Meeting Senator Murphy

IMG-0552

Tonight I had the chance to spend some time with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT).  It was my first time attending a political fundraiser, and my attendance was in no small part driven by the fact that he is a fellow Williams alum (and rugger!).

I am an unabashed fan of Ephs succeeding in the world. Textbook basking in reflected glory, I suppose. And so in addition to fangirling for Tim Layden stories on SI and eagerly streaming each Pod Save America and Lovett or Leave It episode, I’ve followed Senator Murphy on Twitter for a while, always happy to see what seemed to be a real person coming through.

When you meet people in real life, there’s always the risk of finding out that it was all a façade. That without the scripts, or the ability to edit, people won’t live up to your expectations.

And so it was great to meet Chris and come away feeling that he is exactly who he seems to be. A little funny and a little angry, but mostly determined, hard-working, sincere, optimistic, and above all genuine.

Chris opened the dialogue with the concept that American history has always been the story of two steps forward, one step back. At one point someone asked about the frustration of dealing with morally bankrupt Republicans, and the discussion included something to the effect of: you’ve got to pick your battles.

But maybe we don’t.

A few weeks ago, when news of the Parkland school shooting broke, I think many of us settled in for another round of “thoughts and prayers.” But then the Parkland kids lit a fire under America and now it seems like anything’s possible.

March For Our Lives, San Jose 3/24/18

A few weeks ago, gun control wasn’t on the list of battles you’d pick (and expect to win). But now it is. We had become complacent, and now we are not.

What other battles are similarly ripe for disruption?

We hear a lot of talk about how a blue wave is coming, or maybe even a tsunami. But maybe it’s more grounded than that. Maybe it’s more manmade. Maybe it’s a dam about to burst, on all of these issues that Americans overwhelmingly support. Maybe it’s a blue flood.

Whatever we call it, I am here for it. And I’m glad Senator Murphy is, too.

 

Advertisements

Last Hurrah at the Garf

Look at this beauty. I’ll stipulate that it’s expensive to maintain and the opposite of energy-efficient. That it contains some of the coldest, smallest rooms on campus. That some nights I would have to warm up my bed with my hair dryer before crawling in.

But just how many 19,000 square foot 167-year-old Tudors are there any more?

Last I read, the recommendation on Garfield House was for it to be razed, and it was going before the historical commission for a final decision.

Sadly, I do not have the billions needed to pay to restore and/or have it transplanted somewhere, and assuming no other savior steps forward, may I present another option, a consolation prize of sorts for those of us who have lived in and loved the Garf:

A Last Hurrah at the Garf.

WWRFC 30th 025

Picture it. That enormous, glorious lawn filled with tents.

Generations of Garfield denizens coming back to Williams.

A weekend to enjoy and celebrate this 1850s classic that has given so many of us lifelong memories.

At my 5th reunion, the 50th reunion class sponsored a fireworks show off the roof of Baxter before it was razed. In a similar way, this could be simultaneously a fitting memorial and a great community-building event.

Imagine if we could get an art/comp sci student to work on some sort of epic VR experience? How epic would a “walking through history” virtual reality module be, where you could go back in time and walk through Williamstown at different eras? See how the campus and buildings are changing, even walk into the future and see the future campus plans? It would be incredible! Lines around the block!

And don’t get me started on the merch opportunities! Koozies are table stakes where I’m concerned, of course, but we could also have a charity auction of historical items and memorabilia. Proceeds could go to a charity or future historical restoration projects—the alumni version of the athletic department tag sales.

Given the chance, I’d be there in a heartbeat, and I’m hoping many others feel the same.

Stay tuned…

Eclipse

First day of Astronomy 102: The Solar System, my freshman year at Williams.

The professor walks into the room, and after a brief info, pulls out a camera. He wants to take a class picture that he can print out and pass around the room for us to write our names by our faces, so he could learn our names.

That professor? Jay Pasachoff, who I would soon learn was, if not already by then, on his way to becoming the world’s foremost expert on solar eclipses.

jaypasachoff
Image: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times

And so after enjoying that wonderful eclipse—through eclipse glasses, a telescope, a homemade rig, and a welding helmet—I was thrilled to see Professor Pasachoff on the front page of the LA Times.

IMG_3806

I probably didn’t appreciate it enough at the time. Scratch that—I definitely didn’t appreciate it enough at the time. And I definitely don’t remember everything I learned in that class.

But I will always remember that first day, and how this man at the pinnacle of his field cared enough to get to know each and every one of us by name.

Oh, and wasn’t that eclipse awesome?

 

Driverless Cars and the Great American Road Trip

4303645776_88316ea454_o
Photo by Doug Kerr via Flickr

I went back to Williams this past weekend for a rugby reunion. Lately when I go back, I like to fly into Boston or New York (vs. Albany which is closest), and tack on an extra day to see friends. In theory this is about making the trip from the West Coast worth it by seeing more people, but in reality it’s just as much about the drive.

The Taconic is one of my favorite stretches of road. The first time you drive it you can’t quite place what makes it feel so different from other roads. Then it hits you: there are no shoulders. Two feet to the right is a curb, and then grass. It makes for an incredible feeling when driving, so little separating you from nature.

Something amazing happens when you take a drive like this. Your mind has to focus just enough on the road and how fast you are driving (because OMG the Taconic is cop city!) that the rest of your mind is free to wander. To drift off into neglected corners, resurface long-forgotten memories, and offer up weird ideas, steered only by the sights out the window, the soundtrack playing, and sheer freedom.

And it got me thinking: what does a driverless car future mean for the Great American Road Trip?

I have taken dozens of road trips throughout my life. The cross-country trips during college from Massachusetts to California and back. The trip that only lasted 10 miles before my Jeep’s engine melted in a freeway-side fire. Down and back up the East Coast visiting friends. The trip where we spilled a bottle of cleaner the first day, ensuring that our Vanagon smelled Fantastik® the whole week. The 15-hour trip from Chicago to my summer internship in Florida where I needed to drop off my stuff at an apartment then get to the airport to fly to a Williams reunion, only to miss my flight by ten minutes. I-40. 70. 80. 90. And I swear I will do the 10 at some point.

“It’s about the journey, not the destination” is often applied elsewhere as a metaphor, but in the case of the road trip, it’s literal.

It’s about stopping to check out the miniature donkeys you just saw a sign for. It’s about finding that great local diner. It’s about just once admitting when checking into a motel that you really have six people, not four – and they offer you a room with three queen size beds side by side!

IMG_5011

And when it’s just you, it’s about putting your playlist on shuffle and letting each song unlock and replay an old memory.

So, as much as I’m excited for the time when driverless cars mean I don’t have to sit in traffic or endure a tedious commute, I don’t want to lose the magic that only a long drive can bring.

There is value in letting your mind wander. There is value in spontaneity. And there is value in being present for the actual, literal journey.

The Clark

The Clark won its first-round battle in Tyler Green’s “America’s Favorite Art Museum” tournament, and is now in its second-round battle.  Vote now!

I’m obviously biased towards The Clark given the purple-colored glasses through which I view the world, but even the most objective visitor has to admit it’s fantastic.

Above is one of my favorite pieces in the collection, Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.  And when I was back for Reunion in 2009, they had a fantastic Dove/O’Keeffe exhibit that was amazing.

If you are ever in the Berkshires, I highly recommend a visit.