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, October 21, 2008

I Shall Return

I'll be back with more soon, but I wanted to welcome Tam's new visibility on the blog, since she's now posted twice in a relatively brief period (October 6 and October 18), and note that while as usual the work week keeps me away from the blog, I'm still around and shall return. I think somebody said that once.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Waiting for Chili

All of a sudden, it's autumn. The leaves are red and orange, and the temps are falling. I'm chilled even with my jacket on. Now it's dark at 6:30 p.m., I am still used to the easy, relaxed late sunlit summer nights. (Never mind, I wish I was still on vacation, too!). It's the kind of Fall weather that makes one think of chili, so, we are letting our separate pots simmer on the stove. Washington, even though it's mild, has enough of a change of seasons that makes me look forward with anticipation to the newness of a fresh change, a chance to "start anew" with whatever, and have new hope.

It's been a busy week, with extra projects due at school for Sarah, a Venus Fly Trap model she had to concoct on Tuesday, and materials for a cactus desert habitat to school on Friday. This, plus homework, and extra reading: four books with the reports due Oct. 23. Since this is the first quarter, there is heavy parental intervention going on to read, prod, and force feed the accomplishment of the project.

Well, I should be checking on the chili, and Sarah, now. It's a busy but rich life!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Update on Talking Chihuahuas

Just a quick update. Our Daddy Day on Columbus Day went well, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua was not as bad as it might have been. In the relatively limited genre of talking dog movies, I enjoyed it rather more than I did Underdog, for example, but those of you without kids probably will not find it necessary to see it, though as Sarah pointed out to me beforehand, Beverly Hills Chihuahua was the number one movie in America the past two weekends. This is either because 1) the economic meltdown makes everyone want to see talking chihuahuas who can fight off Dobermans and Mountain Lions; 2) has melted all our brains or 3) means only our kids can choose the movies.

Not too much else to report from the week. A new couch for the family room arrives tomorrow, and we're going to have to buy a new washer this weekend due to a distinct burning-electrical-wire smell on ours last night. Oh, why not. It's not like we have much left in the retirement accounts.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Eve of Columbus Day

I guess it's not actually the "eve" of Columbus Day since it's after midnight. For reasons not totally clear, Tam doesn't get Columbus Day off. (Theoretically the reason is that to give them the Friday after Thanksgiving off -- not an official Federal holiday-- they need to give up another holiday, and since as the Air Force Association they can't give up Veteran's Day on November 11, they have to give up Columbus Day. My office doesn't make you trade off, they just give you Friday after Thanksgiving anyway, but well, what can I say?)

So this means tomorrow is a "Daddy Day," a word from the old days of day care when I had Sarah two days a week. She still likes "Daddy Days," though they're less frequent. We have agreed to chili dogs for lunch and to see Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Sound warning if you're at work as the music starts to play). Father-daughter days are nice though I have much to do and it doesn't strike me as the greatest movie ever made.

Yesterday we went to the Smithsonian's new Ocean Hall in the Natural History Museum, since Sarah is always big on ocean life. A really extraordinary new exhibit, and a permanent one, so we'll need to go back to see it all. We also visited her favorite sites at the Natural History Museum, namely the gem collection and of course the dinosaur hall. And then home.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Still Here

I've probably used "still here" more often than any other title. I am, however, still here. We just can't post during the work week much. More soon.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My Take on October 6

Since Tam has blogged below about October 6 I'll do the same. As she noted, we met on October 6, 1983, at an Egyptian Military Day Party. (Actually I'd met her before since I had regular contact with the Egyptian Military Attache's office, and she was a receptionist/secretary there despite having a Master's Degree in Middle East studies. But we didn't know each other except in a vague, "is the colonel in?" sort of way.) October 6 is a day with a lot of resonance for old Egypt hands. As Tam noted, it's the anniversary of the October 1973 war, which is celebrated in Egypt as the war that made peace with Israel feasible by showing Egyptians could regain some of their lost land. In 1981, at the Military Day Parade, Anwar Sadat was assassinated, but despite that, the date remained Egyptian Military Day, and only two years after Sadat's assassination, at the 1983 party celebrating the tenth anniversary of the "crossing" (of the Suez Canal), Tam and I talked for a while, she offered me a ride home, I offered to buy her dinner (the long-departed Blue Nile Restaurant, one of the earliest Ethiopian Restaurants in DC), and we dated for some months before she dumped me. I eventually got even: I married her. As she noted, October 6, 1993, ten years after that meeting at Fort McNair and 20 after the "crossing," was our first full day in Tunis on our honeymoon. This was, I believe, the day of our "STEAK!" story, told here on our old family website. So October 6 was a day with many resonances for us.

