I didn’t mean to mislead anyone, but since I have been traveling this year, I suppose that people weren’t surprised that I mentioned I was going to Egypt. What I meant is that I had been invited by a friend to get in on her discount tickets to the King Tut exhibit in San Francisco, and we decided to spend our Veteran’s Day holiday doing things Egyptian.
After the exhibit, we had lunch overlooking Sutro Baths at Louie’s Diner, and then decided to drive down Skyline Boulevard instead of the usual highways. Neither of us had taken that highway its entire length. It wasn’t that much longer, and goodness gracious it is beautiful. As beautiful as the Egyptian Afterlife, I’m sure, and I’m still alive and with my internal organs not yet in alabaster jars. Since we were in the neighborhood, we stopped and I showed Hilary where the Ohlone Winter Solstice rock is.
Then we dropped down into the Santa Clara valley and the Rosicrucian Museum off Naglee in San Jose. We decided not to go into the museum, but strolled the park there, which is peaceful and beautiful and a little odd. Odd, only because of my ignorance.
In both displays of displaced Egypt today, I wondered about my ignorance. I’m pretty ignorant about the Rosicrucians, but I could learn more. About the ancient Egyptians, I got the feeling that for all we know about them, doesn’t it make more sense that we really don’t understand what all the afterlife fuss was about? Everything that we learn about people in the past usually confirms that we are not that different from them. It makes sense to me that there is more to their beliefs and attention to preservation of body parts that were never written down. All those artifacts just didn’t add up to what the placards would lead you to believe.
My favorite object today? Tut’s diadem, thought to have been worn in everyday use. Yes. We should all wear diadem everyday.
Yesterday I saw two black squirrels near Kresge College. I’ve seen the albino squirrel, but I’ve never seen black squirrels before. I learned from the wikipedia that black squirrels are known among the eastern grey squirrel, but there was no mention of black squirrels among the western grey squirrel.
As a melanistic variety of the Grey Squirrel, individual black squirrels can exist wherever Grey Squirrels live. Grey mating pairs may produce black offspring, and in areas with high concentrations of black squirrels, mixed litters are common. The black subgroup seems to have been dominant throughout North America prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, since their dark colour helped them hide in virgin forests which tended to be very dense and shaded. As time passed, hunting and deforestation led to biological advantages for grey coloured individuals. Today, the black subgroup is particularly abundant in the northern part of the Eastern Grey Squirrel’s range. This is likely due to the significantly increased cold tolerance of black individuals which lose less heat than greys.  Black individuals also enjoy visibility advantages in denser northern forests.
The article goes on to point out that the Black Squirrel is a mascot in several universities. I like the sound of that. The Santa Cruz Black Squirrels: “We Dominate in Dense Old Growth Forests!”
Most of my vacation last month was spent in on the side of Mount Monadnock, but I spent the a few days in Massachusetts. As the weekend went on an organizing theme unfolded.
After a delicious local food called “Fish and Chips” with “Chowder” my host and I walked to downtown North Hampton and then to Smith College. We naturally gravitated to the library after our walk through picture-perfect forests of gold and red. Smith’s Library, offers students a “Learning Commons” which are a relatively recent innovation: libraries provide scholars what’s needed to collaborate around digital information: large monitors, data projectors, movable furniture, white boards. I dropped into Smith’s by accident, but then I realized that I wanted to see as many of these places as I could.
So my hosts offered to take me on a tour the next day. But later that night, we stopped in at The Raven, where I bought the collection of Emily Dickinson I posted about earlier.
The next day, we visited Mt Holyoak, and the Reading Room at the Williston Memorial Library, where we find this poem.
Williston Memorial Library
The chapter ends. And when I look up
from a sunken pose in an easy chair
(half, or more than half asleep?)
the height and the heft of the room come back;
darkly, the pitched ceiling falls
forward like a book.
Even those mock Tudor stripes
have come to seen like unread lines.
Oh, what I haven’t read!
– and how the room, importunate
as a church, leans as if reading me:
the three high windows in the shape
of a bishop’s cap, and twenty girls
jutting from the walls like gargoyles
or (more kindly) guardian angels
that peer over the shoulder, straight
into the heart. Wooden girls who exist
only above the waist–
whose wings fuse thickly into poles
behind them — they hold against their breasts,
alternately, books or scrolls
turned outward, as if they mean to ask:
Have you done your Rhetoric today?
Your passage of Scripture? Your Natural
Philosophy? In their arch, archaic
silence, one can’t help but hear a
mandate from another era
and all too easy to discount
for sounding quaint. Poor
Emily Dickenson, when she was here,
had to report on the progress of
her soul toward Christ. (She said: No hope.)
Just as well no one demands
to know that any more … Yet
one attends, as to a lecture
to this stern-faced architecture –
Duty is Truth, Truth Duty — as one
doesn’t to the whitewashed, low
ceilings of our own. Despite
the air these angels have of being
knowing (which mainly comes by virtue
of their being less to know back then),
there’s modesty in how they flank
the room like twenty figureheads:
they won’t, or can’t reveal who leads
the ship you need to board. Beneath
lamps dangled from angel’s hands–
stars to steer us who knows where–
thousands of periodicals
unfurled their thin, long-winded sails;
back there, in the unlovely stacks,
the books sleep cramped as sailors.
So little time to learn what’s worth
our time! No one to climb that stair
and stop there, on the balcony
walled like a pulpit or a king’s
outlook in a fairy take,
to set three tasks, to pledge rewards.
Even the angels, after all
whose burning lamps invoke a quest
further into the future, drive
us back to assimilate the past
before we lose the words.
No, nobody in the pulpit
but for the built-in, oaken face
of a timepiece that –I check my watch –
still works. As roundly useful as
the four-armed ceiling fans that keep
even the air in circulation,
it plays by turns with hope and doubt:
hard not to read here, in the clock’s
crossed hands, the paradox
of Time that is forever running out.
Around the corner from the Reading Room is Mt. Holyoke’s Learning Commons. As I walked in, I realized I had read a paper about this one. This is one of the best in the country.
I interviewed the consultant, and asked her questions that you can’t get from papers, like “How many consultants do you work with? How many supervisors do you have? How are you trained? What do you do when you are helping someone in-person? What do students need help with the most? How do you and your co-workers collaborate? Who do you escalate to when you don’t know the answer?
Things I liked about this facility: the beautiful octagonal reading room, art on the walls, the group study rooms.
I also learned that people like to read near windows.
Here’s a window seat at Mt. Holyoke and a similar group study area at a popular bookstore, The Bookmill, in Montegue, about 20 minutes from Northampton.
The Bookmill offers this message to departing customers:
I don’t know how this happened, but the Republicans think I’m one of them. I’ve received a few “push” surveys from them since Obama became president, and I thought I’d share one. I know that I get this sort of thing from other parties and causes, but it was funnier coming from the other side.
Today we plan to visit more University libraries and the home of Emily Dickenson.
This Consciousness that is aware
Of Neighbors and the Sun
Will be the one aware of Death
And that itself alone
Is traversing the interval
And most profound experience
Appointed unto Men–
How adequate unto itself
Its properties shall be
Itself unto itself and none
Shall make discovery.
Adventures most unto itself
The Soul condemned to be–
Attended by a single Hound
Its own Idenity.
John Laird wrote an insightful reflection on Mardi Wormhout’s leadership during the year after the quake in today’s Sentinel.
This list appears in Sandy Lydon‘s lecture handouts this week:
Most Notable Santa Cruz County Earthquakes Since 1950
1865 (October) : estimated 7.0 on San Andreas fault, damage in Santa Cruz
1868 (October): estimated 7.0 on Hayward fault, damage throughout county
1890 (April): strongest in Pajaro Valley, chimney and brick walls
1906 (April): damage throughout county, 7 deaths in Hinckley Canyon
1926 (October): damage in Pajaro Valley
1983 (May): Coalinga, some damage in county
1984 (April): Morgan Hill, some damage in county
1989 (October): Loma Prieta, extensive damage in county, 7 confirmed deaths.
What’s with April and October?
Last night I went to an event at Cabrillo and saw a presentation by Tom Bleier who owns a company that is researching if it is possible to predict earthquakes from the very low-frequency energies produced by rock under stress.
The website of the company is http://www.quakefinder.com/ but it seem to be broken. Blieir didn’t seem like a crank, but he’s privately funded and the UCGS doesn’t have anything to do with him. He’s training students from high schools all along the San Andreas to build instruments and deploy them, thus building a network of earthquake detectors. They aren’t predicting quakes yet, they are simply gathering data to test the hypothesis.
Here’s a news story:
He seemed to be claiming that his research shows that someday we could know that an earthquake was to occur 14 to 15 days ahead of time. How would that change things? It would change everything. We could all lay in water and soup, and prepare to camp out for a week or so. We could prepare businesses, we would keep our families together instead of leaving the kids off at day care. We could make sure that our pets had food and water and weren’t left alone. We could take care of ourselves, and not need public “shelters.” There was a time when hurricanes weren’t predictable too.
- A woman standing on a corner with a cell phone saying “But I’m ON Broadway!” She asks me “Is this Broadway?” I point to the sign above her head. “No, it’s Barson.”
- Men alone in their cars slow down and nearly stop, trying to catch my eye. I’m standing in my front yard in my robe letting my dog pee. No, I’m not who you think I am.
- Lots of men alone in their cars, slowing down, slowing down, talking on their their phones, speeding up.
- A woman gets out of a car that stops in the middle of the street, walks down half a block to get into another car that has stopped in the middle of the street.
- The Sentinel reports prostitution stings in the neighborhood.
- It’s not raining yet.
For about a year now I’ve been trying to remember what Garrison Keillor said were the five elements of a good story. I should have just googled it, because of course, there they were, on snopes:
During is November 8, 1997 broadcast, Garrison Keillor was heard to expound on the five required elements of humor (religion, money, family relationships, sex, and mystery) saying there was one twelve-word joke that contained all these elements: “God,” said the Banker’s daughter, “I’m pregnant. I wonder who it was?”
The last remaining writer at the Sentinel, Wallace Baine, has written a brilliant article about the significance of the Pacific Garden Mall; its birth, death, and legacy.