To an Ancient Chestnut Tree, Older than France…

Close enough to hear

The young bells of Nantes:

Ste Croix, Donatien, Nicolas

An eternity of matins

An eternity of compline-

It misses monks

Whose quiet bones

Have fed it

Since a thousand years.


Down, sipping deeply

From the River Erdre-

Imperial roots clutch

Roman mosaics-

Tesserae it holds

And dreams.

Down, through

Achelean and Mousterian,

Down through the Ages of Man.


Up, up from the bones

Of the blue-faced men-

Here a seedling

Of Time itself,

Sibling of Charlemagne

Grown wide with eons;

The zephyrs

Of the centuries

Have small effect.


The Force of History

Here is shaped-

Time itself clutched

And spiraled upward,


Ancient Sage,

Force of Nature,

Force of-

Its Own Becoming.


Slowly, ever so slowly the 66 Beetle begins to wake up. The engine runs now, as of this evening. and for the first time in a long time, we are running off generator power rather than just the battery. In this little car, 13.4 volts of charging makes a big difference. The voltage regulator under the back seat ticks and clicks a little while, as if tasting the current, and then settles down to some stability.

I am sitting in the cockpit, with its new paint and its new knobs. O’Hara is under the hood, poking about with the volt meter continuity light beneath the hood. We are communicating through the empty radio and glove box slot between us. Every wire needs to come off, be verified, be reconnected.

Every ground needs to be cleaned with a little bit of fine sand paper. What is funny, though, is that there is always quite a delayed reaction. A new wire joint doesn’t insure an immediate light. The process is not that linear. This is always a little bit of a mystical process.

There is the faintest smell of ozone, and then one orange running light decides to work. A little effort on another wire, and then we have a first passenger side headlamp, opposite side from the previous running light. Although it is itself a little wall eyed; this is obviously a first approximation. A couple of minutes go by—O’Hara is working on the grounds of the other headlight– and then suddenly the little blue high beam light comes on the dash pod. First time in many a year that little blue light has worked.

I fiddle with the key—turn the engine off. First the little green generator light springs to life now…. then after a moment, the red oil light. I restart the engine, and they happily go out. Now O’Hara has electrons to the second headlamp and the running light on that side. Obligingly, the headlight comes on. The running light stubbornly does not.

A little bit more ozone. Slowly, ever so slowly, the background odometer lights are coming into view inside the dash pod. I work the light switch rheostat back and forth a few times and the tiny bulbs brighten considerably. The brake light circuit does not yet work, nor do the flashers or turn-signal. We have 12 volts at the low end of the horn wire, but the horn is not bolted in place.

Another decision, and we decide to order and switch out the fuse block itself– there is enough corrosion of the old one to warrant it. Ross orders it up, along with myriad other pieces parts, body boots and clips. It is twenty bucks from Wolfsburg West, and takes a few days to arrive.

The following weekend is hot as blazes. This reminds me of a summer long ago when barking neighborhood dogs got me into trouble with my previous restoration of this same beetle. I think some about how young I actually was then. So much water under the bridge. Under all of the bridges for that matter. This time we are working with new wires and restoration parts, instead of bits and pieces all scavenged second-hand from boneyard cars. It is a different philosophy somewhat. Those days in Harrisburg seem like a really, really long time ago. Or else mere minutes past.

Switching out the fuse block takes a little time—it is easy to tell which wires O’Hara has pulled off previously and cleaned. They come off the block easily enough. The others are a bit more static– frozen in time and place. Needle nose pliers. Some re-sacrificing of electrical wiring spades. The old ones are trim brass and elegant; the modern Advance Autoparts pinch-and-crimp electrical spades are aluminum and hard plastic instead—they are frustrating and nearly useless. In good humor, we check tosee if they might really be made by Lucas Electric. Nope– made in China. (Ironically, we all suspect that Lucas connectors might just still be made of brass!)

Finally, the wires are all moved across and are in place. Now, for the first test– Throwing the switch.. and nothing. No headlights. Checking continuity at all the right places– no electrons. No running lights. It takes me a lot longer than it has any right to for me to realize that I have put in the new fuse block– but have forgotten to install the fuses into the new block. This could explain much. I roll my eyes, and fret about how much less facile I am now than I was in my twenties, the last time I went thorough this process.

Interestingly, of the block fuses, none of them are blown– they all have their little metal strips down the side intact. But only four of them will actually conduct any electricity according to the volt meter. The other four (the more modern ones, actually), the thin metal has all gone to hidden corrosion and oxidation. Two of the fuses are ceramic ones rather than plastic, and I assume that they might be original to whatever car that fuse block actually might have come from), since it appears that I didn’t replace those two back in 1988. I am going to replace them now anyhow. Maybe I will keep them in the glove compartment as momentos. Ross kindly digs out a set of new fuses from his secret stash.

The grounds on this particular car have always been a little strange. Back in 1988, much of this was remedied simply in the switch-over from 6 volts to 12 volts. The twelve volt system was simply a stronger brand of juice. Even then, though, with the import of the much newer, larger superbeetle engine, this entailed inventing a voltage regulator set-up under the back seat like a superbeetle, instead of the old style on on top of the generator. The grounding strap for the battery was left in place in 1988 and reused– but, to be fair, it hadn’t been nearly so corroded in 1988 as it seems to be now.

In switching out the ground strap Ross and I make an interesting discovery. The strap is not actually hooked to the grounding bolt to the frame of the car. That had been sheared off sometime long ago in the far distant past. What the strap really turns out to be bolted to is actually the floorpan bolt intended to hold the battery in place. No wonder all of the grounding of the car has been a little wonky all these years! Ross extracts the broken bolt and replaces it with a new, well seated one—in the correct place against the actual frame. Suddenly the car takes new life electrically. Now the lamps are bright and the switches are much more decisive.

This car has its original AM Sapphire I radio. Of course that radio was 6-volt, and I confess, I never took the time and energy to put in a converter, so that radio for the past 25 years has only been for show on the dash board. I actually have a slightly later 12 volt equivalent AM/FM equivalent by AudioVox. Still of that general vintage though. I may put that one into the car for awhile, and let O’Hara wire that for modern Bluetooth. I admit that it entertains me a lot to think of my 1966 Beetle radio system hosting Siri and GPS, and acting all 21st Century.

For years I had a little decal in my back window that said “Starfleet Academy.” Somehow, an application of Bluetooth feels like making that come to fruition, especially since I now actually work for Smithsonian Air and Space! I wonder if a Siri channeling through a 1966 Beetle will develop a German accent: if she will tend to preferentially play Kraftwerk through its early little transistors.

It will take some time and thought to put together a couple of iphone play lists pertinent to the car. Ballad of the Green Berets; Winchester Cathedral; The Sound of Silence; I am a Rock; Paint it Black; the Beatles Nowhere Man; Last Train to Clarksville. 1966 was a turbulent time indeed. It will be like driving through a Technicolor movie– maybe a nostalgic road scene from Farenheit 451. Or from the tilted horizon lenses and pop culture “Pows” and “Zowies” of the new Adam West Batman Movie on top of the wave that year.

1967 seems to be fair game as well. With movies like the Graduate, or Barefoot in the Park. And music along the lines of: Penny Lane; Kind of a Hush; Green Green Grass of Home; Snoopy and the Red Baron. Another year would bring Donovan’s Atlantis. And 1969 would bring the moon landing,

and a different future altogether:

“In the year 2525, if man is still alive

If woman can survive, they may find

In the year 3535

Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lie

Everything you think, do and say

Is in the pill you took today…

…Now it’s been ten thousand years

Man has cried a billion tears

For what, he never knew, now man’s reign is through

But through eternal night, the twinkling of starlight

So very far away, maybe… it’s only yesterday…”

-Zager and Williams

Different things get lost in history. Individuals like beetles, get swept away. In 1969, my big sister Cathy who was just 16, threatened to run away from home because my parents wouldnt let her go to Woodstock! Now I look back at those photos of a million people standing in the mud in upstate New York. So many Beetles scattered in the crowd. My 66 Beetle actually came from upstate New York originally. Did it make that mythical trek to Woodstock to hear young Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie; Janice Joplin and the Grateful Dead. Jimi Hendrix; Blood, Sweat &Tears, Crosby Stills and Nash? Maybe I am looking at my own Beetle in the photos, and dont even know it.

I remember hearing the mythic tale of young Joan Baez, singing swing low sweet chariot in the drizzling rain of that Friday night. About how, as the last act of the night, the entire crowd was silent, and that her clear voice was heard by everyone, even to the back of the crowd. Like a prophet of old.

It seems that I was teethed on Joan Baez and Pete Seeger music, Johnny Cash and Donovan. Voices of a generation. I suppose that these voices too will have to have their presence on my Bluetooth soundtrack. It doesnt make so much difference, I suppose, if my little car was actually at Woodstock itself. It seems that each individual Beetle is a Volkswagen mundi– car of the people, car of history, car of the world.

A couple of weeks later, and I have made the requisite treks and calls for legal paperwork– insurance, registration, and plates. The lady at DMV is entertained by the beetle, although she insists that the VIN number doesnt have the proper number of digits… It is on my title, however, so she shrugs and puts it into the computer somehow or another. She informs me that I absolutely cannot have HUMBUG on my license plate– but then she smiles and relents somewhat– she says that she does have “6HUMBUG” available– and that it is on special today. So that is what we will go with.

