Saturday, June 14th, 2014

WR people

I’ve been going through my Uncle Bill’s letters. My uncle and his friends were from one of the last generations to keep up the practice of letter-writing. When I’m gone, my nephew won’t have to scan much of my correspondence, because most of it’s already digital, but he’ll have so many emails to peruse he won’t know where to begin.

Many of the people with whom my uncle corresponded I’ve never heard of, of course, but I do recognize a few names. The letter I scanned today was from one such person, Darrell Rice, a friend of my uncle’s from his days at the University of Kentucky. Darrell was from Watonga, Oklahoma, and after some adventures he returned there, where he worked for the Watonga Republican newspaper for 39 years before retiring last year.

What made me decide to do this blog post was an interesting letter from Darrell to my uncle dated December 29, 1982. The letter itself wasn’t enough—I do enjoy reading these letters but their content I’ll save for another day. No, what I thought interesting enough to share was the enclosures, five newspaper clippings, each headed “WR people” and featuring a photograph and a brief bio of a Watonga Republican staffer.

You may be able to tell from the first piece, featuring “sub-peon* paper boy” Darrell Rice, that it was Darrell himself who wrote these profiles. As Darrell introduced them to my uncle, they were “the results of [his] joke for the week. Maybe you’ll enjoy them or maybe not. The asterisk on [his] deal was a compromise with Tim [Curtin, owner of the Republican].” Of all the people Darrell profiled that week in 1982, I think “born again” Lou Rother might have been his favorite.

Click on a photo to read the corresponding bio (in PDF):

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Happy birthday, Uncle Bill!


My uncle Bill in 196x on the day of his graduation from University of Virginia
Today would have been my uncle Bill’s 70th birthday.

He earned a PhD in English literature at the University of Virginia. The photo of him to the left is of him in Charlottesvilla on the day of his graduation. I don’t know the year, but since he graduated high school in 1961, I’d imagine this would have been around 1968 or 1969.

You can learn more about my uncle Bill by reading what I said about him at his memorial service in 2008.

P.S. Someone from Cape Town, South Africa visited my blog this morning after having searched for Saudi gay stories uncle and nephew. My uncle did indeed live in Saudi Araba for several years, and I’m gay, but I expect that my South African visitor will find better results elsewhere.

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

If I were still posting on Facebook, I would have just done a brag post there about how I’d just made a loan on Kiva.org with a comment that “I lend because my uncle Bill did.”

The loan I made today was to the Masaka Group of Dar es Salaam. Part of the Masaka loan will help a woman named Salama, who runs a business selling charcoal and who has successfully repaid 11 prior loans. You can read about Salama or you can use this link instead to make a $25 loan on Kiva for free.

Now it is true that the reason I lend on Kiva is because of my uncle. I had some vague awareness of microlending but it’s because Uncle Bill made loans on Kiva that I really learned about it. And when my uncle died, I inherited his Kiva portfolio of loans. If I were truly a horrible person, I’d just have cashed in each loan as it was re-paid, but I didn’t—instead I’ve kept re-lending the money in Uncle Bill’s portfolio and have added a bit of my own money to lend. It’s a good reminder of my uncle. I think of him every time I get an email from Kiva saying part of a loan’s been repaid and every time I make a new loan.

It’s also true that one reason I posted on Facebook whenever I made a Kiva loan was to raise awareness of Kiva in the hopes that others would be encouraged to lend on Kiva as well. My uncle may be the reason I learned about Kiva, but I do make Kiva loans because I think doing so makes the world a somewhat better place.

But another reason I posted on Facebook about my Kiva loans was that getting “likes” on Facebook can be addicting. Facebook’s good for pissing friends off, but if you stick to innocuous stuff like photos of great food you’ve eaten or great places you’ve vacationed or selfless microloans you’ve made, you won’t attract much strife and instead will get some FB likes that make you feel good.

So why am I posting about my latest Kiva loan here? Partly as part of my ongoing processing about my thoughts about Facebook, partly because I’m in the habit of posting somewhere when I make a loan on Kiva, partly to remember my uncle Bill, and partly because Kiva really is a good thing that you can afford to do even if you don’t have much money.

