Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

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Location: New England, United States

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Saga of the Lost and Found Kort Family Records

Not long ago, I was contacted by Kathy Hinton on Facebook who was seeking help on finding the rightful owner of some long lost family photographs and cemetery certificates that unexpectedly turned up while she was helping a family friend clear out a recently vacated house in North Wales PA.

Max Kort
The cemetery certificates bore the names of three individuals with the surname Kort who had died more than half a century ago. The photographs were formally posed B&W portraits of family members bearing no annotations or identifications.

While it was clear these were not my own relatives, I agreed to help Kathy find the rightful owner of these long lost and forgotten keepsake records.

The materials were in an envelope addressed to Marilyn Gilinsky in Boca Raton FL. An Internet search on that name and address revealed that it was the former residence of Marilyn Gilinsky-Kalif who now lives in Los Angeles. A few more searches turned up a working phone number. Ms Gilinsky was indeed the granddaughter of Max Kort, who died in 1951. But how in the world did the materials that had been mailed to her in Florida in the 1990s end up languishing in a house in Pennsylvania, only to be discovered 25 years later?

Kort Family Photo
The recently vacated house in North Wales PA, where the old cemetery certificates and family photos were found, belonged to Barbara Young, whose family had owned the property for three generations dating back to the 1950s. Barbara Young had three children of which only one daughter is still alive. Mrs. Young's son, Gary J. Young, had lived for a time in his mother's house, but moved to Boca Raton FL in the 1990s. He died there in an apartment fire in 2004.

Marilyn Gilinsky confirmed to me that she had indeed met and become friends with Gary J. Young in the 1990s, when they both lived in Boca Raton. It is unclear how Ms Gilinsky's heirloom family photos and cemetery certificates fell into the personal possession of Gary J. Young and then came to be relocated back to his childhood home in Pennsylvania.

Marilyn Gilinsky told me that her Grandfather, Max Kort, came to the United States from Lithuania around 1910. My Great-Great-Grandfather, Isaac Kort, lived in Vilnius Lithuania and his three sons came to the US as young men in the 1880s. So it's possible that we are distantly related, although it would take DNA testing to establish the probability of a link.

It took a day's worth of sleuthing via Internet searches to discover the missing links that pieced this detective story together. Not bad for a day's work, eh?

Friday, December 02, 2016

How I Escaped Going To Prison

Last Spring, I was filling in for a colleague who had been tutoring some high school students in mathematics. My colleague and his wife were spending a month in California when their daughter was giving birth to a new baby. And so I was filling in for him two afternoons a week in Cary Memorial Library in Lexington MA, working with a pair of high school students who were struggling with Algebra and Calculus.

As is my custom, I typically selected one of my math-motif sweatshirts for the occasion.  Like this one:

I Ate Some Pie

As I was coming out of Cary Library late one afternoon, I was accosted by a stranger who asked me to explain the curious mathematical symbols on my sweatshirt. That pedestrian turned out to be a rather gregarious chap named Rob Kanzer who then befriended me and also invited me to come as his guest to a meeting of Lexington Toastmasters.

And so begins my saga of how I avoided going to prison.

Toastmasters is a club where the members learn and practice the art of public speaking. The club has a highly structured meeting format, where the participants take turns in a variety of roles, all of which involve some aspect of speaking in front of a group.

I do a lot of writing (mostly on the Internet), but I rarely do public speaking. It's not exactly a skill that I need or use as a retired science educator. But it occurred to me that I could use some practice learning to become a better listener, and so I agreed to join Lexington Toastmasters for that purpose.

And this is where I took the road less traveled in the annals of Toastmasters. I only joined the local chapter, declining to join Toastmasters International, as their course in public speaking frankly did not interest me.

All was well for the first six months until there was a change in leadership. The person who had previously been the site's WebMaster became the new Sergeant at Arms, and so I was asked to take on the vacated role of WebMaster.  So far so good.

