As we say above, this is mainly for friends and family. Michael's blog on the Middle East can be found here. Most of our other links can be found below on the right, but be sure to keep up as well with our family website, here. We also have discussion groups for genealogy, links to genealogical information on us, and our (semi-private) Flickr and YouTube accounts for those who are invited. You can also get a quick-navigation guide here.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Back at work

Trying to post as much as possible about the weekends, but during the week we're just too busy to post much. Stay tuned, but please be patient.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sarah the Archaeologist

Today was our second day at the St. Mary's City Archaeology weekend. See the previous posts, particularly this one, for links and more information on what we were doing and where we were staying. And just below you'll find documentation of one really big caterpillar.

Sarah has been saying for quite some time now that she wants to be an archaeologist. At first I tended to think that this came mainly from the highly realistic view of archaeology she derived from Scooby-Doo, in which archaeologists always seem to be discovering enormous jewels, the mummy of Cleopatra (or some such). This as opposed to most Americans' views of archaeology, derived from those highly realistic documentaries about Indiana Jones and the lost whatever. Having actually spent some time with archaeologists in Egypt and Israel, and even done a little history for one dig about 25 years ago (and Tam actually having worked a dig in Nebraska years ago), we have sought to give her a more realistic view of what archaeologists do. That's the point where most people say, whoa, you mean instead of finding the lost diamond of the forbidden idol's eye, or the Ark of the Covenant, or the mummy with the curse, I have to scrape gravel with a toothbrush all day looking for pieces of old brick? Then plot it on a grid and weigh it and measure it and photograph it?

Amazingly, and I really am amazed, Sarah has weathered the realities of archaeology and actually seems to understand the real value (and tedium) of the field. At the Kids' discovery room at Mount Vernon, not just once but every time she goes there, she sits down with broken pottery and slowly tapes it together (with pieces missing), just like a colonial archaeologist really must. She's watched the dig in the old fort at Jamestown and seen archaeologists sifting the dirt carefully there, but this hands-on day at St. Mary's City was the first time she really got to get her own hands dirty. Though she wanted to dig with shovels, we explained that that is a highly specialized thing and you need special training to know exactly how much to take into the shovel at a time, but she was allowed, both yesterday and today, to break up dirt in the sifters, and show the archaeology students each thing that might be something. She found several pieces of coal, looked at brick found by others, and found what the student thought was pottery and put in the tagged bag for further study. Even though yesterday was in the 90s and she faded early, she wanted to go back today.

Then, today as well, we took the once-a-year tour offered of the archaeology labs at St. Mary's City. (For those who came in late or didn't click on yesterday's links, St. Mary's City was the first capital of Maryland, founded in 1634 by Jesuits and the Calverts. It was eventually abandoned, and has been gradually re-excavated and reconstructed in part in recent decades. It's located here). The chief conservator was very tourist-friendly and they showed us how they handled the artifacts. Sarah and one slightly older boy were the only two kids on our small (12 or 13 people) tour. When they got to the lab, both headed straight to the magnifier which had an arrowhead (or in archae-speak, "projectile point") under it. Since she loves to draw, I showed her how carefully the archaeologists draw their finds. Then we all sat at a table while the chief conservator showed us artifacts. A sword pommel, a slave's or prisoner's shackle, a piece of Delft ware with a date on it, and other interesting stuff. Tonight, I asked her what she liked best: the digging, which she kept going back to? No, she said the lab tour. And what did she like best about that? The artifacts, she said.

I am not making this up. She said, "The artifacts." I doubt if, at seven, I even knew the word "artifact." (I know the Brits prefer "artefact," but then they can't even pronounce "schedule" correctly.) I'm pretty sure I hadn't visited a real archaeological dig before I got to Egypt in my mid-20s. (Well, if you're going to learn something new, start at the source.)

I have no idea if Sarah will become an archaeologist. I became neither a cowboy nor a fireman despite a certain commitment at various times. But she does seem to realize that it isn't all Indiana Jones meets Scooby-Doo.

She's also impressed that I know a little bit in this area. She avidly watched the recent, much hyped, Discovery Channel special on Egypt's Queen Hatshepsut, despite being a little "creeped out" (her words) by pictures of the mummy.. Like most Discovery Channel or History Channel programs on Egypt, Zahi Hawass, the chief archaeologist for the Pyramids Plateau and a self-promoter of the first order, was much in evidence. I mentioned to Sarah that some 25 years ago, when I was living in Egypt and Zahi was just starting out, I knew him slightly through mutual friends who (like Hawass) had gone to the University of Chicago. This impressed her no end; I'm still getting questions about it. (Why is he on TV all the time and I'm not?) Dad knows someone on TV. (Sure, I know most of the Middle East talking heads on CNN, and am sometimes one myself, but that doesn't count. This guy's on the Discovery Channel!) I haven't seen Zahi Hawass in a quarter century and I'm not sure he ever knew my name, but I get brownie points anyway.

