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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

TRANSITIONS: PART 8--ON TO LSU

The transition from Hawaii to Baton Rouge was relatively smooth and fortuitous.  I ordered from Plymouth a white barracuda with red stripes and a super sound system, looking something like this to the left.  Pearl and I picked it up in Los Angeles and drove to Louisiana.  We took a leisurely route through points of interest, like the Grand Canyon.


I was beginning to show symptoms of the flu when we arrived in Las Vegas.  One night of gambling and I felt fine the next day.  There must be something to how the mind can overcome certain ailments.

We had applied for campus housing but had not received any response, so when we arrived in Baton Rouge, I drove to the Louisiana State University (LSU) housing office.  The lady we talked to said she was just typing the letter informing me that we had secured an apartment in relatively close walking distance to the Chemical Engineering Department.  We lived there for 42 months.


Pearl got a job at a nursing home, and with my C. Brewer salary and full fellowship provided by LSU, for the first, and last, time, we actually were able to save money.

Tiger football was long a tradition here, but there was also Pete Maravich.  Every basketball and football game was sold out, but students could always get seats.  For football, especially, locals could only purchase season tickets through inheritance.  In those days, women wore gowns and men jackets with ties, and everybody went to a party before the game.  Games were at night, and the noise was deafening because everyone was drunk.  The term, DEATH VALLEY, was most appropriate for opponents.

As a freshman Maravich scored 43 points/game, so there was great anticipation when he join the varsity .  Well, he exceeded expectations averaging around 44 points/game each year and has been called the best basketball showman ever.  He is the all-time career NCAA scoring leader.  And I saw all his home games.

About a year into my studies, I determined that I could get a PhD without much additional effort.  However, C. Brewer responded that PhDs weren't needed in the sugar industry, and if I continued with my schooling, they would cut off my salary.  We agreed that after I returned, I'd somehow do some work for them to pay back what they had invested.  (It later turned out that I wrote a report one summer on something to do with the sugar industry and the environment during my regular break and they forgave everything.)

Louisiana has more festivals than anywhere I've lived, featuring jambalaya, gumbo, crawfish, cochon de lait (roast suckling pig)...


...and, of course, Mardi Gras in New Orleans:


The food in Baton Rouge was pedestrian, but New Orleans had the French Quarter, Cafe du Monde and beignets (right) with chicory in coffee, Preservation Hall, raw oysters at Acme, red beans/rice, pralines, New Orleans jazz, Commander's Palace (where Emeril got his start), Antoine's, Galatoire's, breakfast at Brennan's, Pat O'Brien's for a Hurricane and Tabasco Sauce from Avery Island (first produced in 1868).

I also found time to take a few courses and pass those vaunted comprehensive exams.  The hurdle that stopped some had to do with scoring well enough in the Graduate Record Exam for that particular language you selected.  I think you had to exceed 500 (the exam scoring has now changed to a 130 - 170 scale--it was 200-800 in my day), and you were competing against majors in that field.  I merely took a two week intensive course in French, where the teacher warned us DON'T guess.  However, I've finished every test in my life so I did a lot of guessing...and passed.  But this was stressful, for I had never before taken a French course.

I minored in management, dabbled in a few law courses and gained a PhD in biochemical engineering, where I built a micro reactor with a tunable laser (before one could be purchased) to sterilize and catalyze the growth of E. coli.  As tunable lasers only could be lased in the optical spectrum, which was about a million times too ineffective to affect the DNA/RNA bonds of bacteria, and frequency doubling was too, too difficult, I had to experiment with an assortment of exogenous photosensitizers.  The combination of these EGs and laser wavelengths, which varied with the type of organic dyes and diffraction grating, sometimes catalyzed and sometimes sterilized E. coli.  But there was a pattern that had some consistency and logic.  Anyway, somehow, the whole thing worked and I earned a PhD about 3.5 years after I arrived in Baton Rouge.

Next, back to the University of Hawaii, where 42 years later, I today still have an office on the Manoa Campus and remain active with the Blue Revolution, this blog site, writing books and golf.  However, my posting tomorrow will feature a ceremony in Hilo to plant Pearl's Gold Tree:


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