Archive for January, 2006

BlackI leave for three months sabbatical in Oslo, Norway, this afternoon. Originally I was scheduled to go last Wednesday, but delayed the departure after Brian Liu’s father died Monday in a fire at the family home. There was so much to do to prepare for the funeral on Friday, retrieve precious items from the smoke-damaged house, and deal with insurance. Plus help Mrs. Liu, who is now staying with Brian.

The delayed departure means I will start the sabbatical on Wednesday, 1 February. More on this later. If you’d like to send a message to Brian and his mother, please email them at:

An obit. Brian prepared for the local newspaper, the Laurel Leader follows…

“Sandy” Yan Ming Liu
“Sandy” Yan Ming Liu, 69, a resident of the same West Laurel home since 1968, died Jan. 23, 2006 of a fire in his garage, just after being diagnosed with terminal lung and brain cancer only 2 months earlier.

Sandy Liu was born Sept 1, 1937 in Hong Kong, graduated from Pui Ching High School on Sept 1, 1956, and immigrated to the United States on full scholarships to Pepperdine University and the University of California at Berkley. He married in Washington D.C. on May 26, 1968 and was naturalized on April 13, 1973. Following receipt of a graduate degree in Physics from the University of Maryland, he worked as an engineer for California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Labs, Goddard Space Flight Center (mid to late 60’s), The National Bureau of Standards (1969-1980), and most recently retired in July 2002 from 22 years of service as an Emergency Response Supervisory Engineer (w/ an expertise in the field of Photo Lithography) at Westinghouse Defense Center/Northrop Grumman (1980-2002).

Known for his quiet kindness, loyal friendships, and generosity, he spent the last 5-10 years traveling the world with his wife, and playing tennis, biking and swimming in various Laurel parks.

Sandy Liu is survived by his wife of 37 years, Lana, a travel agency owner, and his son Brian, a creative director/filmaker, who are both currently in Washington D.C.

A heavily attended memorial Mass was celebrated on the beautiful Friday afternoon of Jan. 27, 2006 at St. Mary of the Mills Catholic Church in Laurel, with the Rev. Msgr. Michael Wilson officiating. Burial followed at Parklawn Memorial Park cemetery in Rockville.

Arrangements were by Donaldson Funeral Home in Laurel. Memorial donations may be made to the George Washington University Cancer Center Fund (contact Barbara Apseloff (202)741-2218, email

SunsetWe returned to Cairo at about 10pm on New Year’s Eve, changed, and went to the mall for a uniquely Arab experience. Recently in every country I’ve visited from the Middle East (Bahrain, UAE), we’ve done the same thing for leisure – headed to the shopping mall. Hordes of kids clustered in groups according to gender were roaming around and, at 11pm, all the shops remained open. We met some friends of Ayman’s at a Lebanese restaurant in the mall, where we ate a great dinner and smoked shisha to celebrate the new year.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped by the park where the night before police had killed some 26 protestors from Sudan. The demonstrators had set up camp in the park a couple of weeks earlier because it was located opposite the Cairo offices of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). They were protesting a decrease in the benefits paid out by UNHCR as the organization attempted to convince them to return to Sudan following the peace deal with the south. Without warning the Egyptian police moved in to clear the park, killing 20 protestors in the process and receiving widespread international media attention.

As we looked on, a lot of police were still in the park clearing it of clothing and other materials left behind by the demonstrators. A plain clothed officer told us off for trying to take photos and we got out of there. I’ve read enough HRW reports to know that you don’t wanna mess with the Egyptian police and especially don’t want to end up in an Egyptian jail.
After a few hours sleep Ayman dropped me at the airport and 12 hours later I made it home to my apartment (and a hungry cat!). I realized I had spent just 5 full days on the ground in Egypt, a tiny amount of time. No shopping or sightseeing either. The pyramids and other sights have been there for thousands of years and will remain so in’shallah. I can return another time to do the tourist thing. I’m just glad I got to have the experience I did and grateful to Ayman for showing me a side of Egypt I probably would have never gotten to see without him.

Some links: