Saturday, May 20, 2017


"It's up to you to save the world.  Our generation messed up." said an older person to no one in particular.

I graduated in 1982 with a degree in Chemistry.  As is tradition at Cornell, there were no hired inspirational speakers.  The send-off was given -- more appropriately, I think -- by the then university president Frank H.T. Rhodes.   The economy was in rough shape, but President Rhodes nevertheless emphasized the importance of setting great goals and finding meaning in service and leadership.

I found a portion of his speech in the NY Times

My graduating class had 4,200 students, and President Rhodes was a distant figure.  Yet, we were separated by one degree.

One summer, I had a job at Uris Library doing general inventory, cataloging, and shelving.  I learned this library was steward to a very special collection: all the issues, from number one with Marilyn Monroe on the cover, to the present, of Playboy Magazine.  I got the plumb assignment of checking the collection for damage and missing pages, and I was to be thorough and examine every issue.

Also working at the library was another student named Lawrence.  A bit of a mischief maker, a provocateur, he volunteered to assist me.  He reasoned that it was a large collection and that I would need help.  So we worked on it from 9am to noon, and progress was... slow.

Carol, the head librarian and our boss, took us off the assignment, replacing us with another student named Penny.  Penny completed the job in perhaps an hour, no more than two.  Here, we have proof that a woman can do the work of two men, and probably twice as fast.  I also applaud Carol for at least giving the boys a chance; I suppose we met expectations.

It wasn't till the end of the summer that we -- the student workers -- learned Penny was President Rhodes' daughter.  She was kind and soft spoken.  We wouldn't have treated her any differently had we known, but I understand her wish for privacy.

A graduating class of 4,200 students sounds large, indeed is large, but with each passing summer, Cornell felt smaller and smaller.

Today, three decades later, the world feels smaller but not from personal growth as I experienced at Cornell, but from the growth of technology.  The world feels a lot less private too.  I love technology, but my answer to the question "Why technology?" has always been "Only if it solves more problems than it creates."

Few would disagree the world today is a more convenient place.  But is it a better place?

Given the various states of technology and changing cultural sensitivities,  each generation faces unique challenges whether war, recession, climate change, or an intractable political environment.  It's tempting to believe the previous generation had it harder than the next, and to do so would be to misunderstand the world.  Thus, it is now my turn to say, to no one in particular, "It's up to you to save the world.  Our generation messed up."

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Cornell Experience Continues...

This past Saturday, a group of Cornellians volunteered to help cleanup Untermeyer Gardens.   I was there, along with my wife and son.  In part, it was for my son who needed community service hours for high school, but it was also a great outdoor experience.

At the garden, a fence was built to keep deer out, but what of the deer already inside? Here we are mapping out a "deer shooing."  

We formed a line, and moving slowly through the bushes, herded the deer to a gate exit.  

The photo above shows the team on the "easy" trail.  The bolder volunteers went through some tough and sloping terrain that included bushes, nettles, and dense branches.

There was an estimated 12-18 deer in the garden and we counted 7 departures.  Not bad, but another round of deer shooing will be needed.

We also got a tour and some history from master gardener Tim.

Finally, we spent a couple of hours clearing an area of some brush, fallen wood, and fairly large branches.  It was part of a larger effort to uncover and restore the "lost" garden.  Some branches were freed with shovels, hand saws, and clippers, but larger ones Tim had to cut down to size with a chain saw.  Then we piled the pieces neatly on the side of the road for a wood chipper. The scene reminded me of a busy ant colony.  It was heavy sweaty work, but fun in a team sort of way.

Laura Fratt and Jim Irish were the Cornell alumni who organized this event.  They lead the Cornell Alumni Association of Westchester.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

A Tale of Two Sun Dials

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, ... it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair ...

With apologies to Charles Dickens, I am writing about two sun dials on Cornell's campus.  One is outside Goldwin Smith Hall in the Arts Quad.

As A Shadow Such Is Life

The other is in the Engineering Quad.

Designed And Erected In Memory Of His (Joseph N. Pew, Jr.) Loyalty To Engineering At Cornell

As an undergrad, I didn't pay much attention to either of these works of art.  Apparently, neither do current students as they hurried past me while I was taking pictures.  But these two sun dials merit contemplation.  One is from the past, and with the gravitas that a layer of patina brings, provokes thoughts of time and mortality. The other looks outward, and with modern, shiny arms, seeks to embrace a future where the sky's the limit.

When family and friends talk about college, and when college bound students ask me what they should study, I show them these two photos and ask them which one piques their curiosity.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ken Lin Racing

Last year I was able to reconnect with Ken Lin.  A former software developer with Lotus / IBM, he has struck out on his own at P1 Software.  He is following his passion for driving, auto-crossing, and racing.

Here, he is with his son in a sweet BMW Z4 M Coupe.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays 2012!

Happy Holidays!

I've become a car buff of late.  Mid-life crisis?  Perhaps.  Better late than never!

I dug up some old memories of the Cornell gang (see photos below) and their cars, but I am missing many of you.  Let me test my memory:

  • Frank: AMC Gremlin and Eagle
  • Peter: Mazda Mazda6
  • Wayne: Red Honda Prelude
  • Helen: Grey Honda Prelude
  • George: Blue Honda Prelude
  • Florence: BMW
  • Philip: BMW
  • me: Acura Integra

Enjoy the memories and here's looking forward to 2013!

Who is this guy and what car is this?
Toyota Celica replaces the Dodge Dart. But a new Dart lives:

The Evil Tercel

Keeta can't drive stick.

Garfield watches my back

Matthew leaves his Dad in the dust.

A Miata at the NY Auto Show suits me.

Or how about a 1997 Acura NSX?
The road beckons.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wendy Raymond

Wendy Raymond with her husband Dave

I found Wendy on Schoellkopf Field and we recounted the time she set her lab bench on fire. We were in chem lab 301 or 302, I can't recall precisely. I do know it was Professor Rasmussen's class and our TA was a fellow named Jay.

Anyway, the experiment involved distillation. Wendy needed to cool down her equipment and reached for what she thought was a water bottle. Unfortunately, the water bottle looked just the the acetone bottle, and acetone was what she wound up spraying on her flask. Jay came by and covered much of the fire, but I could have sworn he took a deep breath and blew out the remaining flames. Maybe he had a cape on too...
Wendy is currently an assistant professor of biology at Williams. She's also a Red Sox fan. Although I'm from New York, no worries as I am NOT a Yankee Fan. I'm a Mets fan. Let's go Mets!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Frank Loh

Left to right: me, Judge Ito, a young Frank ;-)

Okay, it's really me, Frank, and his son Garrett having lunch under a tent in the Arts Quad. Frank and I were roommates during our senior year. He is now a neurologist and a father of two. I learned that this Saturday morning, he and Garrett went on a long distance run to the Plantations. I remember needing my bicycle to get out there.

Frank introduced me to Gerry Cocco, also class of '82. I never knew him during my undergraduate years, but it turns out he does Palm software for the medical community. I used to do that too, but found it a really tough niche; I wish Gerry much success.