In the family tree of bluegrass, we start out with the early settlers of the Southern states who brought an array of stringed instruments on their voyage to the New World from the British Isles. Down the tree a few many years, we find the rural spirituals of famous pickers such as Bill Monroe or Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt of Southern Appalachia. In the 1960’s, the family tree expanded—moving westward—growing with America. Follow this line far out to San Francisco on a VW bus where the banjo found its way into the three-fingered hand of Jerry Garcia. Garcia and David Grisman’s work in the genre would inspire a young punk rocker we find playing guitar under the shade of their branch. His name is Adam Aijala of Yonder Mountain String Band.I had a chance to catch up with Aijala on the phone prior to the 15th Annual Northwest String Summit, which kicks off this Thursday, July 14 at Horning’s Hideout (North Plains, OR). I asked how he reconciled his heavy influences, like Black Flag, with the ambient sound of bluegrass, the trademark genre of his career.“Even though they don’t sound the same, there’s an energy similarity. I can get into the same zone with both kinds of music in my head. What I loved about bluegrass was how people could do so much with just microphones and no amps or anything.”While the guitarist and vocalist admits that in his younger years he grew up as a skateboarder, listening to metal and punk rock, he went on to listen to nothing but bluegrass for awhile. “It wasn’t until they came out with the iPod that I just started listening to everything again.” Aijala is influenced by a wide array of music. On his band’s 2015 release, Black Sheep, they covered punk rockers, the Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love.” While admitting that he wasn’t crazy about putting a cover song on a studio album, a little convincing from his bass player, Ben Kaufmann, was just the nudge that he needed.“It was just something that we’d been teasing around for a few years now—playing it back stage, but never really trying it on stage. It was Ben’s suggestion to put it on the album, which is funny because he didn’t grow up listening to any of that stuff.”Aside from YMSB’s 2003 release, Old Hands, which featured songs entirely written by or in collaboration with the band’s friend, Benny Galloway, a.k.a. Burl, the Buzzcocks’ song is the only cover appearing on one of the band’s studio releases. This does not hold true for live releases which include such fun-loving numbers as the theme song from The Muppet Show.A Massachusetts native of Finnish descent, Aijala now lives in Colorado, and the former punk rocker has traded his skateboard in for golf clubs. The self-described “Bogey man” has lived through a number of changes in his band and his genre, especially of late. After losing founding member and mandolin picker, Jeff Austin in 2014, YMSB has brought on some new, younger talent to the band including mandolin prodigy, Jake Jolliff along with fiddle player and vocalist, Allie Kral.“He actually really loves Jake,” Aijala explained when I pried about playing with legendary mandolinist, Sam Bush. “Jake is pretty heavily influenced by him in his own playing.”Aijala elaborated on the adventure of bringing on new talent, which includes the band’s first ever fiddle player.“It adds more to the dynamic having a fiddle in the band. The music we’re creating has a different feel, because, obviously we’ve got new musicians. Jake’s a pretty amazing musician, and so is Allie [Kral]. They’re considerably younger than us, too, which is cool, because it lights the fire in me a little bit—to keep up with these little whippersnappers.”I learned that Yonder Mountain String Band, in its 2.0 incarnation, is now working on a studio album to follow up the 2015 release Black Sheep. Aijala revealed that he has been increasingly involved in editing, recording and engineering on his band’s work.“It feels like a forward movement. As far as receptions—I’m not really concerned about that. I’d love to have people really like it, but ultimately, we’re doing this just to have new music to play on stage.”Aijala spoke to the reality that musicians such as himself do not make a living off of studio albums anymore.“Our bread and butter is the live show.”Further to that point, I asked the veteran bluegrass picker how he felt the emergence of more bluegrass bands has effected the overall economy of the genre. He has obviously put some thought into the topic, since he explained that if a festival is looking to hire one bluegrass band—one of them is going to get it and the other one won’t. The guitarist remembers a time when his ensemble was the only group playing a non-bluegrass festival without a drummer. Today, plenty of bands at non-bluegrass festivals are picking without percussion.“I feel like we’re in this together. I think we can coexist and everybody benefits—at least that’s what I’d like to believe.”“When we first started out, we wanted to sound like a trad bluegrass band,” he admitted that influences like Phish, The Grateful Dead, and even Frank Zappa lured YMSB over to the jam side of bluegrass in the early days. “I know a lot of people who never got into trad bluegrass at all, and when they think of bluegrass—they don’t even think of Bill Monroe and Jimmy Martin, Jim and Jesse—they think of YMSB or the Stringdusters…”There’s no question that Adam Aijala was a major player bridging the bluegrass of old to the thriving bluegrass scene we see picking its way across America now. You can see him live on tour this summer.[Photo credit: Jay Blakesberg]
University of Vermont,The new cyberinfrastructure will provide capacity that has not previously existed for sharing large data sets among the North East Cyberinfrastucture Consortium states: Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Delaware. Increasingly, advances in science rely on gigantic collections of data. And the analysis and sharing of these datasets rely on gigantic electronic pipelines–advanced fiber optic networks with far greater bandwidth than conventional internet services can provide — connecting many researchers and far-flung institutions.Which is why the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health have awarded more than $17 million to the North East Cyberinfrastucture Consortium (NECC), a coalition of universities and research institutions across five states, to build a high-speed fiber optic network.On October 31, a new leg in the network will connect the University of Vermont, the lead institution in the consortium, to Albany, NY.The new cyberinfrastructure will provide capacity that has not previously existed for sharing large data sets among the NECC states: Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Delaware.Capable of transmitting 60 gigabits per second, some 35 times faster than the current rate, the network will allow researchers to easily share the multi-terabyte files that have become the norm in biology, engineering, complex systems, medicine and many other research fields.Senator Patrick Leahy provided key leadership for the new fiber network by supporting research funding at the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. These two agencies provided multi-year competitive awards for the new fiber network, including $3 million to the University of Vermont.Leahy and UVM president Daniel Mark Fogel announced the awards on Thursday, October 28 at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington.”This new fiber optic network will give students, researchers and faculty at the University of Vermont the ability to share vast amounts of research and data with other research institutions across the region and across the world at the speed of light,” said Leahy.Insight Into AlgaeThe first major project to take advantage of the new network will be a large genomic study of algal blooms in Lake Champlain and other lakes. This project will be a regional effort to determine the microbiomes, i.e., the identities and entire sequences of genomes of all the microorganisms in algal blooms in Champlain and four other lakes in the Northeast using cutting-edge, “next generation” genome sequencing.These data will provide insights into bloom-causing organisms that have never been available before and will help scientists to understand why some blooms form and why some turn toxic.Judith Van Houten, University Distinguished Professor and Vermont State EPSCoR and IDeA director, will lead the investigation with Kelvin Chu, UVM associate professor of physics and Vermont EPSCoR and Vermont Genetics Network associate director.”It is fitting that the first data sets to be shared on the network will be aimed at fighting algae blooms on Lake Champlain and in lakes across the Northeast,” said Senator Leahy, “This new network is the latest in Vermont’s effort to create an unparalleled broadband network that reaches every home, business, educational facility and health care institution across the state.”Leahy said the consortium project will complement the more than $171 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act broadband funding awarded to broadband providers and organizations earlier this year.”We salute Senator Leahy’s longstanding leadership for the well-being of Lake Champlain and commitment to keeping Vermont at the front edge of advanced cyber-enabled research technologies,” said UVM president Daniel Mark Fogel. “Thanks to his vision and effort, these important competitive awards will allow UVM, and all our partners in Vermont-EPSCoR and the Vermont Genetics Network, to reach new heights in science research, workforce development throughout the state, and research innovations for the next generation of scientists.”High-speed connections to the worldFollowing the completion of the Burlington to Albany leg of the fiber network, the consortium anticipates finishing the Burlington to Hanover, NH, leg in February 2011.These fiber reaches will provide 60 gigabits per second to Albany and Hanover, completing a redundant fiber optic ring across the Northeast. New Hampshire will connect from