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The Weekly Blab

Volume 7, Issue 4—September 6, 2012


Labor Day Break…

I always look forward to the three-day holiday weekend, but for some reason, it’s never quite long enough.   Jill, Mark, and I went into Atlanta to see the DragonCon parade on Saturday morning.  The drive in was uneventful—nice weather, traffic moving at a reasonable clip.  The parade was due to start at 10AM, and we arrived in Atlanta at about 9:15AM—plenty of time to find a parking space and to walk to the parade.  Cheap Zvi had resigned himself to paying $10 for parking (which is what it had cost the previous year), but when I got to the parking lot, the price had gone up to $20, and I wasn’t going to pay that without a fight.  So, we cruised around a bit, found several other $20 lots, and just when I was good and annoyed, found one about a block from the parade to the west for $10.  Of course to get into the lot, despite the fact that there were two attendants, one had to use a credit card to pay which slowed things down considerably.  Still, we got to parade with about 10 minutes to spare. 

The crowd was much bigger than last year—it felt like 100,000 people were there (it was probably less, but it felt that crowded), whereas last year there were less than one third of that.  Mark it down to the weather—it was beautiful and sunny, and last year it was pretty gloomy and looked like rain.

The parade is always interesting, a little more than one hour long, with tons of people marching by in costumes.  A few were just thrown together, but most were quite elaborate and looked like the wearer had spent months creating them.  For those who keep track of such things, the number of imperial stormtroopers was down significantly, and the number of DC characters (Superman, Batman, etc.) was quite a bit larger than the number of Marvel characters (X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc.).  Stan Lee, one of the major players in comics back in the 60’s was one of the big guests in the parade, as was Dean Cain.  I was looking around to see if anyone from SPSU was at the parade, but didn’t see anyone.  Bill Griffiths (Math) is someone I expected to run into since he always goes, but I wouldn’t have recognized him even if I had since he apparently ran into a buzz-saw:  his beard is gone, and his hair significantly chopped.  Wow, what a change!  Anyway, even though DragonCon started out as a comic book show, most of it is now about fantasy and science fiction characters from TV.  I keep meaning to actually attend the convention and root around for old comics to add to my collection, but each year, I decide I’m too old to put up with the crowd.

The rest of the weekend was devoted to buying some more CD’s, shopping for a couch (didn’t find one we liked), watching soccer on TV, and reading the “Flashpoint” comic mini-series and tie-ins—the big comic book summer series.  Instant review of Flashpoint:  Eh, though the art was good.


Got a Desire to Learn?  IMPORTANT!

As mentioned in a previous BLAB, the USG (and SPSU!) will be migrating from the current Vista learning management system to the new Desire 2 Learn (D2L) platform.  Faculty using Vista need to sign up for the D2L Boot Camp sessions, being offered beginning next week.  The Boot Camp has two parts (cleverly called Part I and Part II), each about two hours.  The sessions will cover the various stuff you need to know about the migration, as well as how to use the new D2L system.  Since Vista will no longer be available this spring, it’s really important (and required!) that all Vista users participate in the Boot Camp.   In the unlikely event that you’re already familiar with the D2L system, you need to contact your Dean for an opt-out.

Sessions will be offered at various times M – F, and you should sign up asap at the following address: http://spsu.edu/cte/workshop/

Faculty using Vista should also look at some updated information on D2L and a video that has important information about content migration and the D2L workshops at

Faculty not using Vista, shouldn’t sign up for these sessions.   Don’t feel left out, though.  Sessions for all y’all will be scheduled in the future.  Got any questions?  Contact Brichaya Shah, our Director of Instructional Design at 3166.


Good Stuff at SPSU

The semester is in full swing, and lots of good things are happening on campus.  Here’s a rundown of some of them.

Congratulations to all faculty and staff in CSE for their successful accreditation of two additional programs by ABET:  Computer Game Design and Development and Software Engineering.  The programs in Computer Science and in Information Technology also had their accreditation renewed.  Preparing for accreditation is a huge amount of work on top one’s other duties, but it’s critical in order to maintain program quality and to burnish SPSU’s reputation.  Great job!

Congratulations to Al Churella (History, in SIS) on his soon to appear book “The Pennsylvania Railroad, Vol. 1: Building an Empire 1846-1917”, published by the very prestigious University of Pennsylvania Press.  I’m a bit of a railroad buff, and I’m really looking forward to reading this massive tome (976 pages!) which has already garnered several glowing reviews.  For those who don’t know, the Pennsylvania Railroad was known as the “Standard Railroad of the World”, and at one point was the largest private company on earth.  It’s very much a “rise and fall” historical epic, with this period being the rise.  Volume 2 will cover more recent times, including the merger with the New York Central and New Haven railroads, and subsequent bankruptcy.  Back to work, Al!  I want to read that one too.