During the tour today she kept telling people I could recite the Greek alphabet, and asking me to do it. I can, with a little prodding, still remember it in proper order I think, but Greek is not one of my languages and I keep telling her I actually speak quite good Arabic (even weirder alphabet) and a bit of mediocre Hebrew (yet another alphabet), so why she keeps asking for Greek I'm not sure, but I did hear her tell the other kid on the tour that "one of the letters is named pi." Maybe that's it.

I'm not sure where this is going: I doubt if your average academic archaeologist started this way, though I may be wrong, and I rather suspect Heinrich Schliemann did.

For those invited to our Flickr and YouTube family sites, both stills and videos of the dig are online.

Really Big Caterpillar

Really Big Caterpillar, originally uploaded by michaelcollinsdunn.

This is the really big caterpillar we saw today. We were at St.Mary's City for the second day of Archaeology Weekend (see separate postings), when one of the reenactor/living history people called out to Sarah, "You want to see something really weird?" This huge, maybe five or more inches long, caterpillar was crossing the path. We think it's a tobacco hornworm, but it's bigger than any anybody had seen. The living history people (that's why the guy holding it is in colonial outfit) didn't know what it was. Sarah has a stuffed tobacco hornworm (she has every stuffed animal imaginable, even caterpillars) so we were fairly confident' we'd seen smaller ones at the colonial farm in Accokeek, Maryland, which recreates a colonial tobacco plantation. This is a gigantic one if that's what it is though. Most of the Internet postings I've found say they get up to 75-85mm (maybe 2.5-3.5 inches) and the largest estimate I found was four inches; this one is at least five I think: look at the man's hands in the picture; he was a big guy. The Internet did say they drop to the ground and burrow when they are ready to go from larve to pupa; maybe that's what this guy was planning before we all started gawking. Now the video:

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Road Trips and Hotels, Then and Now

I've just uploaded to Flickr (for those with access to our family pics) some pictures of Tam and Sarah relaxing in bed in our hotel room watching a DVD (Krypto the Superdog, if you must know) on a portable DVD player while I upload digital pics taken this afternoon to the Internet and begin this blog posting over the hotel's free wi-fi connection. Almost nothing in the sentence I've just written would make any sense at all to someone transported from 1980. ("I've just," "pictures," "bed," "hotel," and a few more.) Quite a bit of it would be meaningless to a time-traveler from 1990, and frankly quite a number of things might be fuzzy even to someone from 2000. My laptop, which itself dates back to 2001, bought just before we went to China for Sarah, has had added to it over the years a wi-fi card, add-on speakers and some other things to try to be up-to-date, but even so its days are numbered.

All of which, being a geezer who will be 60 rather sooner than I like to admit, makes me think of what hotel/motel travel was like when I was growing up. ("Oh, Dad, not againnnnn....") Today, driving down through southern Maryland, we passed some of the old motels from the 50s and 60s. They look so small today, the little cabins and such. Those that are still in business seem to be in the no-tell motel line of work, not designed for a family or, necessarily, for staying the entire night. But families stayed in them back in the day, because it's what there was.

In 1958, almost half a century ago now, my Dad was moving from Montgomery Ward to Sears and had to do a week's training somewhere (Kansas City? Oklahoma City? Not sure now, but out of town), while my Uncle Miles and Aunt Kathy Landis were going West on a combination vacation and business trip with Miles having meetings in Canada and New Mexico. They asked my Mom and me (since my Dad would be away) and my cousin Steve Jones (then of Oklahoma City; now of Nashville when last heard from) to go with them. I'd never been west of Kansas, never seen the Rockies, never been in a foreign country (wild, exotic Canada!), never even seen a real desert. I got to do all those things, and to see the "wild" West at a time when every other TV show was a Western. It was a tremendous opportunity. We went to Dodge City (Wyatt Earp! Matt Dillon!), Colorado Springs, up through Wyoming to do Yellowstone, then up through Idaho and Washington to British Columbia, then down through Utah and New Mexico. It was a trip to remember, if not the trip of a lifetime (I've been weirder places since, obviously), then the trip of my youth. [And even the exotic places are alike these days. All over China we saw McDonalds; at Golani Junction in Galilee, where a key battle of Israel's war of independence was fought and virtually within sight of the Horns of Hattin of Crusades fame, there are the Golden Arches. In the 1950s, which I'm reminiscing about, the British retook Nizwa, Oman, using airplanes against sword-wielding fighters on horseback. By the time I got to Nizwa, in the 90s, it had a KFC.] Oh yes, I was 10, just about to turn 11. That may be the perfect time: old enough to know what you're seeing, young enough to be open and un-cynical about it.

