Sunday, April 15, 2018

My experience with Human Library @ Merrimack Public Library as the Atheist Human Book

Human Library @ Merrimack Public Library
Yesterday I participated in the Human Library project at the Merrimack
Public Library.  The Human Books where:

  • April, Life of a Psychic/Medium
  • Barbara, Clowning Brings Light & Laughter
  • Gerri, Transitioning in Our Community
  • Hailey, Just a Girl and her Gun
  • Joshua, Recovering Pornography Addict/Activist
  • Josiah, I Unabashedly Support and Defend President Donald J. Trump
  • Karlyn, Highly Spiritualized, but Not at all Religious
  • Marc, Atheist
  • Maria, Civil Rights Activist & Author
  • Maureen & Lou-Lou, A Conversation About Disability: The Least Dangerous Assumption
  • Megan, Happily Childless
  • Mike, Transgender: Being Male on the Inside
  • Steven, 15 Minutes with Kurt's Husband

My write up was simply - "I'm an atheist and a number of folks have never met one who is open about it."

The full descriptions are available

Readers could 'check out' one of the books for a 30 minute one on one informal conversation.  I had four sessions

- Spiritual but religious person. Genuinely interested in my point of view.

- An ex-Catholic but still a Christian. Curious what it meant, brother-in-law is atheist but never talked to him about it.

- Christian but not really buying it from childhood but still attends church

- A Russian expat raised with no religion and not ever interested in.  She was curious what about my experience was as a native USA non-believer.  She told me a story about how Jehovah Witnesses once visited and figured she'd improve her English by talking with them. She invited them in but when she said she was an atheist and they quickly got up and left.  I had a similar experience and haven't had them stop by the house again. We may have just discovered Kryptonite for Jehovah Witness door knockers!

Interestingly -- all the 'Readers' were women.

#Atheist Human Book

My talking points

  • Why am I doing this? A few years ago while watching my kids' soccer games I got to talking with another parent on religion and mentioned I was a non-believer. He said he had never met an atheist! I'm sure he had but just didn't know.  What surprised me was he is a family therapist. Surely religion must have come up occasionally.
  • Define that an atheist is simply "a" (not) "Theist" (believer in god). There is no evidence of god(s).  Not necessarily anti-theist and mostly becomes an issue when theists try to force their belief on others.  I don't care what you believe.
  • Atheism is not about evolution, abiogenesis, Big Bang, etc. Generally, atheists point to science for answers and comfortable that some are currently not yet well answered. For example abiogenesis, string theory
  • I'm a poly-atheist and probably so are you. There are many gods that people really believed, but no longer.  eg: Zeus, Odin, Shiva, Buddha.  I just don't believe in Yahweh/God/Jesus for many of the same reasons.
  • I've been in town for 25 years, married to the same woman for 27 years, raised six children who are all doing well, fully employed the entire time, an engaged voter, active member of historical and genealogy societies, board member of disability non-profit, never arrested, no illicit drugs, etc -- A pretty moral and ethical person, IMHO.  Boringly so.
  • Morality? The golden rule and empathy for fellow humans.  Basically "Don't be a jerk" Which is pretty common in most religions.
  • My background was in upstate New York and fairly attended a Methodist church with my family -- Sunday school, youth group, chorus.  In high school met friends who were Jewish, non-believers,  other Christian denominations who were good people. Also came to question those beliefs seeing those multiple religions as well as learning more about science, evolution, world history, etc.  Never attended services since going to college.
  • While I'm here as the Atheist Book, I was happy to talk about topics that interest me. For example early Christian history from a secular, academic point of view.  eg: How an apocalyptic Jewish sect evolved into Christianity.  St Paul (Saul) never met Jesus physically, only in two visions and didn't meet the other disciples until years after spreading the word in modern day Turkey/Greece. The "Letters from Paul" of the bible were written in the 50s CE and gospels in the 70-100 CE. Two people walked away with suggestions to read some of Bart Ehrman's books.  Also suggested people look at common bible stories in a modern light -- the story of the Binding of Isaac by Abraham sounds like a father with schizophrenia when he hears God and angels talking to him.  The story of Lot is another horrible story through non-believer eyes. Lot offering his virgin daughters to be raped by the crowd in order to protect visiting angels and later Lot's two daughters getting him drunk and having sex with him. Yes, go re-read Genesis 19:4-8 and Genesis 19:30-38

Overall it was a great experience and an opportunity to break down some stereotypes.  

Human Library event @ Merrimack Public Library

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Genealogy Brick Wall: James Norman HULL (1826-1884) of Warwick, Orange County, NY

My cousin Jackie Hull and I are researching our HULL line and this is our genealogy brick wall.

There are two areas we are interested in:

  • What is the HULL line of Sheriff Henry Hunter HULL (1875-1947). His mother Elmira/Almira HULL (1853-1886) never married but was a domestic for the Othniel HOLBERT/HALBERT family in Sugar Loaf, Warwick, NY around the years Henry was born.  Henry was raised by his grandparents who resided in Greenwood Lake.
  • Who are the parents of James Norman HULL, Elmira’s father?  This is our current brick wall.

