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, September 28, 2007

Comments, RSS Feeds

It's possible that nobody's reading this blog, though some of my relatives have told me they have checked it out. One aspect of blogging that some of you may not be familiar with is the ability to comment on a posting, to tell me how brilliant I am or (hypothetically of course) to disagree with me. Until now I've had "moderated" comments, which means I have to look at it before it appears online. Not a single comment yet. So I'm dropping the moderated part. If some spam computer gets this address it may fill the comments with spam, and I'll have to rethink whether to moderate or not. But for now, all you need to do is click on "comments" at the bottom of the posting, write what you want, and it will appear. It's one way to turn this into a conversation.

Some of you may be familiar with RSS feeds, which lets you tell a program (your browser may have the capability, Google offers it, etc.) to post headlines of new postings on your favorite blogs. Thus you can learn if I've posted anything new without actually going to the blog (new postings on your favorite blogs can all appear on one page if you like), and get a teaser headline at least. Yea, even this humble blog can do an RSS feed: just go down to the bottom of the page where it says "Subscribe to Posts (Atom)" [which is not, I'll admit, intuitively clear in its purpose] and click on it. You'll need to have some kind of RSS reader but I think most browsers can do it now (I know Firefox can) as well as various things free from Google and Yahoo.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Fine Young Lady

I want to praise my daughter. I complain about her enough, whenever she's bad, or won't listen, or runs wild. So when she does something great I want to praise her.

One of my oldest friends, Chris Eccel, whom I've known since 1977 in Cairo, is passing through town. He's just back from Damascus, is retiring from the Foreign Service, and after heading home to Wyoming and Utah he's moving to Hawaii. Along with another old Cairo hand, Mike Albin, long the Library of Congress' man for the Middle East book-buying trade, we met at a Vietnamese restaurant (Minh's: my first time, highly recommended) in Arlington. We couldn't get a baby-sitter so Sarah came along.

She behaved perfectly. Read her books, ate her dinner (brought from home, except she ordered dessert there), didn't interrupt but talked to the grownups when they talked to her.

Not only did Chris and Mike compliment her, but a stranger from the next table came over to remark on how well-behaved she was.

Daddy's real proud of his big girl tonight.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Israeli raid

This blog is for family, not for our business stuff. But some folks might find my comments on the recent Israeli raid in Syria of interest. It also gives you the link to my Estimate blog.

Once again, a busy week

As is often the case I just can't blog during the week. This was the next to last week before the Autumn issue of The Middle East Journal goes to press, and by the time I get home I'm tired and ready to read, rather than write. Now that it's Friday there's a window of opportunity. Hopefully the weekend will generate something worth writing about. Stay tuned.

Besides, what do you expect from a geezer past 60?

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Big Six O: Let's Drop Churchill's Name

Okay, I'm 60 today. Tonight's going to be a quiet one at home; it's a school night. We went out for a nice Thai meal last night.

My thought for the day: Winston Churchill turned 60 in 1934. He was a has-been, a political outcast. So 60's hardly the end. Not that I expect to be called upon to save civilization, exactly. But there's still a lot to be done.

On the other hand, besides that saving Western Civilization thing, Churchill was a great writer and speaker and able to consume incredible quantities of brandy while smoking cigars constantly and, predictably, it killed him by the time he was in his mid-90s. You sort of have to admire that. Not emulate it: most of us wouldn't last so long.

It is said that when Roosevelt and Churchill were preparing to meet Ibn Saud on the Suez Canal in Egypt, Ibn Saud sent word that his religion forbade there to be any smoking or drinking in his presence, and Churchill allegedly replied along the lines that his religion required him to drink brandy and smoke cigars throughout the day and at every meal. For all my own personal respect for Muslim mores when in a Muslim environment, I really like that story nonetheless.

Churchill was, of course, politically incorrect in many ways (Gandhi was "a half-naked fakir" and "I did not become His Majesty's Chief Minister to preside over the dissolution of the British Empire") but when it came to the back-to-the-wall moment, he had what was needed. And then, after he'd saved Britain and the war was won, he was repudiated at the polls, and democrat that he was ("the worst form of government except for all the others"), he went home. Not that he then happily supported Attlee ("a modest man with much to be modest about") or anything.

Anyone who cut their history-of-World War II-teeth on Churchill's memoirs, by the way, needs to read David Reynolds' In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War, possibly the best book I've ever seen about how a major work of (history? memoir? self-creation?) was written. The Amazon link is for the hardover but the paper is apparently due out in November. A good read, and an illuminating one.

Churchill never wrote history quite like anybody else did. It was either memoir (even his multi-volume The World Crisis about World War I was a memoir encased in a narrative of the rest of the war) or a personal story (his Marlborough was, like his biography of his father, about an ancestor and hardly objective. It's still the best book on the subject. Even the juvenile stuff is well written. (I first read The River War, about the Sudan campaign and Omdurman, in high school, but even then was impressed with the prose.) And of course, he deliberately did not call The Second World War "A History of the Second World War" because it was his own view, the second world war as seen by Winnie. (And, by the way, he made "The Second World War" canonical even though we Yanks may still say "World War II"more often.) UPDATE: Someone might object, I suppose, that his History of the English-Speaking Peoples is not a personal history. But if you'll note that Australians, Canadians, and (especially) Indians and Nigerians and other darker English-speaking peoples don't get much space, I think it is pretty clear that in Winston's view, the whole history of the English-speaking peoples was aimed at producing Great Britain and the United States, and perhaps someday culminating in a British Prime Minister with an American mother ... (This last comment was added Sept. 28.)

