Road Weary

July 24, 2007

To all-

I think I have a touch of road weariness. Sleep is a bit more difficult at night (rather easy in the middle of the day when chores call), motivation for a variety of tasks swings widely, and I feel like my posterior has grown 2 inches at least in girth from all the hours behind the wheel. This is probably just about where I should be psychologically speaking. The adventure has lost some luster and the reality of being jobless and somewhat homeless is seeping in through the cracks in the windows and doors of my pleasant illusions about life on the road. But…I have gotten a recent boast to my mood. My god daughter and her Mom made their arrival at the cabin in the pines yesterday for a short summer residence while they review eastern colleges. The god daughter will be college bound next September and it only seems like 17 years worth of seconds since she was born ūüėČ

Mom is carrying on with her business while traveling. I’m embarassed to admit that I haven’t made much progress on my own business of finding a path, a vocation, or at least a steady source of income. A new route has engaged my interest based in part on my own brother’s experience with the miltary health system. I’ve always been drawn to social causes and social services; old folks, not for profits, people with HIV/AIDS, drunks and druggies, and various flavors of whacko. Taking the civil service exam and working in the Veterans Administration system may just be a way to balance my complete disagreement with the Bush/Cheney/ghost of Rumsfeld war on everything with my growing concern for the thousands of Vets who will most certainly be left to their own resources after either a change of Administration or the end of the Presidential campaign (when the vets cease to be a political football to be played with in debates of dubious value). Leaving these real heroes to the general indifference of some bureacrats or low-ball bid social work contractors will amount to just another failure in current policy. Thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated.

Enough introspection. Travel-wise I’m back in New Jersey after a four day stay with my brother on his farm in southern Virginia. Horses, dogs (Blue, Casey, and Maggie), cats, goats, ducks, chickens, Bob the Turkey, and a reptile with no known human name. No painful encounters with any of the animals. My last visit, about 18 months ago, was not so painless. I had gone to Virginia to help my brother recover from a bit of surgery (featuring mutliple screw-ups, infections, and much pain) and to give his wife some relief before she did what the doctors had failed to do. Bailey, a great dane that pesonifies the “great” part in terms of size but who was totally affectionate in an insistent kind of way, took exception to my bending over to fetch up some¬†“medical waste” from my brother’s morning toilet. I suppose my rump reminded him of one of the deer in the area that had escaped his grasp the day before. He did not miss this time and gave me a chomp on the left glut that still aches on the proverbial rainy day. After the inital shock and cascade of profanities, I reteated to the powder room to discover that no skin was broken but the ultimate bruise would cover most of my lower left side (it did). After quite a number of deep breaths and promises to myself that I would have this dog shot, I emerged to find my brother frantically explaining by phone my predicament to his wife and the possible need to fulfill my promise. Bailey, however, was servile, contrite, and just a bit confused by all the commotion. It would seem that his little “love bite” had been misinterpreted. Such is the nature of inter-species communications I suppose. I recovered. My brother did too. Bailey was not shot but, sadly, due to a quirk of his breed, died six months later from an intestinal blockage.

Enough storytelling. The trip to Virginia included stops at both Jamestown (a one day trip with my brother which will be a special memory for me as the two of us just “don’t do that sort of thing”) and Williamsburg. The Jamestown photos are posted and I’ll be working on the Williamsburg captions later today. Both days were perfect for touring. Not too much sun, a breeze on the river, and lower than usual humidities for the Tidewater/Cheasapeake area. The round trip mileage, including a nice detour on the way home to Smithfield, Virginia, came close to 800 miles. So far this voyage I’ve put over 3200 miles on the Focus. It’s running great and will be getting a well deserved oil change before I head back west at the end of this week.

Side note on Smithfield, Virginia: While taking the long way around local route 10 in Virginia to get to Surrey for the ferry to Jamestown, I got a quick tour of the late colonial period town of Smithfield. Better know for it’s processed and packaged meats and nitrites, the Smithfield meat packing facilities reside on a road that I’ve been trying to avoid most of my life. ROUTE 666, the legendary “highway to hell,” courses right down the middle of this, I’m sure, “good christian” town. I can just imagine the Sunday sermons at the local baptist or methodist church.

Enough…finally. More, of course, later.


More Catching Up!

July 23, 2007

Sorry for the brevity of this post (or, perhaps, not). Just a note to say that there are new pictures on-line from Jamestown with photos from Williamsburg to follow tomorrow. Am still recovering from the long drives to and from Carrsville VA. Had a great time with my brother and his family. Lots of little kids and animals. But that’s what farms are for!

 Photos at: http://picasaweb.google.com/jtholste


A Bit More Catching Up

July 18, 2007

Good morning from Starbucks on Medford! I’ve been here long enough that the staff has be doing chores. Guess I could always try my hand at being a barista again (if Suzanne and Nicole would let me the cabin long term ūüėČ It’s a good day at Starbucks; new music rotation (was getting quite tired of Sir Paul and some ethno-punk-reggae mix) and I got a free drink for wrenching the top off of a reluctant vanilla bottle.

¬†I’ll spare you all the ongoing struggle with the field mice at the cabin. I’ve caught 2 and found 3 dead. Not sure what has cause the proliferation of murine invaders. Ironically I was almost a distant immunological cousin to one of these creatures. During my heart surgery five years ago I agreed to paticipate in the testing of a murine (mouse)¬†antibody in preventing the formation of micro-embolism in patients on the heart/lung machine. Blinded trial so no one knew whether I was made a mouse “blood brother” or not. However, six months after the trial I was tested for the presence of the murine antibody in my blood stream. Future exposures to mouse products could result in a serious allergic reaction (like I need more stuff to go wrong). The results were revealed to me and…no antibodies for me. Guess that’s why I have little sympathy for the vermin under my bed (although as I said…they are kinda cute).

Back to DC for a moment: How I managed to see as much as I did in the Washington Mall area still surprises me. Some of my looking was by zoom lense but I did manage to walk half of the Mall from the Smithsonian castle to the WWII Memorial and back. Stops along the way included the Museum of Natural History (hotbed of “evil’ lutionary activities including actual¬†fossil extractions and extensive dating efforts), the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery, the National Archives, the Washington Monument, and the World War II Memorial. Unfortunately I did not get to see Mi Lyn’s Vietnam Memorial masterpiece. My legs barely got me back to the Mall Metro stop before the showers started.

The Natural History Museum, of course, was very impressive although I have overdosed on the wealth of data and evidence for the self evident process of evolution in organic systems. The evolution that struck me most keenly was found not among hundreds of multi-million year old fossils but stately presented in true ephemeral grace in the Hall of Charters in the Archive’s rotunda. The wait was short, 30 minutes, considering the national treasures to be viewed. All the “big boys” where there; the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence along with personal “working copies of the constitutional documents” used by Washington in his role as chairman of the Convention. Lighting and age preventing any actually reading of most of the documents (this didn’t stop people with mini-video cameras from shooting sans flash for minutes at a time…a nice book of all the documents was available in the gift shop for less than $10) but I can assure you of two things: John Hancock’s name is really big on the bottom of the Declaration and the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights really does say “make¬†no law” regarding an establishment of religion.

One final observation concerning my fellow visitors; there were a number of foreign visitors of a variety of lands and languages. I was particularly taken with an adoptive German father talking passionately with his adopted Asian daughter in german over a particulary striking piece of work in the Sculpture Garden. There was one¬†fact that was so evident that to not mention it would be like not seeing the Washington Monument from the edge of the Elipse. I could count the number of African American visitors on one hand in the Archives, fewer still in the Sculpture Garden, and a handful more in the Natural History Palace (mostly as part of a family group of mixed races and ethnicities). This was in almost absolute contrast to the security staffs of the Museum and of the Archives which were exclusively African American on the shift for which I was present. Is there a question to be asked here? And a possible answer? It could all be a matter of coincidence and timing. Perhaps some folks were worn out from the Folk Festival on the Mall from the previous week. Or is race still so divisive in the Nation’s Capitol that the best that we have to share is unapproachable by those most in need of a clear understanding of the “rules of the game” codified in the documents in the Archive and the world view enshrined in all the other repositories of achievement and art. This question is worth thinking about for awhile and any comments are most welcome.

On a somewhat related note: the Archive has the complete documents from the arrest and arraignment of Rosa Parks. I have a postcard for¬†Ms. Brown¬†showing the bus layout and Ms. Park’s seat. The simple diagram makes this historical watershead so very tangible and even personal.

I only skimmed¬†the obvious bits¬†of the Capitol. A shoddy reconnisence at best. Many trips will be needed just to complete a simple inventory of treasure to sample. I’ll be back and, thanks to Steve and Kathryn, I’ll probably have a great place to stay.