With the temporary tag in place, and the real plate being delivered to faraway Salem, we still have a gap between the time that the beetle begins to function, and the time that it can possibly be inspected, and or have its permanent plate. We take a couple more late afternoon/evenings trying to get the carburetor to idle down and to function properly. That poor carburetor is still the relic that was so crusted and rusted before, and O’Hara has done a yeoman’s work in rebuilding it. Still, the idler jet is clogged– the tiny little ball bearing is frozen into place. O’Hara has about 16 hours logged into fighting with all the little tubes and venturis in this carburetor. Finally, with a major blast of compressed air, the tiny ball bearing flies loose with a sort of ping– and amazingly, when it lets go, it is contained, and so it does not go shooting across the garage space. One more rebuild, and the carb begins to function as advertized. The idle is still a bit wonky—a little high, and a little bit low. But then again, it is early, and hopefully this will improve with a little driving. And maybe with a little fresher gasoline.

The first night drive takes the beetle about seven miles– far enough in a midnight run to get to a nearby all-night Gulf Station there we fill the tank with super high test and a can of Seafoam engine cleaner– help offset any remaining shellac in the tank. In the mean time, however, now suddenly we have developed a generator light– the generator brushes have been sparking some amount, and I admit, they are likely past their prime. We limp the car back to Caledonia in at least a little bit of defeat. During the week, Ross indeed discovers that the graphite brushes are worn all the way down to their little copper clips. He fetches out a couple new brushes from his secret supply, and then the generator light problem is no more.

The Shining……

I have mentioned Steve Ruzila previously, who was Ross Irwin’s room-mate. Steve also worked on
Mountain Lake Research with me as an undergraduate. On long weekends, or borrowed weekdays
when I wasn’t teaching class, we would take our equipment and head up the long serpentine hills of
Giles County toward the “Lake at the Top of the World.” This was where they had filmed the movie
“Dirty Dancing” some years before. And, in fact, the red 1965 Mustang that opens that movie belonged
to the brother of my doctoral advisor, Bruce Parker. Sometimes we would take the blue 1973 Beetle to
the top of the world– sometimes it was the little red 1966… and sometimes it was the yellow 1974 that
I had bought along the way for my mother. Eventually, she had urged me to take it down to Virgina
with me, where it was to live for a long time.
In truth, driving that yellow Beetle up the thousand-feet-elevation-in-seven-miles road reminded
me of a quite different movie opening. And as I drove, I could always hear the sombre opening strains
of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” echo in my head. On the way up the Mountain, we would pass the
little mis-spelled road sign that said “Rabit Meadow Road.” And I would often comment at the top of
the mountain on just how much the stone Mountain Lake Hotel looked to me like the Overlook Hotel
of the Shining movie. Especially on foggy days, when the light was gray and strained. Several times I
mentioned my temptation to apply for the winter caretaker job at the hotel, “so that I could get some
writing done on my Dissertation.”
But actually, the undergraduate students had not ever seen the 1980 film, which had happened
along about the time that they had been born. So one cold mid-winter evening we rented a VCR tape
from Blockbuster Video in Blacksburg, and we watched it as a homework assignment. Again the minor
key music, and again Jack Nicholson drove his little yellow Beetle upward toward his Destiny at the
big stone hotel. It took about one minute for the entire cadre of students to begin looking at each other,
and to agree heartily as to just how horrifyingly creepy that opening scene was. And a hundred times
creepier was that we had been replaying it on a nearly weekly basis for most of the past season. Now,
unfortunately, all of my obscure jokes and comments made far too much sense.
By Spring, the undergraduates had decided that they preferred to ride in the red or blue Beetle
up to the lake—and were less interested in taking the yellow “Shining-mobile.”
Now, of course, I had rewired the red Beetle myself, about ten years before. And I was the first
to admit that it had some vagueness to its electrical system. But the brakes were real good, so I never
really worried about it as the little car hunkered down like a rally racer car on the inclined twists and
turns coming back down the Mountain. On one particular afternoon, as we returned, we passed some
bicyclists that Steve knew from the College. I obligingly beeped my little Beetle horn at them as we
went by. And just as immediately, the car died. Instantly and completely. We drifted off to the shoulder
of the road.
“Just a fuse.” I said confidently. “That happens sometimes when I blow the horn and turn the
steering wheel at the same time. Its Just a little short in the wire,” I said.
I dug in the dash, and then wedged myself under the steering wheel. Sure enough, there was the
blown fuse, which I promptly replaced.
“There. All better.” I said. I climbed in and turned the key. And nothing happened. The sun
slipped a notch or two lower behind the Mountain.
I got out and checked wires on the engine. And then under the hood. Everything was in perfect
order. Except that the little car wouldn’t start. Not on a dime; not on a bet. The battery was fine– it
blew happy sparks when I brushed a screw-driver across the terminal and the grounding strap. I
crawled under the car and pounded on the starter with a hammer.
Since gravity was on our side, I let off the emergency brake, got some speed up and popped the
clutch. Also Nada. It began to get a bit darker, and Steve began to fidget a little more. Of course, as
was usual in my life, I had no flashlight with me.
It took me nearly an hour to figure out the obvious, there in the dwindling twilight, which was
that in truth I had actually blown TWO fuses at the same time when I beeped my horn. And having
fixed and replaced one fuse, I had immediately stopped looking at the fuse block. Once I had
eventually intuited the truth, then I changed out the second fuse, and then we were quickly on our way.
I had to take Steve to Ryan’s Steakhouse for dinner to sooth his mood– which he allowed was
considerably less comforted since I had made him watch that Kubrick movie some months before. In
all the years since, Steve has never let me entirely off the hook for that one, nor let me forget it.
Steve was a trained.paramedic, and ran with the fire service in Blacksburg. After the fuse
episode, he allowed as how he was convinced that late some night he would get a call, and it would be
myself, having come to grief somewhere on a back road in my Beetle. He allowed as how he did not
relish the thought of scraping me up from along side the road—and that he definitely was not going to
give me CPR if I killed my dammed fool self. He sounded like Jackie, my mechanic. Even though I
actually took very good care of my little Beetle cars, and felt comfortable and safe in them as I went
my way. Surprisingly, for all of the complaints, Steve remained mostly willing to ride with me in the
Beetles. Long years after, I attribute this to the fact that he confidently knew First Aid.
Occasionally, in those years, we would take a Beetle and venture out to hit some combination of
the junk and antique shops in the region. Steve’s family in northern Virgina had a few antiques– I
assumed these might be fine things from European castles– and he liked to look at the sorts of effluvia
that might wash up on the shores of history and wind up in a shop. It was true that the usual American
antique shop resonated with the ups and downs of local social and technological history. A railroad
town like Roanoke would store bits of railroad memorabilia. While an iron history like Clifton Forge or
Iron Gate could not help but to be charged with shelves full of gatemarked charcoal iron pots and
cauldrons. This was in a bit earlier age, just as the usual antiques were only just beginning to resemble
a vintage K-Mart store.
Perhaps the most telling example was during a Beetle foray to Wythe County. We were
wandering among the bits and pieces when a large family wandered into the store. They were loud and
expressive as they ogled partially clothed store manikins and tried on hats. Finally after a fairly long
time, the mother of the group made her way to the front of the shop with her find. It was a large pastepottery
cookie jar, which represented Santa Clause riding a greased pig. There was much excitement
while they all dug down deep to come up with the Fourteen dollars required to buy the relic. They all
loudly and loyally agreed as to how this was definitely the “find of the day.” And that “Mom had a
knack of finding just the most precious things.”
Once outside in the Beetle and several miles down the highway, Steve, who also tended to be
expressive, though in a different way, unbit his tongue.
“I feel SOOO violated!” he said. It was his only comment. And then he said no more

The Breakfast Show…

When I was a kid growing up in the north Pennsylvania hinterlands, one of the definite deficits was that our family had no television. Yes, admittedly, at the time of the moon landing in 1969, my dad had brought a television set home from the Corning Glass plant, so that we could see the historic event. But otherwise, television was something that we just didn’t think a lot about. It wasn’t until years and years later that I would figure out who Captain Kirk and Bones McCoy and Mr. Spock were. Instead, I had a short wave radio. My original set was a little Knight kit Star Roamer radio that my dad and I had put together when I was really a little bit too young to understand that particular wires needed to go to particular components in a particular order.

I grew up with my short wave radio on my bed-side stand. And in the evenings before bed I would listen to the tolling chimes of Big Ben at London via the BBC. I would listen to Kol Israel, Radio Deutsch Welle, Radio Moscow, and Swiss Radio International. Some nights it was Radio Havana Cuba. Others it was Voice of America.

There was a radio program in particular on VOA that was called “The Breakfast Show.” This arrived with us between 8 and 9 in the evening– but it was really meant to be beamed out, ostensibly, to our hard working military members stationed far afield, to remind them of the niceties of life back home in these United States. American life was apparently w whirlwind of county fairs, of steam train rides, of summer picnics, of Volkswagen Beetles, and of town hall meetings about elements of the greater good. Such was the mantra of the Breakfast Show.

The show was hosted by Pat Gates from along about 1962, and was joined by Phil Irwin some seasons later. “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.” was Pat Gates’ sign-off for many many years, and continued to be Phil’s for many years beyond. One didnt have to listen for very long to tell that this was a friendly, conversational show. It didn’t take much time to discover that Phil Irwin had a fascination for railroads (and Beetle), and was an articulate observer. He was an on-the-air mentor and friend. On one random evening he reported with great pride that he and his wife had just given birth to a son. I often think that the Breakfast Club may well have changed and directed the subsequent paths of my life. When I found my first little old-style dome VW hubcap on a vacation trip, I actually entertained a childish thought that maybe I should write to Mr. Irwin at the Breakfast Show, and report on the same!

Ross was one of the students in my paleontology class during the first season that I taught it at Virginia Tech. Ross was an intense dark haired fellow who always sat in exactly the same seat in the late afternoon lab class. Ross wrote well, and he always knew the class material ahead of time. Perhaps Ross’s largest flaw in class was his intense preoccupation with the planet Mars. I would mention the primordial atmosphere in class, and Rosses hand would shoot up. “Yes, Ross…”

“On Mars, the atmosphere…….” Several of the kids in the class would groan or squirm.

The other point about Ross was that he drove a fairly crappy used Ford that never served him very well, frankly. Several times he noted my shiny blue Beetle. And one afternoon, he asked me about it. “You should find yourself one”, I said, with obvious pride.

And in a little while, sure enough Ross came up with a Beetle. The first one was a bit of a beater, which he eventually sold to Steve Ruzila. But then, again, in a little while, Ross went to West Virginia, and came home again with a fairly clean green 1973 Superbeetle. We would eventually park them side by side for parts comparisons out at the Foxridge apartments, where we both turned out to live (Ross roomed with Steve Ruzila) We swapped beetle parts and tuned engines. And the little green Superbeetle was loyal, and did very well by Ross. At one point I talked Ross into putting a .009 mechanical distributor into his beloved green beetle—after which it would hesitate badly when he would tromp on the accelerator. Doubl-oh-nine distributors and carburetors are not always friends. Another time, Ross hit a deer, and it was Jackie McCann out at good old Oliver’s Garage that scavenged him a door and some other parts to put him back on the road. For a bunch of seasons, Ross made his spending money delivering pizzas locally in his well-recognized shiny green Superbeetle. Pizza delivery, in the late 20th Century (before on-line GPS) was an amazing way to develop a superb cognitive map of any region or area.

During Ross’s junior and senior years, he worked as my undergraduate assistant for my early research at Mountain Lake. We spent much time chugging up to 3860 elevation in our little Beetles, and then spending the afternoons SONAR probing the cold, clear lake with Rosses fish-finder device. At one point I gave Ross a lift to his home in Flint Hill Virginia, on my way back to Pennsylvania. At Caledonia Farm 1812 (an impressive Bed and Breakfast), I got to meet Ross’s dad, a polished gentleman who was the soul and proprietor of the big stone Virginia manor house. As Ross’s dad began conversing with us, and casting an eye over my shiny blue Beetle, , I kept having a very weird sense of deja vous. I knew that I had never met this fellow before. But still I had an uncanny sense of… familiarity. And the more that we visited, the less that feeling would abate.

It was about half-way through dinner that Rosses Dad mentioned his retirement from “the radio station.” At which point I almost choked on my fork.

“My God…. You are Phil Irwin from the Breakfast Show!”

Realization dawned. Ross was Rossman Philip Irwin III. And I had never even picked up on it. And now I was sitting in his big stone bed and breakfast, literally surrounded by toy trains and VOA memorabilia. Phil seemed surprised that I even knew what a Breakfast Show actually was– since the vast percentage of his audience had been international. We spent the evening reminiscing about various episodes, while Ross somewhat shook his head and groaned a little bit. Eventually I recalled the individual episode where Phil Irwin had announced the birth of a son. Who 20-some years later I had had in my classes for several seasons. In strange ways, it is a somewhat small world, and full of, as Yogi Bera said, “too many coincidences to be coincidence.”

Eventually, Ross Irwin graduated from the College and moved on to University of Virginia to study under the great martian geologist, Allan Howard. After achieving his doctorate, Ross worked at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian. He was now one of the leading experts on fluvial channels associated with martian craters. In all the years, Ross was to keep his shiny little green Superbeetle, which mostly sat in the family barn at Caledonia 1812, in hopes of an eventual restoration…

“Smart, Phone!”


“Smart, phone!”

Jake Eddy, 17 year old. Musician. fashion designer. developer. producer. Entrepreneur.

Jake’s dedication and passion for music has turned him into an unparalleled multi- instrumentalist songwriter and artist. The concept of art and unity has been a powerful one borne of Jake’s creative expression.  In his new visionary project “Smart, phone!” he compliments every sound and every genre, justly and with great purpose. From the soulful melodies and emotional dynamism of James brown to the traditional and old tyme sound of Earl Scruggs. There is no part of the modern (and ancient) world and its music that doesn’t seem to come to mind when Jake Eddy puts brush to his work.

We all have something important to say, and there is so there is more power in bringing peoples and in this case genres to oneness in song. Cultures and camps of people have created separation in information and music to express (although the same) different iterations of experience through exclusive contexts. We live in a world now where differences in context are peaking to their differences, but is also unveiling the unity.

Jake Eddy’s new album “Smart, Phone!”  is an emergence—is creative commentary on what can be done with music and technology in our post-modern reality. Jake Eddy created an entire album off of the mobile version of Apple product’s Garage band. Garage band has always been a successful and proven tool to producing and expressing an artist through a diverse palate, and through streamlined interface. –But a professionally produced album created on a mobile version is unheard of. Jake is conducting an experiment to see if we have the capability through mobile support to create a product that is world-class material, and the results of his experiment.. you’d have to hear for yourself. Featuring many guests all from different backgrounds this album intermarries with Jakes worldview to produce a balanced reflection of what the world that is emerging can feel like if we can take these peaking moments of difference and turn it into song.

Through recent years technology has advanced to give man the capability to change the world through his own creativity and will. In so many cases this power has come to the individual. The advancement of technology offers easy avenues to express the reach of a human’s potential to change the world, but is merely a reminder of all possible through a world that is integrated in thought and intention. An apple product remains consistent for all users and groups working with it as a module to complete tasks that fulfill their desire. If the world decided for example to be unified in their desire to instill strength, health, and happiness in all its peoples.. that would be a consistent module for operating and completing a goal.

In this day there is nothing remarkable about having an iPhone, it is kind of a standard in a person’s toolbelt. A lot of people function in a world that depends on having the assets that an iPhone grants them. -Yet, have we forgotten the superb reach of utility that an iPhone offers us? In 1981 shuttle Columbia went to the edge of space and back depending completely on the guidance of an 800-kilobyte ram computer. The asset of that 800 kilobyte computer was completely utilized and acknowledged and yet today it is normal for everyone to walk around with a hand held system capable of nearly 5000 times the computing power of the NASA guiding system

This power was put at our disposal for things limited to basic planning and passive media entertainment. Then people like Jake Eddy come along and remind us not only of the untapped potential of the norm that is our personal technological reach, but also our creative genius.

Apple industries for years has been striving to bring power back to the people and the ability to change and better the world really is in the hands of the everyday man. The creative genius of Jake Eddy and his new project “Smart, Phone!” emphasizes and explores this and inspires a stronger, happier, and more healthy world.

Album announcement post:

Jake Eddy’s official Facebook page:

Look for Jake Eddy’s upcoming album “Smart, Phone!” on ITunes, coming to you soon!

#applemusic #Jakeeddymusic #worldpeace #strongertogether

A Poet of the Cherwell…….

Friday, August 15, 2008   Oxford, UK

Relinquished my big, old Merlin’s room key. Gave a few folks some photocopies that Peter was kind enough to print off on his laptop and printer. Said my good-byes, and then smuggled my dinner plates out through the Gate and past the Porter (I did have my Oxfam receipt, just in case). Out through the large door (which is actually open for deliveries this morning)–and out into the wide world.

Joss has arranged for me to be able to stay for the extra week that I have intended at his place in Jericho, near to the old canal. He will be gone all the following week, but has offered to put me up, and to lend me an extra cel phone, in case he needs to contact me while I am watching his house. Jericho is actually Oxford’s old Jewish neighborhood, down along the canal. I would hesitate to call it a traditional Jewish Ghetto, although I suppose that it was at one point. Joss gives me a key to 34 Nelson street, and then he is off to other things, until late afternoon, when he will give me a call.

And so a day of walking and looking and seeking. I sat for awhile in the sun along Broad Street. Watched the morning walkers and joggers. Thought about the commercial space and structure here– a Picture of Concentricity.

By and by, I moved with the sun down around the corn-market, and did lunch about 11 a.m. At the covered market. Eventually I will come and buy a whole selection of various cheese here, and maybe some raspberries to go along with.

Walked down hill all the way to Folly Bridge, and then into the gardens and meadow at Christ-Church. I have now sat for a good measure of the afternoon on the sunny bank of the Cherwell, watching the punting boatmen and the tourist families. Still, the boatmen look to my eye like young Charons, manning the rudder between here and thereafter.

As I am writing this, a little girl asks from her boat as she passes by, “Are you a Poet?

I said to her, “Sometimes.” Which made her mother laugh.

The day is warm, and the boats are many, and I almost wish that I had a poem to write– but I confess that today the rhyme-schemes and even the deep languid thoughts escape me. I look at little horsetails growing in a marshy ditch, and think of the natural history museum. It is little wonder that natural history was not a hard sell at Oxford!

I have gotten a little sleepy by the stream, and in the park. And so eventually I walked again– first down to the proper Isis. Then up past the Botanical Garden– I can see the apple trees, including the newest planting of heritage apples, over the tall fence. To Magdalene Bridge, and to Magdalene College. Found as close as I will come to a Saint Oscar Wilde Tree. A huge sycamore or plane tree, along the edge of the Cherwell, full and ripe of seed pods. Some of which are in my coat pocket now.

I have sat and watched people for a very long time along High Street. This is very close to the “clock-front” view that one sees. There is still a green tree at the corner, just like there was all those years ago– it seems to be an elm tree. Although I was half expecting a plane tree. One of the most famous trees in the world, although I dont suppose that anyone knows it. Here is the “perfect aesthetic” discussed in “The Stones of Venice.”

Now by the Radcliffe Camera once again– there is a tiny afternoon organic tea shop– a small little gate leading into the grounds, the vaults and garden of St. Mary the Virgin. The crypts seem a strange place to tuck a tea house– but here it is– and you can take your tea among the few remaining tombstones in the garden. And so I have paused here for an afternoon pot of tea and a large slice of walnut cake. I was thinking a lot about Oscar Wilde earlier– but I confess, I am sleepy, and that seemed a lot of effort. Now with my belly full of tea, the vaults of the ceiling are mostly making me sleepier…

Saturday August 16th, 2008

Now settled in at Joss’s place: turns out to be a very nice little Worcester College house, over by the Oxford Canal, and above Glouster Green. With a very nice disarrayed walled garden in the back– I am entertained that the house next door is that of Simon Bagnall, the head gardener at Worcester College. His little backyard plot is full of tree ferns and banana trees. A good reminder of how tropical/temperate it actually is here.

Actually I spent most of the early part of the day reading (a copy of Phineas Redux (1873) by Anthony Trollope)– and I suppose it is a wonder that I am not reading DeQuincy! Also writing a lot of sketch notes for something eventually on Sustainability strategies at Oxford– And napping a bit. This little cottage has a very nice claw-foot bathtub– and I spend some writing time in a tub of very hot water.

In the evening I met Joss at “Angelus” pub on Little Clarendon Street—to do dinner with his mom, who is up from London. I wasn’t sure that I knew the location, so I went in that direction early– Poked around and found the little grove of Sequoia redwood trees at Wellington Square (some of you will get the joke of that). And then walked over to photograph a number of the stones at St Giles Churchyard. Visited the Boneyard apple tree with its red, red fruit.

It is interesting to see that in the past two years the Radcliffe Infirmary has been abandoned totally. And for now it is all boarded up– the rumor is that it is likely to be torn down for relentless housing and business development. At St Giles, I found a small, intensely iridescent fragment of glass with very good color. Another little piece of the wider mosaic.

Sunday August 17th

Frankly, after an early morning walk, then I spent much of the day reading and writing and scribbling notes. And sleeping a lot. It is difficult to imagine just how burnt out I feel from the several seasons at the job at home. I am beginning to decompress. A little. The life looks considerably different from the outside a bit. Joss has had church stuff to do at St. Annes. Which is fine.

I had a vague and passing dream last night of planting many many acorns– quite a labor of it. Planted an entire forest, here and there, in the churchyard at St Giles. But in the dream I was very sad because I knew that it would not be a very tall forest by the time that I had to pass on and leave! Too much time at St Giles! Not a sad dream, really– but still notable as to where the subconscious parts of my head are. Momento mori.

I eventually availed myself of a tub bath, and a kind of long afternoon nap– I seem really exhausted. Even though there is a whole lot going on in my head. I have not gotten along very well with Joss’s cel phone—I hate to admit that Ive never really used one to this point– and it does things that I dont expect– It quivers when it gets messages and things– but, of course, they are messages for Joss. So I try to leave them alone. But then it turns out that Joss has texted and left me a message, and I missed it, by about 30 seconds– and then I couldnt get back to it– Eventually, the other room-mate, Keith comes in, and I ask him to help me navigate the labyrinth of where text messages go to be stored. (It has to be dialed into, and a code provided, and then manually, the phone number of the phone).

Anyhow, the message is to meet up with Joss at King’s Arms by the Sheldonian Theater at 7:15 p.m.– I know where that is, have eaten there before and so I guess that I can find it ok… I had kind of forgotten about the King’s Arms. That is where the gravy for the steaks is thick and dark as chocolate sauce– haha.

The weather was pretty today, cooler now, in the evening, and damp. After dinner Joss and I attended an evening of Chopin by Gibbon at the Oxford Music Hall. Extraordinary– and I think a bunch of Carl Klein, in distant days. Much interesting is a selection of 3 Alcan pieces—oh, and an absolutely stunning do of the whole Death March ensemble. Late pizza afterwards, and talking with Joss about his writing of novels. I find it interesting that Joss has all of Oxford, and a thousand stories around him– but what he is actually trying to write is a middle eastern spy novel.

Monday August 18, 2008

Today turned out to be very busy and very good– this is literally the first day that I have felt much of any vitality creeping back in. In early morning I walked down along the old Canal– looked and photographed the long thin canal boats– and got a first glimpse of the Canal Basin, with its locks and moorings.

Then, up from the canal is the rest of Jericho– The Oxford University Press… the many little commercial streets. Both Keith and Joss had suggested that I seek out a little hidden graveyard by the name of St. Sepulcher. Which I found with almost a creepy amount of ease. Seemed a whole lot like it was right there where I had put it…. In the 19th Century it was an abandoned farmstead, then all used for burials during the mid-century Cholera epidemics. Now it is left half wild, as wild park and green-space. I took a LOT of photos here among the Yew trees and brambles.

Bought the two big glass vases at the Import/consignment store. These are marbled swirly, heavy glass vases in Murano style that came from the estate of one of the deans of one of the Oxford Colleges. Located a shipping store, and left them there for packing and I will pick them up tomorrow to send to my mom in Ulysses PA. Then I located an email cafe shop– and caught up on email a bit, for the first time. Spent a couple of hours online, feeding in quarters–(pounds and pences, actually…) Emailed to Dave Scaer, to Isaac and to Virginia. And several others. All of this seems to ground me somewhat– so that I dont go floating off down the canal to more existential reveries. I have now found several more tea and lunch spots that are scattered in this part of the city. Nite: took my dinner as another steak and gravy at the Kings Arms on Broad Street. Is good and enjoyable. Watched the moon come up.

Tuesday August 19th, 2008

So today is more of the Canal. And also of the New Battle of Jericho– over the old Castle Mill Boatyard. It is the canal basin maintenance center and essentially old docking facility. Now the developers want to raze the entire thing, and build a large block of Moussellini style housing blocks there, backed up against the old canal… And this is how you lose your concentricity! Making the old boat maintenance yard disappear forever. I walked specifically to it to look it over– It is, of course, a treasure– it is a beautiful little site– brick and pavers– and a leveraged boat lift.

I don’t know if it will make any difference at all, but this afternoon I have emailed a whole slew of observations and comments– including the local heritage entities– as well as the NY, PA, VA canal boat societies– just in case any outside voices might have any positive effect on the public feedback portion of this fight. For the would-be saviours of the old yard.

Spent early morning with hot tea at the crypt at St Mary the Virgin– but then did a tea house again in the afternoon, at Gastos deli in Jericho itself. Met one Albert Qyqualla from Kosovo. He has been working at the tea shop, which is the same one that his brother worked at after coming into the country. He and I turn out to have a long conversation, as he is also a bit lost in the world– I am in favor of him actually talking to the OT– the Computer science departments are actually looking/advertising for people just now– I was reading about it yesterday– and that with s few classes in English– and Albert would be on his way. He is quite capable, and knows a lot more battlefield computer coding and maintenance that I ever will… I tell him some course of strategy.

Through the evening I finish reading “Fatal Revenant” which is one of the books in the last chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson. Actually, this book—which I found in a used book stall, is sort of a mess– moved way beyond Thomas Covenant– who is but a recalled spectre in this later volume. It was Ann Templin, back at Penn State who introduced me to the Chronicles of the4 Unbeliever. I know that wont ring any bells with most of you reading THESE far-flung chronicles of mine. But Ann was a mechanical engineer who was graduating the season that I was a freshman. She is likely the girl who I “should” have married– except that she didn’t. And then later she died of an aggressive and persistent Cancer. She introduced me to Thomas Covenant– and she and I used to talk about Oxford Town. I suppose that if Anne were here, that we would probably brave a punting boat, here at 45 and middle age– and float along the Cherwell. It is interesting to think what she would say to know that I am here. Even if it happens to be here somewhat alone! Has some bearing on my mood, here in this British “Land.”

Wednesday August 20, 2008

Another day of exploring. Got an email back from Isaac. It sounds like he will be able to join me briefly in London next week, which I admit, makes me quite happy. Isaac was with me here in 2006, when I gave my Beyond Darwin lecture. We had done the Middle Eastern Hookah restaurant, that hearkens back to the entire Alice in Wonderland story– (we didnt actually do the hookahs– just ate) So I do a lunch of lamb there today, just to celebrate Isaac’s friendship.

I did get 200 pounds more cash today at the Barkley Bank. Still, in truth I am not spending much more than I would normally at home– this trip will not wind up being as expensive this time as I had thought.

I did the whole of the Museum of the History of Oxford most of today. Again, took a pretty good number of photos. This is located in the old town hall. And the displays are well-thoughtful, and outline the shape and form of the town from the beginning…. Here is the knucklebone pavement– here is the burning of witches. And the burning of Martyrs on Broad Street. Here is why the colleges have walls and gates.. here are the canals– here are the recessions and depressions. Here is the Saxon tower, and the older Oxford castle. Here are the mounds with their English Oak trees.

Here is poor old Giles Covington– the englishman’s skeleton in his box– hanged in 1791, but saved by the flaying knife of “Dr. Pegge” who had his bones mounted.

“There only remains now for me to do justice to myself, by solemnly and truly declaring, in the presence of Almighty God, my entire innocence of the transaction for which I now suffer.”

Here is the complete little interior from a house in Jericho– with its little coal stove and cast iron grate– its little Romney gypsy pans, its little shelf clock with the requisite view of high street– Except there is something of an iron here– because it is an Ithaca clock from upstate New York!

Here are the stained glass window lights, with their three oxen crossing the ford… and the three hands on the shield…. I am reminded just how little glass was ever made at Oxford itself. I am guessing that much of this was because there was no local coal worth burning– and the glass sand would also have been mighty poor. Any supplies would really, likely have had to have been brought in by canal.

Oxford seems in this great state of turmoil/state of flux. Which my perception seems to be, has been going on for a thousand of years.

I took photos at the Glouster Green market, but I confess, I didnt find anything that I really wanted to buy. On email I got a cc of an email about an envi pep review– which is intended to happen while I am away on sabbatical. That little move, by someone….. might just cost me my job– who does a program review when the director is on sabbatical? I can think of one.

Friday August 22, 2008

The Stones of Oxford are sacred. Just the weekend yet to go, and I am winding down.

This morning I continued yesterdays jaunt to mail stuff– and to find the old orchard at Worcester, as I did yesterday afternoon (it rained on me)–and some of the town’s stained glass– I have a little brocure that tells me where some of it is hidden. Again with tea at the crypt shop, and later at Gastros Deli at Jericho. The Worcester chapel, with its arts and crafts windows. Again, now I have it all to myself. The present, highly colored interior was done by William Burges in the mid 1860s. The glass windows were by a young 22 year old by the name of Henry Holiday. Oscar Wild is supposed to have referred to this chapel as “simple and decorative—and the windows very artistic.”

I would assume that he was being facetious about the interior– but getting to know the windows for myself, on that point I have to agree. The myriad colors in the wings of the angels are enough to make these scenes memorable enough.

Now, finally was St. Michael’s at the North Gate– near to the Saxon Tower of 1040. This was the first time that I had made my entrance here. It turns out that I never did get to see the bits from the 1200s…. at least not that I could discern– there are some relict window parts from various ages, including the Lily window from the 1500s. And the other windows are impressive.

But here, at least, finally is a great huge Michael with wings and a sword– I have seen a dozen different photos of this window, which earns its place. And there is an even huger, more modern mounted Michael in Purple and green with a stunning huge dragon. The dragon has amazing purple wings.

In the evening I have made out careful post cards to mary and the kids, to belva, Todd Burgess, and secretary Leonard Treat at Liberty Lodge 505 in Port Allegany.

Saturday August 23, 2008

Close enough now for me to begin to be a little nervous about travel plans again. And a little bit as to my next moves in life and career– just where was it that I actually left off back in that other life back in the states. Really, the question of “who I am” –of that there is really not so much doubt… The question I should be asking, as always, is what should I be doing next with myself. I am reminded of the fortune-cookie fortune I have in my day book– the one that says “you will do well not to expect too much from others. Haha!

There is some large question whether Roanoke will remain even a little bit viable for very long. Other than the fact that I am becoming a bit bored of it. Maybe the outside review will stir up some excitement. Maybe I will be elsewhere sooner rather than later.

I have packed my dinner plates from Exeter and Magdelene—I wonder if we will get through US customs with these! So this morning I checked email– and then took the remains of my multi-grain bread—and the last bits of my Oxford Cheese Company cheeses—and went to feed the ducks at my spot on the Cherwell at Christchurch meadow.

Just wound up giving most of my bread to a little girl with her grandmother who was fascinated with the ducks– particularly one little brown one who had such very nice manners.

I got to watch someone fall in off one of the punting boats. A spectacular, up-in-the-air kind of falling in! Luckily the afternoon is fairly warm. The park here is mostly all sycamore/plane trees. With the occasional english oak, some copper beech, and horse-chestnut. I have, in other parts of the city, even seen a true american chestnut or two. And both Atlas and Deodar cedars. But, other than the one on high street– which looks like an elm, although it is suspiciously and famously a sycamore (?)– other than that, we dont see any other elms or their ilk… I will need to go past there and actually look at it more closely.

Apparently there used to be walkways and avenues of them, but they have succumbed to Dutch elm disease. They seem to have mostly stayed away from them since.

I’ve now paid the five pounds to go into the Christchurch Hall and Cathedral. I believe it is the only one to charge– but then again, there is also a line outside, and down the block– so I suppose it makes sense. And they seem fairly wise in their pricing. Now, the usual story here is all about Lewis Carrol and Alice in Wonderland. But I notice that this time there is an increasingly large percentage of the history devoted now to Harry Potter– and indeed, much of the filming was done on the grounds here. I imagine that that is more what the majority of the crowd has come seeking here now.

They have actually pulled a great deal of the old ivy off from the front wall of the Meadows-facing building, since I was here 2 years ago– It looks quite different. The (Harry Potter) fan vaulting and iron street lamps ARE very nice– as is the glass in the cathedral– although the camera batteries give out on me eventually.

5 p.m.

Grey sky and very mild– the weather is hanging over, and I have my umbrella at hand. I have wondered eventually over to the South University Park. This is essentially the arboretum tree walk sort of back behind the Science complex and the Natural History museum. This was the old town “Pleasure Grounds” in the 17, 18, 19th Centuries, and eventually 91 acres (now minus the several for new science buildings) was bought, officially landscaped, and kept for green-space.

I admit, I came here today really to look for/at the stand of redwood trees again on this trip. These are about 150 years old at this point– I was hoping for their sense of presence today, before I leave town. But I confess, that first, just now, I am instead sitting underneath a huge sycamore tree instead. This one has an odd, peculiar form– large trunk, high branches, but then the limbs all arch down to the ground at about 10 paces out from the trunk.

It makes me think of my friend, the Draper Meadow Sycamore, now deceased at Virginia Tech.

They say that the gravelly soil here is thin, over solid river gravels. But at least the water has got to be readily available! “Do not appear to have attained their full potential.” says a brochure, of the redwood trees specifically, and all of the trees here in general. It also says that there have been civic tree plantings here in 1865, 1888, 1920s, 1950s, 1977, and 1991. Once in a generation, it looks like. As to the younger trees, the brochure says: “While these have little impact on the landscape at present, they will ensure interest and pleasure for future generations of visitors.” So mote it be!

What could one do with the right 70 acres of ground?

The redwoods likely need about twice as many, at least! Any acre of redwoods in fact might be a nice legacy. Look at Wellington Park with just its one or two small trees. Or at the Natural History Museum, the same.

The American Tulip trees are a bit under-represented here. Or rather, their numbers are good, but they are far less happy. They will be wanting a little bit higher ground, I suspect, and would likely do better as a grove, where they can communicate with each other a little bit more.

The layout of this large patch of redwoods is interestingly “correct” if a bit close together for their sixe now already. There are some several glyptostroboides in among– and then merging outward– I assume that they were chosen as space holders until the Wellingtonias need the extra space. Some ginkgos here would not be a bad addition…. The only ginkgos I have seen so far are very young– and also look a little hesitant.

There is a long “Thorn-walk” with some 30 or more species or varieties of hawthorn. I know that I would change that quickly enough in my design to become a walkway of apple trees.

I like the pond here with its water lilies and its many exotic ducks. And the River Walk, with its good collection of sycamores, and iths many high-arched bridges for wandering. And its many, many punting boats. I think the several playing fields (today mostly filled with kites) are also excellent green space here, and part of the riparian. There are perhapos a shade too many of these, playing fields. But then again, this is working space– for public recreation. Better than cramped urban spaces– still there is a bit more field than forest in this plan. Not quite enough forest.

There are some fairly neat birds sharing this space today– look like small crows, but with white saddles, and a bit of white on their wings– intelligent sorts, and quick of eye. I should look them up.

I wonder, if, in urban planning of riparian space like this, if you could plan 1/3 grove around the ponds or lakes, 1/3 small grove and greens, and 1/3 older forest? Still potentially with a river walk and a wetted meadow…

Might be a good design inspiration to keep in mind for a riparian/floodplain somewhere.

So, I take my requisite photos of my Redwood trees– by luck, there was a kid hanging out in the branches. Which I tell him nicely, to remain right there and become a sense of scale for all of my photographs. He winds up looking successfully Tolkien-esque among the foliage.

In this evening I pack my satchel bag and get ready for the bus trek down to london, where I will meet up with Isaac first, and then will go off to Gower Street where I have left my Mom and her cousin Elvernon. Hopefully, then, they are intact, and then we all will tour London a bit, and do the British Museum in earnest.

That, however, will be a tale for yet another time.

The Thousand Year City….

August 08, 2008

These are to be the notes for the 2008 Oxford Round table trip to Exeter College. The paper, on Systems Dynamics issues in Sustainability, is done—at least in a complete draft form. My clothes are packed in my little valise, and I am probably more prepared this time around than at any other. But I feel terribly fidgety about this trip as it begins. Perhaps it is a case of “Sabbatical as Exile” or perhaps it is just having lost my little striped kitty cat, who moved out from the house and ran away while I was in Pennsylvania trying to hold things together there.

Some is financial– my sabbatical drops my small college income basically in half– more, I think is that this time I am actually traveling alone. And the truth of that is that I am somewhat afraid of ghosts, I suppose. It is not so bad to be out of my “comfort zone”– especially since my comfort zone is driving me a bit crazy at the moment. But still. I feel much like Charon, one day picking up from his boat and leaving. Like Virgil traveling from the glade Alone, rather than waiting for Dante. (the Dead are given only what life the living give them). Here is potentially the beginning point for a “De Profundus” stage of my life and existence. Let this not be the signal– lets be brave and look forward.

I rode to the airport, and had discussions with Dave Scaer. We talked a little about Churchill, and also about Virgil and Charon.

The flights are smooth, and I slept some on the first flight northward. I am mostly thoughtful. My own emotions are way up and way down. I tend to fixate on very small details– of faces or architecture, or food.

In Detroit I was again amused at the fairly loud proclamation of Americanism. And so I had my dinner of two “real” Coney Island hot dogs, complete with chili and onions. I find myself thinking aobut Charon collecting his coins from his passengers, but then turning and throwing them into the dark waters of the Styx. On the flight I dreamed of Angel wings. Watched clouds outside of the window.

Middle age and 45. It is not at all mortality that frightens me. Yet. More just how to begin to switch gears– against all of the zillion images in my head just now.

I am carrying the whole of the alchemy and glass manuscripts about in my head still– And my mom’s several book projects as well. These will stand as representative of my most recent phase. Where is the proper setting for the next? I am sort of seeking my destiny here– I am open to possibilities.

August 08, 2008

Flew into Heathrow. The flight food, in the middle of the night was amazingly good. The airlines epitomize the high energy system. And they do so rather proudly. I was going to fiddle around Heathrow for a few hours, since it was only about 7 a.m. By the time the flight got in. But customs went well and smoothly and everything. And so I wound up catching a 10 a.m. Bus directly to Oxford. The ATM card worked, and so I have a little money in my pocket.

I walked into town from Glouster Green, and had no trouble finding Exeter– the easiest to find, near to the Radcliffe Camera. On Turl Street. Technically, I am informed, I am a day early– and so I will be spending the night alone on the Exeter grounds. Oh, and by the way, it is alleged to be haunted. Of course it is!

I am pointed to my room, 5/5 on the very top center– up the little windy stairs, and with a garret-shaped door at the top. It reminds me very much of my little garret room at Irvin Hall at Penn State during my undergrad. My monk’s cell. No Internet, but with a dragon under the bed instead.

I go out. I wandered about town, made my pilgrimages. And relished two chocolate croissants. Bought soap and razors– discovered that my charger for my little digital camera doesn’t work. Got rained on. Came back, slept, showered, ate dinner around the corner at the KFC across the street from the Norman Tower. Came back. And spent the next two or three hours in the Exeter Chapel– which, as you likely know, is a quoted clone of the St Chapelle of Louis in Paris. Other than the Porter, I am the only person at Exeter. Keys to the Kingdom.

Middle of the first night. An evening that I will likely always remember. Having this particular chapel alone to myself is quite an amazing thing. Evening light just dying at the windows– and the myriad of ghosts. And here too is the work– the sigils of Celesteo and of Profundus. I suppose I am affected by my silly Cadfael novels. I don’t think the chapel is used all that much these days. But again, here, for me the emotional free-falls just now are quite amazing. I don’t know if they are actually cathartic or not. But I am at least very sensitized tonight.

I am faced with thinking about not-too-clear ideas of future and destiny and both sacred and profane. Celesteo and Profundus. Which doubles my headache! I am no theologian. I think a lot about my long list of books and publishing ideas that the next phase of my life should likely bring. I am about decided tonight that traditional publishing platforms are dead– I am wondering here, at this point, if I might establish a self-publishing entity nucleated around the idea of the Ravens Table. Here is my carved pew raven of wood. And there is the Dodo. Raven is the messenger– Dodo is the oblivion. Resurgam! I make notes to myself in the chapel on the strategies for building a virtual press. Time stretches and slows.

The amazing windows are murky now– and eventually I wonder if they could be photographed (well, if my camera worked!) I really AM the only person in Exeter. The bust of Tolkien seems to agree with me– I am reminded of Tolkien writing in the request book of the Exeter library that the Library actually needed a real dictionary!

Sunday Morning, August 9, 2008

Woke up early, about 6 a.m. Watched it get light—a bright clear windy sort of a day. I have to confess that what dreams I did have more matched Exeters less academic, more “punting” sort of side. This is more Hogwarts Quiddich matches than Potions or Incantations. My sense, this morning, I admit, is that the past 200 years worth of “students” in this room at least were not likely the most scholarly of sorts. Capable, judging from the feel of it—of course, certainly– but just not in the sense of…. Scholarly.

I’ve gone walking this morning down to the Isis (Thames)–and I am looking at the little canal and house boats. And, of course, at the rowers and the bicyclists. There is a crane or heron just across the water. I cant help but to wonder what the cost of the little boats must be. I can see the Oxford skyline over the river itself, the way it is intended to be seen. The sun is warm enough– but that breeze is fairly Arctic.

Repaired to the croissant shop—and then to the Museum of the History of Science– which used to be the old, original Ashmolean– a good place for me to haunt. Which has been rearranged somewhat since the last time that I was here. I haven’t figured out yet how to become associated with them.. They seem not at all in need of the likes of my skills! But I did get warm, and stake out the place for a long while.

In the afternoon, I have chased down the camera thing. No-one in the city had the right kind of charger, and so I have bought a different camera, finally. It is a little HP of good quality, pretty similar to my old one—with AA batteries. It was 68 pounds, total– and so, I think at that, just having a camera, a good investment, even at the price.

I went back to the Museum –and got the shots that I wanted– the ones that looked right in my head. Along with some cemetery shots of the churchyard at Magdalene. Speaking of which, at the Oxfam shop, for a few pounds, I also found 2 Magdalene College, and 2 Exeter College school china plates. These will become my souvenirs for this time I think. I don’t know about the logistics of smuggling them first back into Exeter, and then back out again– I certainly had better keep my receipt!

At 5 p.m. I went back for registration. And was pleased to find Joss Jordan– is great to see him. And also Dr Benjamin, looking proper. Begin to meet a few of the new group. I had eaten a Cornish pasty about 2 p.m., and so I avoided the potted meat sandwiches. I chose to wait for the British Beef at dinner “in-hall” later instead– which turned out to be excellent. Worked over my paper a bunch afterwards.

Monday August 10, 2008

Well, night, still, actually– I suppose from the still-dark it must be about 4 or at latest 5 a.m. On a rainy night. Think of the song lyrics: “At night, when all the world’s asleep, the questions run too deep—Please tell me who I am…” The whole of the school is asleep, and I am relishing my time, and my solitude. The little yellow lantern light is on atop the Chapel spire, and still, it is raining.

We had an excellent, long first day of presentations at the Oxford Union– in the white meeting rooms this time around, not in the debate hall.

When the session broke for lunch, and we returned to Exeter, they were television-filming an episode of Inspector Lewis—a murder scene, for the series. And there was Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately) himself. A lot of our group was greatly entertained by that.

I am fidgeting over last minute changes to my presentation paper at that point, so I begged off on the college tour in the afternoon, and spent some high calibre alone time with the presentation draft.

It turns out that I am to be the first presenter in the evening session– in a small classroom with a chalk board. Frankly, it goes very well. I wind up keeping my notes with me, at hand, this time– which turns out to be a good thing. As I blank once, and have to look. The rest goes smoothly, and the questions are long and several. Being evening, everyone has port and coffee to get them through.

Tuesday August 11, 2008

So, imagine, if you will, the Great Hall of Exeter– with its glass and vaulted ceiling, and its generations of rector’s portraits looking sternly down. And then imagine the conversation between three of us– between DipL-Ing Peter Holzer, and Austrian architect and engineer, and with Professor Sanjoy Mukhergee, and Indian teacher of Managment and Philosophy—and myself (who I still dont know this trip, how to describe at all.) At the moment, a strong sense of three parts of one (Star Trek) persona.

The shared sense of teaching– the long term anguish of the professorial sacrifice of not having family and children, the eventual loss of graduating students, the power of not having read (or at least not having believed) the books of paradigms. The worth of trees as teachers. Some alchemy of Glass—some Indian Philosophy—and more than a little of engineering.

Realization– or at least voiced recognition of the medieval school structure– The Great Hall—the association of food with ego, with character, with construction and role modeling of the individual. Ths Hogwarts ettiquite of interaction. And the rhetoric of dinner conversation. Next is the Quad-sport space. Once archery and falconing. More recently it is the punting and rowing and soccer. A sense of movement– of developing grace and fluidity—and of competition, and also of teamwork. Third is the intellectual academy—the teaching and curriculum to both sharpen, but also to free the intellect and the mind. The third wall is the Chapel—spiritual growth, and both training and freeing of the spirit. Lux, Lumen, and Illumination.

Finally is Transcendence– The Great Door of the College, and the whole of the outside world outside of these walls. Here is the algorithm.

We talk about the ghosts– and about the importance of these portraits who still look down and “share a place at the table.” And about how, perhaps it actually takes 500 years to build a building. About echoes. We talk about space, the void, and about Primordium. About Light, which is Peter’s specialty. About spritual Ether, which is a bit more of Sunjoy’s specialty. I talk about the great age of glass mostly being over– too expensive in BTUs.

We talk engineering– about chemical engineering, Is there any way to be found to catalyze atmospheric CO2 directly into a carbon string resin for making polymers? Could this become feed stock for extrusion or (someday) three-D printing? It is only science fiction– but it seems that it should work. The carbon bond needs energy. Is it really endothermic? And how much? Is that a possible viable “dump” for extra heat in our atmosphere and in our lives? Thus a cooling function? If so could we make a technique of carbon sequestration by making “plastic” This to go with wood as a large-scale building material. How difficult would it be to make a viable polymer– or many of them? It would seem more likely than a lot of other sequestration schemes (other than, of course, the growing of trees).

Wednesday August 13, 2008

Spent a good portion of the night reading more carefully Sunjoy’s paper on Le Petit Prince/The Prophet/Bagavadgita. It is an excellent piece. About Leadership, Life-view, and Death. There is much good material there—if quite philosophical. It reminds me, and I wind up making sketch notes about “Ideal and Spleen” “Wunderkammer”– and about “Moorish Gardens.” It is not istself about “Sense of Place– although there is sense of place to it. This is more like Pirsig’s Quality. Avalon, perhaps, as I see it, rather than Eden. Some of the implications are still confusing– although it merges quite well with some of what I am reaching for. There is something “Ode-to-Vesper” ish about it. As well as “Story of My House.” There is a kernal here for a larger writing project– though it might take a season to parse it through. Impossible tasks!

Early morning, I spent another 2 hours or so in the Exeter Chapel, and thought about Sunjoy’s “Greater Silence”– anyone would think that I was turning to a religious man! I also photographed the pertinent panel of window– the light of god through a lens of glass.

There is a huge, well developed fairy ring of mushrooms just outside the chapel door when I come out– that I am quite positive was not there when I came past just at daybreak. In an odd way it makes me chuckle and makes me quite happy.

We have our day session, and then break for lunch. After that, Peter, Sunjoy and I do both the History of Science Museum, as well as the Natural History Museum. Peter is, as always, most concerned with the effect of the light within the structures– at natural History, the huge arched Victorian greenhouse glasses seem to rightly please him. Sunjoy is somewhat less enthused. But I enjoy Peter’s reaction—Engineer at heart.

Parts of the rest of the day were spent at Blenheim Palace out of town in greater Oxfordshire. This is the seat of the Churchill-Spencers. And by law, the only castle in Britain allowed if it wants, to be larger than the royal palaces. Having to do with the saving of Britain, I suppose. Huge yellow columned portico—look up and see the all-seeing eyes watching down from above. Difficult to photograph. The landscaping– including the huge lake was by Capability Brown– Natural vistas artificially made so natural that they make your teeth ache. Astounding gardens, formal and Britsh– of course, I am drawn to the largest Atlas and Deodar cedars in Britain. And take notice of the huge weeping willows.

Inside, we find that Charles Mould, who is our Roundtable trustee—from the British library—is playing pipe organ this day in the palace library– he is happy and beaming. We have the grand tour– it is nice– and quite the experience– we get to see the famed collection of porcelain that came here seeking sanctuary. We hear the story of the Spencer-Churchill heir issues, and the act of Parliament that allowed the line to continue. And we hear about the connection by marriage with Lady Vanderbilt, who got her title and royalty for only the price of an “heir and a spare” before eventually fleeing back to New York. Here is the island where Princess Diana is buried.

I tell Sunjoy the story of the Blenheim Orange apple, which grew up in a wall near here, and was discovered and saved by a baker– it was later recognized by the local Lord—and adopted as his own.

Evening, after the wrap-up and the last night banquet In-Hall, at which we had lamb. And also cheese cake dessert made with stilton and bleu cheese! Which was quite a shock to the system. Not bad—really– but mostly just shocking! We sat across from our Finnish/Norwegian contingents. The boy’s name is Alex– and he is the visitor here and helper of his grandmother. We all talk a little bit about the afternoon trip and about the palace– we all seem to suppose that it is a nice place– albeit seeping with sadness, and sort of tragic tales and unhappiness. But the truth is that palaces in general tend to leave us a little bit cold. It seems a small, slightly more British Versailles. And here also, through time, they have sold most of the original furniture for debts.

Thursday night, August 14th

Certificates given in the Great Hall, well-wishes exchanged. Candle-light in the Great Hall….. and then the paying customers take their leave. Admittedly, there is something of a hotel holiday aspect to this. And Sunjoy, for example has paid nearly a six-month of salary to come here. I don’t think that is a criticism of the Oxford Roundtable, exactly. It is just interesting to think about how much a trip to come and hang out at Oxford is actually worth to me– and what I might pay for the privilege. For both the Life and Stones of Oxford– but also for the trees and and the Quiet.

Thirteen Inspections Logged

Last spring, I attended the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) Organic Crop Inspection training held at Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Center in Mt. Sterling, Ohio. You might have read about this in the spring edition (Volume 25 – Number 2) of the IOIA Inspector’s Report [1]. This article is a follow-up to that article and chronicles the story line from the course completion to the point of performing farm inspections on my own.

Once one completes the IOIA Basic Crops training course, the next task at hand is the Mentored Organic Inspector Apprenticeship. Anyone who is thinking about an apprenticeship should keep in mind a few important things. First, the inspectors who have enough experience to be good mentors are probably very busy with their own inspection assignments. So, even though they might want to help, they can’t always do so. There is definitely a need to be patience and understand that if someone isn’t able to help mentor you right way; it’s probably because of constraints beyond their control. With that said, I must say that for me, it took longer than I had hoped. But, after having applied a little bit of patience, it did happen.

My apprenticeship consisted of four mentored inspections. The first two were in mid-September. Two different inspectors were shadowed on these inspections for a look at variety of techniques. These first shadowing inspections were filled with awe and admiration at seeing the inspectors perform their work. So here, my role as the apprentice was only to watch and learn. On my third mentored inspection, I was given the seed search verification and crop audit tasks to do at the inspection, which I managed to handle satisfactory. In fact, it felt good to actually contribute something to help my mentor. (On The Metzgers’ Farm Blog)

And finally that day came in the second week of October; my first inspection shadowed by the mentoring inspector. As it turned out my first inspection was a new client (not usually done but time was of the essence) who was requesting certification of 180 acres of hay and pasture. I said a short prayer, “Please God, don’t let me screw this up!” My prayers were answered, and I was given the go ahead to start inspecting on my own. My mentor gave me the following recommend: “The reports you submitted to me are very thorough in fact I hope I am not held to that standard. I would recommend that you are more than capable to carry out solo inspections.”

Just so you know everything did not go perfectly smooth. So, the basic plan that day was to meet with my mentor ahead of time, about one-half hour before the scheduled inspection time so that we could drive to the farm together. Inspection start time was scheduled at 8 am, and the meet-up time was to be about 7:30; so that put us both on the road starting out around 5 that morning. In Pennsylvania, we have a whitetail deer population. And as it so happened, my first inspection date aligned precisely to with the start of the deer’s rutting season. This means that the deer are especially active, and are prone to cross the highway at all times of the day or night. So as you might have already guessed, my mentoring inspector hit a deer driving to the inspection. Yup, he had to go back home to “inspect” for damage before continuing. So needless to say we arrived to the inspection about an hour late. And so, this serves as example of what can go wrong in this sort of line of work. The good news is that the farmer applicant was on his way to growing organic hay this year, and is transitioning to an organic dairy next year.

After the apprenticeship, I earned the “allowed to do inspections on my own” status. This was truly good and well worth the time spent, I felt. For one thing, I can schedule my farm visits as I wish and go directly to the farms without having to coordinate with a mentoring inspector. My plan to start was straightforward and simple – begin with a couple of nearby hay and pasture farms in order to wring out my techniques and hone my inspector skills.

