May 23, 2020

May 31, 2020


Once again, it’s Memorial Day. Another holiday and a day off for most. How easy it is for many to think of this as another of the 365 days in the year (actually, 366 this year). We normally barbecue and party…but not this year, thanks to the Coronavirus. Some may give thought to our fallen heroes. Others may pray for peace while others could care less. And then, this holiday that is observed in honor of those who paid the ultimate price, is gone.


Every Memorial Day, I am reminded of a passage in the 1957 James Michener book “Tales of the South Pacific,” a story of his experiences in Southeastern Asia during WWII. In part of this passage, a young American soldier expresses his feelings on visiting a cemetery on the island of Hoga Point.

“Before me lay the dead, the heroic dead who took the island. Upon a strange plateau, on a strange island, in a strange sea, far from their farms and villages, they sleep forever beside the lagoon which bore them to their day of battle…”

This passage, in part, describes the sacrifices the men and women made for our country.


D-Day, which occurred in June three-quarters of a century ago last year, attempts to recognize the sacrifices made by so many to end wars.  Wars have unfortunately become inevitable during my short stay (86 years) on this planet. But, as long as there have been  wars, our nation has had many who unfortunately gave their lives for a better future. These are the individuals we should never forget. Why? Here is but a short list of things we do today–normally taken for granted–that these brave soldiers will not be able to experience:

  1. Keep company with the loved ones in your life
  2. Enjoy a delicious meal
  3. Watch a classic movie on TCM
  4. Bet the races at Gulfstream Park
  5. Take a leisurely walk
  6. Talk with friends and loved ones by phone
  7. Interact virtually with friends and loved ones
  8. Read a great book
  9. Sit in the backyard under a canopy
  10. See the flowers begin to bloom

Here are a handful of things that we will not experience today thanks to our fallen heroes.

  1. War
  2. Starvation
  3. Drought
  4. Being deprived of our liberty and freedom
  5. Experiencing loss of most, if not all, forms of energy
  6. The disappearance of love in our lives

Yep, we have much to be grateful for…despite the present pandemic. Thank you fallen heroes and let us celebrate America and pray for another year of peace.


P.S.: Mother’s Day came and went. Hats off to these special persons. My mother? All I can say is that she sacrificed everything for her two children. Thanks Mom.


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JULY 1:                      On the Coronavirus II

AUGUST 1:                On Four Issues II: The New York Racing Association (NYRA)

SEPTEMBER 1:         On the Ultimate Quiz III



Here are this month’s three defensive suggestions from the upcoming second edition of my “BASKETBALL COACHING 101” book.


  1. Know who to foul and who not to foul near the end of the game.


  1. If losing, consider substituting after a foul shot in order to better set the defense.


  1. Practice various backcourt defenses and defensive strategies.



May 1, 2020

May 1, 2020


May 1 articles are normally devoted solely to the EWSD budget vote. But due to the corona episode, I will only devote one short paragraph to the budget. Because of the crisis we are experiencing, I am also providing my thoughts on the coronavirus and the conduct of a handful of the major players.


The budget vote? It’s the same old story. Our district has fallen on hard times, thanks to the earlier self-serving behavior of David Israel and Susan Bergtraum, plus the present school administrators and board. Is there a solution? I doubt it, as the deck is stacked against the students, parents, and seniors; the waste, ridiculous salaries, and indifference to the plight of our seniors are the main culprits. Maybe the Village will finally decide to take action. It’s now obvious, and a fact, that spending money like a drunken sailor on education will not correct the problem. In the meantime, is there any chance this incompetent board will demand the teachers take a pay cut during this period when so many of our community are suffering financially? Sorry, you already know the answer. So do yourself a favor and vote NO on this year’s budget sometime after June 1. Yes, it’s OK to vote NO. Don’t be a glutton for punishment and stop being taken for a fool.


On to the Wuhan Chinese coronavirus. There are traitors amongst us. A good number of them are our elected representatives to Congress and the media. These are the individuals who put their own interests above all else. These are the same individuals who shockingly savaged both Kavanagh and Gorsuch plus chose the impeachment path to destroy our President, plus….  .  And now, these same individuals are at it again; this time doing immense damage to our nation.


Fortunately , we have a President who has somehow withstood merciless attacks from not only his own party, but also the democrats, the unions, educators, Hollywood, fanatics/liberals, and (worst of all) a totally biased corrupt media. Trump is an executive who surrounded himself with experts, and drawing on their knowledge and experience, reached sound decisions and then delegated authority. It’s exactly what you want out of a CEO and that is why our nation prospered like never before prior to the virus. It is frightening to think what would have happened if Obama, or Biden, or the Hill, or … were in charge: corruption would reign supreme and all businesses and other decisions would be based on politics, not the best interests of our nation. You don’t believe this? Look how the Democrats conducted themselves during the Kavanaugh hearing and the impeachment trial. They belong in jail for the way they behaved.


In any event, it is essentially impossible (I mean impossible) for two large groups of individuals (Democrats and Republicans) to vote in a totally polarized manner without one group being corrupt. It is simply impossible from a statistical perspective! And, I leave it to the reader to determine which group is corrupt.


My thoughts on some of major individuals and organizations follow. Here are eight (8) 1-liners:


Pelosi:  An evil, wicked woman who is mentally deranged and a traitor who commented that Biden “is the best individual who can solve our nation’s problems”.

Biden:  Three years ago I wrote: “Joe Biden is the dumbest individual in Washington” and I repeated these words three times since; you can also add: perhaps the most corrupt. Maybe I’m a little smarter than I look.

Obama:  Lazy and incompetent best describes this guy.

Pence:  Has come up smelling like roses during this virus episode.

New York Times:  All you have to do is read the headlines to realize how corrupt this paper is. This appeared last Sunday: “GOP Planning is to Make China its Scapegoat – A Way to Deflect Virus Blame from Trump”. Truly pitiful.

CNN:   Traitors galore; it is sad to watch their behavior on clips on FOX.

Newsday:  Local paper that has seen better days.

Democrats in Congress:  Almost all traitors. Playing politics with taxpayers’ money when it comes to the virus.


A short paragraph on Cuomo. What a loser–worse than his father. Cuomo is presently frantically trying to place the blame elsewhere.  He obviously is thinking about running for President despite his failures to purchase the ventilators recommended by his own committee in 2015. His daily chats, where he lectures us and insults the President, are sickening; it is his attempt to act presidential. But most importantly, he should explain to us why our state’s virus per capita death rate is astronomically higher (yes, astronomically) than in not only our country but also the world. Incompetence led to his mismanagement of the virus crisis. No wonder we lead the nation in numbers leaving our state.  We would not be experiencing a pandemic if New York State and New York City had been so totally unprepared or if New York were not factored in the virus analysis.  Prediction: He will continue to blame Trump for our problems and demand a bailout.


I close with my thoughts on elected officials and career bureaucrats. It is important for all Americans to understand that most (not all, but mostly all) government employees have never earned an honest day’s pay and/or had a legitimate job. They are not only adverse to putting in an honest day’s work but also fearful of making decisions. They are the main reason our government has been effectively paralyzed in the past. The arrival of Trump three years ago, who works 16 hours a day and prides himself on making decisions, even difficult ones, has created numerous problems for these freeloaders. As far as the upcoming election goes, we should not underestimate the stupidity of many of the voters — there is still a chance that Trump will be defeated. Ouch!!! A colleague recently commented to me that Trump is a bully. Well , yes! In government and academia you get promoted if incompetent or lazy. With Trump, you get fired! It is now apparent that the only hope for the media and the liberals is to successfully portray Trump as a liability to our nation. They know if they fail they will add Republicans to the Senate and lose the House.  That is why they can’t say anything (and I mean anything) positive about Trump, his appointees, and his supporters.


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JUNE 1:                      On Memorial Day V

JULY 1:                      On Four Issues II: The New York Racing Association (NYRA)

AUGUST 1:                On the Coronavirus



Here are this month’s three offensive suggestions from the upcoming second edition of my “BASKETBALL COACHING 101” book.


  1. If playing on the visiter’s court, check the integrity of the basketball rim before, and if possible, each half.


  1. Practice should include big players bringing up the ball; this could prove invaluable against a team with a great defensive guard.


  1. If applicable and possible, attempt to have the opponent’s weakest defensive player guarding your best offensive player.


February 1, 2020

February 1, 2020


I started this “quiz” approximately a year ago and got some positive feedback. (Incidentally, the newsletter is approaching 15,000 hits.) Here is the second quiz with 21 questions, with the grading at 5 points per question. A total grade of 65 is passing; you are a genius if you are at or above 90.


  1. From a gambler’s perspective, what casino game provides the player with the best opportunity to win?


  1. Name the capitol of either North or South Dakota.


  1. What renowned author and basketball authority recently celebrated his 85th birthday?


  1. What legendary Astoria singer made famous the song “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”?


  1. The 50s and 60s band “Spontaneous Combustion” – featuring Steve Jones – has its roots in what general Nassau County locale?


  1. What Landmark Astoria diner is alive and doing well despite real estate interests in their property?


  1. Who keeps telling his friends this: “Every day is a blessing.”?


  1. Name the smallest country on Earth.


  1. Who uttered the quote: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”?


  1. Who discovered the Periodic Table?


  1. What nation is dry and stony, and features olives, grapes, lamb and goats?


  1. What college academic discipline could be classified as totally useless and serves a legitimate escape from reality?


  1. What actress said: “There’s no place like home.”?


  1. True or false? Mars is named after the Roman God of War.


  1. True or false? The moon is approximately 242,000 miles from Earth.


  1. Name the largest country on planet Earth.


  1. Who is the greatest boxer of all time?


  1. True or false: Shakespeare’s first name was Sylvio.


  1. Who is the greatest football running back of all time?


  1. Provide the age of the Sun and its distance from planet Earth.


  1. What renowned Civil War general said the following: “Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.”?


I’ll return with Quiz III later in the year.




  1. According to your author’s statistical analysis, the answer is blackjack (21). Dice (craps) is a close second.
  2. Bismarck and Pierre.
  3. An easy one, yours truly.
  4. Ethel Merman.
  5. The Willistons.
  6. The Neptune Diner.
  7. Legendary (92 years old) sports historian Art Loveley.
  8. A tough one. The Vatican.
  9. Full credit here since no one knows for sure; it was once incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain.
  10. A tough one. Dimitri Mendsleev (a Russian chemist) in 1869.
  11. The land of my forefathers – Greece.
  12. A liberal arts program.
  13. Dorothy (Judy Garland) in Wizard of Oz.
  14. True.
  15. True.
  16. Russia.
  17. Full credit here. For me, it was Sugar Ray Robinson, with Gene Tunney a close second. Interestingly, in 1950, Jack Dempsey was voted the greatest fighter over the past  50 years.  He received 251 votes to 104 for Joe Louis, and there were none for Tunney.   My favorite growing up was Kid Gavalan.
  18. False! It turns out Sylvio was his middle name. His first name was Vincenzo; close friends affectionately called him Vinnie.
  19. Full credit here. I didn’t care for him as a person, but for me, it will always be Jim Brown.
  20. Approximately 4.5 billion years and 93 million miles.
  21. General William T. Sherman.



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MARCH 1:                 On Purely Chaste, Pristine, and Random Thoughts XXIX

APRIL 1:                     On the Hofstra 2018-19 Basketball Season

MAY 1:                       On the 2020 East Williston School District Budget Vote

JUNE 1:                      On Memorial Day V

JULY 1:                      On Four Issues II: The New York Racing Association (NYRA)




Here are this month’s three defensive suggestions from the upcoming second edition of my “BASKETBALL COACHING 101” book.


  1. There is a need to be able to defend one-on-one. Practices should include this exercise.


  1. Never relax on defense. Never!


  1. Each man-to-man defensive player should be defending at all times. The author describes it as the “war” defense. During the Killeen’s basketball team era, one of the author’s small forwards took it personally when his opponent scored.



I – On Solving the Greenhouse Gases Problem

January 1, 2020


January 1, 2020


This article is concerned with the general subject that has come to be defined as global warming / climate change. Well, is it global warming or is it climate change? It depends on who you talk to. What one can say for certain is that many have come to believe that both are related to the so-called greenhouse gases.


The greenhouse effect appears to some to be a completely man-made phenomenon in the world today – one that some engineers (not your author) and scientists feel is leading the planet to the brink of disaster.  The term “greenhouse effect” describes two separate but interpendent occurrences: (a) the increase of trace greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, methane, tropospheric ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons) in the earth’s atmosphere, and (b) the absorption and re-emission of long-wave radiation by these gases. In theory, the greenhouse gases act like the glass in a botanical greenhouse, trapping heat and warming the planet. The increased concentration of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide, i.e., CO2) in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution is a well-documented fact; however, the predicted effects of this increase are still in debate among the technical community in the environmental field. Current debate centers around questions such as: (a) Have greenhouse gases affected global weather as yet? (b) How high will the temperature rise once the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reach higher concentrations? (c) How long does it take for changes in greenhouse gas concentrations to affect global climate? However, keep in mind that a half century ago, environmentalists were claiming that the Earth was cooling.


Here is my take on the global warming / climate change issue. The entire issue is bogus at this time. The policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are bogus. The changes recommended and advocated by environmentalists are bogus. The present ideologies of environmentalists are bogus. Why bogus? There simply are no hard facts to back up their doomsday predictions. It would therefore be reasonable for one to conclude that any effort to curb CO2 emissions into the atmosphere that involve significant economic changes that can impact man’s social behavior cannot be justified. Any effort to reduce and/or eliminate CO2 emission is thus certain to downgrade the quality of life and lead to an increased state of poverty and world instability; in effect, it would have a dramatic negative impact…and only a minimal effect on global CO2 emissions.


Society needs to come to grips with the reality that environmentalists and their supporters are probably the greatest threat to society.  They are a frightening group that is fanatical.  This group will do anything – lie, manipulate, deceive, etc. – to achieve its misguided goals, including to save Mother Earth from itself.


Environmentalists justify their conduct by arguing that over 90% of the technical community, based on the flimsiest of hard data that has not been adequately peer reviewed by opposing viewpoints, support their position on global warming. But nearly all of the 90% they refer to have vested interests in the existence of this catastrophic problem facing society.  If there is no problem, most of these so-called experts will be out of a job.  At a minimum, there will be no tenure, no promotions, no articles, no consulting, no books, no government grants and contracts. The environmental organizations who also support this scam will have greater difficulty in generating funding, donations, and government support. And, government bureaucrats will no longer be able to justify to the electorate that they, and they alone, are capable of addressing and solving this contrived problem. Many of my colleagues, authorities in the environmental field, disagree with these environmentalists. Gone are the days when scientists and engineers were beyond reproach.  The reality is that today’s scientist/engineer is as corrupt as the lawyers society has come to detest.


You are no doubt aware that lawyers are adept at creating problems while engineers are noted for their ability to solve problems. In days of old, some lectures to my chemical engineering students emphasized how to solve problems. Here is basically what I had to say. First, clearly define the problem. Then apply my 3 Cs concept: Cause, Consequence, and Cost. In effect, what is the cause, what are the consequences, and what will it cost to remedy/eliminate the problem. Here is what we have when this simple concept is applied to global warming and climate change: We really don’t know the cause and we really don’t know the consequences. The solution proposed by the fanatics (they are either dumb or crazy…or both) would bankrupt our economy and probably lead to WWIII; their proposed green agenda is absolutely nuts.


Some of my critics claim that I often complain about problems but never offer any solutions. Well, here are seven possible solutions to this potential environmental problem by your favorite author that will have little to no adverse effect on society.


  1. Plant 500,000,000 trees. The journal Science (Newsday: 7/5/2019) claimed a trillion trees would do the job in the most efficient manner.
  2. Convert totally from a coal energy economy to one totally based on natural gas. I have previously shown that it would halve (actually 46%) CO2 This partial energy conversion in the U.S. accounts for our achieving the goals of the (ridiculous) 2015 Paris Climate Account.
  3. Convert to a natural gas/oil energy economy. Oil emits approximately 25% less CO2 than coal per unit of energy generated.
  4. Embark on more aggressive domestic and industrial energy conservation programs. This can include converting to electric cars, capping unused wells, controlling CO2 and CH4 (methane) emission from fracking operations, landfills, etc.
  5. Convert to nuclear power. Don’t believe Ralph Nader – the man is clueless. It’s simple, safe, and economically attractive AND there would be no CO2 This is obviously the cheapest and most effective solution.
  6. Halt World Bank funding to China for potential coal-fired power plants since China is no longer (2015) classified as a developing nation.
  7. Any combination of the above.

Any of my solutions would have a dramatic positive impact on our economy with a corresponding reduction on elimination of carbon emissions. My plan would ensure our nation’s energy future without the inevitable loss of jobs. It would replace Obama’s Paris “agreement” – his success story – that allows China to operate nearly an infinite number of coal-fired boilers and India planning to build 23 new coal-fired plants; this was indeed another Obama Administration whopper. Now really, how does the above compare to the green agenda currently being proposed by the liberal progressive Democrats?


Bottom line: For the past 4.5 billion years, the Earth’s temperature has varied from year to year, decade to decade, century to century, millennium to millennium, etc., and the changes, at times, were really significant. The same can be said about Earth’s climate. None of these changes were man-made, and only some of these changes have been satisfactorily explained. Yet here we are, not only having survived but also prospered. At the present time, the cause(s) for today’s changes are unknown, the consequences are unknown, and therefore, any attempt to address these phenomena with massive economic expenditures and altering present lifestyles would be insane. Case closed. Next case.


Any questions or comments? Bomb away!

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FEBRUARY 1:           On the Ultimate Quiz II

MARCH 1:                 On Purely Chaste, Pristine, and Random Thoughts XXIX

APRIL 1:                     On the Hofstra 2018-19 Basketball Season

MAY 1:                       On the 2020 East Williston School District Budget Vote

JUNE 1:                      On Memorial Day V

JULY 1:                      On Four Issues II: Climate Change

Here are this month’s three offensive basketball suggestions from the 2nd edition of my “Basketball Coaching 101” book.


  1. Every shooter should either follow their shot or get back on defense; he should not just stand there (as with most players today) like a prima donna watching to see if the ball is going to go in. Players were always instructed in earlier times to “follow your shot,” since the shooter, better anyone else on the court, knows where the ball might go.
  2. Whenever possible, shots should be attempted from the head of the key or center position (dead center if possible) of the court, not from the side or end line.
  3. Always fast break – always! One cannot beat taking layups which often results in a fast break.


December 1, 2019

December 1, 2019


Here is part of what I wrote last year at the start of the Hofstra Men’s 2018-19 basketball season. “The 10/28 Newsday headlines blared away “Hofstra Targets NCAA: Wright-Foreman key to making March Madness.” Here is what appeared this year in the 11/2/19 Newsday headlines, “Hunger Pains: Pemberton, Pride Wants to Earn Spot in NCAA Tourney!” Now I ask you: What team doesn’t want to make the Tourney? In any event, the problems that existed last year still remain.  What problems remain? The same four I raised earlier, as detailed below.


  1. How many teams that made the Sweet 16 play zone defense? If you answered hardly any, you’d be right. And, there is a reason why the better teams do NOT play zone defense. Accept it – nothing can replace the intensity of an in-your-face man-to-man defense. NOTHING!!!
  2. I keep repeating this after each season. You are inviting trouble when you commit to a 7-man rotation, with 5 players rotating around 4 positions. A successful team needs season-tested players not only when players are in foul trouble but also at tournament time when confronting either a 3-game/3-day or 4-game/4-day schedule. Hopefully, this will not occur again this season.
  3. Coach Mikalich and his staff have done a superb job in recruiting – when it comes to offensive players. But, defense is as important as offense, right?  Anything been done about it? Time will tell.
  4. The object every season for any club in a mid-major conference is to win their tournament, NOT their conference. How does a team do this? I discuss this very topic in the upcoming 2nd edition of my “Basketball Coaching 101” book . . . or, simply talk to Coach Timmy Cluess of Iona.


On to this year. Buie, Pemberton, Ray and Coburn are back. So is Truehart, although currently sidelined. The new additions include guard Silverio (Omar) and center Kante (Isaac). The starting five appear (at this time) to be guards Buie, Pemberton, Ray, and Coburn with Kante at center. Subs appear to be the aforementioned Silverio, Shutte (Ken) and (perhaps) freshman Burgess (Caleb). This year’s analysis? I love Coburn as a player – he was my type of player when I was coaching. But, Buie is the key. It will be his defense that will hopefully carry the team to the CAA Championship AND an invitation to the Big Dance. This will really be an exciting year if this comes to pass. And, they have a reasonable shot to make it happen.


Here’s more:  the club is off to a decent start.  So far, so good.  The team’s record at the time of the preparation of this article (12/1) is 4-3 that includes an embarrassing loss to San Jose St. and a dramatic come from behind 20-point victory against UCLA.

Here is my usual pitch on why everyone, particularly seniors, should consider attending Hofstra games this season. Attending these games for me still remains the best sports buy in the New York Metropolitan area; it’s even cheaper than going to the movies. There is ample free parking, easy access in and out of the Mack Sports Complex, the concession stands are not a rip-off ($3.50 for a dog, $3.00 for a soda, etc.), and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Did I mention that its $6 for seniors and children, and the whole exciting atmosphere is conducive to family attendance? Many home games last year turned out to be thrillers. Share it this year with someone you care about.




Note: The theodorenewsletter will begin a new feature starting this month (see below). The new feature will provide either three offensive or three defensive basketball suggestions that will appear in the upcoming 2nd edition of “Basketball Coaching 101”, and replace the weekly basketball suggestions that have appeared on Facebook’s “Basketball Coaching 101.”


This month’s Basketball Coaching 101 offensive hints:


  1. Run back at near full speed after a turn of possession (or turnover) to play defense.
  2. Never play zone defense. There are some exceptions, detailed in (3).
  3. Consider playing zone defense only if one of your star offensive players is a weak defender or if one of your star offensive players is in foul trouble or if you intend to use only 5, 6 or 7 players, i.e., the person (substitute) players are weak. Massimino used this strategy during Villanova’s championship run in 1985.


You want more? Tough. You’ll have to wait until next month for 3 offensive suggestions.


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JANUARY 1:   On Four Issues I:  Climate Change

FEBRUARY 1:  On the Ultimate Quiz II

MARCH 1:      On Purely Chaste, Pristine, and Random Thoughts XXIX

APRIL 1:          On the Hofstra 2018-19 Basketball Season

MAY 1:            On the 2020 East Williston School District Budget Vote

JUNE 1:           On Memorial Day V

JULY 1:           On Four Issues II: NYRA



On The OHI Day V

November 1, 2019

 It’s been 9 years since I penned my first article on the OHI Day (some of which is reported below). This is a special day in Greek history as it regards Greece’s heroic involvement in WWII. Our family’s recent visit to Greece was yet two reminders of this day.


As noted in earlier articles, I was baptized Elias Theodorakos since it is the Greek custom to name the first son after the paternal Papou (grandfather). Within a few years, the name Elias (our first grandson is also named Elias) was displaced by Louis, its American counterpart. I know our children and grandchildren would have preferred that our last name had not been changed. They are also disappointed – along with Mary (who is not Greek) – that I did not insist that they go to Greek school. Although I am an American first, I still remain proud of my Hellenic roots.


On to one of the themes of this article. My ancestors have a long history of battling and suffering with evil elements and opponents. Unfortunately, history repeated itself in 1939, as documented below. The 80th anniversary of the resistance of fascist forces by the Greek Armed Forces was recently celebrated several days ago on October 28. (The day came and went without a whimper here in the United States.) OHI (an emphatic no!) was Prime Minister Metaxas’s response to Hitler’s order to peacefully surrender. What followed Metaxas’s response was 219 days of fierce battles. That in turn was followed by intense guerrilla warfare that resulted in a brutal occupational that included executions, sufferings, famine, and severe inflation. The rest is now history for some people and all Greeks. Here are some comments immediately following the war.


Winston Churchill: “The word heroism, I’m afraid, does not reflect in the least the Hellenes’ acts of self-sacrifice that were the defining factor of the victorious ending of all the nations’ common struggle during the 2nd WW for human freedom and dignity. If it were not for the bravery of the Hellenes and their courageous hearts, the ending of the 2nd WW would not have been clear.”


Franklin Roosevelt: “When the entire world had lost all hope, the Hellenic people dared to doubt the German monster’s invincibility fighting back with the proud spirit of freedom. The heroic struggle of the Hellenic people against the German hurricane filled the American hearts with enthusiasm and won their sympathy.”


The second reminder of this special day was a recent paper submitted by our 13-year old grandson for his English class. It was titled VACHOS 1,5. VACHOS is a essentially small deserted town built on a rocky terrain half way up a mountain with no apparent means of sustenance itself. Vachos is a located in Mani – the middle member of the Peloponnese peninsula – surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the south, the Messenian Gulf on the west,  and the Laconian Gulf  on the east. Elias’s passage follows:


“I opened the car door and the blazing sun came right at me, forcing me to quickly cover my eyes. It was pushing 100 degrees late that afternoon, a dry, windy, burning heat. We had started our journey in Athens, and we were now in Mani, the region of the Peloponnese my great grandfather emigrated from. We were staying in Limeni, a small town on the Mediterranean Sea, with turquoise and emerald blue water and vibrantly colored fish that eluded my grasp. Limeni was five minutes away from Vachos, my great grandfather’s hilltop town. Excited and curious, my whole family had all been waiting for this part of the trip. As we drove into the hills, the sea disappeared from our sight. A sign ‘Vachos 1,5’ told us to turn right and drive 1.5 kilometers to Vachos. In our little stick-shift Toyota, we started along a bumpy road with tall grass that surrounded us. Ascending the steep hill, the car rolled back every time we began again after a stop. Houses that had looked like dots from afar came into view, and we pulled into what looked like the town square.


The square was a flat expanse among the hills, empty except for an older man in a run-down pickup truck. He got out to introduce himself as the mayor. He was a third cousin of my grandfathers, and an important person who lived in the town. Much to my surprise, this otherwise bleak town square had a basketball hoop that hung from the patio of a shuttered restaurant. It amazed me that my ancestors left this town for more opportunities in America, but a basketball hoop had traveled in the opposite direction.


Our cousin, Kiriakos Theodorakos, who could only speak Greek, and a dialect at that, toured us around the town. We walked up a curving path and around abandoned stone houses in search of my great-grandfather’s house. My grandfather stopped in front of an old house “This is the one,” he said, pointing. We all started toward it. Nestled into a steep hill, the house was made of stone, most of it still intact, with a dilapidated clay roof. Trees obscured the view of the house so we walked down the hill to see it from another angle. Long, prickly brush scratched against my legs as I surveyed the place my Spartan family had lived in a century before. We could see the door where this family entered and the dirt floor they walked. The sound of cicadas and the smell of oregano overwhelmed me. I wonder what it would have been like to live in these remote Greek hills.


The town’s population is about sixty and probably wasn’t much more in the early 1900s. How different would New York City have seemed to my Great Papou when he sailed into the harbor? I asked my grandfather if we could go inside and he translated the question. Our cousin kept saying “fidia,” but my grandfather either couldn’t understand his accent or didn’t know the word. Finally, our cousin wiggled his hand and we understood that the house was now filled with snakes.


On our way back to the town square, we wandered into the town cemetery, where we were greeted by marble stones with engravings, vibrant flowers, and food and drinks placed on graves. I share blood with all of these people. The mountains surrounded us, but we could not see any water nearby. Why did people build a town here? As we were leaving the town square, our cousin went to his truck and brought us a jar of oregano. As we drove away I opened the jar and crumbled the leaves between my fingers, the smell of oregano filling the air.”


