Friday, May 13, 2016

UW Punished Sexist with Co-ed Monument

Some strange things have been known to happen in Madison at the University of Wisconsin, sometimes referred to as "Berkeley East." Pranksters and student rebels have long called the campus home.

I thought I'd heard about all the weird happenings at my alma mater until a recent newsletter explained how a sexist university president continues to get his comeuppance to this day.

Paul Chadbourne, the newsletter says, was an inspiring leader and teacher who helped the university thrive after the Civil War. However, his activities did not extend to supporting equality for women. He was notorious for opposing co-education at Wisconsin. A "normal school" to train teachers opened on campus in 1863 and 76 women were enrolled. However, that's as far as Chadbourne was willing to go. The normal school was segregated; only women could attend, and they were not allowed to take other UW classes.

Chadbourne died in 1883 before co-ed proponents completely reversed the institution's policies, but his name lives on at UW in a strange way. Dean Edward Birge apparently was one of Chadbourne's major adversaries. In 1897, the school opened Ladies Hall, its first women's dormitory,  Birge insisted it be renamed for President Chadbourne. He said, "I thought it was only fair that Dr. Chadbourne's contumacy (stubborn perverseness) regarding co-education should be punished by attaching his name to a building which turned out to be one of the main supports of co-education."

The original Chadbourne Hall looked somewhat like this when I passed it on the way to classes. 

The original Chadbourne Hall stood until 1957. I trudged past it many times for four years oblivious to its history. It was a weather-beaten building, not in the best repair, and about the time I graduated it was demolished and replaced by a modern structure carrying the same name.

My, how things have changed. Although male students outnumbered women (except for World War II years) at UW until 1995, enrollment has been near 50-50 since then. Women have been successful students in every discipline. Chadbourne Hall, known to students as "The Chad," how houses male and female students as well as UW classrooms where courses are open to all.

Paul Chadbourne might turn over in his grave.  If he did, he could possibly catch a glimpse of a towering continuing monument to his perversity.

The University of Wisconsin's monument to Paul Chadbourne now is modern and co-educational.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Oh, To Be Like Mom

'Tis Mothers Day, causing me to reflect a bit on my Mom. She was an orphan adopted by a wealthy timber baron family shortly before the turn of the last century. The family treated her well, but never adopted her. After she finished high school, she was sent to a business school so she would have skills needed to support herself.

She didn't need the the training for long before Dad wooed and won her, but she made outstanding use of her talents throughout her life. She served as leader of her small church congregation for more than 20 years. She was the first woman elected to serve on the community's Board of Education, and the first woman to be chosen board president. Somehow, Mom found time to help promote just about every good cause that came along.

At the same time, Mom made sacrifices large and small to be sure my sister and I valued education and completed college, although helping us through years of higher education put a severe financial strain on the family.

Mom lived well into her eighties. In all the time I knew her, I never heard her say a disparaging word about another human being. She was an over achiever who was calm and cheerful in all she did. Wouldn't the world be wonderful if everyone lived their life that way?

Friday, May 06, 2016

Presidential Campaigns--the Bad and the Ugly

My borrowed title statement actually starts with "The Good," but since George Washington's initial presidency, and possibly Dwight Eisenhower's runs for office in the 1950s (it was hard not to "like Ike"), it has been difficult to find a lot of goodness and civility in contests for our chief executive office.

Many pundits now are saying a Trump-Clinton contest will set a record for nastiness. Possibly, but history gives us any number of unpleasant campaigns for comparison.

As "father of our country" and military hero, Washington was extremely popular. He was swept into office for two terms without serious opposition. He belonged to no political party, and in fact often cautioned Americans about the evils of parties. After Washington declined to run for a third term, parties appeared, and sure enough the mud-slinging began.

In early elections, proxies carried on the nastiness. Candidates did not campaign at all. They quietly let potential supporters know they were available for nomination. Gaining that, they sat back and let rabid supporters define platforms and frequently slander opponents in media and by starting whispering campaigns.

Jefferson:Some bad with the good?

Describing the change in "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power," historian Jon Meacham said, "However different in form presidential contests were, one feature has been constant from the beginning: They have been rife with attacks and counterattacks."

The 1800 campaign pitting President John Adams against Vice President Jefferson provides a standard for nastiness that Trump-Clinton may find hard to top.  We hear every Fourth of July about the wonderful friendship between the two founding fathers, both of whom died on the same Independence Day after exchanging hundreds of cordial letters throughout the last years of their lives.

We seldom are reminded that the men who sat side-by-side while Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence was being reviewed and adopted, and who worked closely together as diplomats in Europe, were so antagonized by statements during the 1800 presidential campaign that they refused to speak to each other for more than a decade.

In the campaign, Adams' supporters characterized Jefferson as a cowardly weakling. They also branded him an atheist, a very serious charge at the time. The atheist assertion was a complete falsehood.  Jefferson's surrogates fired back with charges that Adams was an overbearing monarchist who sought to establish a "King's Army" to keep the American people in line (sound familiar, Mr. Obama?). They criticized Adams' character in detail, and very little of that criticism has survived the scrutiny of historians.

Although Jefferson eventually achieved great popularity as a president who championed individual rights and freedom and engineered the Louisiana Purchase, a huge land acquisition that was key to making America "great," he was not immune from criticism while in office. One critic published a scathing report of Jefferson's sexual relationship with a slave, Sally Hemings. That bit of nastiness, denied for years by Jefferson admirers, now is accepted as fact by most modern historians.

Among thousands of documents preserved by Jefferson was this brief letter from an anonymous writer in 1808: "You are the damdest fool that God put life into."

So it goes in American political life.

Will the Trump-Clinton contest be the nastiest ever? I think it is far too early to reach that conclusion. However, there is absolutely no doubt that Donald Trump is the nastiest individual ever to become the nominee of one of our major parties.  He exhibits a whole lot of "bad and ugly" and very little "good."

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Elevator Ups and Downs (Sometimes)

Two recent news stories brought elevator incidents to mind. In the first, a group of football heroes grossly exceeded a load limit and spent considerable time in limbo before help arrived. In the other, a group of police officers got stuck, only to be rescued by firemen who had lots of fun maximizing the cops' embarrassment by taking selfies that made it onto the internet.

Years ago, beautiful wife Sandy and I were in an elevator at the Salt Lake City airport when it stalled between floors. It's an eerie feeling. We were in close quarters in total darkness. Everyone except one man stayed calm until maintenance people got the elevator moving. That man lost it to the extent of screaming and thrashing around in the confined space. However, when we got out, he appeared to revert quickly to normal behavior.

I didn't know that!

My other elevator incident happened a few years later. I was sent to Albuquerque on Forest Service business. My neighbor's son had just built a new home there. He invited me to an early evening golf game, and his wife tacked on a dinner invitation. I brought my putter along with an eye to having at least one familiar club to buoy my confidence on a strange course.

My friend planned to pick me up at the hotel where our meeting was held and I was staying. He urged me to be prompt. We would try to get in 9 holes at University Course-North. Tricky winds were known to come up there in late daylight hours, so we would have to start play promptly to finish our game in calm conditions.

Unfortunately, my meeting dragged on beyond the appointed closing time. When we finally adjourned, I rushed through the lobby waving to my friend, zipped up to my 12th floor room in the elevator, changed shirts, grabbed my putter, and ran back to re-board the elevator. I was fairly close to being on schedule.

But at the first stop, a hotel maintenance lady got on. She squirted the control panel with cleaner and wiped it vigorously with a large cloth, hitting every button. The result was an immaculate button panel, but we stopped at each remaining floor--all 10 of them. I thought about getting off and running down the stairs, but that wasn't appealing following so closely on my frantic efforts to get up to my room.

We were just finishing the third hole on the North Course when a gust of wind blew my ball off the green. Further play was impossible.

Had I known about the advice with the control panel illustration shown here, I could have enjoyed a complete golf game. Oh well, the dinner was both complete and enjoyable.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

In Non-appreciation of Jimmy John's

A page 13 article in my Kalamazoo Gazette invited readers to "Get ready for a freaky cool deal at Jimmy John's. $1 subs for everyone!" The story went on to describe what sandwiches were included, for whom, and when.

Seemed strange to me that a daily paper would run a pr piece for a fast-food restaurant as a news item. When I got to page 18, the motive was revealed. Profit had overcome good journalism, something becoming common nowadays. Jimmy John's had paid the Gazette for a full-page color ad proudly announcing "Customer Appreciation Day Today Only!" The news item was a little kickback.

The ad said a customer could buy one of seven types of subs for $1 at a participating store today only from 11 a.m. to 2 p..m. (emphasis added).

Just happens beautiful wife Sandy and I planned to be shopping close to a Jimmy John's around noon and would be doing lunch in that area. Jimmy John's opened a new outlet near us this year, and we've found their sandwiches to be first-rate. What a deal! A nice lunch discount had dropped in our laps.

Except that it hadn't. Our newspaper never is delivered before 3 p.m. on a weekday. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Gazette subscribers have similar delivery times. Sure enough, 2 p.m. was long past today when I received the generous offer.

One might ask Jimmy John's advertising department: "What took you so long to understand you've antagonized customers instead of pleasing them with the worst possible timing of an appreciation day ad?"  The Gazette advertising department might well consider the same question.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Careful What You Wish For, Senators

Today, President Obama is speaking at the University of Chicago, where he taught constitutional law for 12 years early in his career. It's a sure bet the thrust of his remarks will be pointed criticism of Republicans who have refused to consider his nomination of Merrick Garland for the current Supreme Court vacancy.

Obama's appearance will be just another salvo in the attacks on Republican obstructionism that are part of the Democratic Party election campaign strategy. What the GOP leadership is doing is perfectly legal, but criticism about stalling by Congress does resonate with many voters. Nevertheless, we can be sure that the president's message today will have no influence on Republican legislators.

The GOP stall might not be smart

What would strike terror into GOP hearts would be a surprise hint by Obama that he might have some interest in Supreme Court service. After all, he is an expert on constitutional law as his Chicago Law School appearance reminds us. If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, which appears the most likely scenario at the moment, what's to stop her from withdrawing the Garland nomination and appointing Barack Obama?

Were I a GOP senator, I might be pushing hard for a quick opening of hearings on the Garland candidacy. He seems likely to be much more conservative than at least one of the alternatives.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Keep on Smiling

After an anchor tooth for a bridge ruptured and associated problems indicated the future of my remaining upper teeth was bleak, my dentist and I decided the best way to go was to do some extractions and equip me with a full upper plate of false choppers.

My plastic teeth are performing rather well only three weeks into our get-acquainted period, but one bit of advice has not worked at all for me. Dental assistants, various internet sites, and product pamphlets all emphasize that the inconveniences of having to rely on false teeth are far outweighed by a big positive--users will bask in the glory of their beautiful new smile!
If I only could.

How wonderful is that? Probably very for many, but it's just a tooth fairy tale for me. I've spent more than 50 years compensating for somewhat crooked teeth stained by excess tobacco and coffee use. The situation was compounded by several dentists years ago who were not skilled with color matches when they installed crowns on a couple of front teeth.

I compensated by training myself always to smile with my mouth closed. Now with a set of perfectly proportioned and color-matched uppers to show off, I find I am unable to change. My acquaintances will just have to continue to settle for a little grin and a twinkle in my eye.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Now Real Turkeys are Going Postal

It's hard these days to avoid hearing about a disgusting politician "going postal" with a vicious attack on a sometimes fairly benign opponent. But an attack by a bird that is one of our beloved symbols of peace and thanksgiving?

Well, it's happened. Recently a flock of more than a dozen wild turkeys ambushed a mailman in Hillsdale, New Jersey, apparently without provocation. More than a dozen of the big birds trapped the postal worker inside his delivery truck until he was able to call for help and his supervisor summoned two policemen to shoo the turkeys away.

The supervisor's call was recorded: "You're not going to believe this, but I have a carrier that's being attacked by wild turkeys--won't let him deliver the mail. It's crazy. They were actually attacking, biting. They chase trucks."

Police said the turkeys eventually returned to a nearby wooded area.
A belligerent bird in New Jersey. (Keith Sra photo)

Sixty years ago, it would have been a rarity to find any turkeys, much less a dozen, in a wooded area east of the Mississippi. Once-large populations of wild turkeys were so decimated by over-hunting at the start of the 20th century that remaining birds had to be protected by strict game laws. The birds were virtually extinct in many eastern states.

Thanks to great restoration work by hunters, especially members of the Wild Turkey Federation, and state and federal wildlife managers, wild turkeys have made a remarkable comeback. We see individual birds and flocks often on routine drives on rural roads in our southwest Michigan area. Regular hunting seasons are routine, and estimates of Michigan populations have run about 200,000 in recent years. Wisconsin, where wild turkeys were considered extinct statewide in the 1880s, now has population estimates in the half million range.

It took years, however, to reach this happy state of turkey affairs. Initial restoration efforts failed when managers tried to transplant tame birds into the wild. Success came only after strategy changed to transplanting only with wild birds. But there were few wild birds available, so the process was lengthy.

Wisconsin's first major successful turkey reintroduction was made between 1954 and 1957 at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, south of Wisconsin Rapids. Enough birds were available by April 1966 for the first controlled hunt in that area in decades.

Local hunters were excited. I was sports editor at The Daily Tribune in Wisconsin Rapids at the time. A section in my book, Days with the Dads: Recollections of a Small-Time Journalist, describes the events this way:

      A self-styled expert arrived in our office a few weeks before the hunt. He wore
      a full camouflage outfit and startled our reporters and editors by producing a
      few loud turkey calls. We got a photo, and I wrote a story quoting him on exactly how
      a hunter should go about bagging a wild turkey.

      Some 30 gunners drew a chance to participate in the hunt at Necedah. I drove down
      to cover the historic event. There's not much a reporter can observe about hunting,
      except what he hears, unless he is one of the hunters. I didn't win out in the drawing,
      so my story was about the noises that day at the refuge. My story unfortunately
      ruffled feathers of quite a few of the neophyte turkey hunters.

      I said the air was filled with the sounds of many calls that sounded nothing like a
      turkey, the noise of random shotgun blasts, a whole lot of profanity, and some real
      gobbling that could have been a form of turkey laughter. My recollection is that the
      enthusiastic, but inexperienced, Wisconsin hunters bagged a total of six birds.

      Later, the hunters got wiser and turkey populations boomed . . .Experienced sports-
      men say it is fairly easy to call a turkey into the open. In 1966 they simply didn't
      quite know how to do it at Necedah.

Who would have guessed the same type of birds that hid out from humans at Necedah would become confident and numerous enough to launch attacks on members of a major federal organization? Let's hope the wild turkey assault in New Jersey is not a sign of something bigger to come.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Another Reason to Dump Trump

There's no need here to list the myriad reasons not to back Donald Trump as a presidential nominee. Others are taking care of that--he's a racist, blowhard, liar, male supremist, etc., etc., etc. However, in a list of little-known facts about The Donald, one characteristic appeared that the geezer had not heard of.

Trump claims he has never had a drink of an alcoholic beverage in any form.

This to some is a damning indictment, one which perhaps helped sink Mitt Romney in his unsuccessful 2012 campaign.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Robotic Robbery

If you've eaten out lately at a casual restaurant such as Applebee's or Olive Garden, an electronic gadget probably was a guest at your table. Language on its small screen cheerfully invites you to play a game, order extra items, or speedily pay your bill.

At first we thought the machines might be a tricky way for management to replace waiters and waitresses. But no, they don't allow you to order your main course, just add-ons. And at Applebee's, the server arrives at your table to slide your credit or gift card at bill paying time.

That automatic bill printer may deliver unwelcome surprises

We've learned that the little machines actually are kin to the infamous "one-armed bandits" familiar to casino patrons who enter with high hopes and leave with lighter pocketbooks. Our first hint was when we accepted the invitation to play a computer game on the device. It was fun, but our bill came with a surprise $1.99 charge included for the game. We don't do the games anymore.

We usually tip 15 percent at restaurants, and go to 20 for extra-good service. When an image of your bill pops up at Applebee's as your server stands at your table, it automatically shows a 20 percent tip. The server then points to the total and advises you may push buttons to increase or decrease the amount. It's hard to imagine a customer mean enough to go for a decrease with the server watching you make the adjustment. Although tempted once, I've been unable to bring myself to retreat to my 15 percent comfort level.

The advent of robotic service at some of our favorite places so far has been only slightly annoying. We must remember that progress has its price. Let's hope this is not the start of bigger cost increases as technology advances.