• The Decatur Navigator

    The Decatur Navigator

  • The Decatur Navigator

    The Decatur Navigator

  • The Decatur Navigator

    The Decatur Navigator

I’m finally over the worst of that horrible class.  I’m down to just my usual workload which feels like a vacation on a beach compared to what I had been going through.  It finally all caught up to me though and I’ve been sick as a dog the last week so I’m taking it easy again today.  Yesterday was Memorial Day and I didn’t touch my computer.  It felt so wonderful!  I know I sound psychotic but I probably am after everything I’ve been though since January.  School has been pure torture.

So, while I’m taking a break I thought I’d write about Decatur since that’s what this blog is supposed to be about with a few interrupting moments of my occasional mental breakdowns here and there.  Over the past several weeks I haven’t had time to think about Decatur really.  I guess it’s still out there.  Let me check through my blinds…Well the neighborhood is still here but it’s going to look different very soon.

I saw the piles of pipes and rock with big earthmoving equipment parked nearby on one of my rare excursions out of the house.  I got a notice last week hanging on my door that the city is replacing the water mains in my neighborhood.  I have a feeling my neighborhood is going to look like the after effects of the aerial bombings on Berlin in WWII for much of the summer.

Well, at least now I don’t feel so ripped off from our property taxes doubling this year.  Our tax exemption from our home addition is over.  The thing is, the house didn’t double in value.  It might have gone up 30-35% in value not 100%.  So why did the tax bill double?  The house isn’t worth twice as much.  I wish.  I’d sell it and buy a house with enough land for a pet goat – the ultimate status symbol that you’ve made it in America.  It used to be a Buick but now it’s a goat.  Times have changed.

If I’m going to be paying big bucks in property taxes, I better have sewer lines that don’t blow up in my basement (this really happened), water mains that don’t burst, and a street that doesn’t require military grade all-terrain vehicles to navigate.  I’m a little more demanding now that I’m paying steak prices for a Swiss cheese sandwich.  At least my street is still better than 51 between Garfield and Eldorado.  It might have served as a road in the past but now it belongs beneath an archeological tent for a future Ancient Aliens episode.

Well, I’m going to take a nap now and dream of my future goat on the prairie!

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I am absolutely overwhelmed by college at this moment.  I doubt many college studens avoid the feeling.  Moments like this make me wonder why I ever thought this was a good idea to begin with.  I’m about to the point where I’m ready to buy a used VW van and travel the country and make an income creating YouTube videos.  I hear the circus is no longer in business so that option is out.

Yesterday, I took a longer drive than usual to the grocery store but not that long because I had to be back to finish a zillion assignments.  It felt miserable enjoying my time away from the ball and chain college has become.  There is no relief anywhere, ever!  Well, when I’m asleep I forgot how miserable I am and those first few moments awake. Ah….Then I remember and I want to cry.  It’s horrible.

What makes it worse is that I’m on a different college schedule than most people.  I’m watching others graduate and begin their summer and here I am, still struggling and  the worst is yet to come.  There’s term papers, projects, group projects (oh shoot me now), and godawful final exams.  Does college really need to be so stressful?  No.

It’s really just one class that is causing all my misery.  The workload is insane.  I’m devoting 80% of my time to that one stupid class and risking blowing up my hard-earned 3.9 GPA on the other classes that I can barely devote 10 seconds a week to.  If I didn’t need that other class to graduate on time I would have dropped it but I didn’t have that option.

It’s been so bad that I forgot to even register for my last classes and almost didn’t get into them.  I was the last seat and if I didn’t get in, I wouldn’t be graduating this year.  I would have flown out to Oregon for a miserable vacation when I should have been attending my commencement.  Thank God I got into those classes.  Normally, I’m counting the seconds down to to be the first to register each quarter but it didn’t even cross my mind.  I talked about taking this classes with people and I knew I needed them but it didn’t occur to me to actually register for them.

Today, I forgot how to count money.  I was at the dentist office and my balance was $87 dollars.  I’d count up to $80 and then I’d forget how to count beyond that.  My mind went totally blank because I knew I had to rush home to do more stupid homework.

And now I have to finish this blog post and get back to slaving away.  And I a signed up for this voluntarily. I want to cry.


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Downtown Decatur Clock

The Election Results

I wasn’t terribly surprised by any of the election results for city council, except the large number of votes Chuck Kuhle received.  He seemed like a low-key candidate but I guess he must have made a good impression somehow.  He was the only candidate to visit my neighborhood and that did influence my support of him.  It makes a difference.

I didn’t endorse a mayoral candidate but the one that won was the one I voted for.  It was a close race but I expected it to be.

Congratulations to all the winners and best wishes to those who threw their hat in the ring.  I think we’ll have a good mix on the council.

