March 24, Durham, N.C.

When we left Pennsylvania on Wednesday, I had dreams of reporting in this journal on a daily basis.
Didn’t take me long to fail. Here I am four days later, with nothing to show.
The good news is it seems more like four weeks than four days. The three-day conference bringing scientists and journalists together at the New Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in Durham wrapped up this afternoon. For me it was three days of terror, depression and, finally, resolution. Soon I’ll have much more to say about my weekend walking among scientists and journalists.
I will share one little anecdote.
Through the wonder of Twitter and the wholly unscientific magic of serendipity, I learned there’s a molecular biologist at the University of Texas who shares my name. I couldn’t help but think the conference would’ve been a hell of a lot better off had he been here instead of me. It was good to hear he’s one of the coolest professors on the planet. Strangely enough, it turns out I’m no John Wallingford.
Also, I wanted to say thanks to organizers Norman Johnson and my old pal Lauri Lebo for inviting me and then enduring me for three days.
There’s much more to catch up on. On Wednesday, after just an hour or two on the road, we made a hit-and-run stop at Antietam. Max secured another junior ranger badge, and I found myself mesmerized by the tawny water of Antietam Creek as it flowed beneath the arches of Burnside Bridge with a preternatural peace. I also wondered why Confederate officers like Henry L. Benning were able to accomplish so much more in life than I have.
I really should stop comparing myself to the Henry Bennings and John Wallingfords of the world.
We spent Thursday visiting with members of the Via family in the Shenandoah Valley. It was, simply, one of the best of the countless days we’ve spent wandering this country. Thanks to Shelley Via Smulsky and Herbert Via for their hospitality and all the wonderful stories. Thanks also to Kenny Via for introducing us to his colorful family. Hopefully some of those stories will appear here soon.
Until then, thanks for reading.

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