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, December 25, 2007

Happy Holiday

What holiday did you have in mind, exactly? Not the fourth of July, surely?

Oh, yeah ...

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. ([And] this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

That holiday.

I'm Catholic, but I can't resist the King James Version. Shakespeare couldn't have written it better.

(Of course, there are those who suggest he did. In Psalm 46, the 46th word from the beginning is "Shake" and the 46th word from the end is "spear," and when the KJV appeared Shakespeare was 46 years old, but heck, that can't mean anything.) (If you're a real conspiracy theorist you'll have already noted that 46 is twice 23. If you don't know the significance of 23 congratulations, you're not actually paranoid and probably don't spend most of your days worrying about the Kennedy assassination, the Knights Templars, the freemasons and the street pattern of the District of Columbia.) (I won't bring up the Denver airport: you're not supposed to know about that one.)

Anyone who understands the previous paragraph spends too much time reading weird Internet sites. Go back to work.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2007

God Bless Us, Every One

By the time I post this it will be past midnight and it will be Christmas. I've got the late shift to prepare the roof for the reindeer etc., so things will be ready for morning. And we got off to a good start. Aunt Kate arrived this evening; Sarah had started asking when she would arrive roughly when she got up, and once she called from her hotel to say she was here Sarah patrolled the door with an "Is she here yet? Is she here yet?" constant querying (but with a greater sense of urgency) while, regularly, bouncing from the couch to the other furniture despite being told not to, and just bouncing in general. We let her open a few presents early for fear she was going to explode otherwise, and yet when we did start opening presents she was quite happy to save some for Christmas day itself.

Merry Christmas all. The clock just turned 12. Hodie Christus Natus Est. More tomorrow.

UPDATE: Okay, Blogger says it's 11:56. I say it's Christmas and that's my story and I'm sticking with it. My computer says it's 12:02, and so does my watch..

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Visions of Sugarplums (SAY WHAT?) Dance in Her Head

Putting Sarah to bed tonight, on the night before Christmas eve, I said I hoped visions of sugarplums would dance in her head. Though she knows and can recite "The Night Before Christmas," she promptly said, "Dad, I don't know what those are. I've never seen one. Have you?" Umm, well, actually now that you mention it, I assume it's some kind of candied plum or something (CANDIED PLUM? WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT?) but no, I guess I've never seen one, either, Umm, Mom, have you ever seen or tasted a sugarplum? Well, no...

Okay. I guess visions of sugarplums won't dance in her head. Or mine, unless I overindulge on plum wine. I'm wondering, did I never ask what a sugarplum was when I was a kid? Heck, what was a tuffet? What were curds and whey? (Kurds and Hue maybe? Those I've heard of.) Why didn't I ask these questions? Or did I? I know, I know, Google, Wikipedia, etc. But it's more fun to post this first. Wikipedia later.

Visions of sugarplums, y'all, if you know what they are. Or even if you don't.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Deck the halls with boughs of jolly..."

That's Sarah's version. Not as great as Pogo's immortal "Deck us all with Boston Charlie," but then Walt Kelly's been gone a long time and only a few of us Old Believers still remember that song. (Along with "Good King Sauerkraut looked out, on his feets uneven...") For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, which includes my daughter and perhaps my wife, too bad. But do deck your halls with boughs of jolly.

As the holidays approach with what seems like the speed of an onrushing train, I guess I should update the blog. On Thursday Tam called me at work, to say that Sarah was at the school nurse's, complaining of a headache and running a temperature, and since Tam was preparing for a Friday office move (cleverly timed for just before Christmas!) she needed me to pick up Sarah. Needless to say I did my Daddy-ly duty and did so, though it complicated my attempts to wrap up things I wanted to finish before the weekend. Also, as I normally have Fridays off, I was the one who had to take Sarah to the doctor's on Friday. I did so, but it meant that for about the fourth Friday straight various duties relating to house or family got in the way of getting any work done.

Adding to the complication was the fact that my father-in-law and his companion Marge, who were planning to visit at Christmas along with my sister-in-law, called last week to say that Marge was down with a bad case of flu, and, given their age and the trials of travel (they were connecting through O'Hare on Christmas eve and my father-in-law is an octogenarian; I haven't been through O'Hare at Christmas since the TSA intensified security, but I'd be hesitant even at my age), they felt it wiser not to come. Sarah is disappointed her grandpa won't be coming, but she's eager to see her Aunt Kate, who is coming. So it will be four of us rather than six this Christmas.

Needless to say, the house isn't ready yet (it's the Saturday before Christmas), but there are presents under the tree, and we're making some progress on the house and other stuff.

Since we haven't gotten around to a Christmas letter for several years now, this blog is our replacement; we're trying to let as many relatives as possible know about it. If you're new to this blog, for some reason for those reading it in Firefox, the links and categories have been shoved down to the bottom of the page for a while now, because the earlier posts run across the page for no known reason. It displays properly in Internet Explorer, which I hate; I hope it will straighten out soon. Blogger is free and easy to use but notoriously doesn't have very good tech support: hey, it's free.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Tree is Up

I've been fairly absent here lately, mostly because of the approach of the holidays. On the weekend, when I normally might find time for a bit of blogging, we were busy with holiday preparations. On Saturday Sarah had a birthday party for a friend at a place where the kids can paint clay pottery; then immediately after we went to the Middle East Institute's holiday gathering at the President's home; she was gracious enough to invite kids so Sarah attended, along with a colleague's son who's close to her age.

Sunday was tree day. The photo shown here may be a bit askew composition-wise, but that's because it was taken by Sarah. I took over 30 minutes of video which is going to take some processing before I can put it on YouTube due to their limitations on length.

We got a somewhat smaller tree than in past years at Sarah's request, so she could reach more of it to hang decorations.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas is Coming, the Goose is Getting Fat ...

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, which is not, of course, all that good news if you're the parent of a 7 and a half year old. Though there's still a certain demeanor to be enforced by the "Santa's Watching" warning, it's getting close to the holiday and there is a proliferation of stuff to do.

I'm proud to edit The Middle East Journal, first founded over 60 years ago. But back sometime in 1946, when they decided to launch in January 1947, presumably back then, in the days of mailed-in galleys and hot lead typesetting, they no doubt closed the issue to appear in January well before Christmas. But in our age of galleys in .pdf and in-house typesetting and layout, we tend to get really weird deadlines. This year it's January 2. Oh, I can change it, but I want to keep us on schedule and other things are backed up behind it. So there's a lot of work to do just when everybody else is getting to slack off for a bit.

Add to that all the parties. Tuesday night was Sarah's school Christmas pageant, in which the second graders (making their First Communion this year) and the eighth graders (their "sacramental partners" to help them prepare) sang Christmas carols together. It's on the YouTube site. I'm also trying to prepare some DVDs for the family, and of course there's Christmas shopping. Oh yes, and the plumber's coming tomorrow, and we've got to replace the furnace in January. (Not like we had to spend any money on presents or anything, of course.) Saturday we have both a birthday party for one of Sarah's friends from school, and our Middle East Institute Christmas party (also, they say, possibly a winter storm). Oh, did I mention I'm on deadline?

And, of course, there's always Sarah's anticipation. She's excited and therefore hyper.

I know Christmas is stressful for many people, but I must confess it's fun to do it with a seven year old.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I think we may be reaching the point where there are doubts about Santa. We've never sought to outright lie to Sarah, when she asks, making instead vague comments about the idea of Santa, or the spirit of Santa. I think the Catholic school's emphadsis on the historical Saint Nicholas has raised questions too, since Sarah asked Tam the other day if Santa was a ghost.

One of the gifts she wanted from Santa this year was an elaborate construction and water thing called a hydrodynamic something or other. It was age 10 and above (had both an electrical pump and water involved) and was also ninety bucks. She said she hoped Santa could make one that was smaller, less messy, and for her age. Well, it happens that there is a "beginners'" version, but it's sold out well into the new year. I tried to suggest maybe she should settle for something less, just some construction stuff, until the water version became available. At first she argued that Santa's elves could build one to order, but when I suggested Santa worked better with existing products, she didn't blink.

I know that I, personally, figured the whole thing out a lot earlier than I admitted to. (I mean, come on, you get stuff from your folks and from Santa. If you admit you know about Santa, you could cut your take in half.) (And I was smart enough to notice that as we left for midnight mass on Christmas eve, either my Mom or my Dad found reasons to be a long time in the house while I sat in the car with the other parent. Amazingly, when we got home from midnight mass, Santa had already made his deliveries. We don't do it quite that way with Sarah, but I don't think she's significantly denser than I was. I also think she's as calculating as I was. I also assume she's not reading this blog; though she reads pretty well now, I don't think she can log on by herself.

Anyway, I want to write more about Christmas in the 1950s. After all, some of us are getting older, though not at Christmastime, of course. I hope that if I write more, we'll be able to record some memories that someday Sarah will find rewarding.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

If You Have Trouble Viewing the Blog

...If you're using Firefox, I'm trying to figure out why it's displaying wrong. It still looks right in Internet Explorer. Sometime after I put the Pearl Harbor video up, the stuff that normally appears along the right side: the picture, the categories, and the archive -- all migrated down the page. They are now down at the bottom if you scroll down. I'm trying to figure out if anything changed in the commands or layout, but I haven't found it yet. Like I say it looks okay in Internet Explorer. But Firefox on both my laptop and desktop display it weird.

I'll continue trying to figure this out and may contact Blogger, but don't know what the solution is at the moment. Meanwhile, you'll have to scroll down for the links, archies, etc.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Something's Wrong

My Pearl Harbor post has messed up the blog: I'm making another post to see if it fixes it.l I fit doesn't I may kill the PH post.

Still trying to figure out why when viewed in Firefox the blog appears with all the right-column stuff down at the bottom. It appears normal in Internet Explorer. I'll try to figure this out as I prefer Firefox myself.

Day of Infamy: Remembering Pearl Harbor 66 Years On

It's December 7. It's time to remember Pearl Harbor. Though the Post had an article today, I haven't seen anything much on the TV news. December 7 just doesn't stick in our heads the way it did for our parents' generation. I'm not trying to bash Japan, but my generation was the heir to the generation that never forgot Pearl Harbor. For them, it was rather like the Kennedy assassination for me, or 9/11 for all of us. This isn't my video: it's one from YouTube. The Roosevelt speech is here in full, but some of the graphics may be a bit propagandistic.

Nevertheless, I've always felt that Pearl Harbor was a profound lesson in intelligence failure. I've read a lot on the subject; have a pretty full library in fact. I'm not a conspiracy theorist on it: I've always thought Roberta Wohlstetter explained it best with her "signal" versus "noise" explanation of how intelligence failures happen: as they did again at 9/11. After the fact, Monday-morning quarterbacking, it's a lot easier to see what was coming, or "connect the dots" as we say these days. I wrote a little about this in The Estimate after 9/11, referencing Pearl Harbor, in this article. And, of course, Pearl Harbor began for the US its role in the greatest war in history, one that China had already been in for years and Europe for a couple of years as well. I always tell Sarah that China had the longest war of World War II. Her home town of Changde suffered terribly, including from biological warfare, but never fell to the Japanese.

And, much as I hate to refer to the television of the newspaper world, USA Today, this article reminds us of the dwindling number of those who remember Pearl Harbor in the most direct way.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

First Snow

Yesterday (December 5) we got our first snow of the season. Not much -- two or three inches at most, not sticking to the roads since temps were in the 30s -- but school still opened two hours late this morning due to worries about ice. Sarah had a lot of fun last night playing in the snow with neighbors. I stayed home yesterday, not because of the snow (though it's always a nuisance here where people drive like it's dry) but for a mental health day.

Thinking of snow reminds me of a page on our longstanding website, showing Sarah's first snow. From, based on the text, sometime in January 2002, when she was only about 21 months old. It's been online so long that I don't feel it violates her privacy; she doesn't look like this anymore anyway, and I'm sure it's been archived by various web search engines. So I'll link to it.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The National Gallery Trip

Tam has posted her thoughts on Philadelphia below, and if you haven't seen that yet, please do. I hope she starts posting more.

Yesterday we had planned to go to the National Gallery of Art for the J.M.W. Turner exhibit -- the biggest exhibit of Turner's work ever shown in the US -- since Turner is a favorite of Tam's. I like him too. Sarah likes to paint and says she likes art but we hadn't gotten her to a real art museum yet. We had a blowup -- she wanted to go back to the Marine Corps museum, which we'll do in time -- but eventually we got there. Pics of Sarah are available on our picture site, though she went reluctantly at first. She tolerated Turner and even declared some of it beautiful, but wasn't prepared to explore the rest of the gallery. Much as she likes art, during our Philadelphia visit one outdoor sculpture provoked the remark, "Eewww, they're naked!!" which probably means the more art galleries we visit, the more she'll notice this...

Later we went to see Enchanted, which I would highly recommend except that, since it's been the biggest grossing movie for two weekends straight, I guess I don't have to. The Disney folks do know how to market. But I'll never be able to watch Snow White again without thinking of the rats, pigeons and cockroaches all working together (while the heroine sings) to clean a New York apartment.

One more comment on Disney. Those of you with no preteens in the house probably don't know who "Hannah Montana" is: she's a Disney channel teen star played by the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, oddly enough, but the Hannah Montana concert in DC sold out in eleven minutes even though it's in the biggest arena in town, the Verizon center. It sold out faster than Bruce Springsteen.

If Disney ever wants to take over the country, they can probably do it. Oh, sorry. I guess they already have.

Tam's impressions of Philadelphia

Well hello! Yes, it's been a while since I last wrote. But I just wanted to add my own brief impressions of our wonderful trip to Philadelphia, and if time permits, offer another life-saver recipe that Sarah loves.

All in all, I thought we ended up visiting Philly at just the right time. Gorgeous fall foliage was still on the trees, and on the ground, we enjoyed a beautiful drive into downtown Philly on Saturday morning along the Schuylkilll River, the hills were just covered with golden-laden leaves, and the ground was covered with them, too. The air was very crisp and clear, cold but invigorating. I had forgotten how lovely and stimulating the autumn is in the north. (I regard Philly as the North, whereas I live in northern Virginia, to me, the South). That ride alone, to me, was worth the trip.

Even as Fall still surrounded Philly, though, Christmas holiday signs of cheer were everywhere as well. Driving in the dark on Friday night, to our hotel (Hampton Inn) in King of Prussia, along highway 676, on our right the houses went right down to the Schuylkill River's edge, and their outlines of the roofs, windows and doors facing the water had all been festooned with white Christmas lights. Just stunning. I was so glad we were able to see that!

The downtown streets were decorated with Christmas street lights and wreaths. I felt good all weekend, being in Philly. I liked the surroundings, yes, it is a gritty town, but I really like the sense of "realness" the comes across in interactions with the Philadelphians. There's no, or at least very little, pretense. (Unlike in Washington.) Philly is this magnificent mix of history, intellectual life (there seem to innumerable colleges, universities, special schools and academies, etc.), down to earth city life, and rich cultural activities. A very wooing blend to me.