Jefferson’s Library Books

A significant collection of Thomas Jefferson’s library has been discovered at Washington University of St. Louis Library.

Those books were dispersed after Jefferson’s heirs reluctantly decided to sell them at auction in 1829 to pay off Jefferson’s debts; auction catalogs survive, but not a record of who bought the books. The retirement collection is the least known of Jefferson’s libraries and one in which classics were represented in disproportionately greater numbers than politics and the law. He cataloged all 1,600 books according to “the faculties of the human mind, like memory, reason and imagination, and then classified them further. Many were in French or Italian.

“Currently Monticello and the University of Virginia have the largest concentrations of books from the retirement library, said Kevin J. Hayes, an English professor at the University of Central Oklahoma and the author of The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson. This new find would put Washington University among them. The question I would like to answer is: Do they contain any marginalia? Sometimes Jefferson wrote in his books; his marginalia would enhance both the scholarly and the cultural value of the books immeasurably.

A total of about 28 titles in 74 volumes were found in the library. Not to be snarky, but isn’t the role of the library to catalog and know what books are in their collection? A great find but kinda surprising that they have never been discovered until now. Just makes you wonder what other hidden treasures are out there in plain sight?

I was down at Monticello back in November with my family. The existing collection of books in the home’s library was pretty amazing and really reinforced Jefferson’s obsession with books, reading and learning. I look forward to hearing what interesting insights and details are discovered after researchers have had the chance to look through the collection


Northren Virginia Was Full

This week marks my last week working at America Online and living in Northern Virginia. I leave with very mixed emotions. For starters, I am very proud of the fact that I was hired on to work on their market leading Instant Messenger product. In many ways, I feel as though I am leaving unfinished business on the table because there were so many ideas and neat initiatives that I wanted to move forward with. Sometimes when you get so involved in a project or a product of such a scale, you fail take a step back and think about what it is that you are working on. Maybe that’s a good thing. :-) The scope of influence that the AIM product has, and the absolutely insane number of people that it touches, is just mind-boggling. AIM has over 35 million active users…thirty-five million…and vastly more accounts that are inactive.

The people at AOL are absolutely fantastic. Everyone I met was supremely nice, professional and just a pleasure to work with. I always felt comfortable. In my short time here, I made some friends that I hope to keep in touch with in the future (probably via AIM!) and I re-connected with some old friends (old in that I have known them for a while, not that they are actually old in years ;-) who I had not seen in a long time. And as a company, I thought AOL offered a lot of great perks to its employees, and it offered a wonderful work environment. I think there were 2, maybe 3, days in total where I did not want to go into the office. That says a lot.

But, life is not all work. And the reality of the situation is that this was just not the right fit for me and my family from a personal perspective. I thought it would be. I thought that it would be an easier transition down to Virginia than it really was. When we were looking for places to live, something just did not feel right. Maybe it was the high prices for cookie cutter townhouses, maybe it was the traffic, maybe it was the “robo towns” or just being away from Lisa and the kids…whatever it was, it was just not right. My wife and I had always intended to live in the NYC area and be close to our many relatives in that area. Its something that is important to us and for our kids. And in the end, that was a key factor in the decision.

I leave Northern VA with few regrets and enthusiastically return to New Jersey and the New York metro area. I will be working in Lower Manhattan starting in early August and I am thrilled to be back working in Manhattan. The commute will be something I will have to adjust to, but I have my iPod to keep me rockin’ and my wonderful wife and kids to go home to.

Flight From Hell

So I took my second flight on Independence Air within the month, and similar to the first one, this one was also an adventure. For some reason, whenever I have flown out of Dulles Airport to NJ, the weather has been very unstable and there is no doubt that contributed to my adventure.

So to start, we boarded and left the terminal for the runway after some weather delays. We are on line for takeoff and then the Captain comes on the PA to say we need to return to the terminal because there has been an additional delay and that we need to pick up more passengers. We return to the terminal and are greeted at the front of the airline by Police security. It turns out that there were two convicted felons on the plane that passed security without being stopped. Yeah, that makes me feel safe. So, by this time, the weather has deteriorated further and we are now delayed at the terminal. Many passengers were complaining and the jovial spirit of the last adventure was no where to be found (probably because the weather was far worse then).

In addition to the felony situation, there were two parents and their ~18 month old son sitting in front of me. And of course, the son was screaming at the top of his lungs for the majority of the flight. Sitting next to me was a very nice Indian man who had apparently not showered in quite a long time, because his B.O. permiated the immeidate space. He also had a bag that he chose not to check, and was also too big to put in the overhead compartments. He jockeyed and positioned himself in every way with his bag at his feet, and the bag overflowed into my foot space, which on a plane I value immensely since I am 6’3″. He eventually shifted to another seat prior to takeoff which I was thankful for but he did not go far so the aroma still permiated.

And just to cap it off, there was an Italian guy flying up to Newark who had to catch a connecting flight to Rome, IT and of course, it was the only flight to Rome that evening.

My adventures in flying…as I mutter to myself.


Being down in the Virginia area, I am experiencing the invasion of the Brood #10 Cicadas into this area. Supposedly they are present in the Midwest and Northeast states, but not nearly at the volume as down here in the Washington DC/MD/NoVA area. These are amazingly huge bugs that latch on to roots of trees underground and only appear every seventeen years (that alone is an amazing natural evolution). And this is the seventeenth year since they last showed up. They emerge from the ground for about six weeks and then they die off and start the cycle again. The amazing aspect of this is the volume of noise that these bugs make….its like a low pitched humming sound that permiates the area. It sounds almost like what you would imagine a UFO to sound like. Its an interesting evolution but I look forward to when this process is complete and we can get back to enjoying the silence.

Northern Virginia

I’ve been in Virginia for almost two weeks now and I have to say its good. The traffic is definitely heavy most of the time, and much of it is probably due to the vast amount of construction that is going on here. The one item that I am very concerned about is finding a decent neighborhood to live in. I drove up north of Route 7 to the Cascades and I was impressed by that area. It had the best neighborhood feel of any place that I have seen to date. All the houses were new and they all looked the same.