Having mentioned the "crossing" several times, which is how the Egyptians always referred to 1973, I need to quote one of those wonderful Egyptian jokes that, however, requires a lot of explanation since it involves several languages. "Crossing" in Arabic is al-'Ubur; it was the triumph that caught Israel off guard and began the war. But Israel recovered and sent a force across the Canal to the western side that cut off one of the two Egyptian field Armies in a salient known as Deversoir. Someone came up with this brilliant couplet:

Bonjour, al-'Ubur;
Bonsoir, Deversoir.
I wish I'd said that.

[And I suppose I've just confirmed the famous exchange when Oscar Wilde said, "I wish I'd said that," and Whistler responded, "You will, Oscar, you will."]


Our Own Oct. 6

Yes, it's me. Tam, the other half of the Dunn parenting duo who has written only one or so blogs, because I am just ... too ... busy ... dealing with work, the family, the house, the bills, etc.

But I wanted to dash something off today, as it is Oct. 6. Why? Because the Dow closed down below 10,000 points today? Because it is the 35th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War? No and No.

I write because today's date is the anniversary of Michael's and my meeting, at the Oct. 6th Egyptian Military Day celebration at Ft. McNair, in 1983, and also the subsequent happy day during our honeymoon in Tunis in 1993.

Our actual wedding anniversary was last week, Oct. 2, but I've been in a reflective, happy and sentimental mood for all of these days. It's partly why I suggested we go out of town on the spur of the moment on Friday night (echoing Sarah's desire for a hotel, too). Fifteen years is a healthy chunk of time to share your life with someone, and deserves comment, reflection, and no small amount of gratitude, to Michael, and Sarah, and life in general.

Yes it is true we are all going through some rough uncertain times these days. But how much worse would it be if we did not have each other to help negotiate these rough waters? So, despite the gloomy times, I've been celebrating, and appreciating, all the goodness in our life together.

The fact that I married a man who can drop everything and just go off for a quickie overnight to an area of the region we three love, and cherish, as much for the history (see Michael's blog entry on mustering militia) as for the natural beauty of water, sand, and sky, and delight in the geology and paleontology of the area as well, are great gifts in our marriage. I am so blessed. We all came back from that foray much refreshed and renewed.

And I find myself also appreciating these trips even more, partly because the gasoline prices are still so high, but not nearly as high as they were in July (a gallon at Dawson's now goes for $3.32, versus 4.10 in July--the peak). So I feel a little better about venturing out these days. It is a gift that we really do not have to travel great distances to be in wonderful renewing places, I have always felt fortunate to live in Virginia. I know Michael and Sarah feel the same way.

So, here's to the last fifteen years of a good, happy marriage, which has seen plenty of good days, some hard and challenging and sad days, and some spectacular joys. I'm grateful to Michael, and to Sarah, for all of them!
Monday Oct. 6, 2008, 5:26 p.m.

Second Day of the Getaway

It's past midnight but I want to get at least the basics down while the other computer is uploading videos to YouTube.

The second day of our unscheduled getaway went very well. We got off to a late start, after sleeping in, but then began with the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland, an old favorite of Sarah's and ours, which had opened a new Paleontology exhibit since our last visit, not to mention that they now have an "eco-invaders" exhibit including the infamous snakehead, first found just a few years ago in the Potomac. It is, as Sarah noted, "Uhhhhhgggllyyyyy." I hope that gets the pronunciation across.

We saw a snake in the water, visited the otters and other residents of the place, saw some tracks in the mud of raccoons and herons and other stuff, Sarah got a fossil shark's tooth from the "find a fossil" exhibit and we decided to go look for real fossils later on the beach.

In the gift shop/bookstore we went a little overboard. I bought some books, bought Tam as an anniversary present a little thing for one of the bathrooms, and splurged and bought Sarah a lovely enameled butterfly jewel box she fell in love with, after making her swear that she would treat it carefully, not play with it, etc. So far only half successful but at least it isn't broken yet.

From there we went into Solomon's Island, just adjacent to Solomons and on an island, if you couldn't figure that part out already, an old oystering town, now mostly for tourists, only an hour or so out of DC. We ate at Stoney's Kingfishers, a crab house on the water, and had crab cake sandwiches (except for one of us who had Kraft Mac and Cheese. Guess which one). A splurge but worth it. Then across the street to an ice cream stand on the boardwalk adjacent to a playground and called (sorry) Cone Island, which Sarah has known since she was a toddler and is a de rigeur stop in season on Solomon's Island.

Having already discussed several options for the afternoon (none of them going home and getting work done), including a sail on a cruise on the Bay, and looking for real fossils on a real beach, we decided on the latter, and for the first time visited Flag Ponds Nature Park in Calvert County Maryland. It's just a little north of the Calvert Cliffs State Park, famous for its strata of fossils that erode out onto the beach, but a specialist at the Calvert Marine Museum told us that the beach was much easier to get to than at Calvert Cliffs. It's also just north of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, I believe the only nuclear plant in Maryland. It was visible from the beach.

The beach was relatively empty and, if you check our YouTube videos, quite nice; besides lots of seashells there are a lot of fossils to be found. We got there late on a Sunday when it was presumably picked over, but found several pieces of coral, and my immediate thought was, "Coral? We don't have Coral in the Chesapeake." So I asked a conservationist/ranger (or whatever) and he said no, it's old. "Is it a fossil." "Getting there." "How old do you think?" "A couple of million years." That seems a bit young for these supposedly Miocene cliffs, but it's old enough for me. (It's older than me, and these days that itself feels like an accomplishment.)

By the end of this I was tired, sore, and ready to go home, so we did. But we were grateful that we got away. I'm uploading the videos now, the first on YouTube since the fourth of July (never have put together the vacation videos). Forgive. Till I got the new laptop I had real trouble editing video on the road, and am too busy at home. If you're close kin and aren't yet accessing our YouTube and Flickr accounts send me an e-mail and I'll invite you again. It's free. Either tonight or tomorrow (depending on how slow the upload is as it's late and I need sleep) there will be five [COUNT THEM: 5] new videos on YouTube. Some new stuff at Flickr too.

UPDATE: A very late addendum. As uploading was taking longer than I hoped, I did it double-barreled, using two computers on the same broadband link. One result was that two of the shorter videos from today went up in reverse order: the "Calvert Marine Museum" video comes chronologically just before the "Family Time on the Bay" video. In the greater scheme of things, this probably does not rank with whether the Trojan War occurred (a question Sarah asked this weekend, which I answered with discussions of the recent German discoveries of the upper city of Troy VIIA, which was not a third grade answer) or certain other issues. But for the record, "Calvert" came before family time, not after.

Check it out.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Militia Muster at Saint Mary's City

We spent part of the day in Historic Saint Mary's City, Maryland. I'll post more later, but here's Tam in the pillory, Tam with a helmet and musket, and hoisting a musket. We also witnessed a display of firing (repelling a raid by pirates) which will go on You Tube, probably in two pieces since it's longer than YouTube's 10 minute limit. As I noted yesterday, the promotion spoke of the need for militia to repel pirates and Virginians, and soon after we arrived someone fired a cannon. They must have recognized us for what we are.

There was an encampment as well so we spent some time watching the reenactors; Sarah's seen reenactors doing later periods but the 1600s stuff was a bit new for all of us. We have a friend who does 18th century and have seen a fair number of civil war reenactments, but the 17th century stuff was different enough to be interesting -- although Sarah declared that the battle part "stunk," she showed interest in visiting the encampment beforehand.

Reenactors of course can never recreate the past, which really is and always remains another country; a reminder of this came at the end of the battle when a group of girls in bikinis, possibly from the college adjacent or from a boat on the river, wandered through the reenactment area, in rather stark contrast to the guys in 17th century halberds and helmets. I have no idea what the girls were doing there (it was a bit warm but still October) but it made for considerable comment. [UPDATE: It belatedly occurred to me the next day that this could have been a deliberate college prank, showing up in bikinis -- I don't think any were in one-piece suits -- at a 1600s reenactment. Assuming college students still do stunts like they used to.] [UPDATE 2: When I mentioned this to Tam she said, "Sure, I figured it was a prank all along. They were all in black, skimpy suits. What else could it be?" Okay, I'm slow, but I got there eventually.] The pirates, having been repelled, retreated in the same direction as the girls, but that may have been coincidence. It would have made a great picture but it happened too quickly and I had the camera turned off.

The 17th century reenactors, like civil war reenactors, tend to be on the heavy-set side: rather more so than I suspect the first settlers of Lord Baltimore's proprietary really were. (The movies "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals" used renenactors for battle scenes, but some of them look a lot better fed than your average Confederate infantryman.)

More on the day in a bit. As usual I don't post pictures of Sarah's face on the blog to respect her privacy.

A bit later: Although I knew Sarah hadn't enjoyed the "battle" that much (there weren't that many reenactors and 17th century firelocks take a long time to reload, so the musketry was scattered at best), I asked her what she had enjoyed most about the day: was it the reenactors' encampment where we were shown how they lived? No, she said: it was when I turned on the GPS in the car. And it does indeed work.

More tomorrow. This was an unplanned weekend but it's a fun one. I may not get the YouTube videos up till tomorrow or so.

The reenactor in the pic with Tam has obviously lost his helmet and musket to a Virginia plunderer, by the way.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Road-Testing the New Toys

Friday night. Sarah, who got 100 on her spelling test today (much improved over last week), is sitting with me and when I say "let's have a family fun weekend" she answers, "It would be nice to stay in a hotel." Well, the problem is it's already Friday and we haven't made plans. "But I haven't tried out my Nintendo DS on a road trip." It isn't clear to me how the Nintendo DS would play any differently on a road trip than it does at home or in a restaurant, but I note the point.

Then Tam comes home. I mention the conversation. She says she was thinking the same thing. Thursday was our 15th wedding anniversary, so we've been celebrating, and despite the horrors on Wall Street, we still have some tax refunds and such. Tam says that she's missing water, since we did mountains for vacation and haven't seen the Bay or the ocean all year. So she's thinking of our old haunts in southern Maryland, on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay. Only an hour or two away.

Well, now that you mention it, I have a new laptop, and a new little GPS receiver, neither of which has been road tested. (The GPS finds Red Pine Street just fine, and requires the laptop to function -- couldn't afford the freestanding kind -- but I've been wanting to try it out.)

Okay, I'm supposed to finish a book chapter this weekend, but not for work -- for a reference book that pays only 100 pounds sterling. It's already late so an extra day or two won't matter. This will be an anniversary getaway.

So we made a reservation at our old haunts in Lexington Park, Maryland, near the Patuxent River Naval Air Station (Pax River), which lies near such sites as Solomon's Island, Point Lookout, Old St. Mary's City, etc. We'll road test the new toys and get away overnight on Saturday. This post from more than a year ago gives you the basic geography.

Ah, thinks I, I'm pretty sure St. Mary's City, the old historic site of Maryland's first capital, of which we are members, sent me something recently, so I check the old E-mail and sure enough I discover that tomorrow is a militia muster with colonial reenactors. Adding to the fun is the fact that the E-mail, like the web page I just linked to, mentions that you can:

  • Discover how able-bodied male colonists were required to arm themselves and be prepared to defend the colony against pirates, Virginians, and others intent on plundering.
We are, at least officially if not by birth, Virginians, so this could be fun. I haven't plundered nearly enough lately. (Also note that in the pc era, "Indians" aren't mentioned.) I presume this is a reference to the Kent Island War, which doesn't even google up, but you can find the basics in the Wikipedia article on William Claiborne that I've linked to. If you're a Catholic Marylander, Claiborne was an evil puritan pirate; if you're a Virginia Protestant, he was a Virginia patriot defending the English Commonwealth against the papist infestation of Maryland. I'm a Virginia Catholic, so I have no idea what to make of him, but Virginia lost and Kent Island is Maryland's still. The period of the English Civil War was known in Maryland as "the plundering time," and it was Virginians and Cromwellians who were plundering. Though the picture of Claiborne on the Wikipedia site suggests he was at least more a cavalier by hairstyle than a roundhead, if you make much of haircuts. I think he was mostly fighting for William Claiborne. It's complicated, and fortunately Maryland and Virginia only fight over water rights in the Potomac these days. Only five years ago the Supreme Court had to get involved in that, though. We won.

And, of course, I realize that most American kids these days probably don't even study the English civil war. Most American history books jump from Jamestown and the Pilgrims to the preparatory stuff for the Revolution, like the French and Indian War.

More from the road test.