Category Archives: Uncategorized

Norm Core and Cargo Shorts

Some fashion experts have declared a trend: normal looking clothing, or Norm Core.

Other fashion experts recently began an information campaign disparaging Cargo Shorts as being some sort of social faux pas. I often see articles encouraging wives and girlfriends to secretly replace their significant other’s cargo shorts with “more fashionable” items.


I like Cargo Shorts. I think they are incredibly practical AND comfortable. I am not sure if this makes me Norm Core or a counter-cultural hipster, but I am going to keep wearing them with flip flops to barbecues and other summer events.


2017 0604 Cargo Shorts

I don’t really care if you disagree, but feel free to comment!

Amazon taking over the world

I am mildly obsessed with the impact of technology on culture. One of the great examples of this in the last 10 to 20 years is the rise of … and the resulting “creative destruction” it left in its wake. I watched it happen!

First Example: Internet Commerce Decimated Retail Bookstores and Music Stores

My first memory of Amazon is in Ann Arbor the late 1990s, when one of my roommates purchased textbooks online from Amazon TAX FREE.  I found it amazing that he could purchase books far more cheaply than the high prices at the official college bookstore.  Besides meeting up at the cafe in the Student Union to study, other cheap forms of underage / alcohol-free entertainment were: (1) browse CDs at the Tower records listening stations and, (2) browse books at the massive “original” Borders Books just off campus (3) Rent a video from the campus video store.

Fast forward 10 or 15 years… Tower records closed in 2006 due to competition with online CD purchase and free MP3 downloads. The last Borders closed in 2011 including the original Ann Arbor mega-store. Video stores (particularly Blockbuster) don’t exist anymore.

What happened? Over time, access to online information and online purchasing made retail stores commercially insolvent and culturally irrelevant. If people can carry hundreds of books and thousands of songs in their pocket, what is the point of going to a book or record store? Even if you want real books or CDs, you can order them directly to your house.

Over the last 20 years, I have watched technology slowly change the way that regular people do things. The rest of this article gives some examples and observations from my life, and walks you through why I am so interested in all the crazy things that Amazon (and others) are doing to re-shape the cultural and commercial landscape. How will technology continue to change society? this is something I am very interested in! 

24/7 Internet Connectivity Has Evolved Since The Olden Days

Obviously, Amazon is part of a larger phenomenon in the last 20 years — the rise of constant internet connectivity. When I was a freshman in college, most people did not even have email addresses or know what the ‘@’ sign meant. In the dorms, most people went to the computer lab to “get online.” If you wanted to use the internet from anywhere else, you had to dial up to the internet using an ultra-slow internet connection via modem.

People nowadays are used to having the internet on their cell phones. In the 1990s, cell phones (aka  “Car phones”) were mostly used for emergency phone calls. When my friends started to buy [pocket-sized!] cell phones in 2001, we used them like regular phones, to call people and have voice conversations. We did not text or web surf on our phones; this was mostly because the cell phone companies charged people exorbitant amounts for sending SMS texts and for access to a substandard, clunky version of the internet made for small screens.

And then in the 2000s, technology started rapidly changing.  It seemed like every couple years, another “game changing” technology came along and subtly altered the ways that people shop, communicate, and relate to each other.   Google arrived in 2000 with an amazingly superior search engine. In 2003, I remember being amazed with digital cameras and with friends who could send picture messages on their phones.  In 2004, wikipedia, blogs and gmail went mainstream and changed the way people shared information. In 2005 we got Myspace and Craigslist and internet forums and Google Maps. People started replacing dial-up with in-home wifi networks and using their digital video cameras  I to upload these things called YouTube videos.

Then, people started to adapt their habits to these new technologies. People stopped thinking that online dating was only for creepers. Sometime between 2004 and 2006, Facebook was invented, killed off MySpace, and became the de facto way to share pictures. In 2008 and 2009, the iPhone and the android phone were introduced, allowing people to surf the REAL INTERNET on their phone. I remember the AMAZED FEELING I had when I realized I could ordering a pizza WHILE DRIVING HOME FROM WORK and know that the pizza delivery guy would be arriving to my house 20 minutes later exactly as I was arriving home. I could print a picture to my wireless printer from my smartphone! I WAS LIVING IN THE FUTURE!

I should have listened to the rumors of big changes

Going back to college for a second, I have to say that IN THE 1990s the futurists warned us that the “new Economy” of  E-commerce would supplant the “bricks and mortar” retail stores like Circuit City, Kmart, Sears, and Best Buy. They were right, but most people didn’t really understand until later what was happening.

In retrospect, I can see this change in concrete events in my social group. Some of my friends graduated from college and moved to California to work for “dotcom” startups, but I just saw this as them getting jobs. I  had friends who left college in 1999 to work for consulting firms that helped corporations make their computer systems Y2K compliant, and helped them ultra-fast T1 cable internet and cisco routers. I just saw this as “My college roommate is good with computers” versus “the internet will soon be fast and ubiquitous”

I can see now what I could not see then — technological changes which at first seem like novelties in individual people’s lives, actually affect the larger society in profound ways.

I am now constantly keeping my ear to the ground for the next big thing, and trying to predict how it will affect THE FUTURE!

Amazon (and others) have been doing big things in the 2010s.

In this decade, I have watched Amazon make some pretty substantial changes that seem to be having large effects on culture and commerce.  An I am not talking about selling books or Kindles. Some examples:

  • Amazon Prime — a subscription service that offers free delivery, and makes it super easy to search for and purchase pretty much everything with one click.
  • Amazon Mp3 — (now called Amazon Music) a strong alternative to iTunes where you can actually download the music you buy.
  • Amazon Prime music (2014)– free unlimited ad-free music streaming
  • Amazon Video — (live streaming of movies)
  • Amazon Fulfillment (Distribution) Centers — (to accelerate delivery times)
  • Amazon Fire Phones — (extinct after 2014, but a strong foray into the cutthroat smartphone market)
  • Amazon Now — (2015+) deliver within 2 hours)
  • Amazon Prime Air — DRONES — to deliver thing via air??!??!??!
  • Amazon Alexa — (a smart assistant akin to SIRI)
  • Amazon Prime Pantry – Order bundles of groceries and save money by subscribing to regularly deliveries of these supplies.
  • Amazon Storage — a way to backup your computer on the cloud
  • Amazon Cloud Services — (web-based software as a service)
  • Amazon Merch — (make your own tee shirts and mugs and keychains a la CafePress)
  • Amazon Payments — for mobile payments from your phone
  • Amazon Echo (2014) — a smart speaker akin to SONOS. responds to voice commands.
  • Amazon Go (December 2016) — Bricks and mortar Amazon stores that demonstrate Amazon Pay and may give starbucks and small markets a run for their money.
  • What is next?? 

Evidence of creative destruction as Amazon takes over the world

Meanwhile, there are stories in the news that indicate the commercial landscape is changing as the traditional stores are forced to compete with Amazon and other online retailers:

  • MALLS – say a large percent of retail space in the Unites States will soon be vacant due to people buying things online instead of stores.
  • BIG BOXES. Stand-alone stores like TARGET or Walgreens or Lowe’s – why drive 15 minutes to buy batteries or a hammer when you can have Amazon deliver them to you? Even big-box powerhouse Walmart is now starting to Amazonify and convince their customers to buy through
  • GROCERIES – Why lug baby over to the grocery  a store when you can have the groceries come to you? Kroger is now offfering ClickList services where you can order groceries online and pick them up in the parking lot or  I have them delivered to your house for a small fee.
  • ENTERTAINMENT – Why pay $15/ person for a movie or $250/month for cable when you can get all the movies and shows you want for next to nothing? Television is quickly un-bundling and going online while consumers are cutting the cord to cable providers such as ComCast. Online video services like NetFlix, Hulu are creating original concent to keep up with Amazon, and killing cable and on-air television advertising in the process. ESPN just fired dozens of their well-respected sports correspondents because they can’t afford their current business model.
  • NEWSPAPERS and Journalism — YOU WONT BELIEVE THESE 10 TRICKS TO SAVING YOUR MEDIA COMPANY!!! This one is a little bit obvious, but it is widely known that newspaper and magazine subscriptions have taken a financial hit from the migration of advertising dollars to online media like Google. (You can probably see an ad below that some business paid WordPress insert ar the bottom of my blog.) With retail stores going under, the money that Sears might have paid your local newspaper to place an underwear ad is now going to online ads placed by Amazon. Will people start paying to see news behind paywalls? Or will media companies continue to fire staffs and then publish viral listicle articles to bump up their pay-per-click ad revenues? No wonder “fake news” was the word of the year in 2016 (according to the highly respected reporters of BuzzFeed, anyways)
  • CARS? HOUSES? — All I know is that Sears &Roebuck used sell animals and houses from its famous (and defunct) Sears Catalog. If a thing can be shipped, I am sure Amazon will figure out a way to sell it to people.

