Friday, September 14, 2018


The arrival of fall is palpable here. Suddenly the nights turn cool, dew drenches everything and the skies are clear again. Last night I got my best view ever of Mars, which is close to Earth at the moment. I could clearly see the ice sheet at its south pole. Many of my favorites are visible now, and Orion is up by 3:00 AM. I am planning more viewing tonight. Hurricane Florence is headed this way, and the clouds will be back in a few days.

Although I don't read it that much and rarely post comments on it, I have come to further appreciate 3 Quarks Daily. S. Abbas Raza makes excellent selections of math and science articles, Morgan Meis makes good literary selections, Azra Raza makes good medical selections, and Jim Culleny makes good poetry selections. They have a significant advantage over websites that only post articles written for pay. I believe that the fact that contributors there don't get paid makes their selections less inbred and better rounded than those on sites attempting to sustain commercially profitable operations. At 3 Quarks Daily, the articles are considered on their own merits, independent of the fact that some editor has space that needs to be filled, a particular image to maintain and egos to soothe. Thus, I decided to donate $500 to them. I received a nice email from S. Abbas Raza, who invited me to visit him if I'm ever in northern Italy.

On the genealogical front, I have resolved a disagreement over the identity of a person in the old group photograph. He is definitely my great-grandfather. I have two photographs of him. In one (the one posted here), he is near the center, the patriarch, with his wife, four children, their spouses and the grandchildren, in Athens in about 1930. In the other, he is posing with my grandfather in Richmond, Indiana in about 1910. I was able to find the passenger log with a detailed description of his trip from Bursa, Turkey to the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana on September 20, 1910. People who research their family histories often look for some glorious past. In my family, this great-grandfather would be my claim to fame. He started multiple businesses, became wealthy, kept my grandfather out of the Turkish army, orchestrated the escape of the family from the Armenian massacres in Turkey in 1915, and became a philanthropist who helped Armenian refugees in Greece. My cousin also tells me that this family once included a bishop in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Over the years, I have come to identify more with my Armenian side than with my English side. This has little to do with cultural heritage and more to do with ethnic characteristics and intelligence. While my English side had some business successes, my Armenian side was wealthier and more sophisticated. When my mother moved to England, she was appalled by her mother-in-law, whom she considered crude and vulgar. Moreover, there is an ineffable toughness and resourcefulness in the Armenian side that I don't see in the English, or, for that matter, amongst most Americans. I feel more at home with tough-minded people and become impatient with English milquetoasts and American conformists. I have found that, although I am not an aggressive or ambitious person, I was better able to weather the few adverse circumstances I faced than most. In fact, my fate seems to have been to pair up with less-stable people and provide them with ballast. At times I get fed up with people who are feeble or mentally ill – who would be more interesting to me if they could fend for themselves better and display less of their baggage.

I have been reading a little Katherine Mansfield and will probably comment on that next.

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