Number Twenty Five: Massachusetts

Our plan was to ride the Cape Cod Trail but the weather and other considerations caused us to reconsider. We stayed on the outskirts of Boston and accomplished a couple other things beyond a bike ride. One of the more important was dinner with Larry Ludlow, a friend of almost forty years from the University of Chicago, although he was a few years behind me in the MESA program.

I worked for and with Prof. Benjamin Wright for most of the 70s. During that time, we developed three significant software packages in the world of Rasch. I can not tell you how many meetings I had with Ben that included something like, “This is perfect. Exactly what we need. Now can we just put table 6 ahead of table 4?”

Well, of course we can but we’ll have to redesign the entire data base because we don’t have the information for table 6 until after we create table 5.

[I should point out to people who don’t know what the world was like 40 years ago, we were working in FORTRAN with punched cards on a computer that provided overnight turnaround and limited working memory to 112k.]

The third and final program in my Chicago trilogy was a thing called “KidMap”. When designing it, I was determined that labels could be changed, titles could be moved, tables could be reordered and redesigned without recompiling. It turned out to be a bigger challenge to anticipate Ben’s next big idea than I thought and consequently the program involved some very interesting code.

Enter Larry, who worked for and with Ben for much of the 80s. It fell to Larry to maintain and extend my creative coding to handle non-dichotomous data after I fled to Minnesota. We had many phone conversations about his efforts in that regard and never once did he refer to my code as “interesting.”

Dr. Ludlow is now founder and Director of his own MESA program at Boston College and has his own graduate students to spend long nights with today’s version of a computer. His current research interest is scenarios to assess engagement. He’ll have to explain.

Our second accomplishment was a visit to the bar “Cheers” to score a refrigerator magnet Doré had been lusting after since seeing one on a refrigerator in Oxford. Our friend Carole from The Cruise, who owned the refrigerator, wouldn’t let her have it.

The real life Cheers looks right from the outside but downstairs has nothing to do with the TV series. They have, however, for the benefit of tourists, recreated the set upstairs where Melville’s should be.

And we took a bike ride along the Charles River with rather varied scenery. As is our tradition with urban trails, the ride involved numerous unplanned loops and dead ends. We lost the trail entirely before we got to Harvard but I don’t think that has any deep psychological meaning.

Finally, we logged our second Presidential Library. The Kennedy Museum and Library didn’t have as much new information for us as the Ford Library had but was equally powerful. That may reflect the significance of Kennedy in our young lives. I was on my way to the final for a course on Laplace Transforms; I have no idea what a Laplace Transform is.

These range from somewhat discouraging about our lack of progress, and backsliding, to strangely prescient.

The Peace Corps was revolutionary in its time, now too successful to get rid of. Kennedy’s enthusiasm about space exploration is a high point in his legacy, which we don’t seem to be able to match without him. At the time he announced the goal of a man on the moon within the decade, Americans had logged a total of 15 minutes in space.

As always, the Library slides over some rather significant events, like the Bay of Pigs, which probably led more or less directly to the Cuban Crisis. None of which diminishes his ability to inspire.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s