Letters to the Editor
Water in the West
What a great learning experience for those lucky students on the Colorado River ("Water Course," January/February). While they learned a lot about water problems in the Southwest, [I hope] they will expand their thinking to include the rest of the world.
A few years ago, as a board member of our local water district, I attended an international water conference. One day while riding the shuttle bus between the convention center and our lodgings, the fellow seated beside me asked where I live. When I told him Oregon, he said, "Oh, then you don't know what water problems are. I'm from
Israel. We are very familiar with water problems." When I thought about what he said, I realized that our problems couldn't compare with those in other parts of the world.
Water is the only one of our natural resources that is absolutely essential for life. It cannot be substituted and the supply is finite. The Earth's human population has reached 7 billion and will continue to increase, so the pressures on its limited water supply will only continue to grow.
It is encouraging to know that one of the world's greatest universities is aware and is making students aware, because the solutions to Earth's water problems can only come from education and research.
Bruce Hamilton, MA '53
I recall with great fondness my tour down the Colorado back in 1968. My two oldest children went with me; they were 10 and 12. We did only half the ride, walking out from Phantom Ranch, but it was the experience of a lifetime.
For me, the attraction was the science of the cliffs: that the entire region used to be ocean bottom, but was lifted up two miles (I think), and then cut back down by the Colorado River. Our guide was a UC-Santa Barbara geology professor, so we got a serious discussion of those 2,000 feet of layers of old ocean bottom. To me, that [settled] the science of the Big Bang and evolution vs. creationism. If God created the world 6,000 years ago, why would he choose to create all those thousands of layers of ocean bottom, with just the right inclusion of fossils at just the right sequence—which would be equivalent to the actual millions of years of tectonic plate movement? Or to expand the cosmos at just the right position of a gazillion galaxies, as if they were coming out of a Big Bang 13.5 billion years ago?
Thanks for the great story. I am once again fascinated by Stanford's creative teaching methods.
John Minck, MS '58
Palo Alto, California
The cover of the magazine asks, "Where Has All the Water Gone?" I would submit the answer: Nowhere! It is still someplace on Earth, simply because of the intrinsic finitude of water. The article asks: "Is there enough water to go around?" I would answer, "Yes, there is, if we assist or direct it around the water cycle."
David Kennedy makes the point that there is no substitute for water. I would add that unlike any other commodity, when we use water, we do not use it up. We can and we must intelligently, perceptively and deliberatively reuse and recycle all water that we use. It is the only source immune from climate disruption, and the only source that actually grows with the population.
Ralph Wagner, '52
Lake Arrowhead, California
I enjoyed your article on the Grand Canyon/Colorado River. Regarding the canyon swim by Daggett and Beer, their swim predated the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam. The water now coming out of the bottom of the canyon is about 46 degrees year-round, making for a very cold swim. Before the dam went in, the water in the Colorado above Lake Mead was very comfortable (probably mid-70s) during the summer months and not the "50-degree water" mentioned in the article. I have rafted Cataract Canyon from Moab to Halls Crossing in August and the water was very comfortable. I remember seeing the documentary on the Daggett/Beer swim in the '50s, and the amazing thing about their trip was how they survived all of the rapids while trying to control their gear.
Bob Lee, MBA '66
Litchfield Park, Arizona
Following the float of John Wesley Powell is a daunting trip—not so much the float itself, with skilled guides and modern equipment, but the tangled mess of recovering the horses after the barn contents have been appropriated. Powell found quickly enough that his intention in assembling a scientific inventory of Western U.S. water assets, to be followed by the federal government establishing priorities for the efficient use of those waters furthering the common good, was dead upon arrival in Washington, D.C. The aphorism that whiskey is for drinking while water is for fighting over (or awarding to those who can return the favor in cash) promptly brought Powell into a disappointing let-down.
Good luck to those sophomores in becoming leaders in sensible Colorado water use. The recent years watching federal governmental behaviors of the idiot persuasion do not augur optimism. There are also states and Mexico to be dealt with.
Jack J. Lobdell, '49
Gold Bar, Washington
"Water Course" was a great reliving of my own trip down the Colorado in 1988. Twenty of us rafted from Lee's Ferry to Phantom Ranch for six days with Canyon Explorations, another outfitter with a paddle raft. Fond memories are a guitar concert in Redwall Cavern; guiding a two-person kayak through one of the smaller rapids; the thrill of the bigger rapids; the fabulous meals; the majesty of the Canyon itself. At the end of the trip, I'd never been so dirty and never had so much fun! What a wonderful experience for those students.
Paula Olch, '52
It is good to see such in-depth teaching by well-known Stanford professors in the midst of the majesty of the Grand Canyon. However, as an alumnus who works in the water supply industry and who knows that Stanford prides itself on truthfulness and accuracy in its teaching, study and research, one sentence in the article regarding an export delivery system of Colorado River water to Southern California demands clarification and correction.
The article states: "But bent on expansion and prosperity, officials in 1920s Southern California persuaded—some would say hoodwinked—authorities into building a gravity-defying 242-mile aqueduct over mountains and across the desert to deliver Colorado River water to its doorstep."
The noted 242-mile aqueduct is the Colorado River Aqueduct—constructed, owned and operated by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (Metropolitan) to deliver Colorado River water not only to Los Angeles, but also to hundreds of cities and communities in five Southern California counties stretching from Ventura County to the Mexican border. Yet, it was not until 1931 that a route for this aqueduct was determined and bonds were passed by the region's voters for its construction, with the aqueduct not completed until 1939 and not operational until 1941—all well past the "1920s" date referred to in the article where this "persuasion" or purported "hoodwinking" was stated to have occurred.
Southern California voters approved the bonds for the construction of the Colorado River Aqueduct, and did so by a 5 to 1 margin while in the midst of the Great Depression. That was quite an amazing and farsighted vote for their region's long-term future during terrible economic times—a vote that I doubt could be done in today's short-term-thinking, anti-tax, antigovernment political climate.
There really are no records of "officials hoodwinking authorities" into building the Colorado River Aqueduct. Depression-era voters willingly chose to tax themselves to pay for bonds to finance its construction because they wanted a better life for future generations in their region. I'd say that was a pretty noble cause, rare to find these days.
Then again, perhaps this sentence draws upon the usual confusion of our Northern California brethren between Metropolitan's Colorado River Aqueduct and the Los Angeles Aqueduct, constructed, owned and operated by the city of Los Angeles to deliver water from eastern Sierra Nevada watersheds to the city. However, the construction of the First Los Angeles Aqueduct began in 1908, with completion in 1913, so the article's 1920s reference remains unclear.
Nevertheless, there were and continue to be strong sentiments among many that the original Owens Valley landowners (not "authorities") were hoodwinked by representatives of the city of Los Angeles into selling their properties, unaware of the city's rather secretive intentions of securing the majority of the water rights in the valley to allow for exporting local Owens Valley water supplies to their city more than 200 miles away. Yes, deceptions are well documented. But, sadly, the degree of hoodwinking that one believes did occur in the Owens Valley often correlates to the degree one believes that Hollywood's 1974 movie Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson, was a documentary.
In fact, there is a lot of controversy, and potential hoodwinking, to go around among almost all major American cities in their pursuit and acquisition of water supplies, with most of these supplies originating hundreds of miles away. New York City has its faraway, upstate watershed supplies. Seattle has its remote Cascade watershed supplies. Denver has its out-of-basin Western Slope supplies (on the other side of the Continental Divide!). And San Francisco, the Peninsula communities and good old Stanford have their far-off, John Muir-protested, Yosemite National Park-located Hetch Hetchy supplies.
All these water sources have their fair share of controversy, and perhaps hoodwinking, in their past. This is not to justify such actions, but to be truthful and forthcoming about it. When it comes to denying the depths of its complicity with water supply controversies, I'd say that the San Francisco Bay Area has hoodwinked us all.
Donald A. Bentley, MS '82
La Puente, California
Your article brought back memories of earlier trips by Stanford students down the Colorado River. When Rod Holcombe, PhD '73, and I were graduate students in the School of Earth Sciences, we organized trips from Lee's Ferry to Lake Mead during the spring breaks of 1972 and 1973. We recruited fellow graduate students for the trip, but never had enough to make a full crew, so we filled our numbers with students from the Bechtel International Center. We had a wonderful mixture of geologists, well prepared for the two-week trip, and international students who had never camped. The cost was minimal, $100 a head, because we handled some of the cooking and boating duties for the river company. The trip was magical.
The geology has not changed, but we were changed by the time on the river.
Rod Ewing, MS '72, PhD '74
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Mark Applebaum was fortunate to have bountifully dined with the British at this late date ("And Now for Something Completely Different," January/February). My dining experience in 1952, when I was sent by the RCAF to a course at Netheravon, was otherwise. Wartime rationing was still in effect; dinner in the officers' mess started off with a minute glass of "sherry," and "wine" was served with the meal, which was also indescribably awful. But compensating for it all were the most vibrant and intellectually stimulating conversations I've ever had at dinner.
The officers' mess at Netheravon is no longer there; but it was during the Napoleonic Wars, and the place reeked of history.
George Fulford, '79
Mill Valley, California
As a U.S. citizen studying in the U.K., I very much enjoyed Mark Applebaum's piece on English absurdities. However, he had better cut back on the claret and pay a little more attention to his own English absurdities, or he might hurt his chances of returning to the high table. Oxford is proud of many things, including its dictionary, which, in all of its 20 nuances of the verb "wax," never allows for the meaning Applebaum appropriates. One may wax thoughtful or eloquent, but waxing thoughtfully is something women do in beauty salons. It's quite a common mistake, but I should think that's all the more reason to keep it from spreading too far.
As detailed and delightful as the article was, it failed to mention, among Oxford's important distinctions, its friendly rivalry with "the other place." I would excuse this as a much lesser oversight, except that it now seems to me ironically pertinent to the subject of ("North") American citizens in the U.K. Even we can take on those silly absurdities.
When Campuses Change
The feeling of loss expressed by Fred Leeson as he realized that his Undergraduate Library was destined for demolition ("UGLI Truths," End Note, January/February) is echoed by my feelings as my intern class of 1957 revisited the Santa Clara County Hospital, where I spent a year of my life. At that time, the hospital (now known as Valley Medical Center) consisted of two- and three-story wood-frame buildings. During that year construction was completed on the first high-rise structure, where we never had the opportunity to work. In 2007 our intern class (12 of the 16 were still alive) toured the medical center at our 50th reunion. We could not have found or recognized the hospital without directions. We were told that the "new" building of 1957 was now the oldest on the campus, was no longer considered earthquake safe, and was scheduled for demolition. How sad, but such is progress—what goes around comes around.
Harold Forney, '53, MD '56
So you publish a list and use the term "best" as a hook ("Doubling Down," November/December). Now follow the letters identifying whom you left out.
Stanford has had four quarterbacks receive the Sammy Baugh Trophy as the leading passer in the nation—Benjamin, Dils, Elway. Can you name the fourth?
Guy Benjamin, '77, MA '94, was picked 51st in the NFL draft, Trent Edwards, '06, 92nd, Steve Dils, '79, 97th, and Steve Stenstrom, '94, 134th. Can you name the Stanford quarterback who was picked 57th? As a hint, he was picked 26th in the AFL draft.
Can you name the quarterback who holds the record for the most yards passing in a Big Game with 401 yards (10th all-time single game) on 34 completions (6th all-time single game)?
All of the above are the same person and all this happened well before "offenses became bolder and far more innovative."
Dick Norman, '60, did this, with 1959 as his standout year.
I grew up watching Jim Plunkett, '70, on TV playing for Oakland. I had the chance to see Benjamin, Dils and Elway play during my undergraduate years. Reunion Weekend this year gave me the chance to see Luck play. But I only know that Dick Norman was a Stanford quarterback because I met his daughter on campus (and eventually got her to marry me).
I accept and truly appreciate what Bill Walsh and his West Coast Offense did for Stanford and for the game of football. But I think the game's drastic evolution is no excuse to gloss over Stanford's football "prehistory." Give me two inches less of Dick Vermeil next time and that much more of Actual History.
David Barbe, '81
In "The Sheriff of Cyber City" by Ann Marsh (November/December), the invention of public key cryptography is attributed to Martin Hellman, Whitfield Diffie and Ralph Merkle at Stanford. In fact, the team at the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters, in Cheltenham, England, comprising James Ellis, Clifford Cocks and Malcolm Williamson, is now credited with this invention. They worked in complete secrecy so their achievement [in 1973] was not announced for more than 20 years. [Diffie and Hellman published in 1976.] IEEE commemorated [the U.K.] invention with the award to GCHQ of one of their historic Milestone plaques in 2010.
Charles W. Turner, PhD '61
Gaieties, G.I. Style
I enjoyed your article about Big Game Gaieties ("The Show Goes On," November/December), and it brought back memories of 1943, when 51 of us went into the Army together as ROTC juniors and underwent basic training down at Camp Roberts. Basic training had proved a gigantic comedown but then the Army Adjutant General made it worse by not knowing what to do with the Stanford contingent, as the Officer Candidate School classes at Fort Sill were full. So the officials enrolled us back on campus in the Army Specialized Training Program.
Our barracks were Sequoia Hall, and we marched everywhere during the day together. Army life was truly bizarre. Being so regimented where we had once been so free was rather odd. But after lowering the flag at 5:30, we were free for the evening to study, or to visit sororities, dorms, or Belts.
At about this time, a notice was on the bulletin board announcing tryouts for the Big Game Gaieties. Even though Big Game had been canceled, there was a very good Gaieties show put on by students, and by ASTP men. Our "51" group worked up skits over several weeks that we thought were pretty funny . . . we marched in cadence: "Hup two three fo We pee freely On the Campanile Hup two three fo."
And one very, very good ASTP student from Georgia Tech really made "Stanford Goes G. I." a huge success. His name was Claude Smith, and he wrote and directed all the musical scores. He was so good that he could have gone to MGM, instead of OCS.
In 1946, a few months after VJ Day, when I was awaiting orders that would put me on a troopship to the states, I walked into the Army-Navy Officers Club in Manila, and I heard "Come Join The Band" burst forth from the grand piano. It was Claude, who had evidently seen me come in. We had a great dinner together reminiscing about the Gaieties and "Stanford Goes G.I."
Bob Farrar, '44
La Jolla, California
Regarding the End Note "Senseless Question" by Cara Pulick (November/December): While there are other causes of a loss of the sense of smell, I've been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease for 13 years now, and one of the first symptoms I had was loss of the sense of smell.
Dan Heeb, '72
The intriguing article about David Vann's life and career ("Out of the Wild," Planet Cardinal, September/October) led me to read his 2005 memoir A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea. Vann's accounts of his unending endeavors to piece his life and work together without letting go of his passion for the ocean and boating life are an inspiring and exciting story.
I last heard incredible sea stories from Stanford Te Vega alums at Hopkins Marine Station. Along with 19 other students we were part of the Stanford at Sea (S@S) program and welcomed the early adventurers as we prepared for our voyage to the South Pacific to set off on our own research.
Combine anecdotes from the Te Vegans in the 60s and the Hopkinsians from S@S of the last 7 years and you get a great piece of seafaring lore for readers.
J.J. Tellez, '06
In "Making a Killing" (Planet Cardinal, January/February), there was a reference to a film course taught by "the late Ron Alexander." He is not deceased, and we regret the error.
To the Bin
Generally I display my copies of Stanford and Stanford Lawyer in the reception area of my small law firm, for review by those clients not tempted by the Economist and Country Life. But after reading Professor Applebaum’s article about his time in Oxford (“And Now for Something Completely Different”), I consigned the January/February issue to the bin, for fear that my clients might read it, and be appalled.
I found the article, with its self-confessed emphasis on “trivia, the frivolous stuff outside the classroom,” to be just that—trivial. Is it really a surprise to anyone that the British call “French fries” and “potato chips” by names other than those used in California? Does Professor Applebaum realize that if he were to travel to France, he would find (in the immortal words of Steve Martin) that The French “have a different word for everything”? The article was silly, superficial, and seemed directed at an audience of yokels who would find it amazing that grace is sometimes said in Latin and that the British call “pudding” what is so obviously “dessert.”
Articles such as these do nothing to dispel the perception (widespread in Britain, even among us expatriates) that most Americans are parochial exceptionalists with no appreciation for, and little interest in, the outside world except as it might affect them personally. I expect and hope for better from members of the Stanford community.
Susan McFadden, JD ’80
I noticed an item called “Correction” (Letters, November/December) that has a painting by Dick Diebenkorn, ’44, and mentions the Anderson Collection gift to Stanford.
It reminds me of when we were all frosh in Encina Hall in 1940 and knew each other pretty well. One day in spring quarter, Dick Diebenkorn became famous for another reason: He fell out of his room on the fifth floor on the south side of Encina, into some large bushes, and broke only his nose! We heard about this from our good friend Harry Reichling, ’44, whose room was on the first floor directly below Dick’s. Harry died last year from cancer, but another friend, Art Mathews, ’44, remembers the incident, too.
Bob Farrar, ’44
La Jolla, California
On December 9, 2011, the day before the Heisman Trophy was awarded, I had the pleasure of meeting Griff Whalen, ’12, one of three finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy (“One for the Books,” Farm Report, January/February). He didn’t win; it was awarded to Southern Mississippi QB Austin Davis. The Burlsworth Trophy is awarded to the most outstanding college football player who began his career as a walk-on. The trophy is named for Brandon Burlsworth, who walked on at the University of Arkansas and was a four-year starter. He became team captain and was All-SEC in 1997 and 1998. An Academic All-American, he earned two degrees before he finished playing. Burlsworth was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, and 11 days later, he died in an automobile accident. This was the second year the trophy was awarded by the Rotary Club of Springdale, Ark., of which I am a member, in cooperation with the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation. Griff is a very personable young man; I enjoyed meeting him and watching him and the Cardinal in the Fiesta Bowl, which was a great game despite the unfortunate outcome.
Michael C. Norton, ’63
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Data is from the past two weeks.