Bracket Friends 2K17 — MARCH DADNESS’s_Basketball_Tournament


Bracket Friends –>

241 Madness –>

2017 0314 DOSEQUIS



screen-shot-2015-03-13-at-10-51-48-am2017 0312 March Madness 2017 calendar



One of my hot button issues is learning about things that “nobody ever told me about” with an eye towards developing a body of knowledge and sharing that with others.

Parenting offers the me opportunity to learn funfacts about newborn babies. After 30 days as a parent, I am starting to compile my findings. Below is a brief synthesis of things I have learned so far that I share with other friends who are first time parents. This is broken out into (1) Breastfeeding (2) Poops (3) Crying (4) Sleeping (5) Other Funfacts.

Please let me know if there are online resources or funfacts I should add to this article.

UPFRONT CAVEAT: The two veteran parents who reviewed this article for me BOTH reminded me that parenting is an art, so I would take everything you hear from other veteran parents with a grain of salt. Not all advice is good advice, and not all good advice applies to your PARTICULAR CHILD who may, for example, hate bottles or pacifiers or swaddles. To quote a friend of mine, “I love doing research and one thing I learned about parenting is that you will get a ton of different viewpoints, which leads to emotional debates (parenting is extremely emotional)…which leads to this…I’ve learned that parenting is not an exact science (although I contend some approaches are more effective then others)”

That said, there are some common advice and keywords that I found useful and that I wish people had told me, and that is what you will find below.



  • Just after birth, before the breast milk comes in, there is actually something called *Colostrum* that is super-nutritious and helps baby with immunity.
  • Colostrum is super nutritious, a fact I learned when I googled colostrum and came up with a google image of a really muscular guy who drinks COW COLOSTRUM.
  • The baby’s stomach is really small at first, like as big as a large marble, so you are basically giving your baby drips at first.
  • The baby’s initial ferocious sucking/feeding is not solely to drink the colostrum, but it is also important as a signal stimulating mom’s brain to tell it to produce milk. There is a cool diagram out on the internet showing how sucking triggers hormones (oxytocin and prolactin) that lead to bonding and milk production. Some lactation consultants encourage new moms to pump above and beyond what baby needs, to stimulate milk production. The milk comes in at around day 3 to 5.
  • is the layman’s go-to source for breastfeeding advice. I can’t say enough about kellymom. they have a facebook page that you should join. some topics to research on kellymom are:
    • adequate latch
    • how feeding frequency and volume change over time
    • cluster feeding (4 hours of fussy feeding AT ONE TIME!!!)
    • letdown
    • foremilk / hind milk
    • positioning (football hold versus cradling)
    • when to use a shield / syringe / feeding tube
    • strategies for using a breast pump to stimulate milk production
  • There are other resources for breastfeeding, to include the following
  • Every lactation consultant has different recommendations because breastfeeding is not an exact science; all babies are different and keep changing as they grow.
  • Breastpumps are a great tool. Most health insurance plans will pay for one, but they might not pay for “the best” model. A lot of people try this free model before buying a “gold-plated” model.
  • There is no shame in supplementing with formula, but once you start doing that, you might have to pump or else the breastmilk supply will dwindle as the body stops receiving the “signal” to produce milk.
  • Getting help. There is no shortage of support for people who choose to breastfeed. Lactation consultants bend over backwards to have you call and text them at all hours of the day with ALL QUESTIONS (there are no dumb questions). Also, most veteran moms who breastfeed have lots of advice for new moms and are good for commiseration with the frustrations of baby refusing the boob.
  • Feedings can be from 10 minutes to an hour depending on how lazy your baby is.
  • You might have eight to 10 feedings per day. Some lactation consultants say to expect “12 feedings in 24 hours” which is not the same as “one feeding every 2 hours.” It might be every 2 hours in the day time and then once every 4 hours at night. What nobody tells you is that sometimes babies cluster feed, which just means that they might spend 3 to 5 hours feeding at one time. You should just pray that they do not cluster feed from 2 to 5 in the morning. Listen to your lactation consultant, but be aware that they might say something slightly different to different babies in different situations. AND YOUR BABY MIGHT BE DIFFERENT EVERY DAY!!!!!
  • The point is to make sure the baby gets nutrition, stays hydrated, fills the diaper with poops and pees, and gains weight. (Also there is some bonding going on, so RELAX)




  • MECONIUM is baby’s initial poop, which is made in the womb. As the fetus drinks the amniotic fluid and sucks up the LANUGO (fetal body hair), VERNIX (something like in utero skin lotion) and excess cells, it congeals into meconium. The first poop is dark and tar-like.
  • Transitional poops…
    • When your baby is feeding on colostrum, she will continue to have dark poops until the breast milk comes in… then it starts to lighten up. This middle state is called transitional poop.
    • The end goal for breastfed baby poops is “dijon mustard yellow with small blobs that look like seeds.”
    • Baby poop is soft and mushy… they do not create turds until they start to eat solid foods.
    • If the poop is green after being dijon yellow, you should talk to your lactation consultant or pediatrician. (This may be normal or it may be a serious medical issue)
    • Formula-fed babies do not have dijon poops; they do more “green pea soup” type poops.
  • Poop and pee frequency
    • The 1-2-3 rule is that on the first day, baby should poop once, day 2 = twice, and day 3 = three times. The truth is that babies poop whenever they want. You should plan to track how many “Stools” (poops) and “Wet Diapers” (pees) baby makes and report this to all the doctors, nurses, pediatricians, and lactation consultants that will ask you multiple times a day in the hospital and at ped visits.
    • There are apps that will help you track poops and pees, as well as paper handouts. If you make your own paper tracker, you might want to track poops, pees, feeding time (and whether the feeding was on the left or right breast), sleeps, fussiness, and drugs administered.
  • Parents of newborns spend a lot of time changing diapers, duh. But which diapers should you buy?
    • The hospital and most parents I talked to use PAMPERS SWADDLERS at least at first. They do not leak and they are available everywhere.
    • Diapers come in something like 6 sizes (N for newborn and then 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
    • Typically you are in N size for the first 6 to 8 weeks (size N is for babies under 10 lbs, and size 1 is for babies between 8 and 14 lbs.)
    • Currently (2016) Newborn diapers cost about $0.25 per diaper. Size 5 cost about $0.45 per diaper.
    • My poop frequency estimate for a newborn is 12 diapers per day.
  • Barrier cream (Aquaphor!) and BUTT PASTE is a thing. you don’t want your baby to get diaper rash. Some people swear by old fashioned Vaseline for everything from diaper rash to small cuts.



  • When babies are born, they are not being manipulative, they cry when they need something. It might be food, a diaper change, reassurance that someone is around.
  • To calm your baby, use Harvey Karps’s  five S’s:
    • Shush
    • Sway
    • Swaddle
    • Side-lying position.
    • Suck
  • There is a whole debate about pacifiers, but as long as your baby is able to feed correctly (google keyword: nipple confusion) most people have told me they think pacifiers/ soothies / “non-nutritive sucking” is an excellent way to soothe a baby (particularly after the first two weeks).
  • Crying can be frustrating to a parent who is trying everything, but (as they said in my Dad Boot Camp) NEVER EVER shake a baby… it is better to let an inconsolable baby cry alone in their crib than have them aggravate you to the point of doing something dumb.