Thank you Elias for keeping the memories alive.


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August 1, 2019

August 1, 2019


We are approaching back-to-school time and many youngsters attending college in their freshman/sophomore years will be asked to select a major to study. This month’s article provides my pitch on why some should consider engineering as a career.


In a very broad sense, engineering is a term applied to the profession in which a knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences, gained by study, experience, and practice, is applied to the efficient use of the materials and forces of nature. The term engineer denotes an individual who has received professional training in both pure and applied science, but was often used in the past to describe the operator of an engine, as in the term locomotive engineer. In modern times, these occupations became known as crafts or trades.


There are five major branches of engineering, listed below in alphabetical order.


  1. Chemical Engineering
  2. Civil Engineering
  3. Electrical Engineering
  4. Environmental Engineering
  5. Mechanical Engineering


One could also add to this engineering list the following fields: aeronautical, astronautical, geological, industrial, marine, military, managerial, mining, naval, petroleum, structural, and the recent addition of nanotechnology. However, since I am a chemical engineer working in both the chemical and environmental fields, chemical and environmental engineering are primarily addressed in the sections to follow.



The engineer (and to a lesser degree the scientist) is known for his problem-solving ability. It is probably this ability more than any other that has enabled many engineers to rise to positions of leadership and top management within their companies. In problem-solving, considerable importance is attached to a proper analysis of the problem, to a logical recording of the problem solution, and to the overall professional appearance of the finished product of the calculations.


The value of an engineer is usually determined by his/her ability to apply basic principles, facts, and methods in order to accomplish some useful purpose. In this modem age of industrial competition, the ultimate definition of a useful purpose is usually based on a tangible profit of monetary value. It is not sufficient, therefore, to have a knowledge and understanding of physics, chemistry, mathematics, mechanics, stoichiometry, thermodynamics, the unit operations, chemical technology, and other related engineering and scientific subjects; he/she must also have the ability to apply this knowledge to practical situations, and, in making these applications, recognize the importance of the dollar sign.


Certain methods of logic and techniques of calculation are fundamental to the solution of many problems, and there is a near infinite number of methods. Words such as creative, ingenuity, original, etc., appear in all these approaches. What do they all have in common? They provide a systematic, logical approach to solving problems, and what follows is this author’s definition of a generic approach.


The methodology of solving problems has been discussed by most mathematicians and logicians since the days of Aristotle. Heuristic (“serving to discover”) is the term often given to this study of the methods and rules of solving problems. Nearly always, a stepwise approach to the solution is desirable. The broad steps are:


  1. Understanding the problem
  2. Devising a plan
  3. Carrying out the plan
  4. Looking back



In terms of history, the engineering profession as defined today is usually considered to have originated shortly after 1800. However, many of the “processes” associated with this discipline were developed in antiquity. For example, filtration operations were carried out 5000 years ago by the Egyptians. Operations such as crystallization, precipitation, and distillation soon followed. Others evolved from a mixture of craft, mysticism, incorrect theories, and empirical guesses during this period.


In a very real sense, the chemical industry dates back to prehistoric times when people first attempted to control and modify their environment, and it developed as did any other trade or craft. With little knowledge of science and no means of chemical analysis, the earliest “engineers” had to rely on previous art and superstition. As one would imagine, progress was slow. This changed with time.


Industry in the world today is a sprawling complex of raw-material sources, manufacturing plants, and distribution facilities which supply society with thousands of products, most of which were unknown over a century ago. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, an increased demand arose for individuals trained in the fundamentals of these processes. This demand was ultimately met by engineers.


The technical advances of the 19th century greatly broadened the field of engineering and introduced a large number of the aforementioned engineering specialties. The rapidly changing demands of the socioeconomic environment in the 20th and 21st centuries have widened the scope even further. One need only review the various branches of engineering listed earlier.



Chemical engineering is one of the basic tenets of engineering, and contains many practical concepts that are utilized in countless real-world industrial applications. A discussion centered on the field of chemical engineering is therefore warranted before proceeding to some specific details regarding this discipline. A reasonable question to ask is: What is chemical engineering? An outdated, but once official definition provided by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) is:


Chemical engineering is that branch of engineering concerned with the development and application of manufacturing processes in which chemical or certain physical changes are involved. These processes may usually be resolved into a coordinated series of unit physical “operations.” The work of the chemical engineer is primarily concerned with the design, construction, and operation of equipment and plants in which these unit operations and processes are applied. Chemistry, physics, and mathematics are the underlying sciences of chemical engineering, and economics is its guide in practice.


This definition was appropriate until a few decades ago when the profession branched out from the chemical industry. Today, that definition has changed. Although it is still based on chemical fundamentals and physical principles, these have been de-emphasized in order to allow for the expansion of the profession to other areas. These areas include environmental management, health and safety, computer applications, project management, probability and statistics, ethics, and economics and finance, plus several other “new” topics. This has led to many new definitions of chemical engineering, several of which are either too specific or too vague. A definition proposed by your author, is simply that “chemical engineers solve problems.” Today, this engineering discipline offers the student the largest number of professional options to pursue on graduation, including medicine, law, education, the environment, etc. This would be my first choice for anyone interested in pursuing a career in engineering.



Traditionally, the scope of environmental engineering (originally termed sanitary engineering) was confined primarily to water supply, sewerage, and general environmental sanitation. Since the middle of the 20th century, however, the profession has expanded – due in part to the author – to include increased responsibilities in municipal and industrial waste treatment, air pollution, solid waste management, radiological health, safety, etc. It was originally viewed as a branch of civil engineering, but because of its importance, especially in dense urban-population areas, it acquired the importance of a specialized field. As noted, it now primarily deals with problems involving water supply, treatment, and distribution; disposal of community wastes and reclamation of useful components of such wastes; control of pollution of surface waterways, groundwaters, and soils; air pollution; control of atmospheric pollution; meteorology; housing and institutional management; rural and recreational-site management; insect and vermin control; industrial hygiene, including control of light, noise, vibration, and toxic materials in work areas; and, other fields concerned with the control of environmental factors affecting health. The field of accident and emergency management/health and hazard risk assessment has as its object the prevention of accidents. In recent years, “safety” engineering has become a specialty adopted by individuals trained in other branches of engineering.


With the expanding effort to provide a healthier environment for the industrial worker, environmental engineering techniques are employed to rid the air of noxious dusts and gases in plants and other working areas. The problem of atmospheric pollution resulting from discharging waste into the atmosphere in large industrial settings became a major concern soon after 1970, a time when I entered the field.





Other Engineering Disciplines

Civil Engineering is the oldest and broadest of all engineering branches. It is in turn subdivided to include specialization in such fields as structural, sanitary, public health, hydraulic, transportation and other established engineering disciplines. They design bridges and tunnels, construct roads, install water-supply and sewage-disposal systems, erect dams, lay out railroads and other transportation systems and plan buildings of all types and sizes for public, private, and industrial uses.


Electrical Engineering, another important branch of the profession, deals comprehensively with power generation and its transmission and distribution, electronics and its many applications, transportation, illumination, and all types of electrical machinery. The electrical engineer designs, directs and supervises the construction of electrical systems for the production and utilization of power for the multitudinous purposes of business, industry, and the community.


Mechanical Engineering is one of the largest branches in the engineering field. This branch of the engineering profession is subdivided into heat, power, and machine design options with electives in aeronautical, metallurgical and industrial engineering. Devices for heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, engines and other mechanisms for the propulsion of vehicles and missiles on, under, or over land, sea, and air. tools, motors, and machines for all types of industrial production or research are just a few examples of the mechanical engineer’s contributions to the world.


Salaries and Rewards

Beginning salaries for inexperienced engineering graduates vary according to the type of agency seeking their services, geographical area in which the individual is employed, level of responsibility and nature of duties for particular positions, and the competition for engineering positions at any given time. Due to the shortage of engineers in recent years, graduates with no experience have commanded salaries ranging from an average low of $70,000 to an average high of $100,000 per year. Possessors of the Master’s degree begin at higher levels; those with a Doctorate in Engineering receive considerably higher starting salaries.


Aside from financial rewards, the successful engineer enjoys unlimited opportunity for creative achievement, the satisfaction of contributing significantly to the improvement of standards of living, and a distinctive position of trust and respect in the community.


It should be noted that college engineering programs are very difficult. The student cannot expect to succeed without devoting himself entirely to his work in school and to related home assignments. Unless the student is willing to curtail or even forego a great many of the social activities generally associated with attendance at college or with young people of his age, academic problems will probably arise. Although the road to success in engineering is not an easy one, a career in the profession can be realized by a student willing to accept the obligations for required adequate preparation.


With Women

Finally, careers in engineering are projected to expand rapidly in the next decade. In this technologically advanced world, the discoveries and solutions being made affect the lives of everyone. Historically, women have been underrepresented in the industries that drive these advances in engineering technology. This mindset, however has been quickly changing. It is exciting to live at such a pivotal moment in history when women have such an incredible opportunity to change the face of industries, not only in engineering but across a variety of fields. Thankfully, our nation draws its intellectual power from 100% of the population, not 47.9%, as with many other nations.


When I retired some years ago, 50% of my students were women. And, more often than not, they outperformed the men. Maybe they felt they had something to prove.



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