Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Chuanqi Shen: A Discussion

During our conversation with Tina Seelig about creativity, she made a statement that I thought was highly interesting:

"Rules are created for the rule makers."

 Now, Tina said this with a specific idea in mind. She was trying to say that rules are generally created not for the benefit of the people, but for the convenience of those who make them. For example, a typical classroom setting, with the systematic rows of tables and chairs, may not be the most conducive learning environment, but it allows the teacher to easily keep an eye on everyone. However, I think that this statement is also a profound comment about the way we construct knowledge.

It has often been remarked that the hallmark of human intelligence is our ability to recognize patterns. We pride ourselves in our ability to connect ideas, even if they are totally disparate. In fact, Tina Seelig thinks that the defining characteristic of creativity is the linking of different concepts. That is, of course, a compelling argument. Yet, in some sense, the patterns we find are pretty similar to the rules the rule makers create. For patterns are simplifying in nature, and are thus generalizations. We find some form of order out of the chaotic mess, and then we impose this form of order as an idea for us to focus on. Like rules then, these patterns are found to help us, the pattern makers, understand what is going on. Like rules too, these patterns may not be the best way to describe things, for they do not represent the entire truth, just a small part of it. But patterns are tempting and comforting, for like rules, they make things simple. However, if we are to blindly follow the patterns we find, we will not be able to capture reality in its entirety, because it will be as if we have placed a blanket over the little mounds and crevice on the face of reality to create the facade of a homogenous surface. For example, the Newtonian Laws of physics seem to work perfectly in our everyday life. A ball rolling on a moving train will seem to move faster than one rolling on the ground. Yet, light does not obey these rules; it moves at the same speed in all inertial frame. We would not have discovered Special Relativity had we stuck to our old concepts of relative motion, a pattern that is fulfilled by almost all other daily objects we see.

Yet, this does not mean that pattern recognition is unimportant, or even bad. It is our ability to simplify our world, to focus on the common thread that runs through things and discard the inessentials that allowed us to progress to where we are today. For example, Galileo made the key insight that he did not need to consider the shape, texture, or orientation of objects to determine how things move; he could treat them as point particles. This huge simplification allowed Galileo to create the kinematics laws, equations that we still use today. It would be bad, however, if we stick to the patterns we find. What I suggest, therefore, is that finding exceptions is as much a creative process as finding patterns. It prevents us from getting stifled by the patterns we have found so far, and it allows us to find better, more nuanced patterns that will further our understanding. The creation of human knowledge is therefore an incremental process, of creating a cage of patterns around ourselves so that we can get our bearings, and then destroying it to create a larger cage. And acts of creativity occur during the events of creation and destruction.


In some way, this seems paradoxical, for creativity seems to be destroying itself. In other ways, this makes perfect sense, for in the eyes of evolution, creation and destruction are synonymous.

Chuanqi Shen: A Facade

In my mind, conservation always has had a positive connotation. Whenever I hear the word, I get this warm fuzzy feeling, as it seems that something good is being done. However, it turns out that things are not as simple as they appear.

We know the Stanford Dish as a natural preserve. Some of us might have seem cows atop the foothills when we were visiting. I always found the cows intriguing, and I made it a point to spot at least one cow whenever I went on a Dish hike. It never occurred to me until recently that seeing cows grazing on the fields is strange. But if you think about it, why the heck do you allow cows to graze in a place that is protected? Isn't grazing detrimental to the environment? Well, it turns out that the cows consume non-native grass such as hay, and this allows the non-native plants to grow. The Bay Checkerspot butterfly, an endangered species, feeds on these native plants. Therefore, allowing the cows to graze on the fields is actually a way to preserve the Bay Checkerspots. Mindblowing, isn't it?

Of course, one can argue that by doing so, we are destroying the hay, and that brings me to the new perspective I learnt about conservation. Conversation is never about protecting everything. Sometimes, it means destroying some things to retain what you want to protect. In this case, Stanford University wants restore the Stanford Dish foothills to its original form before the Spanish settlers arrived and brought in a lot of invasive, non-native plants.

Meanwhile, at the Hanna House, we learnt about the design principles of Frank Lloyd Wright. One of the most distinctive features of the Hanna House is that it feels very organic and seems to be an seamless part of the environment. It is never clear where the house starts and where the outside world ends. The nearby trees are not jarring bystanders. Instead, they seem to be incorporated into the design of the house. Holes were created into the roofs, and supports were created, to allow the tree to grow and extend its branches gracefully. Looking at the Hanna House, one gets this lovely impression of a man-made home that is peacefully co-existing with the natural world.

Well, except for the fact that the roots of the Cyprus tree are straining to burst through the wooden floors.

Despite the impression we may get, the Hanna House is in fact causing a huge burden on the trees growing around it. The concrete floor plan restrict the amount of space the roots of the trees can extend to, and cement also reduces the porous nature of the soil underneath. The caretakers of the Hanna House took great pains to ensure that the trees are growing healthily, and that the structure of the house is doing fine, but they are not sure how long this can be sustained. In some ways they have in their hands a ticking time bomb.

Now let's move over to Jasper Ridge. Jasper Ridge, especially Searsville Lake, seemed serene and idyllic, and nothing much seemed to be happening. However, this entire scene is in danger of disappearing soon. Searsville Lake is very close to the St Andreas Fault, and over the years the lake is being filled up with the sediments from the fault. 10 years ago, Searsville Lake had a depth of 60 feet. Now, the deepest regions are only about 10 feet. If nothing is being done, Searsville Lake would disappear, an entire ecosystem would be destroyed, and Jasper Ridge would just be another huge overgrowth of trees. Something needs to be done, and that would mean clearing the lake of the excess sediments. Here, we have a unique case where nature is set to destroy a habitat, and we, as humans, want to protect it. It shows that conservation does not necessarily mean keeping a place free from human influence. Sometimes it could mean preventing a place from getting destroyed by natural causes.


In all of the events mentioned above, the first impressions we get are different from (sometimes even totally opposite to) the stories we uncover once we dig further. It's almost as if a facade has been created to deceive us. It's fascinating how different things can be from how they appear. I guess that means that I should stop taking things at face value, and dive deep down to unearth all these amazing stories underneath.  

Chuanqi Shen: A President

Fred Terman is the former President of Stanford University and widely credited to be the Father of Silicon Valley. Many of the Terman's contributions to Stanford is tied to his contributions to Silicon Valley. In this blog post, I would like to talk about how Silicon Valley was developed, and how that allowed Stanford to become a top engineering school.

When people talk about the origins of Silicon Valley, they will probably think it has something to do with silicon chips, as the name Silicon Valley implies. But the origin of Silicon Valley actually stretches all the way back to the World War II era. Before the war, military research was mainly done in the military labs. During the war, the federal government started giving schools like as MIT, Harvard, Columbia and Caltech huge amounts of money to perform military research, and that helped tremendously in developing the engineering schools in these institutions. Stanford, however, was not considered an engineering powerhouse at that time. Therefore, the school received almost no money from the federal government. Terman, however, wanted to change the situation. He started a lab that did research on microwaves, and was able to get the first grant from the Office of Naval Research in 1946. By 1950, Stanford Engineering had progressed to be able to rival MIT.

The 1950s was the start of the Cold War, and the Cold War was actually the main impetus that push Silicon Valley forward. During this period, Terman focused Stanford's resources on electronics intelligence and signal intelligence, as the military dearly sought after technology in this field. In the 1960s, the military, wanting to track the Soviet radars, also commissioned the construction of the Stanford Dish to eavesdrop on the Soviet Tall King radars using radio waves reflected from the moon.  

But Terman did not want Stanford to merely create military products; he wanted Stanford to perform advanced engineering research as well. To do so, he encouraged students to create start-ups and professors to consult for companies. He also allowed Stanford's intellectual properties to be licensed. Such ideas were unprecedented at the time, and it allowed a "Microwave Valley" (remember that at that time microwaves and signals were the focus of Stanford) to flourish, and introduce a culture and atmosphere that we recognize in Silicon Valley today.

The actual Silicon Valley as we know it today probably started when William Shockley built the first chip company in the area. However, it is important to realize that before that before this event, Stanford and the "Microwave Valley" was heavily focused on military research, and was funded by the military. It was only much later that the funding shifted to the venture capitalists. However, it is important to realize how Terman in these early years helped to congregate a community of engineers together to conduct high-end research, and how he instilled the entrepreneurial  spirit into the area through his pioneering efforts.  

For more information, check out this link (start from page 24): 

Chuanqi Shen: A "Corporation"

When touring the Stanford Stadium with Ray Purpur, we heard great statistics about the Stadium, how every match was always sold out, how the different marketing initiatives (such as the sky box) were always well-received by the people. However, I kept getting the feeling that Stanford Stadium was being run like a corporation. Of course, there seemed to be nothing wrong with it, since it would only mean more profits for the university, more resources and thus a better education for me! But on some level it felt wrong for a institution that is technically a non-profit organization to be focused on generating as much revenue as possible.


However, it is commendable that Stanford tries its best to keep the Stadium as free from marketing influence as possible. For example, the Stanford Stadium is one of the few stadiums without any advertisements. This was done so that there will not be nearby distractions that may reduce people's enjoyment of the game. Also, Stanford students could always get free tickets to the games, and we always get the best seats at the Red Zone. So that's great!

Chuanqi Shen: A Comment

During the conversation with Peter Bing, we asked him whether he had any suggestions on ways to increase the number of humanities students at Stanford. Quite surprisingly, Peter Bing said that he would not give any suggestions. Explaining, he talked about the "Holy Triad of universities", three areas that the university should have full autonomy over: who is admitted, what they are taught, and who teaches. Peter Bing explains that he believes people like him should stop commenting on such issues, and that he should allow the faculty to make their own decisions and judgments.


I found that to be a pretty interesting thought. I felt that it was human nature for people to want to speak their mind and let their opinions be heard. Well, even Jerry Yang, member of the Board of Trustees, joked that he "likes to tell Coach Shaw what to do next week". Furthermore, a comment would only be a comment; it did not mean that the suggestions have to be implemented, so that would not directly violate the Holy Triads. I thought that it showed remarkable restraint on Peter Bing's part, and it also showed his absolute belief of the necessity in giving the university complete autonomy in deciding certain matters. 

Chuanqi Shen: An Opportunism

When having conversations with the people of Stanford, the presidents (present and former), the deans , the trustees etc, it seems that all of them kept repeating the same things. All of them told us not to plan too far ahead, and when asked how they got to where they are today, all of them replied that it was due to a series of serendipitous events. In fact, the word "serendipitous" was repeated so often that I had a feeling they had it scripted. But thinking back about it, it does appear that boldly taking the future by its horns and taking chances as one goes along seems to be the Stanford way of doing things.

According to Isaac Stein, what is special about Stanford is that "we have no traditions, all our signposts point forward". And this seems be reflected in the risk-taking attitude that Stanford displays in many of its ventures. During the 2008 financial crisis, Stanford lost 27% of its endowment. Some schools that were similarly hit badly decided to spread their losses by cut their spending for the next 8 or even 10 years. President Hennessy, however, didn't want the school in remain in the "recession phase" for such a long period of time. He told the faculty that he only wanted to revert back to full spending after 2 years. It was a bold decision, and it meant that in during the period of 2008-2010, Stanford had to make big sacrifices. But the faculty accepted the decision, and Stanford was able to bounce back quickly afterwards. While many schools were still facing budget cuts, Stanford has been busily renovating buildings and creating the new Engineering Quad. Because of the quick recovery to full spending, Stanford was also able to invest efficiently and bring the endowment funds back to its pre-financial crisis level.

Peter Bing told a similar story. When the school decided to continue the construction of the Bing Concert Hall during the financial crisis, they faced a lot of difficulties, for they initially did not have enough funds. However, there was a silver lining in the cloud, for construction stopped everywhere, and Bing was able to find a contractor who was willing to take up the project at a price that just allowed them to break even. By constructing the Concert Hall when no one else was doing it, Stanford obtained a great deal.

A similar sentiment was echoed when Jim Plummer, dean of engineering, talked about the process of hiring new faculty. Jim Plummer said that he did not care about the past work a candidate has done. He would also not hire a candidate to fill in a gap (for example, if a professor working on biocomputation retired, he would not specifically look for a candidate in that field) Instead, he wants to look for the smartest person, no matter what he does. This is because when he hires faculty, he is assuming that the faculty will stay for at least 10 to 15 years. In such a long period of time, it is hard to predict which field is going to be the next big thing, and thus hiring faculty based on area is undesirable. However, he believes that as long as the faculty are great people, great work will be done.


And the above examples, I believe, exemplifies why Stanford was propelled by serendipitous events. Everyone is adventurous and risking-taking, willing to be flexible and try new ideas. And we always seem to succeed, because we get the smartest people. 

Chuanqi Shen: A Dish

In my presentation on the Stanford Dish, I mentioned that the Dish was originally created to monitor the Tall King Soviet radars. I decided to read through the declassified paper (found here) to understand better how it works, and here is what I have gotten from the paper.

The military wanted to know the position of the Tall King Soviet radars and the parameters they were operating under. Such information can be extracted from the signals transmitted by the radars. However, such signals were seldom detected because the wavelengths of the signals were too short for them to be deflected by the ionosphere. Therefore, most of the signals would be lost to outer space. Also, flying a plane into Soviet territory to gather information was feasible, firstly because that was prohibited, and secondly because a airplane would be unable all the sophisticated machinery required, and they were pretty heavy.
The scientists were unsure what could be done, when they suddenly detected in 1946 man-made signals coming from the moon. After many experiments, known as the Moon Bounce tests, they were able to prove that these signals were reflected signals, and they could extract reliable information out of them. This provided some hope.

However, there were still some challenges that needed to be overcome. For example, whether signals from the Tall King Radars would be reflected by the moon and detected by the receivers in the US is highly dependent of the time, the location of moon and the location of the receiver. After some consideration, it was decided that California was one of the better locations to build a Dish, and that was how the Stanford Dish was created.


For more information, check out the paper!

Chuanqi Shen: An Accelerator

Visiting SLAC got me excited about physics all over again, so I decided to learn more about the history of SLAC and the different discoveries that were made.

SLAC was a linear accelerator constructed in 1962, dubbed as the longest and straightest structure in the world. In fact, it is so straight that it does not follow the curvature of the Earth. Affectionately called the "Monster", it gave the scientists the ability to accelerate particles to nearly the speed of light, allowing the scientists to observe sub-atomic particles.

The first breakthrough came soon after SLAC reached full operation. A research team was able to use electron beams to discover that protons actually comprised of smaller sub-atomic particles called quarks. This discovery allowed the research team to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1990.

A few years later, SLAC was upgraded with the addition of the Stanford Positron Electron Asymmetric Ring (SPEAR). This new technology allowed the scientists to make a breakthrough again. In 1974, in what was called the "November Revolution", a team from SLAC and a team from Brookhaven National Laboratory made independent discoveries of the J/psi particle, which consisted of a paired charm quark and anti-charm quark. This discovery led to the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1976. In 1975, Martin Perl also discovered the tau lepton, and this led to his winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1995.


Today, SLAC has diversified from particle physics to applying accelerator science to many other fields ranging from environmental sciences, chemistry to alternative energy research. Application could even be found in art. For example, a few pages of the Archimedes Palimpsest, Archimedes' oldest surviving works, were unreadable, obscured by grime and mold. After discovering that Archimedes used iron-based ink to write the works, SLAC scientist Uwe Bergmann was able to use X-ray florescence imaging to pick up trace of iron on the pages with high precision, thus revealing the text on the pages for the first time in a thousand years. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Christine Rogers: What color is Stanford?

The better question to ask is: what color isn't Stanford?

With its signature red-tiled roofs, the red barn, plethora of Marguerite shuttles, sandstone, and white statues (such as those on the front on the Main Quad and the Gay Liberation Statues), Stanford appears at first to mainly exhibit its school colors: red and white. The vast amount of foliage that surrounds campus also gives the campus a distinct feeling green. However, in reality, such a diverse campus with a multitude of different activities, art, and wildlife cannot be confined to just three colors.

Scores of bikes around campus and the mosaic on Mem Chu’s fa├žade alone represent almost every color there is. Blue is represented by Searsville Lake and some of the beautiful flora around campus. The Hanna House, Jasper Ridge, Lake Lag, and the bronze colored sculptures lend a brown tinge to campus. The near-constant construction around campus, as well as numerous flowers like Lantana, creates an abundance of orange and yellow. For purple, look to the Jacaranda tree, for pink to the Ceiba Especiosa (as well as the fountains on big game day, because they never actually look red). Grey buildings, dark grey/black Rodin sculptures, black squirrels, and rust-hued sculptures; is there any color that isn’t represented somewhere on Stanford’s campus?




Christine Rogers: Stanford's budget and what it means for us

The budget of Stanford exceeds the budget of many countries (at least 40) in the world. Insane right?
The vast budget of Stanford, a result of a substantial endowment combined with staggeringly huge major gifts, allows Stanford to do amazing things. From building, maintaining, and expanding a beautiful and state-of-the-art campus, to funding numerous and diverse programs to benefit undergraduate education (such as Sophomore College and overseas programs), to promoting the arts (via the new Arts District, including Bing Concert Hall and Cantor Arts Museum, that is currently underway), Stanford’s monetary capabilities have enabled the great people at Stanford to create a university that does justice to the visions and dreams of Leland and Jane.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Christine Rogers: Leland Jr.: The Collector

Much of Leland Stanford Jr.’s time was spent traveling with his family. Between 1879 & 1883, he traveled to England, Constantinople, Lyon, Marseilles, Frankfurt, Norway, the Sierra Nevadas, New York, Rome, Dresden, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Paris, Florence, Rome, Naples, and Pompeii, the last 11 of which were all part of one grand tour of Europe in 1881. During his travels he did such activities as meeting the pope and visiting the Colosseum, Vesuvius, and the Tomb of Cecilia Metella. While he was enthusiastic about most of the places he visited, Leland Junior was not always so complimentary. In his letters, he referred to both Lyon and Marseilles as “dirty cities,” going so far as to describe the people of Marseilles as “filthy.”

Heavily influenced by travelling, Leland Jr., under the encouragement of his parents and with the help of his tutor, Hebert C. Nash (who, after Leland Jr.’s death, would later go on to be Senator Stanford’s secretary and, after Leland Sr.’s death, Jane’s secretary) began collecting artifacts and relics from the places he travelled. Leland Jr. was incredibly interested in archaeology and especially Egyptology. He examined artifacts and practiced deciphering hieroglyphics. 

During his travels, he went around with his tutor collecting items for the museum he hoped to start (and which he eventually did start in their house on Nob Hill). His parents, wanting to encourage Leland’s interest, gave him money by to purchase items at various sales, antique stores, from various dealers and collectors, and on the Acropolis. While they were in Naples 1884, Leland wrote to a friend that his father had given him 4000 francs to support his museum, which would be somewhere between $16,000-20,000 today. Leland Junior collected Egyptian bronzes, Greek statuettes, Greek and Roman glass, and ancient coins, among other things. He intended to continue expanding his collections and began a collection of Chinese and Japanese curios and “relics of the American Mound dwellers.” 