Our direct HULL line is from Henry Hunter HULL (1875-1947) who was the Orange County Sheriff (1925-1927).  He was married to Ella THORPE and then Helen Frances SMITH.

His mother, Elmira/Almira HULL (1853-1886) had him at 22 and was never married.  We know the man (HOLBERT) was an employer. We have heard rumors that he, or brother, may be the father of Henry Hunter Hull. The surname FITZGERALD belonged to a neighbor of the Hulls in Greenwood Lake whose daughter Jenette/Gennette married HOLBERT. Genette was ill and we think that is why Elmira went to care for her and the children at the Holbert farm.

What we know of Elmira/Almira HULL

1860 Census - Almira Hull (7) living with James HULL & Elizabeth and younger brothers and an Ira HUNTER (15) and Alelia HUFF (17, domestic)

1870 Census - Elmira Hull (17) working as a domestic for the Othniel HOLBERT/ Jenette FITZGERALD(?) family in Sugar Loaf.  That family had 2 small children.

In 1875 she is listed in the NYS census as Elmira HULL (22) living in Warwick with her parents, James Norman HULL and Mary. Census Jun 5, 1875.

Also in 1875, she is listed as Almira HULL (22, single) working as a servant in Chester, still with Othniel HOLBERT & Jeannette (FITZGERALD).  In addition to that family’s children, there was an Edward Bennett (16) also a servant. The census took place on Jun 1, 1875, and Henry was born on Oct 16, 1875, Greenwood Lake.

1880 Census Almira Hull (26) again is a servant in the household of Othiel HOLBERT (40), Jeannette (42), Emily (11), Charles (10), John (8), Othneil (7), Sarah (3), Jessie (1) along with a servant James HOLLOCK (21). Notice no mention of her 4-year-old son, Henry Hunter HULL who was living with his grandparents (see below)

Emira HULL died at age 34 of Tuberculosis (tubercular consumption) on April 30, 1886, based on her death certificate.  It was certified by James G Holbert also of Sugar Loaf.

Jackie a few years ago talked to a relative of Othniel (Ott) HOLBERT, Jr (John Holbert 228-326-4549) who said he has a book about the family. We have not found it.  Any suggestions?

What we know of James Norman HULL

James Norman HULL (1826-1884) m1.ELIZABETH HUNTER? m2. Mary HELLAND? (no children, adopted Henry Hunter HULL).  He is buried in Seamansville Cemetery, Monroe, NY

1850 Census - He was 24 working as a laborer.  In Monroe, the household of Henry HUNTER (37) Matilda (43), Elizabeth (17, likely future wife), Henrietta (16), Catherine (13), Martha H (8), Ira (5).

1860 Census - In Monroe, James was 33 m. Elizabeth (27), Almira (7), James (5), Silas (1), Ira HUNTER (15, brother in law), Amelia HUFF (17, domestic)

1865 Census - James N Hull (40) / Elizabeth (33) had Almira Hull (13) James H (11), Silas (5),  Elizabeth (1), Alonzo LITTLE (15, Farmer), HANNAH M. HUNTY/HUNTER? (17, Servant)

1870 Census - Now in Warwick James (44), Mary (39), James H, Silas, Elizabeth

1875 NYS census - Same people as before but with a Saida C. Dekay (32, boarder, school teacher)

1880 Census, James N (54), Mary (49), Silas (21), Henry (4, listed as a son but this is Henry Hunter HULL, son of Elmira HULL)

Died Feb 5, 1884. Mary died May 20, 1866, and are buried in the Seamansville Cemetery in Monroe.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Belated Blog Birthday

I missed my "Nozell, Rhymes with Oh Hell" blog's birthday yesterday.  It turned 16.

There have been many changes. It started out as a simple blosxom hosted by a long dead ISP,, the moved to a hosted Wordpress for a while before making the transition to

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

River5 running in

A confluence of things came together last night and is worthy of sharing.
  • I'm a long time fan of RSS readers
  • Dave Winer has been talking up his river-of-news RSS aggregator (river5)
  • A desire to sharpen my dev skills on OpenShift
So last night I got River5, a nodejs app, running in OpenShift and it was pretty straightforward to do. Basically, change the port river5 listens on from the default 1337 to 8080, as required by OpenShift. Then a handful of OpenShift steps to pull source from github, have it automatically build and then run in the public cloud.   For hacking around I used a private OpenShift cluster but provide the steps below to get it running in Red Hat's environment.
  1. Fork my version of Dave's river5 github repo by using the website.  My changes are minor - config.json to change the port and add my OPML exported from  Also added a new file, feedly.opml, of my feeds.  
  2. Download / install the OpenShift CLI on your desktop.  I use RHEL/Fedora for my desktop, but Windows/Mac versions are also available from here
  3. Signup for a free starter account on
  4. Once you have logged in to, click in the upper right under your identity in the dropdown for "Copy Login Command"
  5. The next few steps are done in a terminal
    1. Login command looks something like this
    2. Create a project (think kubernetes namespace) to hold your application
      $ oc new-project my-river5 
    3. Create the new application from source on github (modify to reference your own repo)
      $ oc new-app
    4. Watch the build
      $ oc statusand
      $ oc logs -f bc/river5or use the OpenShift GUI
    5. Once complete, expose the service to the external network
      $ oc expose svc/river5
    6. Find out what the URL
      oc get routes
  6. Check it out!
Keep in mind this is just the minimum to get started.  A complete solution would include keeping data on persistent storage, perhaps shared storage for multiple river5 instances to share, etc.

