A father is reprimanded for taking his kids out of school and makes the news with his reply:

“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Rossi,” the letter says, “I understand your family recently took a family vacation. I want you to be aware that the Abington School District does not recognize family trips as an excused absence, regardless of the activities involved in the trip. The school district is not in the position of overseeing family vacations or evaluating the educational nature of a family trip. The dates that your children were absent were recorded as unexcused. An accumulation of unexcused absences can result in a referral to our attendance officer and a subsequent notice of a violation of the compulsory school attendance law.”


Dear Madam Principal,

While I appreciate your concern for our children’s education, I can promise you they learned as much in the five days we were in Boston as they would in an entire year in school.

Our children had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that can’t be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book.
In the 3 days of school they missed (which consisted of standardized testing that they could take any time) they learned about dedication, commitment, love, perseverance, overcoming adversity, civic pride, patriotism, American history culinary arts and physical education.

They watched their father overcome, injury, bad weather, the death of a loved one and many other obstacles to achieve an important personal goal.

They also experienced first-hand the love and support of thousands of others cheering on people with a common goal.

At the marathon, they watched blind runners, runners with prosthetic limbs and debilitating diseases and people running to raise money for great causes run in the most prestigious and historic marathon in the world.

They also paid tribute to the victims of a senseless act of terrorism and learned that no matter what evil may occur, terrorists can not deter the American spirit.

These are things they won’t ever truly learn in the classroom.

In addition our children walked the Freedom Trail, visited the site of the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre and the graves of several signers of the Declaration of Independence.

These are things they WILL learn in school a year or more from now. So in actuality our children are ahead of the game.

They also visited an aquarium, sampled great cuisine and spent many hours of physical activity walking and swimming.

We appreciate the efforts of the wonderful teachers and staff and cherish the education they are receiving at Rydal Elementary School. We truly love our school.

But I wouldn’t hesitate to pull them out of school again for an experience like the one they had this past week.
Thank you for your time.

Michael Rossi, Father


Born AprilUnknown 26, 1785,  John James Audubon was birthed in what is now Haiti on his father’s sugar plantation. His birth name was Jean-Jaques, named after his father Jean who was a French privateer, commonly known as pirates. His father had the rank of Lieutenant in the French navy and his mother was a 27-year-old chambermaid from Les Touches, Brittany. His mother’s name was Jeanne Rabines and lived as a mistress with his father, Jean. She got a tropical disease and died on the island when her son was just a few months old.

Audubon grew up in France, but when he was 18 his father got him a false passport to escape the Napoleonic wars and the family moved to America. After the death of his mistress, his father had a number of children of mixed race with several native women. In 1789 his father sold part of his plantation in Saint-Domingue and purchased a 284-acre farm called Mill Grove, 20 miles from Philadelphia. African slaves greatly outnumbered the French colonists, so friends convinced Jean Audubon to return to France.

The children were raised in Couëron, near Nantes, France, by Audubon and his French wife Anne Moynet Audubon, whom he had married years before his time in Saint-Domingue. In 1794 they formally adopted both his natural children to regularize their legal status in France. They renamed the boy Jean-Jacques Fougère Audubon and the girl  Rose.

In France during the chaotic years of the French Revolution, Audubon grew up to be a handsome, gregarious man who played flute and violin, and learned to ride, fence and dance.

Audubon loved to walk and was a great walker. He loved roaming in the woods. He often returned home with birds’ eggs and nests and made crude drawings.

His father wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and tried to make a seaman of his son. When he was twelve, Audubon went to military school and became a cabin boy, but he found out that he was prone to seasickness and not fond of mathematics or navigation. After failing the officer’s qualification test, Audubon ended his fledgling naval career.

He was cheerfully back on solid ground and exploring the fields again, focusing on birds. He found some Phoebes nesting in a cave. As he had read that they returned to the same spot to nest every year, he wanted to test that idea. He sat in the cave with them and read a book for many days, until they were used to him and let him approach. Then he tied string to their legs to identify them. The next year,  he discovered that the same birds were back in the cave. It is the first known incident of banding birds.

Audubon fell in love with a woman named Lucy Bakewell. Her father objected to Audubon’s lack of career goals and insisted that he find a solid trade before marriage, so he opened a general store in Kentucky on the Ohio River. After that, John and Lucy were married.

During a visit to Philadelphia in 1812 following Congress’ declaration of war against Great Britain, Audubon became an American citizen and had to give up his French citizenship.

