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.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Fashion Tips

More coming soon, but meanwhile I need to record for posterity a conversation when I picked up Sarah from school tonight. I was wearing a new pair of shoes I bought last weekend.

Sarah: Are those your new shoes?

Me: Yes, they are.

Sarah: Awesome. Really cool. But Dad, can I tell you something?

Me: Sure.

Sarah: Can I give you a fashion tip?

Me: Okay.

Sarah: They really don't go with that shirt.

Me: Well, maybe not. But I was just trying to come and get you from school.

Sarah: I can give you some fashion tips later on.

Me: It may already be too late for me.

Sarah really does have a sense of fashion and style that is pretty alien to both Tam and myself. She has a sense of color and arrangement and what goes with what that seems to be innate. I don't record this conversation to make fun of her at all: I'm sure the shoes didn't go with the shirt. (I'm not sure I've ever thought of whether my shoes went with my shirt, to tell you the truth. I don't always stop to think whether the shoes even go with the socks.) I never own more than about four pairs of shoes at a time anyway. Dress, loafers, sneakers, maybe one other comfortable pair. Who needs more? I'm not Imelda Marcos. (Of course, nobody remembers Imelda now anyway, so I'm probably showing my age again.)

But at seven, Sarah really has a sense of style. I'll be 60 in 17 days. I'm still waiting for mine to develop.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Still Alive...

It's the old story: you come back from vacation and find tons of stuff waiting for you. In my capacity as Editor of The Middle East Journal, I found that in seven days, eight manuscripts had been submitted. Each author expects an expedited assessment through peer review of his/her manuscript. Also in the first two days there were two general meetings of department heads, a problem with my car (replaced battery, hopefully solved it), and of course the first day of second grade. I hope to post more shortly. There's still much to say about the vacation, not to mention some family history stuff. But right now I'm still playing catchup.

Monday, August 27, 2007

First Day of Second Grade

I'll catch up on my blogging soon. Meanwhile I just wanted to note for the record the first day of second grade. It was nowhere near as momentous as the first day of first grade. I managed to get four photos which are up at Flickr, but several times when I asked Sarah "Do you want me to take a picture" she just said "no". We also were asked to drop them outside, not accompany them inside as last year, and even before we got to the door of the school Sarah announced she was going on in and headed off away from us, the big second grader totally in control. She's an old hand at this now. No big deal, so don't make a big deal of it.

China doesn't seem that long ago to me...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back Home

Vacation's over. We came back yesterday (Saturday) since Sarah starts second grade tomorrow. It was good to get away, good to have a week with family, but between the pinkeye (Tam and I both may have relapses) and the cold or allergies or whatever I had affecting my nasal passages and causing me to cough (which worsens my hernia), it wasn't as relaxing as it might have been. The heat on Friday also got the better of us, and plans to do a kids' museum in Porsmouth, VA before leaving Saturday got canceled when Tam got pinkeye again, since we didn't want to infect other kids on the eve of school starting. Sarah extracted a promise that we'll do something special to make it up to her. We ended up seeing a movie to keep cool in the afternoon, hardly the ideal thing to do when on vacation. ("Mr. Bean's Holiday," the only thing G-rated at the theater near our hotel, which was, well, not quite as bad as I expected. I've never been a great Rowan Atkinson fan.)

I'll have more on Jamestown at some point.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Jamestown Again

Dig at Jamestown Fort, originally uploaded by michaelcollinsdunn.

Earlier this summer on a trip to Richmond we stopped on the way back to see Jamestown Settlement, the State of Virginia-run reconstruction of Jamestown, an Indian village, and the three ships that came over. We didn't have time on that trip to stop at the original site, now called Historic Jamestowne, run by the National Park Service and the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. Both sites had had remakes for the 400th anniversary this year (the Queen's visit and all that), a huge new museum at Jamestown Settlement and a new visitor center at Historic Jamestowne, along with the new archaeology museum (the "Archaearium") which had opened just before we were down here last summer.

As I explained elsewhere, I'm a bit of a Jamestown buff, and blogged earlier about the 400th and some personal connections. I wanted to see the new visitor's center but also catch up on the dig itself, where they're excavating the original 1607 fort, originally thought lost under the James.

