I’m just about three and a half months out of Cornell and one week from starting my new job in NYC as a consultant for Ernst and Young. For the first time since the summer between high school and college I literally have had nothing much to have to do. After four years of nonstop academics, meetings, extracurriculars, and the like, I found myself in late May feeling as though I just finished an uncontrolled, tumbling dive down Libe Slope to finally stop, get up and look around. I asked myself: now what? What does an over-involved, active Cornellian do when there is nothing to do? That’s the one thing the university did not prepare me for.
Horseshoe Beach in Bermuda
Travel: isn’t that what we all are supposed to do after graduation? For four years I saw myself arriving at the airport still wearing the mortarboard with only a backpack for luggage. I’d get on the next flight to Europe and “backpack” the continent for two weeks. After doing some serious research and learning the expensive reality of that proposition, I dropped it faster than a freshman accidentally enrolled in advanced molecular thermodynamics. Although I have a Cornell tour guide friend who backpacked through South America by himself during his post-graduation summer a year ago, proving that it supposedly is possibly on a post-grad, pre-job budget, I plan to save my backpacking adventures for the eventual future.
I instead cruised down to Bermuda with several friends on a one-week ride on the Norwegian Gem. I couldn’t have asked for a better vacation: cloudless summer weather, pink sand beaches, nightly shows, dance parties throughout the ship, bars around every corner, and, of course, the opportunity to savor the sweet sensation of being away from it all. When I got back to New York I Facebook-friended the cruise director (he was just that good) and discovered we have three friends in common. As it turns out, the cruise I just got back from was same cruise I almost went on for spring break with some of my fraternity brothers. Apparently the Norwegian Gem to Bermuda is a popular cruise; two of my other friends went on the same ship with their families on two separate occasions over the summer.
The Norwegian Gem docked at King's Wharf, Bermuda
In my book, summer isn’t summer without some time spent on the links. I enjoy golf because it is a mental game. It’s a game of strategy and physics mixed together with some very precise movements. Bobby Jones was known for saying, “Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course – the distance between your ears.” As I learned the hard way many a time, skill wanders when the mind wanders.
The Robert Trent Jones course at Cornell University
For my love of golf, I’ve actually never played at the Cornell-owned Robert Trent Jones-designed course in Ithaca. During Orientation Week freshman year I accidentally snuck onto the Ithaca Country Club course to play nine holes with one of my friends from back home (we thought it was the Cornell course and thought it was free for students), but despite diligently bringing my clubs up every year I never used them except for that one occasion the first week in Ithaca. Like many seemingly useful artifacts I brought up from home on Long Island, the clubs sat in my four different closets for four years gathering dust.
This summer I finally played Bethpage on Long Island. The Bethpage Black course was home to the US Open in 2002 and 2009 and in 2008 was ranked the 6th hardest course in the United States by Golf Digest. I recognize that I’m not yet quite good enough to play that course, and was partially scared away by the large warning sign in front of the first tee box (it says “Warning: The Black Course is an Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only for Highly Skilled Golfers”). My two friends and I instead played the Bethpage Green. It’s a great course.
It feels good to get back to reading books for fun as opposed to for academics. Here’s some of the books I read this summer:
- Decision Points (George Bush): I was disappointed by this memoir, which turned out to be more of a political manifesto than an autobiography. The premise was Bush explaining the thought process that went behind many of his most important decisions, but I thought he took it a step too far by blatantly defending and rationalizing controversial and unpopular decisions with political rhetoric. I would have preferred to have him “tell it like it was” and let history provide the retrospective political commentary. Overall, it was worth reading to learn about some behind-the-scenes moments during Bush’s eight-year presidency.
- Spiral (Paul McEuen): Think Michael Crichton. Cornell physics professor Paul McEuen’s novel is a scientific thriller set partially in Ithaca and at Cornell University. Liam Connor, an aged Cornell biology professor, is tortured and killed by a Japanese assassin searching for a WWII-era virus/biological weapon. The plot unfolds as Jake Sterling, a Cornell physics professor (much like McEuen), works to find the virus before the assassin. The book is an easy, fun read if you like thrillers, and I recommend you read the NY Times review. I was fortunate to interview Paul McEuen with Tommy Bruce, Cornell’s VP of Communications, for our radio show, The Sunday Forum with Tommy Bruce. I’ve posted the interview audio file here if you’re interested.Paul McEuen Interview. In the interview, McEuen talks about how his experiences as a specialist in nanotechnology contributed to the novel and its upcoming screenplay adaptation.
- Rainbow Six (Tom Clancy): While on the thriller genre, I decided to re-read for the 3rd time this classic 1998 counter-terrorism novel. Tom Clancy is a page-turning writer similar to Michael Crichton, but he focuses on military/political thrillers as opposed to Crichton’s scientific thrillers. Rainbow Six is about an elite and top-secret counter-terrorist unit that, of course, saves the world from a complex terrorist plot. I’m surprised it’s yet to be made into a film.
- Googled (Ken Auletta): I’ve been reading this on and off for the past several months and finally finished it. Ken Auletta tells the story of Google’s rise to power and discusses the changing media landscape as well as what Google’s prominence means for the future of so-called “new media.” If you’re interested in media like I am it’s a worthy read to understand where the industry is going. It surprised me to realize that Google is becoming a media company and Search is only a small part of their business.
Too Big to Fail
- Too Big to Fail (Andrew Sorkin): Fellow Cornell alumnus and renowned financial journalist Andrew Sorkin ’99 visited Cornell last October to talk about his book, the then-upcoming HBO movie, and his career. As someone entering finance, I found his talk to be particularly relevant and eye-opening. The world of finance – and by that I really mean the entire economy – is largely controlled by a few key players. That’s it. Too Big to Fail is a chronicle of those key players’ role in the financial collapse of 2008. I’m only about 100 pages in as of now, but so far it reads like a novel much like Kurt Eichenwald’s Conspiracy of Fools about the collapse of Enron. I recommend that book as well.
So, maybe I have been somewhat busy in my first few months away from Ithaca. After the hectic pace of life at Cornell I really don’t know how to do nothing. The university does not prepare students for that. But, I made it work. Now I’m off to enjoy my last weekend of work- and school-free life before my job starts on Thursday. Happy Labor Day.