We stayed in a different motel every night. Some may have been part of loose chains like Best Western, but they weren't clones of each other like the average Hampton Inn or Comfort Inn or Ramada today. I have photos still of some of them. I've tried -- since my father-in-law still lives in Colorado Springs and we get out there periodically -- to locate where we stayed in 1958; I think it's gone, or so transformed as to be unrecognizable. The motel rooms were invariably small, a TV if you were lucky (three channels in the big towns, one at most in the little ones if there was a TV at all), maybe a phone. air conditioning still new enough to be advertised on the sign.

Two other things stick with me from that trip. The Interstate Highway system was just beginning; we would find construction all over the place, and a certain amount of new highway here and there, but mostly we were still on the old two-lane roads, and a good four lane still had stoplights. (Oh, and roadmaps were still free at every filling station.) You drove through downtown, even in Denver or Cheyenne or Salt Lake City you went down the main drag. And it was the last era before franchise food chains. Every meal was in a different restaurant, and a different menu. About the only real national franchise was Dairy Queen, and they only did ice cream in those days. McDonalds I think was just starting up; the first ones I remember in Joplin would have been a couple of years later.

Sarah will never know that world. Barring a nuclear war, she'll never know TV without 100 channels, or a world without an Internet and Google. But neither do a lot of people only a few years younger than I. That 1958 trip sticks with me, especially when I look at what we're doing right now: I'm posting this, and before I walk across the room after finishing it anyone on earth can read it. Sarah's watching a DVD in bed. The DVD can hold more information and last longer than four or five huge movie-theater 35mm film reels could in the 50s.

A few other hotel/motel memories. My Uncle, Bill Jones, lived in Osawatomie, Kansas (of John Brown of Osawatomie fame). He worked for the Missouri Pacific railroad; Osawatomie was where the Missouri Pacific's Kansas City area headquarters were. When we visited we always stayed at his house, but when he died in 1962, too many relatives were showing up at once, so we had to stay in a hotel. Osawatomie has the usual chain hotels now (I get 10 on Google), but in 1962 the choice was the railroad hotel downtown. The railroad hotel was (surprise!) over the railroad station. An old hotel, like something out of the 1930s as I recall it, with the added benefit that periodically just as you were getting back to sleep A TRAIN WOULD RUMBLE THROUGH.

One last travel/hotel memory and then I'll post this and go back to reading Middle Eastern newspapers online. (Only a few years ago you had to wait several days at best. Now I have the major papers from Beirut, Cairo, Jerusalem, etc. bookmarked. But that's another story...

Sometime in the 60s [update: Google tells me 1967], after my mother's death, my Dad and I were on a trip hunting family clues in the Ozarks. It just happened to be the day the last episode of the Fugitive was going to be on, in which the One-Armed Man finally gets found. We ended up in a little motel in either Reeds Spring or Reeds Spring Junction, MO. Ozark readers will know these places. (I think it was Reeds Spring Junction.) The motel was in the hills and the nearest TV stations were in Springfield. (Branson was not, believe me, anything like it is now, Ozark readers.) There was no cable, no satellite TV, just whatever the rabbit ears brought in. We tried watching The Fugitive on the tiny black-and-white TV in the room. Just as Richard Kimble, Lieutenant Girard, and the one-armed man all got to the final confrontation, the picture, which at best had been a very fuzzy blend of grays, disappeared altogether, and so did the sound. What happened? Did Kimble get off? Would we ever know?

So, of course, we just looked for the video on YouTube, right? No, I actually think I've still never seen the final episode of the fugitive. I suppose it is on YouTube by now. And 1967 was 40 years ago now.

Do I miss travel in those days? Maybe I miss the diversity: each place was different, not the same mix of Wal-Marts, McDonalds and Applebee's. Roads went down the main streets of the towns, not bypassing them without stopping. (If you've seen Cars you'll have a sense of the nostalgia I feel about that 1958 trip.) It's a little too much like work to know that I can know exactly what's happening all over the world from my room in this Hampton Inn in Maryland. In one sense, if you're always in touch, you're never on vacation. But I can do this. I can write this and it can be available to anyone on earth with Internet access within seconds. Tradeoffs. And, of course, I didn't have to go to work every day and pay the mortgage and stuff either, so that too is part of the charm. And Elvis hadn't gone Vegas yet.

Oh, Dadddd....you're doing it againnnnn....

Swimming Fun

I just wanted to add a bit about the end of the day at the hotel. We, Sarah and I, spent about an hour or more in the hotel's outdoor swimming pool. Really nice, it's been the first time she could get in the pool since recovering from walking pneumonia, and being cleared to resume swimming Thursday by the doctor. The water was just great, cool at first upon getting in, then warming up quickly. It wasn't crowded, so Sarah and I had a good time playing together. I had been feeling so wiped out and "brain fried" from the high heat and humidity being outside and helping with the screening dirt activity, and the swimming just restored me, physically and energy wise. I feel a lot better. And Sarah enjoyed showing us what she's learned so far with swimming efforts.

Archaeology Weekend

We're on a weekend overnight trip. Old St. Mary's City, Maryland (located here) is having a Tidewater Archaeology Weekend, and Sarah, who wants to be an archaeologist, thought it would be fun. Unfortunately today was around 90, so digging in dirt has its disadvantages. It was quite hot, I was the only one who bothered to pack a hat, and so not only did we cut the digging short but I spent $22 each for hats for Tam and Sarah. We retreated to the hotel we're staying at in Lexington Park, Md (next to Patuxent River Naval Air Station, nearest place with hotels near St. Mary's City) to cool down. Tomorrow we go back to tour the archaeology labs (the tours were booked for today but we got in on tomorrow's) and if the weather's not so hot maybe we'll do some more. Mainly Sarah found a few pieces of coal in the dirt she sifted.

This area of southern Maryland along the lower Patuxent and the Bay is the earliest-settled part of Maryland and is close enough to home to get down here quickly. Besides Pax River, which has a small naval aviation museum, there's Solomon's Island, where there's a marine science center Sarah likes (and ice cream on the boardwalk), Point Lookout (where the Potomac meets the bay: site of a Civil War prison (Union prison, for Confederate prisoners) and today of a state park with beaches.) The Civil War Buffs among you may recall the lines from "I'm a Good Ole Rebel:"
I followed Ole Marse Robert
For Four Years Nigh About
Got wounded in three places
And starved at P'int Lookout...
Today would have been more successful, though, without the heat and with hats. Meanwhile Sarah got in some good pool time -- she's getting more confident about swimming, though she still wants a tube or a life vest while paddling around.

A few pictures at Flickr; hopefully we'll get more tomorrow.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Ready, Set, Comment...

Okay, late last night I let the first round of family -- the inner circle of both our families -- know about the blog. Don't know if anybody's read it yet, but starting with the last couple of posts, comments are also live. Just click on "comments" below the posting and you can respond. For now, I'm moderating the comments since sometimes comment boxes get filled with spam, but if only family responds I may stop that. So your comment may not appear immediately. It's a way to get a conversation going.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Good Question

I can't resist recording this. Sarah, like all kids at bedtime, asks a lot of questions to try to find a reason not to have to go to sleep. As I was leaving the room tonight, the following conversation occurred:

"Daddy, how come you know so much?"

"Because I love to learn. I want to know the answers to questions. I used to be a college professor."

"I have a question."


"Who built the light bulb?"

"A man named Thomas Edison."

"Was he afraid of the dark?"

My answer was that that was a very good question and I didn't know the answer. But my answer was not as good as her question.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Baltimore, Moron Eels, Sharks, Spaghetti and the Seahorses' Wedding

In all the Internet, in all the blogosphere, I wonder if that exact title has ever been used before? Especially the Seahorses' Wedding part. And the Moron Eels. Read on.

The Aquarium

Anyway, this weekend proved to be a really great one. Last weekend I was out with gout; this weekend we hit two homeruns. Both days were gorgeous: 80s, low humidity, Mediterranean/California sort of day. Yesterday, as noted earlier, we went out to Great Falls Park. Today we headed to Baltimore to visit the National Aquarium there. It's truly one of the great aquariums, and Sarah is very interested in marine life of all kinds. She did an extra credit report on green sea turtles last year.

We finally joined as members. If a family of three goes and wants to do the dolphin show as well as the main aquarium the whole thing can run close to sixty dollars, whereas a family pass for a full year is only $124 and you don't have to wait for timed-entry tickets, so if you go only twice a year -- and we're in Baltimore more often than that, it's only 45 miles away -- you might as well be members. We're also members of the Science Museum in Baltimore, and (in the marine life line), the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland, and the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach. In different ways the Baltimore and the Virginia Beach aquariums are both tremendous. Tam and I are both midwesterners -- she a Nebraska Cornhusker and me an Ozark ridgerunner, so neither one of us exactly grew up around oceans. We're glad we have these resources so close. (Washington does not, really, have an aquarium as such, except for some fish in the basement of the Commerce Department (really). So it's pretty much Baltimore and Viriginia Beach and Solomons.)

Sarah loved it. She loves sea turtles, as I noted, and sharks always give her a certain thrill though after a while she starts to get a little scared. When she was a toddler we first took her to the Baltimore Aquarium, paid (then, when she was younger and rates were cheaper) something like $45 and then halfway up the second level (of five or six) she announced she was finished and wanted to go home. No more: we can't pry her away.

