Thursday, May 25, 2017

California dreamin...


Just two guys hanging out in a Pho restaurant in Van Nuys...
"I always enjoy seeing classmates, especially in La La Land (no singing or dancing), but few can afford the opportunity to learn so much about something so unfamiliar as atmospherics as a casual dinner with Mark Beaubien. Granted I was only able to understand one out of every two dozen words, but it was great to hear how terrific and crucial the work he is doing, plus he gets to fly around in badass planes. It was also fun to reminisce about DA and the time he kicked me off the radio-which I probably deserved. Wonderful to hear about his daughters at Deerfield and how they are excelling in the arts. He showed me a picture of his senior Lily singing in front of the Memorial Building and apparently Kentucky Fried Chicken is sponsoring entertainment now with KFC concerts. So that is cool too." - Jim Wareck

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Positive time at Choate...

"This past Saturday I found myself in an interesting, if ironic, place: sitting on a stage in the Paul Mellon Arts Center at our arch-rival Choate,  where I had been asked by Choate's Head of School, Alex Curtis, to help walk their community through the aftermath of the release of a report confirming that more than 20 former Choate students had been molested and/or sexually harassed by faculty and staff at the school over a period of decades. The report’s release and subsequent response to it had generated intense coverage in The Times and The Globe for much of the previous month and this was an opportunity for their alumni community to reflect and to heal. I was honored to be asked to participate.

As you can imagine, there was an obligatory Deerfield joke/reference at the outset as the panel’s moderator, a Choate grad, said “our next panelist, Whit Sheppard, is the founder of Abacus Advisory, a member of the NAIS/TABS task force on educator sexual misconduct and a graduate of … ” before faux-stammering “Deer … Deerfield Academy …” which elicited whoops and laughter from the 300-350 Choate alums present, a humorous start to a difficult communal conversation that lasted roughly 75 minutes. I can’t tell you what a satisfying feeling I got from crossing the Deerfield-Choate “electric fence” that had previously governed so much of my limited interaction and knee-jerk reactions and thoughts over the years about our rival to the south. It turns out that there are really good people there, and they treated me with the utmost kindness and respect during my 24 hours on campus. All in all, a wonderful healing experience for me—and I hope for their extended school community, which has taken a lot of hits recently.

My participation in the Choate panel discussion has its roots in the work I’ve been doing with other schools, including at St. George’s, which our classmate Eric Peterson has led for more than a dozen years, that have been seeking to reconcile the less savory elements of their institutional pasts with the otherwise fine and important work they do on an ongoing basis. I have learned so much doing this work and it has yielded fresh perspective on the four challenging and life-altering years I spent in the Pocumtuck Valley with many of you.

I hope this finds my former classmates well and hope that there will be opportunity in the future to break bread with at least some of you and to hear your stories of life post-Deerfield, your kids, your families etc. I’d really like that."

Best,

Whit Sheppard







Thursday, May 18, 2017

History Lesson

Did you see any of the "trying to explain 1980s tech to millienials" post on FB by Hank Lemieux? It led to some interesting comments but also an extraordinary post (I thought) by Matt Calman.  I'll paste some of it here for your enjoyment but for the whole thread - go find it on Hank's page...

HLI had a funny moment with some millennials last night.
Many of you will be heartily impressed, I am sure, at one of my great claims to fame, that I was the first person in my high school to submit a senior term paper that had been written on a computer, rather than a typewriter.
Yeah, I'm that old. (Though, it's understandable you didn't realize this, given I look so young and hot and sexy.)
But back then, being the Bold Pioneer that I was (or a geek before it was cool -- it was definitely not cool -- whichever you choose to call me) I took some barbs and arrows on that paper. I even got a lower grade actually (might have been the difference on why I didn't get into Stanford) because word processing apps hadn't been fully advanced at that point. I got dinged for things like auto-hyphenation errors and spelling auto-correct errors that you actually could not fix in the word processors of that era. I knew they were there, but couldn't change them on the print out, which was, by the way, dot-matrix.
If you don't know dot-matrix ... I don't know where to start with you.
Anyway, I was explaining this to two millennials last night and they couldn't understand -- at all -- the notion of how computers were set up back then. At this time, the Mac had not yet been invented. I'm pretty sure the IBM PC wasn't even out yet. Maybe three people in the whole school had Apple II's (one of them Matt Calman), but these didn't have word processor software yet.

MCHank, you've honored me with a mention in this post, so I will break my usual Facebook code of silence to share some color and insights to your post. 

A few items first:
First: I can attest that Hank was indeed an early adopter way back when. And a generous one, at that. In the fall of 1980, Hank possessed the original Sony Walkman, complete with orange foam-covered earphones, and would freely loan it to me ... I remember very well popping in a cassette of The Go-Go's and walking around Deerfield's campus with a spring in my step. (Thank goodness there's no cellphone video of THAT) Always a generous guy, that Hank. And a forgiving roommate 

Second: Sadly, I did not own an Apple ][ computer ... Al Mack had one, as I recall, and there were one or two others around campus. I contented myself with the school's Apple ][s as well as the infamous Compucolor 2 ... an early failed microcomputer built into the chassis of surplus color TVs. If you forgot and left a 5 1/4" floppy disk in the disk drive when you powered it on, the degaussing circuit in the CRT would erase the diskette. Yup, did that a few times. Mr. Bois, JW corridor master extraordinaire, wrote a letter to my parents my freshman year about my bad habit of cursing like a sailor. That #%€-damned Compucolor 2 didn't help. 

Third: Deerfield Academy did indeed have a minicomputer, the DEC PDP-11/40 with 64KB of memory and a (maybe) 1 megahertz (on a good day, downhill, with wind at its back) processor . It was the expanded version ... the extra 16KB of memory over the standard 48KB was something like $15,000+ extra. It was core memory ... look that one up ... each bit was actually a magnetic donut threaded through a lattice of wires ... flipping a bit involved a PHYSICAL FLIP of a magnetic core ... imagine being able to look at a memory module and being able to SEE the bits. Clever engineering and even more amazing craftsmanship made it possible. Core memory lived on for a long time in the military, since it was highly resistant to EM interference. The PDP system supported up to 32 terminals and sported two (2!) RK05 removable cartridge disk packs, 24" in diameter, capable of storing 2.54MB each! I still have one of the disk packs in a garage somewhere. 

Fourth: Did the PDP-11/40 have less power than your Fitbit? An excellent question! The Fitbit Alta packs the ARM® Cortex®-M4 core with up to 1 Mbyte of Flash memory and up to 128 Kbytes of embedded SRAM ... so Fitbit wins with DOUBLE the RAM but only ONE-FIFTH the storage. All those BASIC programming assignments from Bob and Sue Hammond might not fit on your wrist, but the ol' PDP could hold 'em all it. But wait, you ask, what is the ARM processor's word length? Isn't it a 32-bit design versus the DEC's 16-bit word? Does that actually "double" the storage? You'd be right if you thought that. And it's advanced digital signal processing circuits and dedicated floating-point unit make it superior, also. Still, that old PDP was a fine piece of gear in its day, and for the handful of DA boys that became "sysops" (Chris Keener, Mike Tate, and me) ... it opened up educational opportunities that other schools didn't allow. In fact, after I caused too much trouble for Bill Schweikert and Rich Bonanno, they ended admin privileges for select students. That's too bad ... some of the concepts I learned from ring "system manager" on RSTS/E (the operating system) still hold value today. 

Moving on ...

Your dot-matrix school paper was probably printed on an LA120 printer, capable of BI-DIRECTIONAL print, a true innovation over the unidirectional LA36's we had in our freshman and sophomore years. Super fast or , umm, dead slow today. 
The wire that came out of your terminal used 20 milliamp current-loop technology ... different from the RS-232 serial communications more common for the era. Why, you ask? Because current loop allowed for greater distance transmission without signal booster equipment. There was a conduit that ran all the way from the Helen Childs Boyden Science Center to the Memorial Building with cabling to support four terminals on the second floor. That's right, each terminal was essentially "hard-wired" into the PDP 11/40. Problems? Oh, yah. Like whenever there was lightning... the DEC service guys got a lot of calls from DA anytime there had been an electrical storm. Remember running last-minute to the computer room in Memorial to print out your math homework for Ro-bob? Only to find that nothing worked and you had to high-tail it to the Science building ? Now you know why. 

As for connectivity, Hank was right again ...that old workhorse was a standalone system. No connectivity to the outside world. But for the dedicated DA CJ of the 1980's there was still a glimpse of the future ... Chris Keener patched together an ISC workstation. (big brother of the fabled Compucolor 2) with a Hayes 300-baud modem and hacked together some software that enables us to connect to The Source, one of the largest multiuser bulletin board systems that predated Compuserve ... it wasn't until I went on to Carnegie Mellon that I first got onto Arpanet, the true precursor of the internet. But I remember the night Chris first shared The Source with me ... I was amazed, thinking about the other people AROUND THE WORLD connected into the same hub at the same time .. on a world-wide network. I can literally see the screen in my memory and feel again that sense of wonder. 

Now, as for Hank's claim of first to hand in a 100% digitally produced paper at DA? I can neither confirm nor deny, but I don't doubt it. Hank was just the right combination of tech fan and "screw it let's do it" to pull off such an accomplishment., with a little "aww shucks" swagger to help pull it off. Those dings he took for hyphenation and spelling are the epitome of "the bleeding edge" of progress. Well done, sir!

And one more memory - Leander Magee, a first-year teacher in 1980-81, wrote a complete word-processing system for "comment cards" (e.g. teacher comments on report cards). His approach was advanced and used WYSIWYG design with features that I wouldn't see for a couple of more years. He was really brilliant beneath his happy-go-lucky style. Do you remember his rambling '74 Ford LTD? (I once hacked his password ... 74LTD haha)
---
Why the long post? Gosh, Hank is such a regular poster I feel like I owed him one back. Thanks for the inspiration. And thanks for the laughs from your first post. 

And DA, thanks to you, too. The school, and its wise faculty, gave me free reign to independently develop a passion for tech, essentially letting me treat the school's $60,000 computer system as my own PC. That shaped my future in a way that few, if any, other schools could have provided or would have let happen. I bet Mike Nash would say the same about the planetarium. Or Marty Martin Olsen about the ENTIRE PHYSICAL PLANT of the school - now there was a guy who knew how to maximize what was offered. 

Those millienials have it great with their apps, their whizzy phones, and their interweb thingy. But we had it great, too, and saw breakthrough tech in our own way. 
Providing curious students with freedom to explore never goes out of style. I hope Deerfield Academy students of today find that same kind of wonder that I did from '79-'83.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Student outdoor performance

Thanks to Mark Beaubien for attending the recent KFC (Koch Friday Concert - named thusly since they usually take place inside the Koch Center - unless its a beautiful Spring evening) and sending pics!




Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ayyyyyee. It's Lotspeich. (And Pryce!)

Chris was recently on a junket to "his ancestral Highlands and Islands of Scotland with some of his favorite fellow Scottish lads for a long-dreamed adventure. Hiking, sailing, drinking, laughing, and more." Looks like he had a great time, gaining new fashion and hanging with a Scott Pryce doppleganger...























REVISED: Turns out it IS Scott Pryce on the trip with Chris!  Here is his contribution:
"Chris Lotspeich and I summited Bidean nam Bian, one of the highest peaks in Britain this May with some college classmates.  Actually it was 3 peaks nicknamed “The Three Sisters. “A local in the climbers bar gave us some guidance on an easy “hill walk” “trail”.  I’m sure he had a few laughs about sending us. It was great: we could see the Ocean and Ben Nevis, UKs highest peak.  And we passed through a hidden valley where Chris’ ancestors of the MacDonald Clan hid cattle from rustlers, or from the owners from whom they had rustled livestock."



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Quality

Denison President Adam Weinberg was thrilled to have the school's men's lax team win the NCAC (North Coast Athletic Conference) title.  Here he's awarding the Tourney MVP trophy to Henry DeCamp who graduated from Deerfield in 2015! Adam adds "He was also named to the All-NCAC Team and Specialist of the Year. Anybody watching the Div III NCAAs should look out for him. Great guy."


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Time Machine in the works?

Looks like Andrew Nash has a new project on his hands.  But will he try to go back to 1983???



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Jay's new job

Jay Esty recently posted pics from his new job - he's now head of the Green Ambassadors program at the Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center in Boston Harbor. Looks like its right up his alley!





Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Some things change...

JK was on the phone from Denver for his Saturday meeting of the Executive Committee of the Alumni Association of Deerfield Academy - and four seniors talked about their experiences.

One vignette he thought might be interesting to the class:

Johnson and Doubleday, the dorms which were new in our day, is now the home of the 9th grade Village. All freshmen live there - boys in one and girls in the other, and they all hang out in the Crow Common Room and make natural friendships.  The seniors, some who are proctors there, almost unanimously felt that the Village helped the 9th grade bond better.




Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Earth Day

I'm sure there are more Earth Day events that the class participated in - but here's two..

Mark LaFlamme and family went for a run in CA...

























And Will Piersol and JK joined Darwin Toll '78 to work on a Volunteer Outdoor Colorado project as part of Deerfield's Day of Service.  The project completed the first section of a new trail to make available the lands of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Preserve (formerly a munitions area for US Army and a Superfund site) to the people of Colorado.  Snow and rain and 35 degrees at the start, sunny and 65 at the finish!




























Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hockey, Hockey, Hank

John Knight has had a big April.

He travelled Chicago to connect with brother James '81 at the Frozen Four Championship game - where they hung out with United Center and Chicago Blackhawks owner, Rocky Wirtz.


Then he attended a fundraiser for a Colorado nonprofit called Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation and heard a bunch of fun Bobby Orr stories from Peter McNab (NHLer '73-'87)


But the best event was his lunch with classmate Hank Lemieux in Vail, CO on a day off for Hank in his pursuit of the perfect mogul run..


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Varsity Pest Control

From David McNeil: It is a red tailed hawk. She is part of our inner city pest elimination program for McNeil properties. (KIDDING!!!).

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Adam Weinberg on finding the right college...

Today is April 3. Over the next month, there will be countless conversations between high school seniors and their parents about which college is the best choice for them. Here is some advice from a college president who also is the parent of two college-age children. 
Let me start with an observation. The college search process has changed a lot over the last decade, as the general economy has continued to shift. For many families, selecting a college is considered among the most important decisions they will make. Families are looking at a competitive job market and believe this decision will impact their child’s earning potential (and, hence, everything else) for the rest of their lives. They are searching for value.
My first piece of advice is this: value comes largely from fit. There are many good colleges in this country where you can get a great education, but if the fit is wrong, it is nearly impossible to get a great education – no matter how good the college is.
What does this mean? We don’t have to guess—we have lots of data on when and why college matters. Elsewhere, I have written about what we can learn from this growing body of data, and I highly recommend reading How College Works by Dan Chambliss and Christopher Takacs as well as The Gallup-Purdue Index.  In essence, students need to go to a college with these qualities:
  • Mentorship matters. It turns out that mentorship is one of the defining characteristics of a transformative college experience. In particular, faculty mentorship is crucial.
  • Students get involved. Students are more likely to succeed when they are able to participate in activities outside the classroom that supplement their learning (athletics, student organizations, the arts, etc.).
  • Lateral learning takes place. Students learn a lot from one another. They need to be at a college where they are surrounded by peers who are in college for the right reasons and are pushing and prodding each other in the right ways.
The question is: How do you find a college where your son or daughter is likely to become immersed quickly, develop a close mentoring relationship with a faculty member, and get involved in sustained co-curricular activities that allow them to find good friends and develop strong life skills?
Have a conversation about fit. Now is the time to have a serious conversation with your son or daughter about where they are in their own personal development and what kind of college is going to be best for them. Are they more likely to thrive in a lecture hall or small classes? Will they be more comfortable in an urban or rural setting? What kinds of people do they tend to thrive around?
Make sure you understand the financial costs. The sticker price, meaning the listed tuition, is not altogether helpful. The financial aid letters you may have just received can be misleading. Make sure you understand: How many years does it take the average student to graduate? At Denison, like most private colleges, it is four years. At some public universities, it often takes five or even six years (therefore, an extra year or two of tuition). And will financial aid be in place for the entire time they are in college?
One of the mistakes prospective families make is selecting a college because of very small differences in price. Fit is most important. It does not make sense to go to a college that is slightly less expensive if the fit is not right. At the same time, debt does matter. My own view is that a manageable level of debt is worth it to get an education that is the right fit for the student, and families need to determine what that level is for them.
Choose a college where your son or daughter can pursue their passions. If your son or daughter plays a sport or has a passion for an artistic endeavor, choose a college where they will be able to pursue that passion. This is really important—don’t choose a college where they only will be able to watch others perform. Choose a college where they will be likely to make the team, be cast in a play, join a music ensemble, and have a chance to pursue their passion.
This is also true for students who want to major in the sciences. So much of the value of undergraduate work in the sciences comes from hands-on research. Choose a college where undergraduates get to conduct their own research and where it is built into courses. Be wary of places where graduate students replace professors in classrooms and knock undergraduates out of the labs.
Pay attention to the first-year program. Transitioning into college can be hard. Select a college where a lot of attention is paid to how students transition into college and the support they receive if and when they stumble. Once students get connected to courses, faculty, friends and co-curricular activities, they will be fine.
Visit the colleges one more time. If you have narrowed it down to two or three colleges, go visit them one more time. Try to attend one of the April Visit Days that most colleges offer for admitted students. Let your son or daughter spend the night at their top two or three colleges, and tell them to go with their gut. Don’t be strident with your views. Ask your son or daughter questions, as opposed to offering observations. Where do they feel comfortable? Which one feels right?
Here are some questions to ask during the April Visit Days that are important, but not often thought of: What is the size of the endowment per student? Endowment translates into the financial resources a college can spend on providing student experiences. What is the mood on campus? You want to be someplace where faculty, staff and students are proud of the college.
And pay attention to location. You want to be on a campus that has a good vibe. I also think there is a huge advantage to being in a location that has a healthy community surrounding the college and easy access to an airport and city. And I will admit that this is self-serving, given that Denison has one of the best locations of any liberal arts college in the nation. We have a beautiful campus in an idyllic village that is 25 minutes from Columbus, which has become a vibrant city filled with music, culture and global businesses.
Once you select a college, make sure the conversation continues. But try to dial down the stress. As I mentioned earlier, there are many colleges in this country where students can get a great education. Too often, the rankings lead readers to imagine that choosing the right college is all about where it sits on a list. Nothing could be further from the truth. Choosing the right college is far more personal than that. It’s about fit. And remember, we expend way too much energy worrying about getting in and selecting the right college, and not nearly enough focusing on how to transition into college and how to take full advantage of the college experience.