After his return to Kentucky, he found that rats had eaten his entire collection of more than 200 drawings. After weeks of depression, he finally took to the field again. He was determined to re-do his drawings to an even higher standard.

300px-NMSZBigAudubon was working in Missouri when the New Madrid earthquake struck in 1811. When Audubon reached his house, he was relieved to find no major damage, but the area was shaken by aftershocks for months.The quake is estimated to have been ranked from 8.4 to 8.8 on today’s Richter Scale of severity,. It was slightly stronger than the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Audubon wrote that while on horseback, he first believed the distant rumbling to be the sound of a tornado, “but the animal knew better than I what was forthcoming, and instead of going faster, so nearly stopped that I remarked he placed one foot after another on the ground with as much precaution as if walking on a smooth piece of ice. I thought he had suddenly foundered, and, speaking to him, was on point of dismounting and leading him, when he all of a sudden fell a-groaning piteously, hung his head, spread out his forelegs, as if to save himself from falling, and stood stock still, continuing to groan. I thought my horse was about to die, and would have sprung from his back had a minute more elapsed; but as that instant all the shrubs and trees began to move from their very roots, the ground rose and fell in successive furrows, like the ruffled water of a lake, and I became bewildered in my ideas, as I too plainly discovered, that all this awful commotion was the result of an earthquake. I had never witnessed anything of the kind before, although like every person, I knew earthquakes by description. But what is description compared to reality! Who can tell the sensations which I experienced when I found myself rocking, as it were, upon my horse, and with him moving to and fro like a child in a cradle, with the most imminent danger around me.”

He noted that as the earthquake retreated, “the air was filled with an extremely disagreeable sulphurous odor.”

The War of 1812 upset Audubon’s plans. He formed a partnership with Lucy’s brother and built up their trade in Henderson, Kentucky. Between 1812 and the Panic of 1819, times were good. Audubon bought land and slaves, founded a flour mill, and enjoyed his growing family.

After 1819, Audubon went bankrupt and was thrown into jail for debt. The little money he made was earned by drawing portraits, particularly death-bed sketches that were greatly in demand by country folk before photography.

He wrote, “[M]y heart was sorely heavy, for scarcely had I enough to keep my dear ones alive; and yet through these dark days I was being led to the development of the talents I loved.”

Audubon was a terrible business owner, and eventually he realized that his best chance for success lay in his birds after all.

170px-1_Wild_TurkeyLucy became the main breadwinner by teaching children in their home, while her husband traveled all over the continent collecting specimens for his masterpiece, Birds of America (1838).  The book was two feet wide and three feet tall, with 435 life-sized hand-colored plates of birds.

It was very expensive to print such a book, so the book was financed by advance orders as well as commissioned paintings, exhibitions, and any furs that Audubon was able to trap and sell on his excursions.

His book was a success. One reviewer wrote: “All anxieties and fears which overshadowed his work in its beginning had passed away. The prophecies of kind but over prudent friends, who did not understand his self-sustaining energy, had proved untrue; the malicious hope of his enemies, for even the gentle lover of nature has enemies, had been disappointed; he had secured a commanding place in the respect and gratitude of men.”



MORE THAN 40,000 YEARS AGO a sub-species humanoid lived in Siberia. DNA analysis shows that they are a distinct species from the Neanderthal and modern human. Denisova Cave in SIberia housed extinct breeds of humanoids, including both of the above.

In late 2013 a new study was revealed to the Royal Society in London, In the examination of the DNA of a finger fragment found in the cave, they found that one section of the genome seemed to come from a previously unknown species. The same genetic results were confirmed in two teeth found on the site.

As yet, who preceded these extinct species is a great mystery.

How long have intelligent humanoids lived on Earth? It is a question that is less solved than we thought. Perhaps even a million years? More?


Tourists in front of the Denisova Cave, where “X woman” was found

Further reading:



Kenneth Harper Finton


MIssed Opportunies by Kenneth Harper Finton ©2014

“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.” — Thomas A. Edison


Does opportunity only knock once? Leon Spinks said it was so. He said that “opportunity knocks only once. You never know if you’ll get another opportunity.” Leon knows about knocking. He was the boxer that defeated Mohammad Ali in February of 1978 in a fifteen round decision fight.

Nonetheless, opportunity presents itself often. Opportunity is a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.  Hopefully, this action is a creative act, but it could just as easily be destructive.

