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.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Philadelphia Story: Some More Details

Okay, it's already Wednesday. This is typical of the front-loaded work week. We got back, exhausted, Sunday night, as noted. Saturday had already had only a short posting. Monday and Tuesday, catch-up. First time to recap some of the Philadelphia trip, that would be now.

We hadn't had a serious trip out of town, I don't think, since our vacation in August. We, as a family, don't handle that well. We need to get away. And if we do the same old places -- Shenandoah Valley, Solomon's Island, etc. -- at least Mom and I get less and less return. We like to show Sarah new places, new things. As I've noted earlier, she herself chose a city over country for the Thanksgiving trip; New York being beyond our reach in three days, we chose Philly. So far as I can tell, it was a great success, though being seven, she is still unwilling to say so in so many words.

I already blogged day one pretty well. And the pictures on our private sites ought to tell a lot more of the story. The huge hits of day one were the Italian food at the Reading Terminal Market, and the (rather cold) horse-and-buggy ride. We got the Liberty Bell in too, but she claimed it didn't look like it did in National Treasure, which as I've noted was our main way of persuading her to go to Philadelphia in the first place.

Day two we started at Independence Hall. (You have to get timed tickets and we were too late the day before.) I think she was impressed, though she often doesn't admit to it. The guide was a good one, and when he asked who came from outside the United States we urged Sarah to tell him she came from China but was now from Virginia. She did.

The whole afternoon was spent at the Franklin Institute, the great science museum in Philly. Tam had wanted a better lunch but we ended up in the museum cafeteria. But Sarah really got into the museum. Videos on our site.

One interesting discovery we made lately: because we are members of the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, we can get in, free of charge, at a consortium of science museums all over the country. So far we've gotten in free at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, I think the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, and now the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. A great deal. Join your local science museum. Even if we don't go back to Baltimore all year, we've saved enough in other cities to make it worth our annual membership.

By the time she'd exhausted much of the Franklin Institute it was time to head back to the hotel. We at at a nice Italian restaurant (Bertolini's, which also has restaurants in Las Vegas and Indianapolis [!?!] in King of Prussia Mall, a huge, up-market shopping center.)

The third day started at Valley Forge where, as I've noted before, my/Sarah's ancestor William Martin spent that rough winter in '77. Then we made our way home trying to avoid I-95, rather successfully. In fact we zigged and zagged over back roads and alternatives and probably added an hour to the trip (turns out I-95 wasn't all that backed up) but also giving us a sense of outsmarting the traffic.

More as time permits.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Philadelphia Story

The weekend was, I think, a great success. We're still tired, my feet hurt for no visible reason, and tonight is a crash night to try to finish a book report Sarah has due tomorrow, so the rundown on Philadelphia may have to wait. Or I'll do it later. Be patient, please.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Philadelphia Day 3: Valley Forge and Home

We're home, but we're pretty wasted. I'll post more later, but the pics and videos are up for those who can see them. By the time we got home we were really out of it. So suffice it to say the high point of today was Valley Forge, and the rest will follow later.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Philadelphia Trip, Day 2

Exhausted. This will be short with follow-up later. Started the day at Independence Hall, then to the Franklin Institute. Sarah very eager, very engaged, very tiring. My feet ached from early afternoon on. A good, full day, but one I'm too tired to blog much about, at least tonight. So here's a pic to hold you, and I'll update later. Pics and some video are in the usual places.

Oh yes, the budget is pretty much blown.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Philadelphia Trip, Day 1

Okay, we made it. We're here. For background see the last few days' postings. We actually got a fairly early start: out of the driveway at 9:30. (I know, you hunters and other early risers will be derisive, but we've got a 7 year old.) Only one gas stop and one potty stop, so we rolled into Philadelphia before 1:00. Even before we left the Interstate Sarah was looking at the skyline (Washington doesn't allow tall buildings lest they conflict with the monuments), the rivers, the Navy Yard, New Jersey (I am not making this up) and announced she'd like to live here. "Do they have schools here?"

