March and April 2008

see all the photos in the photogallery

The big news for March and April revolves around... Tennis, as usual!  Will managed to make Varsity his Freshman year, quite the accomplishment given four slots and forty eight contenders from Freshman to Seniors.  Brie is now playing first doubles for the girl's team, who are currently undefeated.  Kate's DBH 3 team wound up the season middle of the pack, but fun was had by all.

Brie with her partner and team mates


Brie with her boyfriend Adrian

Kate's team at the end of season party


In the meantime, the homestead is become a little more energy efficient as we ... quite literarily... wrap the house in Styrofoam (that's what all the blue panels are).  And Kate is remodeling the kid's bathroom.

Looking for Mr. Goodschool

So, by my calculations, UMass Amherst is more than 10 times better than Queens University in Ontario, Canada, with a pro-rated score of 25.4 to the rather unimpressive score of 2.5 for the Canadian University. That’s using my ranking methodology, of course, but frankly, I’m not really convinced that US News and World Report got it right in their study, and the less said about ARWU (Academic Rating of World Universities) the better. takes a more interesting approach, rating the institutions based on student feedback, but it seems like they all end up with a “B,” which is not very helpful. So I think I’ll stick with my system, which combines personal experiences with several institutions and a scientific scoring system to come up with a single number that really, when you get right down to is, says almost nothing useful.

This was all part of a weeklong exercise called “take your Daughter around to pick a University she would like to attend,” visiting places from as far north as Queen's University in Ontario, Canada and as far south as Vassar in Poughkeepsie, NY.  I have to say, it was an interesting exercise. There are concrete measures you can use (and some of the rankings mentioned above do). There are concrete measures that seem to me to be the obvious “true” measure of the worth of a degree that you just can’t find. That would be median incomes of undergraduates, say, four years after graduating. That way, you could find the “break even” point of shelling out three times as much money to send someone to Vassar or Cornell or RPI instead of a local school.

But, really, our first stop, and in fact first session, included this sage bit of advice; “High school is about how you perform. College is about who you are.” High School is about taking the same classes with the same people and seeing who ends up on top of the pig pile academically. College is about becoming independent, finding your course in life, and generally starting down a path that is going to be an experience unique to each person.

So, how do you measure how well a University allows someone to find themselves?  Well, my system tries to measure both tangible and intangible aspects of the contenders (Queens, Vassar, Cornell, RPI, and Umass Amherst), then pro-rates them based on cost.  That give Umass Amherst a rather substantial lead, but even it's raw score is pretty good.  You can see the rankings in detail here.


Day 1 - Umass Amherst


UMass Amherst; the old mixed with the new, the new being the "big-assed library"

Amherst is also home to the Emily Dickinson Museum, which explains in detail about all the sordid affairs in the Dickinson family


Day 2 - Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Homestead


Me and my pal FDR a his Presidential Library, and below, the Roosevelt homestead.

Brie enjoys the opportunity to get up early and use the exercise equipment at one of the hotels we stayed at

The resting place of FDR's dog (near the sundial), unfortunately obscured by the massive marble headstone for FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt.

The first piece of ugly modern art I get to mock, surrounded by busts of FDR and Churchill, who based on their expressions do not approve.


Day 3 - Vassar


At Vassar, the most beautiful campus ever.  The place was huge (seemed as big as UMass Amherst with 1/10th the students).  Below, the non-denominational chapel, to the right, the entrance to the library. 

Lower left, the music building.  Lower right, the only ugly thing we found on the campus, more modern art to mock. 


Day 4 - Visit Eric and Cathy (and Ryan and Evan) Haines and Cornell


The Cornell Herb Garden, site of Eric and Cathy's wedding


And now site of a superfund cleanup to remove asbestos


The Cornell Campus.  Below, the famous McGraw tower... famous because of the Great Pumpkin Episode.  To the right, a shot of the campus, and below that, one of the many waterfalls and gorges around the campus


Day 4 continued - the drive to Canada


Below, driving across the border in the "1000 island" region of New York / Ontario.

Above and below, visiting Fort Henry in Ontario


Day 5 - Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario


So much modern art to mock, so little time

The chemistry labs equipped with hair dryers

The hyper-modern library which clashes horribly with the rest of the campus architecture

Day 6 - Drive back from Canada, Remington Firearms exhibit, Howe Caverns


Both of us are wearing our "Vassar" shirts

Brie realizes that size does matter


The Howe Caverns - despite the large number of rather tacky billboards, it was surprisingly cool, both in the figurative sense, and in the constant-52 degree-temperature sense.


Day 7 - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


Outside the student union, still the best center of campus life of all the Universities we visited

Modern art the way it should be, the "tree of pain."


The new Performing Arts Center nearing completion

Brie with the Folsom Library and the Voorhees Shrine to Technology in the background


Day 8 - Back Home

Where Patric and Tasha do their standard keen observation of Kate preparing food (in case she drops anything; Patric will occasionally sneak up behind her and lie down innocently like he's not trying to trip her and scatter our dinner all over the kitchen floor).  And finally, shots of Patric and Tasha.