We saw quite a lot, though we skipped the dolphin show. She's seen it before but says she doesn't remember, though I think she would if she went. Then we wandered about the Inner Harbor for a bit, had ice cream (well, she did), and at 5 pm (after insisting all day she didn't want to go on any of the historic ships, take a water taxi, or even ride a paddleboat: "No way," was the comment) she announces maybe she'd like to go on a boat after all. Okay, next time. Or we'll be in Norfolk for vacation. (Earlier she had been hesitant to say why she didn't want to go on a boat. I assured her they were perfectly safe. "That's what they thought about the TItanic," she responded. Well, true, but I would be absolutely dumbfounded to see an iceberg in Baltimore's Inner Harbor in July, I commented. "How was I supposed to know it hit an iceberg? I'm only seven."

The other great line of the day came even before we left. There's a new Australian exhibit at the Aquarium, which is quite interesting (have you ever seen a blue crayfish? The Aussies call them yabbies. They look like something you'd see after too many Fosters at the local.) Anyway, one of the TV ads for this features a Moray Eel. This morning Sarah says, "And did you know they have a Moron Eel?"

One of the breakthroughs in the past year is that museums, aquariums, and such are not just places to buy new stuffed animals (though we still do that: see below), but places she actually looks at everything (tries to read what she can), watches videos, etc. She is really becoming engaged with learning. Okay by me.

Spaghetti in Little Italy

But today we also had a breakthrough in a new direction. When Sarah was a toddler, and small enough to just tell what to do, we ate out where Mom and Dad wanted. Now she usually wants to eat at home. On the road, McDonald's. Or Hard Times Cafe, also a comfort food place for Mom and Dad. Or if McDonalds is out, she has become adventurous enough to try KFC or Burger King, though the latter alienated her by giving her the wrong order. We really have to bargain to get to go to someplace nice, and she insists she doesn't like Mexican (which she won't try). The Hunan Pepper Genes just haven't kicked in yet, despite her being from Hunan.

She does like Italian as long as it's 1) spaghetti, 2) pizza, 3) ravioli, 4) various other pastas so long as the sauce is marinara or you just pile a lot of parmesan on top. But last night (Saturday after Great Falls) we managed to get her to a Bertucci's pizza, and were talking about planning to go to Baltimore today and noted that real Italian cooking is the sort you get in Baltimore's Little Italy. Little Italy is just a few blocks east of the Inner Harbor and we decided to have an early dinner in Baltimore before driving back to DC. She was fascinated by the idea of Little Italy and once we parked and set out we passed a nice new restaurant, then went on up to the older strip of restaruants Tam and I were more familiar with: the old family places, the sorts where you figure Frank Sinatra might drop in or there might just possibly be a hit one evening (Michael Corleone going into the bathroom for the gun, you know the type of restaurant we mean). But Sarah wanted to try the newer place we had passed. Okay: you aren't going to survive in Little Italy in Baltimore if you don't do good Italian.

It was a new-looking place called Petalo's. [UPDATE: SEE NOTE AT BOTTOM. I hope it's not gone.] It had a lovely terrace but Sarah insisted on eating inside, despite it being a perfect day. (Have I mentioned yesterday and today were both in the 80s and low humidity? Those of you who know Washington know that's not normal in July. This would have been a great day in California. Or Greece.) But the boss had spoken and so we ate inside.

It was an interesting menu: not only high-end Italian, but also kabobs and other Middle Eastern (they called it "Mediterranean," but trust me, I know Arab: they even had foul mudammas) stuff. (Perhaps "Arab" is too politically sensitive. Anyway we had the Italian so I can't judge the Arab.) Sarah got as far as Kid's Spaghetti and Meatballs and looked no further. Tam and I -- who don't get to good restaurants as often as we'd like but know all the varieties of Happy Meal -- decided to splurge on the house special: $25 bucks a shot, but a veal scallopini in a very rich cream sauce (up the dose of lipitor) topped with pepper rings stuffed with crab meat. Whoa. It's the "Petalo's Veal" on page four of the online .pdf menu, [UPDATE: This link has failed twice and I don't know why. If you get a generic ad page, go back to the Petalo's link above and find the menu there.] and I heartily recommend it, provided you other high-cholesterol folks eat nothing but lettuce and carrots for a week afterwards. (In case my doctor is reading this.)

Sarah announced that the spaghetti and (one very large) meatball was the best spaghetti she had ever had. Then she got apologetic and said that she hoped Mom wasn't offended. I noted that, whereas Mom makes sauce by opening a jar from Safeway (though she does usually throw in some extra basil and oregano), I was pretty sure this place made its own sauce. Impressed (doesn't everyone get it from Safeway?), Sarah actually asked the waitress, who assured her the chef made the sauce and she would pass on the compliment. At one point Sarah announced this was the best weekend ever. Photos of Sarah with the spaghetti appear on our Flickr site for those with access.