  • At first, parents should expect to feed baby every 2 to 4 hours. It makes sense for dad to change the diaper and mom to get ready to feed. That means nobody gets sleep.
  • Somebody might have to hold baby for 30 to 60 minutes after a feeding, and that person is not necessarily the mom.
  • Some good advice: SLEEP WHEN BABY IS SLEEPING. The caveat is that baby sleeps like 15 hours a day and you only need like 8 to 10.
  • Take naps.
  • Did I mention CLUSTER FEEDING. Train your baby to eat more in the day so that she sleeps at night.
  • Babies like to be swaddled. Learn how to do a basic swaddle (see diagram below).
  • Because you are sleep deprived, you are worse at decisions and so is the other parent. Be especially graceful to each other as you muddle through life and do irrational things.  (This is probably good advice for people who are not sleep deprived as well!)



  • When you are in the hospital, you are surrounded by experts. You should learn all you can from them by asking lots and lots of questions. They will teach you how to breastfeed, how to change a diaper, burping techniques, and other stuff you didn’t know that you didn’t know.
  • It is normal to be terrified that something bad will happen to your baby. Babies are delicate, but surprisingly resilient.
  • Baby breathing is weird. They go really fast and then they basically stop for five seconds. Did you know this? I didn’t. At first I was terrified, thought our baby was gasping for air. It is normal.
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a thing, but it is not the same thing as suffocation. It is actually a mystery that nobody knows why it happens, but there are steps you can take to  reduce the probability that your infant will suddenly die (!!!)
    • Don’t sleep with them in your bed
    • Avoid drugs and alcohol
    • Don’t use pillows and blankets; instead, put them in warm pajamas (the rule of thumb is to have them wear ONE LAYER more of clothes than you would be comfortable in).
    • Put them on their back (not their front like your parents used to do)
    • I don’t need to list all the things, but just read the handout that every pediatrician gives you about how to avoid SIDS.
  • It is easy to think that you have to be “doing something” every minute (changing, feeding, laundry, dishes, texting photos to friends and family, researching green poop on the internet, etc) but there is something to be said for just sitting there and enjoying the company of the child in your lap.
  • Unless you have a degree in babies, you probably don’t know what you are doing. Apparently “not knowing” is normal and acceptable for new parents. 
  • Because you probably don’t know what you are doing, there is NO SHAME in calling your pediatrician / Lactation consultant / veteran parent friend with your “DUMB” QUESTIONS, especially if there is something you are concerned about regarding your baby. How are you supposed to learn these things unless someone tells you?  Everyone already expects that you are an ignorant, scared, sleep deprived parent, so ask all your questions and they will be very understanding and give you good advice.

Please let me know is there is anything I need to add to this list of advice. I hope to provide it to my pregnant / expecting friends.






Dairy Free and Soy Free

This post is about how to eat and cook without using Soy and Dairy ingredients.

Background: Babies sometimes develop allergies in their guts … In many cases, the “enteritis”  goes away after less than 9 months, but in the mean time, a breastfeeding mom has to steer clear of foods. In our case: Soy and Dairy.

Just to give you a sense of how big this is for us… we cleaned out our fridge the other day…

These foods are off limits… they contain DAIRY or SOY!

We went to Ellwood-Thompson and Kroger and got some other grocery snacks

These foods are all Dairy Free and Soy Free

Some safe foods: 

Chips / Salsa / Tortillas

Chicken dishes (prepared without butter or cheese)

Beef dishes (for example, stew)

Almond milk is a good replacement for milk. Soy milk is obviously banned.

Ice cream, sherbet and chocolate are out. Sorbet is in.

Anything labelled “vegan” is dairy free (but you still have to check for soy)

Apparently, quiche (without cheese) is still tasty. My sister recommends Pilsbury pie crusts.

Some things to watch out for: 

Most breads have soy flour in them (BANNED!) and many baked goods have milk/butter (BANNED!)

Pasta is PROBABLY ok, but be aware that some pasta noodles contain soy(BANNED!), and some pasta/pizza sauces contain parmesan or other cheese (BANNED!)

There is soy in canola oil “spray” (BANNED!) but not in regular canola oil (NOT BANNED!).

any milk product labeled “Lactose free” is still considered dairy (BANNED!) because of the cow proteins. Also,”Casein” is a dairy (BANNED!) ingredient.

