Tuesday, June 30, 2009

JAMSTOCK '09: Exclusive Video of the Geneablogger Dinner


BURBANK - Little Bytes of Life has obtained this exclusive video of the Geneablogger Dinner from an anonymous source.

It is not known who the anonymous source is, as the source is completely anonymous. And wants to stay that way.


DISCLAIMER: I believe that this one speaks for itself. Please, nobody hate me.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

JAMSTOCK '09: Massive Recycling Effort Underway at the Burbank Marriott

BURBANK - It was noted Saturday evening at the Geneablogger Dinner that the Daily Grill restaurant at the Burbank Airport Marriott serves extremely large portions of broccoli with their steak dinners.

Many of the Geneabloggers did not eat their broccoli, and several were reportedly seen trying to give theirs away to frightened restaurant customers.

So, what happens to all the uneaten broccoli at the Burbank Marriott?

This reporter has discovered a disturbing similarity between the large broccoli florets and the table decorations in the East Tower hallway.

Close-up view of table decorations.

It is not known for certain whether these ornaments are indeed made of uneaten broccoli. If they are, the Burbank Marriott is to be commended for their tremendous recycling efforts. Unfortunately, their taste in table decorations remains questionable.


DISCLAIMER: Well? You be the judge. Looks like it to me!

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Monday, June 29, 2009

JAMSTOCK '09: What REALLY Happened at the Geneablogger Dinner

BURBANK - More than 30 Geneabloggers mobbed the VIP room at the Daily Grill restaurant on Saturday evening. Several non-blogging restaurant patrons were seen running out the door as the Geneabloggers converged.

Some of the contraband items confiscated from the bloggers. It is not known what purpose these items served, as none of the bloggers would tell. One blogger reportedly told a non-blogger that "if she was meant to know, she would have them." Several bloggers were seen wearing a black ribbon with the words, "Rock Star." It is assumed that these are some sort of blogger gang "colors," which will be banned at future blogger gatherings.

Many bloggers were seen periodically checking their iPhones, presumably to find out of other bloggers were writing or Tweeting about them. Pictured here is Dick Eastman's phone showing a photo of the license plate on one of his cars.

Many paparazzi were in attendance at this event, hoping to catch photos of their favorite bloggers. It is not known who Randy Seaver is attempting to photograph in this picture.

Several Geneabloggers were seen engaging in a genealogy drinking game. The rules reportedly required each player to draw his/her family tree while doing a shot of his/her choice between each generation.

Steve Danko was seen cheating by looking up his family tree on his iPhone. He was not disqualified, since no one said he couldn't do that.

Steve's tree was impressive when completed, and he later received the award for neatness. It was assumed that his Polish surnames were spelled correctly since no one wanted to check.

Drew Smith completed his tree back to Y-Adam. No DNA test was conducted for verification.

Sheri Fenley was the undisputed winner, as she was the only person who could draw her tree from memory and remain standing after the game. Sheri is pictured here tearing her tree out of the paper tablecloth.


DISCLAIMER: There were no genealogy drinking games going on at the Geneablogger dinner. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

JAMSTOCK '09: Son of Blogger Jamfest Rocks the Marriott

BURBANK - The headline event of Jamstock '09 was the "Son of Blogger" Jamfest, held at the exciting, newly-remodled Burbank Airport Marriott.

9 bloggers rocked the main stage: (L to R) Lisa Louise Cooke, Dick Eastman, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, DearMYRTLE (aka Pat Richley), Craig Manson, The Ancestry Insider (who came in cognito, but claimed to have a cold), Leland Meitzler, Stephen J. Danko, Ph.D., and George G. Morgan, who served as moderator. They are seen here being introduced by JAMSTOCK '09 organizer, Paula Hinkel (far right).

The bloggers played to a packed house full of enthusiastic fans and paparazzi. Seen here are Amy Coffin (with camera) and Thomas MacEntee.

Audience members raised their lighted cell phones in tribute.

Jamfest superstar blogger Steve Danko poses for photos and signs an autograph for fan club president, Kathryn Doyle.

After the "Son of Blogger" Jamfest concluded, many audience members rushed the stage deamanding autographs and advice on how to start their own blogs. No injuries were reported; however, a few would-be bloggers came away with more questions than they had before the summit.


DISCLAIMER: This one's really pretty acurate, so I don't feel the need to disclaim anything. Except that there's no such thing as JAMSTOCK '09. And I'm not completely certain that Steve Danko has a fan club. However, if he doesn't, he should.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Saturday, June 27, 2009


BURBANK - Dozens of geneabloggers attempted to bring down the Burbank Marriott's wi-fi system by simultaneously blogging and Twittering during the "Son of Blogger" Jamfest.

Randy Seaver, pictured above (top right), was responsible for the majority of the Tweets, and was quoted as saying, "We want to see the hastag #scgs09 become a trending topic, or else!" Randy is known for stirring up unrest in the genealogy community with his blog Genea-Musings.

The geneabloggers remained quiet during the summit, however, the sound of typing was annoying for the non-bloggers in attendance. Several computer batteries were killed during the event.