The Seahorses' Wedding

Well, I guess I have to get to the seahorses' wedding and it's midnight and tomorrow's a work day so I'd better do it now. Sarah has one of the largest collections of stuffed animals imaginable. Dragons are her favorite (she was born in the year of the dragon), and unicorns are big, and she has a fair number of pandas (people can't resist giving them to her), the usual teddy bears, etc. Sea animals are also big: one huge turtle, several smaller turtles, even some stuffed jellyfish (yes), and a fair number of seahorses. Today she wanted another sea horse. I said I'd get her one animal and after weighing the seahorse against a dolphin, she chose the seahorse. Driving home to DC she decided that she would marry the new seahorse to one of the older seahorses, and as we made our way back over an hour or so's drive she cranked up the libretto for this wedding. Once home she dressed the bride-seahorse in a bridal outfit not designed for a seahorse, got out necklaces (no rings: Seahorses don't have fingers) and so on. A video of the bridal gown and a full video of the ceremony are at our private YouTube site if you have access. It is possibly the only video on YouTube with the tags "seahorse wedding," but I haven't confirmed this. When I posted "Rats Playing Basketball" I not only discovered how many Rats Playing Basketball videos there are on YouTube, but how many rat fanciers then start asking to exchange videos. I don't respond.

The ceremony is elaborate and well-staged, but the officiant (Sarah) tends to dissolve into hysterical giggling while trying to lead the seahorses in their wedding vows. Wouldn't you?

The happy couple eventually went on a honeymoon in a carriage (which is either a Barbie carriage or a Cinderella carriage, but I'm not sure which: Barbie and Disney Princesses seem to be slowly merging together). But I didn't get video of that.

UPDATE: As of mid-September, 2007, the Petalo's links aren't working at all. I hope it didn't go out of business, and will try further updates later.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Great Falls

Not much posting lately. Recovering from illnesses, busy with work. Last night I finally uploaded a month's worth of stuff to YouTube. Today we finally got Sarah someplace new: Great Falls. This is the fall line of the Potomac, there are parks on both the VA and MD sides, but we went to MD. As usual when she doesn't want to do something, she loved it. Gorgeous day. 80s, no humidity. Perfect day along the river.

Sarah always wants to do the same old things she's done before. Today she tried an adventure. More anon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Changes to Discussion Groups (newsgroups)

We had mentioned our newsgroups earlier and they are in our links box on the right as well as on our homepage. A couple of changes have been made:

We've added a Mehuron Ancestry newsgroup newsgroup for discussion of Tam's ancestors; and

The group previously called "Dunn-Mehuron" was always intended as a discussion for our family and friends, not a family history group. It's been changed to "Tam and Michael's Family Forum." I guess I see this one as a way for us to talk to all our extended family and have a multisided conversation. I hope our family, or at least the newsgroup-savvy ones, will agree. C'mon over and lets talk a spell.

Come on around and try us. If you've never gotten into newsgroups, it can be habit-forming.

NOTE: The meds have kicked in and now I'm feeling better, obviously. I'm back to rearranging our web presence. Who knows, I may actually do some real work too.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Genealogy Database Updated

The online genealogy database at our main homepage hadn't been updated since 2002, when Sarah was still young enough I could do such things. In the interim I discovered one major error that changed an entire ancestral line on Tam's side (over-credulous acceptance of information on my part), plus lots of smaller updates. Tonight I finally uploaded a [more] current version. Since it took a while to do it and after we did so I found we'd omitted the death of Tam's great aunt Ruth Ann Heaney last December, I add the [more]. It's still not totally current, and changing the whole thing takes a long time, so I'll only update every few months.. As I try to emphasize on the introductory page of the database, this is not my own personal considered historical product. I have included much material from other people's genealogies, without verification. My own genealogy is best learned from my written pages, elsewhere on the same website. But this gives a good way for distant relatives to find links, though not every statement here is verifiable by me. Also I have included some uncertain links. Don't just take this as gospel, please.

Also, you will not find yourself in there, unless you are logging on from the other world. I have listed all living persons as simply "Living" with no personal information. I used to list names, but no dates or places. But even names can now be manipulated for identity-theft purposes, so now I simply list living people as "living." Search for your parents or grandparents to find links. I can make an uncensored version available to those who want it, if you're in it.

Also, note that for anyone in there who has a birthdate but no death date, I've told the computer to consider them "living" until 99 years after their birth date, so some people long dead for whom I don't have a death date will also be blanked out as "living."

Relatives of course may contact me for full information (or just as important, to add to/correct what I have.)