We spent the afternoon downtown. Ate lunch at the Reading Terminal Market, as planned, and Sarah had long announced her desire for Italian. She had a huge spaghetti with two big meatballs, Tam had lasagna and I had a sausage sandwich. You could feel the arteries clogging, but it was great food and cost no more than a regular lunch at a DC museum.

Then, because we went online too late to book ahead for Independence Hall, we went to see if any tickets were available for the next day. They said come back tomorrow morning. Since it was already 2:30 we decided to save the Franklin Institute for another day, and see some stuff around Independence Hall. Sarah begged to go on a horse-and-buggy ride, though it was bitter cold. She said she'd never ridden in a carriage. She's done so at least twice in Lexington, Virginia, and probably at least once somewhere else, but we yielded. When that was over the driver tried to take our picture and dropped our camera, knocking the batteries out and lenscap off, but leaving it apparently working, though the date reset backward by a month and I don't have the manual with me.

We then went and took some pictures of the Liberty Bell, and those with Sarah can be found on our usual sites. Mao is rolling over in his grave.

We then visited the site of Ben Franklin's home, took the subway back to the car, and headed for our hotel, out in the suburbs (in King of Prussia, near Valley Forge). We ate at a chain Lone Star Steak House (Sarah's choice) with Mom getting to choose tomorrow night. Photos and a video are up. Next report tomorrow night.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving 2007.

The Turkey, originally uploaded by michaelcollinsdunn.

Here's the Turkey. A very Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and relatives. We've recorded a message -- both video and audio -- which is on our private sites but is also being E-mailed to those whose current E-mails we have. The online version is higher quality than the E-mail version. A quiet, at-home Thanksgiving, but with us planning to show Sarah Philadelphia starting tomorrow. The rest from Tam:

Happy Thanksgiving from the cook! or cooks, more properly: Sarah helped by snapping the green beans, mixing, seasoning and tasting the stuffing, and stirring the mashed potatoes. Everything turned out well, although I'm really tired now! I hope we get a good night's sleep in store for Philly tomorrow. Maybe next year we will just order a meal to be picked up. It's a lot of work if you don't do it for more than a couple times a year.

Mike again: one update. If you're on our E-mail list you should have received a better link than the (really bad) E-mailed video. I posted it on an unlinked page of our website.

Tomorrow, we're off to Philadelphia. Conversation tonight with Sarah (a bedtime question of course, which all parents will recognize as an attempt not to go to sleep just yet if we can keep the conversation going):

Sarah: What will Philadelphia be like?

Me: Well, it's a big city, it...

Sarah: It has a lot of history?

Me: Yes, a lot of history, and it...

Sarah: And it's important because they made a movie there! [Again referring to National Treasure, noted previously as a favorite.]

Me: Well, yes, but a lot of that movie was here in Washington, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the FBI, the ...

Sarah: Don't forget New York!

Anyplace is more interesting than Washington. Must be. She lives here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Liberty, Independence, Cheesesteaks

We're going to Philadelphia. A Thanksgiving day at home, then on Friday we head to Philly. We'll stay there a couple of nights, coming back Sunday, though I know that's a terrible day to travel. Maybe we'll go back roads.

Sarah knows Virginia and Maryland well. She loves Baltimore, does well in Richmond and Norfolk, but her experience of cities north of the Mason-Dixon line is limited to smaller places like Gettysburg, Lancaster, and York. We asked if she'd like a small city/country trip or a big city and she promptly said big city. We said, great, let's go to Philadelphia and she said no, let's go to New York. I dearly hope to show her New York in the coming year, but it ain't possible on a Thanksgiving holiday when we're having Thanksgiving at home, unless you do something like my insane friend Marty Berglas and I did back in about 1970ish when my Dad was in Washington: we drove him to New York, showed him everything on a Sunday, but only got out of the car for lunch. It was a "that's the United Nations, that's the Empire State Building, we'll drive through Central Park.." sort of thing. Lunch was Katz's Deli on the Lower East Side. (If you've never been to New York, most people will recognize Katz's Deli from the "I'll have what she's having" scene in "When Harry Met Sally.") (If you have been to New York and don't know Katz's deli, I can't help you.) My Dad's entire experience of New York in his life was limited to one Sunday, and we drove back to DC that night. We were young and crazy. But my Dad at least saw the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and I guess (I think they were built by then) the World Trade Center Towers. I'm too old to do that stuff anymore, and Sarah deserves better. (So did my Dad, but neither he nor I had the money then.) But then, back to Philadelphia.

