Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Degrees of Freedom

On this I think we can all agree
The secret isn’t found in a degree
Embracing challenges each day brings
Provides us with many interesting things
It’s Living while Learning that sets us free

We had an enjoyable weekend motoring south to Corvallis to celebrate Cody’s graduation from OSU on Saturday. We met everyone at The Original Breakfast in Albany at 7:00 AM and beat the graduation rush before consuming a weekend’s worth of calories. We all parked at Cody & Amy’s place and strolled over to Reser Stadium for the ceremony. It had rained on us on the way down and lightly misted for a half hour as we were settling in to our seats, but the weather improved as the morning went on and we were unlayering by the end. The graduation speakers covered the usual turf successfully and succinctly: the student body president open with the Helen Keller quote ”When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us”; the Alumni Association president reminded everyone of the network available as alums, which set the tone for the keynote speaker, Jen-Hsun Huang, founder and CEO of NVIDIA. He offered 3 wishes for the class of 2009 – Love your work, Embrace failure (don’t play safe), and Think like a Child, which echoes Einstein’s quote that “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
I ‘m proud of Cody’s accomplishments and was glad to be in attendance with family for the celebration. I know he and Amy are entering an amazing phase of life with plenty of possibilities, and I look forward to watching things unfold.
It’s the 34th anniversary of my Stanford graduation and I was reflecting on the differences and similarities of graduations 3 ½ decades apart. Like now, the country was dealing with an ill-advised military entanglement and had just seen an out-of–favor President leave office. The Dow Jones was languishing in a bear market at 858 and inflation was 9.2% Oil had just recently rocketed to $13/ barrel resulting in gas of more than 50 cents/gallon. A stamps was 10 cents, but leaped to 12 cents on New Years Eve 1975. Minimum wage was $2.10/hr and I was soon to start a job @ $1200/month and my rent was $165 for an apartment overlooking Washington Square. Tiger Woods and Angelina Jolie were born during the year and the big inventions were the digital camera, laser printer, and the dueling formats of Betamax & VHS for video recording. This was a time of typewriters, turntables and 8 track tapes. Jobs and Wozniak were stil two years away from introducing the Apple II – the hot technology was calculators from HP and Texas Instruments. My senior project with Vince was working with the first programmable calculator the HP-65 which cost $795 (the average new car cost $4500) so when HP introduced a $150 unit, much of my early paycheck went toward that.
I graduated on a Sunday June 15th, drove to Medford on a Monday, woke up to a phone call inviting me to interview with FMC in Portland on Thursday ( where I was headed to a Gordon Lightfoot concert), and found myself starting my job on Monday June 23rd. I then get a call enticing me to come to Reno to work for Bill Harrah & Bill Lear (of Lear-Jet fame) as a workforce planner for the Casino for 50% more pay. I thought it would be bad form to quit after 3 days and I never could imagine myself as a “casino” guy. This just points out that I had no clue as to the opportunities that would show up once I headed out into the real world, and still don’t have firm control of the steering wheel of life – thank goodness for metaphysical GPS….

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