My 75th Birthday Party

My wife Sarah threw me a 75th birthday bash at our home, and we invited many friends from my past. Soon after, we had a very small family get together at my son Perry’s ladyfriend Inga’s apartment. Among the gifts I received were a book (“Happy 75th Birthday, Dad”) with hundreds of photos of my family, a collection of postcards, and another collection of fortune cookies! I describe below the fortune predictions, and the postcard comments, which may not be of much interest to anyone but other family members, but regardless I’m posting this with my comments in parentheses:

In each Fortune Cookie, there was the usual paper strip:

“All men are created equal, but the great ones were born in 1935 between March 12 and March14″ (my b-day is 3/13).

“The true mark of a successful man is a toilet that flushes itself” ( I adore my Japanese toilet gadget that also raises its cover when I’m approaching, and of course lowers later…washes rear or front, soft or hard…dries and which has additional functions which I’ve never used, like a camera).

“We love you more than anything. Signed, your Gartner Group” (so this is my real and current and always Gartner Group!)

“If you do your work on the chairlift, you can ski all day” (I was a workaholic and hated to waste time on the lifts).

“If a composer could say what he wanted in words he wouldn’t bother trying to say it in music” — Mahler. (Beautiful true quote. I agree that words cannot adequately describe great music just as the reverse is almost true, music can hardly describe great words. Of course, I’m a Mahler lover).

“Freedom is driving a Stag with the top down, blasting Wagner, and embarrassing your kids” (Our Triumph Stag was a favorite of the kids growing up, I loved Wagner’s music and must have felt that every passerby should be exposed to him as well).

“Your ideas come faster than a jai alai ball” (At home as well as at the office?).

“You are the very model of a modern major Dad” (I’m also a Gilbert and Sullivan fan, and much of that rubbed off on my family. One of G&S’s great “patter” songs begins with “I am the very model of a modern major general! — if you wish to obtain a feel for the incredible wording of Sir Gilbert I’m printing them below or for further explanation go to Wikipedia Major-General’s Song.

“Your favorite rock singer is Brunnhilde” (back to Wagner; Brunnhilde of course sang herself to sleep on a rock).

“One can play a horn solo, but it takes two to tango” (my wife Sarah and I have taken many tango lessons. I used to play the French Horn and a solo is when a musician owns the melody line and both my wife and I have danced tango solo!).

“May you, like Jimmy Connors, have many happy returns” (So clever! – returns, get it? I loved to watch Connors’ returns, but as Aleba reminded me later, I really revered Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Rod Laver etc).

“Happy is the man who has many friends and a blue piano” (Have you ever seen a blue piano? Come visit us!).

“Life is best observed from the front row” (I’m spoiled. Ever since MIT when I used to race to the front row side seats when the Boston Symphony rehearsed on Thursday evenings, I’m hooked on sitting close, e.g. front row center at the Met, first row side box at Carnegie and Avery Fisher halls, close as possible at the theatre).

“With hard work, you can accomplish great things” (not necessarily, but work helps).

“If you have family, you have everything” (thanks all!!!).

The Cards: the first two relate to Gartner Inc., feel free to skip them!

  1. One was a card showing daughter Sabina’s 30″x44″ pastel, called “Stalking Horse”. These stalking horses were ”facades or blinds used to mask a true purpose, they were tools used to sneak up on elusive quarries”. For example, the “elusive quarry” could be some IT firm’s projected growth rate! And so, as part/parcel of our “research process”, we would throw a table or a diagram or graph onto a piece of paper (the stalking horse!), initiate a colloquy with our peers, and iterate positions on the data until we had a reasonable consensus. Wemstalked the elusive truth!
    The next artwork from Sabrina was another pastel called “Trial Balloon”. After I founded Giga Information Group, after I resigned as Chairman, I wanted to retain the essential elements of good research processes like the Stalking Horse concept. So I came up with “Trial Balloon”,  with the explanation that this term represented an idea or proposal that is put forth tentatively to test people’s reactions. I think I recall that balloons were used to test weather conditions, so at Giga we essentially used “trial balloons” to test ideas by initiating discussion, iteration, and finally consensus within our research community, serving as the foundation for original and meaningful analysis of emerging IT themes.

    It might be noted that I when I played around with new models for our industry, I thought the best description was “Straw Man”, and while I’ve never (yet) begun another company, Sabrina created a pastel triptych (three related art works) called “Straw Man”, which I’ll adopt next time.


  3. Next, a card with the name “Saturday Night at the Crypt” accompanied by a drawing suitable to the title, and another byline inside: “Unravel! It’s your birthday”, and displayed Sabrina’s inscription: “Dear Dad! Always something you can afford to do: de-stress & unravel from your everyday worries”.

    She knows me pretty well; I must have inherited that characteristic.


  5. Another card says: “75?!?!  Still so young in so many ways!”

  7. A card with a drawing of a flute on the front says: “Dozens of duets we played…Bach, Schumann, Telemann, and Chopin too….you accompanied me & I accompanied you”.

    Among her other talents, Sabrina was and is a flutist. And at the party, my daughter Aleba and I performed four hands at the piano.

  9. On the card with a photo of San Francisco, from the bay, Sabrina says: ”In San Francisco we stayed at the haunted hotel and had an adventurous visit to Alcatraz, where prisoners had the most delightful view of the free world”.

    The Haunted Hotel was real, and the views from Alcatraz were truly spectacular.

  11. A card with a hot skier and the words “Ski Utah…greatest snow in the world”, says: “Deer Valley….Park City….Alta…Brighton….We skii’d them all & learned that in icy Vermont, it’s another sport altogether…!”

    We all started skiing in Vermont; I’m surprised Sabrina left out Aspen from the list!

  13. A card with two astronauts on the moon catching butterflies In their nets, has Sabrina’s note: ”one of my earliest memories — not on the moon, but you often took me butterfly catching, nets and all, in Florence Park on Frank Avenue. Fond memory.”

    The last two words were bracketed by hearts. I don’t recall the butterflies, but many early memories are inevitably and eventually lost.

  15. A card with a picture of a man holding both a pan and embracing a cow, the man and the cow sitting in a box, with thetitle “MOO SHOE GUY PAN” (and another inscription “In an hour you’ll be hungry for another pun”,  brought out Sabrina’s factual recollections from many years ago:

    “Chinese food provided many a meal out, always with three (3) requirements:

    • all dishes are shared
    • individual bowls of rice (…to soak up the sauces)
    • tea cups are NEVER, God forbid, filled more than halfway - lest the tea get cold FAST.”

    Those were my requirements, and I still eat Chinese that way; out of the bowl, with tastes from multiple dishes intermingled.

  16. The last card combined various old-time and kind-of personal memories, some of which will perplex the reader:

    “we are a Yankees-only family…stem christy learning…triumph stag driving…Concorde flying…Shalom ship sailing…ambidextrous ping-pong playing…backgammon tournament winning…F-L-E-M spelling…Lundy’s jingle singing…hot Chinese red pepper eating…Abbey Road listening…Gold Lake deli dining…Staten Island family visiting…opera at the Met preparing…All in the Family watching family, TOO!…

Sir Gilbert’s Major General song lyrics, which I guarantee will floor you:

I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news,
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.
I’m very good at integral and differential calculus;
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
I know our mythic history, King Arthur’s and Sir Caradoc’s;
I answer hard acrostics, I’ve a pretty taste for paradox,
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,
In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous;
I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,
I know the croaking chorus from The Frogs of Aristophanes!
Then I can hum a fugue of which I’ve heard the music’s din afore,
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.
Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform,
And tell you ev’ry detail of Caractacus’s uniform:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
In fact, when I know what is meant by “mamelon” and “ravelin”,
When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin,
When such affairs as sorties and surprises I’m more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by “commissariat”,
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery—
In short, when I’ve a smattering of elemental strategy—
You’ll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee.
For my military knowledge, though I’m plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.


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