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The Weekly Blab 5.7

The Weekly Blab

Volume 5, Issue 7—October 4, 2010


The Week in Review

What a beautiful weekend it was!  We took a drive up to Red Top Mountain, and enjoyed the sunny coolness up there, including spotting some deer (and taking some video of them), and stopping for ice cream.  Sunday, after coming home from shopping, I found myself with a flat tire.  So, yin and yang once again.


The weekend was mostly kind to Georgia, with Georgia Tech, the Falcons, and the Braves all winning when they had to, though UGA continued its losing ways.  Of course the only important result was that beloved Chelsea won against Arsenal 2-0.  For those who don’t know, Arsenal is generally a top four team in the English Premier League, and the game was hard-fought throughout.  The fabulous Didier Drogba has now scored on Arsenal twelve times in eleven consecutive games (at least once in each game), which is quite a record.


We’re down to the final few full-time faculty who haven’t signed up for advisor training.  All full-time faculty are required to take one of the sessions in the fall, so if you haven’t signed up yet, please do so by clicking here.  We need there to be 100% participation.


On Monday evening, we had the very first Education Advisory Board meeting at SPSU.  As you should all know, we’re planning on sending full proposals for Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics Education to the BoR this month.  The Letters of Intent were approved more than a year ago.  There was a good turnout for the meeting, with the majority of folks being science coordinators for their counties.  They had lots of helpful comments, and it was clear that they strongly supported SPSU going into this area.


Tuesday brought a pair of parties to celebrate Patrick McCord’s accomplishments while at SPSU, and to wish him well in his retirement.  The first was held at the X, and drew a substantial crowd.  The second one was for people who worked closely with him, at a new Mexican restaurant in West Cobb.  Everyone had to bring a hat that exemplified some aspect of Patrick, and some were longer stretches than others.  The best one was brought by Chief Bauer—a stovepipe “Abraham Lincoln” hat that was at least three feet tall.   Patrick did a lot of good things for SPSU, and was a strong supporter of the University’s academic mission.  I know that I’ll miss him, though we’ll still stay in touch--we’ll still be Rotary buddies each Wednesday.


Thursday’s faculty meeting brought a surprise in terms of what didn’t happen—I thought we were going to have another long debate on the calendar, and instead, it was unanimously affirmed without any comments.  Goes to show you, you never can tell.


Thursday night, the Construction Management Dept. had its 9th annual fund-raising gala at the Cobb Galleria.  They had a huge turnout, and yours truly won another week at Litchfield Beach (we had a great time there this August) in their silent auction.  Jim Jacoby (of Jacoby Development) was the main speaker.  Jacoby Development is the group that redeveloped Atlantic Station, and has been involved in many other major projects, in Atlanta and elsewhere.  A big focus of theirs has been green development.


On Friday, SPSU’s Diversity Team participated in a webinar to set the stage for the upcoming Diversity Conference at UGA.  There were lots of problems with the technology (not at our end), but the speaker eventually got to say most of what he wanted to.  The organizers surveyed the various universities as to what they hoped to get out of the conference.  We decided that we were going to charge $1.50 each time someone mentioned “best practices”, and the final bill came to $16.50.


Also on Friday evening, our Chinese students celebrated a dual festival—it was their Mid-Autumn Festival as well as being National Day (celebrating the 61st anniversary of the People’s Republic of China).  In China, this winds up being a week off, and the majority of people go to visit relatives.  This may not seem like much, but try to imagine hundreds of millions of people trying to travel at the same time, and you’ll get the picture.  The Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated on the day of the fullest full moon of the year (which is always in late September or early October), and therefore winds up corresponding to the Jewish New Year (which is also calculated on a lunar calendar).  Since it is traditionally a harvest festival, it also sort of corresponds to our own Thanksgiving.  The students gave me a moon cake (a thin cake with a “surprise filling” in the shape of the full moon), which I plan to enjoy over the next week.  The party featured Karaoke, a magician, and a strange game where you blow up a balloon, carry it back-to-back with a teammate to a chair across the room, and then sit on it and break it.