Okay, enough. Churchill was a 19th century man in so many ways, particularly in his imperial views and his comfortable use of "the English race" and even (what...?) "the American race"; his History of the English Speaking Peoples slights India, the most populous English-speaking nation then and now. But I'm still glad we (all of us English speaking peoples, and the rest as well) had him when we needed him.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Reflections on Turning 60. SIXTY?

Monday I turn 60. How did that happen? Isn't 60 supposed to be old? Oh, sure, I don't feel 20 anymore. (Thank God.) But sixty? Bear in mind my mother died at 56, my father at 65, so the genes aren't all that reassuring, though except for fairly typical stuff for an overweight guy (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, both controlled by medication), I don't have any major health challenges.

Oh, I know, calendars are artificial. In the Muslim calendar (354-day years) I'd be nearly 62. The Chinese consider you one on the day you're born, I'm told. The Babylonians counted by twelves. And the Biblical threescore years and ten was a long time ago in a pre-medical society. Other rationalizations are welcome in the comments section. And while my parents didn't live to ripe old ages, some of their siblings/cousins etc. did, so there may be some good recessive genes in there somewhere.

I am, however, turning 60 on a Monday. That is never a good omen. It's a Monday.

I'm posting the first version of this Friday night, but intend to add to it over the weekend. So watch this space.

Sunday, September 16. It's been two days so perhaps I should have made this a separate post. But it's on the same subject. Sixty years old is one of those landmarks that is, as I noted earlier, mostly numerical. I married at 46, became a father at 53, so everything has been a little behind schedule for me. My cousin Linda, only about three weeks older than I, is a grandmother several times over, with a grandson older than my daughter. Further complicating the family tree is the fact that Linda's mother, Dorothy Hendricks, was a daughter of the eldest of 12 kids in a big Irish family and my mother was the youngest. Dorothy's older sister, Mildred, was born before my Mom, yet my Mom was her aunt,because of the 25 years between her father and my Mom in the same group of siblings. [And in the first version I posted I got this backwards myself. It confuses everybody.] Dorothy was six years younger than my Mom (who was her aunt), but only that, and their kids were born almost at the same time in 1947. We aren't the only weird genealogy tree of course, but it's hard to explain sometimes. Sarah's cousin Daniel, who's a few months older than she, and his sisters, who are younger, is actually (doing this in my head, anyway) Sarah's second cousin, twice removed.

Back to me, the newly created geezer. As I noted, my parents died close to this age. But I also listen to my doctors, and even (sometimes) take their advice. On both sides of my family the men who died young generally died of heart attacks, and heart disease is more treatable than ever in this country. Still, I have the problems: high cholesterol and high blood pressure, though I'm treated for both.

Sixty as a Landmark. I suppose 60 is also one of those "benchmark" moments in your life, though I'm not sure that most of the benchmarks have been that great for me. I turned 18 literally two or three days before leaving for college in September 1965, and one of the key things I had to do (emphasis on the "had") was register for the draft. My draft card stayed with me (you weren't allowed to leave home without it basically) till the draft ended, but even then I think we had to keep them for years until, finally, it was discarded, unwept, unhonored, and unsung. (But also, please note, unburnt.) If you have no idea what I'm talking about, say a brief prayer of thanks and move on.

I have no memory of my 20th birthday in 1967; at that age (especially then, when you couldn't vote till 21), the 21st was more important. The memories are vague but I think I had the 21st birthday at home before returning to school, but am uncertain.

I turned 25 in Cairo. I think I went out to a good restaurant with flatmates and other friends, but the memories are vague.

I also turned 30 overseas, this time in London, en route to Cairo. I think I celebrated alone in some good restaurant (I was staying in a friend's flat off Kensington High Street, but the friend was in Scotland or Spain or some other place) and possibly one or more pubs. Probably one or more pubs. Almost certainly one or more pubs. Which may be why the memories are vague.

I would have turned 35 in 1982 and have no idea what I did. I'd have been in Washington, but can't place it in context right now, though it was half my threescore years and ten. I turned 40 in 1987, and went out with a large group of friends to a local Greek place.. That I do remember.

Tam and I tried to remember my turning 50; we'd have been married and it would have been 1997, but like much of our memory as you get closer to what we might call the Parenthood Horizon, the memories start to fade. (Possibly we took a trip somewhere.) 55 is totally unmemorable because Sarah was two and a half and all consciousness was dissolved into parenthood.

I'm sure these won't be my last reflections on turning 60. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Where I've Been (Partly)

If anybody's reading this (still not clear to me), one reason I've been so quiet is I've been working on getting my newsletter, The Estimate, back up in a new electronic form after a months-long hiatus. I've got a now-active blog going on, and am trying to get a mailing ready. More when I can come up for air.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Still Here

It's been nearly a week. Sorry. More soon.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Labor Day Weekend

Saturday of Labor Day weekend was spent with very old friends visiting town. More soon.

I keep slipping and referring to this as Memorial Day. I think this is mainly because it doesn't seem possible that the summer is gone already. What happened? Wasn't it just April?