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The Weekly Blab

Volume 7, Issue 7—September 30, 2012


These Just In

The Construction Management Department, word reaches us that their students just won another first prize in a national competition, this time at the Green Energy Challenge Competition held at the Mandalay Bay conference center in Las Vegas during the Student Chapter Summit.  Samantha Anselmo and Jamal Stubbs won first place in the National Poster Competition. The team was coached by Maureen Weidner (CM department) and the team was sponsored by the Atlanta Electrical Contractors Association.   Great job!

And speaking of great jobs, right under the wire to be mentioned in this BLAB, SPSU’s speech team earned national qualifications in two events.  In competition at Gainesville State College, Toby Pope (senior, TCOM) placed fifth in impromptu speaking, and Tyler Maran (junior, Poly Sci) placed fourth in both impromptu and extemporaneous speaking.  Pope also earned seventh-place honors in editorial impromptu and informative speaking. Maran placed fifth in editorial impromptu. SPSU placed fourth in team sweepstakes.  “We brought home awards for every event we entered,” said team coordinator Prof. Misty York (ETCMA). “Converting 100% of our events is an extraordinary achievement, and the national qualifications made the day even sweeter.”   The team has a busy fall schedule planned, with competitions at the University of Alabama and Berry College set for October.  Prof. Kelsey Harr-Lagin (ETCMA) also coaches the team.


Always Looking for That New Thing

That’s what it’s like if you’re a music fanatic…You’re always looking for that new thing that you haven’t heard before—the singer no one else has ever heard of or the that perfect song or different piece of music.  Then you listen to it over and over again until you’ve had enough, and it goes in the pile of earlier new things, but you still come back to it every so often.

The latest new thing started last weekend, when I saw a CD in a plain brown digipac that just said “Robinella” on it.  I’d never heard of her before, but since I think that Ella Fitzgerald is the greatest singer that ever drew breath, the “ella” in Robinella was enough for me to give it a listen and I was glad I did.  Robinella Bailey is from Tennessee and sings in an unusual combination of jazz and bluegrass with a versatile and lovely voice. I can’t think of a single other person who sings in this particular merging of styles.  There’s an interview on Youtube that was done with her at the University of Tennessee back in 2008, and the interviewer asked if she minded that people said her voice and style was a combination of Billie Holiday and Dolly Parton.  She smiled and said she liked that, and I think that the description is just about right.

The disc is great, containing live performances over a span of years of a lot of jazz standards, some done straight and some in that bluegrassy way of hers.  So, naturally, I had to see what else she had released and it wasn’t much—there were a total of four releases, two available on CD, and two only as mp3’s.  I ordered the two CDs that were available on Amazon (for next to nothing—go figure), and they arrived after a few days.  As it turns out, there are actually two albums called “Robinella and the CCstring Band”, one of which (from 2003) was available on disc, so naturally the company sent me the other one (from 2000), which was fine with me—I simply reordered the first one and hopefully I’ll now have both.  The other album I ordered is called “Solace for the Lonely” (2006) and it is quite beautiful, with the best song (in both my and wife Jill’s opinion and we almost never agree) being “Press On”.  You can hear it and read the lyrics on Youtube by clicking here—trust me, it’s well worth your time.  It’s a religious song about not being afraid of death, and the Youtube upload got the 4th verse lyrics wrong.  They actually go:

                                    Life is filled with bitter music

                                    A breeze that whistles like a song

                                    Death can swoop down like an eagle

                                    Snatch us with our shoes still on.

By one of those small coincidences that make life worth living, Jill spotted the fifth and most recent album of hers on Saturday, so now we have them all.  I’m trying to contact her to bring her to SPSU, but the email function on her website doesn’t work.  Hmm…, I guess I’ll Press On.

Other good stuff that showed up in the mail this week, or that was picked up this weekend:

  • The fifth boxed set of “Jazz Icons”—six great DVD’s of major jazz performers (John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, Johnny Griffin, Freddie Hubbard, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk) recorded live in France from 1959 to 1973.  I have the previous four sets, and each one is a gem.  Here’s hoping this isn’t the last of the series.
  • The boxed set of “Wilhelm Furtwangler, The Legacy” arrived from Germany—107 CD’s and 3 DVD’s all devoted to this great conductor.  Furtwangler preceded and had a major rivalry with Herbert von Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic.  There are a lot of these mega-big sets of classical music available for unbelievably low prices these days, and I’m taking full advantage.  This box put me back only $79.95 + $2.98 postage and I don’t see how they’re making any money on this—the actual postage they spent airmailing it to me was about $20—it’s heavy!  I’ve listened to the first two discs, both Bach recordings from 1948-1950, and they’re great.  This one will take a long time to go through!
  • I also ran into the boxed set “The RCA Albums” by Sam Cooke, which pretty much completes my collection of everything he recorded.  These are all “Living Stereo” recordings, which those in the know recognize as being the state of the art for recorded music for the period 1953-1965, and they’re all great.
  • Finally, I got a copy of the Criterion Blu-ray disc of “Charade”, a 1963 movie starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.  This is one of Jill and my favorite movies, but it hasn’t been available in a decent print until more recently.  It’s a mystery/adventure/comedy/ romance where it isn’t clear who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.  The Hitchcock-like plot centers on a missing $250,000 that everyone wants, and the movie plays fair—the clues are there if you can spot them.  Jill and I first saw this movie way back when we were dating while at WPI, and I noticed the clue immediately for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who knows me.  Anyway, this is a great one.  If you haven’t seen it, go get it.