Since I had only paid up my local dues (and not the portion of the semi-annual dues that normally goes to Toastmasters International), the new Vice President of Membership soon raised a red flag. One seemingly minor detail was that, as WebMaster, I was logging into the web site without being an authorized member in the eyes of Toastmasters International (which provided the servers for the web site).

Joining Toastmasters International (TMI) included a lot more than just paying the portion of dues that goes to TMI. Originally, Toastmasters began a century ago at a midwestern YMCA, to help inarticulate male adolescents learn to become better speakers. I had remarked that the course in public speaking was uncommonly regimented, but this off-putting feature turned out to be a holdover from the educational model the founder, Ralph C. Smedley, had developed a century ago for his demographic of inarticulate adolescents at the local YMCA in Bloomington Illinois.

Indeed, the whole structure of Toastmasters International was similarly regimented, with features that reminded me of Middle School and Boy Scouts. For the life of me, I didn't apprehend why these anachronistic features belonged in Lexington Toastmasters, which is largely comprised of urbane well-educated adult professionals and retirees. To me, these features felt inappropriate, unconstructive, and downright infantilizing.

But that's not the real problem. The real problem is CFAA, the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which makes it a Federal Felony to log into a web site without express authorization from the web site owner. Aaron Swartz, a gifted scholar at Harvard, was indicted under CFAA and threatened with 35 years in prison for accessing an archive of academic articles at MIT. He committed suicide rather than face trial at the hands of the US Attorney.

Now I frankly don't expect to be indicted by the US Attorney if I cavalierly log on to the Toastmasters web site in violation of the CFAA. But I'd still be in technical violation of CFAA, and that really is a Federal Felony. While I would not compare my story to the life and tragic death of Aaron Swartz, yet it was his technical violation with CFAA that disrupted the collegiality and congeniality of MIT and ultimately cost him his life.

And so, thanks to the long and violent arm of the Rule of Law, I found that I was obliged to part company with Lexington Toastmasters.

And that's how I escaped the terrifying spectre of going to prison.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Snot Hurled 'Round the World

The American Revolutionary War began with "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" which took place in historic Lexington Massachusetts.

During the last two weeks of August, the Lexington Police issued 41 traffic citations to motorists confused by a new one-way traffic pattern on Harrington Road along the north side of the Lexington Battle Green.

On Monday, October 24th, I appeared before Clerk-Magistrate, Ann Colicchio in Concord District Court to contest the citation issued to me back on August 18th by Sgt. Timothy J. Barry of the Lexington Police.

I barely got about 2 minutes into my story before the Clerk-Magistrate, Ann Colicchio, when she abruptly dismissed the citation without explanation.

I'm guessing I was not the first person to contest it, as the Clerk-Magistrate seemed to have a very quick grasp of the scene, and she was impressed that I came well-prepared with photos and diagrams.

Find the details of my story here:

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

You've Got a Friend

Title: You've Got a Friend
Artist: Yutiel
Composer: Carole King and Yutiel Yoshi Associates
YouTube: You've Got A Friend ~ Carole King

When you're confused and troubled
and you need someone who'll care,
and no one, no one seems to be right,
come on here and think of me,
and soon I will be there
to let you smile even in darkest night.

So just write down my name
And you know wherever I am
I will answer as soon as I can
in middle of the night or on day
I listen till you'll be okay
And I'll be there
You've got a friend.

And the world around us
grows darker every day
and you still can't tell me all what you feel
keep your head together, I will not go away
I struggle to grasp your emotion-wheel.

Now, ain't it good to know that you've got a friend
When people can be so cold?
They'll hurt you, yes, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them,
Oh, but don't you let them.

So just write down my name
And you know wherever I am
I will answer as soon as I can
in middle of the night or on day
I listen till you'll be okay
And I'll be there
You've got a friend.

You've got a friend
Ain't it good to know, you've got a friend?
Ain't it good to know?
Ain't it good to know?
Ain't it good to know, you've got a friend?

Oh yeah, now
Oh, you've got a friend
Yeah, baby
You've got a friend
Oh yeah...
You've got a friend .