More, as alway, later. Carrsville next. Now who can find that on a map?


Catch Up Time

July 17, 2007

To all:

My apologies for the short absence. Recovering from my trip to Silver Spring and Washington, DC took a bit more time than I anticipated. This is primarily due to the sluggishness of a muggy summer setting in compounded by my own search for motivation. I’ll spare everyone the internal dialogue and get on with the travelogue!

The drive down to DC last week, via route 95, was the best “drive” of the trip I think. The weather was beautiful. Southern New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland present hundreds of postcard worthy scenes and the traffic, while moderately heavy, was smooth and swift. The same can not be said for the drive back. One feature that might trip up a resident of St. Louis on this drive, as it almost did to me, is the paying of tolls. Tolls for roads (NJ Turnpike), tolls for bridges (Delaware Memorial), tolls for parts of roads (Delaware Turnpike), and tolls for tunnels (Baltimore).¬† I had just enough cash (car-wide coin search included) to cover all the fees on the way down to Silver Spring. The total down came to $10.05 and $7.00 on the return trip (I skipped the Turnpikes and the Bridge and took a longer route back to Medford, NJ…it was not worth the savings!).

Baltimore presented a great stopping point for lunch and some photo opportunities. Maryland crab and a burger at the Rusty Skupper on the Inner Harbor post-lunch crowd is the way to go. Driving the scenic harbor route covered all the basic stuff like Fort McHenry and the massive harbor development in progress. A similar development effort is underway on the Wilmington, DE riverfront on a much smaller scale. If you’re a tunnel-phobe you’ll need to take the Baltimore Beltway way west to avoid the harbor crossing tunnels.

The few remaining miles to Silver Spring (see Kathryn, I can spell it consistently without the extra “s”) went quick and led to the only traffic of the day at the exit for the University of Maryland. My hosts, fellow godparent Kathryn and her husband Steve, scored a major bit of real estate luck in finding a great house in Silver Spring just minutes from the Metro and downtown Silver Spring (a ‘tres funky, artsy deco, mingling spot for a range of ages and ethnicities). I’m sure they will be able to retire on the sale of this home in a decade or two!

Annabelle and William, the kids of the house, provide enough energy to light most of Silver Spring. Boundless is perhaps the word I could use. How Steve and Kathryn keep up is a mystery to me. I did have some nice “table time” with them Friday night and Saturday morning. Steve was very helpful in letting me blather on about some grant ideas that I have and hope to run by him in a few months related to science education. No one better suited to the task as he is one of the major project managers on the upcoming (August 2008) final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. After the Apollo landing on the Moon, Hubble ranks in my mind as NASA’s greatest achievement. Below is a link to a recent article on www.space.com related to the mission:

http://www.space.com/news/061013_hubble_cost.html

I’ve included pictures from Baltimore, Silver Spring, and DC on my google picture site: http://picasaweb.google.com/jtholste

I’ll save my thoughts on DC for a separate piece as it was, in its own way, as overwhelming as NYC. Both places have a distinctive “gravity” unlike any other place I’ve been. Meanwhile, enjoy the photos and feel free to share the blog address with anyone you care to. And comments, BTW, are always welcome. Job offers too!


Baltimore to Silver Spring

July 13, 2007

Howdy Loyal Readers!

I got into Silver Spring MD with a nice stop for lunch and picture taking at the Baltimore Harbor. Photos are on the photo site on Google. I must stand corrected once again on Uncle Steve and Aunt Kathryn’s residence. It’s Silver Spring with no “s” on the end of Spring. And, in fact, there appears to only be one spring that I could find so far today ūüėČ

Heading for downtown DC in an hour or so via the METRO. Sharp contrast to the NYC subways but…I think I can handle it. Expect late night photos for weekend viewing. Heading for Carrsville VA to see my sailor brother on Saturday. Hope to hit some shore sights on the way back to Medford and the cabin.

Hope all have a great weekend!

 jtholste

Corrected photo site address below.

http://picasaweb.google.com/jtholste


A Late Night Update

July 10, 2007

Hot day in Medford Lakes and a hotter one tomorrow. Makes for nocturnal reading, writing, and (sadly) eating. Being healthy with a little hummus and pita break. I was finally able to track down a new memory card for the camera and salvage a few photos from NYC. Unfortunately about 25 shots¬†were lost including some great ones of the Brooklyn Bridge. A good enough excuse to go back for another visit, I say! Those photos, of the Hayden Planetarium, a single selection from the celebrated Central Park, and a woman cooking was all that survived the battery flame up during my Water Taxi ride in NYC and are posted on the photo site. I suspect I am the culprit; opening and closing the camera lens to protect the lens from river spray overheated things a bit. I’ve learned my $19.95 lesson!