Full disclosure, I'm a Red Hat Associate.

Friday, November 17, 2017

History of the Lent (Van Lent) Family in the United States, Genealogical and Biographical: From the Time They Left Their Native Soil in Holland, 1638-1902

A few cousins have asked about how we are related to the well known book History of the Lent (Van Lent) Family in the United States, Genealogical and Biographical: From the Time They Left Their Native Soil in Holland, 1638-1902 by Nelson Burton Lent

It is available for purchase on Amazon:

I've extracted the pages where we link up into the book:
  • Murray Ellis LENT (1889-1968) m. Evelyn STEVENS
  • #1707 Russell LENT; Page 144
  • #1674 Selah LENT (ca 1816 - ca 1868); m1. Ruth Ann DAHN of CT
  • m2. Cornelia QUINN ; Page 144
  • #1666 Jacob LENT (ca 1777 - ca 1858) m. Mrs Hannah DAVENPORT (ca 1777 - ca 1858); Page 142
  • #1378 Jacob LENT (ca 1755) m. Rebecca MONTROSS; Page 141
  • #1333 Abraham LENT (ca 1727) m. 1753 Jennetje (Jane) COURSEN; Page 125
  • #17 Jacob LENT (1701) m Elizabeth "Elsie" ?? ; page 122
  • #11 Abraham Van LENT (March 10, 1674) m. 1698 Anna Catherine MEYER (1677 - 1762) ; Page 12
  • #1 Ryck Abrahamson Van LENT (1637) m. Tryntje "Catrina" Syboutsen ; Page 8
  • Abraham de Ryck (From Holland to America 1638, d. 1689) m. Gertie HERMANSEN ; Page 5
  • Jacob de Ryck ; Page 5

Friday, June 30, 2017

Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum

In my last post, I described visiting a couple sites on a self-directed tour of 'Burned-over District' sites of Western New York State.  Essentially a couple Mormon-run museums last Saturday morning as I made my way to the museum I really wanted to visit -- The Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden, NY.

If you think New York means only New York City -- you need to come visit.  

Upstate New York Barn

There is just so much farm land.

Fields of Upstate New York

Eventually, I got from Rochester through Palmyra (See the previous post) to Dresden (south of Geneva) on the shore one of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake.

This is an attraction you need to seek out, not something you'd just stumble upon.

I recommend parking at the Dresden Post Office and walk over.

Dresden, NY Post Office

Across the street to...

Birthplace of Robert Ingersoll

Robert Ingersoll Birthplace Museum

The Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum is a small place.  He only lived here for four months, but it is the only building associated with Ingersoll that is still in existence.

They are open only on the weekends, noon-5pm during the summer, so plan ahead.  I got there a little after 1 pm and was the first visitor for the day.  And the staffer said attendance is always on the slow side unless they get a tour bus.  I told her about my self-guided 'Burned-over District' tour and she told me about the Freethought Trail of which this was the first stop.  This real tour trail looks fantastic -- it includes sites related to, well everything good about the 19th century: AbolitionBirth ControlFreethought / Atheism / Secular HumanismScientific Knowledge, and Woman’s Rights / Suffrage.  I'll definitely be visiting more sites on this trail the next time I visit the Rochester area.

In many ways, this is a traditional museum with plenty of placards that describe what you are seeing.

Interior view of Ingersoll Museum

Robert Ingersoll Birth room


There is a TV that plays a Center for Inquiry produced 15 minute video about the life of Robert Ingersoll (also on youtube).  As the only visitor, the staffer just turned it up loud and I could hear it walking around the displays.

Here are some of the items on display:

Christian or Sceptic - The Tug of War

Manuscript of Ingersoll's "Ghosts" lecture

"Some Mistakes of Moses" translated into Yiddish

Handmade German translation of Ingersoll's elegy for this brother Ebon

Robert Ingersoll w/ grandchildren

If you don't know who Ingersoll was -- do yourself a favor and read up on this lost genius.  I suggest "Ingersoll the Magnificent" by Joseph Lewis or "The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought" by Susan Jacoby.  If you are lazy pick up this audio CD and give a listen to a couple of his lectures presented by a modern actor.  With small exceptions, his lectures hold up remarkably well.   You can't fault him for thinking the universe was steady-state...  Buy it here: 2-CD Set: Lectures by Ingersoll

Robert Green Ingersoll - "About the Holy Bible" & "Why Am I Agnostic"

Part of the reason why popular culture has forgotten about this incredibly influential lecturer is he didn't publish any books nor create any sort of foundation to carry on his legacy.  We are all poorer for this.

"No good God could enjoy himself in heaven with millions of his poor, helpless mistakes in hell"

See all my photos from the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum and check out my write-up of visiting some LDS siteson in the same area.

Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum