Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mullen's Irish Cream!

[Click on photo above for a printable version]

Here you are, just in time for New Year's Eve!! Inspired by a telephone conversation with Betty Cahalin (first cousin once removed from England), I decided to try my hand at making my own version of Bailey's Irish Cream. I started out with Betty's recipe but – as you may have guessed if you know Betty – it was a tad strong. Plus, Betty's recipe included coffee, a flavor which isn't a favorite of Marilynn's. I continued tinkering around with the recipe over the Christmas holidays, unscrupulously using my kids as guinea pigs. I'm pretty happy with the above combination. To further entice people to show up, I plan on making up a big batch of it for the Mullen Christmas Party on January 9th. Don't miss it!

Christmas Party at Hannah's

[John Davies, Hannah Davies, Máire Davies, Marilynn Mullen]

Marilynn and I had the privilege of being invited to a Christmas Party at Hannah Davies’ apartment in New York City on Sunday, December 27th. It was mostly a party for Hannah’s friends and co-workers at the United Nations, but Hannah’s parents (John and Máire) were also in town that weekend, so it gave us the perfect opportunity to meet with them as well.

For a variety of reasons, Sunday was an extremely hectic day for Marilynn and I. As a result, we didn’t even get out of the house until 5pm, the official start of Hannah's party. Five minutes into our journey – just as we were getting on the New Jersey Turnpike – I realized (to my horror ) that this was the end of the Christmas weekend and that millions of New Yorkers were probably trying to get back into the city! I snapped on WCBS 880AM for “traffic and weather together” and heard the unspeakable: there were 1½ hour backups at both the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and a 2 hour backup at the George Washington Bridge! We were already going to be one hour late – being three hours late was intolerable! What could we possibly do??? Luckily, I had the wisdom to marry an intelligent, resourceful woman. Marilynn suggested that we head to the closest train station in NJ and take a train into New York City. Brilliant!!! We headed to MetroPark in Woodbridge, NJ and arrived just in time to catch the 5:43pm train. Sure it was a slow NJ Transit train and, yes, it was a local, but we still got to Penn Station in NYC by 6:30pm. Having been warned by Hannah that there was no easy route to her apartment building by subway, we hurried to the nearest taxi stand only to find it mobbed. Rather than wait 20 minutes or more, we decided to view this as an exercise opportunity and walked the 2 miles to Hannah’s. And so it was that at 7:04pm Marilynn and I arrived fashionably late and mildly sweaty at Hannah's Christmas party.

Even though I was late, I was honored by being presented with the last “Christmas cracker”. For those of you on the left side of the Atlantic, Christmas crackers are a staple of Christmas festivities in the UK and Ireland. They consist of a cardboard tube (i.e., a toilet paper tube) wrapped to look like a big piece of candy. Two people pull on the ends of the cracker and it’s supposed to make a popping (or “cracking”) noise when it splits. Usually, the cracker is filled with candy or a small gift of some kind. Mine contained a prize (a small tailor’s measuring tape), a paper crown (which I wore during the party), a riddle (“What has a bed but does not sleep and a mouth but does not speak?”), and a piece of candy of some kind that flew underneath Hannah’s couch.

Despite the fact that most of the people at the party were connected with the U.N., the conversation was not dominated by politics and world events. To be sure, those topics did come up, but we also talked about sports, music, movies, books, exercise, travel, family, food, and basically everything under the sun. With so many different nationalities represented, there was never a dull moment. The food and drink was excellent and, before we knew it, it was after 10:45pm and Marilynn and I were out the door, saying goodbye to Raphael the elevator guy (who was retiring that evening!) and heading to Penn Station to catch the 11:15PM train back to MetroPark.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Answer to the Mullen Christmas Card Crossword Puzzle!

Sorry! I know that everyone has been waiting with bated breath to see the official answer key for the first ever Mullen Christmas Card Crossword Puzzle. I planned on adding it to the blog on Christmas Day but got totally sidetracked opening presents, eating, drinking, giving presents, eating, drinking, cleaning up after presents, and eating and drinking. And then we all went to an IMAX theatre and saw Avatar in 3D which:
  • Totally blew me away; and
  • Took up the rest of Christmas Day
I didn't expect to get too many completed puzzles since many of you either don't have or are not comfortable with the technology necessary to electronically submit your entry. All told there were 8 entries. Everyone did fairly well and, although there can only be one true winner, the judges have handed out multiple awards.

Mary and Tom Kinslow jointly share the Most Persistant award. Their entry was emailed to the judges on December 22 with the modest title of "Victory is Ours!". They followed that up with a phone call the same day demanding to know exactly how well they had fared. When informed that they had, in fact, made a couple of unspecified errors, their Christmas cheer began to evaporate. But since it wasn't December 25 yet, the judges were forbidden to tell them the exact errors they had made. This escalated the tension and resulted in a final comment of "This puzzle is bulls**t!" followed by a click. But Mary and Tom weren't done yet. Mary followed up with a second puzzle entry on December 23 and yet one more email on December 24 entitled "We are waiting for recognition of our crossword 'mavenness'." Well, sad to say, Mary and Tom are not the Mullen Mavens. But they are damned persistant!!

