Letters to the Editor

Letters: July/August 2020

We welcome readers’ letters, which should be emailed to yam@yale.edu; mailed to Letters Editor, Yale Alumni Magazine, PO Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905; or faxed to (203) 432-0651. Due to the volume of correspondence, we are unable to respond to or publish all mail received. Letters accepted for publication are subject to editing. Priority is given to letters of fewer than 300 words.

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How to avoid the digital Dark Ages

I enjoyed your article “The Digital Dark Ages” (May/June), by Veronique Greenwood, but after reading and rereading it, I fail to find any mention of what is probably the best way to preserve copies of printed documents and photographs. It is known as microform (microfilm and microfiche). The Archives of the United States, the US Navy, the New York Times, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have preserved millions of pages in that way. They are easy to read, once one gets familiar with the scanners. And microform is said to have a preservation life of 100 years—that may or may not be true, but it’s certainly longer than the methods described in Ms. Greenwood’s article.

To preserve items that have not been printed, it would be necessary to print them in order to photograph them for microform imaging. However, that seems to me a better solution than to keep finding ways to move them into new computerized formats. I wish someone had been working on a solution to the problem of preservation of images on tapes before my VCR tapes faded. But my old home movies are just as clear as ever. Once again, film is best.
George J. Hill ’53
Baltimore, MD

How to save your kid’s baby pictures? Paper. As the oldest partner in my law firm, I would take new lawyers around the office, take them into the vault, and show them big, maybe 10" floppy disks from our IBM Display Writer, 6" disks from our Wang PCs, 6" disks from our IBM clones, 3" hard white disks from later IBM clones, CD-ROMs, and then challenge them to find a machine that could read them. But on the way, I would show them a framed 2' x 3', 1723 Indenture Tripartite, on vellum, which I bought for $1.75 at the Yale Co-Op in the early 1960s when some English place divested themselves of hundreds of pretty documents. It is in English, has many red and blue wax seals, and is perfectly readable. So, I would say, if there is something we might need five years from now, or later, print it out!
Charles Tucker ’63, ’66JD
Swall Meadows, CA

“The Digital Dark Ages” highlighted how much of the information we’re creating is slipping through archivists’ fingers. To take this one step further, I wanted to highlight the current digital archiving problem at Yale.

I’m on the alumni board of the Yale Record, the nation’s oldest humor magazine. Since we were founded in 1872, the magazine has been moving away from print into a more digital form. I’d imagine most Yale magazines are doing the same.

The Yale Record is currently operating in a hybrid form (at least it was before the coronavirus), publishing a print issue each month and putting out online pieces more frequently. At the end of each year, the print issues are bundled up and sent to Manuscripts and Archives, where they are nicely bound and saved forever. But as far as I know, there’s no digital Manuscripts and Archives. I mean there is, but that’s just for digitizing print materials and putting them online. There’s no way to go to M&A and look for what the Record’s website looked like over time. In order to do that, I need to go to the Internet Archive website at archive.org, which is not affiliated with Yale. There I can search for yalerecord.com and see that we started that site in 2004. We had an online presence before then, but there’s no way I’m going to remember where it was.

Much of the digital history of the Record and other Yale publications has already been lost. In 1999 the Record pulled one of the first digital April Fools’ Day pranks.

We registered misspellings of the New York Times website (e.g., nytines.com, nytomes.com, etc.) and created our own parody of the Times. It was pretty funny and looked authentic. It would have languished in the internet dustbin, but I’ve been holding onto it at www.schlaff.com/nytimes until Yale provides a place for it, along with its digital brethren. Creating a digital Manuscripts and Archives isn’t that hard; we just need to realize that it’s important and doesn’t exist today.
Robert Schlaff ’99
New York, NY

Adams the pastor

Many thanks for publishing the wonderful tribute to Harry Baker Adams (“An ‘Exemplary Yalie’ who Filled Many Roles,” May/June). For many years Harry played an important role in the lives of our family. Always the pastor, in the 1970s he faithfully drove down from New Haven every Sunday to serve as visiting pastor at our little community church in Greenwich. In that role, he baptized all three of our children, including our son, Robert Jr., Class of 2002. He also presided at the 2004 marriage of our daughter at the Yale Club of New York City. He and his wife, Manette, who predeceased him, often hosted us for dinners at their home. Over the years he touched many lives, both at Yale and beyond. He will be sorely missed.
Robert H. Hanson ’63
Cave Creek, AZ

Making wood greener

The short article “The Log Cabin Grows Up” (May/June) extols the virtues of mass timber for high-rise construction. Using structural wood products is somewhat climate-friendly, but, according to independent studies, only about 30 percent of the carbon on average is locked up in the wood; the remainder is discharged to the atmosphere. And that is why it is best for the climate to leave forests, and particularly older forests, standing.

Most commercial forests these days are harvested via clear-cutting on rotations ranging from 30 to 80 years. If timber corporations were to extend those rotations to 120 or 150 years, a lot more carbon would be stored for a much longer period. The 30 percent capture figure can also be improved by using less energy in the logging and milling processes and by better utilization of what is now wood waste that is typically burned on logging sites.

Mass timber is good, but we, and the timber industry, must do better if we are going to leave a livable planet to pass on to our progeny.
Felice Pace ’69
Klamath, CA

Another kind of diversity

Your article on the Faculty Excellence and Diversity Initiative (“Faculty Diversity Initiative Extended,” May/June) gives typical examples of “diversity”—race, color, background, etc. No one can fault Yale for this effort; however, there is an equally important kind of “diversity” that reflects the personal bias of faculty, admissions officers, and administration. This one has no quantitative measurement as do the others. But bias appears so frequently in our lives and serves no useful intellectual purpose.

The often-quoted value of a conservative liberal-arts education is the ability of a person to form constructive positions and express them in a nonconfrontational environment. Yale’s faculty and administration could spend a few dollars recognizing the need for diversity of opinion.
William H. Wheeler Jr. ’53
Duxbury, MA

Yale says its Presidential Visiting Fellows program, one piece of the Faculty Excellence and Diversity Initiative, is for “distinguished visiting scholars and practitioners from around the world who bring to Yale unique perspectives on research, practice, and teaching.” Among the 2018–19 fellows, for example, was Jeffrey Macris, a former US Navy pilot and a Permanent Military Professor at the US Naval Academy.—Eds.

Two women's stories

As soon as it arrived, I knew I would enjoy every page of the issue celebrating 50 years of women at Yale (“The Women Who Changed Yale College,” September/October). But I did not expect to burst into tears of recognition and solidarity at an anonymous woman’s brave story of getting an early version of the morning-after pill at DUH [Department of University Health] in 1970—the very same place where I got it, feeling very alone, one morning nearly 40 years later.
How wonderful to know that in the long view, I wasn’t alone at all.
Nozlee Samadzadeh ’10
Brooklyn, NY

More pizza memories

Your decision to include Naples, despite its demise, in Corby Kummer’s review of Elm City pizzerias (“The Pizza Crawl,” March/April) will lead hundreds of Old Blues to indulge their own memories of the place. My own fondest memory of Naples dates not from my undergraduate years but from a brief visit to Yale a dozen years after I graduated.

I was at the time struggling miserably with my dissertation at another university. Ducking into Naples one evening during that visit, I spotted Yale economist Gerald Jaynes sitting alone, apparently working on a paper. I had taken Professor Jaynes’s introductory lecture course in microeconomics, held in Davies Auditorium, during my sophomore spring. His teaching and classroom manner left me inspired; recalling them today still leaves me inspired. And seeing Professor Jaynes at work that night years later at Naples, in a formerly familiar but seemingly incongruous setting, proved a much-needed little spark of inspiration to me in my battles with my own work.

Of course, like most of the best memories (I suspect), this has nothing to do with the pizza served at the incomparable old Naples and more to do with its irreplaceable—and for so many of us eternal—scene.
Michael Montesano ’83
Tokyo, Japan

I certainly appreciate the study on pizzas in New Haven, but this old-timer, growing up in Philadelphia in the 1940s, remembers only Italian “tomato pies.” How, and when, did the pies evolve into pizza? Now there is a subject for a good thesis!

I trust pizzas are a possible cure for the coronavirus, though evidence from Italy seems to disprove that!
Leon M. S. Slawecki ’69PhD
Washington, VA

The Philadelphia tomato pie of Mr. Slawecki’s childhood—with a thick, focaccia-like crust, tomato sauce, and no cheese or toppings—has existed alongside other varieties of pizza in America since the early 1900s.—Eds.

Your article about New Haven pizza reminded me of many very happy visits to Sally’s. On one occasion, many years after I’d graduated, when I had a reason to come to New Haven for several days of Yale matters, I went straight from the train station to Sally’s, sat down, and ordered a pizza. By then I’d become pretty well acquainted with Flo, who was Sally’s widow and who was then in charge of the entire operation.

As ten o’clock closing time was fast approaching, and as Flo noticed that I had my carry-on suitcase with me, she asked where I was staying. I told her that I was staying at the Holiday Inn close to Payne Whitney Gym and would call a cab to take me there.

She said, “Nonsense—I’ll drive you as soon as we’ve closed up for the night.” And indeed she did. Needless to say, I was very surprised and very pleased.

I do hope that somehow Sally’s hasn’t changed too much since Flo died and the ownership has changed. Your description of it, including the generally grimy feeling, suggests that it’s still much the same. I’ve not been there for several years now. But if I’m lucky, I’ll try to get there next November when I hope to be in New Haven (God and COVID-19 willing) for the annual YAA Assembly and the Alumni Fund Convocation.
Alan Stamm ’52
Los Angeles, CA

Golden bygone days

Thanks to Mark Rosenberg ’20 for his remembrance of the “golden hour” on campus (“The Lost Days,” May/June). It took me back to my days on the Divinity Quad. I was introduced to Ultimate Frisbee at age 38 while at Yale Divinity studying with a lot of younger people. Friday’s Ultimate game was one of the highlights in my memory, as well as the hour we would spend crammed into a small dorm room, after dinner in the refectory, watching Star Trek: The Next Generation before studying took over the night. It’s so fun to remember the fun at Yale!
Sally Harbold ’92MDiv
Durham, NC

Still more on climate

I read with great interest the letters regarding climate change in the May/June magazine. Humankind has never faced a more significant global crisis, as is well-articulated by Yale alum Michael Mann, now at Penn State. I was therefore pleased to read the letter that asks hypothetically whether taking steps to address the climate crisis would be misdirected, even if it is assumed that the climate is not changing?

Other letters question word choice. One questions use of the phrase “violent urgency of climate change.” Another takes issue with the term “dangerous” to describe objections to the “elevation of climate alarm.” I support the magazine’s inclusion of these terms at a time when objective science shows that the climate crisis and ocean acidification pose unprecedented threats to human livelihoods and global biodiversity. I am pleased that the magazine is covering the climate crisis and hope it will continue to do so. I hope Yale will join Brown and Georgetown in divesting from fossil fuel companies.
Jim Warren ’81MFS
South Pasadena, CA

In the May/June magazine, someone brought up the idea that even if it later becomes clear that there never was any climate threat, what would be wrong about having obtained things such as clean water, clean air, a healthier landscape, etc.?

Having majored in economics, I have a very simple answer: since money is fungible, every time a decision is made to do something, something else cannot be funded. If the amount of money spent on these climate-friendly actions is astronomically high, things that developing countries need—such as sustainable wastewater treatment, a reliable electric grid (allowing refrigeration, for example), access to more health care, etc.—will not be funded.
Jon Koplik ’78
Bonita Springs, FL

What a great challenge and opportunity for the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies to take another step forward in applying the concept of sustainability beyond just to forest management. Becoming the Yale School of the Environment will give better access to all of the university’s other schools, which will be essential to deal with environmental issues such as climate change and its underlying driver, the increasing world population.

Management of climate change, although very difficult, is possible, because if the people of the world continue to press their governments to take action, the science to facilitate management is well developed. Our task is to support this effort with clear evidence of what to do and how to do it. Failure is not an option.

When we get climate change under management, we will only have bought time to solve the environmental impact of unmanaged population increase. Because the earth has a finite size and resources, determining how to manage population growth will require knowledge and skills from all of the university’s schools to help humanity understand and accept the concept of management.

Although there is no blueprint for how to proceed, life as we know it depends on our success. Yale is very well positioned to help us “muddle through” and save life on the planet!
S. Gene Day ’66MF
Twin Falls, ID

Wash your hands

Regarding Kim O’Malley’s photographs of door handles on campus (School Notes, May/June): a lot of germs have been left on those handles over the decades. The Yale Rep’s, in particular, record the gentle abrasions of countless thousands of right hands. How much more conscious of such everyday human traces we’ve become, thanks to public health recommendations.
George Slade ’83
Minneapolis, MN

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