Hanover to Maine and Boston. The redundancy of the ring design will minimize disruption, allowing data transmission even if some portion of the network is off-line.”This very large bandwidth for interstate traffic is necessary if Vermont researchers and educators are to reach global resources and collaborators,” said Van Houten.The NECC project will not only build a dedicated fiber optic network linking UVM to research institutions in the Northeast; it will also be a portal into Internet2, an advanced high-speed networking consortium of more than 200 U.S. universities in cooperation with a group of leading corporations, government agencies, laboratories and international partner organizations.”The research projects will be the first of their kind in the Northeast corridor enabled by new fiber connecting huge datasets previously unable to be shared due to the lack of bandwidth,” Van Houten said, “The resulting collaborations and data under this holistic model will be innovative and set the stage for future scientists to build upon.””This new fiber will benefit research and education and also allow the fiber vendor to provide service to other customers, especially web-based technology companies,” Van Houten said.”The large-scale projects being pursued by the NECC consortium would be difficult to carry out at an individual institution,” she said, “Leveraging our skills and resources as a consortium produces a virtual research organization that is more than the sum of its parts.”The Vermont Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) was first funded in 1985 and works to improve the research competitiveness of Vermont scientists and engineers as well as bring National Science Foundation resources to the service of the whole state. There are EPSCoR programs in 29 smaller and rural states, funded by the NSF, Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy.Source: UVM. 10.29.2010
As an alternative to transforming into an APF, Pensioenfonds Pon was instead assessing merging at least two of its four compartments, the largest of which contains €974m of assets and serves 51 employers within Pon Holdings.There is also a €121m compartment for bicycle manufacturer Gazelle, a €153m closed section for pump systems firm Geveke, and an €8m section for additional surviving relatives’ benefits for all affiliated employers.Mik said the final decision about the pension fund’s future would be taken at the end of 2019, and would in part depend on the funding levels of the various sections.At the end of June, the funding position of the Pon section stood at 104.3%. The Gazelle and Geveke sections were 107.3% and 105.8% funded, respectively.The chairman indicated that aligning the funding levels would be complicated, in part because two sectors had insured arrangements.“The compartments would respond differently to economic scenarios pictured by asset-liability management studies,” he said.Multi-company schemes vs APFsThe concept of the multi-company pension fund – introduced in 2010 – offered company schemes a way of co-operating through ring-fencing their assets within the same scheme.However, the model has since been overtaken by the introduction of the APF. It will remain a legal option until 2021.The multi-company scheme has never become a popular choice, as only existing pension funds could establish one. In addition, its governance requirements – including mandatory board representation for all sectors – was complicated.Only four multi-company schemes were established. Alongside Pon, they included the SCA pension fund, the scheme for ground and cabin staff at Dutch budget airline Transavia, and the pension fund of engineering firm HaskoningDHV.It was expected that these would transform into APFs, but none of them have done so.Haskoning DHV merged its two sectors in 2018, while the SCA scheme was divided up in 2013. The Transavia pension fund was liquidated, with its employer sections going their own separate ways.APFs have thrived as commercial providers, including insurers, have established their own vehicles, working hard to attract clients and scale up their operations.APF assets were approaching €10bn in combined assets as of March this year, according to a survey by Dutch pension publication Pensioen Pro. Insurer ASR last week announced two new clients for its APF, Het Nederlandse Pensioenfonds, bringing its assets to €3.5bn. Pensioenfonds Pon, the last remaining multi-company scheme in the Netherlands, has reversed its initial plan to transform itself into a general pension fund (APF).In its annual report, it said it had changed its mind as an analysis had shown that such a move would be too expensive and too complicated.Additional costs relative to other options would be approximately €1m, and recovering these costs would only be possible if participants of other companies joined, according to the board.However, Dick Mik, the scheme’s chairman, highlighted that the pension fund’s sponsor, Dutch Volkswagen importer Pon, wanted to keep the cultural link between the pension fund and the family business.