Jason’s Wedding

So this past Friday (April 20th), my brother took the plunge and remarried. He has been saying for awhile that this was going to occur and so it did. I am really happy for him and his new bride. Her name is Shantel and is from Slidell, Louisiana. I have met her twice, I think, and she is really nice. Her daughter was down from the Air Force and Ethan was home on leave from the Marines, so Jason decided to do it right then as they already had the license. He had previously thought to have the ceremony in the summer while I was there, but I told him to go ahead if he wanted. I have been to a wedding of his before, so really I just want him to be happy. And it seems like he is that. Pictures:

Ethan Graduates!

So, my nephew successfully completed book camp and was accepted in as new member of the United States Marine Corps. I am really excited for him and wish him well in this chapter in his life. His next stop is the Advanced Infantry Training. His plan in the Corps is to complete two years as an Embassy guard and then two years back with the infantry. Maybe he will be assigned to work in Beijing while I am there, which would be awesome.

For his graduation, my brother, my niece and nephew, ex-sister-in-law and her family traveled over to Paris Island to be there for his graduation. I wish I could have been there. Here is a picture of my niece, brother and two nephews:

Museum Tour with Masako

This week was Qingming Jie, or Tomb Sweeping Day, in Taiwan, which is a National Holiday. For this day (April 4th), Masako was able to get off work, so we decided to visit the Palace Museum. When the Guomindang retreated to Taiwan in 1949, they evacuated with them around 80% of the artifacts in the Forbidden City. This is one reason why when you visit the Forbidden City, there is not much left inside the buildings. Anyway, it was a beautiful day and I was happy to spend time with one of my favorite people (the last picture is of her in the park next to the museum).


Masako and I both love old stuff, so we really loved the Shang & Zhou dynasty bronzes. I love pots and she loves calligraphy, so there was something for everyone. They had several memorials to the Qing emperors there and their responses to their administrators were at times hilarious. One of our favorites was the response of a simple 不, or “no” to a really long memorial.

Two days later (April 6th), we visited the National Museum of Taiwan. This museum was really interesting as well. It had exhibits of the native flora and fauna of Taiwan. We skipped the insect exhibit because of my phobia. I liked the displays about Taiwan’s indigenous population. First referred to in Qing histories as Eastern Barbarians, they are a hardy people forced into the interior by successive attempts to ‘civilize’ them by first the Qing government, then the Japanese and finally the Guomindang. Taiwan aborigines are one of the Austronesian peoples, like Malaysia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. There are about ½ a million still around.

Next door and after lunch, we visited the Museum of Banking and Dinosaurs, which was next to the National Museum and administered by them. The Banking Museum was really interesting, seeing the development of banking in Taiwan. Walking around a wall and seeing the dinosaurs was really a wow moment for both of us. While the majority of the bones are replicas, the atmosphere with the displays and the kids running around excited helped us capture a little bit of that old fashioned feelings of awe. Sometimes I feel too cynical and old. Not then.

Ancestry DNA results

I ordered an Ancestry DNA test on cyber Monday last year and was finally able to do it after I got the test from Jason in Hawaii. I sent it off from there and almost exactly a month later, I have the results. Here it is:

I thought the Scotch/Irish and English were probably spot on. The western European (Germany & France) is pretty spot on as well. The Iberian, southern European, Scandinavian, and even <1% Jewish were all within expectations. The one that really threw me was the Caucasus bit. 5% is a not inconsequential amount of my DNA. When you click on, it states that this DNA can be found in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Trace amounts can be found in Bulgaria, Jordan, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Palestine, Romania, and Turkmenistan. I think this is from my father’s side, as a 2nd cousin of mine had 2% Caucasus. My father’s family tree has been extensively done, so I have no idea how this or when or where this DNA entered in.