Leland Jr. was far more shrewd than many expected from a boy of his age. His tutor recalled that, “It frequently happened that in looking over specimens offered him for sale, Leland would hand some back to the dealer, quietly remarking that they were imitations. Invariably the man, after a look at his young customer, would apologize, excusing himself on the ground that the imitations had accidentally slipped in with the others.” 

On his travels, Leland Jr. found (not purchased) the following items: a mummy’s foot, a piece of pottery 2800 years old, a piece of a fresco from the ruins of Pompeii, a fragment of a column capital and inscribed relief treating rituals sacred to Demeter & Persephone from Sanctuary of Eleusis, and a relief from Tomb of Cecilia Metella. He collected the piece of fresco from Pompeii, when their tour guide, who Leland Jr. commented had been watching him very closely, allowed him to take a piece of fresco that had fallen on the floor.

Here is a sampling of the various things he collected for his museum: colored Greek glass vials & Lacrymatories, stones from the various countries he visited (which were made by his parents into a mosaic tabletop, arranged to show where they came from), dead animals including a large stuffed turkey buzzard that he shot in Palo Alto in 1882 and a case of stuffed birds that he had mostly shot himself, a Moorish scimitar of the 18th century, an Algerian Dagger (modern), an Italian poignard, an old French Halbarde, a Sword-pistol, French cavalry helmets and swords, a cuirass of French cuirassier, a French soldier's shakos, a French chassepot rifle, a German needle gun, a French clarion, a model of a knight of Middle Ages armed cap-a-pie, a Persian helmet, sword, & armlet inlaid with gold and covered with Arabic tracings, an ancient bronze Egyptian figure of the god Osiris, an ancient Egyptian figure of the goddess “Pacht”, seated, with the head of a lioness, and a large alabaster Egyptian vase, brought to France by one of Mr. Champollion’s assistants, from whom Leland Jr. obtained it.

Some of the most famous pieces Leland Stanford collected at the time the museum opened were the Tanagra Figurines, made of Terracotta, one depicting a woman suckling an infant and the other depicting a female musician asleep in a chair, a tambourine at her feet. He also collected some Athenian pottery, small terra cotta lamps that filled ancient Greek sarcophagi, and small fetishes or charms from the Troad, found by Dr. Schliemann in the 6th city of Troy. These items were in Dr. Schliemann’s museum at Athens and were taken out of their case and presented to Leland Junior. 

Leland Jr.’s budding career as an archaeologist and a collector, unfortunately, was ended in 1884. In early February 1884, in a letter to a friend, Leland Jr. said he had been going at it too hard [with all the travel and efforts to expand his collections] and wasn’t feeling well. A month later, in Florence, Leland Jr. died of Typhoid fever. Before his death, Leland Stanford, when talking with the famous collector Luigi Palma di Cesnola, expressed his interest in the “art-education” of the American People. The Stanfords, distraught at the death of their only child, wanted to honor their son’s memory and his dream of a museum. Their first idea was to build the museum in San Francisco, but, according to David Starr Jordan, they abandoned that idea because it “did not satisfy them as being sufficiently generous.” Eventually they merged the museum with the University and built what is now, several earthquakes later, the Cantor Museum to house their son’s collections and well as continue adding to them. In describing the museum and the heart and soul that Leland Jr. put into in, Leland’s tutor, Hebert C. Nash said, “Possibly at no distant date the student of archaeology may stand with one hand on this case, the other stretched out to a richly-stored museum and say in his heart: ‘Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth.’”

Christine Rogers: Leland Jr.: The Boy


Leland Stanford Junior was born May 14, 1868, the only child of Jane Lathrop Stanford and Leland Stanford. He was definitely his father’s son. Leland Senior was a railroad magnate who drove the Golden Spike into the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United Sates. Leland Jr. had a mini railroad of his own “from the house to the stable.” He even had his own car for the railroad and was incredibly involved in its maintenance and improvement, writing letters to engineers asking questions about boilers and buying paint for his car. Clearly he inherited both his father’s taste for railroads and ambition, writing to his friend, “as yet I have only one car, but it such a nice one that I think it will do me till I make an extension on my road.” 

He was also very much his mother’s son. He followed in the footsteps of her altruism and her determination, as shown by the following story. Mrs. Sarah B. Cooper, who was making efforts to start the first free kindergarten in San Francisco, was talking to Jane Stanford about the difficulties she was encountering in her efforts. Leland Junior, who was listening attentively, said to his mother, “Mamma, we must help those children,” to which she replied, “Well, Leland, what do you wish me to do?” “Give Mrs. Cooper $500 now and let her start a school, then come to us for more.” It was done on the spot. It was the first gift of the total $150,000 (as of 1892) Jane gave for the free kindergartens of California. 

Being the son of the incredibly wealthy Leland and Jane Stanford, Leland Jr. naturally was pampered a good deal. On his 13th birthday, he had no lessons (which he normally had every day) and was given a lot of free time to explore Paris, where he was at the time. Then, for his party, he got to ride on an elephant, a camel (or “Kammel” as he spelled it in his letters), a carriage drawn by an ostrich, a pony, and a donkey. Another part of having wealthy parents was having a good deal of cash to spend. He kept strict accounts of the amount of cash given to him and how he spent it. Between July 27 & August 5, 1881, he was given $124.50, which may seem like a lot now, but $124.50 in 1881 would be equal to approximately $2700 today. Some of the charges he recorded were: boat, book for flowers, shooting gallery, fishing, minerals, stamps, candy, Hippodrome, Punch & Judy, soldier’s costume, sword, Prussian helmet, & chassepot rifle. 

Leland made diligent journal entries every day, including what time he got up. Even if all he did was have lessons with his tutor, he made an entry for the day. He worked with his tutor most days and took lessons in German, French, possibly Latin or Italian. He also had a mathematical mind, as shown by his comments on the dimensions of ruins (e.g. the Colosseum) and jotted down math problems in his workbooks. His parents wanted him to have a well-rounded education, so Leland was taken to see operas, picture galleries, and numerous sites with frescoes. Leland Jr. expressed great interest in the arts, especially Pompeii’s paintings and frescoes, the “Dom Cathredial” opera, and the Royal Picture Gallery in Berlin. He was an enthusiastic amateur photographer and loved sketching trains and ships, “meticulously incorporating tiny American flags and rigging for the sails.”

Despite his preciosity, Leland Jr., was still a normal kid, or as normal as it’s possible to be when you are the son of Leland and Jane Stanford. He had snow ball fights with his friend in the Sierra Nevada “to [their] hearts’ content.” Leland Jr. collected stamps, leaves and flowers and pressed them in his workbook. When visiting Albany, he became a member of a local bicycle club. They even had badges made of 10 cent pieces with A. Bi. C. engraved on it. He even picked wild violets from the Tomb of Cecilia Metella and sent them in one of his many letters to his dad. He also had a sweet and sometimes almost adult-like disposition, writing to his friend in all seriousness, “The first of April will soon be here, I hope you will not have many tricks played upon you.” 

One example of the boy’s kind and caring nature is the following story: At 10 years old, he saw a “homely yellow dog” outside his window. He ran outside and promptly took the dog in. He then flew to the telephone to call the doctor, who inferred from the boy’s serious and urgent tone that someone was gravely ill. The doctor was annoyed when he realized he had been summoned to attend to a broken-legged mutt, but was pacified by Leland Junior’s earnestness. He took the boy and the dog to a veterinarian, as he was not experienced at treating dogs. Leland kept the dog and took faithful care of it until it recovered. 

Leland Stanford Jr. was not only the inspiration behind the creation Stanford University and the Cantor Museum, he was also a boy of great talents and gifts, an amateur artist, a budding archaeologist and Egyptologist, and a normal boy with many friends.

Christine Rogers: The Godsend That is The Stanford Archives

For our class, Stanford Safari, we had to choose a presentation topic related to Stanford. Remembering the story about the origins of the Cantor Museum and a visit to the Cantor during a class on the Egyptians, where our TA pointed out some artifacts collected by Leland Jr. himself, I decided to explore Leland Jr.’s collecting of various artifacts on his travels with his family.

Much to my chagrin, I found that virtually nothing existed on the subject on the internet, save for the oft-repeated origins of Cantor and some general statements about him traveling a lot and collecting Greek & Roman glassware, ancient coins, Egyptian artifacts, and Japanese and Chinese curios. Definitely not enough to write a 15-minute presentation on.

However, after our meeting with Daniel Hartwig, the University Archivist, and hearing about the Special Collections, I decided to see if there might be anything there that might help me, since I was bound and determined to not switch my topic. With Daniel’s help, I was able to find Leland Jr.’s papers, which proved to be the fountain of information I was hoping for. In the Special Collections Reading Room, I was able to handle and examine, up close and personal, some of Leland Jr.’s letters, his workbooks, his logbooks, and his cash accounts, among other things.

Several hours later, I emerged with enough notes and information for at least two presentations and the satisfaction of having found exactly what I was looking for after hours of research.

Christine Rogers: Everyone Needs to Check Out the Archives NOW!

As anyone who has spent any modicum of time here knows, Stanford has a wealth of different resources for students (and non-students) to use, whether for school, pleasure, or personal curiosity. All students know about the many libraries on campus and the access they provide to practically any book you can think of, but how many know about the two places that hold Leland and Jane Stanford’s death masks, programs from every Big Game, collections of WWII era recruitment and propaganda posters, and the original strike order for the Hiroshima bombing?

One of the most amazing resources Stanford has to offer, and one that I knew practically nothing about before taking this class, is the archives. Both Green Library and the Hoover Institution have unbelievable archives, filled with both books and items such as those enumerated above. The Special Collections (at Green Library) features items relating to Stanford’s history and the Stanford family. The Hoover Archives specializes in items and documents relating to war and peace, particularly 20th and 21st century war, revolution, and peace. It was actually founded by Herbert Hoover, who believed war would never happen again if he created of a library/archive of war.

All of their collections (both the Special Collections and the Hoover Archives) are listed online; just check out their websites on how to search their collections.

If you ever need information about Stanford’s history, war, revolution, or peace, you need to check out the archives. Even if you are just curious about it or even if you’re not, everyone should go check out the archives while they’re here. You won’t believe what you’ll find.

Christine Rogers: Stanford and The Arts

Stanford is making a great effort to improve and expand it relationship with the arts. In the past, it has placed more focus on the sciences and engineering, which have served it very well indeed. Stanford has become an engineering and science powerhouse. However, as a result of that focus, not enough emphasis was placed upon the arts, especially in comparison to places like Yale. Stanford is doing its best to remedy the situation by shifting its focus to the arts. 

The most visible effort it has made thus far is the creation of an Arts District at Stanford. This Arts District is set to include Bing Concert Hall, Cantor Museum, the building for the Anderson Collection, and the McMurtry Building. 

Its implications for the future are that, if these efforts continue, the arts will have more focus, energy, emphasis, and funding, devoted to it. This should greatly improve the arts at Stanford, making it a greater contender against those schools that have a strong art program as well as strong academics.

Christine Rogers: Why doesn’t Stanford have a food science program?

Why doesn’t Stanford have a food science program?

With society’s growing focus on the sustainable food/farming movement and the rising concern over America’s the obesity problem, nutrition and sustainable food are on the forefront of what’s happening in America today. Yet Stanford, a university renowned for its widespread areas of academic focus and research opportunities, has no solid food science program to address these issues.

Stanford is part of the way there. They have a Human Nutrition concentration for the HumBio major. There is the Stanford Farm where several classes get hands-on experience while learning about agriculture or sustainable farming. There is even a proposed Helix course (an interdisciplinary program of 3-4 courses that center around one focus) that centers on food.
That’s a good start, but it isn’t enough. The Helix course is close to a solid program, but you cannot pursue it as a major and for some, especially people in intense majors with high unit requirements, it would be next to impossible to pursue alongside a major. There is no one program that encompasses both sustainable farming/food and nutrition, and none that I have been able to find that focus substantially on the chemistry of cooking (which is what I love).
Obviously I am a little biased on the subject, as someone who is passionate about cooking and food science and who would love Stanford to create some sort of program, major, or even a minor about food science. But maybe that’s just what Stanford needs: people who are passionate enough about the topic to bring the problem to light. Maybe I’ll follow John Etchemendy’s lead and create a new major that encompasses all of those things. Who knows, only time will tell.

Westhem: Sorority Feeling


Whenever I thought about college I always imagined myself being in a sorority. And since my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were all Thetas, I kind of had a feeling that I would be a Theta as well.
            It wasn’t until spring quarter after rush, when I was officially a Theta and getting pumped to live in the house for the next year when it hit me that I would be living with all girls. ALL GIRLS! Now I don’t why this was such an important realization to me, but it was shocking at the time.
            I guess I had grown up with all guy cousins and playing basketball with the boys at lunch even into middle school. And I had gotten used to hanging out with my guy friends in my dorm and talking sports when the girl drama became too much.
            I loved how Stanford had the option last year to live on a single gender or coed floor. Now you’re probably assuming that I chose a coed floor, but I actually didn’t. Who wants to run into a cute football player in the early morning when you have your retainer in and Paul Frank pajama shorts? Not this girl.
            I loved the camaraderie of the all-girls floor last year, but also loved walking upstairs or downstairs to talk sports and just chill. So the thought of living with a house full of girls kind of concermed me when I thought about it over the summer.
            Now that I’ve lived in the Theta house now for a couple days, I know for a fact that my worries were stupid unnecessary. I’m so glad that Stanford allows soroties a bit of freedom in allowing boys in the house, so I know they can still visit.
            But there’s something about living with a house full of girls that love you before even knowing you that is so comforting and creates just the greatest homey feeling. 

Westhem: Lasting Legacy


Last week a member of the Stanford football 1952 Rose bowl team passed away. In addition to being a three-year letterman from 1950-1952 in football, he competed in the 400m hurdles for track and field and was a member of Zeta Psi fraternity. Basically, William Storum  ‘53 was your typical jock-frat-wonder boy during his time at Stanford.
            Bill was my grandfather and taught me how to Fear the Tree the moment I entered high school. He was an Indian and then a Cardinal until the end. I was already on campus when I got the call from my mom. I had known that my goodbye to him before I left might have been my last and, as usual, he had been wearing a Stanford shirt as we talked about the upcoming football season. When my mom called, she made sure to tell me that he had wanted me to know that he was proud of me for carrying on the Stanford tradition and that he was reppin’ the Card on his final day.
            The evident alumni spirit and their love of Stanford is what prompted me to write this column. Especially seeing all of the recent graduates and alumni at the first home football game made it clear that Stanford loyalty runs deep, whether its supporting athletics, mentoring current students, or helping recent graduates network. 
            While academics have raised it to the level of the Ivy’s, it’s the athletics that have propelled Stanford into another level all its own. The superb athletes and their staunch loyalty to the Card throughout their entire careers are part of the glue that holds this amazing university together.
            For being such a young school, Stanford graduates have certainly established themselves in the nation, and the older alums hold the memories and traditions of their era near and dear to their hearts.
            The stories that Bill shared with me will forever be ingrained in my memory and I will share them with my own kids when it comes time for me to inculcate them with Stanford pride. I’ve always been a huge college football fan ever since I went to my first game when I was eight (it pains me to admit that it was a USC game at the Coliseum), so I loved hearing about his time on the football team at Stanford.
            One story in particular emphasizes how much has changed in 50 years. Whenever the Big Game was played at Cal, all of the Zetas on the team (which was the football frat at the time) would stay together with the rest of their brothers in the same hotel--no separation was imposed between players and students. Bill and the guys would play football in the hotel hallway to get pumped, with each room having a different point value if someone managed to break into it.
            Then when the Big Game was played at Stanford, there was the huge bonfire at Lake Lagunita and the whole student body would gather with the band to join forces against the Golden Bears. During football season, he emphasized that the entire energy of the school was focused on beating the opponent for that weekend and dressing up like Indians to intimidate them. Oh and singing the infamous Stanford drinking song--“For it’s wine, wine, wine that’s makes you feel so fine on The Farm!” --of course.
            While we don’t dress up like Indians today (although the band does still have a few original numbers that involve the Dollies dancing like Indians), that same school spirit--Nerd Nation!--still permeates the campus year round despite the excessive work load that most students impose on themselves.
            The alumni have taken that same spirit with them all over the country and into the lives of their families, just as Bill did with me. My grandfather instilled in me a love for my school and a love for life that I will take with me forever and hopefully pass on to another generation of Trees.
            As I walked up to his gravesite to say my final goodbye, I put down a cardinal rose and gave him my promise to do him proud at his alma mater. And before I left, I know he was with me when I told him “GO CARD!”

Haroon Zaidi: The trouble with staying in touch



             So, to be honest, I’m a little strange when it comes to goodbyes.  I’m generally not emotional at the moment, but then the next day or a couple days later, it finally hits me that it’s over and I feel to be honest slightly depressed, well that’s not the right word, moody would be more accurate as would be reminiscent in a slightly downcast way.  During the activity itself, there’s so much energy and activity going on, I take it for granted how well I’ve gotten to know the people and believe that the feeling will remain.  Yet, invariably it doesn’t.
The trouble with staying in touch is that people, get busy memories fade, lives continue.  Everyone is all psyched up at the end of the activity, they promise that they’ll miss each other, and needless to say there are always those few lifelong friendships that arise from the experience, but for the most part it degrades to just saying hi to people while riding your bike.
So you know what I decided, I will hit you all up to get coffee with you, to bum some free food (vegetarian risotto possibly), to have conversations about life and literature, you know, just that random stuff that makes experiences worth it, or so at least so is my plan for right now. 
Seriously though, we have so many awesome people in this class and I’m excited to see where they are all going to be in the next ten or fifteen years, then again maybe a part of the feeling is that it doesn’t last.  The sentimentalist and romantic in me are in direct conflict with each other, part of me wants things to last forever another wants them to end as soon as possible so I can start feeling nostalgic about it.  Maybe it’s best to leave this feeling untarnished as long as possible, to think how awesome these three weeks were, without risking losing the feeling.
I guess I can’t be as logical about feelings as I would like to be.  If you haven’t gotten the drift of this post yet, cut me some slack if its overly repetitive, it’s late: I think we should all stay in touch, there is so much more to do at Stanford, that even if we were to have only 2 or 3 meetings every quarter, we could never do all the things there are to do.  Even if we were to make a class there would still be so many other things.   After spending 3 hectic weeks with all of you, it would be a shame to let all of that fall to the wayside.  Enough palavering guys, I know there are still so many things I would like to do personally; we have over dozen extremely bright, talented, and diverse individuals, let’s make this happen.   
 
 Sincerely and in Continuing Friendship,
Haroon H. Zaidi