I noted in the previous post that Sarah likes the movie "National Treasure." It's hard to describe the film if you haven't seen it since it involves stealing the Declaration of Independence to find the lost treasure of the Knights Templars and stuff even less probable than that, if possible, but it's filmed in real historical sites including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, etc. So she's seen a lot of central Philly (including things like Reading Terminal Market, which ought to be good for lunch). (Other parts of the movie are set in DC and New York, and she's seen most of the DC sites and we're getting her ready for the Big Apple.) To me, Sarah is insisting she thinks Philadelphia will be boring, but Tam informed me that it was all she could talk about on the way to school this morning. (Tam drops her off; I pick her up.) And we're explaining good Italian food, good pizza, and soft pretzels and, of course, cheesesteaks. (I still think if John Kerry had not asked for Swiss Cheese instead of Cheese Whiz on his cheeseteak, he might be President today. It certainly doomed him in Philly.)

Anyway I will of course blog the trip, post photos and videos. We'll be staying in the suburbs at King of Prussia (great name for a town, I've always thought, especially in Philadelphia), near Valley Forge, another place I hope we can show Sarah. She had a great-great-great-great-great-grandfather -- William Martin of the Virginia Line -- who spent that winter of 1777 -- just 230 years ago this winter -- with the army there. It always moved me at Valley Forge even before I learned I had an ancestor there. I have his comments on it in his pension application and should dig those out. (They aren't a major contribution: something like "he well remembers the winter at Valley Forge and the hardships there" He was a Virginian who after the war moved first to Georgia and then to Tennessee, so I'd imagine he had more colorful things to say about the winter at Valley Forge, at least the temperature, in person.)

I think Sarah's eager, but doing the usual 7 year old feigning of boredom since it's Daddy's idea. We'll see.

We're also promoting the Franklin Institute and the Archaeology Museum at Penn, but if I can just get her to the Liberty Bell I'll be happy. But then, she's at an age to first resist, then love. The Marine Corps Museum she didn't want to visit, then didn't want to leave. Ditto with many other adventures. I'm sure Philadelphia will captivate her.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

More Travel Nostalgia

I've written about travel before the era of the Interstates and the cookie-cutter food and motel chains before, in dealing with the impact a 1958 trip throughout the West, when I was 10 and a half, had on me.

No need to repeat what I've said there. But even on a short excursion down to Quantico today we got into a discussion of places Sarah still needs to see. She hasn't seen New York. Or even Philadelphia. Of course, I didn't see these places till I was in college, but I grew up in the Midwest. Sarah had traveled farther at the age of 15 months than I ever did until I was a mature adult, but of course she didn't remember it. I well recall standing in the aisle with her as we approached the coast of California on the Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Los Angeles: I saw the coastline suddenly in view through the window and sat her in the seat and said, "Sarah, that's your new country, your first view of your new country." She pointed straight up at the reading light, which was on, and burbled. She didn't look out the window at all: the light was prettier than the California coast. Not long after that, she pulled my glasses out of my pocket and dropped them on the floor. This knocked a lens out, which eventually, I lost, and had to buy a new set of progressive lenses for about $600. So don't try to be overly romantic about showing a baby the California coast.

But it's different now. She may pretend boredom because it's someplace Dad and Mom want her to see, but often she becomes engaged once she gets there. She's a fan of the movie "National Treasure," a rather improbable story but one filmed in real historic sites, and it helped get her to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence, and will, I think, help when we get to Philadelphia and New York.

All of which reminds me that there was a time I hadn't been to any of those places. I didn't cross the Mississippi till sometime around (I think) 1961 when we took a trip to St. Louis and decided to go on to Springfield, Illinois. Out of that came a lifelong fascination with Lincoln, and at least indirectly my involvement in genealogy (I'll tell that story separately), but even so I never got east of Springfield, Illinois, until I went to college.