Bottom line:

we have to read the ingredients on everything now.

(submitted by my sister):

ABCFM, AHMS and Other Protestant Missionary Societies

Rev. C. F. VanAuken standing in front of the newly built First Congregational Church in Charlevoix — but HOW DID THE CHURCH REALLY START?


Here is a story:

In 2010, I thought of a potentially fun and edifying (and NERDY) research project: to google the early ministers from the First Congregational Church in Charlevoix and investigate the lives they lived before and after serving this particular congregation. I wanted to see if there was any cultural and theological baggage they brought to Charlevoix from the seminaries they attended or see if any of them were famous. I really didn’t know what to expect and I figured I would learn something along the way.



Five years later (!!!)  I started googling Rev. C. F. VanAuken (who was the first pastor of this church when it was organized in 1883), and discovered a quote from Rosa Nettleton1 that led to a long research rabbit hole. The quote,  suggests that the cultural origins of the Congregational Church of Charlevoix precede Rev. C. F. VanAuken, and actually stem from  a Presbyterian “movement” of the early 1870s:

 “A Review of the History of the First Congregational Church of Charlevoix (January 19, 1893)…The work of the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions in this field twenty or more years ago, should not be confounded with the origin of the present Congregational Society. Back almost as far as local history reaches, the Presbyterians had a mission here. The pastor in charge of the work was Rev. George W. Wood. He labored here about six years, when, for some cause unknown to the writer that denomination abandoned the work here; but, unquestionably from that early Christian movement sprang the present prosperous Congregational Church of Charlevoix.”

This quote raised several questions for me: Who was Rev. George W. Wood? What was the “Presbyterian Board of Home Missions?” What did the PBHM do in Charlevoix and why would it abandon work there? Why would a CONGREGATIONALIST society attribute its founding to a PRESBYTERIAN missionary? Why had I never heard of this guy in the ~15 years I lived thin Northern Michigan?

This led to my writing of a really well researched Wikipedia article. Long story short, there were actually TWO men named George Warren Wood.

(1) The older Reverend Doctor George W. Wood was a Presbyterian missionary to Turkey (1840 – 1850, 1871 – 1886) and the Corresponding Secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) in New York City, from 1852 to 1871. ABCFM was, for many years, the most prominent foreign-missionary-sending organization in the United States.

(2) the younger Rev. G. W. Wood (the reverend mentioned in the above quote) was an early Presbyterian “home missionary” to Northern Michigan (1872-1879) who lived there for 7 years. Before leaving Charlevoix he worked for 3 years as a colporter (itinerant bible salesman) in Charlevoix and Emmet Counties, and bought an 80-acre plot of lakefront property on Lake Charlevoix (Wood’s Creek, near Quarterline Road) that remained in his family for over 50 years. After he left Charlevoix, he moved to the  Montana Territory (1880 – 1889) to work “foreign” missions to Native Americans. As far as I can tell, he then moved back to Michigan where he bounced around from the Upper Peninsula to Charlevoix/Undine in 1893 and tried to start a Boyne area newspaper. In 1893, he began publishing a Christian newspaper (the Mackinaw Witness) with his two sons George H. Wood and Daniel Snyder Wood. From 1901 until his death in 1924, he can be found in Alabama, where he became part of a utopian “Fairhope Single Tax Colony.”

I think there are several reasons I am interested in this subject:

