Title: Rain, Rain, Go Away
Date Occurred: Sunday, June 16, 2019
Date Written: June 27, 2019
Written By: Joel T. Kant
Copyright (c) June 27, 2019
Carol still seemed half-asleep on Sunday morning as Holly, Carol, and I got into Holly's 2010 metallic gray Honda Accord to drive from Ohio to Brunswick, Maine. We got out of the driveway around seven am. Holly predicted we would be at our hotel around eight pm. We were off to spend a week visiting colleges to which Carol might apply. We had already visited some colleges in Ohio and in Michigan and even in Boston, but the colleges in this visit were all in New England with none very close to Boston. I liked Holly's plan to drive to the college furthest away first. Over the subsequent days, we would have relatively short drives as we checked out other colleges as we gradually made our way back to Ohio.
It was raining as we started and it would continue to rain to a greater or lesser extent for the whole drive. Traffic still moved well most of the time, but when the rain sometimes got hard, even the fastest drivers stayed well under the speed limit.
Eventually, we had a big traffic slowdown, but the reason was obvious. A semi truck with trailer had gone completely over the righthand guardrail. The guardrail was mangled and the truck some distance downhill. There were stopped vehicles. People milled around. Scattered debris was on the road. It was unclear if the truck driver had injuries or worse. Traffic was moving in the left lane, though, and we got past it.
Later at another point, we ran into a huge slowdown of traffic. The rain at this time was light, so I did not know the reason for the slowdown. A sign on the highway said to turn into a certain AM radio station to hear traffic updates, so I did. The radio speakers were in an endless loop about this being the station for traffic updates, but then gave no updates whatsoever to explain this situation. Holly and Carol got on their iPhones. They both informed me that it was "red" for the next five miles on the displayed maps. Yet, there seemed no labeled accident as the apps sometimes display.
It took about half an hour or more to go five miles, but then traffic sped up again to normal speed. Holly commented on how a five-mile traffic slowdown during a Sunday afternoon for no obvious reason was mysterious.
Many of the toll plazas are now using a radio transmitter called EZ-Pass. We did not have the transmitter, so had to go in the lanes with tellers and cash registers. There were other booths where motorists with EZ-Pass were instructed to go through at 5 mph. The delays at the toll booths where we paid cash were not bad at all.
An exception for having tolls but zero tollbooths was Massachusetts. Metal gridworks extend over the highway filled with cameras. Signs claim that if you do not have an EZ-Pass, then the cameras will read your plates and you will be billed. From what other signs said, you would pay about half as much if you just had an EZ-Pass transmitter. Compared to how backed up the toll plazas used to get when I lived in Massachusetts, it was nice to drive at full speed under those camera gadgets. I used to spend horrendous amounts of time at long lines in Massachusetts' toll booths.
We got as close as we planned to ever get toward Boston on this trip since we were going to turn onto I-495 and head northward up to New Hampshire. Signs told us I-495 was coming when traffic came to a standstill. Ahead no more than half a mile was a sea of flashing lights. I could not see the accident itself, but something bad was going on. Some vehicles were firetrucks that I could see since they are taller than the cars around. Other flashing lights were lower so they were probably police cars, but their red and blue lights were visibly flashing around.
There was an exit ramp on the right. Holly messed around with her iPhone to see if we could get around the accident through the ramp. She had no luck figuring it out with her normal Apple map app. Traffic occasionally went a few inches, then stopped again. Holly had another app called WAZE. That app indicated there was a big accident, and that we could indeed get around it with this exit ramp. Others were figuring out the same thing, but eventually, there was a space big enough for me to pull over and take the ramp.
We started going down two-lane roads with lots of stop signs. We were in a residential section with speed limits of 25 mph.
Holly announced, "WAZE isn't working anymore!"
I had no idea were to go. I was at an intersection with cars behind me, so I simply went straight.
Holly switched back to the Apple map app, which through the magic of the GPS in her iPhone knew where we were now. It directed us back to the highway on these 25 mph side roads. Lo and behold, we had gotten passed the holdup doing this. In the distance to the south as we got back on the highway, we could still see the holdup looked worse than ever. We had succeeded, as we were now in light traffic and heading northward at the speed limit.
This highly impressed with what this technology can do.
We rolled into the Best Western hotel in Brunswick, Maine a little after ten pm. Although Holly had predicted we would be there by eight pm, I felt we had done well given the weather and circumstances. It was still raining gently as we brought in our bags.
Title: Bowdoin College
Date Occurred: Monday, June 17, 2019
Date Written: June 27, 2019
Written By: Joel T. Kant
Copyright (c) June 27, 2019
As we left the Best Western hotel a little before eight am, I asked Carol, "Was staying at Best Western a wonderful experience?"
Carol answered, "It was a bed to sleep in, and the bed was comfortable." (Fig. 1)
Without the rain, I could see how a small strip of land thickly laced with trees partially hid the hotel from the road. I might have missed the small sign for the hotel at the driveway at the road in the rain last night except Holly's iPhone had told me exactly where to turn. I recalled from many years ago how out in New England massive buildings like hotels and supermarkets had fairly small signs and the buildings supposed unsightliness was partially obscured by trees. It makes for scenic driving, but can be infuriating to find places for a visitor who had never been there before. Out in Ohio and the rest of the Midwest, hotels have giant, brightly illuminated signs blatantly visible from the road and buildings not surrounded by trees that although fairly ugly are easy for strangers to find.
Figure One: Best Western Hotel in Maine
The streets around Brunswick, Maine had another habit that I recall from my years living in New England. In the Midwest, practically all intersections of small roads to a larger main road in a town or city have clear street signs for the intersecting road as well as the road one is on. In Brunswick, for a larger road, the smaller streets intersecting did have clear names on posts, but seldom was there a sign for the larger road one was driving in. That used to drive me nuts when I got lost as it was done the same way in New Hampshire and Massachusetts as if all the states out there agreed this is the way streets were to be labeled or not labeled. With Holly's iPhone with its GPS, this frustrating habit of inadequate street naming was hardly a problem!
Unlike Sunday where the weather had varied between medium rain to very heavy rain with the wipers never off, this morning was bright, sunny, and warm. (Fig. 2) Holly's gray Honda Accord had performed perfectly.
Figure Two: Carol About to Get in Holly's Honda Accord
Bowdoin College was down the road a few miles. I parked at the Admissions Building. It was a pretty building of a New England style. When we got inside, Holly and I waited as Carol explained who she was at the desk. There was a waiting area. Holly, Carol, and I went and took seats there, but there was hardly any time before Carol was called for her private inquisition where no parents were allowed!
Holly looked at her watch, telling me the inquisition would take about thirty minutes, so we might as well leave and look around. Two or three blocks from the Admissions Office, we were on Maine Street of Brunswick. Not a Main Street like most towns have, but a pun on this being the state of Maine. (Fig. 3)
Figure Three: Holly in Brunswick, Maine
I asked Holly, "Does Bowdoin College allow Freshman to have cars?"
Holly replied, "They are not allowed here."
I nodded. Although this was the first college we were visiting on this planned trip that was to take a week, Carol had already visited and checked out Miami University in Ohio, University of Michigan, OSU, and some other colleges, with some having that rule. The details of what was true and not at specific colleges were already blurring in my mind. I hoped Carol kept it straight better than me.
Holly and I walked by a parking lot filled with waiting taxis, but nobody this early in the morning seeming to need one yet. (Fig. 4) It was technically not on campus although close to it. Later in the campus tour, we would learn Bowdoin students got a highly discounted taxi rate.
Figure Four: Waiting Taxis
After about the correct time, Holly and I headed back to campus. A sign was visible at a shop called It's All Good that had not been visible earlier when we went the other way. The sign read, "Technically, Beer is a Solution." (Fig. 5)
Figure Five: Beer is a Solution Sign
I asked Holly, "As a chemist, is that true?"
Holly confirmed that beer does meet the chemical definition of a solution.
Holly noted an ice cream shop called Smiley's that looked like it belonged in a stereotypical small town. It had windows to order from and an awning. A bench along side the building provided a place to eat ice cream. A U.S. flag was on a pole. The flaking paint on the side of the building made it seem appropriate to a small town rather than ugly. However, it was not open this early in the morning. (Fig. 6)
Figure Six: Smiley's Ice Cream Shop
The population of Brunswick is about twenty-thousand while Bowdoin College had a little under two thousand students. I grew up in the Village of Biron with population under eight hundred next to the city of Wisconsin Rapids, with population around eighteen-thousand. Therefore, a comparable size to Brunswick. Back then, technological items like home computers were typically two years late showing up compared to big cities like Madison. These days, Amazon delivers even the most recent technological items to the most rural areas in mere days. The internet makes the world seem a much smaller and less isolated place no matter where one is physically located in it! Carol seems to find appeal in a small college in a small town that eludes me. If one had a car although Freshmen are not allowed them, then the sizeable city of Portland, Maine is fairly close. I have to remind myself that I am not the one looking for a college, but Holly also reminded me of that as well in case I forgot.
When Holly and I got back to the Admissions Building, Carol followed by a college student and an admissions officer came out of a private office. Rather than Carol looked exhausted and drained by her ordeal, she seemed happy and relaxed.
The campus tour was next. As we waited for it to start, Holly and Carol explained to me that the admission rate is only around ten percent. I find that very competitive for a college where one could buy a modest house in Cleveland for the annual cost or an impressive McMansion if one lumps all the four years into a lump sum.
Going on the interview that I kept calling an inquisition "shows demonstrated interest." It was not required to go on these, but for some colleges including this one, it did increase one's chances to get a little higher than that otherwise ten percent chance to get in. Other young people with what appeared to be their parents were also showing up now at the Admissions Office. Some of the young people went straight to the interview, while others were going on the campus tour first.
A current student was our tour guide. One interesting feature during our tour was a series of buildings that looked like fraternity buildings, but we were told were dorm buildings. One person in our tour group asked about Greek life on campus.
With what seems to me to be pride, the tour guide said that all the fraternities were disbanded in 1997; there were never any sororities. Most of the parents in the tour group seemed to treat that news with great relief.
Back in 1983, I had pledged the TKE fraternity but did not have enough money to pay the national dues so was never officially a member. My wife Holly and nearly everybody I tell this to have trouble believing this, but I was a strict teetotaler and went to the TKE house to ESCAPE from peer pressure to drink because the peer pressure in the dorms was about a thousand times worse than it was in the TKE house! This completely contradicts what most people believe about fraternities. The complete absence of fraternities and sororities left me sad rather than impressed.
The tour guide pointed out that there is no symbolic gate nor walls between Bowdoin College and the town of Brunswick. He stressed that this fit with the feeling of openness of Bowdoin.
I tried to get some sense of what happens now at a small college like this for drinking and drugging with the party scene. Being it was June so the bulk of the students were gone, I was not getting any clear picture other than the Beer is Technically a Solution sign at the place close to campus. Flipping around in the campus propaganda literature, I found all information about this aspect of typical campus life put through PR and sanitized to the point of complete saccharin unbelievability. I found this true at every campus Carol had us visit.
The tour guide took us into a building. As he told the crowd about the athletic facilities, I wandered alone around the corner where I ran into a polar bear. Carol when school was in session did speech and debate. At one of the high schools in Ohio where the state competition was held, the symbol of the hosting school was a polar bear. Greeting visitors was a life size, but stylized and clearly plastic cartoon version of a polar bear that looked more like a Japanese anime drawing of a polar bear than an authentic one. The polar bear of Bowdoin College looked real, although dead and stuffed. I came and read the sign under the stuffed polar bear. (Fig. 7) He was shot in 1915 by a graduate of the class of 1898.
Figure Seven: Sign Showing This is an Authentic Stuffed Polar Bear
I was genuinely surprised that an authentic stuffed animal could still be displayed in 2019, although clearly of historic importance to this college. (Fig. 8) Weren't there protests over this needless death of an animal? How could modern college students who think all animals are people too allow this to remain? I waited in vain for the crowd including Holly and Carol to round the corner to see the massive stuffed animal. However, the shuffling sounds and voices seemed to be about to leave me behind, so I went back to not lose the tour group.
Figure Eight: The Polar Bear
I told Holly and Carol, "You missed the polar bear."
They didn't want to leave the group to go back to see him, so I simply showed them the image on the LCD screen on my camera. Carol did find it odd for that to still be prominently displayed given the animals-are-people-to culture that has always been common in her time alive.
An odd aspect of campus is the lawns were much more weeds that grass. I wondered if this was an aspect of keeping things natural and pure, so no weed killer would be used. Although Holly complains bitterly about the weeds in her lawn in Cleveland, Ohio, I do use Weed-and-Feed every summer, and it looks far more like grass than this did! I did not find an answer to the lawns of weeds, but it seems a likely guess for what the tour guide said next.
He proudly declared, "Bowdoin College is carbon neutral!"
I muttered to Holly how silly I found that, "Probably means they put some recycle garbage cans around and then planted a bunch of trees off somewhere to use a magic formula."
It was getting hot outside, around eighty-five Fahrenheit, so it was a relief when the tour guide led us into a building. It had a large open area surrounded by glass and steel. We sat on highly uncomfortable wooden rectangles with no back support. I would hate to attend a class in this showcase room, but it was refreshing to cool off.
After the tour guide rambled on for a while on what classes where like for him, he returned to bragging about Bowdoin being carbon neutral.
I had enough, raised my hand, and pointed out, "This room is air conditioned. That takes energy. Is that all really from solar panels or some other renewable source?"
I figured if even ten-to-twenty percent of the energy for campus came from renewable sources, I would be very impressed. He had no idea about that.
He declared, "Geothermal makes the air conditioning, so no energy at all is used!"
He went on with a total misunderstanding of how geothermal heating and cooling works that no adult or even high school kid should be able to say with a straight face! He made it sound like heat was taken from the building during the summer to be stored in the ground, and then that same heat was extracted to heat the building during the winter.
Some friends of Holly's got a geothermal system put into their house, as did one of my fellow professors at Tri-C. The real story is that big tubes buried deep into the ground circulate a fluid. It is certainly more efficient than normal air conditioning and normal heating, but trying to pretend it is totally free energy is utter nonsense! I thought this was a very bad sign for the education students seemed to get at Bowdoin.
After the campus tour, we attended an information session. A large TV or giant computer flat screen showed a slideshow of propaganda from the college. One image infuriated Holly. It showed a man who might be a professor with him wearing glasses that seemed to have no side-shields so not true safety glasses showing a young woman who appeared to be a student pipetting some concoction with her having no glasses, safety or otherwise, on her face. (Fig. 9)
To a chemist like Holly who used to run a lab, this is not amusing at all! Back when we were looking for a high school for Carol, there were two private high schools that Holly and I both agreed to take off the list because of blatant safety goggle violations. I am not sure if Holly's attitude is now that Bowdoin College should be struck from Carol's list for the same violation. I do understand that almost all these photos are posed and staged, not nearly as candid as pretended to be, and that many people think safety goggles make them look ugly, but it screams out that this school cares more about image than potentially blinding students through safety carelessness! It is NOT an image to make me want to let Carol go there!
Figure Nine: Propaganda Slide of Pipetting with No Safety Goggles
As with the tour guide, the speaker at the information session told us about the increase in diversity. She added how important it was for students be exposed to different viewpoints. She stated that deliberately controversial speakers are brought in to encourage thought and discussion.
When I was at The Ohio State University in the early Nineties, there were large protests by a Jewish group when a speaker named Louis Farrakhan came. I stayed as far away from that end of campus as I could when that was going on! I wondered what the controversial speaker meant here.
I asked, "How far into controversy does your controversial speakers go?"
The woman thought about it, then said, "We recently had John Kasich here giving a talk."
I wonder if she knew we were from Ohio! John Kasich just stopped being governor of Ohio in January of this year after eight years at it. Some people liked him, while others certainly did not. His name is nothing that would come to my mind if bragging about how controversial somebody is, though.
As the woman took other questions and moved on to other topics, Holly whispered to me that I seemed incapable of getting my mind around how liberal a college like Bowden is. To those in this place, Holly assured me that John Kasich would be a highly controversial speaker.
The woman also told us that the slogan of Bowdoin College is to promote the greater good over the individual. The tour guide had also told us about the "greater good," but he had discretely left off the part about putting that "over the individual." This speaker did not. She did realize how controversial that is since she indicated that the definition of the greater good is subject to different interpretations by different people.
She gave as an example of the greater good how active the alumni of the school stayed even after graduation. She told of how various alumni acted as host families for students to go visit various other states and countries. That did seem an admirable expression of the greater good.
After this session was all over, Holly, Carol and I headed toward Holly's Honda because we had another college in Maine to go to that day.
I sarcastically said, "The greater good over the individual. Rah, rah, rah. Support Karl Marx."
Holly looked frustrated with my attitude, but it was Carol herself who reminded me, "That slogan is subject to interpretation."
What I personally liked best about Bowdoin College was that the dead and stuffed polar bear was still on display. I've been over a vegetarian for over a decade now, but I liked that in this political climate that its still there.
Title: Colby College
Date Occurred: Later on Monday, June 17, 2019
Date Written: June 27, 2019
Written By: Joel T. Kant
Copyright (c) June 27, 2019
Our next destination was Colby College, also in Maine, about an hour north of Bowdoin. We got there with around half an hour before the start of our information session and campus tour. Unlike at Bowdoin College, Carol had no on-campus interview.
Behind the Admission Buildings, we found some picnic tables. Holly had brought a lunch. We had a big red cooler with drinks and fruit including grapes. The main course was cans of Trader Joel's Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves).
Now fed and the cooler stowed back in the trunk of the car, we went to the information session.
As with Bowdoin College, a big deal was made at Colby College that all the frats are gone from here too. Looking around at other parents, the general reaction to learning that no fraternities and no sororities exist seemed great relief!
We were also told that Colby College is carbon neutral. We were then shown a photograph of a a field filled with solar panels. I think we were told that about 16% of the electrical energy used by the campus came from solar panels. I found that so much more believable than this plant-some-trees-call-it-carbon-neutral and then act like running on free energy like that idiot tour guide at Bowdoin College.
After this, we went on the tour. I wanted to see the field of solar panels, but we never got to see that.
Wandering around the campus, most building looked fairly new, but designed to emulate classic architecture. Holly told me this reminded her of visiting Disney (or Miami of Ohio), but I do not think that was a compliment.
The reason became clear when the tour guide mentioned the entire college moved to this site called Mayfield Hill from the city of Waterville starting in the nineteen-thirties. Yet, the college had history going back to the early 1800's. This explained the discrepancy between the claimed ancientness of the college as contrasted to the appearance of the buildings.
I was a little surprised when our tour guide admitted, "Maine is the whitest state in America." She had taken a class with this name. The class discussed immigrants to Maine, and Maine's effort to become more diverse.
It seemed it could be true, but the topic is hyper-sensitive. She described successful efforts to improve diversity on campus to over thirty percent. The tour group I was in seemed from visual appearance to be either white or Asian, nothing else, and not close to 30% being the Asians. With Holly and my own family background being from a slew of European countries, Carol will definitely get the category of Caucasian.
Carol attends high school at Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Posters and banners throughout the school proclaim the motto, "Dream. Dare. Do."
At Colby, I noticed a big flag with the motto, "Dare North Ward." (Fig. 10)
I asked about the meaning, and it was a fund-raising activity for the athletic center, which I gathered would have the building extended in the northern direction.
Figure Ten: Dare North Ward Banner
The tour guide told us not just about the cafeterias, but the various restaurants in easy walking distance. She particularly praised a new Greek restaurant. Back when I visited University of Wisconsin-Madison when I was in high school, a tour guide did a similar praise-the-restaurants routine. I had considered this only for rich people. However, things are very different for Carol, so maybe the praise-the-restaurants routine is relevant and important to her. Furthermore, the restaurant information may be important that same day to the parents on the tour.
Although we had a packed lunch, Holly remained concerned about finding good restaurants through the trip such as supper for later. Maybe in Carol's socio-economic world, restaurants around campus will have relevance. In any case, Holly had done a restaurant search of Portland for supper that night using her iPhone, but found many restaurants were closed today because it was Monday.
The tour guide bragged about the art museum on campus. However, she did a double-take as she led us there. She explained she had forgotten it was not open on Monday. I commented this closing on Monday seems an East Coast thing as I used to encounter it in Boston, Massachusetts. The tour guide agreed some things in Maine are closed on Monday, but did not know why.
Holly speculated that with tourism an important industry in Maine, weekends were working days. To get a day off seemed to evolve into this closed-on-Monday situation.
The tour guide pointed out a large area of grass called a quad. She talked glowingly about carefree students spending idle hours playing frisbee golf or having picnics there. (Fig. 11) For all the colleges I have actually attended, I rarely saw the big green quads used for that kind of frisbee and frolic thing, but crossed by fixated students walking rapidly through them in a hurry to get to their important destinations and with far larger concerns than the scenic beauty.
Figure Eleven: The Quad
As you can see in the photo, there were no students playing frisbee, having picnics, or any such nonsense that tour guides ramble on about. (Fig. 11) This was probably because this was June and very few students were around. Maybe she was correct when school was in session that this really happens.
The guide took us to a library. She indicated a portion open 24/7. She confessed to needing it once. She assured us that this was due to extreme procrastination on her part rather than difficulty of the program. I thought back to UW-Madison, which had two 24/7 libraries and several 24/7 computer centers that stayed occupied even at three am!
Rather than the polar bear of Bowdoin College, the big symbol of Colby College is called a weeping lion. A large marble statue shows it. The lion is wounded in his side. He lays over a shield, an axe, and a spear as if to indicate he had just defeated a man who tried to kill him so presumably gave him the wound. (Fig. 12)
Figure Twelve: The Weeping Lion Statue
After we got back in the car, Holly described Colby as being like a combination of Miami University in Ohio and Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, with a sprinkle of Bowdoin College.
Title: Interlude in Freeport and Portland
Date Occurred: Still later on Monday, June 17, 2019
Date Written: June 27, 2019
Written By: Joel T. Kant
Copyright (c) June 27, 2019
Holly suggested we go next to a popular tourist destination in Freeport, Maine near Portland. It is the L.L. Bean store. A pilgrimage to a mere store may seem silly, but I had often heard people from Boston making the trek up to Maine and doing just that. I also knew Holly wanted me to get a new winter coat, even though hardly a topic that springs to mind for a sunny day in the mid-Eighties in June! My winter coat for seriously cold days has down filling, but the nylon has thinned to where it occasionally loses a few small feathers through tiny holes.
I have to admit the size of the L.L. Bean store did justice to it being a tourist destination. (Fig. 13) It was the size of a modest suburban mall, but containing only L.L. Bean.
Figure Thirteen: L.L. Bean
I did indeed find a nice, thick, down-filled winter coat on sale for just under a hundred dollars. The sturdy fabric will properly hold in the feathers for many years to come. I bought it. Carol and Holly got themselves jackets as well.
Outside the store was a giant boot about twenty-feet tall. (Fig. 14) As I took a photo of Carol in front of it, an L.L. Bean employee explained to a man with young kids that normally kids were allowed to climb on the it, but that was temporarily banned for minor renovations. When Carol was younger, I think she would have loved to join other young kids in climbing all over it. At age sixteen, she gave no opinion on the matter.
Figure Fourteen: The Giant Boot
After L.L. Bean, we headed off to find a restaurant in Portland, Maine that was open on a Monday. Since I've been a vegetarian for over a decade, that can make finding a restaurant hard, although it has been getting easier than when I first started. Holly found a restaurant where everything was vegetarian called Blue Elephant. It was described as fusion Asian.
Carol's meal included fried tofu. To my surprise because she normally hates tofu, she ate the tofu as well as the rest of her food. Holly was surprised too, asking Carol if she now liked tofu if cooked this way. (Fig. 15)
Carol would not say it was good, but only admit, "It isn't terrible."
Figure Fifteen: Carol with her Vegetarian Meal
In Portland, I noticed many rainbow flags prominently displayed including at this place, but at a table next to us were a college-aged man and college-aged woman who seemed to be flirting on a typical boy-girl date.
Done with our supper, we drove to a hotel in Marlboro, Massachusetts. There were no issues in the drive, and the weather was fine.
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