Sunday, September 19, 2010

College Series - Georgetown

Regular readers and friends know that one of my sons attends Georgetown University.   He fell in love with the school within minutes of visiting the campus.

The postcard above shows one of the reasons why:  it's an absolutely beautiful campus with old brick and stone buildings (described by Wiki as collegiate Gothic and Georgian brick architecture) sitting on a hilltop above the Potomac River In Washington, DC and overlooking the Washington Monument.  It's small enough that you can get to know every corner of the campus.  One of the most famous corners is the "Exorcist Steps".  Several scenes in the movie "The Exorcist" were shot on campus, including the one in which the priest falls down the stairs. 

Georgetown is the oldest Catholic university (Jesuit) in the United States, and was also the first to bring on a full-time rabbi (1968) and full-time imam (1999).   At the time of its founding, Catholics were not admitted to most American universities, and the founder, John Carroll, had a vision for a university that was "to be open to 'every class of citizens'and students of 'every religious profession.'"

Part of the attraction of Georgetown is its location in Washington, DC.  My son attended the inauguration of Barack Obama, the concert on the mall a couple of days before the inauguration, and has a goal of visiting every free museum in Washington before  he graduates.  There are 17 Smithsonian Institution museums in Washington, DC, including the American Indian Museum, the Portrait Gallery, the Air & Space Museum, the Postal Museum, and the Natural History Museum.  ALL offer free admission.

Side note:  My son is a football player at Georgetown and the football team's record is 2-1 after coming off two miserables seasons.  Yesterday, they lost to Yale in the last play of the game.  Considering Yale is in the higher level Ivy League (D-1) and Georgetown is in the Patriot League (D-1AAA), this is actually reason for celebration!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

College Series - Dartmouth

What a beautiful campus Dartmouth is.  I've only been there once, really just driving through, but it was fall, and the big open "green" was surrounded by trees losing their yellow, orange and red leaves and filled with students scurrying to and fro in colder weather clothes, providing a glimpse of the quintessential New England college experience, at least per the stereotype of my west coast perspective.

Established in 1769, Dartmouth is the smallest school in the Ivy League and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution. 

It is perhaps most famous for the movie "Animal House", which although filmed at the University of Oregon in Eugene, was actually based on the experiences of one of the coauthors from his days in a fraternity at Dartmouth.   Just visiting the Wiki and reading the list of cast members is enough to get me giggling, all over again.  It's hard for me to pick a favorite scene from this movie, but Belushi (Bluto) sneaking into one of the buildings on campus, when he jumps from side to side looking to see who is watching, is probably my favorite.

Friday, September 17, 2010

College Series - California Institute of Technology

My first job out of college was as a technical typist at Caltech, formally known as California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, California.  I was working there and living at my parent's house to save money to go traveling in Latin America. The campus is beautiful - a mix of modern and less modern, often Spanish style, buildings, and a wide variety of vegetation. In the courtyards of more than one of the Spanish buildings are orange trees, and when they bloom in the early spring, the sweet fragrance wafts over the entire campus. Baxter Hall, which is the building in the postcard above, is the building where I worked.

Caltech is the west coast MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), with super smart, math and science oriented students, who are proud of their nerd orientation.  One of the great traditions of the school is senior ditch day, described by the Wiki as follows:

On Ditch Day, the seniors ditch school, leaving behind elaborately designed tasks and traps at the doors of their rooms to prevent underclassmen from entering. Over the years this has evolved to the point where many seniors spend months designing mechanical, electrical, and software obstacles to confound the underclassmen. Each group of seniors designs a "stack" to be solved by a handful of underclassmen. The faculty have been drawn into the event as well, and cancel all classes on Ditch Day.

Caltech is famous not only for their brilliant scientists, multiple Nobel prize winning professors,  and Einstein's time on campus, but also for their pranks.  Many of the pranks are directed toward MIT, but their two most famous pranks involved the Rose Bowl, which is also located in Pasadena.  Per the Wiki:

The two most famous in recent history are the changing of the Hollywood Sign to read "Caltech", by judiciously covering up certain parts of the letters, and the changing of the Rose Bowl scoreboard to an imaginary game where Caltech beat MIT 99-0. But the most famous of all occurred during the 1961 Rose Bowl Game, where Caltech students altered the flip-cards that were raised by the stadium attendees to display "Caltech", and several other "unintended" messages. This event is now referred to as the Great Rose Bowl Hoax.

My job was working for several professors in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences.  All this was pre word processing and computers, and as most of the professors were engaged in some form of econometric modeling (the economists) or voter choice behavior (the political scientists), all the papers I typed involved complicated equations, complete with a variety of numbers and symbols.   I was really good at this, both because I have always been a speedy typist and also because I took a fair amount of calculus in college and actually knew the symbols involved.

As first jobs out of college go, it was a great one.  The departmental politics were astounding.  The dalliances that went on were surprising.  I was lucky enough to get invited most Fridays to the faculty/grad student lounge, and sit at tables with brilliant scientists and grad students, drinking beer, listening to fascinating discussions, observing heated debates, and watching the huge variety of shenanigans that went on.  It was a blast.

Perhaps the most surprising time was when what I had thought was yet another Caltech "urban legend" turned out to be real.  I had heard rumors of a radio scientist who dressed like Robin Hood, a brilliant man who was perhaps a bit off, at least relative to your average man on the street.  I didn't believe this until one day, leaving work, a man walked right by me, complete with tunic, tights, pointed shoes and a felt Robin Hood hat.   Just one of many "only at Caltech" types of moments.

P.S.  It's Postcard Friendship Friday.  Check it out.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

College Series - Harvard University

Harvard University is the oldest "institute of higher learning" in the U.S., and, interestingly, the first chartered corporation.  Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is considered one of the top universities in the both the country and the world.  This year, the university admitted less than 7% of the applicants for the 2014 graduating class.

Here's a couple random tidbits about Harvard you might not be aware of:

1. Harvard has the largest financial endowment of any university in the world:  25.6 BILLION US dollars.

2. Harvard was not officially co-ed until 1977, although before 1977 women at Radcliffe were allowed to take classes at Harvard.  From the Wiki:

"During World War II, Harvard and Radcliffe signed an agreement which allowed women to attend classes at Harvard for the first time, officially beginning joint instruction in 1943. From 1963, Radcliffe students received Harvard diplomas signed by the presidents of Radcliffe and Harvard, and joint commencement exercises began in 1970. The same year, several Harvard and Radcliffe dormitories began swapping students experimentally, and in 1972 full co-residence was instituted. The schools' departments of athletics merged shortly thereafter."

3.  Harvard is considered a liberal institution.  Over the years, there have been some memorable references by conservative pundits and presidents.  From the Wiki:

"Conservative author William F. Buckley, Jr. quipped that he would rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty,  Richard Nixon famously referred to Harvard as the "Kremlin on the Charles" around 1970, and Vice President George H.W. Bush disparaged what he saw to be Harvard's liberalism during the 1988 presidential election."

4.  It wasn't until 2002 that the little known "Secret Court of 1920" was "outed".  The Secret Court refers to a committee which was formed to investigate charges of homosexual activity among the student population in May and June of 1920.  More than 30 interviews were conducted  behind closed doors and eight students, a recent graduate, and an assistant professor were expelled or had their association with the university severed.

Let's face it - if your kid gets into Harvard, it would be difficult not to be tempted to slip this information into a conversation, any chance you get.  

P.S.  A shout out to my friend Sasha, a sophomore at Harvard, for sending me this card!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

College Series - Trinity College at University of Oxford

It's September, back to school month, and it seems appropriate to feature a few colleges.   NOTE:  Would love college/university postcards from anybody, not just students.

First up, Trinity College at University of Oxford.  My son attended a Georgetown University summer program here.  The back of the postcard states "This is where I stayed".  Wow. 

Founded in 1555, the formal name of Trinity College is "The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in the University of Oxford, of the foundation of Sir Thomas Pope (Knight)" and it is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England.  Unlike most Oxford constituent colleges, it is surrounded by an iron fence rather than a wall, and features four major quadrangles, and a large lawn and gardens.  Given its size, the college is relatively small in terms of student numbers, with about 400 students.

I don't know if it is a coincidence or not, but the colors of Trinity College (each constituent college has their own colors, or academic scarves) are the same as the school colors of Georgetown University, blue and grey.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Great Wave

I've always loved this wood cut by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai entitled "The Great Wave off Kanagawa", and used it as the inspiration for the tattoo I got on my ankle for my 50th birthday.

Turns out it is one of the most recognized pieces of Japanese art in the world, and is featured in Episode 93 of a BBC radio series, "The History of the World in 100 Objects" that first aired in January of this year.  It will be rebroadcast beginning this month.  I hope to listen to some of it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Comic-con IV

Talk about trying to cash in on a trend!  Billing itself as "projects to keep you knitting from twilight til dawn", this postcard is actually advertising a book, with multiple projects inside.  The copy on the back of the postcard goes even further:

"Whether you're a vampire fan who loves to knit, a knitter who loves beautiful projects, or a vampire fan who's never knit before, there's something for you in Vampire Knits.  This Collection of 28 captivating projects - inspired by the immortals we all  love to fear - will keep you well protected, no matter what you attract."

Interesting intersection of the renewed interest in knitting and the Twilight craze.  What a concept!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Comic-con III

The Descendants is another comic book peddling its wares at Comic-con.  It seems more like a video game than a comic book, just looking at the postcard, but its web site tells a different story.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Comic-con II

Here's another postcard from Comic-con, this one featuring "Too Much Coffee Man".   How can you not love this superhero?

According to the Wiki on Too Much Coffee Man, the character started as a strip in the University of Texas student newspaper in the early 1990s and  features an anxious Everyman who broods about the state of the world, from politics to people, exchanging thoughts with friends and readers.  Some of Too Much Coffee Man's friends include:

- Too Much Espresso Guy is TMCM's cynical and cold-hearted friend. Their friendship appears mostly based upon mutual loneliness and a shared pessimism.

- Too Much German White Chocolate Woman With Almonds is a mutual friend. She is pale-skinned, worries a lot, and has large almonds on her face.

- Underwater Guy is another mutual friend, who wears a wetsuit with a diving snorkel and mask. He has the ability to remain underwater indefinitely.

- Mystery Woman is TMCM's secret love.

Sounds pretty good.  Any of you out there actually read this comic strip?

Saturday, September 4, 2010


My friend Steve attends Comi-con at least twice a year and collects a large stack of postcards for me from these events. (Thanks, Steve!)  If you haven't heard of Comi-con, its mission statement is as follows:

 Comic-Con International is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.

As I understand it, it's quite the groover event for popular culture, and features not only comics and cartoons, but also a wide variety of popular culture characters, from young actors and actresses flaunting their wares and reality tv programs trying to out outrageous each other to upcoming films hoping to catch a wave and a variety of products attempting to cash in on all of the above.

I'm always amazed at the variety of comic characters out there, some famous, some not so famous.  Over the next couple days I'll feature a very few of the postcards from these events.  The "Dirty Harry Krishna" postcard above really cracks me up.  The copy below the image might be too hard to read.  It says: 

"Now I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking:  'Did he sing six verses or only five? ' Well, in all that worshipping I kinda lost track myself.  So the question you gotta ask yourself is: do you feel at one with the universe?  Well, do ya....punk?"

If you never saw the movie "Dirty Harry" with Clint Eastwood, or never had any exposure to a bunch of Hare Krishnas dancing around in their orange robes singing "Hare Krishna", this won't make sense.  If you did, the juxtaposition is hysterical.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Camel Burgers

My friend's house in the Medina in Fez, Morocco is just off Tala'a Kbira, along which are primarily food stalls and street vendors.   And while this photo isn't a postcard it would probably generate a lot of sales if it were, as this place is among the most photographed stalls in the Medina.  Most of the postcards of businesses in the Medina feature the tanneries - this one would be different!

As you might or might not imagine, this stall sells camel meat.  The camel head is its primary marketing icon.  Besides the raw meat, one of the offerings appeared to be like a sausage, although very large.  While a local told me it was a stuffed camel pancreas, I think it was more likely a stuffed camel spleen, and is one of the very few meat dishes sold in the market that is already cooked, and "ready to eat".   I did not try any.

I did try a camel burger at Cafe Clock.   (See previous post on Cafe Clock here.)  Believe it or not, a camel burger is surprisingly delicious. This audio slide show by The Guardian gives a pretty good overview of the cafe and the burger. 

P.S.  It's Postcard Friendship Friday.  You know what to do.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Low Country Boil

My friends Chris and Rick, who live in Bend, Oregon, were visiting Savannah, Georgia where their youngest daughter is starting school.  I particularly love their addition to this Low Country Boil recipe -  "Two avg size Oregonians" - complete with the abbreviated amount "avg" for "average".  

"Low Country"  refers to the region along South Carolina's coast, although the exact geography is subject to debate.  "Lowcountry Cuisine" is defined by Wiki as: "... the cooking traditionally associated with the South Carolina Lowcountry and Georgia coast. While it shares features with Southern cooking, its geography, economics, demographics, and culture pushed its culinary identity in a different direction from regions above the fall line. With its rich diversity of seafood from the coastal estuaries, its concentration of wealth in Charleston and Savannah, and a vibrant Caribbean cuisine and African cuisine influence, Lowcountry cooking has strong parallels with New Orleans and Cajun cuisines."   I wondered about the Cajun reference in the recipe above, and now I know!

As to the addition of two average sized Oregonians to the recipe:  I like them too much to participate in boiling them and spreading them out on newspapers to enjoy, but I do appreciate the postcard!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Humans aren't the only carnivores.  There are at least 630 species of carniverous plants that "attract and trap prey, produce digestive enzymes, and absorb the resulting available nutrients".  Also from the Wiki:

Five basic trapping mechanisms are found in carnivorous plants.
1.Pitfall traps (pitcher plants) trap prey in a rolled leaf that contains a pool of digestive enzymes or bacteria.

2.Flypaper traps use a sticky mucilage.

3.Snap traps utilize rapid leaf movements.

4.Bladder traps suck in prey with a bladder that generates an internal vacuum.

5.Lobster-pot traps force prey to move towards a digestive organ with inward-pointing hairs.
My friend Lorry painted this drawing which was used to promote a carniverous plant exhibit at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  Looks like it is an example of #1, above - the pitfall trap.