Louis G. Pol – The Traveling Dean

I began this blog in March 2013 because I wanted to document some observations about my travel experiences in India. As I reflect back on other travel taken prior to March 2013, I wish I had begun posting about my adventures in 2003 as I made my way to St. Petersburg, Russia, or 1992 during a trip to France and Italy, or in 1991 while travelling in Romania and Moldova. Oh, well…

I am the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (formerly Omaha University). I became the dean in August 2003, which means that at this point in time, March 2017, I have been the dean for nearly 14 years, a very long time in one place for a business school dean. The average stay for a business school dean is about 4.5 years. Prior to being named dean, I was a faculty member here, at Rollins College, and at Memphis State University, but not all at the same time. If you want to learn more about me, I am providing a link to my website http://cba.unomaha.edu/lpol. Also, you may wonder what I look like, so here is a picture.

dean-pol-full

As you can see, I am in my official dean uniform. The sculpture in the background is one created by Jun Kaneko. You should look him up.

My goal in regard to this blog is simple. I want to share my experiences with anyone who wishes to know more about the places I have visited. At the same time, if you continue to read, you will gain some insight into my opinions about the places I visit and the people I meet. From time-to-time, you will learn more as I offer comparisons of places, including those experienced before I began this blog. I will try to remain apolitical as I write about what I see, but I will fail at times. Keep in mind that it is March 2017, and remaining apolitical is most difficult.

Finally, I enjoy receiving your comments and corrections.

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I’m Back

I’m Back

(The Transition and My Remarks)

I have not posted a story since March, and since then I have made eight trips. I will get busy in posting these, but first an explanation.  For more than one year, I have been thinking about my departure as dean. After 17 years in this position, it was time to travel on and get busy with other interests – more writing. As the early part of 2019 unfolded, I became busier with dean stuff along with planning for the transition in leadership for our college. Thus, I did not post any stories about my travel.

My last day as dean has come and gone, and I am now focusing on my new work as a writer. I have stories that I believe need to be shared, and I have already begun.

I will continue to post stories about my travels, first focusing on the backlog of trips noted above. I will continue to be The Traveling Dean, except that my real title will soon be The Traveling Dean Emeritus.

As part of my transition, I have written two additional pieces. The first was penned August 18 and 19, on my last day as dean/first day as non-dean. The second is a written version of the remarks that I made on August 22, at a reception celebrating my deanship. I am posting these documents here.

Please continue to follow me here at The Traveling Dean. In addition, over the next several weeks I will begin posting non-travel stories on other forms of social media.  Watch for links to those.

Thank you for reading my stuff.

The Transition

August 18, 2019

            It’s Sunday, August 18, at 6:45 pm. In less than six hours I will no longer be the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. At midnight tonight, I will become the former dean, although with regent approval at the end of the month I will assume the title dean emeritus. While I will continue to use the blog name the traveling dean, I will in fact be the traveling dean emeritus.

If you are still reading, you might be asking what in the world does dean emeritus mean. The word emeritus is Latin, you knew that, and once referred to a veteran soldier. My time as dean did not involve soldiering, but I can report that as dean I have been involved in a few dust-ups. Current use of the word emeritus has been shifted largely to professors and ministers who have retired and are regarded as having done good work. But, emeritus is also used in the context of those who have retired from other professions. So, dean emeritus is an honorary term, and means at the very least that when I was the dean I did not embarrass my college or university, too much.

Having one’s job end at midnight on a Sunday is weird. I left my office at around 5:15 pm Friday. When I departed I knew that I would not go into the office on Saturday or Sunday, unless there was some kind of emergency (there hasn’t been one thus far). But, technically, I am still the “boss” for another five plus hours. I think that I will stay up until midnight, imagining some silver ball sliding down a pole, at midnight reaching the bottom, with a crash, lights flashing, and the The Rolling Stones playing Jumpin’ Jack Flash. Many faculty, staff and students will cheer, drink, dance, party and stay up all night in celebration of my departure—and welcome the era of our new dean, even though her title includes the word interim.

I have stayed rather busy this weekend. We hosted friends on Friday night, had dinner for my leadership team Saturday night, and hung out with our grandchildren at the Omaha Zoo today. While petting sting rays (yes, you read that right) and looking at the back-side of a rhinoceros, I found my mind wandering backwards to events, situations and people I have encountered over the last 17 years, the length of time I have served as dean. I have seen a great deal in those 17 years, and even had a “first” for me on my last day in the office. I intend to write about some of what I have seen, but not yet. There are other stories I want to write about first.

Some of you are familiar with the term “when the switch flips.” No, this is not about turning on the lights, but the metaphor of the light switch is useful. The only exception to the metaphor real life connection is that in the context I am writing the light is on, then off, never to go back on. In situations like mine when a person is leaving a position, one that involved an all-in mindset, it is important to match as closely as possible switch flipping with job departure. If the switch is flipped too early, then the person’s ability to perform well is compromised because they just don’t care much anymore; think Phil Collins’ song I Don’t Care Anymore. If the switch is flipped too late, then the person leaving the job will have second thoughts about their departure.

I tried hard to time my switch flip well. But, I’ve also had the experience where the switch was flipped mostly outside the control of the switch flipper. Think about the times when you woke up one morning and said to yourself, “I am not doing that anymore,” and you didn’t do it anymore. You probably had some sense that you were heading toward that decision prior to the switch flip, but you did not know that you would make the decision that quickly. And, sometimes the switch flipping gets all over you so fast, and you did not see it coming. Maybe a high school girlfriend or boyfriend was on the other end of that switch flipping. You woke up one morning and thought “I’m done.” No more drama. And, I didn’t like her hair anyway. Or, you were on the other end. She woke up one morning and thought, “Yuck, what did I see in that guy.” She didn’t like the way you dressed anyway.

I think I timed it pretty well. Even in the last days, I was still excited by the prospects for our college. I was engaged in every one of the meetings I attended even though I now have a true loathing of virtually any kind of meeting that involves more than five or six people.

When I left the office on Friday, I was not certain that my switch had flipped. I knew I was feeling good the last two months about my decision to leave, and I had been accused by a few friends and colleagues of smiling too much. I was also limiting my Saturday and Sunday time in my university office. Nevertheless, I did not know for sure, until Saturday night. There was a situation that unfolded near the end of our dinner party. One of my colleagues told our soon-to-be interim dean that he had something of import to tell her. In the “old” days, he would have addressed me in that way. As they found their way to another room to discuss the issue, I realized that while I care for my college greatly, I was happy that I was not going to be part of that conversation. I did not want to know what he was going to tell her.

A few friends have asked me about what I will miss most about being our college’s dean. I have tried not to be an ass in my responses. So, no retorts such as “the people” or I won’t miss anything at all. If someone tells you they will miss the people, they are either lying or need to explain in some detail what they mean by the people. In positions like mine, you are around a lot of people. Most are nice, some are truly outstanding, and a few (a number greater than zero) are disgusting. I won’t miss any in the latter group, and I won’t be saddened if I don’t see the folks in the former group every day.

I will miss working for our students, although I will be able to do some of that for a while longer. There’s nothing like the buzz one gets in having a student succeed, especially if they have had challenges along the way. I have lived vicariously through the lives of our students (and alums) over many years, and I will miss having a direct pipeline to stories of their successes. I feel the same way about most of our faculty. As dean, I am the last stop in the college for annual review documents and tenure and promotion decisions. I read all of their reports at least once a year. Overall, our faculty are terrific, and I have enjoyed monitoring their progress. I’ve rejoiced in their publications and their success in the classroom. I love the reports of a “big hit,” a publication acceptance in a first-rate academic journal.

I will also miss the planning, conceptualization and realization of major ideas and initiatives. Particularly rewarding are the big accomplishments of our college when significant people had told me, “You’ll never be able to do that.” For me, that statement is a challenge, another reason to work smart and drive the car full throttle.

It’s now Monday, 7:30 am. I woke up and am now the former dean. The sun came up as well, and it looks to be a fine day. I now have the time to write short riffs like this one, but also plan for the bigger projects that I have already started. I also have some blog posts to write. There have been eight trips since I last posted—about the flood and my non-trip to Florida.

I have other big decisions to make today. When will I go bike riding? What will I eat for lunch? Should we go out on our boat today? Should I shave? What do I need to do before we leave for New York next week? I think it really will be a fine day.

 

My Remarks – August 22, 2019

Embracing the Impostor in All of Us

Thanks to all of you for being here on a warm August afternoon, and just a few days before the start of a new semester. You could be somewhere else, sipping a toddy. And yes, that is my playlist.

I’d like to start with an explanation, the reasons why I refer to all of this as a repurposing, not retirement. If you check out the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary (I am sure that this is regular reading for all of you) and locate the definition of retirement you will find, “the point at which someone stops working because of having reached a particular age or ill health”. Well, I did hit a particular age, 70, but so what? And, my health is very good (and, my people live a long time). So, let me give you another quote, this time from C.S. Lewis, “You are never too old to set another goal, or dream a new dream”. I have another goal and several new dreams. Finally, one more quote, this time from Stephen King in his book Shawshank Redemption. Remember when Red, played by Morgan Freeman in the movie, first says “Get busy living or get busy dying?”

When I first came here 35 years ago, I quickly developed the chronic condition that perhaps a few of you have experienced, impostor syndrome. Prior to my arrival, I had been a demographer tenured in a sociology department at Memphis State University. My new job called for me to be a demographer and a marketer, with no additional formal education. I had a great department chair (David Ambrose), dean (Larry Trussell) and colleagues (John Hafer and Bun Song Lee) who at least thought they understood what I could and could not do on day one (marketing research, consumer behavior, and a new course I was developing, business demography plus publish). I told them to just give me a bit of time and I would be full tilt, ready to teach other courses. They believed me. I had already begun to shift my research and had some success. I still felt like an impostor.

Then there was my adventure in Florida. Many of you know that I left UNO in 1988, with no intention to return to Omaha. Once again, some business school hired some demographer who dressed up like a marketer. Like UNO CBA, they’d lost their minds. The dean of the Crummer Graduate School of Business, Marty Shatz, hired an impostor.

Then it was back here to UNO. The impostor had returned. Ambrose and Trussell had not learned their lesson. But, this time around I felt less the part, and for the next decade the demographer and the marketer found their rhythm.

But, I must have missed that impostor feeling, because in 2000, somehow, I fell into the administrative abyss, and I was now the associate dean. Stan Hille had hired an impostor.

Then I became interim dean in 2003 and the dean without interim a few months later—that’s like impostor squared.

But, I am pleased to report that after 17 years as the dean of our college I no longer think of myself of having been an impostor. So, I leave you while I am looking for the next place where I will be uncomfortable and out of my element, a place that is new, unpredictable, and full of adventure. A place where I can be an impostor again.

Let me change gears…I have been very lucky. We have a great collection of smart-working students, who in many instances, post-graduation, have become the business, non-profit, and government leaders in Omaha and beyond. We have a dedicated and smart-working faculty and staff. You don’t just have good ideas. You have the confidence and grit to see those ideas to the end and beyond. Look at our programs, our centers, our departments, and you will find people who really care and are on the edge in finding better ways to prepare our students and our business clients. And, you are engaged in first rate research, the kind of work that makes a difference. Then there is our business community. You love our students, and the rest of us, well most of us, as well. You make it possible for us to extend our classrooms and make learning a 16-hour-a-day phenomenon, something that happens all over our city, Omaha. And, of course there’s Carl and Joyce Mammel. Along with Bill and Ruth Scott they made this place possible. We are so much different and so much better because of this facility. Watch out, our addition will be complete in 15 months, and we will again make another leap ahead.

I cannot thank all of you by name for your support and guidance because that would simply take too long. Over the next several months, I will reach out to many of you with a more personal thank you. But, without our dean’s office and affiliated staff, including our great partners at the NU Foundation, I would have been lost if you had not been there. Our leadership team is first-rate. You have made good decisions and have advised me well. Our information technology staff is brilliant. We have in place systems that no one else in the NU system has, and only a limited number of business schools nationwide have been able to replicate. Students, we are here for you. I have lived through your lives, sharing in both your achievements and disappointments. Faculty and staff, you’re the best. Administrators come and go, students come and go, and now another dean has bitten the dust. But you are still here. You are the backbone of our college, the source of great ideas (did I mention that some of you can be a pain in the ass?). But seriously, you have made us an excellent business school. My advisory board, you were patient with a new dean, and did not run for the door when you learned about some of my ideas (well, one of you did run for the door). Your advice and counsel helped me get better. Alumni, without your successes we would not have an excellent business college. We are only as good as our graduates. And, thank you also for letting me live vicariously through your successes. To my fellow deans and other administrators, thanks for your friendship, support, and partnerships. We’ve seen a lot and done a lot, together. And to my family, Janet and Peter. So, you’ve had to live with the demographer/marketer/statistician the entire time and put up with the moves as well as the dude’s wacky behavior. You’ve always been there even when a decision or a move did not make sense.

Unfortunately, at least for some of you, I will still be around here for a few more years. After a year leave, I will return to the Marketing and Entrepreneurship department on a half-time basis.

I’ve taken a bit too long, but I wanted to say these things in front of all of you. Let’s continue with the reception. I think I hear Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb.

Thank you.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) Office

Normally, I do not write about short trips. I have never posted about travel that covered only 5 miles (a 15 minute drive). This is my exception. I promise not to do this again.

I was 70 years old on March 5, 2019, and I can no longer delay receiving social security income benefits in a way that is advantageous to me. Many of you know that for each year one delays applying for social security income beyond age 65, an additional eight percent is added to the monthly check. So, by delaying five years, age 65 to 70, a substantial increase is gained. That’s what I have done. However, the top age for delay is 70. So it’s time for me to collect. My decision to wait is based on my belief that I have hit the genetic Powerball and can expect to live into my 90s. My people live a long time.

Most of those filing to receive checks from the SSA can do so on-line. I cannot. For the last 18 months, three different persons have tried to file for my benefits. How rude. Perhaps they thought I was dead. I try hard not to look dead. At the end of the last attempt to collect my benefits, the SSA and I agreed that I would only be able to apply for benefits in-person, given that the three fraudulent attempts were made on-line. So, the only way for me to begin receiving checks was to show up in the Omaha SSA Office, with identification in hand.

Omaha SSA Building

I arrived at the SSA office early, signed in, and got my waiting list number, even though I had a scheduled appointment, and sat down. My appointment at 2:30 pm was with a guy named Brian. I sat down in a black plastic chair. I knew that the chair was uncomfortable because I had been to the Omaha SSA office before. Settling into the chair confirmed that my memory was not faulty. I imagined sitting in the black plastic chair in the summer, my butt sweating, and wishing that my number would be called soon. In the winter, you don’t sweat as much, but the chair still brings no joy. There were very few others waiting in the reception area. I thought the place would be jammed up with people given the date, January 28.  Perhaps it was the very cold weather that kept others home. Perhaps it is the chairs.

I had been in my seat for less than five minutes when I was called early to station 14. Detaching my hiney from that black plastic chair could not have come soon enough. I stood up, collected my file folder, and strolled back to station 14. I sat down in a different kind of uncomfortable chair. I don’t remember the color.

Brian greeted me with a smile and asked me why I was there. He was seated behind protective glass. There was a small opening at the bottom of the glass for the purpose of exchanging documents. I guess he needed to be protected from those of us who might want our money right now, and insisted on it, or were not happy with the answers he gave to our questions. I told Brian that it was time for me to begin collecting my income checks. The period of delay was coming to a close because of my impending 70th birthday. Moreover, I could not go on-line to file for benefits given my record of having other people try to get my money. Brian had my file in hand. He already knew most of what I told him.

He asked me for identification. I was ready. I had my entire file of SSA letters (the ones that told me of the fraud attempts), along with my birth certificate, social security card, and passport. Just a short distance away in my wallet was my driver’s license, credit cards, AAA card, Medicare card… I slid him my passport, and he gave it a look. I told him that I had other identification, but he responded that the passport was good enough. I was disappointed. I expected to be asked for more. I wanted him to ask for more. I really wanted to show him my birth certificate proving that I was born in the Bronx.

He began his questioning with a warning about the penalties associated with untruthful answers. I told him that I would be truthful, wondering how many politicians filed in person. Then we began with the substantive queries. For the next six to seven minutes, he asked me if I was still working, if I was married, what was my wife’s full name, when was she born, did I have children living in my home, and did I have a dog (not that one).This was pretty boring stuff. Nothing about fraud, criminal records, or conspiracies was broached. I was disappointed again. I wanted to earn my money. I wanted him to ask me questions that would make me think. Then it was over. I expected to be there a long time, but we were done in about 15 minutes. It seemed like 15 seconds. I was told that I would receive my first direct deposit payment the second Wednesday in April. Thank you Brian. You didn’t need a glass shield to protect yourself from me.

The ride back to my office took 15 minutes. However, my mind was in a different place. Filing for SSA benefits is a surreal experience. It means something bad has happened or that you have arrived at an age threshold. The experience makes you think deep thoughts. I started thinking about age, old age. How old is old? Is it 60, 65, or 70? Is it when for the first time you find yourself in the grocery store searching for a bottle of Mad Dog 20 20 and a case of Boost at the same time? Or, is it when you remember the Boost and forget the Mad Dog 20 20? Is it when you don’t work anymore because you can’t work anymore? Is it when the list of things you can’t eat is longer than the list of stuff you will eat? Does it start the day you stop eating Twinkies? Is it when you can no longer ride a bike safely? Or, is it when you sign up for social security income benefits?

The Trip I Did not Take and the Flood of the Century (Really) –The Non-Traveling Dean

My office phone rang at about 10:30am Friday morning, March 15. My wife, Janet, was calling me to let me know that if I wanted to be sure that I would get home I should leave the office now. I thought about her plea for a few minutes, packed my briefcase, jumped into my Highlander, and headed down the road. I live on the west side of the Elkhorn River and work on the east side. Normally, I leave our house at 6:30 am, and in about 25 minutes, I am in my office. It’s not a short drive, 16.3 miles, just a fast one. On Friday it took me 60 minutes to get home.

flood-before Elkhorn River

Flood Map

By the time I left the office, two of the possible four routes home were closed. The rapidly rising waters of the Elkhorn River made it hazardous to pass either way, thus the shutdown. I chose my next option, one that put me out just south of my neighborhood. There was a lot of traffic lined up to cross the bridge. I arrived home not sure what to make of all the hubbub. I had an eerie sense as I pulled into our garage.

The flood was upon us quickly. All of you with any connections to the outside world have seen the stories of rescue, property damage, and the loss of life as they played out on the national news. As I write this post a lot of water is running south on the Platte and Elkhorn Rivers to the Missouri and eventually to the Mississippi. In the days to come, these sad stories will repeat themselves again and again, but will originate from St. Joseph, Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. Lester Holt, Katie Couric, and Anderson Cooper will tell us again about the acts of bravery, and sacrifice, and also, unfortunately, the loss of everything, including lives.

Flooding

We overuse the term “perfect storm”, but in our case an alignment of three factors brought about this mayhem. First, we have had a very, very cold late winter. Bomb cyclones brought subzero temperatures that lasted for days, and more than one blow was delivered. Second, just a week prior to the flood we had a blizzard, leaving even more snow everywhere. Third, it rained a lot. In Waterloo, Nebraska where I live we had 3 inches of rain in 7 days on top of the snow. The rain and melting snow could not be absorbed by the frozen ground, and water ran downhill to the river. Underlying all of this is the significant change in climate our planet is experiencing.

Earth Moon

Flood stage on the Elkhorn River at Waterloo is 14 feet. On Saturday, March 16, the river crested at Waterloo at 24.63 feet. The extra 10 plus feet of water went everywhere. Homes, ranches, commercial buildings, humans, animals, highways, bridges, and cropland were not spared. I live on high ground and our home did not take any water. It was too close though, and when the river crested (I was not certain it had crested) I began to wonder what it would be like if the raging river water began to fill our lake and our home. Earlier on Saturday, we had seen a lake just one mile west of us begin to fill with Platte River water, the result of several levee failures. As the water levels rose and our neighborhood began to look like an island, I also wondered how we could be rescued in a short period of time if the water rose even more quickly. There are a lot of people who live in our immediate vicinity. It would take an armada of boats to get all of us out. There were not enough helicopters to do the job.

Rescue Boat

During situations such as this one, damage and loss of life happens involuntarily. That is, people, animals, homes and businesses do not sign up to be in the path of a flood. However, there are always exceptions to this generalization. As the flood waters were rising and even after the rivers had crested, many around us (we did too) became flood tourists. All of us watched and read the stories regarding this disaster, and many simply had to go and see what was happening. Cars, SUVs, Jeeps, and other vehicles could be seen all around the surrounding area. Most folks were careful and avoided roads that had “too much” water, or the flow was too fast. Some roads had warning signs designed to stop traffic. But, there are always exceptions, you know those idiots who want to live on the edge, see it all, and again try to prove that Darwin was right. Those folks don’t think at all about who else they might put in danger when they drive around the signs into higher water.

Road Closed

On Saturday at nearly 11 pm, I was catching up with the late news, responding to some messages that had come in, and otherwise dozing—it had been a long day. Black Hawk helicopters had been engaged in rescues throughout the day, but had shut down due to darkness, or so I thought. Then, I heard those very distinct rotors, and knew that they were back. As I looked out our back window, I could see a helicopter hovering. It turns out that some genius and a passenger had decided to do a bit of exploring, in the dark. They thought the signs that the road was closed did not apply to them. They drove in water at least three feet deep, and their circumstances became worse when they turned onto another road that had been washed out. That was it. They were stuck in fast water. A rescue boat was called out first, but it sank. So, two Black Hawk helicopters were finally needed to rescue all. The driver of the pickup truck was in rough shape when rescued. He was suffering from hypothermia. Did I mention that river water in March in our part of the country (it had ice in it) is cold?

This story is part of my travel blog because it includes a trip that I did not take. I was scheduled to leave for Fort Myers on Sunday, March 17. My only option to get back to the east side of the river was private helicopter. I chose not to spend $1,600 to take that ride.

When the Cranes Become Bison

We traveled to the Crane Trust in central Nebraska in the first week of March. We had made reservations well in advance, knowing that this was the start of the major viewing season of the Sandhill Cranes, Whooping cranes, and other birds that have been flying through what is now known as Nebraska for an astounding ten million years. Yes, we were going to have a close view of some of the estimated 500,000 plus birds that travel as much as 5,000 miles to migrate between as far south as Mexico and as far north as Bering Sea and Siberia.

Sandhill Crane

The Crane Trust is located about 150 miles west of Omaha, not far from Grand Island, Nebraska. The trust was created in 1978 as part of a court approved settlement over the construction of the Grayrocks Dam in Wyoming. The state of Nebraska and the Natural Wildlife Federation sued those constructing the dam, using the newly enacted Endangered Species Act as the bases for the suit. Construction of the dam altered water flow on the Platte River, thus putting in danger the migrating birds that stopped to refuel as part of their long journey. The trust was created, including all three parties, and a protected habitat was created. Today, visitors come from all over the world to watch this amazing gathering of bird species.

The Crane Trust

These are big birds. The Sandhill Crane stands 3 to 5 feet tall, with a wingspan of 5 to 6 feet. However, it is a light bird, weighing only 6.5 to 14 pounds. The Whooping Crane is larger, standing 5 feet tall, with a wingspan of 7-8 feet. They weigh between 14 to 17 pounds. There are two other major differences in the birds. First, Whooping Cranes essentially eat-and-run in Nebraska, staying on the Platte River normally for 2 to 3 days. The Sandhill Cranes stay longer, as much as a month or more, using the time to increase their weight 15-20 percent—it’s a long trip.

The Whooping and Sandhill Crane

Our drive to the Crane Trust almost did not happen. It was snowing lightly when we departed from Omaha. The forecast for central Nebraska was far heavier and blowing snow. We talked about the pros and cons of the trip, and decided to go, leaving quite early as we anticipated slower driving. The speed limit is 75 mph, which means much of the traffic is normally at least 80 mph. We did encounter some heavier blowing snow, but our early departure meant we avoided the blizzard conditions that occurred along the route not long after we arrived at the trust. Note: In blizzard conditions, it’s always good not to go 80 mph. On the way home we came across a number of abandoned vehicles in ditches and in the median.

March Blizzard

We checked in at the trust and were driven to our cabin. The temperature hovered around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, but the worst of the snow was east of us, thus the visibility was fairly good.  However, larger patches of the Platte River was frozen and few cranes were visible. They were hunkered down to avoid the worst of the weather. Our small group of visitors (several others had cancelled their reservation) was escorted out to one of the viewing blinds, where we were reasonably warm but observed few birds, none very close.

We returned to a central office and restaurant building for dinner. We were given two options for the next morning: go back out to the observation blinds before dawn, and perhaps, observe some cranes, or sleep later and be driven out to check out their relatively new herd of buffalo. And, the temperature in the morning was forecasted to be five below zero. Yes, we chose the latter, knowing that we would go out again (first week in April) to see the cranes. Some folks chose the cranes. I’m not sure that they saw much.

Bison

The Crane Trust began assembling their herd of Bison in 2015. Keep in mind that there were once an estimated 30 to 60 million of these noble animals roaming North America from Mexico to Alaska. Also, note that they were systematically slaughtered (it is known as The Great Slaughter), and for the last 150 years there have been very few bison in the wild. In 1889, 130 years ago, there were only an estimated 1,000 animals left alive, 85 of whom roamed free. Today, there are about 30,000 bison who roam freely. They are truly amazing. Imagine a 6.5 foot, 2,000 pound buffalo (that’s as large as they get) charging at 35 mph (top speed). Scary, but elegant.

I suggest that you plan to visit the Crane Trust. Stay long enough to see the birds and bison.

Wake Turbulence-Late Leaving LAX

I first learned about wake turbulence in 1986 while watching the movie Top Gun. You remember that flick, don’t you? It was wake turbulence (they called it jet wash) that resulted in the death of Goose. Maverick was doing some of his “pilot shit”, got too close to another aircraft in a simulated dog fight, went into a flat spin from which he could not recover, and ejected. Maverick was OK. Goose, on the other hand, smacked his head on the canopy as he ejected, and was dead when he hit the water.

Top Gun

The dangers of wake turbulence were not resolved during the hearing that ruled that Maverick was not at fault in the death of Goose. Besides, Goose went on to star in a TV series and has had a number of parts on the big screen. Today, pilots are very careful to avoid the wake produced by another aircraft, but sometimes they do get too close.

Top Gun Goose

Our flight from LAX to Las Vegas was late. In fact, we never boarded the scheduled aircraft. The incoming flight to LAX (our outgoing aircraft to Las Vegas) originated in Oakland in route to LAX. The 737 flown by Southwest got to close to an A380, notorious for its very large size and the substantial wake produced. I should note that the A380 is no longer manufactured. The rapid drop in altitude of the 737 that resulted from wake turbulence caused the drinks that had been served to jump out of their cups only to go back in the cups, for the most part. A flight attendant, who was not in her seat with a seatbelt on, was tossed around and broke her leg. Wear those belts, and tightly! She was shaken, and in pain. The LAX rescue squad was there on the spot to get her off the plane and under care as soon as the flight had pulled up to the jet way.

A380

The 737 aircraft was taken off line so that it could be checked out in case there was lasting damage. The crew and continuing passengers were transferred to a new aircraft, and that’s when we boarded. The through passengers gave us the full story of what happened. Some were frightened. A teenage lacrosse team thought it was great fun. The pilot was miffed; at least that’s how he sounded when he spoke to us about what had transpired.

Arizona, California, and Athenaeum

We were in Arizona and California in mid-February for our annual western swing to meet alumni and other friends as part of two University of Nebraska Foundation donor celebrations—in Scottsdale and Palm Springs. These are enjoyable events, especially as we meet with individuals and couples at scheduled breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The weather was much cooler and wetter than usual. We observed a lot of snow in the mountains that are just a short distance from Palm Springs, the most I’ve ever seen there at that time of year. In the Phoenix area, the cold temperatures tamped down the crowds at spring training workouts. We were there too early in the month to see any Cactus League games.

Palm Springs Mountains

The drive from Ontario, California (we flew there from Phoenix) to Palm Springs is more interesting every year. The uncharacteristic rain brought a lot of color to a normally bland and brown landscape. The green and yellow grasses and shrubs seemed to be everywhere, and the spring flowers were off to a great start. The wind farms west of Palm Springs continue to spread through the Coachella Valley. The most recent additions are the largest turbines in the valley, and top out at 160 feet. At the same time, more older models have been de-commissioned, and their non-rotating carcasses can be seen in the hills and floor of the valley. There has been a significant uptick in solar-generated energy production as were. Arrays of solar panels are now found on more residential and commercial buildings than ever before. Larger arrays are cropping up in the valley, often adjacent to the wind farms.

Wind Mill.Solar Panel Palm Springs

This years’ ‘special element’ to the trip involved lunch in Pasadena with a donor and his wife. We had not met them before. They are a wonderful couple, and have been married for 65 years! They live near the Caltech campus and invited us to join them at the Athenaeum, a private club located at the southern edge of the campus. The word Athenaeum comes from the ancient Greek name Athena, the goddess of wisdom. The Athenaeum in Athens was a temple where poets, philosophers, and orators gathered to read and discuss their work. The conversations at the Athenaeum and Caltech, I suspect, focus mostly on science, but I’m sure that philosophy and politics find their way into the exchanges.

The Caltech Athenaeum was made possible by a 1929 gift of $500,000 in form of stocks. Well, you might ask, did these stocks have any value after the crash? Answer: the organizers and donors were lucky, the stocks were sold prior to October so that they netted the entire $500,000. The club opened in 1930. The first formal dinner at the club was held on February 4, 1931. Three Nobel Prize winners attended the dinner; Albert Einstein, Robert A. Millikan, and A.A. Michelson. For a moment imagine what it would have been like to have attended that dinner and engaged in conversation. Poor Michelson died later that year.

Front Athenaeum

The Caltech Athenaeum is amazing for two reasons. First, it functions as a restaurant and gathering place for many of the brightest minds in the world. Small and larger groups can be found discussing the most important ideas of the day. Our alum recalled having lunch at the club one day and seeing Stephen Hawking at one of the tables. The second reason is related to the fact that the club functions as a small (very small) hotel. Those rooms are located on the second floor of the structure.

Inside Atheneaum

Perhaps some of you know that Albert Einstein was a visiting scientist at Caltech in 1931, 1932, and 1933, before he emigrated to the U.S. Where did he live? You guessed it, in a room on the second floor of the Athenaeum, but only in 1932 and 1933. Today select individuals can book the Einstein Suite in the Athenaeum. The suite is decorated so that it appears much like it did to Einstein, of course with modern amenities, e.g. HDTV, added. Click on the link to check out the suite.

In 1931, he lived in a bungalow south of the campus. We drove over to the bungalow at 707 South Oakland Avenue, and were surprised that there are no markings or signage to identify the significance of the house.

 

Einstein Bungalow

https://www.athenaeumcaltech.com/Default.aspx?p=DynamicModule&pageid=378384&ssid=295007&vnf=1

Flying back from LAX to Omaha most often involves one stop. This time it was back through our old favorite, Las Vegas. This is one of the very few places on Earth when you can play a Wheel of Fortune slot while eating a Nathan’s hot dog and drinking a beer.

Slot Machine.jpg

Denver, Nederland and Frozen Dead Guy Days

I was back in Denver in early January as part of our annual alumni event. The gathering is scheduled on the same evening as a University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO)/ University of Denver (DU) hockey game. We collect up before the game in space rented at Magness arena, DU’s hockey barn, and continue to exchange stories during the game, particularly between periods. We had nearly 100 attendees this year, and many of them were graduates of our business school. It was an enjoyable evening filled with conversations among alums, some who were attending the event for the first time. Unfortunately, UNO lost to DU, again, but the loss did not prevent us from having a good time.

Denver CO

On all of our alumni/outreach visits, we schedule individual appointments with alumni and other friends (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and others), and fill up our schedule as much as possible. Now and then we have some unscheduled times, and in January we found ourselves with an evening without an appointment. So, we drove to Boulder to have dinner, and learned about Frozen Dead Guy Days, in Nederland, just west of Boulder. This years’ celebration is scheduled for March 8 to March 10.

 

Frozen Dead Guy Days has its roots in, you guessed it, a frozen dead guy. Bredo Morstoel was 89 years old when he passed away in Norway in 1989. For reasons not completely understood, his body was shipped by his grandson, Trygue Bauge, to Trans Time, a San Francisco- based cryonics facility where Grandpa Bredo was preserved. At the same time, with the help of his mother, Aud, Trygue worked on building a cryonics chamber in Nederland, Colorado. Why Nederland? Well, Trygue and Aud lived there. And, they had every intention of bringing Grandpa Bredo back as soon as scientific breakthroughs allowed for his reanimation. The body arrived in Nederland, and placed into the home version of a cryonics chamber, with Grandpa Bredo being kept cold by a steady supply of dry ice. No, I am not making this up.  Check this link. https://frozendeadguydays.org/aboutfdgd

FDGD pic 1

Grandpa stayed frozen for four years, while Trygue developed plans to design and construct a new and improved facility, one that would withstand all forms of disasters. Planning came to a halt when Trygue was deported by the INS, because he had overstayed the time period allowed on his visa. Aud then took over, but she got crossways with the Nederland City Council, and eventually was evicted from her home. However, Grandpa Bredo, in his frozen state, was allowed to remain in his shed under the care of some dude named Bo Shaffer. I’ll stop here with the details except to note that Grandpa Bredo now resides in a Tuff Shed (I haven’t seen The Frozen Dead Guy in any Tuff Shed ads, have you?).

FDGD pic 2

The celebration, now known as Frozen Dead Guy Days, was brought forward in 2002 as a way to re-brand Nederland’s spring festival. And, the festivities continue today. Among this years’ events to attend:

  • Grandpa’s Mall Crawl
  • Viewing of the “Grandpa’s in The Tuff Shed” documentary
  • “Call Me Ned” musical performance
  • Parade of Coffin Racers and Hearses
  • Coffin Races
  • Brain Freeze Contest
  • Frozen Dead Poet Slam
  • The Newly Dead Game
  • Screening of Frozen Dead TV Pilot

and

  • Frozen Fix-a-Flat

 

Nederland, CO