DISCLAIMER: While there were, indeed, plenty of geneabloggers live-Tweeting and blogging during the summit (this one included), there was no malfeasance intended. I think.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Friday, June 26, 2009

JAMSTOCK '09: Genealogists Stage Sit-In

BURBANK - Protesting the fact that too many genealogists simply copy family trees off the Internet and neglect to check or cite sources, over 100 local genealogists staged a sit-in at the Library of the Southern California Genealogical Society on Friday morning.

Led by well-known rabble rouser Doug Miller, the genealogists grabbed books off of shelves, sat around the tables, and chanted, "Hell no, copied trees must go!" Several genealogists sat on the floor and locked arms, blocking library patrons from using the computers.

After the protest, the genealogists left peacefully in a white Hummer limo. No arrests were made.


DISCLAIMER: Not really. Doug Miller is actually a very nice guy and would never do anything so radical as stage a sit-in at a library. Come on, people.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Thursday, June 25, 2009

JAMSTOCK '09: Let the Love Begin!

This summer marks the 40th anniversary of that most famous "Summer of Love" music festival: Woodstock. I was only 5 years old at the time, so unfortunately I missed all the fun.

Judging from all the hype in the geneablogosphere, the next best thing will be happening this weekend: Jamstock '09! Hendrix won't be there, but some of the biggest rock stars of genealogy will be. From what I've heard, there will be plenty of opportunities for food, drink, good times, and geneablogger love!


Opening for Jamstock '09 will be Tukufu Zuberi, Ph.D, one of "The History Detectives" (a TV show on PBS, for those of you who shun the propaganda of the establishment). I won't be at this event because, hey man, I just have to be free, and I can't be kept down by schedules and rules and stuff (read: I neglected to buy a ticket). I'll be at the ProGen lovefest, where I'll be free to not eat rubber hotel food, and properly cite my sources, and I can dance in the hallway if I want to, man. I don't, but the point is that I can.

Headlining on Saturday morning will be the "Son of Blogger" Jamfest, featuring 9 of the biggest genealogy blogging superstars. I'll expect to see everyone's lighters waving in the air for this event. Or, if the Marriott oppresses our freedom of speech and won't allow us to have fire indoors, just hold up your lighted cell phone. It's the thought that counts.

My knapsack (with netbook) is packed, and I'm a free momma, riding the rails to Burbank. I'll be setting up camp (and looking for free wi-fi) at the Marriott for the next 3 days.

Stay tuned for more Jamstock '09. Let the love begin!


DISCLAIMER: There is no such thing as Jamstock '09, so don’t bother Googling it. You’ll only wind up right back here, more confused than ever. The event is actually called "Jamboree," and is sponsored by the Southern California Genealogical Society. There is no love-in at the Burbank Marriott. Seriously. Now, put the tie-dye down, and go home.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'd Rather Have Had the Change in my Sofa Cushions

An article in Sunday's newspaper caught my eye. The author was contemplating whether or not one should air one's dirty laundry on a social networking web site. Specifically, the author was referring to folks who had been laid off from work: should they announce this unpleasant news flash in a Twitter or Facebook status update? Or is making one's bad news public in 140 characters or less seen as "desperation?"

I've struggled with this dilemma myself for the past several months. "To air, or not to air…" that was my question. I'd fallen off the blogging map for a while, but I wasn't sure that I wanted to talk about it.

To top it off, I'd been hit with a mind-numbing case of writer's block: I was numb from pain, numb from meds that were supposed to relieve the pain, and numb from wondering if this was going to be my life from now on. Had I just hit a bump in the road? Or was this going to be a permanent detour?

It started last March…

Ok, sure, I'd been quiet for a couple of months before that, not really writing regularly since before Christmas. We'd had a few hiccups in our household: my husband's company was downsizing and threatening lay-offs so we were holding our collective breath. I was busy with a variety of projects that were making demands too loud to ignore. And my daughter was almost 3. 3 is very busy age.

But things really started to change in mid-March.

My daughter and I returned home from the DAR State Conference in Santa Clara. We'd driven up there – just the two of us – and had a busy, girls' weekend together. A few days later, I bent over to pick something up and felt as though someone had stabbed me in the lower back with a hot fireplace poker. Oddly enough, I hadn't even touched the item for which I was reaching.

Over the next few days, pain and numbness began to radiate down my right leg. I could only get comfortable standing or laying flat on my back; sitting up was impossible. Desperate, I found an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in disorders of the spine. An MRI confirmed the diagnosis I’d heard pronounced for my mother time after time, but never, ever expected to hear in reference to myself: Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD). Disc herniations at L-4 and L-5.

Was that really a picture of MY spine on the computer? Is it supposed to look like that?

I don’t recall hearing much after that. All I could think of was that my mother had died from "complications" four weeks after having a lumbar laminectomy to repair disc herniations at L-4 and L-5. My mother was 60. I was only 45. This couldn't be happening to me.

I must have looked like I'd seen a ghost because my doctor's demeanor completely changed. He promised that we'd take things slowly, trying steroids and physical therapy before any sort of surgery would be considered. "These things usually resolve themselves without surgery," he said. The disc swells, bulges out, nerves are compressed. If you're very unlucky, you've got pain that radiates into your extremities. Hopefully the swelling goes away – eventually – and takes the pain with it.

Small consolation when you're in pain.

But he was right: a few weeks later, the pain was pretty much gone, and we were mostly back to normal. I'd completed a round of steroids and started physical therapy. I was NOT going to wind up like my mother.

Unfortunately, that episode was just a preview of things to come. On Easter morning, I awoke with a cramp in my neck. "No big deal," I thought. I was sure it was just one of those "cricks" that people get from sleeping in a weird position. It would be gone in a couple of days.

I was wrong. As the week progressed, the pain began to radiate down my right arm and into my hand. Sitting up and standing became impossible; I felt as though my spine was crushing itself every time I stood up. It was impossible to get comfortable, even laying down. It was some of the worst pain I'd ever felt (and I'm no stranger to pain), and it was unrelenting.

By Saturday, I begged my husband to take me to the ER for some kind of relief. After initial x-rays, the ER doctor pronounced the same words I'd heard less than a month before: Degenerative Disc Disease. This time, a herniated disc of the cervical spine. He shot me up with enough dilaudid to put a horse to sleep and sent me home. I slept for two days.

The following week was a blur. I was back in the spine doctor's office, sent out for an urgent MRI, and then on my way home with another round of steroids. The MRI didn't show anything definitive, but my symptoms indicated cervical disc herniation. Perhaps it was the valium I'd taken for the MRI… or perhaps it was the pain… but this time I did not feel as if a ton of bricks had fallen on me. I honestly didn't care anymore. Just please make the pain go away.

For weeks, I was unable to function. In addition to excruciating pain, I'd lost a lot of reflex in my right arm, making things especially difficult because I'm right-handed. Activities I'd previously taken for granted, like typing, driving, cooking, or picking up my daughter, were now impossible. Even simple things, like sitting up and eating, were challenging. We braced ourselves for a long recovery. My poor husband was a trooper and never complained, although he frequently stared at me like a deer in headlights.

A CT scan with a myelogram (contrast dye shot up my spinal cord – that was fun) a few weeks later revealed what the MRI had not: a herniated disc and a possible cyst in my lower cervical spine. It wasn't what I wanted to hear, but at least now I knew that I wasn't crazy. I think even the doctor felt vindicated.

Was I ever going to get better? Or was this my life now?

Finally, the pain began to decrease, ever-so-gradually, and I saw a tiny bit of improvement on most days. Two steps forward, one step back. Recovery from DDD is slow, and nerve pain is difficult to treat.

I'd seen and heard it all before, with my mother.


In order to cope with change, you must get to a point where you no longer fear. You just accept, and go on. Your life has changed, and you will never be the same again.

I’ve accepted that I will probably never be able to lift my daughter again. This is hard to explain to a crying toddler demanding to be picked up… but we've adjusted. I was finally able to start using a computer again with the help of "Naturally Speaking" dictation software; I can now type like a normal person for short periods of time, but I still use NS for some applications. I can drive short distances, do light housekeeping (no lifting or pushing a vacuum), and my doctor has given me the green light to travel to Washington, DC, for the DAR Continental Congress in 2 weeks.

How did this happen? Well, age is a factor, but young people can get it, too. Plus, DDD is in my genes: both of my parents had it. My mother's condition was debilitating and could not resolve itself without surgery. My father decided that the pain was more bearable than "the thought of someone with a scalpel so close to my spinal cord." I'm inclined to agree with my father, but I suppose that if the pain returned and refused to go away, I would have to reconsider (I keep reminding myself that people have – and recover from – successful back surgeries every day). I'm not sure if my grandparents had it or not, but they frequently complained of back pain.

I still have pain every day, but it's tolerable, and mostly controlled by meds and PT. My life is slowly returning to a new sort of normal.

Hey, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?


I would like to thank all the people who helped us out during this difficult time, ranging from thoughtful ladies of the MOMS Club, who brought us dinners during some of my worst weeks, to the kind bloggers who left me comments and sent emails asking how I was doing. Just knowing there were people out there who cared meant so much.

P.S. The x-ray photo above is not mine. Mine is much uglier.

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

ProGen Meet-Up at SCGS

Are you a member of ProGen Study Group 1, 2, or 3? Are you attending the Southern California Genealogical Society (SCGS)’s "Jamboree" this weekend?

If so, let’s say, "Hi!"

As of today, no formal gathering has been planned. My hope is that we can meet-up at the Welcome Reception on Friday evening at about 5:30ish pm, and those of us who will not be attending the Banquet can decide if we'd like to continue visiting over dinner. I did not get a Banquet ticket – a decision I’m now regretting after finally seeing "The History Detectives" – so anyone who would like to join me for dinner is welcome!

I'll have ribbons available which will identify us as members of the ProGen Study Group so we can be easily identifiable. Please note that I'll only have about a dozen of these, so they'll be given out on a first come, first served basis.

For more information about ProGen Study Groups, or to be put on the waiting list for the next group, please visit http://www.progenstudy.org/.

If you have questions about this gathering, please contact me directly. I'm so looking forward to meeting you all this weekend!

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal