Snow Day, March 15, 2017

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There’s something totally relaxing about sitting in the comfort of your warm home while Mother Nature unleashes her winter fury all around you. Why does it relax me so? It’s not because I’m taking the day off from work. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can work anywhere, anytime, 24/7 (as long as the electricity is working, but that concern was so last week for most people and so two weeks ago for me, but more on that later…). It’s not just because I can rest easy, knowing my family is safe with me (or safe wherever they are).

That’s all true, but there’s something else that relaxes me. It’s knowing that I’m sharing a common experience with everyone else in our broader community. There’s something to be said about this collective involvement. When a snow storm beyond a certain magnitude strikes, everyone stops. Well, they stop once they’re finished raiding the local grocery store for such essentials as milk, bread, and (fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-non-nutritional-snack). Once prepared, we all head home and wait.

Admit it, are you like me? Do you agonize in anticipation waiting for that first flurry? Do you Continue Reading “Snow Day, March 15, 2017”

Speed versus Accuracy? It All Depends on the Game

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Quantum physics is weird. Despite studying it for four intense years under the tutelage of some of the most elite professors in the field, I didn’t really get it until I read The Cosmic Code shortly after I earned my degree. Written by Heinz Pagels, a physicist and frequent contributor to The New York Times on topics like cosmology and other fun science subjects, the book explained the complex concepts of physics to the lowly layman. Now, my curriculum vitae might have suggested I wasn’t a lowly layman. While this may have been true for most areas of astrophysics, when it came to quantum physics I was as lowly as lowly could get.

In Pagels’ words, I was a “determinist.” A determinist is a classical physicist who sees the Continue Reading “Speed versus Accuracy? It All Depends on the Game”

TWTWTWID*

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* These Were The Weeks That Were In Davenport

In case you missed it the first time around some thirty-five years ago, editor Seth Magalaner and illustrator Ed Sevilla have reunited to share their rare collection of wit, fantasy, and creative prowess by allowing us mere non-Master’s aides a chance to peek behind the curtain that once was. Since many of you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’ve no doubt returned to your daily (hourly? minutely?) reflection on Facebook and are no longer reading this. That’s good. We only want those in the know to take advantage of this once in a lifetime offer. That’s right, now is the only time you will be having your 35th reunion from Davenport College and you are therefore accorded a glance at the original TWIDs from your senior year.

Just click on this link and go back in time to a time when your primary worry was reading, writing, and money to buy pizza. It was a time when the last thing you thought of doing was reading TWID. Well now, after all these years, after most of your reading and writing is behind you, and at a time when your doctor says to lay off the pizza, now you finally have the time to read TWID.

Click here to enter the past you never knew.

It was 50 Years Ago Tonight I Decided to Become an Astronomer

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Ever since I can remember I loved science. All sorts of science. My mother was a substitute teacher. Before I went to kindergarten she would bring home books from her third grade class and teach me to read. My favorite book was the science text book. I particular enjoyed reading about dinosaurs. When you like dinosaurs, you tend to like fossils and rocks. When you like fossils and rocks, you tend to like volcanoes and earthquakes. When you like volcanoes and earthquakes, you tend to like hurricanes and tornadoes. When you like hurricanes and tornadoes you tend to like weather and atmospheric phenomenon. When you like weather and atmospheric phenomenon, you tend to like planets and stars.

Yep, I liked science. But of all the flavors of science, I liked astronomy the best. Growing up in Buffalo, I just happened to be in luck. In 1966, SUNY launched a pioneer program in what could only be described as one of the first distance learning experiments in the country. Called University of the Air, the pilot program contained only two courses with credite and was available only to the Buffalo and Albany campuses. The courses would be aired on the local PBS station. Now here’s the twist: one of those courses was an Continue Reading “It was 50 Years Ago Tonight I Decided to Become an Astronomer”

Why Trump Won’t Lead The Reagan Revolution

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In the spirit of this week’s Presidential Inauguration, I’m going to do something I rarely do: I going to share with you a personal correspondence. Early last year, just as the Republican primary was starting to get interesting, a classmate of mine who writes for the National Review went full speed into the “Never Trump” camp. In March, I penned this letter to her:

Maggie:

Too bad most of the comments on your “Good-Bye Reagan Revolution!” article are ad hominem attacks on you; thus, have no validity. I’ll speak to you on a more personal level since we grew up together in the midst of the Reagan Revolution. First some background, in case you forgot (and I have no reason to believe you remember). In 1979/1980 I was (and Continue Reading “Why Trump Won’t Lead The Reagan Revolution”

The Rink of Dreams

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The stories we choose to tell (and re-tell) not only reveal what we want others to see in us, but what we wish to see in ourselves. These vignettes, often relayed in brief summary, possess a certain magic. They hit upon the highlights, the “best of” reel of our real life. Their brevity, however, demands the tale be spun in a crisp black-and-white fashion rather than the nuanced shades-of-gray more suitable for the novel form. It’s how we select to reduce those ambiguous shades of gray to the stark black and white where we (and others) discover our true inner nature. Does it matter that these short-cuts skirt the definitive facts? Philosophers (and psychologists) may say truth lies more in perception than reality. That might be hard for a Group IV major like me to swallow, but, I must admit, it does make for a very compelling narrative.

The Rink of Dreams” represents just one such tale. It captures both the myth and the actuality of The CTO, a group which simultaneously existed and didn’t exist. (There, now that sounds like someone trained in quantum physics.) This superposition of states applies to The CTO as much as it applies to Schrödinger’s cat, and for reasons even we (or anyone else) at the time didn’t realize.

But you won’t know why until you’ve finished reading “The Rink of Dreams.”

Warning: This is an e-book presented in a “flip-book” format familiar to those who read on-line magazines. It’s like a real book. Just point your cursor in the lower corner of the “page” to turn it. If you’ve got your volume on, you’ll even hear the page turning. Also, the flip-book requires Flash, so make sure you’re using a browser that supports Flash.

Why I Can No Longer Stand the Buffalo Bills

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After living above the Pizzeria on South Park Avenue in Blasdell, my grandparents moved to Lake Avenue in Orchard Park. It wasn’t more than three miles away, but they decided to go to a new parish, one closer to their new home. Our Lady of Sacred Heart sits on Abbott Road just north of the intersection with Lake Avenue, about a mile away from what would soon become Rich Stadium, home of Western New York’s National Football league team the Buffalo Bills.

At the time the Bills still played their games in downtown Buffalo on a field lovingly referred to as “The Rockpile,” (it was officially known as War Memorial Stadium). However, the team Continue Reading “Why I Can No Longer Stand the Buffalo Bills”

A Christmas Postcard

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classic-christmas-postcardThere’s something about this season that evokes bygone memories. These aren’t sepia toned memories – I’m not that old – they’re more like a mix of warm vibrant colors filmed with a soft lens. In other words, they bring forth feelings both nostalgic and pleasant. Think of a classic Christmas postcard, its snow covered landscape offering the perfect contrast to the brilliant but somehow muted colors surrounding a heartfelt home filled with love and the joy of expectation. This paints the picture of the memories I’m writing about.

Except my memories aren’t make believe. They are very real, although the distant years sometimes make me wonder if the soft lens distorts more than the crisp definitions we’ve become all too accustomed to in the digitized world in which we live. No matter. The price of a slight distortion here and there is well worth the comfort of the inner smile they bring.

Of course these memories, as they do for everyone and almost by definition, come from Continue Reading “A Christmas Postcard”

The Annual Thanksgiving Mudbowl

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mudbowl-1434436-1598x1062Bring an old weathered football up to your nose, close your eyes, and take a good whiff. Can you smell it? Do images of sweaty muddied gruff men, caked with sweat and blood, move in slow motion within your brain? Do your muscles tighten in pleasant anticipation at the thought of the gridiron? If so, then congratulations. You are part of a dying breed, a member of a secret society that long ago closed its doors to new applicants.

Well, not exactly. Those doors  remain open today and they will forever stay open. It’s just that, in an era of prefabricated microwave cooking, no one wants to go through the Continue Reading “The Annual Thanksgiving Mudbowl”

What The University of Chicago Can Teach Yale

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nathan_hale_statue_flanked_by_two_soldiers_yale_university_1917They took all incoming freshman on a special tour within a day of our arrival at the campus in New Haven. Those were ancient times, when many (like me) had neither the time nor the treasure to visit colleges prior to matriculation (let alone application). To this day, one fact from that introductory outing stands out in my much more crowded brain – the visit inside and around Connecticut Hall. Completed in 1757, this last remaining survivor of Yale’s “Old Brick Row” served as a dormitory for nearly two centuries. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

But that’s not what I remember.

Here’s what I remember: First, there was some obscure graffiti left on an interior wall. Supposedly more than a century old, I don’t remember what it said. All I remember feeling upon hearing this story is that college students have always been rascals and Yale apparently didn’t mind – and even glorified – these youthful misdemeanors.

The second memory carried far greater weight. Outside of Connecticut Hall stands a Continue Reading “What The University of Chicago Can Teach Yale”