a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew


Posted by Thomas Nephew on 14th June 2008

Who the heck is Thomas Nephew?

I was born in 1958 in Schweinfurt, Germany. My mother is German, and I grew up speaking German — first just a few words, then somewhat more fluently following a summer’s worth of at-home schooling, followed by a trip to see my relatives in “Franken,” in North Bavaria. All of this by way of explaining the frequent entries about Germany. For the most part, I grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; I’ve also lived in Jülich and Tübingen, Germany, St. Louis, MO, Davis and Oakland in California, and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

My home is now Takoma Park, MD, just north of Washington, DC.

I have a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. Before that, I studied biology at Washington University in St. Louis and the Universität Tübingen (year abroad program), and then genetics at U.C. Davis. I got “sidetracked” while at U.C. Davis, and worked for the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign there and then later in Oakland, California. Following that I worked at the Prevention Research Center in Berkeley.

I’m married to the lovely and talented Cricket Dadian, and we have a beautiful girl named Madeleine (Maddie).


I welcome e-mail correspondence; you can e-mail me at thomasn528 at gm@il d0t c0m. You’ll need to replace the ” at ” and ” dot ” with “@” and “.” (Sorry for the inconvenience. I’m hoping this keeps spammers’ computers from getting my e-mail address by hunting through my web site.)

You can use HTML or text format e-mail, I don’t care. I will try to answer all serious e-mail, or explain why I can’t do so on the blog.

When your correspondence is about a blog post or an issue you’d like to see discussed, please indicate whether you mind being quoted, and if not under what name (true, pseudonym, anonymous) you’d prefer to be quoted.

However, abusive e-mails I suspect to be responses to posts in the “newsrack” blog or to the blog in general will be published at my discretion, with your name attached. I’ll also take other steps as warranted.

What rules are there about commenting?

Just be polite with eachother, and to some extent with me; treat the comment area not as a megaphone or a substitute blog, but a place for on-topic, polite, conversational length comments.   I reserve the right to take action about a comment if I think it is too impolite or offensive, or for any other reason I see fit, particularly including comments that are…

1) off-topic (including but not limited to commercial spam),
2) way too long (e.g., 1, 2), or
3) from an IP source reasonably suspected to indicate that the commenter is truth- or candor-challenged on the topic.

When necessary, I will either…

1) delete the comment,
2) block the IP address of the commenter,
3) or both.

I don’t mean to cut off or chill normal discussion, which can get heated now and then. Also, I’ll hold comments about me to a lower standard than comments about other readers. This is mainly about foul language, racist language, or sexist language. All are out of bounds.

Hey — what happened to my comments from a while back?

I messed up at one point and lost comments from my old commenting service, BlogBack Plus, which went out of service a short while later. I had backed up a bunch of the old Blogback comments, and hope to add them to the archived Haloscan comments at some point and hook that all up again. But some (roughly from early June 2005-September 2005) are gone for good. I’m sorry.


The small rainbow-hued square near the bottom of each page on this site (see image to right) is a “Sitemeter” visit and page counting application. I’ve set the “privacy” level of visitors who click through on that image to “medium”:

Your visitors can’t see any of your site reports and charts but the information in the “General Summary” report may be used and displayed in public lists or rankings with other sites (for example: a list of sites ranked by their average daily visits).   If someone clicks on the Site Meter counter on your page, it will not take them to your statistics page.

However, as the owner of the site and the “sitemeter” application, I see more information, including:

Domain Name, IP Address, ISP, Location (approximate): Country, State, City, Operating System, Browser, Javascript, Monitor resolution, Color Depth, Time of Visit, Last Page View, Visit Length, Page Views, Referring URL, Visit Entry Page, Visit Exit Page, “Out Click” (most recent page, if any, visited via a click from this site), Time Zone, Visitor’s Time, and Visit Number.

I pledge to keep this information to myself unless I think someone is engaging in hostile behavior (spamming and the like) or deceptive behavior, i.e., pretending in comments to be someone they aren’t or (in my judgment) failing to reveal important bias that may reasonably be inferred from the domain or other information.  My usual interest in the information, however, is simply to see how many visits I get, which posts of mine are linked to by other web sites, and what those web sites are.

What are your blog policies? Or do you just do whatever you want?

I sometimes go back and tinker with my posts after I publish them to the web. I usually add “EDIT:” or “UPDATE:” comments within the post when I do so, so people returning to the post (especially via a link to the post established before the edit) have an explanation for the change.

Yes, I do pretty much whatever I want.


I have no control over and do not endorse any external Internet site not owned by me that contains links to or references this site.  Also, if I link to a site, that does not imply I approve of the site or any specific opinions expressed there.

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The really important news on what is now truly a Super Tuesday

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 5th February 2008

I may need to send Ron Paul a contribution. Some of his supporters have been saying John McCain is ineligible to be President because he was born in the Canal Zone, but while Article II of the Constitution seems to bear them out —“no person except a natural born Citizen… shall be eligible to the Office of President.” — it all depends on what ‘natural-born citizen’ means, doesn’t it, says the Washington Post’s Ron “Political Junkie” Rudin:

Some might define the term ‘natural-born citizen’ as one who was born on United States soil. But the First Congress, on March 26, 1790, approved an act that declared, ‘The children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea, or outside the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural-born citizens of the United States.’ That would seem to include McCain, whose parents were both citizens and whose father was a Navy officer stationed at the U.S. naval base in Panama at the time of John’s birth in 1936.

Well waddayaknow. Not clear if it takes both parents being U.S. citizens, so that may take a little bit of litigation… And then: Thomas in 2012! (Hear all the T’s? Alliteration. Plus I’ve already got my slogan: “Change I can believe in.”) I have, like, twenty friends on Facebook, so this should be a cinch.

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Happy fourth birthday, fact-esque!

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 14th January 2008

Originally uploaded by longwayround

E-Robin’s blog “fact-esque” is celebrating its fourth birthday, so here’s a birthday cake; I hope it’s OK with photographer “longwayround” (seems to be under the license), but if not, I’ll find another one.

“Fact-esque” is one of my favorite blogs; eRobin manages a rare blend of activism, smarts, passion, and good humor that I haven’t found anywhere else.

Each of her readers will have their own favorite posts, but here are a few of mine:

I’ve met eRobin once, at a demonstration back in 2005; she’s as nice in person as she seems online. As Edwards supporters will be chanting in 2012: Four more years! Four more years! …Well, whether they’re chanting that or not in 2012, I am right now. Keep up the great work, eRobin — long may you blog!

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Washington Ballet Nutcracker season over

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 24th December 2007

It’s been fun getting Maddie to the Washington Ballet Nutcracker shows and being part of the hustle and bustle of Christmastime. I helped sell Nutcracker paraphernalia during intermission a few times, benefiting the Washington Ballet School’s scholarship funds. Before the show, at intermission, after the show: a crush of people — what’s the price on that? I’ll find out for you; yes, we take credit cards, would you like that wrapped, hope the credit card connection doesn’t hang — and then it’s over with a litter of tissue paper, paper rolls, and shopping bags around you and “see you next time”s. I kind of like it.

But it’s also been a little exhausting after a while — between that and Christmas shopping, neighborhood parties and an end of year crunch at work, I’ve been even more sporadic about blogging than usual.

Maddie’s in her second year as a “Fox page” in the Sugar Plum Fairy’s woodland (rather than Land of Sweets) court scenes, mainly early in the second act. She comes skittering out with a bouquet for Clara and the Nutcracker Prince, does a little dance around them with other woodland creatures, and then retires to a side stage to watch the rest of the proceedings — which were also fabulous, as ever. The show is really fun; kids of almost all skill levels are integrated into an imaginative, “Americanized” production of the ballet (in this case set in 1880s or so Georgetown, and then in the dreams of the American Clara, peopled by Betsy Ross, Ben Franklin, a King George Rat, etc.).

The top pros are scintillating — while I’m no expert, I was particularly impressed by the Sugar Plum Fairy, and the dancers of the “Arabian Dance” (recast as “Anacostian Indians” in this production). But I was also very impressed with the top ballet school students (I believe), some of whom put in several pieces of hard work (and some very quick costume changes!) per performance — party girl to Snowflake to Cardinal to Cherry Blossom — always dancing beautifully.

There may be other good Nutcracker productions out there, but I don’t think there could be a better one. It’s well worth your while if you get a chance; but at this point this parent and volunteer is relieved that won’t be until next year!

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My blog space

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 16th December 2007

My blog space
Originally uploaded by Thomas Nephew

I’m joining in “Show Your Blog Space Day” at PSoTD’s request. Note the printer cable obstructing the (seldom used) file cabinet drawer. For a far more sightly blog space, see eRobin’s entry. The computer wallpaper is “globe east 2048,” via NASA Earth Observatory’s “Visible Earth.”

I don’t usually have this many books on my desk, but I’m intending to write a bit about a couple I’ve read recently, so there they are — “The Shock Doctrine” (Naomi Klein), and “A Shameful Act” (Taner Akcam). Thumbs up review versions: two thumbs up for both books. Five word review versions: History retold challenges “free” marketeers; Turk: how Turks committed genocide.

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Eloise in Washington, D.C.

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 15th October 2007

Hilary Knight and Eloise
Hilary Knight and Eloise. Originally
uploaded by Thomas Nephew; see
also slideshow.

On Saturday we had a rather wonderful day, organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Willard Hotel, and Hilary Knight — illustrator of the famed “Eloise” children’s book series. The details of the event are described here (“WhereToGoNext”):

Mr. Knight will demonstrate the way he poses her figure, creates her expressions, and explores her gestures. Participants will use pen and ink to illustrate their own whimsical storybook character. Materials are included and parents are welcome to observe.

He did, and then about two dozen kids sat down and had two dozen good cracks at it themselves, while parents wandered from kids table to kids table, sipped their coffees, and just soaked up a beautiful day. Maddie created a couple of nice drawings, including one — a blue vase with flowers on a yellow table — that is quite good indeed, I think.

The workshop took place in Pershing Plaza, a small park in front of the (re-)refurbished, historic Willard Hotel (now Willard InterContinental) on Pennsylvania Avenue. Twain, Grant, Lincoln, have been there, Julia Ward Howe wrote “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and Martin Luther King finished his “I have a dream” speech there. (For his part, Grant coined the word “lobbyist” there for the people who laid in wait for him in the hotel lobby where he went to relax after a day at the White House.) There’s a nice little exhibit on the ground floor of the hotel that’s open to the public. (Use the F Street entrance, across from Border’s Books.)

It looks like this won’t be the last time Mr. Knight and his little creation are in town: the workshop “is the beginning of a series of “Eloise” events in conjunction with the Willard slated for 2008-9. Could be fun; it was for us.

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Annals of Feline Behavior

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 26th April 2007

Gypsy is a sweet calico cat who we’ve been a foster family to so long that we now dread ever losing her.

Sebastian is a guinea pig we acquired at the beginning of the year, when his former owner wasn’t allowed to keep him in her dorm room any longer. For a small, rotund, and (between you and me) rather stupid rodent, he’s surprisingly feisty, apparently believing his little nips and “bronco bucks” can handle any danger.

Last week we wanted Sebastian to enjoy the spring weather, too, and built a rudimentary “corral” from sticks lying around the yard. This sufficed to keep Sebastian from escaping, and he settled down to grazing on the grass inside the enclosure. Gypsy was interested at first, but eventually wandered back to the warm pavement of the doorway.

Sebastian was a droll little sight, and soon a neighbor walking a small dog — about Gypsy’s size — on one of those extendable leashes stopped for a look. Sebastian seemed unconcerned (or maybe he was just focused on munching grass), but the dog was deeply intrigued, and its owner “played out” the leash little by little, allowing the eager dog, straining and standing on its hind legs against the leash, to get closer, a little closer yet, closer…

Then a terrifying, spitting, furious bundle of brown, black and white fur, teeth, and claws launched itself between the dog and the guinea pig, all four legs extended and claws out in a kind of feline Kung Fu. It was Gypsy, and she kept up a bounding, cartwheeling, hissing attack while the owner hastily “reeled in” a whimpering, thoroughly intimidated dog. I followed their retreat down the hill long enough to see the dog was apparently unbloodied, and returned to our front yard; Gypsy had by then retreated from the scene as well, as she does when she’s upset or anxious. But when we fetched her back, she settled down a few yards from the improvised corral, with what I really think was satisfaction and even a touch of complacency — about her defense of Sebastian.

We’ve never left Sebastian ‘at the mercy’ of the cat, but we have sometimes had the two of them together under supervision. Gypsy’s usually been mildly curious until Sebastian swaggers up and snuffs at her, which is too forward to suit her. But since we’ve had her we’ve also noticed something rather maternal about Gypsy: she’ll often ‘babysit’ Maddie and her pals when they’re outdoors, following them around, then settling down at a discreet distance and watching over the children at play. I wonder whether her theory is that Sebastian is yet another incompetent kitten. At least he’s roughly the right size.

Gypsy’s been the toast of the household ever since the battle of Sebastian’s Corral. Which isn’t to say we’re going to start leaving her and the guinea pig alone together without a cage between them. I think he’s a little too big to be an easy kill for her, but I also think he’s way too confident about his safety — and I don’t want to give her “predator” nerve circuits the chance to overcome the “family?” ones some day.

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Single daddy – the new hit reality show

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 24th April 2006

Week 1 of 3 is over. It’s not a trial, not with my good little girl, but it’s uninterrupted, plus the early to bed, early to rise jet lag effect has persisted. So I’m out of gas early most nights.

I’ve put together a bunch of links for many of the places we visited in Italy, and hope to get a post up tonight or tomorrow. We’ll see. In other news, I finally got the house tidied up to a halfway decent level, and the Teal Stars (my girl’s soccer team) won 1-0 this afternoon, and Maddie and her team played beautifully.

Looking forward to Cricket’s return very much. And now it’s time for some LOTR nighttime reading.

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Italy travelogue

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 19th April 2006

ColosseumWhat a trip! True, we’ll be paying for it for a while, but: what a trip. As I did with our Germany trip a couple of years ago, I’ll be adding back-dated posts (posts dated to the time of the trip, rather than the actual date of the post) over the next weeks, along with some of the pictures we took along the way. The outline will be

The posts will be a bit of a memory aid for me, as well as a chance for me to learn more about what I saw. If you prefer, here’s a link to some of the better pictures from this trip individually or as a slideshow: more pictures, fewer words.

Right now there are only three photos there of the twenty or so I have available. On the other hand, at that rate I’m liable to post another 20 or 25 photos on my site. However, I’m not a paying Flickr member, so I’ll be adding pictures slowly, as my monthly upload limit allows. Subscribing to this feed (RSS) or this one (Atom) provides an easy way to check for new ones. By the way, you can also subscribe to a “Feedblitz” e-mail notification of new “newsrack” posts here; that might make it a bit easier to know when backdated posts have been posted. It’s easy to unsubscribe.

I’m trying to catch up on the news as well, but I’ve been a bit out of the loop for a while; meanwhile, this blog might serve as an occasional welcome Italian vacation from the news. I’ll say that I was expecting to still be reading about Libby’s revelation about Bush authorizing leaks. But the growing Iran drumbeat and the immigration demonstrations were going to push that out of the limelight a little — the prospect of yet more war and the concerns of millions of immigrants trump Beltway skulduggery.

UPDATE, 4/26: A couple of posts are up now, click on the “Rome” and “Rome, continued” links or scroll down if you’re on the home page. Also, Feedblitz doesn’t register backdated posts as new, so that won’t work.
UPDATE, 5/5: There are about 30 Italy photos on my site now; many are displayed below, some aren’t. Have a look!

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That 4’s thing

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 19th February 2006

I’ve been tagged by Karen (“Peripetia”) to continue the online getting-to-know-you thing called “meme of fours”; thanks! Here goes:

4 jobs I’ve had: salmon packer, phonebank/database supervisor, sunflower roguer, research analyst.
4 movies I can watch over and over: The Hunt for Red October, Bourne Identity, Lawrence of Arabia, You Can Count On Me. That last one features no explosions whatsoever, so there.
4 places I’ve lived: Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Tuebingen, Germany; Klawock, Alaska; Oakland, California.
4 TV shows I love: don’t watch much TV these days. Happy to sit down for Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Law and Order. Working my way through The Sopranos on DVD.
4 highly regarded and recommended TV shows I haven’t seen: Battlestar Galactica, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, Oprah.
4 places I’ve vacationed: Zanzibar, Ribadesella (Spain), Chincoteague, the Languedoc.
4 of my favorite dishes: beer can chicken (rubbed with 1:paprika/1:brown sugar/some:cayenne); homemade lasagna; “Armenian soup” (hamburger, herbs, garlic, broth, tomato paste, noodles, mint, yoghurt topping); crabs, Old Bay seasoning, and beer — it’s my blog, I say it’s a dish.
4 sites I visit daily: Hullabaloo, fact-esque, Talking Points Memo, alicublog.
4 places I’d rather be right now: some warm beach near some interesting city (were it daytime), a good restaurant in Paris, browsing in a good bookstore, curled up with my family. Hey! I can do that right now.
4 bloggers I’m tagging: Tim Weber, Pablo Shounin, Gary Farber, Nell. Outta here.

Olargues sur l’Orb, Languedoc-Roussillon region, 2002

UPDATE: Tim really likes his mom’s spaghetti and meatballs; Gary doesn’t usually do memes, but will consider this one… aha: an ampleness of amygdaldom; Pablo aka Paul stabs from hell’s heart at me.

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