating with Ray.

The solemn but sweet music coming from the organ helped place me in the mood to Continue Reading “Life (With Strings Attached)”

The Eclipse That Changed History

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As you read this, assuming the post office delivers the paper on time, a partial eclipse of the sun looms. This isn’t the big one. That’s coming on Monday, April 8, 2024. It’s a total eclipse of the sun that begins roughly at 3:18 PM and lasts for almost 4 minutes. The center line of that eclipse goes through Batavia, so that’s about as close as you can get.

Assuming it’s not cloudy.

The eclipse I’m talking about now is a partial eclipse of the sun. This is an annular eclipse. That’s the one where the moon doesn’t quite cover the entire sun. It leaves a bright ring. Pretty impressive looking. Pretty scary looking. It’s scheduled to happen on Saturday, October 14 right around 1:13 PM as a partial eclipse.

Assuming it’s not cloudy.

But let’s go back to the scary part for a moment. In history, cultures that didn’t understand Continue Reading “The Eclipse That Changed History”

The Day Lafayette Touched Mendon

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His full name was Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette. For short, he’s called the Marquis de La Fayette. If that doesn’t speak “wealth,” then what doesn’t? At least in his native France.

In traditionally egalitarian America, we know him simply as “Lafayette.” Coming from a family with a strong military tradition, he came to the New World in 1777 at the age of 19. Seeing the American Revolution as a noble cause, he joined the patriots and was immediately commissioned as a major general.

The title reflected more a sign of respect than of actual duty, for he was given no troops to command. Lafayette understood in America, one isn’t born to status, one must earn it.

And earn it, he did. He received his red badge of courage at the Battle of Brandywine. There, though wounded, he led an orderly retreat. His brave actions in the Battle of Rhode Island Continue Reading “The Day Lafayette Touched Mendon”

Where Does The Term ‘Fallen Flags’ Come From?

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Are you a fan of The Big Bang Theory? Do you remember Sheldon Cooper’s hilarious “Fun With Flags” podcast? It’s a comedically inane spoof of those mindless YouTube shows. It’s all about vexillology.

You say you have never heard of the term?

Vexillology, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means “the study of flags.” It comes from the Latin word vexillum, which translates to drape or flag. Vexillum itself derives from the Latin velum, meaning “sail.” At some point in the 1950s, someone attached “ology” to vexillum and—voilà!—vexillology.

It’s not clear where and when the word was first used. A 1968 UPI article that ran in several papers, quotes Nathaniel Abelson, then head of the United Nations’ library map department. Abelson claimed the UN’s terminology unit invented the term, but Continue Reading “Where Does The Term ‘Fallen Flags’ Come From?”

Jack Kemp: All American

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A lot of people were much closer to Jack Kemp than I, but a lot more people did not know him as well as I did. Only a few remaining Americans can say what I can: “I was there at the beginning.”

Jack Kemp, who passed away in 2009, emerged on the national scene not in the political arena passing historic legislation, but on the gridiron field and into passing history. He was forged in a time when most Americans believed in and followed the Boy Scout Law. He played among those people, he lived among those people, and, eventually, he came to represent those people. I know. I was one of them.

Friends, conservatives, liberals, and countrymen, I write not to rebury Jack Kemp, but to Continue Reading “Jack Kemp: All American”

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