CopyClef 2016 Carole King and Yutiel Yoshi Associates.
Resurrection Hackware. All songs reused.

You've Got A Friend ~ Carole King

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Let It Seethe

Title: Let It Seethe
Artist: Mokita Syzygy
Composer: Paul McCartney and Barsoom Tork Associates
YouTube: Let It Be ~ Paul McCartney

When I find myself in times of trouble
Toxic Testy comes at me
Spewing words of venom, let it seethe.
And in my hour of darkness
She is slandering effrontery
Spewing words of venom, let it seethe.
Let it seethe, let it seethe.
Hollow words of wounding, let it seethe.

And when the broken-hearted people
Hiding in dark caves agree,
There will be disaster, can't you see?
For though they may be griefers, there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be. Yeah
There will be an answer, let it be.

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music
Uru buddies comfort me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be,
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

CopyClef 2016 Paul McCartney and Barsoom Tork Associates
Resurrection Hackware.  All songs reused.

"At Resurrection Hackware, our atrocious song parodies are your existential nightmare."

Let It Be ~ Paul McCartney

Friday, January 15, 2016

Cyan D'ni Cave

Title: Cyan D'ni Cave
Artist: Uru Cavern Dwellers
Composer: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Barsoom Tork Associates
YouTube: Yellow Submarine ~ The Beatles

In the deserts of the West
Sat a van that looked bereft
Zandi told us of a quest
In the caves beneath a Cleft

So we bounded toward the edge
Past a whark's dried bony grave
Til we jumped a narrow ledge
Toward our Cyan D'ni Cave

We all dwell in a Cyan D'ni Cave
Cyan D'ni Cave, Cyan D'ni Cave
We all explore in a Cyan D'ni Cave
Cyan D'ni Cave, Cyan D'ni Cave

And our friends are all aGoG
Plus a few of them
Fell through the floor
As UruTunes begins to play ...

We all dwell in a Cyan D'ni Cave
Cyan D'ni Cave, Cyan D'ni Cave
We all explore in a Cyan D'ni Cave
Cyan D'ni Cave, Cyan D'ni Cave

(Full run ahead Mr. Sharper
Full run ahead
Great quest ahead it is, Explorer.
Up the stairs, Up the stairs
Shorah Friend, Shorah
Explore, explore)

As we seek the Grower's Tree
Obsessed with Relto Donut crave
Bahro Stones amid debris
In our Cyan D'n Cave

We all chat in a Cyan Aegura
Cyan Aegura, Cyan Aegura
We all chat in a Cyan Aegura
Cyan Aegura, Cyan Aegura

We all dwell in a Cyan D'ni Cave
Cyan D'ni Cave, Cyan D'ni Cave

CopyClef 2016 John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Barsoom Tork Associates.
Restoration Hackware, all songs reused.

"At Restoration Hackware, our silly song parodies are your everlasting earworm."

Yellow Submarine ~ The Beatles

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Abominable Constable

Drama Review: The Abominable Constable

The Abominable Constable is a farcical mystery about a ham-fisted enforcer of pointless regulations.

As mysteries go, there is no way to spoil this one, as it is laughably rotten from the gitgo.

The title role is played by the inestimable Testy of Toyaanisqatsi, who sternly (if not gleefully) bullies wayward miscreants who run afoul of her rancid regulations.

The drama takes a bizarre turn when Testy encounters her inevitable antagonist, a curious character named Barsoom who styles himself as an Anthropologist from Mars.  Barsoom, it appears, is in the habit of studying Earth Culture, with special emphasis on its legendary dysfunctionality.

Barsoom, being an intrepid scientist, impishly inquires into Testy's inscrutable method of hypothesis testing, knowing full well that she lacks one.  Predictably, Testy goes postal and kiboshes Barsoom, skipping such normative niceties as Due Process.

Barsoom, as is his custom, documents the episode in his burgeoning lab notebook, The Hamartian Chronicles.

The mystery, of course, is to figure out Barsoom's diagnosis of Testy's humorless Antisocial Personality Disorder.