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« Mstislav Rostropovich: Great Cellist, Great Humanitarian, Dies | Main



What a wonderful journey you were given. You were pushed over to the other side by the power of the lightning. As you saw, it can be very frightening, but not in the way other humans are frightening. Nature is simply a predator that can kill utterly without malice. And one cannot ask for any mercy, nor place any blame, but can only try to get out of its way.

If you ever have a migraine, get some dry feverfew herb at a health food store, and make a strong tea with about three full teaspoonfuls. It is terribly bitter, and it takes over a hour to kick in. Don't take it all the time. It takes a large cup of fairly dark yellow tea; some batches are stronger than others, so go by the color.


I recently read this book, which I think you would really like. As a builder, I think you would especially enjoy the details about medieval carpentry. I think you would also enjoy the parts about Viking shipbuilding, as well as his speculations about acorns as a staple crop for the first agriculturalists. The entire book is chock-full of interesting historical anecdotes. I also recommend his earlier book "Dirt ; The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth".
Oak: The Frame of Civilization
"Professional arborist and award-winning nature writer William Bryant Logan deftly relates the delightful history of the reciprocal relationship between humans and oak trees since time immemorial—a profound link that has almost been forgotten. From the ink of Bach's cantatas, to the first boat to reach the New World, to the wagon, the barrel, and the sword, oak trees have been a constant presence throughout our history. In fact, civilization prospered where oaks grew, and for centuries these supremely adaptable, generous trees have supported humankind in nearly every facet of life. "With an unabashed enthusiasm for his subject" (Carol Haggas, Booklist) Logan combines science, philosophy, spirituality, and history with a contagious curiosity about why the natural world works the way it does. At once humorous and reverent, "this splendid acknowledgment of a natural marvel" (Publishing News) reintroduces the oak tree so that we might see its vibrant presence throughout our history and our modern world."


I just Googled this review, which summarizes some of the book's main points;

Logan first offers a paleobotanist's opinion for why Quercus, became a dominant tree genus. Oak owes it success to being "nothing special." Oak never suffered the misfortune of overspecializing in any one environment, and as Logan details in a later chapter, the plasticity of its DNA has made for a few amazing adaptations....

Recent research suggests not all early humans were big game hunters who eventually converted to farming. Some of our human ancestors were balanophagists. As an example, the archaeological site at Catal Huyuk, a settlement 8,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent (modern-day Turkey), offers clues its residents ground and ate acorns as their diet staple. Once its tannin is leached out, the acorn is highly nutritious and surprisingly filling. ...

Other topics covered in "The Age of Oak" include construction of the first ocean-going boats by Vikings, vessels which rode the waves with a dolphin-like flexibility designed into their oak structure; discovery of such joinery as the mortise-and-tenon (which allows strong right-angle joining of boards) in a Dutch structure circa 1475 B.C., which in turn led to timber-framed oak houses for the next 3,000 years; the invention of charcoal, a necessity for the advance of metalworking; and Western Civilization's preferred permanent ink--what Bach used to write his cantatas--derived from the parasitic galls that form on an oak's trunk.

Chapter Five, "End of the Age," recaps the centuries sailing ships, typically 90 percent oak, spanned the globe. The principles of timber-framed buildings were applied to ship building and Logan's genius is he shows the oak tree superbly suited the various specifications for a sailing ship's structural timbers. As an arborist, he readily explains how, as an example, a forester charged with picking the right tree to cut for a compass timber might make his selection in a forest...

Chapter Six, "Oak Itself," is a thorough arborist-wise compendium of the virtues of genus Quercus. Diversity (as mentioned at the outset, the oak avers specialization), Cooperation (for millennia, fascinating mutual dependencies have existed between oaks and jays), Flexibility (plasticity of the DNA), Prudence (the oak conserves energy superbly, regulating the release of new growth), Persistence (oaks make lots of roots), Community (oak roots feed other ailing oak trees), and Generosity (the oak hosts countless species, most notably the gall-making wasp). Logan's argument on behalf of the oak is quite simple: "There is no structure more supple and sustainable than nature's, and oaks are among the most widely adapted and successful of all plants." Logan suggests computer modelling as a useful ally for unlocking and deploying the subtle power of nature's design. In one example, he cites surgical screws for repair of bone fractures, whose design derives from computer analysis of how an oak tree grows.

In the book's epilogue, Logan compares the Eiffel Tower to an oak tree. The Eiffel Tower, meant as an icon of the Industrial Age, offers little utility, other than making a lasting impression and for those inclined, a vertiginous look-see from up high. In contrast, the oak tree, a "nothing special" structure, has always meant utility. Logan asks the reader which of the two might we emulate, if we had to choose. By the end of OAK, we know his choice....


The vast majority of oak trees bear acorns that are loaded with tannins, and while you may be able to leach out much of it by soaking in water, you will loose some of the beneficial substances in the process. However, certain varieties of white oak bear acorns that contain virtually no tannin. These acorns are said to be nearly a perfect food.

Oak trees are more substantial than most other trees, and in fact, for some odd reason, most nut bearing trees have heavy and solid wood. The limbs are very strong, but alto very heavy, so you don't want to be anywhere nearby when one topples, or branches fall!

About the feverfew; its tea is for the special pain of having been forcibly tossed over to the other side. It has special spiritual properties, and is not a cure for the ordinary migraine headache.

Elaine Meinel Supkis

Oak trees and the New World: an interesting topic.

Europe 'ate up' all its good oaks making steel and other industrial uses as well as building. Oak charcoal burns hottest and most evenly of all the woods. Alas, it also grows very slowly. It is the last to go into leaf in spring, for example.

And they attract lightning like crazy! This is why the official tree of Zeus and other lightning gods is the oak.

Elaine Meinel Supkis

As for my own migranes: there is no medicine that can really work. As I get older, the migranes have faded as the brain heals or maybe rots, heh.

I used to tear apart sheets, in screaming pain when I was a child. If storms came (a rarity in the school year in Arizona!) while I was in school, the school nurse would blanche. They had me bring my own things to rip up. I once took an IQ test will in this condition.

I came up 'idiot level'. Well, I couldn't even see the paper so I shredded part of the test. I should have burned it.

But again; I am NEVER caught by surprise by a storm! Never! I have worked in basements at universities and always, I could tell if a thunderstorm was coming, even there.


I know about migraine. It would start with a tiny tingling in maybe my right big toe, and the tingling would "march" upward to my right face, and my whole right side would go totally numb, then totally lame. The world's lousiest dentist could have performed the most vicious root canal ever and I would not have felt a damn thing! Then came the rip-rap visual slashes, and then the days of pure pain. I could not get out of the chair, because the pain had me bolted there like iron spikes through my wrists and ankles.

So I do know a little about that.

Elaine Meinel Supkis

I hate the visual disruptions. If it happens when I am at work or driving, all hell breaks loose. I have to stop.


Of course you have to stop. Especially since you live pretty far off the grid. Keep a small jar of dry feverfew on hand. But don't listen to blues!

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