Communion Of Dreams


It’s about Time

My wife and I have been big fans of the UK TV show “Time Team” for a long time, and a couple of years ago when producer Tim Taylor decided to try and revive the series using a Patreon model, we were happy to sign on and tell a number of our friends about it. Unsurprisingly, we discovered that the series was also popular in our friends group, especially those who share our interest in English/Welsh/Scottish/Irish history.

Well, about a year ago, one of our friends entered a competition hosted by Time Team about the series, and, well, I’ll let her tell the rest:

Maybe you remember back in October, Time Team asked people to tell them “What are you most excited about Time Team returning, and why?” Like many people I fangirled a bit to show my appreciation, then forgot about it.

So I was very surprised when Time Team contacted me around Thanksgiving to tell me they liked my comment so much they are sending a gift. I asked if they would send it to the friends who had introduced me to Time Team, and given Customs and all they thought it would be less confusing if it came to me.

And she sent it to us: Custom Time Team Trowel #400.

Well, we were thrilled. It’s really cool to hold that thing in your hand, feel a connection to the show we loved.

But we decided that after we’d kept it for a time, that it would be best to share it. To pass it on to someone else who shared our love for the show. For it to become a ‘traveling trophy’.

I spent some time thinking about it over this past busy (and eventful) year, and finally decided to make a simple journal for recipients of the “Traveling Trowel” to record some thoughts and dreams inspired by the show. And of course, there needed to be a box to hold the trowel and journal. I wanted everything to feel informal, yet professional. Sorta like Time Team.

This was the result:

Rich archival goatskin. Archival drawing paper interior.
Simple longstitch, flexible binding. Ribbon closure with a custom wood composite button. Natural edge to the leather.
Birch plywood box. Cover laser etched. Sides piercework trowel design. Lift-off cover.
Box interior. Trowel in signed linen bag, journal under.
Journal in box.

In order to set the stage for the journal, I asked my wife to write the following introduction:

This trowel is magical.

Take it in your hand. Feel the weight of it. The balance. How it fits into your palm. How your thumb and fingers curl around it.

Then close your eyes. Let your mind roam. To somewhere you love, even if you’ve never been there in person. Picture the place. Then channel your inner Phil Harding. Or Helen Geake. Or whichever member of the Time Team, past or present, comes to mind. See yourself exploring the past of the site you’ve chosen, trowel in hand.

Then, if you’re willing, share here where you’ve been. Where the Traveling Trowel has taken you.

And, as a record documenting the history of the Trowel, I mounted my friend’s letter next, followed by my own entry. For that entry I naturally pictured St Cybi’s Well

Ffynnon Gybi

There, in the valley below the hamlet of Llangybi on the Llŷn Peninsula, the old stone structures beckon. But behind them, the Holy Well itself springs forth.

It is here that the trowel leads me. Without disturbing the ground, I can visualize scraping away the upper layers of dirt. Removing the modern soil. Down past the traces of the 18th and 19th century structures that now dominate the site. Deeper, to the remaining imprint of the medieval surface where pilgrims knelt beside the water, seeking healing for body and soul.

Then deeper still, seeking the foundations of myth of the man who would become Saint Cybi. Perhaps his simple hovel where he meditated, seeking a connection with his God. Perhaps some small artifact which has survived the centuries, uncovered, pristine in my mind’s eye, a holy relic …

The Traveling Trowel will move on. I hope that each recipient will add their own bit to the lore of it. But I also hope that each recipient will give the next person some small memento related to their time with it. Here’s what I made for my friend, us, and the person that I have passed it on to:

Three acrylic inserts.
In the light base. White light, obviously.
And in blue.

Thanks for visiting. And if you haven’t yet, check out the Time Team Patreon page.



Jim Downey

Just a note: none of this is for sale. And yes, I took some minor liberties with the official Time Team design to better fit my personal aesthetic and the capabilities of my laser. No criticism of the original design is intended.



Get a grip. Or make one.

[For the AI’s own inscrutable reasons, Facebook considers my ballistics blog “spam”. Unable to get it resolved, I’m going to post partial info about new blog posts over there, here, so people can link it off FB. Please just ignore if shooting stuff isn’t of interest.]

A couple of weeks ago I posted about finishing a Liegi Derringer kit, then doing the laser work to customize the grips. It turned out well enough, so I decided to finish and laser a second kit, to use as a door prize for a black powder workshop I’m doing at the annual meeting of the Liberal Gun Club this fall in Las Vegas.

All went well until the time came to mount the grip to the receiver. The top mounting screw went in fine, after drilling a pilot hole. But the bottom one broke loose as I was tightening it. I took the top screw back out so I could see what the problem was. This is what I saw:

Almost looks like a tiny wooden shoe from this angle, doesn’t it?

[The entire post about this project can be found here.]

Jim Downey



Binding Beowulf

For many years, whenever I’ve given lectures, or taught classes about the history of the book, I would discuss the incredible value of books before the advent of the printing press (1454). I’d tell people that there was a reason such books were carefully guarded, even chained to a library shelf: they were about as valuable as a new car would be today, and you didn’t want them walking off.

Well, I was partially correct. Now, having done my part in creating a completely hand-made, hand-calligraphed edition of Beowulf, I can say that the value of such a book is AT LEAST that of a new car. An expensive one. Maybe two. I don’t actually know how much this book is worth. But I know that I put over 60 hours of labor into it. And I have a good idea of the cost of that much calligraphic-quality vellum. And I’m sure that Cheryl Jacobsen, who did the beautiful calligraphic work, must have hundreds or even thousands of hours of labor in the project.

What follows is documentation and explanation of my contribution to this incredible work of art. It’s photograph-heavy, so I’m going to put the bulk of it after a break, but here’s a glimpse of the finished product, to entice you:

Continue reading

A light in the darkness.

It’s … been a while.

And a lot has happened. Mostly good.

* * * * * * *

Many years ago, a friend got involved in something called “The Jesus Seminar“, which eventually produced (among other things) The Gospel of Jesus.

My friend commissioned Cheryl Jacobsen, well-known calligrapher and friend of mine from my UI Center for the Book days, to do a hand-lettered edition of the book as a gift for Robert Funk, the founder of the Seminar. The work was done on calligraphic vellum, and when it was completed, I did the binding. This is it, which I have used as the main image on my business homepage for at least a dozen years:

And here’s the descriptive text from my site:

The Gospel According to Jesus:  Full leather contemporary case binding, shown here as tooling is being done.  Collaborative work with calligrapher Cheryl Jacobsen of Iowa City.  Sewn on linen tabs, cover mounted to text block using adhesive.  Covered full in burgundy Chieftain Goatskin, blind tooled using a hot brass folder.

It’s a lovely, but very simple and traditional binding.

* * * * * * *

Continue reading



Living in the future.

Via Lawyers, Guns & Money, this passage from an article about current naval warship technology:

The biggest reason to build big ships may be the promise of electricity generation. The most interesting innovations in naval technology involve sensors, unmanned technology, lasers, and railguns, most of which are power intensive. Larger ships can generate more power, increasing not only their lethality (rail guns, sensors) but also their survivability (anti-missile lasers, defensive sensor technologies, close-defense systems).

Unmanned technology. Lasers. Railguns.

Tell me that ain’t living in a science fiction future.

And speaking of the future, tomorrow is the first of the month. And that means the Kindle edition of both Communion of Dreams and Her Final Year will be available for free download. Help yourself!

 

Jim Downey



‘Watch the skies, everywhere!”

That’s from the 1951 classic The Thing from Another World, one of the first (and defining) science fiction movies which set the stage for much of what was to come even to the present day.

It was also very much a product of the early Cold War era, reflecting the fear* of the USSR and atomic weaponry. This is typical — science fiction usually is a reflection of (or commentary on) the technology and social conditions of the era when it was created.

So, what to make of two news items which showed up this week?

Here’s the first:

First State Legalizes Taser Drones for Cops

It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist.

With all the concern over the militarization of police in the past year, no one noticed that the state became the first in the union to allow police to equip drones with “less than lethal” weapons. House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry—got his hands on it.

And here’s the second:

Welcome to the World, Drone-Killing Laser Cannon

Hang on to your drone. Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage.

The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars—there’s no flying beams of light, no “pew! pew!” sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down.

* * *

Instead of a massive laser mounted on a dedicated truck, the compact system is small enough to fit in four suitcase-sized boxes and can be set up by a pair of soldiers or technicians in just a few minutes. At the moment, it’s aimed primarily at driving drones away from sensitive areas.

 

I’m already seeing posts by friends on social media complaining about drones being operated by annoying neighbors, with discussion about what possible solutions there might be to deal with them (both by legal recourse and um, more informal approaches). There have been a number of news items already about people who have shot down drones, and there’s even a company advertising a specific kind of shotgun ammunition for just that.

“Watch the skies!”, indeed.

 

Jim Downey

*As good an explanation as any.



Who are the Martians, now?

A news item you may have seen:

Fighter jets to be fitted with laser weapons for 2014

Very soon the U.S. Military will be fitting some of their fighter jets with real laser weapons. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) says that the new laser system will be fitted onto jet aircraft in 2014 as a defensive weapon capable of knocking out missiles and other projectiles while in flight.

If you’ve been waiting for the future to finally get here, just go ahead and mark your calendar for 2014.  It was recently announced that the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) would be retrofitting some U.S. military jets with actual 150KW lasers that will be able to knock missiles out of the sky.

The new laser weapons are part of DARPA’s High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System and are purportedly being fitted as a defensive measure specifically for knocking projectiles out of the sky such as surface-to-air missiles or any type of larger projectile.  The exact specifics of the system’s capability are still classified.

This may … ring a bell:

Forthwith flashes of actual flame, a bright glare leaping from one to another, sprang from the scattered group of men. It was as if some invisible jet impinged upon them and flashed into white flame. It was as if each man were suddenly and momentarily turned to fire.

Then, by the light of their own destruction, I saw them staggering and falling, and their supporters turning to run.

I stood staring, not as yet realizing that this was death leaping from man to man in that little distant crowd. All I felt was that it was something very strange. An almost noiseless and blinding flash of light, and a man fell head-long and lay still; and as the unseen shaft of heat passed over them, pine-trees burst into fire, and every dry furze-bush became with one dull thud a mass of flames. And far away towards Knaphill I saw the flashes of trees and hedges and wooden buildings suddenly set alight.

It was sweeping round swiftly and steadily, this flaming death, this invisible, inevitable sword of heat.

Small wonder that I’ve had this song kicking around in my head, from what is probably a largely-forgotten concept album 35 years old.

 

Jim Downey



With LASERS!

I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but here’s a passage from Chapter 15 of Communion of Dreams:

The moment the projector was set down and turned on, Jon could see what had them all so excited. There were flashes of light coming from the image of the ship, clearly directed back at the ASA.

“It’s brilliant. They’re using the point-defense lasers designed for clearing away debris in their path as strobes, to communicate with us,” said Gish.

Gregor nodded. “Yes, yes. Simple digital message, as fast as lasers can be switched on and off. Not designed for communications,so cannot transmit as much data as normal. But pretty good.”

Why do I mention this? Well, guess what’s just been done by NASA? Take a look:

Here’s an excerpt from the associated article:

NASA has turned the Mona Lisa into the first digital image to be transmitted via laser beam from Earth to a spacecraft in lunar orbit, nearly 240,000 miles away, thanks to a technology that may soon become routine.

The experiment took advantage of the laser-tracking system that’s in operation aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the moon for the past three and a half years. NASA sends regular laser pulses from the Next Generation Satellite Ranging station at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland to the space probe’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, or LOLA, to measure its precise position in lunar orbit.

I love to see my predictions come true.

 

Jim Downey

With thanks to Wendy for sending me the article!