Saturday, May 31, 2008
On Monday we participated in a Monterey tradition -- the Memorial Day concert on the lawn of the historic Del Monte Hotel, now part of the Naval Postgraduate School. There are two apparently competing symphony orchestras in the area, but for this concert members from both created a Monterey Bay Pops Orchestra for the occasion. The Spanish-born conductor of one of the orchestras said as a boy in Spain he had dreamed of conducting the "Stars and Stripes Forever," and today he got to do it, right up there under that tent.
Beautiful day, big crowd, with lawn chairs and picnic lunches. One concert highlight was Patrick Bell, "Baritone and Magician," doing opera while extricating himself from a straitjacket, Houdini-style. I didn't know opera could make you laugh.
Update: Music-wise, I wanted to add that our Memorial Day celebration was really launched by our church pianist, Darryl, who played Chopin's "Military Polonaise" on Sunday. Very dramatic. I tell people that I stopped taking piano lessons long ago when they got serious about the left hand. Well, this piece has some very serious left-hand in it.
Before the concert we took a Del Monte tour. I think I've told some of this story earlier, but I got a lot more facts on this tour. The Del Monte was built by Charles Crocker, one of the RR men responsible for building the trans-continental RR. He was bothered by the fact that the so-called trans-continental RR ended in Sacramento, so he extended the RR to Monterey and to make it a destination he built the DM to be the "Most Elegant Seaside Resort in the World." There are some pictures of the original, which opened in 1880, at this site.
Well, it burned down in 1887, but was rebuilt -- a main building and two wings. This time in the rebuilding explosives were planted in the tunnels connecting the two wings to the main building so that in case of fire, they could be set off and isolate the wings from the fire -- assuming the explosion didn't spread the fire, I guess. They worked as planned in 1924 when another fire claimed the main building. It was rebuilt Spanish style -- concrete, plaster, red-tile roofs, and the wings' exteriors were stuccoed over to give the beautiful buildings now gracing the campus.
Here's a view of one wing, behind the trees, and some of the gardens on the grounds. Really has a feel of majesty.
Anyhow, the property was falling on hard times in the early 1900s until it was purchased by Samuel Morse, a grandson of the Morse code guy, former Yale quarterback, and a vigorous sportsman. He bought the whole DM property, about 20,000 acres, which included what is now is Pebble Beach, and developed in into a 'sports empire.' He introduced golf to the area, with profound effect, and built car and horse racing tracks, tennis courts, swimming pools, polo fields, etc. The 17-Mile Drive was built and popularized, the 17 miles starting at the DM's entrance and making a RT to the iconic "lone cyprus" in Pebble Beach. Bing Crosby, forever linked to Pebble Beach and golf, said of Morse, "... Without him ... it would all be Coney Island."
Backing up, the 1906 earthquake, which obliterated so much of San Francisco was also felt in Monterey. In fact, a DM tower collapsed on a room and killed a newlywed couple. It is claimed that their ghosts can still be seen and felt on the premises.
After the quake Crocker invited SF artists, and provided support, to set up shop in Monterey and thus began the Peninsula art colony.
In the hotel there are some large paintings set into the lobby's walls. One is a map of the Peninsula showing "Monte Rey," Carmel, and other locales in the area, with one exception. The story is that the artist, relaxing after work in the dry town of Pacific Grove (launched as a Methodist retreat), was arrested for being drunk and he spent the night in jail. Next day, back at work he painted over "Pacific Grove" and painted in "Moss Beach" (there's no such thing) to get even.
The guest list over the years sounded like the La Posada in Winslow, AZ (one of our favorite historic hotels): Mary Pickford, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Amelia Earhardt, Charles Lindbergh, etcetera, etcetera.
At any rate, Morse sold the hotel to the Navy in 1951 and then concentrated on Pebble Beach. I asked our guide if it was true, as I had been told, that the smell from the nearby fish canneries, which I think had their heyday in the 1930s and 40s, depressed business at the hotel/resort. He said he hadn't heard that one.
The Naval Postgraduate School has existed almost 100 years, but for the first half of that period it was in Annapolis. The Air Force has a similar school Dayton, Ohio.