More travels upcoming: Beltsville Maryland and DC, southern Virginia and my brother’s tree farm, and quick visits to Baltimore and Richmond over the next week. Am looking forward to seeing friends in Beltsville. He (Steve)¬†works for NASA and she (Kathryn) is a physical therapist and my goddess daughter’s god mother. Will try to interest Steve in working on an educational grant to design a secondary education course to specifically teach evolution as a science elective rather than just as a part of a biology class (where, surprisingly, it gets low billing and is often muddled and mis-handled). Another possibility is to design in school “science academies” in climate change and space exploration. Might try to interest that famous astronomer, Jeremy Perkins, in a bit of that project!

I promise more pictures (and a little less politics) during the coming week!

Editor’s Note: I stand corrected. Uncle Steve and Aunt Kathryn no longer live in Beltsville MD. They have moved up the real estate ladder and now reside in Silver Springs. Seems they slipped out of town a few years back. This, of course, explains why my Xmas cards to them have been returned the last two years! Time to update the address book.


A Summer Fit for Impeachment

July 7, 2007

It’s a simmering Saturday night in Medford Lakes, the Starbucks is in slow mode, and I’ve awakened from a sleepy day to hold forth on something in this blog. My email sometimes provokes me. Today I received mail from two social active groups related to impeachment; one supporting House Resolution (HR) 333 to impeach the Dick Cheney and another suggesting that Commando-in-Chief Geo. Bush’s commutation of “Scooter’s” sentence for his part in the Valerie Pflame is grounds for impeachment (amongst a dozen other “high crimes and misdemeanors.”) The order of removal is probably important in the grander scheme of things; Cheney before Bush would give us our first female president, Nancy Pelosi. The other way is too frightening to consider. Dick Cheney ascending to the most powerful job in the world is nightmare material for many an American ally and citizen. Seems VP Cheney serves as the ultimate protector for his boss regardless of what branch of US government he really thinks he runs.

Is impeachment of either likely? No but not for the reasons suggested by most Democrats and pundits. The focus on the future, no time for revenge, get out of Iraq course of the democratic leadership is certainly sane. No long hearings, expensive investigations, pompous presentations on Presidential purpose and image, or fashion shows of Brooks Brothers suits marked with the sweat of late night energy scam sessions and “Kill Sadam” rallies in the West Wing. Sigh…were are you Monica when we need real entertainment? Howard Dean is obviously on his meds as he should be in fever pitch for a fight to remove…somebody. Some of us took personally the attempted lynching of Bill Clinton and the obscene parade of lies about lies, sickening self-righteousness, and Henry HYDE! Some of us want a little “hide” from Henry’s party for its hypocrisy and willingness to derail a properly elected President from office for private moral failings. Have you been to Washington recently? Glass houses on every block and personal moral failing abound. Right, Henry?

No there won’t be an impeachment because most Democrats and Progressives see the White and control of Congress as a strong possibility of the 2008 elections. Twice as many Republic seats are open in 2008 than in 2006. The field of Democratic candidates is finally strong (and potential vital for at least the next 8 years).¬† I suppose this is reason enough to control my own lust for a little revenge and maybe, just maybe, upcoming hearings on everything from unconstitutional wiretapping, firing of federal prosecutors, war profiteering, energy manipulation, and personal financial gain will satisfy the desire for public accountability. Maybe. But I really want to see some of these people in jail. Long terms. No Paris Hilton accommodations. No commutations. No criminal book deals. Just gray walls, bars, bad food, and a right living Muslim cellmate named Osama. Yeah, that’s definitely better than some old impeachment.

Think positive thoughts!

Post Script, July 9: I’ve added a new link to the “blogroll” in the right column. “Truth Out” is an easy to read news service of “alternative media” and¬† columnists that may be of interest to some. I was scanning the site today and caught an news piece detailing the surprising upturn in sentiment for impeachment. A recent poll found that 45% of Americans beleive the House should commence impeachment hearings as a result of the Libby commutation and other issues.