Lost Weekend; Dad's Fault

The reason you haven't heard from us since last Wednesday is we've had another round of two of us down with illness at once. (In April, Tam spent two days in the hospital at the same time Sarah had strep.) Sarah's marginal fever, which I was a bit dismissive of on Wednesday, turned out on Thursday to be a low-grade walking pneumonia. Tam spent much of the day at the hospital (a chest X-Ray -- Sarah's first X-Ray -- took extra time) or at various pharmacies (our usual one didn't have one of the prescriptions; the second gave Tam the package, then called her cell-phone to tell her they'd left one out: I came home early, but got home an hour before they did).

I'd taken Wednesday off, and Tam Thursday. Friday's my normal day to work from home, so it was my turn.

As it happened, I had a rather sore knee. I suspected it was a gout attack. Hadn't had one for a year and a half or so, but I do have a tendency to high nitrogen in my system, and if I either overeat or overdrink certain things (smoked foods, beer,other stuff), or stub a toe or bang a knee, it can come back. I don't take regular medication for it because it occurs rarely and at least one doctor thought it might conflict with other medication I take. Foolishly, since I had Sarah with me and she was recovering, I decided not to call a doctor Fricay. (Also the knee hurt enough I didn't want to drive [it was my right knee]; Tam was at work; a cab, with Sarah, would be a major production ... etc.etc.) I decided I'd try to watch my diet, drink plenty of water, taking anti-inflammatory pills and brazen it out.

Mistake. By Saturday I needed a cane. I wrecked the family weekend because Dad was suddenly a crippled old guy. Finally today, Monday, Tam took the day off (I couldn't drive) and I saw the doctor. Oh no, says he, whenever it is already flared up, only drugs can help. Now they tell me. After a day of medication and a couple of needles in my knee, I'm almost normal; expect by tomorrow I will be. But I blew one of our summer weekends. If Sarah hadn't been home sick Friday I wouldn't have hesitated. But as it happened I wrecked a weekend. Bad choice. Also painful. By Monday morning, when I finally called the doctor, the pain was really bad.

Oh, and megabummer: Sarah can't go in a pool for two weeks. Fun July. Hope it gets better.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reflections on a Sick Day

Sarah stayed out of summer camp today with a cough and a marginal temperature. (Anywhere from one to three degrees above normal depending on when the reading was taken.) I stayed home with her. I think it could just be allergies or a cold -- the temps were never clearly out of an ear thermometer's margin of error -- but if I'm wrong, we want to be safe. Her appetite, usually voracious, was also off.

One reflection: this makes me really admire single parents and wonder how they do it. If Sarah had been sick Monday and I were her only parent, I'd have missed a critical deadline. Tuesday, I'd have had to scramble to cancel an appointment made long before. Today, Tam would have had real problems with her deadline. But today was a light one for me, and the calendar could be cleared. Thank God we're both here. The odds are one or the other of us can take off without major setbacks to our work.

Sarah said to me in the car today (we went to Target for medicine and, yes, a couple of DVDs to pass the time) that she'd been thinking about the fact that when she was a baby she didn't know who Mom and I were when we first held her, and so she cried at first. (We've often discussed the first meeting video (not currently online) and first meeting photos and she understands that she had probably never seen any non-Chinese people before we held her in our arms. That, of course, was six years ago. I thought it a rather mature reflection for a seven-year-old.

Within half an hour of returning home, fully playing on the "sick day" theme, it was "Dad, change the channel." "Dad, the video's over." "Dad, I'm thirsty!" Once she called me in from the other room to tell me we could get a free trial at Blockbuster. Once I was urgently called to remove a plate of crackers she decided not to eat. It was taking up space.

Now she clearly knows who we are . . .

Her domestic staff.

(And loving every minute of it, of course. It's what parenting is all about.)

Lion Dancers at CCAI Reunion

Lion Dance, originally uploaded by michaelcollinsdunn.

A Lion Dancer meeting with kids at last weekend's CCAI Reunion. Sarah showed me a thing she had to write for Summer Camp on "Why I Love Summer." She wrote, roughly, "I love summer because I got to go to a reunion." I'm pleased she found it interesting. A former colleague of Tam's, the guy who took our wedding photos in fact, adopted two girls from China after hearing of our experience, and Sarah took to the older of them (now 5, or two years younger than Sarah) this time, becoming a real mentor as they roamed the area around Burke Lake. (Actual overheard comment by Sarah to Mira: "You can pick up the rocks and see what kind of bugs are underneath.")

Whenever I see hundreds of Chinese adoptees together -- all bright, all enjoying themselves -- I think of what a huge part of its (mostly female) human capital China has exported due to its one-child rules. Our gain of course, but what a price they, and the many birth parents who felt they could not keep their daughters, have paid.