As for the other races, I wasn’t surprised at all by the school board results.  Lots of new faces.  It was disappointing to see that there were no challengers to the one park board seat up for election.  It would be very difficult to beat a long time incumbent but the park district is doing some of the most  important work in the city right now.  I would have thought more people would be interested but again it’s a tough seat to win.

Forsyth’s TIF District?

Forsyth is pursuing creating a TIF district to attract new commercial and residential development.  Personally, I find it a misuse of what TIF districts were designed for.  I don’t think anyone would look at Forsyth and categorize it as blighted or impoverished.  Basically, it’s just an incentive for developers that will get to pocket a lot of money at taxpayer expense over a couple decades.  Yeah, I’d like more restaurant choices in Forsyth but not at the expense of improving areas that truly need help in Decatur.

The Mall

On the topic of Forsyth, the mall is in the headlines nearly every week for another store closing.  It isn’t the fault of the mall but national spending and shopping habits that have changed.  Online shopping is killing big retail but the bright spot, at least for Decatur, is that downtown areas are beginning to thrive again.  People love to shop online but they’re also returning to the heart of their city for social and cultural reasons.  Every city’s downtown is distinct and unique.  There’s no replicating it and a lot of people have realized that.

As for Hobby Lobby and TJ Maxx moving to Forsyth.  I hope they realize the mall is essentially the kiss of death for retail in this area.  Both stores should have stayed in Decatur.  I don’t know who is in charge of their business decisions but they sure don’t know Decatur well.  We want stores closer to home.  That’s another shopping habit that has changed and I think it’s a very good change.



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A couple months ago I sent off for DNA results to learn what I’m really made of.  I’ve been working on a family tree for several years and wanted to confirm a few things.  I got my results back and I was very surprised in that they both confirmed records I wasn’t 100% sure of and that they completely discounted some family stories that had been passed down for years and years. (See the update at the end of the post.)

It seems like everybody believes that they are Native American through some ancestor way back and the evidence seemed strong that it was true for my family.  My paternal grandfather always claimed that his mother was Cherokee.

I was sure that I had Native American blood but according to my DNA I don’t even have the smallest trace of it.  Instead, I’m 97% European and 3% West Asian.  Elizabeth Warren is more Native American than I am.  I learned I’m more European Jewish and Middle Eastern than Native American!

I wasn’t surprised by the high amount of British (English, Scottish, Welsh) and Irish DNA but I sure thought I had a lot more German in me. I also had no idea that I was part Scandinavian and Italian/Greek.

Though there were some surprises, the results did confirm much of the family history I had found through Ancestry.com and other records.  I had traced my father’s side back to the earliest European settlers of America in Virginia and my DNA results confirmed it.  So, my genealogical research was correct, even though our family stories of Native American roots were, well, just stories.

I’m still digesting the results, now that I’ve discovered I’m not quite who I thought I was.  I would have bet a lot of money that I was at least part Native American but Scandinavian is cool too.

The results also linked me to other family members that have taken the DNA test.  My aunt and a 2nd cousin popped up in my results and indicated that we are very close matches genetically.  That is pretty amazing.  Hundreds of 3rd, 4th and more distantly related cousins are also indicated and many are confirmed in my family tree.

So, if you’re interested in learning about who you really are genetically, I’d recommend the test through Ancestry.com, especially if you have already compiled a family tree through the site.  It confirmed much of what I had discovered but I guess I’ll have to come up with some Scandinavian family stories to pass down instead of Cherokee. That might be difficult considering I hardly know anything about Scandinavian history.

Update: I uploaded my raw DNA data to GEDMatch and it gives much more data than Ancestry.com.  Lots of interesting stuff!  I do have a little bit of Native American in me but more interesting than that it shows ancient DNA, including Siberian from 50,000 years ago, Denisovan, and Clovis from 12,500 years ago (which are thought to be one of the earliest groups of humans in North America).  The picture below shows just some of the data.  Anyway, I know my DNA isn’t that interesting to anyone else but if you have had or might have a DNA test done in the future, if you upload it to GEDMatch.com you’ll get a lot more out of it and it’s a free service.

For example, from GEDMatch,  I can tell when my ancestors entered different parts of the world.  The rest of the information doesn’t conflict much with what Ancestry.com indicated but the data through the different tests available on GEDMatch go back much farther in time.  Ancestry.com’s tests appear to focus more on recent human history, as in 500 – 1,000 years ago, which is what most people are interested in because if we keep going back we’ll find we all originated from pretty much the same places.

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I just wanted to share a video that I think has a lot of great ideas for improving Decatur’s neighborhoods and the city has a whole.  The first half discusses many things that could pertain to Decatur, while the second half is probably more for larger cities but there’s still some neat ideas in there.

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