Speaking of SIS, a plethora of papers by SPSU faculty and students have been accepted for presentation at the Georgia Political Science Association meeting.  Tom Nisley will be leading a panel on International Relations of the Americas, and presenting “The Popular Perception of the United States in Latin America and the role of the Peace Corps and Economic and Military Aid”.  Andre Hansen (International Studies undergrad) will be speaking on “Forgetting the Ditch: A Constructivist Analysis of the Transfer of the Panama Canal”; Patrick Sumner (Poly Sci undergrad) on “Realism and Anarchy, Structuralism and Institutionalism”; Elizabeth Lehner (International Studies undergrad) on “Venezuelan Foreign Policy: Hugo Chavez and the Enlightenment of the Bolivarian Dream”; and Andrew Gifford (Poly Sci undergrad) on “China in Latin America: A New Threat in the Western Hemisphere?”  What, you haven’t paid your dues to the Georgia Political Science Association and can’t attend?  No worries—they will be presenting highlights at a panel that’s part of Hispanic Heritage Month right here at SPSU on September 26 at noon, in J-130. 

There are lots of other Hispanic Heritage Month events, organized by Bernice Nuhfer-Halten and the SIS department, including a Constitution Day lecture (September 17, noon, Design II auditorium), a student poster and demonstration session (September 19, noon, J-Atrium), the film “The Way” (October 4, 3:15, J-130), and the film “Pan’s Labyrinth” (October 8, 6:00 PM, student auditorium). 

The Hispanic Heritage Month events are also part of an ongoing series of events being coordinated by the Cross-Cultural Conversations Committee.  The Committee’s goal is to have an interesting variety of events in every month of the academic year.  The first event for the year in this series will occur next Wednesday (September 12), with guest speaker Henry Birnbrey from the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, a Holocaust survivor.  Mr. Birnbrey’s talk will be at 12:00 to 1:15 pm in the Student Center Ballroom.  This program was arranged by Jill Forest, the associate director of Career Services at SPSU.  Also this month is “An Evening of Classical Indian Dance”, at 6:00 – 7:15 PM on September 26th, in the student center auditorium, arranged by Raj Sashti (International Affairs Office).  The evening will feature Ms. Sasikala Penumarthi, an accomplished Indian classical dancer in the Kuchipudi Style.  She has given solo and group performances in Europe, India, the former Soviet Union, and at the “Festival of India”.  Please support these important activities with your attendance, and encourage your students to attend as well.


The Good Music List

In case you want to know where all my money goes, here’s a clue:

Listened to and liked this week:

  • Bruce Springsteen—London Calling (excellent DVD of a London concert from 2009)
  • Sam Cooke—With the Soul Stirrers (first-class gospel from his earliest recordings)
  • Frank Sinatra—In Hollywood (A very nice box set of songs from Sinatra’s movies.  Not Sinatra’s best work, but the completest in me had to have it.)
  • Marty Robbins—Under Western Skies (I’m not a big country fan, but I like Robbins’ voice and his music seems a bit more modern than most country singers from the period).

Bought, but haven’t listened to yet:

  • Belle and Sebastian—The BBC Sessions
  • Enter the Haggis—Gutter Anthems (Ya gotta like any group named “Enter the Haggis”—a blend of Scottish Celtic and Rock)
  • Oscar Peterson—We Get Requests (Peterson is one of the great jazz pianists)
  • Charlie Watts—Warm & Tender (Yes, the Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones—this is his jazz group).

Ordered, and waiting for the mailman to deliver:

  • Pat Boone—The ‘50’s (Big 12 disc Bear-Family collectors’ set.  You’ve probably forgotten that Elvis said Pat Boone had the best voice in the ‘50’s).
  • Fats Domino—Out of New Orleans (Big 8 disc Bear Family collectors’ set)
  • Shorty Rogers—West Coast Jazz
  • Sam Cooke—The Man Who Invented Soul (Yes, I’m on a Sam Cooke binge now)
  • Rahsaan Roland Kirk—Dog Years in the Fourth Ring (If you’ve never heard of Kirk—check him out on Youtube—he’s great)


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s questions focused on Mars, and there were lots of entrants with all five right.  The winner (in four minutes flat!) was David Stone, our Director of Online Learning.  Dave won a blu-ray of the movie Tintin, and revealed his secret for BLAB trivia success:  he jumps down to the trivia contest first, and reads the BLAB after that!  Here are the answers:

  1. What Mars is named after.  The Roman god of War
  2. Best selling book about male-female relationships.  Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus
  3. Radio show about an invasion from Mars, narrated by Orson Welles.  War of the Worlds
  4. 2011 movie starring Seth Green.  Mars Needs Moms
  5. Name of the first song to premier on Mars—it’s by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. Reaching for the Stars


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s questions all have to do with mythology.  As always, first with the most right takes the swag.  No looking up the answers now!

  1. Norse god of thunder.
  2. Roman goddess of beauty, first arrived on Cyprus floating on a scallop shell.
  3. Greek goddess, born as an adult, after her father’s head was split open by an axe.
  4. Egyptian god of the dead.
  5. Aztec creator god, often depicted as a feathered serpent.