Opportunities are time sensitive. We have all missed many opportunities. Sometimes they slide by unrecognized. Sometimes we are not ready for them. Sometimes we choose to ignore them.

Whatever your secret desires, there are always ways to make them ripen.


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Words by Stanley Murphy, Music by Percy Wenrich 1909


My grandfather used to sing this song back in the 1940s. It was old then as it was written in 1909. The words paint a world of stability where a couple married and spent their entire lives together a few miles from the very place they married and lived.


G                              A7

On the old farm house veranda sat old Silas and Miranda

D7               G

Thinking of the days gone by


He said “Dearie, don’t be weary, you were always bright and cheery

D7                  G

but a tear dear dims your eyes”

D                  G         D                    G

She said “These are tears of gladness, they’re not tears of sadness,

A7                          D7

It was 50 years today that we were wed”

G                                      A7

And the old man’s eyes they brightened and his old stern heart it lightened

D7                G7

as he turned to her and said


            C                         F

Put on your old grey bonnet, with the blue ribbon on it      

         C         D7            G7

and I’ll hitch old Dobbin to the shayhorsecarriageb

          C                         F

and we’ll ride to Dover through the fields of clover

       C      G7      C     (D7)

on our golden wedding day

G                              A7

It was in that same grey bonnet with the same blue ribbon on it

D7               G

in the same shay by his side


that he drove her down to Dover through the same old fields of clover

D7         G

to be his happy bride

D                  G         D                    G

The birds were brightly singing, the old church bells were ringing

A7                          D7

as the passed by that old church where they were wed

G                                      A7

and at night while stars were gleaming the old couple lay there dreaming

D7                G7

dreaming of the words he said.


“The Big Rock Candy Mountain” was first recorded by Harry McClintock in 1928. Burl Ives recorded a popular version for children in 1949. It is a folk song about a tramp’s ideal home.

McClintock claimed to have written the song in 1895. His hobo name was  Haywire Mac. Some say the song was originally a song to lure children into the hobo way of life.

The words have changed over the years. An original verse is:

The punk rolled up his big blue eyes

And said to the jocker, “Sandy,

I’ve hiked and hiked and wandered too,

But I ain’t seen any candy.

I’ve hiked and hiked till my feet are sore

And I’ll be damned if I hike any more

To be buggered sore like a hobo’s whore

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

Big Rock Candy Mountain lyrics:

One evening as the sun went down and the jungle fire was burning

Down the track came a hobo hiking and he said boys I’m not turning

I’m headin for a land that’s far away beside the crystal fountains

So come with me we’ll go and see the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains there’s a land that’s fair and bright

Where the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night

Where the boxcars are all empty and the sun shines every day

On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees

Where the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains all the cops have wooden legs

And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft boiled eggs

The farmer’s trees are full of fruit and the barns are full of hay

Oh, I’m bound to go where there ain’t no snow

Where the rain don’t fall and the wind don’t blow

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains you never change your socks

And the little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks

The brakemen have to tip their hats and the railroad bulls are blind

There’s a lake of stew and of whiskey too

You can paddle all around ’em in a big canoe

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains the jails are made of tin

And you can walk right out again as soon as you are in

There ain’t no short handled shovels, no axes saws or picks

I’m a goin to stay where you sleep all day

Where they hung the jerk that invented work

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

I’ll see you all this coming fall in the Big Rock Candy Mountains.


Passing requires 4 correct answers

1) How long did the Hundred Years’ War last?
2) Which country makes Panama hats?
3) From which animal do we get catgut?
4) In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?
5) What is a camel’s hair brush made of?
6) The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?
7) What was King George VI’s first name?
8) What color is a purple finch?
9) Where are Chinese gooseberries from?
10) What is the color of the black box in a commercial airplane?

How much easier could this be?


Passing requires 4 correct answers
1) How long did the Hundred Years War last? 116 years
2) Which country makes Panama hats? Ecuador
3) From which animal do we get cat gut? Sheep and Horses
4) In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution? November
5) What is a camel’s hair brush made of? Squirrel fur
6) The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal? Dogs
7) What was King George VI’s first name? Albert
8) What color is a purple finch? Crimson
9) Where are Chinese gooseberries from? New Zealand
10) What is the color of the black box in a commercial airplane? Orange, of course.

How did you do?