Some statistics on NPS: Enrollment is about 2200. In 2007 there were 1219 Masters and 15 PhD degreees granted. The student body is 40% Navy, about 8% each from Army, AF, and Marines, then 26% civilian and 11% international. The graduation rate is 91% and the average time to degree is 20 months. They carry heavy loads and are pushed through pretty quickly. My students will be going back to submarine duty, flying helicopters and airplanes, serving on ships, etc., but somewhere down the line they will get to apply their Operations Research (and statistical!) skills gained here.
I've mentioned that there are a large number of international military officers here. One recognition of their presence is this international flag garden adjoining the Del Monte (aka Herrmann Hall). Each quarter they set out a flag for each country represented in the student body.
Incidentally, my student from Bahrain just won an award as the outstanding student graduating student from the "surface navy." Sure hope he can pass my final exam -- just kidding.
Well, after the concert, we treated ourselves to an early dinner in Pacific Grove at a restaurant we'd been wanting to try adjacent to Lovers Point. We'll leave you with some holiday scenes from there.
Rob and Susie
Sunday, May 25, 2008
A favorite quote I use is Archie Bunker: "Don't give me no stastistics, Meathead! I want facts."
I use Archie's inadvertently profound statement to remind folks, and myself, that statistics is not just about number-crunching. It's the facts revealed by the data that are valuable -- valuable in the business, scientific, or other context they pertain to. (Oops, another sentence I ended a preposition with.)
So, I try to put even simpleminded textbook examples into stories that have some sort of business or scientific context. I start out with that focus, but sometimes in mid-course I get bogged down a bit in the technical details. I hate it when that happens. One reason statisticians don't get no respect is when we fall into teaching formula plug-in instead of thinking.
Well, these two last two sections have very good big-picture messages that I hope my students will carry with them even if they never run an experiment in their career. We shall see.
I gave an exam in early May. About half the students did well, the other half not so well -- a bimodal distribution as we say in the business. As Susie knows, I tend to blame myself, but I also know these students are carrying a pretty big load. This is the best group of students I've had. With only 10 students, there's good opportunity for questions and discussions. They're attentive and actively engaged, almost 100%. One student's wife gave birth to triplets just before the quarter started. They weighed around two pounds (!) and spent a few weeks in a San Jose hospital before being moved to a local hospital. All seem to be doing well, but you can understand that that student has a few other demands on his time.
Our big excitement is that Malia and her parents are coming to see us in three weeks. That will be our last weekend here. The following week I give a final exam, turn in grades, and away we go. Here's a recent picture of Malia and Jeff at swimming class.
For more go to: http://bringinghomemalia.blogspot.com/
Back to our weekend. We decided to drive over to Salinas yesterday, Saturday, to find a park to walk in (or in which to walk). Well, it was pretty blustery (I had resolved not to write about weather, but there I go again), so we decided what we were really there for was ice cream -- we'd visited a Baskin-Robbins on a previous visit to Salinas. Thinking ice cream, though, brought to mind the Cold Stone shop in Monterey -- I mean if you're going for ice cream, go top drawer -- so that's where we went. Completed the triangle returning to Marina and were quite pleased with the way our random outing to take a walk worked out.
Last week there were a couple of days of strong winds blowing onshore, so we drove over to Pacific Grove to check out the wave action:
A local, beloved celebrity here was a man named Ric Masten. He was a poet, songwriter, Unitarian preacher, and humorist -- the "soul of Big Sur." For the last nine years he had been fighting cancer and writing about the battle on his website. He died on May 9, I learned of him from the local papers. His theme song and poem about death was titled, Let it be a Dance.
I looked up his website and learned that while he was taking chemo and dealing with cancer his wife was slipping away into dementia. In his words:
© ric masten
when I was 25
my parents went on
an around the world vacation
leaving from the San Francisco marina
on a freighter with passenger accommodations
back in those days
when the gang plank had been raised
and the ship was ready to depart
would line up at the rail looking down
colorful paper streamers
to friends and family on the pier below
we would hold tight to one end
while those we hold dear
held tight to the other end of these
slender fragile ribbons
the ship began to move away
the paper connections
one by one
as the steamer headed out into the bay
after fifty five years together
my cancer is incurable
and your memory is fading
which makes me acutely aware
of time circling the drain
running out of the clock
wondering whether the love of my life
will slip over the horizon
before I am forced to leave the dock
My Mom turned 87 last week and all who know her are saddened as the "paper connections" tying us to her are gradually broken.
On that somber note:
Rob and Susie
Saturday, May 17, 2008
You could tell it was something special, and urgent, because the beach-parking down the street from our RV park was full even though it was early Thursday afternoon. Head for the beach, before that Pacific air mass shoves that California desert air mass back where it belongs. Now, Saturday night, it's cooling off and the forecast for Monday is a high of 61. One of the most common snatches of conversation heard on campus is something like, "People call this cold? This is nothing compared to (fill in any Midwest state) where I come from." Incidentally, the campus engineers relented and piped heat to the buildings in the mornings after declaring that April 30 would be the last day for heat.
It's about a half-mile across the dunes from our street to the beach. Here are a couple of shots of the dunes.
Light fog cover on this morning.
Back on the topic of seafood restaurants, our Good friends in Albuquerrque recommended the Monterey's Fish House to us. We hadn't come across it or looked it up yet, but I had noticed along the road I drive to campus that there was a small establishment in sort of an industrial area that had the sign, Monterey's Fish House. But, it - the alleged restaurant -- showed no signs of life, sitting on a corner with no visible parking, so I decided if such a restaurant existed, it must have moved. Or, maybe I got the name wrong from the Goods. Then, I saw that the list of best local restaurants included the MFH, so I looked it up in the phone book and found that it was right where I'd been looking -- right there in plain sight. It's a short drive from campus so I hied myself up there last week and made a real discovery -- best seafood meal I've had here: oak-grilled mahi-mahi exquisitely seasoned with pasta and veggies on the side. I'll be back and take Susie 'cause they don't serve only seafood. Also, it's a nice whitetablecloth sort of restaurant, just not one you would just walk up to based on its external appearance.
At the risk of dwelling too much on the weather, Sunday was a good illustration. When we left Marina about 9:00 am it was foggy and in the high 50s. Carmel was sunny and mild and the trip got milder as we went inland on the trip home. Approaching Marina in mid-afternoon, there was that fog bank, still holding forth, about the same temperature as when we left. Still here this morning (Monday), while Monterey was cool, but sunny. Coming home in late afternoon, there's Marina, still fogged in. Susie said it never cleared during the day. Oh, when will it end!
The day got milder as we next drove another 20 miles inland to the Bernardus Winery. They grow the grapes and produce wine there. Matt, the vineyard manager, if I remember correctly, gave us a tour and description of the elaborate, part-technology, part-art, process of converting grapes to wine. For instance, you have to age it in French Oak barrels, not USA or Italian Oak, to get the right taste, they say.
The Bernardus owner is Dutch billionaire Ben (short for Bernardus) Pon. His father introduced the Volkswagen to the US and also happened to invent, or at least sketch the plan for, the VW van, to the eternal gratitude of hippies everywhere. So Ben had opportunities and made the most of them: he drove race cars at Le Mans, he was an Olympics skeet shooter, and he's an entrepreneur. He has an African safari company and a resort in the Carmel Valley. He has homes in England and Holland as well as here (where his visa limits him to six months max per year). So, why not have a winery? Oh, the B Winery was bought from Talbott.
Some statistics: Bernardus produces 50,000 cases of wine per year (12 bottles per case). One vine on average, depending on location, produces enough grapes for two bottles.)
After the tour we had a private, elegant, idyllic lunch on the Bernardus deck -- platters of meat, veggies, pasta, and salad -- plus chocolate chip cookies, slowly going gooey in the afternoon sun.) "Lovely," as my brother, Lael, would say, in Australian.
On the way home we "did Carmel."
Ask Susie if it was cold on the beach.
Ask Paul what he's looking at.
Here's a shot of the Carmel Mission -- that was a locale that Mandi particularly wanted to visit.
Incidentally, a faculty colleague told us that 80% of the homes in Carmel are second-homes. They're either empty or rented most of the year.
This weekend is the Artichoke Festival in C-ville and we'll be there.