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Uncle Bill’s Encyclopædia Britannica

One of my favorite things to do when I visited my grandmother and grandfather was to go up to their attic, which was the domain of my uncle Bill, and look through his books. He had tons of books, starting along the edge of the stairs up to the attic, continuing along walls of bookcases on every side of his attic room, and ending in stacks on his desk and tables. Actually the books didn’t end there—Uncle Bill also had books on shelves in my grandmother’s sewing room and even some in my grandparents’ tiny living room. Their house was small but it held a lot of books.

Page 877 features an article about Dayton, Ohio, before the famous 1913 flood and, curiously, with no mention of the Wright Brothers, Dayton’s most famous native sons. In 1910, 116,577 people lived in Dayton, just slightly less than the 2010 population of 141,527. Click on the image above for a larger version, or click here for a PDF.

Even when my uncle was someplace other than Dayton—in Saudi Arabia or Cincinnati or Washington DC—his books made it seem as if he weren’t so far off, especially because he was absolutely fine with my going through his books and looking at whatever I wanted.

Some books I returned to time and again were my uncle’s copies of the eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1910–11. I thought it was so cool that he had an encyclopedia from over 60 years earlier.

Now of course everyone has access to this edition of Britannica since it’s in public domain and available online, but when I was a kid we didn’t have the Internet. Not everyone had encyclopedias in their homes, and doing a report for school often required a trip to the library. My mother did buy us a student encyclopedia, one volume at a time at the grocery store, the cost of which, I suspect now, was underwritten by my uncle, and I did pore over those in my bedroom, but it still wasn’t as exciting as looking through my uncle’s Encyclopædia Britannica.

Now that my uncle’s gone, I have his old Encyclopædia Britannica, now over 100 years old, on a shelf in my living room. From time to time I pull down a volume, to page through it, sometimes learning something new, sometimes marvelling at the historical perspective. It makes me feel that Uncle Bill’s still not so far off.

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Happy birthday, Uncle Bill!


My uncle Bill in 2001
(Click to embiggen)
Today would have been my uncle Bill’s 69th birthday. He died 4 years ago, and I still miss him very much.

To learn more about my uncle, you can read the text of what I said about him at his memorial service.

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Happy birthday, Uncle Bill!


My uncle Bill in 1986
(Click to embiggen)
Today would have been my uncle Bill’s 68th birthday. He died 3 years ago, and I still miss him very much.

To learn more about my uncle, you can read the text of what I said about him at his memorial service.

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

My mother, me and my uncle Bill
on Christmas Day 1968
click to embiggen

My uncle Bill died 2 years ago today, and I still miss him very much. The photo to the right, from when he was still a fairly new uncle, with just one nephew, isn’t a terribly good one of him, but I like it because it reminds me that he was a part of my life for longer than I can remember.

To learn more about my uncle, you can go to my post from last year, which has the text of what I said about him at the memorial service we had shortly after his death.

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Grantability
I had to make a custom Readability script for Granta

Before

After
Earlier this month I wrote about a bookmarklet I like very much called Readability. Today I adapted it further to work better with a magazine I read from time to time, Granta. Because of how Granta’s HTML is written, the Readability script wouldn’t grab the entire text of an article, but it was easy enough to change arc90’s javascript to do so. Actually, it makes for a much simpler script, although one that works only on articles on Granta.com, because instead of having to figure out which <div> contains the article’s text, it just grabs the contents of all of the class “gntml_centreDocument” <div>’s. If you’re interested, you can view the javascript.

Earlier this month I also posted what I’d written a year ago after my uncle Bill’s sudden death, and reading Granta is something I picked up from him. He kept every copy of Granta from its re-launching in 1979, and, as a “magazine of new writing,” every issue of Granta is still worth reading, even after the writing in an issue is no longer new. Now Granta subscribers have access on Granta.com to the magazine’s archives, and, especially with my fancy new Grantability script, I don’t mind reading on my computer, but there are also plenty of times when it’s relaxing to sit down with a hardcopy issue, whether it’s one that’s just shown up in my mailbox or one from my uncle’s archives.

Friday, May 15th, 2009
William Ireland
William H. Ireland
August 26, 1943 – May 15, 2008
My uncle Bill died a year ago today. I still miss him very much. He was more of a father to me than my biological father ever was. The following is what I said last year at his memorial service.

My uncle Bill was many things to many people. He was an uncle, a son, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, a student, a teacher, a philanthropist, a volunteer, and many more things. Of course of all these things, to me he was first and foremost an uncle. He used to tell me that, despite what I believed, he did not know everything, and now that I am an uncle myself, I know that he was right. You see, one doesn’t decide to become an uncle—it’s a choice made for you by a sister or a brother, and even if you have some notice that you’re going to become an uncle, unlike for prospective parents, there aren’t tons of books that tell you how to be one.

Doing some figuring I realize that my uncle became an uncle when he was just twenty-two. Now to my nephew Carl, who’s eleven, I’m sure that seems awfully old, twice his age, but to me, Carl’s forty-two-year-old uncle, that seems awfully young. Of course one good thing about being an uncle is that you get some time to grow into it. When you’re first an uncle you get to help out from time to time, but you can always fall back on parents and grandparents. I don’t know if Uncle Bill ever had to change my diaper, but I do remember that once I was old enough he got to take me in his orange Volkswagen bug to McDonald’s, the start of a long string of his treating me and others in our family to eating out. I also remember that he did do some babysitting of my sister and me, one time at my grandparents’ house, chasing us around their tiny dining room and resulting in the breaking of one of the legs of my grandmother’s dining room table. An advantage of being an uncle is that you’re not expected to be as responsible as a mother or a father.

My grandmother’s table survived, and I remember family dinners sitting around that table where my uncle and my mother would laugh and make jokes, jokes I usually didn’t get but knew often came at the expense of my poor great-aunt Kathryn, who fortunately usually didn’t realize they were about her. My uncle loved books and words and could be very punny, often casually dropping, during the course of family conversation, a pun that would elicit laughter or groans and the observation that if we ignored his puns he’d stop, which of course he never did. My uncle Bill was also infamous for answering “or” questions logically, not making a choice when asked, for example, if he wanted vanilla ice cream or chocolate ice cream but simply saying, “yes,” because if either condition in an or clause is true, as any programmer knows, the statement is true.

As you might suspect from that, Uncle Bill was kind of nerdy, or as they say now, geeky, and that was always a great comfort to me as I grew up feeling different. Maybe most boys didn’t like to read lots and lots of books, but wherever my uncle lived he was surrounded by books in cases along the walls and in stacks on the floor. I might get teased at school for liking books, but from my uncle, who’d take me to the Acres of Books used book store in Cincinnati, I knew it was okay to like and to collect and to cherish books. And later, as I taught myself to type and to program, first on my mother’s Osborne 1 computer and then on my own Commodore Amiga 1000, he also got an Amiga so we could share geeky ideas about scripting and emacs, even though by that time he was living in Arlington, Virginia.

Although my uncle was born in Dayton and died in Dayton, he managed to get around some in his life, first moving with his parents and brother and sister to Cincinnati where he graduated from Western Hills High School and the University of Cincinnati. From there he went to Charlottesville, Virginia, where he got his Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Virginia, and then he accepted a teaching position at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where some of my first memories of him are, in a tall, old apartment with books and a cat and glass bottles of Tab diet cola.

I didn’t know my uncle well then, but by the time I was nine, he became a much more central figure in my life, moving back to Dayton to help support our family, a role he continued ever since. He came to offer my mother support during her divorce, both emotional support and, as best he was able, financial support, the extent of which I really didn’t realize at the time. Along with my grandparents he helped to make sure that my sister and I had some stability and normalcy, in our daily lives and in our holidays, making sure we had presents like the giant stuffed lion from Rike’s downtown that he surprised Kathie with one Christmas.

A challenge of an academic career is that the pay isn’t the best, and you have to be willing to move to where the jobs are. Faced with wanting to be able to help us more than he might have been able to otherwise, my uncle Bill made a rough choice particularly for him, a somewhat shy man who didn’t like travel much, accepting a job at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I had no idea at the time how scared he was to leave to go teach in a strange land, but I did know how lonely he was, how much he missed us, how glad he was to see us at the end of each school year when he returned with exotic gifts and stories.

Those were the days before Internet and e-mail and cheap worldwide long distance. My uncle did buy my grandparents a speakerphone around which we would crowd for the occasional brief phone call, but the real way in which we kept in touch was through letters, written on thin blue international aerogramme forms. At first my sister and I would each just write a brief note at the end of a letter my mother had written, and my uncle would jot brief notes back at the end of his letters to her, but as I got older, I started to write my own letters to Uncle Bill, confiding in him feelings of anger towards my absent father or feelings of sadness at not being like other kids, feelings I somehow was able to express in writing that I probably wouldn’t have been able to talk about in person. The letters he wrote back to me, written in his angular near illegible script, were a great comfort to me. Those were the days when I thought Uncle Bill knew everything.

We all so looked forward to summers because that was when Uncle Bill would be home. I have so many memories of him, too many to share now, most of which I can’t date exactly, ranging from going with him to Dayton Mall Cinema 1 to see the first Star Wars, to endless loops through our subdivision as I learned to drive a stick shift in his Toyota Corolla, to a trip with him to Houston in the heat of one summer when he went for a job interview, to countless movies and concerts and dinners out with him, either just the two of us, with my sister or mother, or with the whole family, and it was during these that he got into the habit of always paying for all of us.

Eventually my uncle quit his job in Arabia and, following in my mother’s footsteps, took up a new career in computers. Living for a time outside Washington DC with my uncle Willard, he worked at the Census Bureau, and in the summers my sister and I would drive out together to visit them. And then, as my grandparents grew older, Uncle Bill moved back to Ohio, first taking a job at Computer Sciences Corporation in Cincinnati and then finally coming back to Dayton to work at Mead Data Central. He lived in my grandparents’ house, taking a big share of the burden for helping my grandmother through her battles with cancer, then caring for my grandfather after her death, and also being there for my great-aunt Kathryn, who lived just a few blocks down the hill, first while my great-uncle Frank was ill and then afterwards when she was on her own.

Although my family is not a particularly touchy feely one, I knew that my uncle Bill’s love for us, not often expressed in words or in hugs, was unconditional, and one of the best examples of that is when I came out. When I finally made the decision to do that, I asked my uncle to meet me at my mother’s house one evening after work, and I told the two of them together that I’m gay. Mother, who’s been great since, cried and had questions, but my uncle just said, very matter of factly, “Oh, is that all? I thought you were going to ask to borrow money.”

Actually that wasn’t such an illogical assumption, because over the years my uncle has helped us financially, giving me money, for example, towards the purchase of houses or when I went back to school. And when he found out, two weeks ago, that he had terminal liver cancer, one of his biggest concerns was double-checking that everything was in place, so that we’d all be taken care of. And he wanted his great-nephew Carl to understand that although Uncle Bill would no longer be with us, he would still help to provide for stuff like the Battle of Cincinnati and football camp and other things that made him so proud of Carl. And he was happy to know that the tree house Carl will be building this year will be named in honor of him.

So you see, my uncle Bill was a great uncle, in every sense of the phrase, to his great-nephew Carl, to my sister Katt and to me. He may not have known everything, but over the course of his forty-two years of unclehood, he taught me so much, not just about how to be a better uncle but also how to be a better person, and for that I’ll always be grateful.

Saturday, August 21st, 2004

My first event today was a family luncheon at Applebee's. My uncle Will's birthday was the 16th and my uncle Bill's is the 26th, so today was a celebration of both. My sister's in-laws came too, so the event was in part a celebration of Jackie's retirement. (Yes, Larry is wearing a Bush pin. No further comment.)

My second event was Saturday evening worship at Cross Creek. I usually go on Sunday mornings, but since I was going to visit my friend Keith's church on Sunday I decided to go to Cross Creek tonight. The Saturday service, at 5:30pm, had fewer people (at least this weekend), but was a fun opportunity to talk to people I hadn't seen in a while.



My third event was the Dayton Gay Men's Chorus performance as the opening act for the Rubi Girls at Celebrity. Our sound check was at 8pm, but we didn't go on until 10:30, which left lots of time for getting loosened up. As often happens when there is alcohol there was some nudity, which I probably shouldn't mention lest it attract more Google Image searchers. Despite some troubles during practice with the piano, our performance went pretty well, and, as always, the Rubi Girls were fabulous!

 
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