Here's a video of part of the lion dancers' performance:

Sarah is in neither the still picture nor the video, for reasons explained earlier here. Pictures with her included are in our family sites at YouTube and Flickr for those invited as friends and family.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Dunn Central

Pretty much all of our web presence, including our office sites, newsgroups etc. can be reached with one click from this blog homepage, but we've now also made our main family website at www.tamandmichael.com a central nexus for navigating among our sites. Hope it works.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

CCAI Reunion

We attended the CCAI MidAtlantic reuninion today at Burke Lake Park. CCAI was the adoption agency we used for Sarah; they've now handled some 7500 Chinese adoptions over a 15 year period. I'll post more later; have a big project to finish for work.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Note on Photos and Their Absence

I've added a photo to the blog homepage (upper right), the one of Tam, Sarah and myself on the famous "red couch" at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, China, shown at the top of the page on the right. I'll talk about the photo in a moment, but this is really intended as an explanation of why you won't find more photos on this blog.

When we started our family website, and when we adopted our daughter in China, we posted many photos for a while, along with our log of our trip to China to join Sarah.

Up through about her second birthday, we posted a number of photos. Then our jobs and the terrible twos intervened and the website didn't get updated. Now, Sarah is seven. She deserves her privacy and, well, we all know that the Internet has some strange folk lurking out there. We respect her privacy. For family and friends, you either have been or can be invited to gain access to our private sites at Flickr (for still photos) and YouTube (for videos). If you want to be added, E-mail me. If you don't know my E-mail, you aren't closely enough related to see Sarah's private photos.

I have no problem with posting the 2001 Guangzhou photo: It's been on the Web for six full years and is therefore no doubt archived by Google and many other sites. It's also on the homepage of tamandmichael.com, so it's hardly an invasion of Sarah's privacy at this point.

For those who may not have seen this photo before, or heard its background, the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou is a lovely, huge five-star hotel that happens to be next door to the US Consulate in Guangzhou. And all American adoptions in China are processed by that consulate, not by the Embassy in Beijing. So all adopting Americans, regardless of where in China you adopt, go out via Guangzhou (Canton in the old days). And for convenience, the majority stay at the White Swan. The hotel is surrounded by shops catering to adoptive parents.

There's a famous red couch at the White Swan where adopting groups traditionally take pictures. (Red is the color of joy and celebration in China, and you'll note that we're both wearing red. The couch makes for good photos, and it's in an area with a glass wall opening out over the Pearl River.) This is a photo taken on our last day in China (July 12, 2001: for our log for that day, see here.) There is also a group photo of all the babies adopted in our group. But this is our first relatively good family picture. (Our first pictures were the photos of our first meeting, while unquestionably our worst early family picture was the Chinese official adoption photo. We call it the "deer in the headlights"picture, but don't think much of it.)

For our close family and friends, just ask and we'll give access to the Flickr and YouTube sites.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Some Key Anniversaries

Happy fourth of July. The fourth will always be an important date in our family, because July 2 (the actual date the Declaration of Independence was adopted, in fact) was the day we were joined with Sarah in China in 2001, the "gotcha" day as it's known in the adoption world. The next day, the 3rd, was the actual day of the legal adoption, when we went to the Civil Affairs Office in Changsha, Hunan, and signed the official forms. On the fourth of July 2001, we dressed Sarah in a red, white, and blue outfit her grandparents (Tam's folks) had given her once we knew we'd have her by the fourth. The whole adoption group had dinner across the street from the hotel in a great little neighborhood, mom-and-pop restaurant with tremendous Hunanese food. (Which one of us does not, today, like Hunan cooking? Yep, the Hunanese. Happy meals have their merits, but we hoped our Hunan "spice girl" would like her native cuisine. Maybe the DNA will kick in later.)

Our log, posted from China at the time, is still online. You're welcome to read it.

Sarah will always have a special link with the fourth, however she chooses to identify herself in life.

The Most Radical Document

I know of nothing in Marx, nothing in Lenin, nothing in Mao, that proposes such a radical, revolutionary concept as the following, and so I post it for the 4th: One of the signers, John Adams, was Sarah's second cousin six times removed, but all of us have some part of this idea:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Monday, July 2, 2007

Folklife Festival

We got to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on Saturday. This year's subjects are Virginia, Northern Ireland, and the Mekong River. Sarah liked some of the Asian music and dancing, which she identified with China; but we spent quite a bit of time in the Natural History Museum (known as the "Dinosaur Fossil Museum" to Sarah, though this time she took an interest in seeing the Hope Diamond), riding the merry-go-round on the Mall, and listening to Sarah tell us she hated the Folklife Festival except for the Asian stuff.

Sunday we got haircuts. For those who haven't got a seven year old, or haven't had one around recently, that may seem like a slim accomplishment. In fact, it's something of a triumph.