That sounds strange today, when everybody travels so much. I committed to four years of college in a city I'd never visited. I didn't do interviews at Georgetown, and didn't visit the campus. Similarly. when in 1972 I set out for Cairo for a year, in a country where the US had no diplomatic relations at the time, my only foreign travel had been to Montreal and a couple of other Canadian locales, and one Mexican border town. Okay, let's go live in the third world without a US Embassy.

Looking back, it seems strange, maybe even a little brave, though I survived and flourished, obviously. But it is also a reminder of how things change. Sarah's world is different. The Internet makes it so much easier to know the rest of the world, to talk to people there, to learn.

More on this anon. It's too late to keep going right now. But I want to talk more about travel in my youth and in Sarah's.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

They Grow Up So Fast

Just yesterday she was in diapers, and now she's handling automatic weapons...Not really, not quite anyway, so don't call child protective services just yet. (And for the usual privacy reasons I'm using a picture that doesn't give a good view of her face. Though this is the first time it's been obscured by an M-16.) Today, at the National Museum of the United States Marine Corps, opened last year at Quantico, I asked Sarah if she wanted me to try the laser simulator firing range, thinking she'd be amused at her Dad's inability to hit the broadside of a barn. She said no, but she'd like to try it. I asked the attendant what the lower age limit was, assuming that it would be older than seven, but heck, this is the Marines, no political correctness here, can't start 'em too young. So, with considerable help from the attendant (not in uniform but his demeanor, haircut and handling of the weapon make me think he's an off-duty Marine), Sarah set out to shoot. (And I lectured her about what to do if she ever sees a real weapon: call an adult, don't touch it, etc.) While it's not firing live rounds but is equipped with a laser, it seemed otherwise to be a full-sized M-16; she obviously couldn't shoulder it: as you can see she has the barrel resting on a brace, is actually holding one hand on the magazine, not on the barrel stock, and for whatever reason she's got her left hand on the trigger, though she writes and does other things right-handed. The attendant is steadying the shoulder stock and helping her aim. And, lacking a real round, the simulator lacked the kick of a real M-16 (though I've seen simulators that can reproduce that, too.)

Be afraid...be very afraid. Her results are at left. One bullseye. All but one of 10 clustered in the inner rings. One on the outside. Heck, that one would only have wounded you. The others would probably be lethal. Now, I'll admit, the attendant helped by aiming the stock as she pointed the weapon, and he let her shoot more than ten shots to get ten on the target, but one of those is a bulls-eye. And she's a right-hander shooting left-handed, here!

True, she had help, and he definitely wanted her to do well, but I can't do that well and today I didn't even try. I knew she had good eyesight. She can put a pattern on target pretty well as well.

Okay, I won't worry as much when she's out on dates as a teenager, provided she's packing. This is Virginia, after all, where the legislature would like to require everybody in the state to conceal carry, but has yielded to northern Virginia to merely permit everyone to, not require them to.

They do grow up so fast.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I'm Baaaackkk....

Or at least I think I'm back. It's Friday night and we went to a party so I'm posting quite late, actually I guess it's now Saturday morning. Anyway, I hope to get this going on a more regular basis. I look at our archive on the right side of this page and note the number of posts: June 19, July 21, August 17, September 9, October 8, November (so far) 2. June was a partial blogging month, but otherwise it's been going down ever since the start.

There are reasons. "I've been busy" is the most important. I don't blog from work is another, though of course I surf the web from work and otherwise use the Internet. Maybe I'm too scrupulous, but I don't want to do personal blogging on company time. Mostly, it's been my busiest time of year, our Annual Conference and other things. I think you'll see more from me in the next few days, inshallah.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Remember Me?

How do the prolific bloggers do it? All I can figure is that they don't have a) two jobs, b) a seven-year-old or c) 60 years under their belts. I'm going to get back into this this weekend, and I really will. I mean it. I do.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Trying to Get Back to Normal

The past week has seen the Middle East Institute's annual banquet and conference, the Board of Governors' meeting, and on Thursday, my Board of Advsiory Editors' meeting. Though I had Friday off we took Sarah to the doctor and I was sufficiently exshuasted to feel like I needed one myself. The coming week should be much less stressful and with luck, I'll be back to posting more often.