Enough About Music…How’s Chelsea Doing?

Glad you asked.  Beloved Chelsea is in first place, winning 1-0 over Arsenal over the weekend.  Despised Manchester United lost to the Tottenham Hotspurs, so things couldn’t be better.  The Boston Red Sox?  The less said the better.


Recap of Last Week

Virginia Tech Prof. John Boyer was here on Monday of last week, and all the sessions were well attended and went well.  It was interesting to hear how he manages a live class of 3,000 (answer: not alone—he has a full time technical assistant and five graduate students helping with the grading), and the various techniques he uses to keep them involved.  Students can choose from a menu of options that earn them points toward their final grade.  One that caught my attention was having students act as various world leaders, requiring them to tweet five times a day either on things that the leader is doing, or replying to tweets from other world leaders.  The tweets are then evaluated for accuracy and aptness by the graders, and points are assigned.  Pretty cool.  The evening talk drew an audience of about 125, and the students were well engaged by the subject of why engineering students need to be globally engaged.  After the talk, I even got an email from a student thanking the University for having this event, and saying we should do more things like this.  Thanks go to Sam Conn for connecting us up with the Plaid Avenger.

Tuesday evening, Dr. Laurence Michalak (former director of the Center for Maghrib Studies in Tunisia and former vice chair of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley) spoke on “Tunisia and the Arab Spring”.  The turnout was a disappointing 25 or so, but the talk was highly interesting.  Dr. Michalak pointed out that many of the things we’ve heard about the Tunisia Arab Spring Revolution may not be true.  At least one version of events includes the following:

  • Mohammed Bouazizi, the man who later set himself on fire, was not actually prevented from selling goods on the street—he was asked to move into the designated market area.
  • It is unlikely that he was slapped by the policewoman as alleged—that would be wildly out of social norms in Tunisia, and many one the scene deny that it happened.
  • His self immolation may have been the result of an accident while he was intoxicated
  • The film shown on European TV of the immolation wasn’t actually Bouazizi.

In any event, this was the spark that was necessary to set off a revolution that was actually “waiting to happen” as the result of many years of economic decline and of corruption by the president of Tunisia’s wife and her family.  Dr. Michalak spoke about various forms of democracy (and lack thereof) in the Arab world, and historical reasons for why governmental systems have evolved to their current state.  Bottom line, trying to group together very different events occurring in different countries for different reasons under the single title of “Arab Spring” does not help our understanding of the region.  Thanks go to Iraj Omidvar for organizing this event.

Unfortunately, the talk ran a little late, which meant that I couldn’t have dinner with Dr. Machalak, since sunset was approaching rapidly and with it the Yom Kippur fast—no food, water, or anything for 24 hours.  I took Wednesday morning off for the holiday, missing the SIS student panel at noon, though I hear it was great and our students acquitted themselves very well. Wednesday evening brought an exhibition of Indian Classical Dance by Sasikala Penumarthi, one of the most renowned dancers of the Kuchipudi style.  This form of classical dance is based on Hindu myths and religious epics, and tells a story in addition to being visually beautiful.  Ms. Penumarthi wore an elaborate costume while doing three major dances (including one carried out while standing on top of a plate that she simultaneously slid around the stage), and the crowd of 175 was mesmerized throughout the performance.  Afterwards, she posed for pictures with a large portion of the audience, who were still there talking to her 30 minutes later.  Thanks go to Raj Sashti for organizing this event.

The timing was good, because the recital ended at about 8 PM, just in time to go to a restaurant after sunset and break the fast.  Where did I go to break the Yom Kippur fast you ask?  To a Chinese restaurant, of course.


Thursday evening brought the Construction Management annual fundraising dinner, and as usual, Khalid Siddiqi and the faculty and staff in the department did an excellent job of organizing the evening.  The turnout was a bit larger than expected, and there was some concern that there might not be enough food, but in the end, all went well.  The speaker was Dr. Roger Tutterow, Professor of Economics at Mercer University, who spoke about Georgia’s economy, what it means for the construction industry, and why the recovery has been so slow.  He was a highly engaging speaker and managed to give a reasonably balanced (politically, that is) view of where we are today.  In the raffle, lucky Ron Koger won a gift bag containing a Construction Management shirt and water container, and I didn’t have the heart to ask him how many of these he already owns.


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s questions all had to do with rivers, and several people got all five, with Jonathan Lartigue (our first repeat winner this year) being the fastest.  Another jazz CD is headed your way, Jonathan.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Longest river in Georgia.  Chattahoochee
  2. Hit song from the Broadway musical “Show Boat”.  Ol’ Man River
  3. Comedienne whose original last name was Molinsky.  Joan Rivers
  4. The Pittsburg Pirates played there from 1970-2000.  Three Rivers Stadium
  5. Colonel Bogey march.  Theme from The Bridge Over the River Kwai


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This weeks questions all have answers involving the word “short”.  First with the most takes the prize, and no looking up the answers!  Here we go:

  1. It can give you a shock.
  2. Originated in the British Army for use in desert or tropical climates.
  3. One part sugar, two parts butter, three parts flour.
  4. It’s one of four in Monopoly.
  5. Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues.