Friday, December 30, 2011

Beauty on the Slopes

    A new snow fall over night has clothed the slopes.   Although it was not enough to enable opening new slopes it did enhance the beauty of the surroundings.   It is also encouragement for the geezers to show up.   Today was the first day there was a quorum of geezers.   At coffee this morning there were at least seven tough old geezer skiers present.   There were the triple Bob's, Pat, Gene, Larry and myself.   We are not the beauty on the slopes, but we do add a colorful display of characters who enjoy the surroundings along with the pleasure of cruising the area.
    Although the slopes were occasionally crowded, I still was able to observe the play of shadows on the snow and colorful groups of  ski racers in training.    Conversation at coffee today drifted into laments about the ills of some of our associates and in some cases the loss of loved ones.   Beyond our concern, however, we moved on to acknowledging that each day was there to be enjoyed and be thankful for.   Living in the now is a great way to be and it inspires in me to look each day for the beauty around me and in the people I meet.   Life in the now is good!!

Racers in Training

Shadows on the Snow

Snow, Shadows and Hills

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What Is Better Than Skiing?

Geezers at Coffee
When the ski season is in progress, I can't think of anything better to do than ski.   And that means to make to the best of each ski day, whatever the conditions.   However, today I had to rethink that attitude.
   I arrived at the ski slope anticipating at least some reasonable conditions for the first runs of the day.   Much to my surprise everything was scratchy and icy.   I was determined to make the best of it.   Get those edges into the ice and maintain control!  After an hour or so I'll admit to some discouragement.  Time for an early coffee break and my apple fritter.
   That's when the day got more satisfying.   At the lodge I was greeted with laughter and derision by two of my geezer friends Joe and Gene.   They had wisely halted their assault on the hill and were swapping stories of days past and days to come.   I was happy to join them and since the slopes were so absurdly grim we spent a good three quarters of an hour regaling each other with tales of ski days past.
   A coffee break with geezers better than skiing?   I guess so today!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Skier's Lament

Skiers Lament

Twas three days before Christmas with slopes all green.
Not one single snowflake was to be seen.
A few slopes had a thin coat of snow.
And some hardy skiers were into the flow.

The snow makers were poised to go into action
But the temperature balmy was a distraction.
Hope upon hope that freezing weather will come,
Without the melting of noontime sun.

Forlorn groomers are parked by the wayside,
In hopes of huge snow mounds to ride.
Although skimobiles often navigate the hill,
Four wheelers are the favorite still.

Flags fly high on Welcome Center poles,
Displaying their representative roles.
Country, state and company on display.
Come see ski with us and stay.

Bringing good cheer to those in need
Is the goal of Saturdays Food drive indeed.
A can or two of food secures a ticket free
And warms the heart of you and me.

Come one come all and share in your wealth.
Contribute your largess to the community’s health.
Although I lament this seasons late start,
I wish you all the very best from the bottom of my heart.

Let's Make Snow
Welcome Center


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Me and My Shadow

    Another early season day on the ski slopes.   With no grooming and an overnight freeze the surface was very firm and rough.   After several runs my feet felt like they were vigorously massaged from the vibrations in travelling over undulations of the surface.   No matter how carefully I edged, I was not able to hold the skis in a comfortable traverse with limited side slip.   I guess the expert racers would have loved this very fast surface.   This kind of day calls for an occasional halt on each run and diversion of attention to other things.   (And a long coffee break to read the morning paper).
    In the last few months I have routinely carried my camera with me.  This has helped me to be more observant of my surroundings.    Perhaps I have a latent bent to look at things with the eye of an artist. I have become intrigued with shadows.   So today when I took one of my breaks on the hill I had a chance to commune with my own shadow as well as the sun and shade on the slope.   (It doesn't take much to amuse me).
Me and My Shadow

Shadows on the Slope

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Laced Ski Boots

The Good Old Days?
   I continue to muse about evolution in technology.   One technology that seems to have stagnated is the means for closure of footwear.     Notice that the most common technique for fastening footwear to our feet is a lacing.    For thousands of years we have used shoe laces made from a multitude of materials.   There is evidence of the use of laces as early as 3500 BC.   In the ancient Middle East sandals were the most common footwear.  However in the temperate climates laced footwear was used with a more complete covering of the foot.   Although the material for the laces has improved from natural materials such as leather thongs or vegetable fibers to fabric laces with improved ends, the same basic use of laces prevails.    Apparently in 1790 the modern shoe lacing procedure was invented in England as a replacement for shoe buckles.  Native peoples, however, consistently used a moccasin shoe or laced foot coverings.   Even though we have invented Velcro closures, the ordinary shoe lace remains dominant for almost all of our footwear.
    The notable exception in sports equipment is the use of buckles for alpine ski boots.   However, it appears that laces still work well for snowboard boots.   I am certainly pleased that alpine ski boots have evolved from the leather laced boots I first used in the 1960's.   I vividly remember a spring ski day at Mad River Glen in the 60's when my leather laced boots were saturated with water and no amount of lace tightening would give me any reasonable control of my skis.   Fortunately that was my last day with laced leather ski boots.   New plastic boots with adjustable buckle enclosures became the normal boot for the future ski days.
    I wonder what other technologies have prevailed as long as shoe laces.    Does anyone have any suggestions?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wimpy Start

     Today was the first day of the 2011-2012 ski season at Greek Peak.   The only way I could characterize it is, a wimpy beginning.   Most of the first two weeks of December has been warm with essentially no lasting snow.   Only in the past week have we had enough cold weather for snow making.   Enough snow making to open one slope from top to bottom.      Today's surface was mostly groomed frozen granular that skied fast.   Fortunately the crowd was small and conditions did not very quickly deteriorate.
    A noticeable improvement at the top of Elysian Fields was a new Ski Patrol building.  (See photo below).   I expect this will enable a patroller to be stationed at the top of the hill to respond quickly to an emergency.
 New Ski Patrol Building 
    If there was a roll call for Geezer Skiers I am happy to say there was a respectable representation.  The following would have been present for duty:  Andy, Pat, Bob(no poles), Harold,  and Gerry.   Also maybe three others whose names escape me at the moment.   We all played cautiously in view of the conditions.   Meanwhile we are looking forward to improvement of the conditions with new snow making and some natural snow.   Let us hope that the quality of the season improves as we move into the new year.
     Happy Holidays to all!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Honoring the 90+ Geezers

    I have the pleasure of playing tennis on almost a weekly basis with a group of geezers.  Some are near my age but at least three of our group are much older with a couple in the 90's.   I particularly admire the 90 year olds who still have the vigor, enthusiasm and competitive spirit for the game.   Our doubles play is mostly for the joy of the game but we all  like to do our best to win the set.   Our 90 year olds may not move as fast as they once did but they still have the strokes that have been honed over the decades they have been playing.   They continue to be my heroes and give me the hope to be out on the court  a decade or so from now.  My partners Carman, Alan and Paul for the past week are shown below (none of them are 90!).   Alan, who is still recovering from hip surgery was moving better this time and Carman continues to be my partner in taking on Paul and Alan.   And we hold our own.
Carman, Alan, and Paul -Second Set Score 4-4

    In reflection on living to be over 90 it is good to do so if the quality of life remains high.   This past week one of my former and long time colleagues at the university passed away at age 94.    Up until a few years ago he remained active enough to continue to square dance - a life long pleasure in his life.   Recent years were not so kind to him, but his loving wife along with additional caregivers gave him a good quality of care and comfort in a home setting.   A blessing to have expired in his own home.  

     As I age, I am surprised about how many of my acquaintances and colleagues at the university and in the community have reached or exceeded 90.  I enjoy their stories and wisdom and admire their continued contributions to the richness of our society.   Would it be that we all could age as gracefully as these folks.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Waiting for Snow

     Where's the snow?   It is past Thanksgiving and no sign of snow or even a cold spell to enable snow making.  So the waiting for ski season opening continues.  The skis are sharpened, coats are cleaned and the locker is ready.   The first snow flakes will be greeted with glee.   At least for those of us who are skiers.
     In my daily routine I go on line to check for snow in the Northern Hemisphere and discover even Utah has meager snow cover and only a small percentage of the trails in the open resorts are available. Fortunately I have a number of projects in progress and the tennis nets are still up at SUNY Cortland.   Nancy and I enjoyed singles tennis outside yesterday and doubles with our daughter and son-in-law the day before.  It is good to have an alternative exercise activity.
     I don't know how to interpret the global warming impact on our ski seasons.  Part of the global warming effect on weather is to increase the extremes of weather vis-a-vis climate.   That is we can have weather extremes around climate change in a particular direction.   For example we can have wide ranges in temperatures on a daily or even weekly basis but the overall average temperature can be increasing over a decade.  Who knows what this season will be like?   My records over the past 15 years show that I can get as many as 23 days of skiing before the first of  January.  The lowest number before January 1st has been 8 in 2001 and 2006 when the seasons started December 22 and December 10 respectively.   November season starts occurred four times and post mid December start occurred twice.   I am guessing that we will have a mid December start this year.
There's No Snow On Them There Hills!
     Good things happen for those who patiently wait.  Heres to a great season whenever it begins!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ski Technology Evolves?

     I recently finished reading and summarizing a book titled The Nature of Technology - What It Is and How It Evolves by W. Brian Arthur.  From an  engineering perspective it stimulated reflection on the changes in technology I have observed over the 76 years of my life.   There is no doubt that society has not only seen an evolution in technology but has also seen revolutionary changes in technology.   The author goes to great lengths to define technology and then to examine the elements that contribute to technological development.    He speaks to the structure of technology, invention, modularity, recursiveness, phenomena, domains, combinations and evolution as elements of the fabric of technology.   This is the first time I have encountered such a comprehensive analysis of the broad concepts of technology.
    As a result of my new learning I am inspired to apply it to the evolution of technology in skiing.   If technology can be considered a means to fulfill and human purpose then we should be able to see how technology has evolved to enable us to downhill ski.    Not just to ski but to ski with more pleasure and skill as time goes on.    Most geezer skiers remember the days of leather boots, long wooden skis,  bear trap bindings, woolen clothes and rope tows.   Boots, skis, clothes and lifts have made enormous strides of technological improvement over the last 75 years.   Engineering a better product demands applying knowledge and new and improved technologies that evolve to provide a better solution for a given purpose.   When dealing with an engineering design problem, I would always advise my students to remember that solutions would depend on dealing with geometry, properties of materials and forces.    Within those elements of a solution an understanding of different phenomena was essential.   In the ski industry there have been great strides in incorporating new materials and geometries in the construction of skies, bindings and boots.    Analysis of forces generated in skiing both on the skis, boots and the person has reached new levels.  
    Will skiing technology continue to evolve?   The answer is yes.  However, the rate of change is likely to be both gradual and radical.   Past history demonstrates this.   The transition to shape skis was a radical transition that took the ski industry by storm.   Since that radical change, manufacturers have been tweaking the shaped ski for varying terrain, people and snow conditions.    Recently the adoption of rocker shape design has introduced a new variation of ski shape.   In my opinion, boot design has a lot to be desired.   Most geezer skiers have experienced  many different technological developments for boots.   However,  no single boot technology has evolved that guarantees a totally satisfactory functional and comfortable fit.
Rockers - The New Wave?
      As the new ski season approaches I will be observing the rate of adoption of the rocker skis by the general skiing public.   Will this evolved technology sweep the industry?  And what will be the next wave of skiing technology?  Maybe we will see another new way to descend the snowy hillsides.  Who would have thought snowboards would be a ubiquitous way to ride in snow?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Teaser Snow

Snow Covered Grass  -Recently Mowed

      As a skier I am always looking forward to the beginning of ski season with a good snowfall to get things started.  However, in late October in upstate New York any snow that falls at this time is only teaser snow.   An inch or two of slush that is bound to melt in the next 48 hours is not worthy of being called anything but teaser snow.   In spite of the teaser snow I still enjoyed my afternoon walk.  There is a certain beauty to the white snow piling up on the green grass, coating the still blooming mums and changing the dark roofs to white.   Here are a few scenes that capture this beauty.
Well Insulated Roof?
Droopy Headed Mums Frosted With Snow 

     The new snow certainly stirred me to action to get the cars ready for the winter season with filling of the windshield washer fluid containers.   Also was inspired to throw the snow brushes and ice scrapers into the trunks.   Probably time to check out the snowblower too.   I think I'll wait a few weeks to bring the snow shovels up from the basement.   
    Meanwhile, best wishes to the ski geezers in Colorado who are getting enough snow at Arapahoe Basin to get in a few runs.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Geezer = Curmudgeon?

      I sometimes wonder if I act like a curmudgeon.   The definition is "A crusty, ill-tempered old man" from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary on line.   I guess I don't object to being crusty since it seems like one could think of that as being like a pie crust.   A little crisp and flaky but all right to consume.   Being ill-tempered is another matter.    Fortunately most of my geezer friends are not ill-tempered.   They may be opinionated and sometimes abrupt but for the most part they are quite congenial.
      Perhaps when you exceed ninety years of age you have the right to become a curmudgeon.   Recently Andy Rooney retired from a regular appearance on the television show 60 Minutes.   He certainly qualifies as a geezer at 92 and is certainly crusty.    To a degree I would have to also classify him as a curmudgeon.   Often in his opinion pieces he revealed an ill-temper about many things.   His complaints sometimes revealed an irascible nature that could be endearing but at other times irritating.   He clearly demands to be left alone in public and I expect anyone approaching him for an autograph would suffer his wrath.
     When one points a finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at oneself.   I shall be careful about who I call a curmudgeon and if complaining too often is curmudgeonly I promise to mend my ways.   Meanwhile, I am thankful for my geezer friends in their nineties who are as kind and cheerful as anyone I encounter.
    In conclusion, I am glad I have a curmudgeon monitor in my dear wife.   Her gentle chiding will keep me on the straight and narrow.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reflection on Protests

   Recently the Wall Street Protests has been garnering a lot of attention from both the press and the public.   I am heartened that there are people brave enough and committed enough to bring injustice to the attention of the nation.   I applaud their efforts to bring into the common discussion the problem of the wealth of the nation flowing to the few while the masses lose economic security.   Regardless of ones political position, it cannot be healthy for our country when the poverty rate increases while the financial elite gets disproportional rewards.   I don't know what the outcome of the Wall Street Protest activity will be, but I see it as a valuable raising of awareness of the continuing unfair distribution of rewards in our society.
  Perhaps my enthusiasm for the Wall Street Protests comes from  reflection on  protests that I have personally encountered in my lifetime now that I have reached geezerhood.   During my years at Cornell University I experienced student and faculty protests regarding racism and the Viet-Nam War. As a faculty member I spent many hours in faculty meetings reacting to and debating the demands and disruptions of the protesters.    At the time I was very much against their behavior and actions.   Walking over protesting students to gain entrance to meetings and cancelled classes both were very disturbing to me.   In fact I thought these actions were inappropriate and unnecessary.    Following the protests of the 60's and 70's there were changes spurred by the protesters.   And I came to appreciate that they did have right on their side.   Changes did have to be made and we both individually and collectively had to face our racism and war mongering.   I have truly grown to appreciate what the student protesters had to teach me.
     In my senior years,  I continue to see injustice that disturbs me.   I probably will never be the one to go into the streets with the protesters.   However, I am cheering them on from the sidelines.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Geezer Tribute - Wilson Greatbatch

Wilson Greatbatch 1919-2011
     Toady marks the passing of a great person and extraordinary inventor Wilson Greatbatch at age 92..  In my book he deserves recognition as one who lived a magnificent geezerhood.   He continued to be an active inventor throughout his entire life with over 350 patents.   But perhaps more important than his specific inventive successes was his zest for life.   His curiosity and generosity of spirit made him a most delightful person to encounter.    I was fortunate during my years at Cornell to enjoy some time in his presence in personal conversation as well as listening to him lecture on his development of the heart pacemaker and associated long life batteries.  At that time he had also become interested in developing a cure for AIDS and was putting his inventive and innovative genius to work in exploring new ways to deal with this disease.  Although he was world re known at the time I met him, he was unusually humble and genuine in his demeanor.   There was not a pretentious bone in his body.    I am saddened by his death but at the same time rejoice in his contributions to humankind and his example of appreciating the gifts God had bestowed on him.    I would hope that all of us in geezerhood would be as kind and generous as Wilson Greatbatch.  
       Condolences to the Greatbatch family as they both celebrate and mourn the passing of a father, grandfather and great-grandfather who lived an exemplary life for all of us.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Life as Story

An Aboriginal Storyteller
      Sunday night we were treated to an evening with Garrison Keillor at the State Theater in Ithaca, New York.   Keillor is a master story teller whose Lake Wobegon tales and Minnesota based commentary entertain and inform all of us.   Many of the tales he told on Sunday evening I had heard before.   However, they were just as entertaining and humorous as the first time I heard them.    There are recurring themes in his stories.   In his new presentations he often weaves the themes into his monologue in new ways.   It is intriguing to try to separate fact from fiction.   Even though it is mostly fiction, he paints such vivid pictures of the events that it all seems very real.   Sunday evening he said,  "Fiction enables one to live a variety of lives".     What a wonderful concept that one can enter into any number of life fantasies through fictional characters and events.   In aboriginal cultures, the stories of the people are handed down through the storytellers.    And those stories get told again and again.   Certainly Keillor has mastered the technique of passing on a fictional lore through repetitions and embellishments in much the same way of the aboriginal storytellers.
      Keillor is on the way to geezerhood.    I believe he is either 70 or close to that age.   He clearly is aging well and continues to be highly productive.   A new book is about to be finished, he continues to do solo touring on his schedule and the radio show A Prairie Home Companion remains highly popular.   When asked on Sunday night whether and when he plans to retire his reply was convoluted.   Clearly he recognizes his mortality but since he so much enjoys what he is doing he will continue his writing and performing for an indefinite time.     He claims to truly enjoy being in the company of young people and why not since he has a thirteen year old daughter.    So best wishes Garrison for continue success in your life story.    And maybe you will find peace with geezerhood in the future.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Geezer Oak Trees

North Tower Road Oaks

   When I arrived at Cornell University in 1953 to continue my undergraduate studies I walked up Tower Road almost daily to attend classes in buildings on the upper campus.   Each side of Tower Road was lined with relatively young oak trees perhaps six to eight inches in diameter.    Over the last 58 years since I have observed their growth into magnificent giant oaks.   A few days ago during a walk up Tower Road I became acutely aware of how these oak trees had survived the onslaught of weather, road salt and other abuses of their environment.    These trees have become geezer oaks in a wide range of health and condition.    And some have not survived at all.  
    Perhaps these oaks are metaphorically like men moving through geezerhood.   The oaks on the north side of Tower Road are sturdy, large and quite healthy.   They are planted in good soil and are  well pruned and still producing many acorns for the squirrels.   The oaks on the south side of Tower Road have not fared so well.   Auto parking under these trees on the south side has compacted the soil and contaminated it with road salt.   These trees have stunted growth and often poor leaf and acorn production.
South Tower Road Oaks
     Humans moving through geezerhood also exhibit differences in their quality of survival as a function of of the quality of their past and present environment.    Geezers of the magnificent oak variety have had the good fortune of the environment of loving and supportive relationships, healthy habits and satisfying careers.   Unfortunately some geezers have suffered both self inflicted bad choices and random misfortunes that have produced limited growth and abilities.   The tattered oaks are their symbols.    Just like the oaks on either side of Tower Road, we geezers are all survivors even if we might show differing appearance due to the ravages of time and life difficulties.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Geezer Holiday at Empire Farm Days

     This past Wednesday I attended the the Empire Farm Days near Seneca Falls, New York.   This is a yearly event that I have enjoyed many times.   I can't remember the first time I attended this event that has a 78 year history.    Since it has been going on before I was born I expect the first time I visited the show was when I was a youth and was with my Dad.   At that time the show was basically an activity of the Empire State Potato Growers Club.   One of the demonstrations during the early days was of an aircraft spraying a field.    I was enthralled by airplanes at the time and marveled at the bravery of the fliers who would swoop to potato top level to lay down their spray.  They would even end up with some potato tops hanging from their landing gear.
     From those early days the show has grown into a gigantic exposition of farm machinery,  structures, tools and peripheral rural businesses from banking to insurance to seed and fertilizer among many others.   It is truly a big three day affair for New York agriculturalists.
     I arrived about 10 AM and was parked within a few hundred yards of the exposition within a few minutes.   Although they had circulating transport to the grounds, I was close enough to walk to the first street.   My routine has been to methodically travel all of the streets visiting the displays that especially attract my attention.    Mostly I am attracted to farm machinery on display and enjoy sitting on the seat of the super sized tractors, combines and forage choppers.     However, I also enjoy conversations with the sales representatives to get their take on the state of agriculture in New York State.    I always visit the Cornell building staffed by personnel of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to see what kind of pitches and information are being extended to the public.
Salford Plow -Up to 14 Bottoms

Three Bottom Mounted Plow
     By noon I had managed to visit about one half of the displays and arrived at one of the food tents to have lunch and sit for a brief rest before finishing my journey through the exposition.   Many different items piqued my interest but since I have been tracing the history of the plow and the evolution of plow design I was especially interested in the plows on display.

      Plow design continues to evolve even after 5000 years of development.   The two pictures illustrate two different moldboard designs.   The upper one shows a shortened moldboard with an abrupt curvature at the tail end and the lower picture shows a much longer moldboard with a more gradual curvature.   The top one would cause more breakup of the soil.   Although minimum tillage has dominated soybean and corn culture lately, I learned that some farmers have returned to periodic plowing to plow down crop residues and pesticide/herbicide residues.
     By 2:00 PM I had completed by visits to all the displays of interest to me and I was ready to depart.    I concluded from my visit that New York agriculture is a thriving.    Modern technology has enhanced the efficiency and productivity of agriculture.    However,  economic, social, health and safety problems continue to challenge farmers and the rural population.  Farming is still a hard and demanding life and all of us who benefit  from an inexpensive, abundant and high quality food supply should be grateful to our farmers.  Dwight Eisenhower made the following observation.

      "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field".   Dwight D. Eisenhower, September 11, 1956

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Zoo Memories

     Geezers have lived long enough to accumulate a lot of memories.   So it is for me.   Among these memories are recollections of visits to zoos.   A number of those memories came up today since we did a "day cation" visit to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse.   We enjoyed several leisure hours observing a wide array of animals and exhibits in simulated habitats from ocean to desert to mountains to plains and forests.   Both domestic and wild animals were on display.   And along with the animals was a plethora of the human species also roaming outside the cages.   It is a wonderful zoo practically in our backyard and amazingly we had not been there in about 20 years.   Our recollection was that we had brought our  now 25 year old daughter there about 20 years ago.
      My first zoo experience was in 1952 when my high school senior class took a trip to the Washington, D.C.    Part or our Washington experience was a visit to the Rock Creek Zoo.   I do not have any particular vivid memories except that it seemed like an enormous venue.   Later in life I had heard how fabulous the London Zoo was and on a professional  trip in 1974 I had a chance to tour the London Zoo and thought it was one of the greatest zoos in the world.   In 1983 Nancy and I took a delayed honeymoon to London and I was determined that she should experience the London Zoo as well.   We took the underground from our hotel to the zoo and spent an interesting day there.   However, when we got ready to return we needed to walk the entire length of Regents Park to get to the underground station.   By that time Nancy was limping but grimly soldiering on.   To my dismay when we reached our hotel she removed here sneaker to display a bloody blisters on both feet.   Needless to say I was devastated by my inconsiderate behavior.   Rightly so, she reminds me of that day every time we visit a zoo.
     Our day today at the zoo was appropriately long enough to satisfy our curiosities but short enough to avoid pain and suffering.  We will need to go back in less than 20 years.    And maybe we ought to try going to the Bronx Zoo some time when we are in the New York Metropolitan area and take along our now mature daughter and her husband.
    Here are pictures of some of the zoo denizens I particularly appreciated.
Nancy The Penguin

Spiral Horned Sheep - Native to Afghanistan

Every Zoo Must Have Elephants

Hot Day for the Penguins

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Bounty of Agriculture

    This summer my wife and I have been taking day vacations in New York State.   Our routes to places of interest are mostly through rural upstate New York counties.  Many of the counties have outstanding farming operations and others are more wild and scenic.   However, each day vacation has exposed us to the bounty of agriculture right next door to where we live.   Soybean, corn, alfalfa, wheat, oat, and barley fields demonstrate the great bounty of the earth and the dedication of thousands of farmers.   We also have observed the growth of the fruit of the vine and trees on these journeys.    These vistas are a reminder that humankind is critically dependent on the productivity of the land for our survival.
Corn Tasseling

Soybeans Within a Mile of Our  Home
    In developed countries like our United States of America, so few people are needed for food production that most of our population have little sense of what it takes to provide our market basket of food.    We are indeed blessed with abundance of low cost food.   In the hierarchy of human needs, food is an essential need along with clothing and shelter.   However, without food, neither clothing nor shelter have the same essential demand on our resources.   Because we have abundant food, clothing and shelter we are able to engage in other activities that enhance the quality of life.    With these essentials in hand we are able to direct our attention to both visual and musical arts as well as sports and other entertaining activities.   In my humble analysis, our cultural richness is only enabled by the bounty of agriculture.   Thank God for the tillers of the earth!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Geezer Memories

      There is the saying, "Birds of a feather flock together."   I think this applies to to generations too.  Likely that geezers of a generation gather together.    Perhaps the reason for this assemblage is the shared memories of that generation.   When I go to Cornell to work on my emeritus related projects my routine includes a morning coffee break and a noon lunch with geezer faculty.   We naturally have much in common with long careers in academia followed by retirements that include continuing intellectual activities.   Some of my colleagues have moved to emeritus status via phased retirement.   This permits a transition from full time to half time for five years and then full retirement.  Those of us in our 70's have a shared history at  Cornell so we have lot of common memories.   As we enjoy the socialization of coffee and lunch we can test the authenticity of our memories and ponder whether the university is advancing or declining.   Whatever the case we do have interesting discussions and frequently diverse interpretations of past events and their impact on the present.
     Sometimes our discussions are not so ivory tower.   Today, those of us who grew up on farms were reminiscing about pitching manure.   The lead in to this mundane recall came from one colleague's earlier research on the impact of animal agriculture on phosphorous run off into our streams and its influence on water quality.   Last night I had a dream about pitching manure out of the barnyard of my home farm when I was a boy in upstate New York.   A colleague who grew up in the state of Washington on the other side of our nation related a similar experience of pitching manure by hand.   An interesting common thread of our mutual existence.    What a leap of existence it has been for many of my current social circle of Cornell geezers to go from farm to academia.    Five of the seven colleagues that I interacted with today are first generation off the farm people.
Pitching Manure by Hand From the Stable
     Although we have a lot of shared memories, we are also futurists as well.   One colleague is an expert in sustainable agriculture and a National Academy of Engineering member.   Another colleague is also a National Academy member and an international expert in water movement in soil.   And another member of our coffee cabal often consults in India in irrigation for rice production to feed the world.   What a blessing it is to have both memories and excitement about the future of technology and society.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


    Entertaining three grandsons for the day was a delightful time.   We hiked nature trails, played miniature golf and of course ate a lot both for dessert and for lunch.   Carson is 14, Cole is 12 but almost 13 and Turner the youngest of the three is 9 soon to be ten.  These youths have a mega amount of energy and set a pace on the trail far faster than their geezer grandpa.   At least I got my exercise today just trying to keep up with them.
    Playing with the grandsons for the day gave me a chance to explore things in the area that I might not otherwise have visited.   The Lime Hollow Nature Center has many interesting trails and exhibits almost in my backyard.   Our visits today will inspire me to go back to explore more of the trails.   We are fortunate to live in a glaciated area where one can find bogs, ponds, eskers and other geological features.   In addition there are a multitude of unique flora and fauna to observe.   One of the pictures below illustrates a pond full of Canada Geese raising their young.   The discovery of wild strawberries along the trail added to the pleasures of the day.
The Pond and Geese
The  Observers
Happy Conclusion

    I don't know if they appreciated my stories of when I was a boy but it is a geezer's prerogative to reminisce.   They were shocked by my stories of 25 cent milkshakes and 10 cent ice cream cones.     I grew up with no phone in the house and they have their personal cell phones and electronic games.   In spite of the technological changes the bonding of the generations remains the same.   We are family.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jello and Plows

   We have a number of day vacations planned for the summer.   Exploration of interesting museums, sites and attractions within a day's drive is on our agenda.   Yesterday we were off to the Jello Museum in LeRoy, New York.    It was beautiful day to drive through rural central New York of the Fingerlakes area.   I enjoyed observing the newly planted fields and the rural scenery of lakes, hay fields and pastures.
   We had a tasty lunch at the Depot Restaurant which was housed in the old LeRoy railroad station.   Train destinations were posted in German as part of the decor and a round model train track was fastened to the ceiling.   All in all  a striking ambiance with excellent food and service.
The Deport Restaurant
   After lunch we were off to the LeRoy House and the Jello Museum on the main street of the village.  The LeRoy house had been built by one of the founders of the village and purchaser of the triangle tract of land of 96,000 acres stretching from LeRoy village up to Lake Ontario.   The point of triangular tract was near LeRoy.   It is a magnificent period home that had grown as the family grew to 10 children.   We exited from the LeRoy house to the rear gardens and on to the adjacent Jello Museum.
Entrance to the Jello Museum
   I can't imagine anyone that doesn't like Jello!   The story of the invention of Jello and the fate of it becoming a ubiquitous dessert was well illustrated in the museum.   The details slip my mind now but it is fascinating that this product has become a world wide icon.    Several giants of entertainers have been spokespersons for this product.   Many geezers will remember Jack Benny introducing his radio show with the opening phrase, "Jello everybody".   And Bill Cosby has been a commercial representative for Jello for over 32 years.   Apparently Cosby's run is the longest in history.   Jello ads have graced numerous major magazines and the art in these ads is known worldwide and even includes illustrations by Norman Rockwell.
   Perhaps the greatest surprise of the day for me was visit to the transportation history display in the basement of the Jello Museum.    As I entered the display I was stunned to see a plow display for the Leroy Plow Company.   Since I recently have been lecturing on the evolution of the plow and working with antique plow models I am tuned into the role of the plow in the development of our nation.   It was an amazing find to view the LeRoy Plow Company history and learn that this LeRoy, New York company had manufactured as many a 25,000 plows a year and remained in business even through World War II.  
   I expect that I will be delighted to find more interesting things in the remainder of our day vacations.  It is nice to know that we can discover wonderful things near to our home.

LeRoy PLow Company Shovel Plow


Friday, June 10, 2011

Geezer Tennis

   Yesterday I participated in the 2011 New York State Senior Games held in Cortland.   For many years I have played both in the men's singles and men's doubles tennis competition in my age bracket.   It is a fun time and winning a medal adds some satisfaction to the activity.   Yesterday was a blistering hot day.   Unfortunately I melted in the heat and had to retire from my singles match after one set.   Early in the set I had it all going for me and was leading 5-2 when I began to lose my energy and my edge.  I ended up losing the first set 7-5.   Rather than extending my agony and perhaps damaging my health,  retiring was the wise thing to do.  Walt Schoonaker played well and certainly had the stamina to stick with it.   Congratulations to Walt for winning the gold medal in his final match with Viktor.    It was a thin field in our age group this year and my nemesis over the years, Dave Shannon withdrew for some unknown reason so by default I did get the bronze medal.
     Seth Burgess and I played in the men's doubles in the afternoon and we were soundly beaten at 6-2 and 6-0 in that match against Fred and Al.   Our bracket spanned ages 70 to 87 so the pairings often had more senior people matched against younger opponents.   Seth and I out aged our opponents by about 5 years.   No excuse though.  Fred and Al had played together for many years to their advantage in our contest.   This was the first year for Seth and me so we are on a learning curve.   We look forward to another year after we have developed our team skills.
    The Senior Games is a wonderful activity and we are grateful that Cortland stepped up to support the games after the State of New York exited due to budget difficulties.    No matter what our age many of us still enjoy competing with our peers in athletic endeavors.   Win or lose,  the participation in itself is sufficient reward.   I feel so fortunate to have learned tennis  when I was 9 years old.   Tennis can be a life long activity that can be cross-generational fun.   In our family children and grandchildren can be on the courts with us.   And we all have a great time.

Gerry With Medal and Other Geezers

Walt- Gold Medal : Viktor - Silver Medal

Warm Up Time


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Plow Boy

    Lately I have been immersed in plow history and dealing with models of plows.   Over the past two years I have refurbished a historic collection of model plows acquired by the first president of Cornell University Andrew D. White in 1868 at the direction of Ezra Cornell.   Along with the refurbishing of the physical models  I have translated from German into English an annotated original model plow directory.   At the invitation of the Cornell Association of Professors Emeriti I presented an illustrated lecture on this collection along with a discussion of a more than 5000 year evolution of the plow at their April meeting.   This lecture was videotaped and now is available on line on YouTube as well as through Cornell.   This has been an interesting interlude in my geezerhood activities.   At this point my colleague J. Robert Cooke assisted by others is finalizing the plow project which will be published on Cornell's eCommons.   Anyone interested in this activity can view this project through the following links.  These are early versions so you may want to go to the eCommons library for the latest version.   The manuscript and supporting materials are reaching their final edit and we look forward to the completion of the project.

 Youtube - <>
CornellCast - <>
eCommons – <

    During this project I was reminded that Jethro Wood of Scipio Center, New York in Cayuga County was the inventor of the interchangeable parts cast iron plow.   This past Monday on a Memorial Day outing I visited the site of Wood's invention and his home.   It was gratifying to see the historical markers erected by the State of New York and also to see his very well preserved home.   Although I left the farm I grew up on nearly 60 years ago and have had a long academic career in engineering, there certainly are strong agrarian roots remaining in my life.   Maybe I am still a plow boy at heart.
Jethro Wood the Storekeeper Inventor

Jethro Wood Home Site Marker

Jethro Wood's Well Preserved House

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Apple Fritter - The National Pastry

  Tonight Garrison Keillor had a skit on The Prairie Home Companion about Congress  enacting a law to make the apple fritter  the national pastry.  Part of the skit was a negotiation between two senators where one would support the apple fritter for the national pastry if the other would support his legislation for designating grits as the national side dish.  I loved the piece!   I am an apple fritter addict.  My ski buddies routinely chide me about my consumption of an apple fritter every day at our morning coffee break at the ski slopes.   I get the same grief from my associates at Cornell when we have our morning coffee breaks too.   I claim that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.  It is just that I consume my apple in the form of an apple laced pastry.  Probably I should feel extremely blessed that I can have this vice since many of my companions are diabetic and not allowed such an indulgence.
Apple Fritter Giant

Add Some Freshly Brewed Coffee

    My dear wife is my enabler since she willingly shops at our local Price Chopper for my fritter supply.   She buys in quantity and they are available in the freezer for my daily fix.   Whenever the supply gets low she make sure to resupply during her morning coffee run.   So in my house the apple fritter is the pastry du jour.   Thank you apple growers and the Price Chopper bakers!   I don't expect any real legislation to make the apple fritter the National Pastry but if ever a National Pastry or even a State Pastry is to be designated you know what I'll be lobbying for.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Apple Blossom Time

   I grew up on a fruit farm so apple blossom time wherever I am has a special significance to me.   This year I have been especially aware of the apple tree blooms.   The blooms seem  to be unusually fragrant and abundant on both the domestic and wild apple trees in my neighborhood and on the Cornell Campus.   For the first time this year I learned that the only native apple trees to North America are the crab apple trees.   Today's domesticated varieties of  apple trees are derivatives of crab apple tree stock.  Over 60 years ago as a youngster on the family farm we celebrated full bloom of our apple trees in anticipation of a bumper crop of apples in the fall.    It was always a tragedy when a hard frost occurred during bloom time.   If my memory serves me right,  a major run of frosty nights in the spring of 1947 decimated our apple crop.   Our normal harvest would be about 5000 bushels.   The 1947  crop was only 746 bushels.   This was a serious blow to the bottom line.   Sixty four years later the same vagaries of weather assail apple growers.   However, this year's later in the season blooming of the trees should reduce the risk of a killing frost.   In 1947 full bloom occurred in late March due to an unusually warm spell in early spring.

     I am thankful that I can now enjoy the beauty of apple tree blossoms without the anxiety of needing apple production for my livelihood.   Below a are a couple of pictures of crab apple trees in  bloom on the Cornell Campus.   Enjoy!
Smell the Blossoms
I'll Look for the Crab Apples This Fall

Monday, May 16, 2011

Geezer Gatherings

North Rose Central Class of '52
   In the past six days I have had two meals with geezer groups.   One a breakfast with  the ROMEO's (Retired Older Men Eating Out) of the Fayetteville United Methodist Church and the other a lunch today with with some of my classmates of the North Rose Central School class of 1952.    Although the ROMEO's gather every Wednesday morning, I only see them every few months.  However, it is fun to get together with them to catch up on the doings of a community we lived in for several years.   One member of the ROMEO's consistently ribs me about the success of Cornell athletics (He is a Syracuse University fan) and I always tell him about the Cornell related Nobel prize winners.   The banter is light hearted with a good number of laughs and fortunately we all know the boundaries and avoid being offensive.     This is not true for all geezer gatherings so I am grateful for these fun filled and peaceful gatherings.
L. to R.:  Rose, Millie, Bob, Camera Shy Spouse
     Today Nancy and I had a leisurely drive to Newark, New York for the lunch with several of my aforementioned classmates.   It was our first longer trip in our Smart Car.   Speaking for myself, I found it to be a comfortable two hour each way trip.   Even if we did have some rain and fog.   Ten classmates and three spouses were in attendance.   The ten of us represent about half of the class that is still alive out of the class of 28.   We have been getting together for class reunions starting with our 25 year reunion at five to ten or more year intervals until recently when we have been planning annual to semi-annual luncheons.   Next year (2012) will be our 60th reunion year so perhaps we will have a bigger event.   All of us are well into geezerhood.   Some even have great grandchildren.   Many of us have survived with relatively few age challenges while others have have significant medical issues or are deceased.   I suppose our class  is a microcosm of the general population by age but certainly not in ethnicity.
     These gatherings can be challenging for spouses since they typically do not share the same experiences of the classmates.   Usually we are rehashing events of our teen years that have no relevance to the spouses.    Frankly, I think reunions can be overdone.   Unless one can move on beyond reminiscing my interest begins to flag and I am ready to move on to current events.    While Nancy and I  make it a point to inquire about what is going on in their lives, we notice that few pick up the idea of asking us what we are doing.   I hope that this is not totally true of all geezers but just an anomaly of this group.   I conclude that geezer reunions are to be taken in small doses.   A couple of hours of conversation and a good meal suffice.      Meanwhile some of us who remain tech savvy know that social networking over great distances can be accomplished with Facebook, e-mail and the like.   Will face to face reunions be the thing the current generation when they become  geezers?   Who knows what that future world will be like?