The second award for Most Originality goes to Annie Mullen Patrick. Truthfully, I expected Annie to completely ignore this crossword puzzle competition. Though highly educated, Annie is not at all keen on games like crossword puzzles. As a matter of fact, her game-playing days pretty much plateaued with "Steal the Pile" back in the 60's. On top of that, Annie is unquestioningly the least technologically savvy of the entire Mullen Family, and that includes Chelsea. So there was no way I expected her to complete this puzzle, take a photo of it, and email me the photo. But Annie surprised me by coming up with a totally unexpected and original way to submit her entry. On Christmas Day -- right in the middle of the festivities -- she called me on the phone and proceeded to verbally relay every single one of her answers! I kid you not. And for the many clues for which she had no answer, Annie tried her best to wheedle and/or extort the answers out of me. After about 40 minutes of this browbeating, I finally convinced her to wish me a Merry Christmas and hang up the phone.

Inexplicably, the actual winner of the coveted Mullen Maven award goes to Beth Anne Kafasis, a co-worker of Marilynn's at the Cranbury Library. Somehow, Beth Anne was able to figure out the answers to uniquely Mullen clues like "Dave's Employer" (CACI) and "Bad magazine to give Annie" (TVGUIDE). Ironically, the only answer that Beth Anne got wrong (indeed, everyone got this answer wrong), was to the clue "CO2 fighter". The answer was, of course PRIUS, the car I've been driving since 2006! Almost everyone guessed TREES which, of course, is wrong since the clue is singular ("fighter") not plural ("fighters"). The great irony lies in the fact that Beth Anne drives a Prius herself!

Great job Beth Anne! Thanks to all of you for playing, even if you just played at home and never emailed, texted, or telephoned your answers to me. Merry Christmas and have a great 2010!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Avatar on IMAX on Christmas Day

Sara, Andy and Marilynn waiting in a humungous line to watch Avatar at an IMAX theater on the evening of Christmas Day. We bought the tickets ahead of time, got to the theater 40 minutes early, and we were still behind a couple hundred people. This movie better be fantastic!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

At the Jets game with the Siena Boys!

From left to right: John Latino ('77), Mike Kelley ('76), John O'Grady ('76), Tasos Papagiannopoulos (friend of John O'Grady), and Mike Nestor ('77). Rich Kokel ('77) was also at the game but, as usual, was running late and missed the photo-op.

As always, it was excellent getting together with the boys. Sadly, the Jets went down to a crushing last-second defeat at the hands of the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Meet Herbert Frankel: My Fourth Cousin Twice Removed!

This just in from Dympna (Messenger) Le Rasle: "Hi Paul; Just writing to let you know that we have another member of the family to add to the family tree. My daughter Madeleine gave birth to Herbie Hucklebury Timothy Peter Frankel on 7th September 2009. I would have told you earlier but hadn’t got round to getting the photos up, I am attaching a photo of him at 3 days old for the blog."

The photo above shows Dympna, the proud grandmom, holding Herbie. Herbie may be little but, as far as I can tell, he is the holder of what may well be the heftiest name on the Family Tree. I'm going to need a double-wide box on the Tree to accommodate it! Welcome to the Family, Herbie!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Harry at "The Holy War" - by Daniel Sears

"Growing up in North Philadelphia's Frankford section, who knows why my Dad fell in love with Notre Dame Football. Could it have been being one of the few Catholics in his neighborhood and seeing the team rise to national fame on their merits alone despite their religion (remember there was a time when Catholics were not held in the highest regard)? Possibly. Could it have been the association with the 'Fighting Irish' and his Irish heritage? Possibly. But regardless of why, one thing we always knew growing up in Mom and Dad's house was that Saturday afternoons were made for Notre Dame. Any chores or work that had to be done could be put on hold for a few hours. From my Dad's one knee stance in front of the television with left elbow on left knee and right hand on the TV set (even though we only had one, it was always called a set), and a delightful scream of 'Hot damn!! There he goes!', there was no question what Dad's favorite football team is, was, and forever shall be world without end. Amen."

"We always knew how much he loved the games, and we did attend a few locally. A couple of ND vs. Navy games at the Meadowlands and an Army vs. ND at Veterans Stadium were also part of the history. The ultimate goal was always a game in South Bend. Dad has battled Parkinson's for years, and we felt that now could be the time to go. Time to see 'Touchdown Jesus', time to see 'The Golden Dome', time to sit in those stands and cheer on the Fighting Irish."

"We left on Thursday October 22 at 10pm from the Peikin residence in North Wales, PA. Our vehicle of choice was a Ford Econoline 15 Passenger Van. We did the most cliché thing we could think of: we watched the move "Rudy" on the way. The goal was to be in South Bend by early Friday morning and bypass all traffic by driving through the night."

Danny and Harry in the EconoLine

"When we arrived in South Bend at approximately 9:45am we had only moments to prepare for the first event. Thanks to our eldest brother, Timothy, we had lunch at the behest of Coach Charlie Weis and his wife, with a number of Notre Dame VIP's, coaches, players, all stars and other die hard fans. While waiting for the food to be served we were able to check out all of the history that is Notre Dame: the Heisman's, the National Titles, the gas cap from the plane Knute Rockne was killed in, and the countless other relics of a team etched into the hearts and minds of her faithful fans. Lunch was pretty cool -- there was a local ND Football talk show which took place on stage. They had a number of guests interviewed including safety Sergio Brown and running game coordinator Frank Verducci. (Jersey Guy, Seton Hall Prep grad). It was quite a memorable event."

"Fast forward to the hotel, where we all crashed for a several hours to get our clocks back on track. The next event was the Pep Rally. In typical and predictable Sears Family fashion, we were so late we missed it!! Who would have thought??"

"Saturday, the 24th: Game Day. Anyone who knows college football recognizes the rivalry between Boston College and Notre Dame (The Holy War) which was one of the reasons this game was so sweet. Despite the rainy weather we were all looking forward to the game. Stocked with blankets, ponchos, smuggle-able snacks, umbrellas, and much more, we looked more suitable for a homeless shelter's soup kitchen meal than a D1-A football game!!"

Harry in Poncho doing his "Frankenstein"

"Prior to the game, Dad watched from the balcony of the mezzanine as the ND Marching Band strutted in. He mentioned 'It doesn't get any better than this!' Exactly then, Timothy unveiled another surprise for Dad: Pre-Game Field Passes. Yes, that's right! Harry C. Sears who watched ND Football games for so long that 'watching' the game meant staring at the Zenith radio, was now going on that sacred field. Dad and Tim made it down to the field, seeing the band, the ND leprechaun, the cheerleaders and the field that has become hallowed ground. The pinnacle of the Pre-Game was seeing those golden helmets rush through the tunnel and take the field. Making their way back to the stands, Tim and Dad settled in with the rest of us: Mom, Colleen, Sharon, Patrick, Shawn, me, Kerrianne, and her guy Igino (pronounced Gino)."

Harry and Tim on the Notre Dame sidelines

"Much to our surprise the rain let up, and we were all blessed with one of the most exciting games to date. Every ritual we've seen time and time again on television seemed larger than life in person. Notre Dame 20 Boston College 16. This game apparently marked the end of “The Holy War” series: 34 years of competition between the only two Catholic Universities in the US to compete at the Division 1-A level. Imagine Harry in 1975 watching the first “Holy War,” sitting in his sansa-belt slacks, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon or perhaps even a Genesee Cream Ale, maybe complaining about Gerald Ford a bit. At the age of 47 he had no grand kids, his sixth child not even born yet. Time can change just about everything."

"Anyone who's made it to a game in South Bend knows a post game mass is in order. We rushed to the Basilica but it had filled up too fast. Instead we were lucky enough to find standing room at Sorin Hall, where a more intimate mass was on the menu. The return trip back to PA seemed longer than the ride there. The van seemed more crowded even though we had one less person (we left Tim at a rest stop because he was cranky. Just kidding! Kerri flew back to LA from Chicago). It was my first road trip with all of my siblings and parents (I’m 32) and one that none of us will forget. Life will always be busy. Life will always have very long to-do lists. But no matter how we busy we are, we'll all always treasure this trip to Notre Dame with our quarterback, Harry C. Sears. Getting to see Dad, the golden helmets, Touchdown Jesus, and more -- all in one eyeful -- was the gift of a lifetime for us."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Taking Dad to Notre Dame" - by Sharon Sears Slusarski

(On October 24, 2009, the Sears family traveled to South Bend, Indiana, to watch the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on Boston College in a football game.)

"We finally made it -- we left at 9:30 Thursday night and arrived at the hotel at 10AM. We had less than half an hour to brush our teeth and change and we had to pick up tix to the Football Luncheon at The Joyce Center. Dad looks like it was one hell-of-a car ride!!"

(In the photo above: Kerriann Kada, Pat Mullen Sears, Daniel Sears, Harry Sears, Pat Sears, Sharon Sears Slusarski , Tim Sears, Shawn Sears Peikin, Collen Sears Kada.)

"After the parade - Tim rushed Dad down to the sidelines. Tim got a special pass for Dad to stand on the sidelines until the coin toss. What a treat!"

(In the photo above, Harry and Tim can be seen on the Notre Dame sideline just prior to kickoff. They're standing right behind a security guard with a yellow vest and a guy with a red jacket and a grey hood.)

Happy Halloween!!

Tonight is not the night for hordes of Chaos, the rat-creatures of Skaven, the race of Elves, or the Empire of Bretonnia. No, tonight belongs to the Legions of the Undead: Nagash, his Skeleton Army, the Screaming Skull Catapult, and the Giant Spider spreading fear and terror. There's no way to beat them. The best you can hope to do is run away. Check it out:


Friday, October 30, 2009

Marilynn Mullen in the New York Times!

It's not every day that a Mullen gets quoted in the New York Times. Alright, it wasn't exactly a quote -- it was a paraphrase. But still, Marilynn's name and references to the Cranbury Library appeared in the October 29th edition of the N.Y. Times! Check it out here:

I've always said that Marilynn can take any subject in the world and turn it into a Library story. The irony of this N.Y. Times article is that they started with the Library and turned it into a story about baseball!

In case you're wondering (I was!) this story appeared in both the online and the print versions of the newspaper! Congratulations Marilynn!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Elinore and Rory Come to Cranbury!

Elinore Davies and Rory Macqueen were in the States from London this week visiting with Eli's sister, Hannah. On Wednesday evening, though, they took a break from the glitter of New York City to check out the slightly quieter and much more bucolic setting of Cranbury, NJ. Marilynn and I decided to mark their visit by combining two quintessentially American holidays -- Halloween and Thanksgiving -- into one. While Marilynn prepared a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, I introduced Eli and Rory to the art of jack-o-lantern carving. The photo above shows them getting acquainted with the tools of the trade. The photo below shows our finished products.

Rory is convinced that his pumpkin carving job is the best of the three. To see if he's right, though, send me an email (mullenpj@gmail.com) with your vote as to which jack-o-lantern is the best: the skull, the cat, or the ghost. And a Happy Halloween to everyone!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two More Members of the Family Tree!

The Lillis branch of the Mullen Family Tree has had a major expansion. As reported by Brian Lillis, the proud grandfather, "We have our own shock to the system with 2 new grandsons in a week - one each to Grainne and Cliona. We are both thrilled to bits and are spending a lot of time in London with both of them. They are fine babies, both weighing in at 8 ½ pounds."

In the photo above, from left to right are: Grainne (Lillis) Beeney holding Matthew Beeney; Anne Lillis with arms around Callum Beeney and Liam Beadle; and Cliona (Lillis) Beadle holding Edward "Ted" Beadle.

Congratulations to the Lillis clan!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What a long strange trip it's been ...

Last Monday (October 12th) started off innocently enough. I had a great breakfast, went to work, had a little snack, and headed down to the BMS gym for a light lunchtime workout. I did my usual abdominal workout, a couple sets of pushups and started using one of the leg machines. I finished one set, stood up to say something to a guy lifting with me, and BOOM! I passed out for the first time in my life.

The BMS EMT group was all over me in minutes. Their initial diagnosis was low blood-sugar level (my count was 50) and they rushed me to University Hospital in Princeton. Once there, I was hooked up to a portable heart monitor (see below) and put through a battery of tests and examinations.

I maxed out the stress test, my EKG was perfect, my blood pressure was consistently excellent, and my echocardiogram (i.e., sonogram for the heart) showed a strong and steady beat. Everything looked perfect. On Wednesday morning, though, I was sitting up in my hospital bed eating breakfast when I felt what I thought was an accelerated heartbeat for a few seconds. I noted the time (8:47am) and informed the Student Nurse about it when he stopped by a few minutes later. He dutifully inspected the heart monitor log back at the nurse's station. He didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, but he reported the incident to the nurses. Five minutes later, my cardiologist was in my room telling me that my heart had stopped for 3.7 seconds! More than likely, my heart had stopped for an even longer period of time on Monday when I had fainted. His diagnosis was immediate: I needed a pacemaker. After getting a second opinion from another cardiologist in the hospital, I was scheduled for the operation. So, at 11am the next day, I became the proud owner of a Medtronics dual-chamber pacemaker. The model I have is shown below:

And here's how it looks inside me.

It was a relatively non-invasive procedure. I was given a local anesthesia and some kind of IV drip to make me semi-conscious. To tell you the truth, I remember very little about the operation. I lost very little blood and, as you can see, have only a 2" scar. I'll always have that circular bulge a couple of inches below my left collar bone, but I plan on using that as a conversation-starter at the bars.

According to my doctors and everything that I've read, here's a partial (yet representative) list of things that I can no longer do:

  • Have an MRI (damn! ... I'll really miss that terrifying claustrophobic feeling!)
  • Play sports like football, hockey, boxing, judo, karate, rugby, Hurling, Australian Rules Football ... I think you get the idea.
  • Use a gas-powered chain saw, though an electric one is fine.
  • Walk through an airport security system. It won't bother me, but the pacemaker will definitely sound an alarm, so why waste anyone's time?
Here are things that I can continue to do without fear:

  • Run a 4-minute mile (but I'll start with an 8-minute mile).
  • Spinning. If you don't know what that is, click here I teach it at BMS, so it was a relief to know that I'd be able to continue.
  • Basketball! Yes, I can continue to play basketball! Of course, my knees, calves, ankles and back may have to be consulted for a second opinion. Still, it's heartening to know that I can still give it a try again if I so desire (and I do!)
  • Use microwaves, wireless phones, computers, appliances, electric blankets, power tools, lawn mowers, and (sad to say) vacuum cleaners.
  • Have an X-ray, a CAT scan, or an ultrasound.

I won't lie. The actual experience of fainting and being revived was pretty scary. As a matter of fact, I thought that I had died. After those first 2 minutes, though, it wasn't all that bad. I was never in any pain and the care I received at the University Hospital at Princeton was excellent. Marilynn is actually a little relieved that I have a pacemaker! She believes that she has felt my heart briefly stop a couple of times over the past few years. This should prevent that from happening. And it won't interfere with my exercise. I can continue immediately to exercise as vigorously as I like.

So, while it has been a little bump in my road, things could have been much, much worse. It's all good now. Thank you for all of your prayers and good wishes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Congratulations John & Máire!

John & Máire Davis (fourth cousin!) celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary on October 4th with a family gathering in London. In "Máire's words, "We had a lovely weekend - it was really perfect. We had been planning to go away somewhere exotic, and then we thought - why do that? Why not just go to our little place in London and see the family, so we did - also lots of theatre and music and walking about and a lovely meal in Dympna's son-in-law's family restaurant, the Poule au Pot, in Pimlico - much recommended."

Pictured above, clockwise from the front: John Davies, Máire Davis, Elinore Davies, Rory Macqueen, Hannah Davies, Huw Davies, and Tom Davies. Not physically present but there in spirit was Máire's mom, Madge Messenger, whom Máire met with the next day.

John and Máire are also planning on hosting a "big reunion type party" on October 31st in London. If anyone from the extended Family is planning on being anywhere near London during that time, you are more than welcome to attend. Below is the official invitation.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wedding of Avril Gilmartin and Tony Leary

There's a new name on the Mullen Family Tree! On Saturday, September 26, Avril Gilmartin married Tony Leary. A few of you may have had the opportunity to talk with Avril and Tony at last year's Mullen Family Reunion in Ballina. They were unable to attend the Saturday banquet but made a brief appearance at the Frogs Piano Bar on Friday night. Luckily, Marilynn and I had the good fortune to spend an evening with them this summer during our vacation in London. Knowing how much we enjoyed just having dinner with them, I can only imagine how much fun their wedding was. Below are a few pictures that I was able to snag off of Facebook, followed by a first-hand account of the wedding as reported by Ashling Gilmartin, Avril's sister. Ashling can be seen in the photo below on the left-hand side of Tony, her new brother-in-law.

From Ashling:
"Avril Gilmartin and Tony Leary were married on September 26, 2009 at Ballintubber Abbey (where Pierce Brosnan got married), followed by a reception at Knockranny House Hotel in Westport, County Mayo. The wedding was at one o'clock and Avril arrived at about ten past, which was the first time she was actually on time for something! The guests had to be ushered into the church in a hurry as Avril was held back at the end of the road until everyone was inside. Enda Lavin played the bagpipes from the end of the road up to church. The vintage car that brought Avril to the church is owned by our Uncle, Andrew Treacy. Avril had a special candle to light in memory of Dad, David and our Aunt Mary Foy (Dad's sister). The Mullen family was represented by Auntie Kay Lynn, Uncle Stan Lynn, Charlie & Patricia Foy, Raymond & Eilish O Boyle, Noelie & Vicky Foy, and Jackie & Richard Myres. Enda played the bagpipes again as the car came to the hotel and he played her to the door and again into the meal, which was lovely. Avril and Tony had a champagne and strawberry reception when the guests landed and then once that was over we went in for the seven-course meal. Everything went off well on the day. The meal was lovely and the band and DJ were brilliant. The wedding ended around three o'clock in the morning and the guests remained on until four and more until five. It was a fabulous day weather-wise and a great day was had by all."

If you're not exactly sure how you are related to Avril and Ashling, consult the Mullen Family Tree. From a "Philadelphia Mullen" perspective, though, she's our third cousin, as shown below:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Sara!

You might be 30 years old, but you'll always be 22!



Cranstock 2009!

Village Park in Cranbury was hopping on Saturday, September 26, when the inaugural celebration of Cranstock, a free music festival, kicked off. Marilynn and I invited Hannah Davies, a not-so-distant cousin from NYC, to the event. The entire musical line-up for the day is shown below, on the back of a truly collector's-item T-shirt being modeled by yours truly:

The Testostertones, an a capella men's choral group from Princeton High School were great, but their set was way too short. Here's a YouTube video which gives you some idea of their talent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ReiIRKITU0.

Exit 8A (referring to the Cranbury Exit off of the NJ Turnpike) is a garage band composed of 15 and 16 year old Cranbury kids. What they lacked in polish they more than made up for with enthusiasm and budding musical skill. Their best moment was probably their cover of "Scar Tissue" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The next performer, Stephen Szczepanik, was described as a "classical acoustic guitarist". His talent was obvious but his overall performance was, perhaps, a tad laid back for the general Cranstock crowd that had come to hoot and holler.

Selkow, a band containing 2 former Cranbury residents (Matt Foster and Mike Golisano), came on next. Their performance was excellent showing plenty of polish and skill. For the most part, they played original material, but they did an excellent job with three cover songs as well: "Who'll Stop the Rain" by Credence Clearwater Revival, "Rock the Casbah" by The Clash and "Time" by Pink Floyd.

The last local group to perform was, without a doubt, the hit of the show: The Crandaddies, a cover group composed of local Cranbury fathers. Although I knew just about everyone in the band, I had no inkling of the skill level that they possessed. They started off with a bang, performing a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road" that was surprisingly good, from the opening harmonica to the closing saxophone solo. The musical abilities of everyone in the group was quite impressive, as were the vocals and overall stage presence of their lead singer. The only people enjoying The Crandaddies more than the crowd was The Crandaddies themselves. They were having a lot of fun, and it showed.

The last band of the night -- and the feature band of the festival -- was a band from northern NJ called The Robert Murdock Band. They were billed as a British Invasion tribute band but, after 5 hours of Cranstock, Marilynn, Hannah and I had had enough. And since The Crandaddies had just closed their set with a great rendition of "Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones, we had already seen our British Invasion tribute band for the evening.

All in all, it was an excellent event. Here's hoping that there's a Cranstock 2010!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

WaterFire in Providence, RI

Here's a short iPhone video of WaterFire in Providence, RI, on September 19, 2009. The video is a little bit dark but, hey, it was at 10 o'clock at night! I expected a huge crowd (because my theory is that if I do something then most likely there are hundreds of thousands of people who want to do the same thing), but the crowd was manageable. Marilynn, Sara and I were actually able to find places to sit on the banks of the river. We strolled around for about an hour or so, had a beer (well, I had a beer), shared a DoughBoy (i.e., a funnel cake), and took in this award-winning environmental art sculpture. Lots of fun ...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Biking at Narragansett Bay

What a great day for a bike!!! Sara, Marilynn and I went for a 42 mile bike ride today to celebrate Sara's "Birthday Month" (she turns the big "3-0" on September 27th!!). There was hardly a cloud in the sky and the temperature was in the low to mid-70's. There was some kind of surfing seminar going on at Narragansett Bay so, as you can see by the photo, there were plenty of people at the shore today enjoying the water. After a shower and Happy Hour at Sara's, we're heading out to a Birthday Month dinner and then on to WaterFire. What, you've never heard of the world-famous Waterfire? Check it out here: http://www.waterfire.org/

I'll try to add a photo of the event later on tonight.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Lasting Importance of Obama's "School Speech"

The real importance of Obama's speech to school children yesterday had nothing to do with what the President actually said. Not that his speech wasn't full of worthy ideas (click here for the full text). No, the true value of the speech lies in the events that preceded it.
Obviously, not everyone in America is an Obama supporter. There are plenty of Americans with real (and sometimes valid) differences with Obama’s ideas and the direction that the Democratic Party wants to take America. Unfortunately, too many “voices” associated with the Republican Party are clearly in the lunatic fringe. The challenge that the public has is to differentiate the rational pundit from the lunatic. Well, thanks to the President’s innocuous act of addressing the nation's school children, we now have a clear litmus test.
Lunatic: Rush Limbaugh
Even after the speech, Rush Limbaugh was still foaming at the mouth, saying that the "original intent of the speech was a dear leader kind of thing," that was "right out of the pages of Kim Jong Il." An audio of his comments can be found here.
Lunatic: Glenn Beck:
While he now says that there was nothing wrong with the speech, listen to this audio of Beck’s comments leading up to the speech. For some inexplicable reason, he also trashes teachers as well!
Rational: George Will
The Internet carried the following assessment of Will’s position, saying that he was “the rare pundit who faulted the White House in this furor. He said it's not the federal government's job to raise children and blasted the administration's approach to public relations. The president is ubiquitous in the media, Will said, and has become like elevator music.” While I don’t necessarily agree with Will on this, at least he presents a rational and reasoned critique.
Lunatic: Sean Hannity
Discussing the upcoming speech with guest, Michelle Malkin, Hannity says of the speech, “Now we’re getting into an area where it seems very close to indoctrination or at least has the potential.
Lunatic: Fox News Commentator Monica Crowley
Monica Crowley has a syndicated radio show and is a regular commentator on The McLaughlin Group and Fox News. She also holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from Columbia University. Her analysis: "Just when you think this administration can't get any more surreal and Orwellian, here they come to indoctrinate our kids."
Rational: Newt Gingrich former Speaker of the House
Just read President Obamas speech to students. ... It is a good speech and will be good for students to hear."
Lunatic: Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota
Regarding Obama’s school speech, the potential presidential contender in 2012 told reporters at the Minnesota state fair, “At a minimum it's disruptive, number two, it's uninvited and number three, if people would like to hear his message they can, on a voluntary basis, go to YouTube or some other source and get it. I don't think he needs to force it upon the nation's school children.
Lunatic: Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer
Greer stated that Obama’s real motive was to indoctrinate students with his “socialist ideology.” He issued a press release saying that he is “absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology.” Once he actually read the text and realized that he was now on the wrong side of public sentiment, he reversed himself completely, saying, “My kids will be watching the president's speech, as I hope all kids will.”
Rational: Laura Bush, Former First Lady
Statements by Laura Bush to CNN the day before the President’s speech: “I think that there is a place for the President of the United States to talk to school children and encourage school children, and I think there are a lot of people that should do the same … and that is encourage their own children to stay in school and to study hard and to try to achieve the dream that they have.”
Lunatic: Oklahoma State Senator Steve Russell
A few days before the speech, Senator Russell was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education — it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality … This is something you'd expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein's Iraq."

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. So, the next time that you're discussing politics with someone, bring up Obama's School Speech and get their opinion. You might as well do this right off the bat and determine whether a rational discussion is even possible.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day With Aunt Mary

Marilynn and I just got back from a Labor Day visit with Aunt Mary at Lafayette-Redeemer Hospital in Philadelphia. Marilynn put together a picnic lunch that couldn't be beat. We went out onto the third floor veranda and had seafood salad sandwiches on rolls, cherry tomatoes, potato chips (Pringles!) and -- for dessert -- home-grown Cranbury raspberries on tapioca pudding!!! Here's a photo of Aunt Mary digging into the raspberries:

After eating, we went outside for a little tour of the Holy Redeemer grounds. There is a great little water fountain (two children, one holding an umbrella), some beautiful flowers and quite a few unusual trees (Tulip Tree?). Afterwards, we sat outside on the front porch and talked a little bit about the Notarfrancesco family. I learned (for the first time), that Uncle Nick's father (named Joseph) grew up in an orphanage in Italy before coming to America. Per Aunt Mary, the orphanage was run by the Franciscans, which had something to do with the ultimate creation of the family name, Notarfrancesco. I'm not exactly sure how the surname was derived and Aunt Mary did have a slight twinkle in her eye, so she might have been pulling my leg. Like a good reporter, though, I just relate what I'm told!

At one point, I tried to take a quick iPhone video of Aunt Mary relating a family story or two. As shown in the brief video below, though, I didn't get very far. I had just gotten her rolling on a story when she heard Marilynn knocking at the veranda door. Marilynn had gotten a little chilly out on the veranda and was fetching a sweater of Aunt Mary's to wear.

[Note #1: The sweater was exactly where Aunt Mary had told Marilynn it would be, it fit Marilynn perfectly, and Aunt Mary gave it to her as a present!]

[Note #2: I didn't hear Marilynn knocking it all -- that gives you an idea just how good Aunt Mary's hearing still is!]

Unfortunately, I had to stop the video to let Marilynn back out onto the veranda, which disrupted the story. The video only lasts about 10 seconds, but here it is anyway:

Not that great a video, I know, but it gives you some idea of what our conversations were like. I tried to record some other videos a couple of times after that, but the audio quality was very poor, especially when we went outside.

After about 3 hours, it was time to go. Aunt Mary was getting tired. I was getting tired too, come to think of it! We helped her out of her wheelchair (which caused an alarm to go off and brought an aide to her room) and instructed her to always call for an aide before trying to stand up. She humored us by saying she would. We all know better. :-)

Monday, August 31, 2009

More About Mike & Sarah's Wedding ...

Mike and Sarah McGarvey’s wedding was held at Traditions at the Links in East Syracuse, NY, at 5:30pm on August 28, 2009. Most of the out-of-town guests stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel in East Syracuse with complimentary limousine service between the two locations provided by Mike and Sarah. While an outdoor wedding overlooking a small pond had been planned, the threat of rain caused the wedding ceremony to be moved indoors. But that did not put a damper on the enthusiasm of the wedding party or any of the guests.

After the ceremony itself and the obligatory wedding photos, Kevin McGarvey, father of the groom and the Best Man, got things started off with a beautiful and heartfelt toast to the bride and groom. Click here to see a video of the toast.

Kevin’s daughter, Katie (McGarvey) Ferguson – and also the Matron of Honor – had the unenviable task of following Kevin with her toast to the bride and groom. Katie proved herself equal to the task, though, delivering a beautiful toast to Mike and Sarah. Click here to see a video of Katie’s toast.

All of the food and drink provided by the facility was excellent. The DJ kept the crowd on the dance floor with a good mix of music. The most memorable section of music, in this reporter’s opinion, was an extended medley of Irish music, highlighted by a song called “Golden Keyboard” by The Bofield Ceili Band, a group that played at the Mullen Family Reunion in Ballina, Ireland in 2008. While Mike and Sarah were unable to attend that reunion, playing this song at their wedding reception brought the two events together.

While the wedding reception formally ended at around 11pm, the party certainly did not. A large contingent headed over to the bar at the Hilton Garden Inn and picked up where they left off. The bar was packed! Mike and Sarah joined the party after an hour or so to a loud ovation. The party finally ended at approximately 2:30am with 5 people left standing: the Mullen Brothers (Paul, Kevin & Mike) and the bride and groom! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bride and groom close out a wedding party! Great job Sarah and Mike!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wedding of Mike McGarvey and Sarah Rector

The Mullen Family Tree has grown by one!! My nephew, Mike McGarvey, has just married Sarah Rector. In the photo below, from left to right, are Kevin Mullen (Godfather), Sarah, Mike, and Mary (Mullen) Kinslow (Godmother). Welcome to the family, Sarah!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day 9: Drinks with Anne Lillis & Daughters

One last set of relatives to visit with before we collapsed at our hotel for the night! On the way back from visiting Madge, Marilynn and I stopped at Liverpool Street and met up with Anne Lillis and her daughters Ashling and Cliona. I had a copy of the huge Family Tree with me, so we rolled it out onto the bar table and traced out our family relationship. After proving to Ashling that we were, indeed, 3rd cousins, I made her figure out for herself what her relationship was to Avril Gilmartin. She correctly determined that they were 2nd cousins!

I told Cliona that she almost certainly won the award for being the most pregnant woman at a London bar at 11pm. She looked about 8.99 months pregnant! The baby is officially due in 5 weeks, I think. I made her promise to send me an update to the Family Tree after the big event.

It's a pretty poor photo, but it's the best the iPhone could do with the dim light of the bar. Left to Right: me, Anne, Ashling, Cliona

Day 9: Dinner at Sheila and Martin's

After visiting with Madge, Marilynn and I travelled to Sheila and Martin's house in Highams Park for drinks and dinner. As always, the conversation was lively, filled with politics (Obama, Cheney, Bush, Health Care) sports (relative merits of baseball vs. cricket), music (Rosalind gave me high marks for knowing the "Kings of Leon" while Sheila confessed to being a Bob Dylan groupie), film (Joseph discussed the socio-economic significance of the movie "Encino Man"). All in all, another great day! Left to right above: me, Rosalind Dore, Imelda Messenger, Sheila (Messenger) Dore, Joseph Dore, Martin Dore.

Day 9: Madge Messenger

A great shot of Madge discussing her early life in Ballina and her later career as a History teacher. Vascular dementia has robbed Madge of some of her mental capabilities, but she showed sparks of her brilliance today during our visit. I understand that she recorded an oral history of the Family a number of years ago. I'll do my best to get a copy and share it with the entire Family.

Day 9: Sheila and Madge

I finally got the opportunity to meet Madge Messenger in the flesh! That's her daughter, Sheila (Messenger) Dore holding her hand. As I told Madge today, it's because of her dedication to the family and her amazing genealogical work on the Family Tree that last year's Family Reunion in Ireland happened. Thank you for everything, Madge!!!

Day 9: Last Breakfast at the Muffin Man

We ate breakfast at this place almost every single day that we were in London. The food was good, the prices were reasonable, it was 200 yards from our hotel and it had free Wi-Fi!! That's what I call a good dog deal!!!!

Day 8: Dinner with Avril and Tony

Day 8: Tower Bridge: A Better Look

Day 8: Tower Bridge— a better look

Day 8: Tower Bridge in action!

Damn! If I had been a few minutes earlier I would have gotten an excellent video of the Tower Bridge drawbridge opening and closing. All I got was about the last 4 seconds of it. You'll have to look very closely.

Day 8: Tower of London

Unbelievably, we didn't go inside the Tower of London during our entire 9 day stay in England. In our defense, though, we did "The Tower" the first time we visited London back in 1986. Also, we were running massively short of time. Finally, (and I really believe this), walking around the outside of the Tower of London is more impressive than touring the rooms and structures within it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 8: Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens

I'm sure no one has ever died here, but there were a couple of spots where the metal flooring gave way slightly. It made you remember exactly where your heart was located inside your chest. The ever so slight swaying motion added to the overall effect nicely.

Kew Gardens was a lot better than I thought it would be. Without a doubt, though, Marilynn got more out of it than I did.

Day 8: Marilynn eating Muesli at Thr Muffin Man

I took this video just to make sure that I didn't blow the iPhone's microphone last night at the Magnetic Zeros concert. Once I took it, though, I just couldn't get rid of it. Too cute.

Day 7: Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

I'm sure this video will look like trash, but it shows that we were literally right on the stage for this incredible performance. Highly highly recommended!! I'll write more later when I get more time.

OK, now I have a little more time! Marilynn, Tommy Kinslow and I went to see this band knowing next to nothing about them. I had heard one or two of their songs on a Philadelphia college radio station, but I couldn't quite remember their sound. However, they were listed as "Editors Pick" for Thursday in London's "Time Out" magazine, and tickets were only 6 pounds, and there were two other bands playing, and it was a cool bar anyway, so ... we decided to go.

It is almost impossible to describe these guys. I don't know a hell of a lot about them, but they seem to fashion themselves as modern day hippies. Their leader, Edward Sharpe, is more like a cult leader than a band leader. The entire band -- and the whole crowd for that matter -- gets caught up in his energy. Sharpe wasn't on the stage for more than 5 seconds when his shoes came off. A minute later, his shirt was off. He often jumped into the crowd and sang from the floor. He grabbed Tommy a couple of times and, at one point, gave him a palm to the forehead "healing gesture" of some sort. On another song, he jumped down and started dancing with Marilynn! Quite the showman. The band was great as well, playing a variety of instruments: piano, accordian, trumpet, bongos, and a variety of other drums, guitars and percussion instruments.

Check out this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hehPEoAk8eE. It will give you a good idea what the group sounds like, but it won't give you any idea whatsoever as to what one of their concerts feels like. To do that you have to be there, in person, as close to the stage as possible. And, if you have them, bring your love beads.

Day 7: Watching Cricket in the Lord Clyde Pub

This pub was voted by Hannah Davies as one of the best pubs in London. Had a drink there with Tommy Kinslow and soaked in the atmosphere. Nice. Unfortunately, the "best pub in London" had no chef that day, so we were forced to go elsewhere for food.

Day 7: Globe Theater

A view of a section of The Globe from the groundling's point of view. You were only allowed to take photographs prior to the beginning of the play.

Day 7: Globe Theater — Our view

This is the view that we had of the Shakespearean play "Troilus and Cressida". It actually was a pretty good vantage point. We were right on top of the actors and could hear everything they were saying. Of course, the groundlings had a better view but I'm guessing that, by the third act, all they were thinking about was their aching back.

Day 7: On the Millennium Bridge

Beautiful shot of St. Paul's in the background. Actually, a beautiful foreground shot as well!!!

Day 7: Marilynn on the steps of St. Paul

"Feed the birds, tuppence a bag ..."

Day 7: Roman Wall in the heart of London