The weekend so far has been jammed. I started out at a Science Online 09 pre-conference event, a Coffee Cupping at Counter Culture in Durham, spent Saturday morning at the conference, headed over to Duke Law for the Opposite(s) of Property conference which was also a celebration of James Boyle’s new The Public Domain, today we had a more successful and better lubricated run of our Empire Steam Engine (B31 from the mid-1920s) and a pause to celebrate both MLK Day and Inauguration Day a little early in the Carrboro way.

Counter Culture Coffee
Counter Culture, where the #scio09 cupping was held, is a fair exchange coffee roaster and wholeseller. There about 50 Science Online folks (about 1/4 of the conference attendees) were initiated into the practice and culture and vocabulary of coffee cupping.

Science Online 09
The Science Online 09 aka #scio09 Conference was booked up — we don’t sell tickets so it can’t really sell out — having hit our limit of 200 attendees in October. This is the third conference and at each one I’ve been less involved in organizing it. Anton and Bora really have it completely under control. It was a smoothly run professional conference while still keeping in touch with its popular and lovingly amateur roots. Folks were asked to bring fruit for example and they did. We had plenty of good fruit. Speakers were held to time by the audience and the audience took charge when they didn’t. Not in a bad way but in a way that reminded speakers that they were to be primarily moderators who kicked off and managed discussion. The sessions were more on content and style now and less how to set up a blog or how to make a business. A very good session on the Science Commons during which many of the folks speaking at the Duke Law School at the same time were mentioned was my cue to head over to catch that conference. If you were at #scio09, please take a few minutes to fill out this feedback form.

Opposite(s) of Property
I arrived at Duke just as David Lange, one of my favorite lawyers, was responding to Jedediah Purdy‘s presentation on the History of the Public Domain. David has so much fun with ideas and language that even as he references material that is totally unfamiliar to me I will follow him and relish the experience. Boyle, as noted earlier in this blog, is also a performer of the first order and was a pleasure to see and hear. The discussion was both erudite and good humored. You’ll be able to catch it here at the Duke Law site as The Opposite(s) of Property. (soon).

Empire B31
Tucker and I dismantled the piston, fly wheel, steam cylinder and drive on our 1920s Empire Metalware Steam Engine (B31) and cleaned it all up then lubed it with turbine oil. Wow! what a difference it made. The steam can really work well now and the fly wheel flies! The machine had been struggling against metal wear and liming and steam leaks from 50 year old seals. Now de-limed, mostly resealed and well lubricated, it can build up a good head of steam and run for a long time. Next to make some devices for it to drive and to put it to work. One other big challenge is to replace the steam whistle. The original copper pipe was broken off some time in the past 40 or so years after it was bent in storage. We don’t even have the broken part to use as a model for building a new one. Any suggestions welcome.

Joe Thompson
This evening, we were over at the Orange County Campaign for Change’s pre-MLK pre-Inauguration party at Carrboro Century Center. We came into a performance on the Andean Pan Pipes by Victor (???) who was accompanied by several enthusiastic children hopping to the piper. The highlight for me tho was hearing 90 year old fiddler Joe Thompson of Mebane play and sing. Joe had the whole place rocking in an old time way as he sang “I Shall Not Be Moved.” Later in the set he mashed “Got Oil in My Vessel” with “Amazing Grace” as he was joined a bunch of backups singers and lively audience hand clappers. You can hear his Kennedy Center performance here.