Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Most Influential Ranking

(California Institute of Technology) Tucson, Arizona. No offense to the guys at Blognetnews (who appear to be more right wing than they let on), but I doubt their ranking of blogs will alter any landscapes of significance in the near future.

Another ranking, however, has a profound impact at least in the world of higher education. The 2008 US News and World Report college rankings were published yesterday with few surprises. Listing the top 40, and this applies to the four-year undergraduate context and excludes single sex schools (i.e. Smith, Scripps) and the military academies.

1. Princeton
Debbie (one year older than Lori) was the class queen by every measure. Bright, blond, beautiful, cheerful and popular as a person could be, Debbie emanated enthusiasm and love of life. Smart but not too smart, she spread her wings across student government, cheerleading, numerous clubs, and community stature based on well known parents and a very popular and successful older brother who quarterbacked the football team. Everyone loved Debbie. I imagine everyone still does. Like some women, she attained extraordinary academic credentials, but deferred them to a more ambitious husband. Her Princeton education adds to the sophistication of her children. Happiness radiates.

2. Harvard
Perhaps even more popular than Debbie, loved by everyone, Lori occurred to me as a "deeper" Debbie. Smarter but also not wacko smart, Lori had more substance and commanded more respect. She traveled to Boston to meet Harvard face-to-face. Harvard did not have to think twice. Debbie was blond and tall. Lori was shorter and brunette, but she radiated a beauty and warmth that transcended the physical and provided inspiration to all who knew her. President of her class and the prom queen, Lori’s presence created a magnet that attracted everyone, an authentically fantastic human being.

I had the honor of interacting with her one-on-one. I loved Lori as a marvelous human being on the planet. Nature can be cruel. Cancer struck Lori at 17 and took a kidney. Cancer struck again and took everything at 32. I sobbed. If there is an afterlife, a beyond where I get to approach Lori again, the feeling of her embrace defies what language can express.

3. Yale
Scott reeked of SES and played the game like a well coached golfer, hitting every shot just perfect, winning recognition and scholarships despite the generally understood but unspoken recognition that his intellect paled in comparison to the truly sharp. Though no idiot, he was not intellectually impressive. I have no idea what he is doing, but I am sure Scott is just fine.

4. Stanford
My wonderful and only child Nadina now enters her sophomore year. The school is doing its job. I visited Stanford the spring of 2007 and found myself in x4mr heaven. I am a proud daddy who cherishes his child more than anything and beams at the growth of his precious little girl occurring before his eyes.

5. University of Pennsylvania
Susan, near-sighted with coke bottle eyeglasses, was my first homecoming date. A gifted student with a love of mathematics and in particular, art and its application in architecture, Susan pursued architecture with a heart on fire. When she visited Chicago to tour all of its buildings including the Sears Tower, Hancock building, and many others, I let her and her classmate stay with me at Northwestern. We’ve lost touch, but I’d bet the buildings bearing her name are spectacular.

(The University of Pennsylvania's Contemporary Art Center features cutting edge material.)

6. California Institute of Technology
Andy was a tortured genius particularly excruciated by his insatiable sexuality. His math skills exceeded mine and rivaled Mike’s (Mike was the smartest in the class and only Andy could get near him). Andy faced demons that could rival his extraordinary intellect. He chose a gay lifestyle in the mid 80s and perished of AIDS before reaching 35.

7. MIT
Distilled overweight geek with a pure teddy bear heart that could not harm a soul, Craig featured the pocket protector equipped with geek accessories and the calculator clipped at the belt. Craig chose computer science and rumors are that he interviewed with NSA. Curiously, Craig disappeared. More curiously, his family also moved away. No one knows a thing.

8. Duke
Pete’s parents were ridiculously rich and Dad had gone to Duke. Duke got full tuition from Pete. I have no clue what happened, but given the resources of his parents, I am confident Pete found a position and sweetie to take care of him and provide some puppies.

9. Columbia
Smart and slightly geeky with long legs that gave her a killer quarter mile, Jodi got her degree from Columbia and tossed it to become pure soccer mom with the van and the four kids popped out in just over five years to a successful Columbia dad. Jodi went to college to score a husband and scored well. He makes a mint and she happily does the kids. Jodi actually called me about attending the 25 year reunion. She sounded very content and confident, fond of her children and her role in raising them.

10. University of Chicago
Dean was different, and I mean different. No conformity here. Dean took my heartthrob Donna skydiving without telling her in advance what they were going to do. Dean read Schopenhauer during lunch. Dean was probably the most brilliant individual in the building, but he had a C average. No one, and I mean no one, understood Dean. He got a 1600 on his SAT and submitted an application to the University of Chicago that worked despite his pathetic GPA. Apparently he included some unsolicited essays with his application that resulted in a phone conversation with Chicago.

Even though I was only 45 minutes to his north, we never connected. I read about his death in the paper. He walked into the emergency room of a south side Chicago hospital. A typed, signed and notorized letter was stapled with a staple gun to his chest under his shirt reading, "Take the eyes, ears, nose and throat. Take the kidneys, the liver, the heart, the lungs. Take the feet, the hands, the knees, the ankles. Burn the brain. Burn it to ashes and scatter them." Right in the middle of the emergency room, Dean put a 357 magnum into his mouth pointed upward and blew his brains against the window behind him. Your humble blogger considers it safe to conclude that Dean knew dark. What sticks most in my mind is the notary public.

11. Dartmouth
My soul mate attended Dartmouth. Thalia, the woman I wanted to marry, dumped me for a philosopher at Chapel Hill (#28).

12. Washington University
David was really screwed up in a way I am not going to even try to describe. No one will ever really know what went on between those ears. Skipping to the punch line, in his parents garage he soaked a sleeping bag in gasoline, climbed in, and set it on fire. He did not die that night. He died six months later. I will always wonder what David thought about during those six months.

13. Cornell

14. Brown

14. Northwestern
Your humble blogger’s alma mater and also that of Stephen Colbert.

14. Johns Hopkins
Paul was a nice guy completely dominated by a mother that, well, dominated. We’re talking about a kid so smothered by mommy that she probably chose his courses, his clothing, his athletics, his wife, and his career. Mom told him to become a doctor so he did. What he really wanted to do is irrelevant. Per mom’s edict he became an eagle scout, did something for a church, took easier classes instead of AP to maximize his GPA and went to the school mommy specified, whatever. An emasculated mommy toy without a pair is painful to watch.

17. Rice
Rice University is one of the few with the backbone to tell the Greek nonsense to take a hike. There are no fraternities or sororities at Rice. There are certain things Texas I can get. Rice is underrated. Check out its endowment/student ratio.

17. Emory
19. Vanderbilt
My high school sweetheart, the first woman I thought I would marry, dumped me for landscape architect. I didn’t even know landscaping was taught at universities. One can actually write a dissertation about shrubs?

20. Notre Dame
21. UC – Berkeley
Heaven on Earth second only to Stanford. Could you imagine being eighteen, the world before you, sharing a house with six or eight other students in Berkeley and riding your bike onto campus each day? Everyone is smart and there are no Republicans.

22. Carnegie Mellon
23. University of Virginia
Lonnie, an intelligent and wonderful African American woman who could DANCE, inspired many and took the stage before us to express her talents in dance, speech, and leadership. She was a remarkable human being and her fate haunts me to this day. During the summer before her senior year, she was raped, stabbed repeatedly with a screwdriver, and beaten to death over the head with a brick. The killer then threw her body down a well. Not a week goes by that I don’t think about Lonnie. Authorities found the body and the killer. He remains in prison.

24. Georgetown
25. UCLA
Mark was one of the most gifted individuals I have ever met in the overall category. Built like a fortress with a brain to match, his value on the football field attracted just about every college in the country. On a regular basis I served Mark at the Montgomery Inn where I worked as a busboy. College recruiters wooed Mark with great dinners. I got to clean the table when it was over. Mark sailed through school with an athletic free ride and then started his own business in Florida, making a fortune. Good for him.

26. UM – Ann Arbor
27. USC
28. UNC – Chapel Hill
An asshole martini soaked philosopher stole my soul mate. May the entire philosophy department at Chapel Hill be struck with West Nile Virus depriving them forever of the ability to phenomenonologically epistemate any reality whatsoever.

29. Tufts
I don’t recall the name of the guy that went to Tufts. He was smart but stayed a little below the radar, not an ego in search of limelight. Last I heard, he was worth double digit millions and owned things like Borders, half of some airline, and a dozen restaurants on both east and west coasts that serve phenomenal seafood. He dines regularly with the elected officials who favor his establishments.

30. Wake Forest
Audrey went to Wake Forest. She loved it and met a man. They are happy, wealthy, with great kids, a great life, no worries, and work for employers that stay in business, treat them well, and don’t lay them off. I don’t understand.

31. Lehigh
Louis attended Lehigh. I heard he formed his own company doing something incredibly simple (cleaning carpet, spraying for bugs) and made a fortune.

32. Brandeis
33. William and Mary
34. NYU
The most beautiful actress girlfriend in the world put my young and virile body into orbit. Then she started sleeping with her director. The loss was painful, but I would repeat the experience at every opportunity.

35. Rochester
36. Georgia Institute of Technology
37. Boston College
Kathleen. Catholic Kathleen to the chagrin of many. We got into a huge fight about Christianity (back in my more opinionated days. I don't have too many opinions anymore (!!!!)). I called her an idiot. She did not care for the remark.

38. UW Madison
Oh, Donna. I was Hank and she was Dagny. I was hers for the taking but she married some goon she thought was Galt who became violent and beat her. The devastating divorce delivered her into the arms of Johnny, Jack and a smooth-talking velvet of the black variety. Oh, Donna.

39. UC San Diego
My genius friend Mike, second only to Thalia in mathematical acumen, tried the corporate world after earning PhD’s in both chemistry and chemical engineering. The man is a walking brain. He personally improved the energizer battery and made Duracell nervous. Corporate politics turned him into a chemistry professor at a university in the mid-west. I can relate.

40. UI Champagne Urbana

The University of Arizona ranked 96 and Arizona State University (surprising me) came in at 124.


Anonymous The Navigator said...

Once again, you break the box.


8/18/2007 5:06 PM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

I recall all the squirrels around campus at Berkeley, and the great bookstores around there too. There was a terrific Indian food place a couple blocks south of campus, and the Berkeley Bowl market was terrific for getting fresh food.

There was an artificial turf soccer field on top of a parking garage a couple blocks south of campus too, and in the summer particularly you could get a game there 24/7 literally. You could show up 2 am, and get involved in a 3v3 or 4v4 game.

About the only thing I didn't like was the library system there, and not being able to get into the stacks. That sucked ... really sucked.

At Stanford, I was always amazed how you could be driving down El Camino, past the football stadium and _know_ the stadium was just there, west of the road ... and still have a heck of a time spotting it.

There was a great book store up in Menlo Park too, and an absolutely terrific Chinese place called Yuen Yung, which is now tragically defunct. That place was so good I hardly ever eat Chinese food now, because nothing I try compares.

I actually preferred Berkeley in terms of the environment, but Stanford is the better school ... and having said that, I better make damn sure my real name never gets out to certain Cal acquaintances of mine. :)

8/18/2007 7:25 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Well, imagine my surprise that Sirocco is intimate with the Berkeley world. My question is whether you attended as undergrad or graduate.

Should I be calling you Dr. Sirocco?

Either way, I'm jealous. While you played soccer and frolicked with California co-eds I froze my flippin' butt in Evanston. That's one of the reasons I moved to Tucson.

From the freezer to the frying pan.


8/18/2007 8:52 PM  
Blogger Jeff Strain said...

Whoo-hoo! We're #36! We're #36!

Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering
Georgia Tech, 1993

8/19/2007 2:52 PM  

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