Update: I sent my DNA results to MyHeritage and they had radically different results. Great Britain (Ancestry) went from 36% to MyHeritage’s 1.3%. I think Northern and Western Europe also must carry in some English DNA, because my father’s side is almost all Yankee New Englanders, who were predominantly English. Still, MyHeritage had no Caucasus, so I don’t know what to say. Here is their results:

Jordan Peterson @ The Queen’s University in Ontario

I became a fan of Jordan Peterson around last year as I starting watching some of his Youtube videos. Peterson, if you are not aware, is a Canadian professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto. He has become in the last two years a champion of free speech against the onslaught of post-modernist rhetoric (especially in the corruption of language) used by progressive activists, particularly on university campuses. I caught a recent Youtube video posted just over a week ago and was again heartened by the message of hope and civility that he shares.

Victory – 2018 State Champions

Saturday night’s game was one for the books. Walker, my hometown, pulled in its first Boys’ Basketball Championship against Landry-Walker. L-W was looking for its fourth championship in the last five years, and they almost pulled it off. It was a nail biter. Walker was down by seven points with 2 minutes left in the game, when Walker’s defense swarmed L-W. We scored enough times to tie up the game and bring on overtime. There we continued our rampage in overtime, leaving the final score as 62-57.

Update – Anthony’s boys brought home the trophy. Here is an article from the Livingston Parish news.

Update 2 – Of course Walker threw a parade to show off their new state champions. I am almost tearing up. Here is a picture of my cousin and Walker’s head coach, Anthony Schiro, from the Livingston Parish News.

Walker’s Hoop Dreams

I am not really a basketball fan, but I saw recently on Facebook that the Walker Boys’ Basketball team was playing in the State playoffs. The coach of the team, Anthony Schiro, is a cousin of mine and we went to school together (he is a year or two older than me) so I decided to watch it. They were playing Sulfur High out from the Lake Charles area. They were able to beat Sulfur 72-50 in a great game on the 23rd of February.

On Feb. 27th, they went on to play St. Amant (in Ascension Parish) in another home game, so I was again able to watch it on Facebook. The score that night was 79-46. A big shout out goes to all the players, who played magnificently. Here is a list of players on the team:

Three days later Southwood High from up near Shreveport came down to Walker and was out played as well. 84-59 was the final tally and the boys just seemed to play better. This victory earned them a visit to the state championship final four, called Marsh Madness, in Lake Charles.

They did not disappoint. They played Friday night (March 8) number 1 seed Natchitoches Central, which had made it to the final four yet again. It was another magnificent game, with Walker able to hobble their star player and dominate the game at 89-63. I was not able to watch the game live, as the venue had changed, but I was able to see the replay of the game. Here is an article by the Livingston Parish News and here is a video interview on Facebook of both opposing coaches. Anthony’s boys look great.

This victory means that Walker will play for the first time for the Boys’ State Championship. They are unfortunately playing last year’s champions, Landry-Walker tomorrow. They are a team from New Orleans and hopefully we will smash them as well. Go Wildcats!

Dinner with the Funks

Last night for Institute (college age religious classes), we met at the home of temple missionaries, Elder & Sis. Funk. Temple Missionaries are older, retired couples who work in the temple and are set apart like younger, proselytizing missionaries. They only work in the temple, however. Anyway, after a great class on the early chapters of the Book of Helaman, we had dinner with the Funks. As Elder Funk and I expressed to each other, it is the small things you miss when you live abroad. We had chili and I have to say my first taste was so divine I had a physical reaction. Everyone thought I burned my mouth. I had not had chili, especially good chili, in over six months.

After dinner, we had a long discussion, particularly of their family. I love listening to people talk about their family histories. The hardships of the depression and war generations are especially touching to me, as I remember the strength that was in my own grandparents. I noticed it was nearing 11 pm at last and we (the students) left. My talking contributed to the lateness, no doubt. Still, it was a great experience.

As a side note, Elder Funk is descended from Isaac Melton, a son of Isham Melton that emigrated from North Carolina to Indiana. Isham is a potential candidate as the father of my maternal 4th great-grandfather, Michael Milton. So, he could be my 4th or 5th cousin. He is not the only relative in my ward here in Taipei. More distantly related, there is a Sevey and a Frost here, two names that permeate my paternal family tree.

Dinner with Steve Gardner

Last night, I had dinner with another old friend, Steve Gardner, and his family. His wife, Alina, is originally from China and they have two boys, Stockton and J.J. They are teaching at a school down in Changsha, Hunan Province and were in Taipei for a short vacation. Luckily I caught them just as I came back from Oahu. We had some great discussions about travel and people that we know. I am thinking of taking a trip to Egypt, to peruse the antiquities on display there, so when I found out they had been there I was excited to hear about it.

Steve also told me of his brother, who is attending Harvard at the moment. His brother came to China and gave a paid lecture on how Harvard’s students handle stress and the academic workload. Steve thought Beijing would be fertile for a workshop like this and if I would be interesting in starting the ball rolling when I returned that city. I told him I would think about it, not because I think it is unimportant, but because I really do not know what my situation will be like when I go back.

Hawaii Trip – February 13-20th

If we are friends on Facebook, you can see my pictures here.

Last year my brother Jason and I decided that we would take a trip out to Hawaii to visit my niece, Morgan. Jason had discussed visiting her several times, so it was not difficult to talk him into this trip. He wanted to come before she graduated from BYU-Hawaii and left the islands for graduate school. I had not seen her in over two years as she served a mission in Utah.

The flight over there was long. I first went from Taipei to Hong Kong, then Manila, and finally a 9 hour flight to Honolulu. My back killed me, which was made worse waiting for Jason’s flight to land in 6 hours. Luckily, I came prepared with reading material. I always have that on hand. :-P We drove up to the North Shore, as we were staying at an Airbnb in Laie.

The next day we went down to Ft. DeRussy, an old coastal artillery fortification, near Waikiki. There is an interesting museum there, holding artifacts from the length of US military’s interactions in Hawaii. The museum was free, but the parking bit us in the rear. After this, we planned to visit Pearl Harbor. When we arrived, we found that the ferry to the Arizona was closed due to choppy weather, the USS Bowfin was closed because it was hit by lightning and that Aviation Museum flooded. It rained about 70 percent of our time there, which I did not mind that much. So, we decided to visit another day when Morgan was available.

The next day, we went out early to see what we were not able to see the day before. The Arizona was an amazing, solemn experience. The Bowfin and the Aviation museum were wonderful and mentally stimulating, as I knew them to be. Unfortunately, we did not see the USS Missouri, the “Mighty Mo,” because of time and expense. If anything, this would be the only thing I really regret. Saved for another time, perhaps.

We did a lot of driving around, looking at scenic sites. It is definitely paradisiacal in many regards. Not the tourists though. They were annoying, as they kept getting in the way. Jason is a nature lover and I am, to put it mildly, rather indifferent. Still, I enjoyed visiting the beaches and mountains. We did not go swimming, as neither of us were inclined and the weather was mostly abysmal. We were even almost trapped by a flash flood, only saved by my superior navigating and Jason’s steady hand at the wheel.

The Polynesian Cultural Center was awesome. I know that it is culture packaged for a tourist audience, but I still enjoyed learning more about the different islands and their peoples. We had a luau and the food was phenomenal. I was happy to spend time with my brother and niece, even if we did get rained on. Morgan described the North Shore as the armpit of O’ahu, because the rains come from elsewhere and just settle in the north. We definitely experienced that as we crossed over from dry, sunny Honolulu into somewhat torrential downpours.

All in, I loved my trip. I saw mostly what I wanted and was dragged to appreciate what I usually happily overlook. I would recommend a visit by others. My only criticism is the number of tourists (I do not, of course, include myself among this number). It did not feel like a romantic place, no doubt because I did not have someone of significance in that department with me. If I were to go on a honeymoon or something, I think I would prefer to go to Kauaʻi or Maui. Still, a lovely place.

On my return trip, it was brutal. I backtracked the same way, except with a 23 hour layover in Hong Kong. Idiotic me. I slept for 5 dismal hours and died the rest. I had planned to go into the city and visit a friend but I was so exhausted I could barely stand. In the future, I will not do long layovers. Definitely not.