We got to see the new stuff, but the heat was considerable and the Jamestown settlement was, of course, founded in a swamp. Sarah melted down quickly and I wasn't far behind. I do recommend both the new Visitor's Center and the Archaearium, and as always, I recommend that anyone visiting Jamestown do both the federal and state sites: one is for the archaeology and original site, the other a superb reconstruction and interpretaiton. You should see both.

Tam and I both prefer both Jamestown sites to Williamsburg, and they cost less, too.

I'll blog more on the day later. It was too hot to do too much outside, so we ate lunch (there is a Williamsburg MacDonalds), and retreated to a movie.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Day at the Beach

Virginia Beach, originally uploaded by michaelcollinsdunn.

I'll post more at some point. Today we simply let Sarah have her day at Virginia Beach. Mostly running into the surf and laughing hysterically, plus building a sand castle.Took a while to get all the sand off. More at another time.

Day to Regroup

The vacation, as previous posts may have indicated, has not been completely smooth. Yesterday was the first really by-the-book, as-planned day. Today (Wednesday, August 22, though this post will go up after midnight), at midweek, we took a down day, to get our act together, rest and recover. Tam and Sarah got haircuts, I did a laundry, Tam and Sarah spent quite a bit of time in the hotel pool, and Tam and I crashed for maybe a two hour nap in the afternoon while Sarah watched cartoons on TV. We ate at an old-fashioned hot dog joint in Newport News for lunch (Gus's Hot Dog King) and at a great, small, mom-and-pop Italian restaurant tucked into a shopping mall (Mamma Lina's) for dinner. [UPDATE: We went back for pizza our last night in Newport News.] Sarah liked it so much she asked if we could make them honorary members of our family. I'll blog about them instead. A guy dressed as a chef came out and asked if everything was okay in a sort of New York/Italian accent; Sarah asked if he was the chef and he said, "I'm the chef, the pizza guy, the manager and the owner." I guess that means he's also Mamma Lina, but we didn't ask. [UPDATE: Later I saw a review saying Mamma Lina's son runs the place now so I guess that's him.] Very good Italian food for a shopping mall. We may go back before we leave. Sarah still wants them to be honorary family members.

I know I've blogged more on weekend trips to Baltimore than I have on this week-long vacation. Mostly it's because we've been feeling poorly. We all started with pinkeye; Tam and I have some kind of coughing/nose running/eye itching thing that could be allergies, a summer cold, or a low-grade bug of some sort. I've also got diarrhea. I have an untreated hernia (I won't burden you with the details right now, but it'll be fixed soon I hope), and everytime I cough I pull bits and pieces of my abdomen apart, and it hurts.

Okay, enough about my intestines and such. We're doing okay, though the first couple of days were a washout and there've been a couple of bad thunderstorms while we've been here. The hotel pool at least, is indoors; pics of Sarah's increasing prowess at swimming are on the YouTube site. We haven't actually been at a beach yet though we did see the ocean yesterday. Tam and I like the open, bare beach at Cape Henry in Fort Story at the First Landing Site, where the Jamestown colonists erected their first cross and where one of the country's oldest lighthouses still stands, but Sarah says she wants an urban beach, so we'll go to Virginia Beach tomorrow and re-visit the Virginia Aquarium so she can pet the stingrays some more. It amazes me that she loves it so much; when younger at most touch tanks/petting zoos etc., she insisted Tam or I do the actual touching while she watched. And the stingrays are amazingly friendly for creatures not as far evolved as sharks: they seem to like being touched, stick their noses (if that's the right term) out of the water and flap their wings against the side of the tank.

Sarah wants one as a pet, but for that, I think, we can cite the laws to say we can't do it.

More tomorrow.

