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So what have *YOU* done since graduation?

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1991. Every time I start to feel good about my job in Wall Street technology, someone or something comes along to put my feet back on the ground. This time, it was my former classmate, Garrett Reisman (who, for the record, I have no recollection of knowing or even meeting – it’s a big school):

“I just wanted to let everyone know that I am finally getting off this rock: I will blast into space as part of Space Shuttle mission STS-123, currently scheduled to launch on Feb. 14. I’ll perform a spacewalk, and then stay behind as a flight engineer on the International Space Station for expeditions 16 and 17. This long-duration spaceflight is planned for about six months. I promise to take a good group portrait when our orbit takes us over Philly: I’ll only have time to take one shot, so don’t blink.”

Godspeed, Garrett Reisman. Sorry you’ll be missing the reunion this year, but it sounds like you’ve got a pretty good excuse.

Categories: University of Pennsylvania | 2 Comments »

How Not to Design a User Interface

Monday, September 24th, 2007

For those of you who design user interfaces for web applications (you’d be surprised, there’s quite a few of us…), here’s an object lesson on how to do it wrong.

Ladies and gentlemen, the University of Pennsylvania’s Residential Maintenance Request System, FacilityFocus, provided by a software company called Maximus who, quite frankly, should be ashamed of themselves…


Categories: Tech Talk, University of Pennsylvania | No Comments »

Penn Money

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Another post of interest for my University of Pennsylvania readers (that’s two in two days – pretty cool, huh?). Anyway, not much to add here, other than to say, did anyone know that back in the 50′s, the United States minted coins with Ben Franklin’s picture on them?

For everyone else’s benefit, suffice to say that you can’t turn too many corners on Penn’s campus without running into a picture and/or statue of Ben Franklin, the University’s founder. Obviously, back in the 1950′s, this was even moreso the case…

(hat tip: Lileks)

Categories: Money Talk, University of Pennsylvania | 3 Comments »

Harold and Kumar go to Penn

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Well, Kumar, anyway:

PHILADELPHIA – Kal Penn [a.k.a. Kalpen Modi], known for his role as Kumar Patel in the 2004 cult classic “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” will be a guest instructor at the University of Pennsylvania during the spring 2008 semester.

Penn, 29, will teach two undergraduate courses, tentatively titled, “Images of Asian Americans in the Media” and “Contemporary American Teen Films,” the school announced Monday.

Grace Kao, director of Penn’s Asian American Studies Program called Modi “one of the leading Asian American actors of his generation.”

I’m sure Mr. Modi is an intelligent man (he’s currently pursuing a graduate degree at Stanford University), and I’m sure that he will have quite a bit to teach Penn students who are interested in these topics. None of this changes the fact that he will absorb endless amounts of ridicule from the student body (heck – I can almost see the Penn Band’s halftime show now – not to mention the Princeton band’s, the Brown band’s, the Yale band’s…)

Also, I think we’ve estabilshed that Grace Kao needs to get out to the movies more often…

Oh, by the way:

[Modi] recently finished shooting “Harold & Kumar 2 with [John] Cho

Maybe he’ll get really lucky and they’ll release it on campus on the first day of classes…

Categories: Movie Talk, University of Pennsylvania | 4 Comments »

Partying Like With a Rockstar

Monday, February 12th, 2007

Well, I had an exciting weekend…

The University of Pennsylvania Band, an organization known for its long-standing traditions, as well as its strong musicianship and fun-loving culture, tempted fate by violating what has become one of Penn’s many sacred, musical traditions.

All Right Now, a hit song from the mid-70′s by the band Free, used to be played near the end of a game, whenever the football/basketball team had the game well in hand. After a fateful day at the Yale Bowl in the late 80′s, when Penn lost the game due to a fumbled snap while the band blared the song, the tradition morphed into what it is today: All Right Now is not to be played, or even mentioned in the stands, until after the game is over. Yogi Berra would be proud.

Anyway, last Saturday night, the Band played host to a special guest – Simon Kirke, the legendary drummer from Free and Bad Company. At halftime of the Penn/Harvard basketball game on Saturday, Simon took center court, surrounded by the Band, and rocked out his Bad Company hit, Can’t Get Enough, followed by a cover of Santana’s Everybody’s Everything. And then, with Penn leading by just a scant six points and twenty minutes of basketball left to play, Simon and the Band put forth a killer version of All Right Now! When it was over, the Band stood under a giant ladder and broke mirrors over a group of passing black cats. OK, I’m kidding about the last part, but you get the idea…

Anyway, Simon was fantastic, the Band sounded great, and I’m very relieved to report that Penn went on to win the game, 67-53. After the final buzzer sounded, in what could be a historical first, the band played All Right Now for the second time in the same night.

Pictures are here. Video is coming soon…

Categories: University of Pennsylvania, Words about Music | No Comments »

The Best Football Game Ever

Monday, November 6th, 2006

As a member/alumnus of marching bands since 1983, I’ve been to a lot of football games. In fact, having just attended my fourth game in three weeks, I started adding it up: 36 high school games, 40 college games, 1 high school homecoming game (the year after I graduated), 15 college homecoming games since graduation, and 3 NFL games (including 2 in the last 3 weeks). That makes 95 football games that I’ve seen live. And this coming from a diehard baseball fan.

At any rate, given my rather extensive experience with live football, it should carry some amount of weight when I say that the Penn vs. Princeton game on 11/4/06 was the single most exciting football game I’ve ever seen. For those who missed it, here’s a recap:

Some Context: The game was at Princeton, but was during their Fall Break (a 3-4 day weekend in the middle of the Fall Semester that most students use as an opportunity to go home and visit family, friends, etc.). So there weren’t a lot of Princeton fans at the game. For Penn students, on the other hand, the game fell during an activity known as The Line, in which students participate in a 24 hour ritual that culminates in them being able to purchase season tickets for the upcoming Men’s Basketball season. Since “The Line” included a trip to the Princeton football game this year, there were several hundred Penn students at the game (in addition to the “normal” crowd that bought tickets on their own). The point is: lots of very excited Penn students were at the game.

The First 3.5 Quarters: Ho hum. The Penn placekicker actually made a field goal, which is exciting only in the sense that he doesn’t do that very often (Penn lost the previous two games in overtime, principally because the other team was able to kick a field goal in overtime, and Penn couldn’t reciprocate from, well, anywhere on the field).

The Fourth Quarter: OK, here’s where it gets really good. With roughly six minutes left in the game, Penn is down by 7 points, 24-17, and has the ball deep in their own territory. They complete a couple of long passes and make it to around mid-field. Excitement is building in the (let’s just call it “well lubricated”) crowd, as the potential to save the game becomes evident. On a running play around mid-field, Princeton makes an open-field tackle, strips the ball, and recovers the fumble. Dejection sets in amongst the crowd. But, alas, hope is not lost. Princeton goes 3 & out, and punts with roughly two minutes left to play. Penn once again has the ball deep in their own territory. The band plays some inspirational college fight songs. The team begins to move the ball. The crowd re-engages. With 49 seconds left in the game, Penn completes a long pass down to the Princeton 5-yard line. The crowd goes nuts! But wait! They’re supposed to stop the clock while they move the first down markers and they haven’t! By the time Penn lines up at scrimmage, the clock reads ~20 seconds! The players protest. The ref blows a whistle and has the time added back to the clock. The crowd goes nuts again! On the next play, Penn runs the ball into the endzone. Touchdown! Now for the extra point. Remember, as I discussed earlier, this is no foregone conclusion. But, in this case, luck prevails, and the kick is straight & long. Tie game! 24-24! Penn’s third overtime in three weeks. The crowd, well, you know…

Overtime, Part 1: For those who don’t know, college football has some very strange overtime rules. Rather than playing another 15 minutes, or playing until someone scores (“sudden death”), each team gets the ball at the opposing team’s 35 yard line. If one team scores more than the other, they win. If they both fail to score, or they both score the same number of points (e.g., two field goals), then the two teams each get another shot. This continues until both teams have had equal opportunities from the 35, and someone has more points.

In this case, Penn got the first shot. Now, remember, Penn is sorely lacking in the kicking department, so a game of field goals is a distinct disadvantage. Starting from the 35-yard line, Penn makes a first down (to near the 20), but fails to make another one. On fourth down, still around the 20-yard line, the field goal unit comes out. The crowd is excited, but cautious. The center snaps the ball to the holder, who bobbles it, and can’t get it down in time for the kick! He picks it up and starts running, tries several laterals, but in the end, Penn doesn’t score. Dejection once again sets in among the crowd.

Now, it’s Princeton’s turn. From the 35, they also get a first down, and eventually work their way to a fourth down situation. Their field goal unit takes their place. If he puts in this (fairly short) field goal, Penn would lose their third straight overtime game, in precisely the same fashion (botched field goal vs. good field goal). The crowd is screaming “Block that kick! Block that kick!” The snap is good, the center holds, and OH MY GOD, THEY ACTUALLY BLOCKED THE KICK! WE’RE STILL IN THIS! HOLY S(%&^(T!!!.

Overtime, Part 2: This time, Princeton starts with the ball, again at the 35-yard line. The first play results in a 10-yard penalty against Princeton, putting them back to the 45. The second play is a passing play, but Penn sacks the quarterback, putting them past mid-field. The Penn crowd, still celebrating from the near-death experience of the blocked field goal, is in an alcohol/football induced frenzy. Princeton’s next play is a long pass, caught on the Penn 2-yard line.

You could hear a pin drop.

So, first and goal from the two. Princeton tries three hand-offs up the middle, trying to jump over the defense for the touchdown, and fails three times. By the third time, the Penn crowd is screaming again. On fourth down, they decide to go for the touchdown, rather than kick a field goal. More screaming from the crowd. The ball is snapped, the hand-off is made, the runner jumps….and is hit by the defense at the line of scrimmage! No touchdown! The crowd screams! But wait – he landed on his feet after the collision and isn’t down yet! He laterals to someone in the backfield (maybe the quarterback? I don’t remember…), who runs around the entire pile, and scores easily. Now the (few) Princeton fans are celebrating, while the Penn crowd shouts obscenities at the referees for not whistling the play dead after the first hit. The refs ignore the fans, the Princeton kicker adds the extra point, and the score is Princeton 31, Penn 24.

Penn has one more shot, but the crowd is somewhere between fuming and gathering their stuff up to board the bus back to Philadelphia. Penn has the ball at the 35-yard line again. The first play from scrimmage is a 35-yard pass into the corner of the endzone, which the Penn receiver catches in full stride. Touchdown, Penn! OH MY GOD, WE’RE STILL IN THIS! HOLY S(%&^(T!!!.

Time once again for the extra point. The center snaps the ball, but this one hardly makes it to the holder on a fly. He doesn’t even have time to try and place the ball. So, once again, he’s up and running, this time to WIN the game, trying laterals when he runs out of room. Eventually, someone winds up with the ball and breaks around the sideline, headed for the endzone. The crowd, inexplicably, seems to be screaming and holding it’s breath at the same time. The Princeton defense approaches and knocks the guy out of bounds at the 2-yard line. In a last, desperate attempt, the Penn player fumbles the ball forward, hoping one of his teammates will recover it in the endzone, but it too, goes out of bounds just before the goal line.

Game over. Final score: Princeton 31, Penn 30.

It was Penn’s third overtime loss in three games, an NCAA record. ESPN’s SportsCenter listed the end of the game as #1 on its “Top 10 Plays of the Day,” quite an accomplishment for an Ivy League game.

As a band member and fan, I can’t imagine it getting any more exciting than that (except, possibly, for my team actually winning the game). Maybe if I watch another 95 games…

Categories: Sports Talk, University of Pennsylvania | No Comments »

Penn President Trick is no Treat

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

Dr. Amy Guttman, President of the University of Pennsylvania, who is Jewish and the child of holacaust-era parents, hosted her annual Halloween party last week for roughly 700 students. At the party, one of the students, Saad Saadi, dressed up as a suicide bomber, had his picture taken with Dr. Guttman, and then posted it on his personal website. He also posted other pictures of himself conducting mock hostage executions, etc. with other students.

Stupid? Maybe. Funny? Not really (although I’ll give him props for using uncooked hot dogs as the dynamite sticks). Bad Taste? Most definitely. International news? Ugh…here we go again.

The Jerusalem Post found the picture and ran a story about it. The Drudge Report linked to the story. Dr. Guttman posted a response on Penn’s website, as did Saadi on his personal page. Both of the principle actors seem to be keeping level heads about it:

Dr. Guttman:

The costume is clearly offensive and I was offended by it. . . . The student had the right to wear the costume just as I, and others, have a right to criticize his wearing of it.


We wish to make it clear that we do not support terrorism, violence, or anything that is against society. . . . The costumes are meant to portray scary characters much like many other costumes on Halloween. We are deeply sorry for anyone who has been hurt or upset.

He might have gone on to say, “and I didn’t realize anyone outside my circle of friends would find out about it.” So, since college is all about learning, I think we can safely say that Saadi learned a few things this past Halloween:

Lesson #1: There is no “just between us” in a public place. If a picture is taken these days, you almost need to assume that it’s going to be seen by everyone in the world. Casual, stupid humor has consequences that it didn’t have, say, when I was in college. That’s not to say you should refrain, but you’ve got to be aware of the consequences of your actions.

Lesson #2: People are wound very tightly about certain subjects. One would think the concept of a “costume” would be well understood by most rational adults in the world. The guy dressed as a flasher isn’t condoing sexual harrassment, the woman dressed as a stripper/prostitute isn’t really willing to take her clothes off for money, and the folks with sheets over their heads aren’t dead, nor are they advocating certain religious beliefs about the afterworld. In fact, if you wanted to make a political statement by altering your clothing, Halloween is the worst possible day to do it, since your message would be obscured amongst all the revellers. That said, there are people in the world, particularly people who strive to sell advertising on TV and in newspapers, who seek out opportunities to point out offensive activities to others. By doing so, they draw more attention to the supposedly offensive thing than it would otherwise have received, and weaken their own (stated) goals.

So, to sum up: Saad Saadi – quite a fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into. Rest of the world – lighten up, it was just a costume…

Categories: Political Rantings, University of Pennsylvania | No Comments »

Jodie Foster at Penn Graduation

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

Jodie Foster spoke at The University of Pennsylvania’s 250th Graduation ceremony yesterday. Highlights included taking a picture of the graduates with a disposable camera, criticisms of the Bush administration for squandering goodwill of other nations after the 9/11 attacks and the “disastrous and shameful” handling of Hurricane Katrina, and rapping to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” from his film 8 Mile.

Graduating Penn students, in what has become an unfortunate annual tradition, complained about the choice beforehand, but gave her a standing ovation afterwards. When I graduated in 1991, Ted Koppel was the speaker. After the President of the University finished reading Koppel’s ridiculously long list of accomplishments and accolades, Koppel began his address by quoting (by name) those who criticized his selection by calling him “unqualified” to speak. He then spent some time talking about responsibility in journalism. To this day, I regret not having a copy of the text of that speech. It was priceless.

Meanwhile, at least Jodie Foster had a good time with it (see picture above). Steve Wynn, an actual Penn grad, did not seem to be as enthused about receiving his honorary degree.

Categories: University of Pennsylvania | 2 Comments »

Yakov Smirnoff – Penn Grad

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

Hat tip to Jeff Porten: Yakov Smirnoff has earned a graduate degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.

Coming soon, his new stand-up special: “What a University…”

(ED NOTE: Try it with a Russian accent, it’ll come back to you, I promise).

Categories: University of Pennsylvania | No Comments »

Fran Dunphy is Leaving Penn…

Monday, April 10th, 2006

I’m hanging out in a hotel room in San Francisco, and I’ve got ESPN News on the TV in the background. I look up for a second, and the crawl on the bottom is about Penn Basketball! Go figure…

It seems Fran Dunphy has accepted an offer to coach at Temple University next year. The end of an era, I suppose.

Thanks for the memories, Fran. It’s been fun…

Categories: Sports Talk, University of Pennsylvania | No Comments »

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