As fate would have it, that idea didn’t go as planned. My first solo inspection came in as an Urgent Inspection Request from a 400 acre Corn, Soybean and Small Grain farmer who had added a few acres of corn, some of which had been harvested and kept segregated on a wagon.  The farmer was not able to continue harvesting until the review of the inspection report. Right of the bat, it was baptism by fire, so to say. In spite of this, I was able to satisfactory complete the assignment and provide the inspection report in a timely manner. In hind sight, it was probably the best learning experience one could have. After that, the remaining assignments didn’t look all that difficult. But as I soon learned, each farm had a particular element of uniqueness and every one required special attention to the details during the inspection process. And in that way, this added to the appeal of the job as I realized that no two inspections will ever be exactly the same. Each one, you see is truly a unique experience. So with that being the case, this is where I will end, after having successfully completed twelve solo inspections in my first year of being an organic inspector.

[1] Pursing the Right Course – IOIA Crop Inspection Training, Mt. Sterling, Ohio

All of That….

August 3rd, 2016

So, I spent last night doing major clean-up of the geology “Book of Days” manuscript. And resubmitted it to Createspace along about midnight. I did put in a Port Allegany photo of Todd Burgess, and I felt pretty good about that. Other news: Joseph has somehow managed to crack the neck of his banjo– that will require some surgery and repair. Meanwhile, Isaac and Ahoo are showing interest in the new apartment. It is a good place, and near to the Metro. I responded to Isaac by email this morning. I have also talked with Paul James in Texas about a missing dinosaur footprint page in the geology manuscript– have remedied that problem with my Grallator print, as well as a photo of one of the dinosaur photos from the state park in Pica, Chile. It will make for a nice page.

I dreamed last night that I was packing and sorting clothes– like shedding old skins. This is a season of great change. It infects even my sleeping dreams. The day is hot and clear early-on. And I am fairly sleepy, still, for starters. I don’t trust the truck, which is still losing fluid, and tending to overheat. But I am still contemplating a trip out to Luray to meet up with Daniel Waters. And in another week, I will need to do some things for my sister’s birthday– and to visit my mom in Harrisburg.

Meanwhile, Tucker sent me more good eurypterid photographs for that last and final slot page in the geology manuscript. I did that along with the trackway pages.

11 a.m.– I have just gotten word that the Geology files do meet publishing criteria! This has been a long time coming– represents nearly 2o years of manuscript development. It may not be the best– but it is the best that I can do. I have told Steve Ruzila that there is great danger in finishing up some large percentage of ones life works all in a single week. I had best be a little careful crossing in front of busses this week!

Monday August 15

First night at the new apartment. Sarah Dawson came up to Steve’s place in Great Falls yesterday, and helped me to exit gracefully. We did a brunch at Ye Olde Brogue, and I had a brief conversation with Shahin Cheragipour. Then we went to find and look at the new digs. They are pretty nice indeed. We did a trek to the nearby Wal-mart for dish soap, shampoo, and some survival food. I hung out with Sarah through the evening.

It seems that I never sleep very well the first night in a new place– I always feel like I am keeping the watch. But the empty new vampyre laire is fairly quiet, if a little echoey. This morning dawns bright, and it is going to be hot again. Ross is in Ireland, so I will be at my own devices at work.

Tuesday September 6

So today is my official Smithsonian new employee orientation, now that I am actually a Trust employee. This follows discovering late last night, the 13 or 14 multipage forms that I am now supposed to bring with me to the orientation. And of course, this, following the Labor Day weekend. So now it was to be up at 5 a.m. Shower and shave, download all of the forms to a chip-drive, and head into the City by way of the Metro. Found a Fed-Ex print shop in China Town, but it is not actually open til 7 (it is presently about 6:30), which gives me a half an hour to fret or to doze, here by the neighborhood Starbucks store. Watching the city slowly come awake. It is interesting the sheer number of individual actions that go into a morning here, let alone before something like this orientation. Put money on a Metro card, know the stop, find the store, get the forms, find the office, fill out the forms…

My mantra is quickly becoming, “Leap of Faith.”

Which this surely is. And then I will have one year to figure out the next steps. Ha! Don’t try to deal with THAT one this morning! It just needs to be enough that the Fed Ex store might open on time in the next fifteen minutes.

I did not even tell you about the new adventure with the Ikea store this week? Sarah and Joseph and I sent south of the city, in traffic, to find the big Ikea—Sarah had been there before, not so for myself. It was all new to me—and it really is a culture all of its own. And at least one vision as to what the 21st Century is about. I have some idea already what I wanted. And so, spent money on the best $800 of chip-board book-cases and cabinets that I have ever seen!

It was actually fairly fun, albeit also a fair amount of intimidating. For a lot of reasons. It was interesting to watch Joseph also being overwhelmed a little as well, as we circled around and followed the yellow brick road of marketing, through gallery after gallery of furniture and bedding, lamps and book cases. We fitted four book cases and two cabinets into Sarah’s black Mercedes SUV. And made for home with both Joseph and I scrunched in on either side of the new wood.

On Friday, Joseph and I were having lunch outside at L’Enfant Plaza when along came two banjo musicians, Greg Adams and Ben McManus. And they struck up a conversation with Joseph. Turns out that they are both staff from Smithsonian Folkways, and they show a lot of interest in Joseph. He has been playing in the evenings at King Street Alexandria and in China Town, and other spots. Doing ok, from the sound of it.

We spent Saturday night and later, Monday morning, assembling. It is quite a little assembly system, using pre-designed screws and assembly connectors. All goes reasonably well, although we don’t turn out to be terribly consistent. I believe that to be one lesson of this exercise. All is fine until we discover that we have completely the wrong doors for the cabinets.

On Sunday, we put Joseph back on the Amtrack train out of Alexandria, back to Roanoke. And he subsequently got there safely. On Monday, I made my pilgrimage to the little Mexican store nearby, where no-one speaks English. I am entertained and cheered up a little bit by it.

All of this is complexity and novelty—the recognition of complexity. In reality, it is a whole lot to contend with. I am taking individual steps in a journey to I-know-not-where.

The sun has now just begun to touch the top of the National Archives building, and the length of the Washington Monument in the distance. I am overwhelmed and dozingly sleepy by turns. My brain keeps focusing, incongruously on the little row of potted palm trees outside the Penn Quarter Tavern nearby. Moving their fronds in the breeze. Fifteen minutes still until the Fed Ex opens. A thousand morning joggers. Street cleaners and buffers, and garbage removers. Again, the sense that this is actually Rome.

8 a.m. Well, actually getting the forms printed went off without major incident. Now I have hiked on to the Capitol Gallery for the actual orientation. Sat in the French cafe’ and filled out as much of the paper work as I am able. They will have to explain a couple of things. I do have my passport and drivers license with me, for whatever that is worth. I am still fluctuating between being on-edge versus being sleepy. The fellow outside by the Metro station is now singing opera in falsetto Italian, and adds a note of the surreal to the scene (he is no Emilita Gallicurcci!).

October 2nd, 2016

Well, time slips by. I think that I have my obligations paid up for September. Time to begin the circus ride all over again for October. There is definitely stuff that I have missed her, in between. Such as Lin Ma’s brief September visit (we shared birthday dinner at a local Chinese food place)– and the unexpected re-emergence of one Ohara Hash. All of these things are somehow important, whether to signal the closing of a chapter, or the opening of one.–still remains to be seen.

Likewise, Shawn McFarren, who got a new car on Friday, and then fell asleep behind the wheel and totaled it through a telephone pole on Sunday night. He is lucky to still be about.

We also upgraded Joseph’s computer—from a red Acer laptop to more of a gaming descktop machine with some TB of storage. The plan is to send the replaced lap top down to Carol Judy in Tennessee.

On the weekend, I actually took Friday as a tele-commute—work at home day. I did some work, but I also admit that I mostly slept. It was rainy, dark,, and colder. I began to bring in the plants for winter– repotting a few, and finding spaces by windows for them all. On Saturday, it was still rainy, but Ahoo and I did the little arts festival at Del Rey neighborhood, off Braddock Road. And then in the evening, Chris Romano and his friend Steve came, and we went out for pizza. While on Sunday, I ran out to Summit Point raceway and met up with Cath, Dave and my Mom, for the very last day of races of the season. That has little to do with the racing itself– it is more a nostalgia trek for Dave who once raced the GTI circuit there, in days long past.

Sneak Peek- Mead Of Poetry

Southern Spirituality
In the South
Out Mama washed your mouth
With a bar of soap for that word saying
You better be praying
Mama cares about your manners and your behavior
Jesus best be your savior
Your favorite flavor
Of spirituality
Or out that belt I’ll get
Not another day spent
In sin. Do ya hear me?
Yea, you better fear me
Spare the rod you spoil the child
Corporal punishment mild                                    I brought you into this world; I’ll take you out   If I find you aren’t devout                          Respect thy mother and thy father
You better not bother
Us while we are speaking
The floor creaking
Children should be seen and not heard
Cursed by the bird
Into the house last night crashed
Around it thrashed
Pray for absolution!
Seek retribution                                                  For your sins we will pray
On Sunday
In the church we do gather
To slather
Piety onto one another
The Priest your father’s brother
Together we forget the point
Of why we’re joined
Together on the Sabbath
Is it all out of habit?
Does God anyone still see?
Is it only me?
Seeking something deeper