UPDATE: Belatedly it occurs to me I should record for the record where we're staying: it's here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Much Better Day

Above, a carrier -- not sure which one -- at Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest navy base. I think it's standing out to sea, as earlier in the day it seemed to be docked. Your naval intelligence report of the day. We were stuck in traffic at the Hampton Roads tunnel approaches. If you don't know this area, it's very military intensive (if you're a hostile, you might say target rich): besides the world's biggest naval base, there's the Newport News Shipbuilding, which actually builds the carriers and other major combatants; Oceana Naval Air Station, which hosts the air groups from the carriers among other things; Langley Air Force Base, which hosts F-22s and once trained the Mercury astronauts; a Marine base at Little Creek; the Army's Fort Eustis and the soon to be decomissioned Fort Monroe (where you can still see Jeff Davis' prison cell); Fort Story; probably some others I'm not thinking of. And the CIA's famous if not acknowledged training camp known as "the Farm" is somewhere between Yorktown and Williamsburg, I think. Today we saw a lot of Navy F/A-18s flying out of Oceana.

This is technically day four of our vacation, though I've called yesterday "Day 2" on our Flickr/YouTube files because Saturday, our first day, wasn't vacation at all, but a hellish day on the road, eight hours to go a three hour distance. So I'm calling it day three. Call it denial.

In some ways it was day one. It's the first day things went pretty smoothly, without either outright battles with Sarah, trouble with the hotel, or traffic problems. It actually worked well. It may be tomorrow before I can log more of what's been going on, but today went well. Pics are already at Flickr and YouTube, but of those we've invited not many have joined.

Meanwhile, till I have time (hopefully tomorrow) to blog more, here's what we've done so far:

Sunday, August 19: Virginia Living Museum, in Newport News, followed by the Virginia Air and Space Museum, in Hampton.

Monday, August 20: Nauticus in Norfolk.

Tuesday: August 21: The new Monitor Center at the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, followed by the Virignia Aquarium in Virginia Beach. Details soon. Pics already up.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Coming Up for Air

Okay, last Friday I said we'd be blogging regularly from the road. That was 72 hours ago. It's been a somewhat rough beginning, and I don't think I can give the full blow-by-blow. As I noted, we all had pinkeye to one degree or another when we started. Tam and I were suffereing from what we thought were bad allergies but which I now think is/are either summer colds or sinus infections. We've been feellng lousy most of the trip. In addition, an untreated hernia I've been putting off the surgery for has been giving me trouble, especially since I tried to push something for Sarah at a museum yesterday. So nobody's been feeling good, me least of all.

And that, oddly enough, is the good news. The trip down on Saturday was horrendous. We left fairly early (about 10:30, which with a seven year old is up with the chickens when you have to make sure you have everything you need). It shouldn't take more than three to, at the most, four hours to get here from home. After three hours we weren't even at Fredericksburg, 50 miles south of home. We were starting to feel like the Union Army of the Potomac, which took four years to make it the 110 miles to Richmond. I-95 was moving at a snail's pace. The radio kept saying there were no obstacles, though we later heard there'd been a bad truck accident somewhere. We bailed to US 1, the old road, but so had everyone else. Finally I decided to strike out for the territories, driving on back roads clear over to the Bristow/Nokesville area, then south, then across on Route 17. We'd hoped to get down here in time to do at least one sight before checking in. We hit the motel at 6 pm, nearly 8 hours after leaving.

Okay. Sarah loves the indoor pool at this hotel, and had a great time there. Then I fired up the laptop and checked my bank account. Instead of deducting a week's stay on my debit card (I was trying not to dip into credit but to use money set aside for the trip) I found the hotel had posted the charge twice. Long story short, I got several different explanations but not until this morning (Monday: we checked in Saturday) did I get this rectified.

So we've had money and traffic hassles, aren't feeling well, and Sarah has been pretty obstreperous for much of the trip, sassing back more than usual and arguing with everything we say. So I haven't felt much like blogging up to now. We've seen some things and had some fun, and I will post details soon.

But so far, not the relaxing escape I needed.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Family that Has Pinkeye Together...

Friday evening. Tomorrow morning, we leave on vacation. This morning, I woke up with an inflamed left eye. Two days ago, Tam did the same. As I mentioned a few posts ago, Sarah had pinkeye (conjunctivitis) last week. Guess who's got it this week? Right both times. One thing about being a parent of a grade-schooler as you approach 60 is the opportunity to get any childhood diseases you may have missed the first time around. (Actually I probably didn't miss it; I know I had to take eyedrops from time to time for something; I'm just not remembering pinkeye specifically. [How clearly do you remember the late Truman and early Eisenhower Administrations, you young whippernappers?!] And I had mumps and measles and chickenpox and stuff that Sarah is thankfully vaccinated against. But anyway, here I am on the eve of my vacation with a childhood disease. And Tam too. Sarah, of course, is fully recovered.)

Sarah's pediatrician told her not to go into a pool when she had it, since that is a prime place to spread it. The doctor Tam saw told her not to go in the water for two days. My doctor said, oh no, the pool's fine, the chlorine will kill the bacteria instantly. Ah, the certainties of 21st century medicine.

Our major concern is not having it go back to Sarah, so we're telling her not to touch our faces, and we're washing our hands a lot. So's she.

We'll be blogging our vacation unless the laptop gives out (it's six years old, bought before we went to China), and we'll also be putting stuff on Flickr and YouTube as we can.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Vacation's coming and we're swamped. As usual, to take a week off you have to work twice as hard the week before. Standby for vacation blogging, and don't expect much before that.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

County Fair!

The Fair, originally uploaded by michaelcollinsdunn.

Tam and I, being Midwesterners, have always wanted to make sure that Sarah, despite her urban East Coast upbringing, understands the rest of America as well. So we try to take in such things as county fairs, complete with blue-ribbon pigs and prize pies. Today we went to the Prince William County (VA) Fair, just south of Manassas, VA. It's one of the better ones in the area that still has an agricultural side to it. Pic of the Midway above. If you have access to our Flickr and YouTube family accounts you'll be able to see more pics of Sarah enjoying it.

Some observations: A county fair that is ride-intensive can be pretty expensive. Now that Sarah's over 6 and I'm not yet 60 (only about a one-year window) everybody has to pay $7 a head to get in. Only $21. But tickets are $1 each and most rides require three or four tickets, whereas for $20 you can get a ride-all-day wristband. I bought wristbands for both Sarah and Tam since often Sarah wants one of us with her on the ride. So before we'd done anything we'd managed to spend $61. Then, of course, there are the games: the sort of thing where for anywhere from $2 to $5 you can win your kid a poorly made stuffed animal worth maybe $1 max. And of course, the food. One of the stands was actually called "Fry City": I guess they're not even trying to pretend to be healthy. Actually Tam and I ate at a stand from one of the better barbecue joints, Dixie Bones of Woodbridge, VA. (As those who've been following us online for awhile will recall, we take barbecue seriously. See our The Search for Barbecue pages for more on this.) Anyway, by the time you've bought this stuff plus ice cream and popcorn etc., a mere county fair makes you wonder why we cringe at the idea of King's Dominion or Hersheypark, which tend to charge $80 to $90 to get in. but may be higher class on the rides, most of which are included.

Anyway we visited the animals, both the petting zoo (Tam and I are both having bad allergies tonight, Tam especially, perhaps because of the petting zoo), and the competition animals, and Sarah enjoyed looking at all the crafts, cakes, knitting, embroidery, and other competitions. She is shown in some of the pics and video doing this.

I think we all had a very good day. We did some Wal-Mart shopping after, so it was also an expensive day, but got us out of the city.

More later, perhaps.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Learning Curve

At times I wonder why I never hear from anyone in response to this blog: I've told a few dozen relatives, at least, about it by now. Perhaps some of you are "lurking" -- reading it but offering no comments either in the commment boxes or through E-mail -- or maybe you're new at reading blogs and don't want to show yourself. Fine. But several years ago when my cousin Steve Jones set up a genealogy newsgroup, we got several avid posters, a few occasional ones, and several who said they would join and never did. There is, I suspect, a lot more computer-reticence out there than we like to imagine in the age of the ipod and the iphone. I'm nearly 60, so I'm not exactly born to do this stuff, but then I work in publishing, where computers have been a key part of our existence for 30 years or so.

I urge those of you who aren't used to commenting on blogs or joining in newsgroups to take a chance. It can be a lot of fun. If you don't like it, just don't do it. A few days ago a distant cousin, now 88 with a husband of 91 -- descended from my grandfather's brother so a third cousin or something I think without calculating -- checked in after I located one of her relatives. (She's on my Jones side, my mother's side.) I invited her to join a genealogy newsgroup. Here is her candid answer (I won't identify her, but I've kept her emphasis and orthography):

I was so pleased to hear from you today. First I want to tell you I am computer illiterate. My son convinced me two years ago to learn email but so far I am too cowardly to learn all these things you are talking about. He tries and tells me they are easy and fun and my answer is no they are not!
At the time I was learning I was 86 years old and I told him I was too old to learn but he kept patting me on the back and saying "just calm down Mom. It is easy and it is fun" Well you already know what I said. I had never even typed in my life. I have to admit that most of the time it is. I hear from grand children and nieces and nephews that I ever did before. And now I hear from you.

I think that means she's glad to hear from me, but isn't going to join the newsgroup, comment on the blog, or anything of that ilk

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Still Here, Sort of

We're back in our weekday pattern of not being able to blog. Sarah's pinkeye has persisted and spread to the other eye, so the doctor wants her home from summer camp through, at least, Thursday. That means Tam and I have been alternating taking days off work. When we're home, Sarah -- who despite being contagious and unable to go to school, has all the energy of a healthy seven year old and doesn't feel sick-- is a very demanding patient. Combine this with 100 degree tempeeratures outside (at midnight it's locally 87 with a heat index of 92, at midnight, so you can picture what the day was like) and we're trying to keep her inside and calm enough while medicating her. I've managed to do some work (this was my day home with her) but not much. Blogging is on hold till I have a few minutes. Stand by.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Tommy Makem (1932-2007), RIP

Tommy Makem died the other day at age 74. Here's the New York Times obituary (and here's his Wikipedia bio, since I don't know how long the NYT stays online). I'm not sure how many people have heard of him these days, but in the 60s and 70s he and the Clancy Brothers were the best known Irish folk music group in America. They were pioneers arriving at the time of the folk revival generally. I started listening to their albums in college, and whenever you go to an Irish pub these days you'll hear the singers trying to copy the Clancys' and Makem's arrangements. Later the more traditional Irish groups came along with their songs in Irish and their traditional instruments, but to a certain generation of Irish-Americans the "right" way to sing certain songs, especially some of the drinking songs and rebel songs, was the Clancy way. (Makem also wrote a number of ballads and love songs.) Others may see it today as too slick, too packaged, too "Americanized," but that's how we learned it, dammit. Tam loves Irish music but doesn't much like my Tommy Makem's "best of" album, the name of which slips my mind. That's okay, too. Pioneers often lay the ground for better, more traditional folk singers; the Kingston Trio come to mind. (For those of you under 50, look 'em up on Wikipedia.)

I see in the NYT obit that despite Makem's skill at drinking songs and running a pub in New York, he didn't drink alcohol. That may have been true with Makem (he was the Ulsterman in the mix, from Armagh while the others were from Tipperary), but I have a couple of personal memories that suggest it wasn't true of the Clancys. They used to play Washington regularly, usually at one of the universities, and I went to see them in concert a couple of times, I think at Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University. But their fans also learned that after the concert they would generally go to Matt Kane's pub for a few rounds, and once they were suffiicently lubricated would often sing for the house. Now Matt Kane's has been gone for decades, and none of the current generation of pubs comes close: it was upstairs in a walkup on 13th street, much less attractive a part of town then than now. It was for the hard-core Irish pub types. And Marines from Quantico. And at least once that I remember, the Clancys did show up after a concert, and did lead the singing. This might have happened more than once but with the Guinness at the time and the many years since, I'm only certain of being there once when they showed up. That would have been in the late 60s or early 70s at the latest. And Makem might have already left the group by then (the obit says he left in 1969, and I think they may have had somebody else -- Finbar Furey maybe? -- with them at Matt Kane's), but it's the best Clancy story I've got even if Tommy Makem wasn't there, and it's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Several of the Clancys have already passed on, I understand (Makem got back together with Liam Clancy for some duet albums in the 70s and maybe even the 80s), and I just happened to see Makem's obit, but I'll lift a glass to him anyway for the pleasure he gave. I like the final quote in the NYT obit:

When Mr. Makem arrived at Logan International Airport in Boston in 1955, he carried a makeshift suitcase, a pair of bagpipes and an X-ray of his lungs to prove he did not have tuberculosis, he said in an interview with The Associated Press last year. The customs agent told him, “Have a great life.”

