austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Nobody ever died for dear old Rutgers

I'd have used some lyric from Helen of Troy, New York instead if I could find any of the George S. Kaufman play online past the title ``Cry Baby''. Before my point, some frivolity from the RPI Mac Users Group list --

This is the gulag Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. There is no stockade, no guard tower, no electronic frontier. Only a public safety officer prevents stealing. Punishment means exile from prison to the city of Troy. In Troy, nothing can survive. Work well, and you will be treated well. Work badly, and you will die. -Adapted by Robert Otlowski.

The point of this self-indulgence is I overlooked yesterday was ten years to the day that I first set foot in Troy and in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Today would be ten years since I made the pilgrimage to the VCC, a church (honest; ask oliver_otter or chipuni) and got my computer account. Despite the self-esteem problems university and city have, it's a marvelous school in a fascinating city; though I've spent eight winters there -- and one in Singapore -- I'd move back if I had a job.

Most wonderful to me, besides my supportive and kind department, is the legacy from former president George M. Low, onetime head of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office. He left the school much of his documents, including an incredible array of NASA documents, technical and popular. My favorite was an early paper which reported that to be useful, a paper must be easily understood. Over the CII bridge they've built a wonderful little museum with stuff from early space shuttle models to autographs from nearly every moon-walker to the week of Peanuts strips where Snoopy went to the Moon.

Also they had an albino squirrel. (If she's died I don't want to hear it. Every delivery van knew to go very slow on the green-room campus, lest an unfortunate incident cost him his life.) There's rumors of baby albinos, but I never saw any. Allen B. DuMont -- who perfected the cathode ray tube -- also graduated RPI, and I feel a bit disloyal using LCD screens, but CRT laptops don't cut it.

The school changed a fair amount while I was there, much of it to my eye draining its distinctiveness -- merging the Hole in the Wall pizza place with Chiripa's; replacing the popular Puckman mascot with the hated red hawk (market research said they proved Scarlet would be popular; they failed to reckon with the official icon looking like a chicken wielding a Snickers bar, as well as the fact people like Puckman); dumping those pesky complicated Unix workstations for non-technical Windows computers; the fading of the Hockey Line -- but school spirit was always a very hard-to-define thing. I think mostly the spirit consists of people sulking that there isn't any school spirit. But this is the school that brought us, all those years ago, Drop Squad, devoted just to, well, dropping stuff down the CII stairs, and putting the pictures up on the web. Maybe it had to be 1996 to make sense.

Remarkably, any time, day or night, you can find Blade Runner being shown to the public somewhere on campus.

I'll never forgive them for killing Zmail.

They also somehow got the idea I wasn't a student in the spring of 1998, and managed to screw up my student loans by telling Sallie Mae this over and over while not telling me of their decision. They still haven't fixed it, either; the registrar believes if they ignore me long enough I'll be less angry.

A wonderful bit of folklore I've never been able to substantiate holds that in the late 60s/early 70s, when schools were finally admitting it was possible to have women and men attend classes together, RPI went to repeat its regulations against admitting women, only to find that they'd never had any prohibition against women attending -- just no women ever applied (outside special World War II courses). Today, though, RPI boasts a student body of over six thousand students, nearly more than 60 of them female.

Trivia: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was the first school in the United States to require laboratory work for science and engineering students. Source: A history of physics in its elementary branches (through 1925) : including the evolution of physical laboratories, Florian Cajori.

Currently Reading: Bio-Futures, Edited by Pamela Sargent. Tales of biotechnology applied to people as only the mid-1970s could collect.

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