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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Winchester Trip, Day Three

Okay, I'm going to try to at least summarize the weekend, though I'm tired and it's nearly midnight. But I've bot a busy week ahead and may forget details by Friday.

Later: sorry, too tired to blog. Maybe tomorrow. It was a good weekend.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Winchester Trip, Day Two

A long day. A good one, but Sarah needed a bath and a shampoo, and didn't get to bed till past 11. It's now past 12, and I'll blog from DC on both today (now, yesterday) and tomorrow (now, today.)

If that makes no sense, be glad I'm not posting more.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Winchester Weekend, Day 1

Although this is "Black Friday," the big shopping day, and I read where one Wal-Mart employee on Long Island has been trampled to death and there's been a shooting in a California Toys-R-Us, we didn't go shoppping. As previously noted we are spending a couple of overnights in Winchester to enjoy the Valley a bit. Got out here by noon and ate at the Snow White Grill, took Sarah to show her the Cedar Creek battlefield, since she had seen Phil Sheridan's horse Rienzi at the reopened Smithsonian Museum of Amcrican History last week, and I read her the famous (I do not say great, just once famous) poem "Sheridan's Ride" as we rode the rode over which Little Phil rode Rienzi to rally the troops. Dinner at a good Italian restaurant. More tomorrow.


Thanksgiving: Night of the Mini-Chickens

Thanksgiving 2008. At Sarah's request, we didn't do a turkey: we did two rock cornish game hens, or what she likes to call "mini-chickens." Quicker, more tender, and less to deal with afterwards than turkeys.

Otherwise a lazy day: I've been a little off my feed this week. Everybody's tired. I've been through both my own Middle East Institute Conference and the Middle East Studies Association Conference, finished getting queries off to the authors of the Winter Middle East Journal, and so forth. Time for a rest. Tomorrow we leave for Winchester: history, the Civil War, mountains, the Snow White Grill. More from there. Photo is the mini-chickens, coming out of the oven on their little, well, I guess they're rock cornish game hen cooking doodads that sit them straight up with the holder going up their hindquarters. If there's a technical name for the device perhaps Tam will post it. More from Winchester.

UPDATE: Something is weird about the photo. Our stove and wall do not have white spots against the darker ivory. This thing got weirdly pixelated and I'll replace with a proper photo over the weekend.


Monday, November 24, 2008

On the Verge of Relaxation?

Okay, the MEI Annual Conference is over, I've done my stint at the Middle East Studies Association Conference, finished a chapter for a book and a tenure review for an old friend. Two more work days to Thanksgiving, and I have a sneaking suspicion I'm not going to be the world's greatest ball of fire on those days.

Stand by for blogging. I feel a burst coming on. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. (Not, to break with the Casablanca quote however, for the rest of our lives. I've got to work for a living still.)



A quick late-night update. Still trying to upload a workable video of yesterday's stuff to YouTube: need to split it to reduce the size.

Today: went to see Bolt. Excellent. Really funny. The hamster Rhino is my new role model.

I didn't note that Saturday was the 45th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. I want to blog on this, but not at 1 am. UPDATE: Oops, I guess I did mention it. See below.

Out for now. We're going to Winchester, VA the Fri-Sat-Sun after Thanksgiving.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

From R2D2 to Yankee Doodle: A Good Day

A good day.

As I noted in my last post nearly a week ago, this was heavy duty week, the week of the Middle East Institute's Annual Conference, when I'm on duty more than usual (and work my usual Friday off), and we have a banquet Thursday night, and our usual babysitter was sick and we had to hire the more expensive one, and ... oh well, you get it. By Friday night I was drained, exhausted, and fell asleep at 10:30. I'm a night person. I can stay up half the night if I don't have to get up the next day, but last night I collapsed like a punctured baloon. All this even though I didn't chair a panel, didn't give a presentation, and my superb staff did most of the work at the Journal's booth. It was just a long, always-on, networking day.

One of the advantages of going to bed early is that, even without an alarm, I woke up early. After a rough week, I was determined to have a really good family fun day. We went down to the reopening, after about two and a half years, of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, which has been significantly rebuilt and renovated with a new central atrium, a new home for the original Star Spangled Banner, and much more. Sarah liked the museum even when she was six or so, and wanted to visit it; I am of course a history buff (oh yeah, also a Ph.D. if that counts) and always loved the museum in its earlier incarnation.

It's nearly one am I want to go to bed so let me make this short, with more later: there were reenactors (George Washington, several Revolutionary types I didn't identify, Mary Pickersgill who made the original Star Spangled Banner in Baltimore, a civil rights activist talking about the first Greensboro NC sit-in in front of the original lunch counter seats, etc. Sarah tried out the hands-on "science in American history" stuff and an old lab that she'd loved when four or five, revived but not much changed. Much else had changed. There were bands (we heard a kids' Yorktown fife-and-drum group twice, a bluegrass group, and I understand Jazz, Dixieland and other groups played during the day), and, to add to the oddity, the Washington DC R2-D2 builders' club, which is what it says, guys who build working, moving, beeping R2-D2 robots. These guys obviously have more time on their hands than I do (I won't say too much time on their hands, because they've obviously got money to burn as well, neither of which applies to me.) (Sarah: "Is that a sand-person?" Geek: "No, that's a Jawa. Sand-People are quite different." Bear in mind that the Jawa in question is life sized, and for all I know may move. The other robots did.)

At first we filmed one R2-D2 going by, beeping and its upper turret revolving like, well, like a droid. Then two or three were roaming about (these are all full-sized, mind you, with flashing lights and beeping just like the real R2-D2, if there was a real R2-D2), while the fife and drum band was playing "Yankee Doodle" and "The World Turned Upside Down": this is either quintessential Americana or complete surrealism, or perhaps there's no distinction between the two. The R2s seemed to proliferate like cockroaches, though apparently they require a great deal of effort and dedication to build. I know this couldn't happen in Egypt and I rather doubt it could happen in France.

Because the new museum didn't have hot food yet in their cafe we went next door to the Natural History Museum (the dinosaur museum as Sarah has long called it) and then returned. We heard more music, looked around, listened to a presentation on the Star Spangled Banner's creation (the lines to see the original flag were quite long: it's been off display for years while being restored, so Sarah has still never seen it but will when the lines shorten).

Wonderful re-imagining of the central parts of the museum. The Star Spangled Banner is back (though we didn't see it yet), and in December, they'll reopen the First Ladies' inaugural gowns. Those two items long made this the most popular Smithsonian museum.

We stopped at Best Buy to get some necessities and a few frills, went out to dinner, discussed Thanksgiving plans and parameters for Sarah's coming allowance (I won't record for the world since it's family stuff), and generally had a good day.

A video of many of the reenactors and the R2s and other stuff is going up on YouTube as I write this on a different computer. Drop by if you're authorized to see our family YouTube stuff. If not, cheers.

Only as I was moving video and still photos around the Web did the date hit me: November 22. It's 45 years since JFK was killed. I didn't see any mention in today's Washington Post. 45 years. I grow older.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dive, Dive, Dive...Commence Radio Silence

The coming week is the week of the Middle East Institute's Annual Conference, a week when there is a vast amount of stuff to do besides my normal workload, a week in which Thursday night is taken over by a banquet and my usual day off on Friday disappears. So don't expect much blogging before the weekend unless something dramatic happens.

Let them Win Cake

Today [Saturday, November 15] was Sarah's school's annual Christmas Attic Fundraiser -- a major chunk of the school's fundraising effort; I think they made 20 grand or so at it last year. We attended but could only spare an hour or so. After making the rounds, Sarah decided to do the "cakewalk" in which you win a cake if you land on the winning number -- and on her second or third try, won a cake. A nice looking chocolate frosted cake with nuts. I agreed to take it home while she and Tam did other things (we live two blocks away).

Then I came back to the school. Sarah caught up with me in the hallway to announce she'd just won another cake! This one was a big thing shaped like a Christmas tree.

Up to this point Sarah had often complained "I never win anything!" and I noted that this would no longer be a valid complaint.

We decided that since her good friend across the street, Catherine, is suffering from a sort of quarantine because her older sister has mononucleosis, it would be nice to give one of the two cakes to her family. She agreed. She kept the Christmas tree cake, shown in the photo with her and Tam (kosher since Sarah's face does not appear, as it doesn't on blog pics).
She can no longer complain that she never has won anything.

That's most of the day; we had some quarreling and didn't do much else. But during the Christmas attic she did buy a little notebook/diary thing, which she personalized, from a nice nun selling stuff. In the Catholic schools today nuns are a rarity, and to Sarah they're a fascination, whereas those of us like me who were educated by nuns are bemused by how, to Sarah's generation, they are quaint, sweet ladies, instead of the abject holy terrors armed with rulers, as God obviously intended. Oh well.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

11/11/11: A Followup

Following up on my post of last night on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we went out tonight to an Irish restaurant at Sarah's insistence. (She has developed a taste for potato leek soup and shepherd's pie. It's obviously not in the DNA; Michael Collins Dunn would rather have Hunan and Sarah, born Chang Xiao-chao in Hunan, would rather have Irish. Maybe we switched tastebuds somewhere.) Anyway the place was empty -- it's Tuesday night, and people are feeling the economic pinch, and it's a tad pricey -- so the Irish singers entertaining had only a small audience and were asking for requests. Having just repeated my post about "The Green Fields of France," about WWI, I suggested that as appropriate for Veterans' Day, and they sang it. That's all.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Armistice Day 90 Years On

Not long ago, I wrote about the War to End Wars (which didn't), the war to make the world safe for democracy (debatable given the later events of the 20th Century), the Great War (until a greater came along). Actually that post started out being about 9/11 and other things, and so only tangentially counts as a World War I post, but as I noted there, three uncles and a great uncle (at least) fought in that war, and one of Tam's grandfathers, the great uncle losing the sight of one eye in a gas attack and fighting in Belleau Wood (he was one of the rare Marines in a family mostly associated with the Army).

Five minutes from now as I write we come to the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Once those coordinates (and the added, "eveventh hour," when the armistice kicked in), meant a great deal to a lot of people. Not since Appomattox had Americans endured such a war, but theirs was mild compared to most Europeans. Today it's no longer "Armistice Day" in America, but "Veterans' Day," which seems to include all veterans of all wars. The Brits and Canadians I think, and perhaps the Aussies and other Commonwealth types, still call it "Remembrance Day," which may be a tad more evocative. I still like Armistice Day, the day the guns fell silent, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when the Great War ended.

The war to end wars didn't; we're at war right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war to make the world safe for democracy didn't: ask a Russian. The Great War wasn't so great: the horrors of World War II have almost eradicated the Great War from our memory. I'm glad that November 11 survives as a holiday, even if it's a minor one. September 11 has replaced November 11 in our memory: far fewer died, but we were there to witness it.

In a scrapbook kept by my mother is a handkerchief stitched with the words "Paris 1918," which she noted was given her by her brother Herb. Herb was one of the black sheep of the family, with rather too many wives (we think three, that we know of) for a good Irish Catholic boy, a certain tendency to change his name and other quirks, but a man who served in both World War I (Navy) and World War II (Army). Even his military service has a cloud or two, especially the navy one, but the handkerchief seems to have been one of my mother's treasures.

I've already linked to my earlier post about WWI, but I think since most people don't click on links I'd like to simply repeat my earlier meditation on the poetry of and about the still Great War:
Back in 1915, after the battle of Ypres (pronounced by British soldiers not as ee-pr but as Wipers, an endearing sign of Englishmen's eternal refusal to learn French) the Canadian soldier John McCrae looked at similar rows of graves and famously wrote:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row...

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Such words, from the War to End Wars (it didn't, actually) can still inspire (and are, or at least were, iconic in Canadian patriotic rhetoric when it existed), but we should also remember the other observation by another poet (Wilfrid Owen) of the same war:

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

And a modern evocation of the same theme from 1976 in Australian Eric Bogle's Green Fields of France (also known as Willie McBride or No Man's Land and sung a lot in Irish pubs)

And I can't help but wonder, young Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you "The Cause?"
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er you as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Since we're doing the "British poets of World War I" (and a Canadian and a modern Australian to boot) seminar I should mention that one of my Dad's favorite poems was one that I think has been more or less neglected lately, Rupert Brooke's

IF I should die, think only this of me;
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

That has little to do with the war as such, but my Dad liked to quote it as a poem many soldiers empathized with (it is in fact titled just "The Soldier"). And it's my blog and I can write what I want. Brooke did die in that war, not in combat but of a mosquito bite -- on his way to Gallipoli. His corner of a foreign field that is forever England is on the Greek island of Skyros.
A long time ago: this is the 90th anniversary. The last I heard, the US had one living veteran of WWI. Not sure what the rest of the world has. They'd all be centenarians. In Flanders fields, I assume, the poppies still grow between the crosses row on row, but another war has left more crosses in the European low countries. Europe seems to have learned its lessons. Perhaps the rest of us can.

Wars end, but never forever. We mark the end of the "Great" War, but greaters have followed it. Remember.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hell Freezing Over

I don't normally blog about politics as this is a family blog and our extended family are, I suspect, all over the political spectrum, but I'll post soon about my reactions to Obama's election. Meanwhile I want to note, following on my immediately previous post citing the Joplin Globe, about an unusual blizzard in the nether regions.

Joplin, Missouri, my home town, is a conservative, Bible Belt place. Congressman Roy Blunt, who just stepped down as House Republican Whip, is from there, and the local Congressional district I think elected one democrat in the whole 20th century, for a single term. It's John Ashcroft's home district. Southwest Missouri's best known Congressman before Blunt was Dewey Short, a fierce opponent of FDR and the New Deal.

The Joplin Globe, reflecting the basic conservative Republican views of the area, last endorsed a Democrat in 1908, when they went for William Jennings Bryan. They opposed Roosevelt all four times, and in 1948 they opposed Harry Truman, the only Missourian to run for President, who was born the next county to the north.

On October 28, the Joplin Globe endorsed Barack Obama. That was the moment (though I didn't learn of it right away) when I realized something unexpected was going on out there. I know, Missouri's seventh district went solidly for McCain anyway, and McCain carried the state by a hair. But for the first time since free silver, the Globe supported a Democrat, and a black one at that. (Joplin's black population is under three percent; there was one black guy in my high school class. They've named a street after Langston Hughes, who was born in Joplin, but they don't usually mention his family left when he was five due to a race riot. It's not a bigoted place, it's just that blacks aren't a big part of the landscape.) I'll post more on the theme later. I love Joplin as my home town, but I was startled when the Globe endorsed Obama.



Remembering Johnny Rose's Grocery Store in Joplin

Every now and then meandering about in the Internet one stumbles on something that awakens deep, old, nearly forgotten memories. Because the Internet lets one read one's hometown newspaper, I do so from time to time. The Joplin Globe, my hometown paper.

Somebody wrote in about the old Johnny Rose grocery store at the corner of 18th and Connor in Joplin. If y0u click on the link, you'll see that I posted a short comment to the letter. "Johnny's" was a place I remember extremely well. Read the post at the link or the rest may make little sense to you.

The earliest home I remember was at 912 West 16th Street in Joplin, on 16th between Connor and Bird, or just about two blocks from Johnny's store. When I was in the third grade (Sarah's current age and grade) we moved to 1618 Murphy, maybe three blocks from Johnny's. Johnny's was an old time mom and pop grocery: no refrigerated cases I can remember, just bulk groceries and, the key point, a big glass cabinet up front with candy and gum and a coke case. Across the street was the Lafayette public school, and Johnny's was, as the letter writer notes, a retreat and resource for the kids at Lafatette, I went to the Catholic school, but Johnny's was still the place to go for candy, baseball card bubble gum (Topps of course), and other treats. In an age before convenience stores these little neighborhood groceries were the convenience stores. And as I note in my comment, after a certain age, in that era when predators and child molesters were unheard of, I was allowed to walk to Johnny's on my own.

Johnny knew everybody by name. He was a classic old-style grocer. (Did he have a mustache? I'm not sure but part of me wants to think so. Black hair, usually in a white grocer's outfit I think.) The store was an old-time frame building with a (concrete or wood?) front porch. When you walked in there was the big candy case right in front of you, a coke case on one side, the big red refrigerated tub kind, and groceries on shelves around the walls. Just maybe there was a meat case in the back but I wouldn't swear to it now.

As the letter writer notes eventually Johnny moved to Range Line Road, Joplin's "bypass" which became its main shopping district. I don't think I went to the new store more than once or twice, just to say hello. I don't know when he went out of business.

Odd what ancient memories the Internet can surface. Johnny Rose, no doubt long gone, will be somewhere in my subconscious as long as I live.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Catching Up: Halloween etc.

It's been busy lately. Over the last few weeks we have successively had our washing machine go out, and replaced it with a new one and a new dryer to match; our garbage disposal die, and a major leak in the bathroom require a major repair; and the digital camera freeze up at the halloween party, necessitating a new one. These were all things that were going to need replacing, but going out when they did meant a recalibration of what was left of our stimulus payment and tax refund, and our hopes of keeping some of it in reserve was pretty much obliterated, but at least we didn't have to go into further debt for this stuff.

That has kept us busy. The last weekend before this one we did get to the Newseum for the first time, a great, five-storey museum of the history of news-gathering, truly impressive though we didn't spend much time in the six or so theaters that are running stuff all the time, or the live news studio they have there. Sarah loved the interactive stuff. Unfortunately, it is -- unlike the Smithsonian, which is free and spoils Washingtonians -- a place with fairly steep admissions, and with only individual annual memberships, no family rate.

The next day, Sunday, we felt like getting out of town a bit and went out to Warrenton, Virginia, stopping along the way at Jammin' Joe's Barbecue, which we hadn't previously found open. (BBQ served in a little trailer beside the road, with parking and an adjacent sales place for playground equipment, which gave Sarah some place to play.) Good BBQ, though they seem to also have a place in Fort Myers, FL if you follow the links on the website. We also stopped at the Old Jail Museum in Warrenton, home of the Fauquier County historical society (that's Mosby country); stopped at a local Wal-Mart to stock up on discount stuff as there are none close to us, and so on.

On Thursday Tam had a couple of medical procedures (everything was fine but since she was drugged up for them I had to take the day off to drive her), so I had both Thursday and my usual Friday off. Friday was, of course, halloween. Sarah, as already noted, was a witch this year. I attended the halloween parade at her school (stills at the Flickr site; I'll be putting a YouTube together soon). I also attended as a helper the class party, but my digital camera died during the parade so I have no video or stills of the party, where everybody ate, danced, and covered classmates in toilet paper to make mummies. This, I think, explains some odd conversation, not otherwise explained, I noted in last year's post on the halloween party.

In the evening, we went trick or treating. Despite announcing plans to do every single house in our whole subdivision, we did our usual three streets or so, and after the first street joined up with her friend Catherine from across the street and jointly tricked and treated till Sarah's two plastic pumpkins were groaning with candy. The rest of the weekend has seen extensive sugar highs despite our attempts to ration the candy.

The new camera I bought to replace the one that died is a bit higher resolution so both stills and videos should improve.

More to come.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Witching Night

I'll post more on halloween's doings tomorrow (or later today as it's already the witching hour, appropriately since I spent the day with several witches). Went to Sarah's halloween parade, attended her class party as a volunteer, and then of course went trick or treating. She was a witch this year, an angel last -- whatever that may mean. Witches were big in her class -- there were at least four. Here's a shot that doesn't show her face; others are going up on the Flickr account.

I haven't posted for a bit and have other things to report as well, but give me a bit of time to get back to it.