More than a half-century later, Mr. Makem declared, “I took him at his word.”

And with that, the only other thing I can think to say is to quote from one of the songs the Clancys and Makem made famous, "The Parting Glass":

Of all the comrades e'er I had, they're sorry for my going away,
And all the sweethearts e'er I had , they wish me one more day to stay,
But since it falls unto my lot that I should go and you should not,
I'll gently rise and softly call, goodnight and joy be with you all.
RIP, Tommy Makem. May you have been an hour in heaven before the devil knew you were gone, as my great grandmother from Athlone used to say. Slan.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Quiet as Predicted

As I expected, a slow weekend. We didn't do much. Too hot, Sarah recovering from pinkeye. The movie we ended up seeing was Underdog. Sarah enjoyed it, I think. It was not, in my opinion, all that great. Not having seen the original cartoon series on which the live-action version is based, I was at a disadvantage. But also this isn't one of those films that has enough humor aimed over the kids' heads to keep the parents happy (as many do these days), but it got us in a cool theater for a hot afternoon.

We're trying to get a lot caught up before vacation. Taxes that we filed an extension on, but need the refund for, letting The Estimate readers know that I'm still alive, and so on. Vacation always seems to mean you have to do twice as much work the weeks before it. And of course we're trying to do some planning as well, and Sarah's demanding of our time (especially Tam's).

So I don't know how much I'll be checking in here for the next week or so. Stand by.

So far only one cousin has told me they've looked at this blog. I plan to broadcast its existence a bit wider in the next few days. Meanwhile if you're checking us out, click on "comment" below and let me know you're out there. I have to approve comments at this point (to keep spammers out mainly) but would like to know if anyone's reading this.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A Slower Weekend

The past two weekends were fairly heavy blogging ones: I suspect this weekend won't be. Sarah woke up Friday with a case of pinkeye; we got her to the doctor and are treating it, and hope she'll be able to attend summer camp Monday. But whereas two weekends ago (the Great Falls and Baltimore trips blogged about previously) was dry and in the 80s, and last weekend, though hot, was tolerable at St. Mary's City and Solomons, this weekend is going to be around 95 and humid. A movie may be in order. (Mom and Dad want to see "Ratatouille," which the critics liked. Sarah is leaning towards "Underdog," which the Washington Post didn't even bother to review, or "Bratz." Like most parents we aren't terribly fond of the Bratz dolls etc., though the reviews suggest the movie isn't really all that bad, just dumb. We'll see. No grownup movies of course.) Between the illness and the heat and humidity, I don't think there'll be so much adventuring this weekend. And we've got a lot of household stuff to do with vacation approaching fast.

I've set the Blogger site to show 60 days worth of postings. We started in June so we'll be moving beyond that pretty soon, and for earlier posts you'll have to either click on an "Earlier Posts" or "Previous Posts" or whatever at the bottom or on the archives links on the right side. Since in just two weeks we're off on vacation at Hampton Roads, basing out of Newport News to do the whole Williamsburg/Jamestown/Norfolk/Virginia Beach area, we're going to try to get more of our family reading this blog and linking to our Flickr and YouTube sites to document the trip. Expect regular postings. As we learned on our China trip to get Sarah, there's no better way to record your thoughts on a trip than by keeping a log/blog. The Hampton Roads area is an area we like: a mix of beaches, great museums, history (Jamestown, Yorktown, Williamsburg), and something for everyone. And close enough to get to easily. Maybe three hours from home. Near to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, too. And, of course, the Great Dismal Swamp, a feature clearly not named by a modern developer. You'll be hearing more from us.