In Which A Decision Is Confirmed…

Looks like I’m going to have to make a Cal (UC Berkeley) userpic.

Yup. Today we did our whirlwind visit of Berkeley. Left Northridge around 3am, going up US 101 because I-5 was closed due to snow. Arrived at Berkeley around 11am. A friend of Karen’s from HS Science Camp days, Professor Alex Filippenko of the Astronomy Dept (who’s brother also works at the Ranch) arranged for Bianna Mullen to give us a tour of campus. We walked around campus. We saw wonderful buildings, learned about even more wonderful programs, saw students covered in paint (it was evidently some Hindu holiday where you throw paint at each other) and saw dormitories. More importantly, Erin fell in love with the campus and its programs, even more so than she did with Reed. So I’m going to be a Cal Dad, and she’s going to Berkeley!

We left campus around 3pm, had dinner in Santa Nella, and arrived home around 10am via I-5, which showed no trace of snow.



Selecting a College

We just received the college financial analysis from our college planning folks. Their two “cheapest” colleges were:

  • Occidental. CPA has the cost of attendance as $58,432, but the college claims it as $60,633. The college is offering $15,500 in grants and scholarships, $12,500 in an Occidental “no interest” loan, and $5,500 in a Federal unsubsidized loan, bringing the costs for the parents supposedly to around $24,900 (perhaps a bit more). But note that a large portion of this is loans.
  • UC Berkeley. They aren’t offering anything. They have an estimated cost of $31,868 per year, and “offer” that same $5,500 in student unsubsidized loans, leaving the parents with $26,336.

In other words, the parents costs for both are about the same; in fact, Oxy is more expensive for the parents if you use their total estimated expense number of $60,633. Plus, Oxy would leave Erin (a) saddled with more loans, for (b) attending a less prestigious institution. I think the decision is clear; she’s going to Cal.

To that end… this weekend is a roadtrip to Berkeley. If any of my friends reading this could offer some crash space for short naps in Oakland or Berkeley, please contact me.


Drive-By/Drive-On Post

News Flash: Birthers want proof Mitt Romney was born in America.

Drive-On Post: It now looks like Erin’s top choice will be UC Berkeley. We’ve never done a visit to the school, although we’ve been in Berkeley many times. We have theatre tickets Friday night, so we’re thinking about a ROAD TRIP: leave around 5am Saturday morning. Tour Berkeley in the afternoon. Drive home in the evening. Good thing we’ll have two drivers!



And We’re Back

Yesterday was our last travel day—now we’re home from the college visit trip.

We started out by attempting to visit the Gateway Arch. I say “attempted” because of a combination of circumstances (closure of one entrance combined with Marine Week St. Louis) meant the line to get through security was crazy. So instead we just walked around the riverfront (which was a bit flooded up to the first street), and had lunch over in Laclede’s Landing.

After that, we meandered back to Forest Park for one last drive. We drove up Market along a long series of beautiful downtown parks (St. Louis is really a park city), past St. Louis Union Station, past Harris-Stowe State University and St. Louis University, through the Central West End of St. Louis, and through Forest Park. One last drive through Wash U., and it was on to the airport. A short hop to Denver, and then a slightly longer hop to Los Angeles, and we were home.

On the whole, it was a good trip. The college visits were informative, and we got to see a lot of interesting sites. My wife will be doing another college visit trip to Portland in August, but she doesn’t write the travellogues as I do.


A Day in the Park

Today was a day to visit Forest Park, one of the great urban parks.

We started at the St. Louis Zoo. St. Louis has a great zoo, but today’s visit seemed sad—the animals just seemed not to be enjoying themselves. Of course, the fun part at the zoo is not watching the animals in cages but the people outside of the cages. Lots of schoolkids, moms with their families, and tourists. What I like about the St. Louis Zoo is the history. Seeing the 1904 bird cage. Seeing the 1922 bear enclosures. Seeing the 1930s-era animal houses. They did have a nice exhibit on the zoo’s history, which I enjoyed.

After the zoo, we walked up art hill to the St. Louis Art Museum. This was very nice. They have a very broad mix, from mummies to columbian art, american, european, … modern, classic … art deco and art noveau … and even armor. It was a very very enjoyable museum, and Erin had a lot of fun sharing what she learned in AP Art History.

Our last museum was the History Museum. We didn’t spend as much time there, but did get to see the exhibits on the 1904 centiennial (which I had seen before, but I enjoy); the Lindberg flight (which never mentioned his antisemitism), an exhibit on a middle school named after Lindberg that went from Jr. High to Middle School to Early Childhood Education to Elementary School… and back to a Middle School. There was also a good exhibit on St. Louis’ history. This led me to bemoan the fact that there is no good museum with the history of Los Angeles and Southern California. There are scattered special cases, but nothing that brings it all together into a single story. Hmm, just like the city itself.

In the evening, we went out with my dear friend Linda to United Hebrew, the oldest Reform congregation west of the Mississippi. After services, we went out to a French restaurant for dinner, followed by FroYo, and then sat and talked for a while. A delightful evening with a friend I don’t see often enough.

Tomorrow is packing for the return trip home. We may do some more exploring after that, but we need to be at Lambert around 2pm to start our journey back to Los Angeles. You probably won’t see a post tomorrow, unless I find free WiFi in the Denver airport.


Washington University

Today, my daughter fell in love.

Let me clarify. It wasn’t with a young man. It was with a university. Washington University in St. Louis to be specific.

Today we visited Wash U. Wash U is a medium-size university at the edge of Forest Park in St. Louis. The undergraduate population is about 6K, about half of which are in the college of arts and sciences. The program is very flexible, permitting a student to design their own concentrations to meet their unique needs. It is intellectually challenging, and has a wonderful compact campus with a beautiful residence hall complex. It has history, dating back to 1853, moving to the current campus shortly before the 1903 St. Louis exposition. It is an entirely non-smoking campus. We spoke to two undergraduates and one of the history professors, and they all spoke about how great Wash U was: both intellectually, socially, and personally. It is not a party school: the only partying is at the frats, which are off campus, in university-owned buildings. There are options for significant undergraduate research, internships in DC, and study abroad programs. The history program has significant breadth in US history and other history subjects, and there is a broad Poli Sci program. There are also opportunities for Erin to do lighting design on campus. [Alas, I don’t remember a lot of the details they told us, as I was fighting a bad headache much of the day]

Wash U also holds a special place for me. It is my mother’s alma-mater, and it is in a city with which I still have a family and friend connection. This means that if Erin chose to go to Wash U and got accepted, she would have family and extended family in town. That would make us feel better about her being far away; hopefully it would make her feel better as well.

What are the drawbacks to Wash U? Well, Erin is worried about acceptance, but I figure that shouldn’t be a problem. It is about as expensive at Tulane, so we would need reasonable financial assistance. I figure that we apply for all we can apply for, and if it is meant to be, we’ll get acceptance and appropriate support.

Dinner was with my cousin Les at Westwood Country Club in St. Louis. As always when we visit Westwood, it was a delightful meal. I always enjoy seeing Les and Jean; tonight was no exception.

Tomorrow is our last full day on this trip. We plan to explore Forest Park, one of the great city parks in the world (it’s larger than NY’s Central Park!). We’ll visit the St. Louis Zoo, the history museum, the art museum, and who knows what else! The evening will bring Shabbat services at UH and dinner with my dear friend Linda.


On The Road Again…

Today was our last driving day. We left Louisville about 9am, and drove across both Indiana and Illinois, stopping only briefly in Mt. Vernon IL to have Steak and Shake (I keep wanting to write that in Cleartype, as that is was Illinois loves to use).

Upon arriving in St. Louis, our first stop was Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, one of the best things in St. Louis and on Route 66! After that, we drove over to Washington University to see where we park on campus and get an idea of the look of campus. After that, it was over to the hotel.

Dinner was over in the Delmar Loop area, the “trendy” area of St. Louis near the Washington U campus. We ended up eating at Pi Restaurant, a wonderful pizza restaurant with gluten-free crusts (in fact, we got our dinner for only the tip, as they came out after 20 minutes and told us they screwed up cooking the order the first time, dropping one pizza and burning the other… and thus they comped our dinner… but the remake was wonderful). We also took some time driving around Ladue, Brentwood, Creve Cour, and U City, finding the TJs, Whole Foods, and all sorts of creature comforts.

Tomorrow is our formal visit to Wash U. We already have the tour scheduled, plus liberal arts day, meeting with two history undergraduates, as well as one of their American History professors. Dinner will be with my cousin Les at Westwood Country Club. Les is my closest relative on my mother’s side (his mother was my grandmother’s sister), and I always enjoy seeing him.

P.S.: We got out of Louisville just in time. An apparent tornado touched down at Churchill Downs this evening, about 3 miles from where our hotel was.


Visiting Louisville

Today was our visiting day for Louisville. Our original plans were to go to the Speed Art Museum and the Frazier History Museum. Those didn’t happen—the Speed Museum turns out to be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Erin was not interested in the Frazier.

So what did we end up doing? We started out by going to the gravesite of Zachary Taylor, 12th President of the US, which is in the Zachary Taylor National Cemetary. After that we had lunch over in Bardstown at the Twig and Leaf, an old greasy spoon, followed by ice cream at Graters. After that, we walked off lunch by exploring Bardstown for a bit.

Next up was Farmington Plantation, the home of Joshua Speed, a good friend of Abraham Lincoln. This was a very good plantation house tour, with lots of original and period artifacts. After that it started to rain heavily, but we did drive over and see Zachary Taylor’s home, as well as driving around Locust Grove, which was the last home of George Rogers Clark.

Dinner was at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, which cemented the fact that Louisville is the Austin of the Mid-West (i.e., a hipster’s paradise, down to the “Keep Louisville Weird” slogan). It was a mixed dinner: my sandwich was great, but Erin’s ham steak was dry and oversalty. The sides were excellent.

As for the Bellarmine question of yesterday: We’re beginning to conclude that it’s not the place for Erin: the set of American History courses is too small, the 4-year retention rate is a red-flag, and the comments from students raise red-flags regarding how comfortable non-midwesterners might be. So far, Tulane is at the tops for this trip, although the west coast choices may get much more serious consideration.

Tomorrow it is off to St. Louis. I’m looking forward to this: I’ll get to see some family and friends who I don’t see often enough. Erin will get to visit Washington University and assess their history department and campus. We already have appointments to meet with both faculty and students.