    • As a “historical biography” guy I enjoy learning history through reading about the lives of individual people who lived during past periods. It is sort of a backwards way of discovering information, but it forces me to actually think critically about whether I really understand a time period versus just saying “the 1870s and 1880s was Reconstruction after the Civil War” and moving on to the 20th century. You actually have to stop handwaving history and ask “what ACTUALLY HAPPENED (in this guy’s life) for those 20 years?” Do I really understand the difference between “Foreign Missions” and “Home Missions?” And then you are faced with philosophical questions like “Does a church start when the building goes up in 1883, or does it start in 1872 when a guy decides to preach the Gospel in a region and get everyone to read the Bible?”
    • There is an air of mystery and investigation for me. As someone who grew up in Charlevoix (particularly, in the 1st Congregational Church there), I am fascinated as to why nobody I knew (including me) had ever heard of him before 2015. I have enjoyed the adventure of asking questions and unearthing “clues” as a part of this research project.
    • In researching the younger George Wood, I found a Christian I have a lot in common with (over-intellectual Pastor’s Kid(PK), Reformed/Congregationalist, deep connections to Charlevoix, estranged from the denomination of his birth, a Christian ministering in a place where he did not grow up,  dreams of a Christian “newsletter” or other mass outreach to the region). In one sense, I am probably projecting myself on this guy’s life, but in another sense, I feel like these characterizations of him are apt, and the commonalities make me feel less weird about my own idealistic Christian sensibilities in Richmond.
    • There is a generational aspect of this that I vibe with. As a PK whose parents are both UCC PKs, I am fascinated by the life situation of a missionary who was born the son of an arguably “famous” missionary who chose to dissociate from an organization (ABCFM) where his father held a leadership legacy. Born in two different generations, the two men named George Wood certainly faced starkly different denominational situations and social situations in which to minister. In choosing not to follow his father to ABCFM missions in Turkey, G.W. Wood, Jr. must have wondered (as I have often wondered) how he should, in 1871,”make this faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God.”2 by joining the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions.
    • I am getting close to joining a Presbyterian church and have a general interest in how Presbyterians and Congregationalists worked together (or not) in the past. Both men named G. W. Wood crossed denominational boundaries during the course of their missions work, in different ways.
    • As someone who grew up in the United Church of Christ (both the Congregational and E&R wings), I have had a lot of conversations about the positive and negative aspects of  ecumenicism. One positive is visible unity and cooperation among churches (what the church nerds call “conciliar fellowship“), and one negative is the inevitable tensions that come when churches with differing (and perhaps erroneous?) theology and polity try to work together. The 1800s Protestant Missions Societies (and their historic policy conflicts over slavery and foreign missions) are illustrative of the organizational and interpersonal conflicts that ultimately led to the American Civil War.
    • I have several good friends who have chosen to go on long term mission trips overseas. I have been forced to think about missions in a personal way rather than a theoretical way. What makes people want to drop their lives and move to a place with a foreign culture?  What does it mean to leave for missions (or to organize a mission) today versus 150 years ago? I think about my friends and wonder whether there is something to be gleaned from history that might relate to their modern day missions experiences.
    • I have learned a lot about missions theory. Corresponding Secretaries for the ABCFM (such as Rufus Anderson) had to think big thoughts about missions and then apply their theories to actual people ministering in different places around the world. Sometimes their mission activities didn’t work out very well, but their mistakes and miscues informed their theory of ministry. I think I have neglected my thinking about missions, perhaps because of critiques comparing Christian missions to “cultural colonialism.” On the other hand, when you look at the lives of 1800s missionaries, many of them really  did wrestle with the sociological situation of the communities they were ministering to, and they prayerfully applied themselves to tough questions about how best to conduct their mission work. Practical questions like “What mission work is in the best long term interest of these people?”  How much power should the central body (with lots of general experience) have, versus letting people navigate particular problems in particular places? Should missionaries seek to raise up “local missionaries” and then leave? How does a missionary know when they are being called to another mission field? What is the best way for the  Church to marshall resources to enable sending of missionaries?

I have obviously put a lot of thought into this. (Maybe too much?) When I am googling G. W. Wood in bed at night (!!!), I sometimes self-accuse that I am too interested in the life of G.W. Wood versus the life of  Jesus. Maybe I should be more interested in the life of Jesus. I mean… (cue the eye roll)  He sheds light on the larger historical events of his era… He has an interesting relationship with his father… He makes missions personal AND informs our missions theory… He understands and teaches me the nuances of denominational differences (Essenes, Sadducees, Pharisees) … He is a lot like me and could relate to my life…  Am I talking about Jesus or G. W. Wood?  This blog post is not meant to be a sermon, but I the above points remind me that there is a fine line between hagiography  (creating a lens to help people see God) and idolatry. (worshiping the lens) ANYWAYS… right or wrong, I love learning and I love that following two Presbyterian missionaries through their life story seems to be bearing intellectual (and spiritual?) fruit.

