The Weekly Blab
Volume 6, Issue 15—December 5, 2011
Finals and Holidays
Final exams are about to begin, and we all scatter to the four winds soon thereafter. If I don’t see you before then, I hope everyone has a happy holiday season, and may all of your students earn good grades.
Only the Shadow Knows…
I had the pleasure of having a high school junior, Keira, as a job shadow last Thursday. The job shadowing idea came through my membership in the Marietta Rotary Club, arranged by Judge Adele Grubbs, who is a mentor to several students at the Marietta Performance Learning Center.
Keira was a delightful young lady, who told me she was interested in Sociology, something I’d never heard from a high school student before (Psychology, on the other hand, is common as an interest). She went with me to all the meetings I had that day. First, it was a Prior Learning Assessment meeting, where we were discussing the flowsheet of how the process would work, and some of the departmental responses as to how they currently carry out prior learning assessment. After the meeting, Keira said that she was surprised at how thoroughly each detail was discussed—she always thought that teachers made fast decisions and that’s how it was.
Next, it was a meeting about SPSU’s international programs, where she was interested in how many countries we were involved with. After that, it was the Faculty Senate, where she got to see an argument about our grade forgiveness policy. Keira proved that she has a great future in diplomacy when she said that she thought the meeting was very interesting. We went to lunch after that, and when we talked, Keira mentioned interests in reading, computers, and that she liked public speaking (she was a member of her school’s toastmasters club). I asked her if she’d ever heard of Technical Communication, because her interests were all part of that degree program. She had never heard of it, but said she’d follow up and try to find out more. So, hopefully, we may be seeing a lot more of her in the future.
At the end of the day, she told me she had enjoyed her visit, and was surprised to see how much running around my job entailed—she thought she’d be watching me sit behind a desk all day. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that some days are exactly like that!
Old Political Stories
All of the political goings on this week regarding presidential candidates Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney reminded me of some political situations I found myself in back in the day.
When I was a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, the state was still solidly Democratic at the local and state level. Pretty much the only Republican was Senator Strom Thurmond. Other than his conservative politics, Strom was best known for having married a former Miss South Carolina when he was 66 and she was 22. They had their first child together when he was 68 and she was 25. When he’d go jogging by, people would cheer.
Anyway, during the election year of 1978, there was a race for governor in South Carolina, and for some reason, all the candidates decided to hold a debate at the Jewish Community Center in Columbia. It couldn’t have been to capture the Jewish vote, because in the entire state there were less than 5,000 Jewish voters, but the candidates were all there and so was I. They discussed one state issue after another, and then someone asked about a topic that was hot at the time—the construction of the Richard B. Russell Dam. What would each candidate do about it?
The first candidate to be asked was Raymon Finch, a man who was running for the Republican nomination. I had never seen the name Raymon before, and wondered if they had just misspelled “Raymond”, but that was apparently his real name. Raymon said, “If you don’t mind, I’d like to go last on this question.” This surprised the moderator, but he said “OK” and moved on to the other candidates. Each said he’d stop the dam from being built, or that he’d change something about it. It came back to Raymon Finch, who then said, “I don’t want to question any of my colleague’s answers, but I wouldn’t do a darn thing about it, because by the time that any of us become governor, the dam will already be completely built.”
I’d never heard an answer this honest from a politician at this point in my young life (I was 23!), so I decided to vote for him. To do so, I had to register as a Republican, which raised a few eyebrows at city hall. It seems that there were only two Republicans in my precinct—I would be number three. As mentioned above, there were hardly any Republicans in the state, so to win the Republican primary, you only had to sweep your immediate family and friends. Sadly, honesty didn’t do any better then than it does now for a political candidate, and Finch managed to lose the primary to Edward Young, though it was a close one: 12,143 to 11,501. By way of comparison, the three Democrats running were W. Brantley Harvey Jr. (who got 142,785 votes), Richard Riley (125,184), and William Jennings Bryan Dorn (112,793). So, the lowest ranking Democrat still had ten times the vote of the highest Republican. Riley won the Democratic runoff, and of course went on to be governor.
Registering as a Republican had some interesting side effects—I started getting invitations to attend all manner of political meetings and cocktail parties, which as a graduate student I didn’t have any time for. A year or two later, I was doing a vacuum line distillation in the lab one evening, with wife Jill keeping me company. This kind of distillation was going to take 3-4 hours, and didn’t have to be watched very closely. To kill time, we decided to go for a walk. The theatre was two buildings over, and we noticed that the lights were on. We decided to go in and swap our tickets from later in the week (we had a season subscription) for the show that night, but when we got in we found out that it wasn’t a theatre production at all—it was a debate about whether the US should give the Panama Canal back to Panama.
We went up the stairs, and asked one of the security guards if anyone could go in. “No,” he said, “You have to be a big donor to the Republican Party to have been invited.” He looked at me in my jeans and T-shirt, smiled, and said: “You don’t look like a big donor to me.” I looked in the theatre, and saw that everyone there was in a tuxedo or an evening gown. I said to the guard, “Look—there’s one empty seat over there. How about letting my wife sit there, and I’ll sit in the aisle and stay out of everyone’s way.” I then showed him my trump card—my Republican voter registration card. He smiled, turned his back, and motioned for us to sneak in. So, Jill and I attended the debate.
Arguing that the US should return the canal to Panama was William F. Buckley Jr. (prominent conservative, founder of the National Review, and former Senator from New York). The moderator was Sam Ervin (Senator from North Carolina, who had served prominently on the Senate Watergate Committee). Arguing that the US should keep the canal was the former governor of California, Ronald Reagan.
After the debate was over, most of the crowd was leaving and I turned to Jill and said: “Let me get their autographs on the debate program. After all, Reagan could be president some day.” I first went up to Buckley, and when I told him that I liked a lot of what he said. With his typical lack of modesty, he replied: “Of course you did!” Sam Ervin signed the program next. He died a few months later, so this debate was one of his last appearances. Finally, I went up to Ronald Reagan. While he was signing the program, he turned to me and asked: “What did you think of the debate?” I answered: “To be honest, Governor, I didn’t agree with anything you said.” He smiled and said: “Would you like to go for a cup of coffee and talk about it?”
So Jill, Ronald Reagan, someone he never identified (I suppose a security guard), and I went and got a cup of coffee and talked about the Panama Canal. After about 15 minutes, he excused himself (he no doubt had just had a few minutes to kill, and figured that this was as good a way of killing it as any) and said he had to leave. Jill and I walked back to the lab. She said: “So what do you think of that?” and I said: “I still don’t agree with him, but wasn’t he the nicest man.” I finished the distillation, and we walked home to our apartment. As I walked in, the phone was ringing. When I picked it up, it was my mother. “I know where you’ve been,” she said. When I asked how she could possibly know, she said: “Because the Debate was televised, you idiot. The camera kept focusing on you. My friends have been calling and asking ‘Doesn’t Zvi know how to dress?’”
Last Week’s Trivia Contest
Last week’s contest focused on children on old TV shows. In all cases, we were looking for the TV character’s name, not the actor’s name. The winner, once again, was Scott Larisch.
This Week’s Challenge
There isn’t one—the Trivia Contest will return with the new year!