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.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Philadelphia 2008, Day 2

LATER POST: Despite some rough moments earlier, a very nice evening. Kate had a review of Dante & Luigi's Corona del Ferro, (Crown of Iron?), allegedly Philadelphia's oldest Italian restaurant, so we all packed up and went there. A great place, out in little Italy somewhere and apparently near nothing at all, and had a tremendous meal. (WArning: no credit cards, though out of town checks were okay.)

Coming home, sharing a cab, me in the front seat with the driver.

"Where you from?"

"Tunisia. Do you know it?"

"Sure. I took my honeymoon in Sidi Bou."

"Sidi Bou Said?"

"Of course. And I've interviewed your President."


"Ben Ali."

"Ben Who?"

"Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Ra'is al-Jumhuriyya. [President of the Republic.]"

"Oh., Ben al-LEE." [No Tunisian pronounces it that way, but Americans do.)

Next question from him: "Are you CIA?"

Anyway, another step in the messing-with-cabbies'- minds operation.


As I write this Sarah and Tam are in the pool; I'm taking a break from proofreading to make note of the events of the day. We joined Kate for breakfast and then Brenda joined us as well and we went to see the Liberty Bell. (Kate had to be back at 2 for interviews and the earliest timed-entry
admission to Independence Hall was 2, so she'll have to catch that another time.) Then we took a carriage tour -- the slightly longer version than we'd taken last year, and with more sights -- and then had a nice colonial lunch at the City Tavern. Kate and Brenda had to leave, so Tam, Sarah and I made our way via an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and Elfreth's Alley, then a subway ride back to near our hotel. By this time Sarah was tired, my feet hurt, Sarah started complaining and we had a row. A blow-up. What in Egypt is called a dawsha, a "noise." We all eventually calmed down but it was a sign we had been pushing too hard. For all of us.

Anyway, this is an interlude before the evening's plans. More later if time per.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Philadelphia 2008, Day 1

On the road again...on Boxing Day.

Not the most efficient launch. We discovered we could not find our DeLorme atlas for Maryland and Delaware, so had to be limited to the main highways but weren't planning on back roads anyway. But as a map nut it meant I got off to an annoying start being mapless for two whole states. By the time we discovered I couldn't get a new one at Borders, Safeway or Staples, hopes of an early departure had faded.

We did manage to visit the Brandywine River Museum, known for the works of Andrew Wyeth and his sisters and his cousins and his aunts (or father and son anyway); there was a Christmas exhibit of model trains which Sarah enjoyed; though interested in art, Wyeth was not her cup of tea, though we did buy a print by another painter of the Brandwine school. And we did see some Howard Pyle paintings for Treasure Island,including a classic Long John Silver complete with pegleg and parrot.

We arrived in Philadelphia about five. Our downtown Hampton Inn is next to the Convention Center, which is now undergoing an expansion, so we may have some construction noise. It's only a couple of blocks from Tam's sister Kate's hotel and we hope to see her tomorrow. She's here for a philosophy conference.

We took Sarah to the old Wanamaker's by the city hall; complete with organ in the main hall. Like all historic urban department stores it is now a Macy's, but I suspect the locals still think of it as Wanamaker's. We showed Sarah the Christmas windows, something new to her: department stores at suburban malls don't do animated Christmas windows.

We stopped for a drink at the local Hard Rock Cafe, Sarah's first at a Hard Rock and, based on reaction, not likely to be repeated soon. Once they opened one in Cairo I knew they'd overextended the franchise.

Just ate at a local pizzeria, very downmarket. More likely we'll have a nice evening with Kate tomorrow.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas. A quiet day today. Sarah proclaimed it the "best Christmas ever" and kept saying "you guys rock!" because she got most of what she wanted. (One high profile item, a Nerf Gun N-Strike Long Shot, has missing pieces and no instructions and will need to be replaced, but we've assured her it will be.) She's had a good day, we've had a quiet dinner, and tomorrow we hit the road for Philadelphia. More from there. Everybody's mellow. I'm still having some (mostly gassy) aftereffects from last week's bug, but feel okay.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Recovering Just in Time

Okay, I vanished over a week ago. Here's the story: Tuesday night (December 16 -- a week ago tonight) I got home, picked up Sarah, and then started having diarrhea. By later that evening I was running a fever. Wednesday I called in sick and gambled I had a one day virus. By Wednesday night I knew better, and added throwing up to the repertoire. Thursday I saw my doctor. Probably the norovirus, he says, the nasty thing that's going around. (He also sent me to see the surgeon about my hernia as he was alarmed about its state during all this. It was okay but I was read the riot act about getting it fixed soon.) For several more days I couldn't hold down much solid food -- mostly broth and toast was my sustenance, plus gatorade.

Even by the weekend I was no fun. Starting to be able to eat a little, the fevers gone, but still with lower intestinal troubles and, well, constipation to boot. I won't go into any further details. That's more than you want to know.

Anyway, today, the one week anniversary of my coming down with it, is the first genuinely normal day I've had. Losing a week of work/family time the week before Christmas is no fun.

Fortunately, the Middle East Institute decided to close all week anyway this week: they were already committed for one reason or another to closing Dec. 24-25-26, so they just folded. I'll be doing proofreading at home and on our trip to Philadelphia to see Aunt Kate, about which more anon.

Sarah has all week off; had been signed up for summer camp but when she learned I was off, that became moot. Today, my first day as a human being again, we spent as a father-daughter shopping day, one visit to Toys R Us (I am not qualified to identify the Pokemon cards I'd promised, so she agreed if I took her with me she'd put them under the tree), then Trader Joe's and Safeway for Christmas fixings, and Office Depot for some supplies. A nice (if expensive -- shopping with Sarah costs more than alone, even at Office Depot--"I need more erasers!"--but still a nice Daddy-daughter day).

More later if I can. Tomorrow is Christmas eve. We are doing Christmas as we did Thanksgiving, "mini-chickens," or cornish game hens, rather than Turkey. Easier on Tam, preferred by Sarah. What's wrong with that?


Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Tree

Christmas season can officially begin. We got our tree today. Sarah: "This is my favorite part of Christmas!" Me: "Does that mean we don't have to give you any presents this year?" Sarah: "Get serious, Dad."

Left, the before and after. Sarah picked out the tree herself, was really into the decorating, and is getting to know the stories behind many of the ornaments we have acquired through the years. I may talk more about this as the holidays draw nearer, but I wanted to at least take note that the tree is up. Her first Christmas, 2001, when she was just 18 months old, she couldn't yet say "tree," but would smile and say "gee" with a hard "g". Now she's an old hand at decorating trees.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Klaatu Barada Nikto

Okay. Normally I wouldn't blog about a movie I haven't seen, but desecration is desecration, and if the reviews are true, I need to speak out.

One of the greatest movies ever made, a classic in the sci-fi genre, is The Day the Earth Stood Still, made back in 1951, with Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Sam Jaffe as the Einstein-like scientist (he had the hair for it after all), and Frances Bavier (Aunt Bee, of course) as a resident of the boarding house. Also Hugh Marlowe, who starred in Earth Versus the Flying Saucers (special effects by the immortal Ray Harryhausen, still alive at age 88 and revered by Spielberg and Lucas as their inspiration and honored by Disney/Pixar in the name of the restaurant "Harry Hausen's" in Monsters Inc. If you're of my generation and don't know who Harryhausen is, he did the dueling skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts, What more do you need to know?) and (Hugh Marlowe -- I got a bit astray there) is therefore part of the pantheon of classic SF movie stars. (I always confuse him with Richard Carlson, who starred in It Came From Outer Space and Creature from the Black Lagoon. They had the same stiff 1950s acting style and didn't smile much, so you knew the monsters were a serious threat. Both pretty much the same Hollywood issue not-too-famous moderately handsome unsmiling serious white guy. I still have trouble telling them apart. The acting -- to stretch a phrase a bit -- doesn't distinguish either one.) Now they have remade the thing with Keanu Reaves, and instead of warning the world about nuclear weapons he's apparently upset about global warming or some such. Ah, even the aliens have gone PC. (Perhaps this explains Al Gore's famous stiffness: if not an alien himself, perhaps he's channleing either Hugh Marlowe or Richard Carlson.)

Fine. Remakes are acceptable, though there are some movies (Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, A Night at the Opera) that cannot be remade. I dare you to recast Duck Soup. Somebody some years ago remade Psycho, but it flopped. Of course. You can't remake the true greats.

I said to Tam a while back that while I was very dubious about a remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, it would be okay as long as they used the immortal phrase Klaatu Barada Nikto, the alien phrase that is the most famous artifact of the movie for most fans. Based on a very lukewarm review in the Washington Post, (which may require a free registration to read), they omitted "Klaatu Barada Nikto" from this version. Okay, you might as well have made Casablanca without "Round Up the Usual Suspects" or Gone With the Wind without "Frankly, My Dear, I Don't Give a Damn,". Or Night at the Opera without Groucho. Okay, or Citizen Kane without "Rosebud." Feel free to add your own as comments. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance a) without John Wayne or b) Jimmy Stewart or c) Wayne never calls anyone in the movie "pilgrim." Easy Rider without "We blew it." (Actually, that's the only thing I remember from that movie.)

So I'm not going, though I note the fact that many reviewers have noted that Keanu Reeves is well cast as an alien creature. Typecast perhaps?

Another gripe. In the 1951 version, the flying saucer lands in Washington, on the Ellipse near the White House. There are a lot of scenes of DC in 1951, not just of the monuments but of neighborhoods as well. Many of the chase scenes pass through Dupont Circle, a block from my office (admittedly, they pass by two or three times). I gather in the new version he lands in Central Park. No fair. If you want us to Take You to Our Leader, you've got to come here. What, you expect the UN to do something? Bush will be gone soon if that was the problem.

On the good side, the American Movie Classics (or whatever AMC stands for) channel has been running the original all week, and I have the DVD anyway. Besides (since on our local cable AMC is 93, while Disney is 92, so Sarah sometimes mis-clicks) Sarah told me "Look, they're running The Day The Earth Stood Still!" She still won't watch the whole (1951) movie with me, but she recognizes it now. Progress.

Klaatu Barada Nikto, y'all. Rent the video instead.

And watch the skies. I know, I know, that's from The Thing From Another World, otherwise just The Thing, but it's of the same vintage (also 1951), and hell, the Thing was played by James Arness (Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke for you young whippersnappers), though you mostly see him as a shadowy shape or bursting into flames. Watch the skies anyway.

BELATED UPDATE (January 2, '09): I hadn't known about Ronald Reagan's fascination with The Day the Earth Stood Still. See details here. Neat.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Usual Excuses

Okay, I've been scarce. The usual reasons: busy at work getting the Winter issue out; one day off with a stomach complaint; runup to Christmas, shopping etc. Stay tuned.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pearl Harbor Day +67 Years

What I said last year. Pearl Harbor still matters.

Haven't had much time to blog. Soon I hope.