Other funfactual things I am learning about as a part of this research project:

From G. W. Wood Senior:

  • The decline of the  Ottoman Empire from the 1840s to the 1890s (particularly, the Tanzimat period of modernization) and the implications of Istanbul’s unique geographic position straddling the Bosphorus Strait between Asia and Europe.
  • The early prominence of the American Board of Commissioners for Home Missions (ABCFM) especially as they sent missionaries to China, India, and the “Near East” (Modern Day Turkey, Syria, and Israel) as well as “foreign” places in the United States requiring missionary acquisition of Native American language skills.
  • The founding and scope of the American Home Missionary Society (AHMS) and the dilemmas it introduced by nature of its multi-denomination membership.
  • The centrality of the Bible House on Astor Place in New York City, as it housed the American Bible Society, the AHMS, the American Tract Society, and other Christian organizations. (Related: Another Bible House was built in Constantinople in 1873)
  • The slow decline of the ABCFM under the Congregationalists after the New School Presbyterians ended the 1801 Plan of Union and re-merged with the Old School Presbyterians in the early 1870s (after the Civil War).
  • ABCFM/Congregationalist missionaries to the Armenians (in Turkey) witnessed the ~1915 Armenian Genocide and played a large part in WWI relief efforts in the area. (While I was at a UCC church in Richmond in the 2000s, former SEV employees visited the congregation and told us about how overt missionary work in Turkey ceased after that country secularized in the 1920s.)

From G.W. Wood, Jr.

  • The difference between foreign missions and home missions.
  • Discovering interesting Northern Michigan narratives and personalities, such as Archibald Buttars (a famous-in-his-day politician who is virtually unknown today) and John Redpath (a pioneer Presbyterian pastor in Petoskey who who married Sarah Upjohn of the the prestigious Upjohn family).
  • History of the founding of Indian missions, Sunday schools, congregations, and presbyteries in Mackinaw, Grand Traverse Bay, and Little Traverse Bay, which gives me insights into where people settled first and how they saw themselves fitting in to larger US culture and settlement trends
  • Geography and History of the Dakota and Montana Territories, and the moral dilemmas that missionaries faced in trying to convince Natives to adopt “white” ways.
  • The basic principles of “Georgism” (some strange-to-me ideas about land taxation)
  • how to research people from the late 1800s (deed records, libraries, websites, denominational resources, and missionary publications such as the Missionary Herald and the Home Missionary)


Also, I got a general sense of the pro’s and con’s of writing things down for history. If you peruse   “annual reports” of the various missionary societies you get a feel for the largeness of these organizations and the ambitious attempts to record EVERYTHING and EVERYONE that was participating in the movement. How much history can a single person absorb?



  • 1819 (Volume 15 “The Panoplist and Missionary Herald”)
  • 1821
  • 1841 (Report of the ABCFM presented at the 32nd annual meeting in the city of Philadelphia September 8, 9, & 10, 1841)
  • 1851 (Volume 42 “Report of the ABCFM presented at the 42nd annual Meeting Held in Portland, Maine Sep 9-12, 1851)
  • 1855 (Volume 51 “The Missionary Herald containing the proceedings of the ABCFM with a view of other Benevolent Operations”)
  • 1879 (Volume 75)
  • 1885 (Volume 81 “Missionary Herald at Home and Abroad”)
  • 1903 (Volume 99)




  • 1838 (19th anniversary Home Missionary Magazine, June 1838)
  • 1855 (29th Report of the American Home Missionary Society presented by the Executive Comittee)
  • 1886 (Volume 58 The Home Missionary for the year ending 1886.)
  • 1902 (Volume 74-75 The Home Missionary for the year ending April 1902)


There is no end to the making of books!

Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.

11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd.[b] 12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

13 Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.



1 Rosa Nettleton’s was an Englishwoman whose husband was an early pioneer of Charlevoix. In the 1940s, Rosa “wrote” a book on Early Charlevoix History based on clippings from the Charlevoix Sentinel that she organized by year. That year-by-year material is available from the Charlevoix Public Library at this link: –>

2 a quote from the 1957  Preamble to the Constitution of the United Church of Christ