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Letters to the Editor

Mountain Men

I enjoyed the last issue, as always. This time I was particularly drawn to the article by Scot Hillman (“Up Toward Mountains Higher”).

I discovered the joys of mountaineering during my Stanford years and have continued climbing actively ever since. I have also climbed Mount Stanford, and I recall it not being exactly straightforward.

Hillman laments not finding a summit register on top. That sent me to the records of my own ascent on September 26, 1994, and I see that I did manage to take slides of the initial few pages of the summit register.

Studying the entries a little makes pretty clear what we have. Apparently a member of the Sierra Club ascent team of July 16, 1940, transcribed the earlier entries into a new register; they all signed this and left it in place. They must have taken the original register back to the University of California’s Bancroft Library, as is commonly done for safekeeping of valuable registers, or ones that have been filled up.

Since the register is no longer there, I now regret that I did not take pictures of more pages. Unfortunately, Sierra Nevada summit registers have been disappearing at a fast rate lately, and many of us have puzzled over why that is. A few possibilities come to mind: they are being taken for souvenirs; people who believe that manmade things do not belong on Nature’s mountaintops are methodically destroying them; or some jokesters are disposing of them as a lark. Reading famous names like Norman Clyde, Jack Sturgeon, Hervey Voge, Dave Brower, Walter A. Starr, Jr., ’24, JD ’26, J.S. Hutchinson, Professor Bolton Coit Brown and others—as in the present case—is a thrill that is becoming extremely rare.

Robert L. Rockwell, MS ’64, PhD ’70
Ridgecrest, California

Now that I know about your superb magazine, I am an addicted fan. The January/February issue is again outstanding in its variety and depth with fascinating articles. In particular, Scot Hillman’s account of his Mount Stanford climb grabbed my attention.

As a mountain climber whose experience also includes the frustration and disorientation of route-finding, I can relate to the account of his ascent (with four companions) of the 13,963-foot mountain. I can understand his plight (although temporary) in the wild and remote terrain and rocky bluffs of this area of King’s Canyon National Park. Such dilemmas are common in Colorado’s Rockies, with their 54 14,000-foot mountains and 633 13,000-foot peaks. I have taken the wrong trail, chosen the worst route up a fourteener and gotten caught in storms more times than I care to admit.

Hillman and crew’s persistence was admirable, considering the extreme elevation gain and the hiking distance from the trailhead to the base of the mountain. The first day demanded a 15-mile hike gaining an elevation of 6,500 feet. Try that with a pack. Ernie Cunliffe, at age 70, deserves special credit for making the summit. The touch of irony when they realized they had already reached the summit earlier brought them some self-directed laughter.

Hillman included relevant historical references in his narration, which added import to what the five men accomplished, particularly regarding Cunliffe’s connection to it all. It is a surprising and absorbing article in your varied periodical of intellectual, informative and inspiring articles, always with emphasis on the human element. Thanks again.

Tom Jenkins
Centennial, Colorado

Virtually Real

Professor Jeremy Bailenson’s research with people using avatars in virtual reality is fascinating (“Seeing Is Believing,” January/February). At IMVU [a messaging firm], where typically 60,000 people from around the world are simultaneously online with their avatars, we also observe a wide range of behaviors. In a virtual world, many forms of behavioral experimentation are possible without terrestrial constraints. What a wonderful new opportunity.

IMVU customers can buy additional virtual body types, makeup, hairstyles, clothing and more (there are 1.4 million items and growing daily) from thousands of non-IMVU content creators. From goth-curious teens to romance-curious adults, many people find the virtual world a safe place to explore their own interests.

Kevin Cool wrote in his “First Impressions” column (January/February) an anecdote about the difference between a virtual world and Earth, saying that only in the real world does a person feel the pain of a hammer blow to the hand.

We suggest that Cool misses the point of Professor Bailenson’s research. Physical sensation may not be felt in virtual space, but psychological and emotional sensations most certainly are. People using avatars feel the joy of expressing oneself with a new “body,” the fun of sharing an experience with a new friend, the pride of affirming comments from others, the thrill of budding romance and the pain of an online “divorce.”

We, the Stanford alumni working at IMVU in Palo Alto, invite everyone from the Stanford community to create an online avatar. Make friends, have fun, and decide for yourself.

Cary Rosenzweig, ’82, MBA ’88strong>
Palo Alto, California

Your essay (“Me and My Avatar,” First Impressions, January/February) and the article “Seeing Is Believing” blew me away! The article is a historic treasure, a research bonanza. Thank you.

I am a retired internist and addictive-disorder specialist who has treated 300-plus addicted physicians. (I should add my career interest was not connected to my ever being addicted. My staff was fond of saying it was not clear what disease I was not recovering from.) For a year, I’ve been writing a novel about an addicted physician with 10 years’ recovery who aspires to more than sobriety: he must become a hero. He attempts this by using his laptop, where he has contrived several dueling “incarnations-avatars” who espouse a range of moral, psychological, philosophic and commonsense solutions. Your bit about hitting your hand, then your avatar’s, with a hammer is priceless in demonstrating the shortcomings of such a dialectic. I (and my character) have had no experience with Hindu mythology or virtual reality games and picked up on the spreading use of “avatar” in the general literature I read.

David Breithaupt, ’52
San Jose, California

Mercury Rising

I read with interest your article on how 7,000 compact fluorescent lamps are being distributed by Stanford housing (“How Green Is My Quadrangle,” January/February). There is a disturbing article in Forbes (January 28) about compact fluorescent light bulbs, stating that each bulb “contains 5 milligrams of mercury, a highly toxic and indestructible substance.” If true, these bulbs could be a disaster in the future (like asbestos).

Frances Mitchell
Oakland, California

It is evidently politically correct and a “feel good” to use biodegradables, but what is the economic trade-off? It may seem a bit quaint to have someone ask about money, but as an elder alumnus, it seems to me it should be the gravamen of a decision to utilize these materials.

Dan Devor, ’51, MA ’56
Oakhurst, California

Editor's Note: At present, in part because production is lower, compostable serviceware does cost more off the shelf than disposables. According to Erin Gaines at Stanford Dining, each potato-starch utensil costs 4.5 cents, as compared with 1.5 cents for a plastic utensil. Compostable containers cost $.35 to $.45 each, as compared with $.12 to $.15 for a polystyrene foam container. However, “In the U.S., the price of a product does not include all the costs associated with disposing of it in a landfill,” Gaines says. “When you take into account these added costs, products like compostable serviceware that are turned into a new usable product instead of dumped in a landfill become much cheaper than their disposable counterparts.”

More Screen Gems

Your article (“Stanford on Screen,” Red All Over, January/February) is great and touches on something I’ve noticed for years. Even before I considered attending Stanford I noted that writers of any sort of fiction, when faced with the ambitious task of making a character “cool” and intelligent, often affiliated them with Stanford in some fashion. If all they needed was “smart,” it was MIT. Harvard, if they needed “foppish.” And for the most part, that’s just what I see/saw at Stanford. Well-rounded students who work hard and play hard. Balanced.

Ken Stewart, ’82
Carmel Valley, California

Editor's Note: Thanks to several correspondents, our list of screen characters with Cardinal connections has grown. Visit

Middle Eastern Life and Death

I couldn’t help but notice Pamela Olson’s jumbo-sized “Postcard from Palestine” in the Class Notes section (January/February). I was quite surprised that the magazine editors did not choose to “return to sender.” Of course, had they addressed a letter to Palestine, it never would have been delivered. Palestine is not a country, certainly not one recognized by the United States. I guess the Farm was too busy following Chelsea’s every move to notice that her father brokered a historic peace agreement in the summer of 2000. Yasser Arafat chose to incite violence rather than accept statehood.

Today the Palestinian Territories are engulfed by what looks like a civil war—the diplomatic Fatah (the party of the late Arafat) against Hamas, the terrorist organization that doesn’t hide its intentions to destroy Israel. What Olson describes as a “few young men with guns” managed to elect Hamas as the leading party of the Palestinians. Olson writes of her experience in the Fatah-controlled West Bank that “life under military occupation remains harsh and often devastating, but it goes on.” Still, I imagine that it’s better than life under Hamas rule in the Gaza strip, where Israel foolishly pulled out in 2005.

As an Israeli citizen (I moved to Jerusalem in 2003), I briefly served in the army. Friends of mine served in Gaza as well as Lebanon. Fighting an enemy who has orders to fight until their death and to leave their wounded for dead is not something that is easy to prepare for. Thankfully, I never fought. Still, in the midst of rockets falling, life too goes on in Israel. But that’s about where the similarity ends. When an Israeli is killed “in the conflict,” the nation mourns. When a Palestinian kills himself or herself in an attempt to murder civilians, the non-nation celebrates. Perhaps this is related to the “classic Palestinian kindness” that Olson refers to.

Barry Cooper, ’01
Passaic, New Jersey

No Sermon, Please

I am a strong believer in the importance of making life better and more enjoyable for ourselves and those around us. However, I found the End Note in the January/February issue a proselytizing and inappropriately nonsecular piece (“A Spirited Outlook”). I think it would be worthy to publish a story on Stanford alumni establishing a church and bringing happiness to those living in a dreary environment (although many I know from Boston would dispute that characterization of Beantown). This piece is not such a story, but feels, given its placement as the End Note, more like the magazine’s espousal that “nonreligious types” would be happier and purer by coming to religion.

Stephen Schweiger, ’91
Montclair, New Jersey

Walk-on Memories

Your November/December cover article (“The Underdogs”) brought back a lot of mostly fun memories of football at Stanford in the early 1960s.

I had some modest success, together with a few bright moments, in high school playing tailback and safety, but torn knee ligaments in the second game of my senior year, together with an inability to keep more than 155 pounds on my 5-foot-9-inch frame, pretty much ended any hopes of playing Division I football. Nevertheless, I was pretty excited about going to UC-Davis (then a non-scholarship school) and playing there, until Stanford’s freshman football coach, Dan Stavely, pitched the idea of continuing to play safety but switching to wide receiver on offense. The idea of going to Stanford was a dream come true, even though no scholarship was involved.

In today’s parlance, I guess I would have been considered a “recruited walk-on,” but in 1961 a walk-on was not in anybody’s lexicon and I was proud to be a recruit. A lot of other things were different in those days. We did not have a training table except during early fall, so pretty much everybody got the same nutrition. In addition, the BAC provided financial assistance through preferential access to on-campus jobs such as hashing at dorms, life guarding at Lake Lagunita, and groundskeeping, as well as summer jobs that paid quite well—provided that you actually worked.

Although I did not get in a lot of game time my freshman year, I did make the traveling squad and made a few good plays in a couple of games (San Jose State and UCLA in particular). Reconstructive surgery on my right knee during spring break negated playing on the varsity in the fall of 1962, but in the spring of 1963 under the new coach, John Ralston, I eventually made it a couple of times to the “green shirt” level on the depth chart before tearing a cartilage in my left knee in a scrimmage the week before the spring alumni game. That injury, together with being academically ineligible (as a result of flunking Econ 10 in the spring) in the fall of 1963, led me to rethink my priorities and drop football.

Although my only significant success was simply persevering for two years, I made several lifelong friends, including John Paye, whose daughter, Kate, was featured in the article. I can truthfully say that I’ve always been thankful that I had the opportunity to have been a part of “Indian” football.

Robert M. Wheatley, ’65
Cameron Park, California

Stanford has long had a deserved reputation as a haven for the two-sport star. I have the dubious distinction of a slightly different experience: that of the two-sport walk-on scrub! During my freshman year, back in the days when JV teams existed, I managed to work my way onto the men’s JV tennis team despite a fairly limited background in junior tennis. Though the JV team played only a handful of matches, against mostly local teams, it was fun and inspirational to be practicing at the same courts with (and very occasionally against) the “big boys.”

While I am a strong supporter of Title IX, Stanford’s growing implementation of it before my sophomore year spelled the death of the JV tennis team, as the women’s tennis team was brought over from the Roble courts to practice at the same location as the men’s team. As the last man left off the varsity for that year, I tried to continue to practice on my own, but finding consistent practice partners and regular court time proved a daunting task. I eventually faced up to the fact that I wasn’t going to have any more of the college tennis experience (at least at Stanford), and ultimately had a wonderful sophomore year playing in the jazz band and participating in multiple intramurals.

One of those intramurals was volleyball, and I got hooked. So junior year, I was crazy enough to walk on with the men’s varsity volleyball team. Though my playing time was fairly minimal that first year, I loved the camaraderie, the practices, the travel and being on that team. My senior year, I had improved enough to see a bit more playing time in the early season, but unfortunately conflicts with second quarter classes and labs kept me from consistently attending practice. I eventually made the very difficult decision to drop from the team, but I followed them avidly throughout the rest of the season.

To this day, I treasure my “walk-on” experiences. Since I live locally, I regularly attend matches for both sports (men’s and women’s) and have participated in numerous volleyball alumni matches and functions. I’ll wager that nearly all of the “walk-ons” past and present would agree with me: in spite of all the effort for negligible playing time, it was worth every drop of sweat, every stadium stair run, and every party missed!

Karl Yorston, ’78, MS ’78
Menlo Park, California

I really enjoyed reading your article and found most of it to be true. Most people don’t mention that many of the walk-ons were recruited. I thought it would be worth mentioning a few more current football walk-ons who have been very successful. Peter Griffin participated on special teams and a little bit at linebacker and was rewarded with a scholarship for a fifth year, this past fall. Nate Wilcox-Fogel, a fourth-year walk-on, was a key special teams player by the end of this year and made several huge plays for us. I was fortunate enough to get the chance to play a good amount on special teams and at tight end this year. Other younger guys who are walk-ons and should play as they get older include CJ Easter, Zach Nolan and Andy Fowler.

Pat Bowe, ’08
Stanford, California

Restock the Farm

According to “Century at Stanford” (November/December), 75 years ago “The Board of Athletic Control sold its 300 sheep . . . and shifted to lawn tractors to clip its athletic fields.” In the interests of combating global warming and restoring some of Stanford’s Farm image, let’s bring back the sheep to clip the residential lawns of The Row and other non-athletic areas (sheep manure, while a good fertilizer, would probably be unwelcome on the practice fields). Perhaps a Basque shepherd from Nevada would be interested in the post of Stanford shepherd. A flock of, say, 100 or so sheep on the Oval or in Memorial Court would be a great tourist attraction. I’m serious!

Julie (Beard) Spickler, ’62, MA ’65
Menlo Park, California

The following letters did not appear in the print edition of Stanford.

Tesla’s Founders

I happened to run across the article by Ann Marsh about Tesla Motors (“The Electric Company,” Planet Cardinal, January/February). I was shocked that she failed to mention that the company was originally co-founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, especially since Eberhard himself gave a speech about the company at Stanford on October 10.

True, Eberhard and Tarpenning have since left Tesla, but shouldn’t they nonetheless be given due credit for founding the company? They were the original visionaries behind Tesla Motors—not Straubel and Musk. Such an omission is most unfortunate and fails to communicate “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Mark D. Larsen
Eden, Utah

In Search of Peace

Stanford and its graduates are rightfully proud of its stature as one of the leading universities in the world. The January/February issue of the alumni magazine is an outstanding reflection of the quality of the institution. The contributions of faculty, students and graduates have been instrumental in solving problems and exploring new frontiers, not only in the world but in the universe.

What I have not seen in the magazine or other Stanford publications is very much attention to what the University is doing about the greatest international conflict of our time (or any other time)—the tendency to solve international conflict with warfare and military power.

I am a member of what Tom Brokaw dubbed “The Greatest Generation.” This name was inspired by our connection to World War II. And there is no doubt that my generation was instrumental in helping to stem the tide of what could have had some disastrous consequences for civilization at that time.

However, my involvement in that war and my observation of international relations since then has led me to wonder if there might be an even “Greater Generation” somewhere in the future. This would be a generation that would actively seek ways to build a more peaceful world environment—a generation that would lead people to begin to shed that one wild animal characteristic which humans still have, the inclination to attempt to solve conflicts by fighting instead of using our superior intellect. As the world population increases and resources become more scarce, the ability to resolve conflicts without resorting to war will be extremely important, because we have developed weapons with great destructive ability.

I would think that an institution with the reputation and stature of Stanford University could have significant influence in the shaping of that “Greater Generation” if the leadership and faculty were so inclined.

Bruce Hamilton, MA ’53
Milwaukie, Oregon

A Chance for All

We are all proud of Stanford’s academic traditions. But I am equally proud of what Stanford is trying to say when it so valiantly competes in everything from football, in the ever improving Pac-10, to the recent National Women’s Volleyball Championship between Stanford and Penn State. Losing to Penn State in that fifth game was bearable because both teams were just great and Penn State has an academic tradition.

But your cover story about our walk-ons succeeding says it all (“The Underdogs,” November/December). What could be more timely than the mention of Greg Camarillo, ’04, wide receiver, in the article? Greg came off the Miami Dolphins bench and caught the winning touchdown, in overtime, on December 16, to bring the Dolphins out of the doldrums and win their first NFL game this season. Greg’s parents were there, wearing his Dolphin number and taking pictures as their son saved the Dolphins from becoming the worst team in NFL history. Sound familiar, anyone?

I am no Greg Camarillo and never thought I could be; I came to Stanford as a transfer from UCLA in the spring quarter of 1947. Back then, phys ed was required of everyone, so one of the guys in the Stanford Village and I went out for spring football, primarily for the fun of it. Our coach, the revered Chuck Taylor, then freshman coach, treated everyone equally. Taylor became head football coach and later athletic director, taking Stanford to the Rose Bowl. But what makes me really proud of Stanford is that Greg Camarillo, I understand, is a mechanical engineer, like me. In our athletic programs, Stanford gives a chance to anyone lucky enough to get accepted to the University, even engineering students who carry a heavy academic load.

David G. Spokely, ’50
Palm Beach Shores, Florida

Missing the Point

One aspect of the debate over Donald Rumsfeld’s appointment to the Hoover Institution that I don’t think I’ve seen remarked on is the terrible lack of opportunity, or of expressed interest, in having Rumsfeld be engaged with the Stanford community (“Rumsfeld Appointment Meets Opposition,” Farm Report, November/December). But this is the one thing Stanford must be about, above all.

When a similar row erupted over the possibility that President Reagan’s library might be deposited at Stanford, 20 years ago, some charged that this amounted to Stanford granting a halo to a malefactor. Fine. My response then and now is that Stanford missed the boat with Reagan: to have his papers right here under the noses of scholars and critics. What better than to tear into that fossil heap, to unravel those years’ political stratigraphy?

Still more poignant for me, my architect father was one of Stanford’s planners during the Property Administration Continuing Education program. A guiding principle then was that Stanford’s property and physical plant encourage people across diverse disciplines to bump into each other often.

I wonder why, at the symbolic level, Stanford seems to have failed in that mission in Rumsfeld’s case. Hand him a reader’s card if all he wants is a week or two annually in the Hoover stacks—or sign him up to be a true academic and intellectual participant. And walk the walk (ways).

Bob Tyson, ’67, MFA ’86
Turin, Italy

I came to Stanford after World War II, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of the United States. He was the former supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe, and he was one of the many American generals who succeeded in liberating not only Europe but also the entire South Pacific. No doubt, this is the greatest achievement abroad by the United States, ever. In those days, the country had tremendous goodwill all over the world and the U.S. dollar was gold.

Due to the unfortunate war in Iraq, almost all of this goodwill has now been lost, which is so sad. Donald Rumsfeld had to leave the Department of Defense in disgrace, and in Europe he is considered a disaster.

In view of this, it is incomprehensible to me why the Hoover Institution chose to appoint him a “distinguished” visiting fellow. This must simply be an example of poor judgment.

Bengt Graab, MBA ’56
Monte Carlo, Monaco

Speaking Freely

Allowing a former secretary of defense to speak his mind is not exactly the apogee of Voltairean dedication to free speech or particularly courageous (“At Stanford, Speak Freely,” President’s Column, November/December). Inviting a so-called “Holocaust denier” would be. As one who has actually taken the time to read what the revisionists have to say, I can guarantee you will be amazed at what you hear.

Ken Meyercord
Reston, Virginia

Thrills and Spills

Circular Logic,” Farm Report, November/December). While I’m glad that this Stanford tradition survived a respectable 106 years or so, I’m saddened by the fact that no future generations of Stanford students will be able to experience the hodgepodge mix of sheer adrenaline, ecstasy and fright that comes with flying through and surviving that intersection at 30 mph on a clunky bicycle (or worse yet, a pair of rollerblades, as I did). Even the most stubborn atheists I knew would mutter a prayer of safety for their own life and limb when making their way through this daily campus commute. Now that the Intersection of Death has become nothing more than a chintzy University version of the Arc de Triomphe roundabout, I count myself as fortunate that I got to experience this life-threatening Stanford rite of passage firsthand.

Albert Lin, ’98
Honolulu, Hawaii

Flawed Conclusions

Two articles in the November/December issue want correction. The article “Mark Twain’s Inconvenient Truths” by Shelley Fisher Fishkin lauds Twain’s reconsideration of his attitudes relative to black former slaves but does not notify the reader of his unrepented derogations and slanders relative to American Indians. One of his biographers referred to this as Twain’s lifelong moral blind spot. Thus, perhaps, also an inconvenient truth.

The Examined Life article on the late Wolfgang Panofsky by Ted Boscia (“Science with a Conscience”) implies an extremely illogical conclusion in the statement, “Panofsky’s allegiance was without question—during World War II he had gained security clearances to work on the Manhattan Project.” The same agency and process that had granted Panofsky’s clearance also granted clearances to Julius Rosenberg, David Greenglass, Theodore Hall and George Koval as well as vetted the British clearances of Alan Nunn May and Klaus Fuchs—all convicted or admitted spies. This is in no way any reflection on Professor Panofsky (I plumed myself for having met him semi-socially on two occasions in the 1960s) or his allegiance to the U.S. Constitution but on the illogic of implying that receiving security clearance is proof of allegiance.

Donn D. Lobdell, PhD ’70
Sunol, California

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