Best Excuse Contest

Several people entered the "Best Student Excuse" contest.  Here are the entrants, as well as who submitted them:

  • “We had a student who wanted to withdraw late from a class because he was in jail for DUI. He gave us a police report to support it.”—Ronny Richardson (Business Admin.).
  • “One student called me, as the exam was about to begin, and said that he couldn't make it, due to traffic being piled up.  I found out later, through one of his friends (and I later confirmed this with the student, himself), that he lived on campus.” —Tom Rotnem (SIS).
  • “Last semester, an on-line student of mine, was progressing well enough during the semester, but kind of disappeared right after my third test.  When I noticed he hadn't taken the test during the allotted three-day period, I e-mailed him.  A couple of days later, he wrote back and said he'd been in an accident and had cut off two of his fingers.  Naturally, I sympathized with him and said he could do a re-take, once his surgery was well behind him.  The following week he said he was ready to take the make-up, but I reminded him that I still needed to see some sort of documentation of his excuse.  The next day he sent me two pictures of his bloody fingers, both the pieces that were cut off and the remaining stubs!  I almost "sold some Buicks," right then and there, as I was eating at the time I opened the pictures.  How's that for "documentation?” Tom Rotnem (SIS).
  • “I did have an interesting student who had 3 grandmothers die in the course of just under a year.  I asked him how many grandmothers he had in the second semester I had him and he was simply puzzled.  What was really bad when he graduated and I was able to meet his grandmother at commencement I told her how glad I was that she made it to graduation with all his other grandmothers killing over.  He was standing there and just melted as she informed me as she knew of no deaths!”—Lance Crimm (EE).
  • “As requested, I have a wonderfully bizarre student excuse to share.  It occurred many years ago with a student who was unable to make it to a major test.  When she arrived to the next class session, I asked her why she was unable to make it to the test. Her response was "my feet were too cold".  That's right.  You can't make up stuff like this.  Obviously I felt the necessity to probe a bit further as my curiosity was peaked.  It turns out she took a Marta bus to campus every day and on this particular cold winters morning she had made the decision to wear sandals with no socks.  While waiting for the bus to arrive, she began to become uncomfortable and realized her feet were extremely cold. At this point she rushed home to change shoes but was unable to return before the bus had come and gone.  She had to wait for the next bus and was subsequently unable to attend class that day.”—Scott Tippens (ECET).
  • “Last weekend I had a critical writing task that needed heavy Internet use. Friday afternoon the new puppy from the animal shelter made a beeline upstairs to the wireless router and chewed its power supply in half. Radio Shack had every possible connector and amperage but the one I needed. I had to "borrow" my neighbor's signal at 1 bar signal strength, which cut out but only at critical moments.  I did not finish on time but my taskmasters were lenient with me.”—Keith Hopper (ETCMA).

And the winner is—(drum roll, please)—Scott Tippens, for general weirdness of the excuse!  Scott wins a fabulous prize—now I just have to figure out what it is!

Crimes and Misdemeanors

It has been my experience that the overwhelming majority of university faculty and staff are the most honest people in the world.  That having been said, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule; some blatant, and others more subtle.  Here are a few that have shown up this week.


In a case at St. Johns University in New York, a former vice president and dean apparently required students to shovel her driveway, cook for her, etc., threatening to revoke their scholarships if they didn’t.  Not all that surprisingly, she is also accused of stealing money—more than $1 million, $250,000 of which being diverted from a charitable foundation in Saudi Arabia.  Keith Hopper shared this one, in an email entitled “Dirty Dean Debunked in Detailed Diatribe”.


A more unusual situation involves the son of a Dead Sea Scroll researcher engaging and being convicted of 30 counts of forgery, identity theft, harassment, etc.  It seems that 50 year old Dr. Raphael Golb impersonated five different individuals and sent emails using these false aliases to harass scholars who his father, a famous Dead Sea Scroll scholar, disagreed with.  The jury rejected a defense based on the argument that the emails constituted parody or irony.  Hmm…I was only kidding as a defense…Yeah, that always works.


Another open records request related to the University of Southern Mississippi’s president’s airplane (see Weekly Blab 5.3) related to a recent flight from Hattiesburg to Omaha to watch a baseball game (I’m presuming of USM’s baseball team).  The passengers included USM administrators, their spouses, and state and local politicians.  The reported price tag was $72,395.74, which presumably did not go down well with the various tenured faculty who recently got termination notices due to budget cuts.


Other Interesting News

In a somewhat negative piece in the Chronicle, Paula S. Wallace, president of Savannah School of Art and Design, was reported to receive a salary of nearly $2M per year.  While some bloggers felt that this was an outrageously high figure, others (since Dr. Wallace is the founder of the school and is largely responsible for its success) including many from SCAD itself felt that she deserved every penny and more.  Quite a few pointed out that many football coaches get salaries that make this look like small potatoes, and right on time came news that USC football coach Pete Carroll had his salary raised by a mere $500,000 to an annual $4.6M.


An article also appeared about the Governor of South Carolina’s parting shot at higher education.  Governor Sanford (yes, the one who had the affair with the Argentine woman, and disappeared for several days while supposedly “hiking the Appalachian Trail”) believes that tuition is too high in South Carolina, and that the university system is putting up too many buildings.  He complained that the tuition was rising faster than the rate of inflation.  There’s a reason for that, said William Moore (CFO of the South Carolina system)—South Carolina led the nation in having reduced appropriations by 29% to its university system (47% at the University of South Carolina).  The tuition in the SC system increased by 3.6% in 2009 and by 7% this year.  This one hits close to home, since South Carolina is a place I lived for five years while going to grad school at USC and I still have a lot of friends there in their university system.  It’s a state that desperately needs higher education to help pull people out of serious poverty.  We used to have an expression there—“Thank goodness for Mississippi and Arkansas, or else we’d be last in everything.”  Looks like Sanford wants to make another run at the title.


The Ig Nobel Prizes were given out this past week, and an interesting array they are.  These dubious prizes are given out by the journal Annals of Improbable Research and were traditionally for projects with results that couldn’t be replicated, but have morphed into projects that are just plain weird sounding, or are associated with big public failures of science or engineering.  British Petroleum (of Gulf of Mexico oil spill fame) shared the Chemistry prize for its experimental oil spill off the coast of Norway, to prove that (wait for it) oil and water don’t mix.  Others are for investigations of (to put it politely) whale nasal expectorate and other such fun things.


Finally, Orlando Karam (CS) supplied an article with the following surprising information about who has the longest average time to earn a doctorate.   It turns out the answer is the Music program at Washington University in St. Louis, with an average length of 16.3 years.  The NRC report on top graduate programs, in which this factoid appeared, is already getting much criticism in terms of how the top programs were identified.  Nothing new there.


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest drew only two contestants, and not surprisingly, the winner is SPSU’s resident Canadian, Laura Palmer (ETCMA).


1.  What is the Canadian $1 coin known as?  The Loonie (it has a loon on the coin).  The $2 coin is inevitably called (you guessed it) the Toonie.  Ah those whacky Canadians!

2.  In what year was Canada’s centennial? 1967, same year as the Montreal Expo World’s Fair.

3.  In what city and province were Canada’s articles of confederation signed?  Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

4.  Which Canadian province’s current area is the greatest multiple of its area when it joined the country? Manitoba

5.  What female Canadian modernist artist was born in Victoria, B.C. and specialized in post-impressionistic art depicting the life of the coastal Indians of British Columbia? 

Emily Carr.  Check out a fine website of her work at http://bcheritage.ca/emilycarrhomework/main.htm.  A nice range of her paintings is shown at http://www.svreeland.com/fl-paintings.html.



This Week’s Trivia Contest

After last week’s Canadian effort, we’ll go with something of broader interest this week to pump up the number of entries.  Our topic is the comic strip “Blondie”.


1.  What is the name of the Bumstead’s dog?

2.  What is Dagwood’s boss’s name?

3.  What is Blondie’s current profession, and what was she originally (before their marriage)?

4.  What was Alexander (their son) originally called in the strip?

5.  What is Dagwood’s boss’s wife’s name?