Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Quote of the Day

In an email from Scooter:
"Yep, you forget, it'll be like pon farr in Amok Time...except with no mating, just fighting, and treats..."
And he calls me a nerd.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

More Nostalgic Crap

There. I warned you.

At the same party where I received the SR-10 (see previous post), I was also given a stop sign. A real stop sign, on a 4" x 4" white wooden post (as stop signs routinely were mounted in those days). Why? I'll let Paul Linhardt tell the story.
The story was that after several aborted attempts, Josh, Dan and I took off to San Francisco on our first official road trip after getting our licenses. Driving around the streets of San Francisco we noticed a stop sign lying by the side of the road which we threw in the back seat with the sign post sticking out Dan's sun roof. After lengthy discussions about what to do with it, we decided we should make a present of it as a symbol of affection to our good friend Larry Rubinow who was leaving our little group for greener pastures. However, we felt that it might be a little inconvenient for Larry who was moving to some place like Fresno, since we didn't know if his family's car also had a sun roof. So we took it back to the basement of my uncle's place and came up with an elaborate system of hinges and locks so that the sign could be folded up into a convenient carrying container. Incidentally, my uncle later reported to my mother that I had fallen in with a bad crowd and was prone to defacing public property.
I'm not sure that really answers the "Why?" question for most people, though it satisfies me completely. The folding arrangement truly was ingenious; the whole 6-foot-plus package folded down to something little larger than the sign itself (which, to be fair, wasn't exactly small). When last seen by me, the sign was in my brother's garage; I hope it's still there, though I haven't asked.

If Paul ever reads this post, he might be interested in knowing that I had a brief correspondence several years back with Sherri Gottlieb, owner of the late, lamented L.A. sci-fi store, "A Change of Hobbit." She was doing well, but I can't remember much more. I'll see if I have them archived somewhere.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Continuation of a Theme

Random adolescent memory sparked by recent email traffic:

In August of 1974, just before my senior year in high school, my family moved from Los Angeles to Fresno. That summer my friends in Los Angeles gave me a going-away party. I'm not sure whose house it was at -- Andy Mishkin's? Anyway, I do remember there was beer there; I think it was the first time I ever tasted it (at 15 years old). And I also remember the incredible gift they bought for me.

A Texas Instruments SR-10.

You may look at the SR-10 today and laugh, and I'll understand. But at the time, this was an incredible piece of equipment. Rechargeable NiCads. Square-root functionality. Exponential-notation display. And $150 retail, for a bunch of high-school kids in 1974, was a truly significant chunk of change.

If you didn't know me then, you might wonder why the gift. Most of us were in a "special" math program together. (Incidentally, Scooter, I mean "special" in a good way.) SSMCIS: Secondary School Mathematics Curriculum Improvement Study, also known as "Unified Modern Mathematics." It was a six-year experiment to see if math could be better taught in an integrated program, rather than a year of Algebra followed by Geometry followed by Algebra II followed by Trig followed by Calculus.

Going into Emerson (and Webster) Junior High, I suppose our sixth-grade teachers picked us out as those most likely to thrive in a program like SSM. It means we were guinea pigs. But we were willing and enthusiastic guinea pigs. And wow, was that program fun. Those who stayed the full six years never got to compare it to anything else. In Fresno I found myself in a very boring AP Trig class (absolutely nothing there I hadn't already learned, but they refused to put me in calculus even though I'd already started calculus in SSM), so I know what I'm talking about.

The calculator was, frankly, not much practical use to me. But it was a tremendous symbol of the bond everyone in the program shared.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Rear View Mirror

A week from tomorrow night is my high school reunion in Los Angeles. My thirtieth high school reunion. I won't be attending.

At first I was looking forward to it. And yet, as it approached I found that I really wasn't excited. The committee had originally planned it (tentatively) for August, and we were going to work out our cross-country car trip to synch up with it. But then it moved to November. I just changed jobs, Kristi's work schedule makes it difficult to leave town because of Emma, blah blah blah. It was going to be a fair amount of money and logistical difficulties ... for what? I went to my tenth and didn't particularly enjoy it; why bother?

And then the emails started coming in. Glenn Berkovitz put together an email list of twenty-odd (and I do mean odd) key figures from my past, from fifth grade on, and arranged for a night-before-the-reunion party. People started sharing life stories. And suddenly, damn it, I'm wishing I could go. Even though so many of us are scattered so widely that (like me) most won't be in Los Angeles next weekend, it would be a joy to see Josh and Glenn and Denise and Andy and all the others who will be at dinner on Friday.

The last few days have been very emotional for me -- seeing names in my inbox from 30 years gone, suddenly remembering extraordinary events long forgotten. Life cheated me out of some key time with these people (my family moved to Fresno before my junior year, and though I went back to L.A. on my own as a senior, I graduated early -- only three semesters of high school spent with them). So really, I was missing them even then. And I'm missing them still.

So, if you're from the class of '76 and passing by, hi. Drop me a line. If you're ever in flyover country, come on by. You're always welcome.