THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 12, Issue 11–April 17, 2018
I actually started writing this section of the BLAB on April 8 about the odd weather we’ve been having, and due to one thing or another haven’t been able to finish it until today, with the odd weather only continuing. April 3 started off as a pleasant and sunny day. As the day progressed, the wind began to blow harder and harder, reaching up to 60 mph. At various points, it began to snow a little and the snow was so finely divided that it became almost like a white-out, even though there was very little accumulation. The wind uprooted a few trees and caused some driving difficulties.
On Friday April 6th, an inch or two of snow was expected, which could have been a problem, as I was spending most of the day in Watertown for a presidential inauguration (see below), and Watertown gets the lake effect snow. In actuality, not much happened down there—there was some wet snow for about an hour, but that was it and my ride home was fine, though more snow had fallen in Canton and the trees had a nice frosting.
There were a few flurries on Sunday April 9th and I thought that might be it for the season. I was prepared to take my patio furniture out and set up the barbeque, but fortunately I wimped out that weekend, since winter wasn’t done with us yet. I was in Albany most of the week (again, see below) and when I got back to Canton on Friday April 13th, things were fine.
This past weekend was quite another story. It started getting nasty on Saturday afternoon, and I woke up on Sunday morning at 2:30 AM since my C-pap breathing device had shut down, due to our electricity going out. I checked on the National Grid web app, and the electricity was out all over Canton. I immediately called the College Police to see what was happening on campus, but the College is on a different circuit and all was fine there. Unfortunately, when the power goes off, our sump pump goes off with it and the water began to rise. Over the next three hours, about half the basement flooded. Fortunately, the power came back on again at 5:30 AM or so and the pump kicked in before too much damage was done. The weather stayed nasty the rest of the day, with snow, freezing rain, and ice at various times, resulting in the roads becoming sheets of ice.
We delayed classes for two hours on Monday, to allow time for the crews to finish salting and sanding the campus, and when I went out to drive to the College at about 8:30 AM, my driveway was all slippery ice, and there was about a half inch of ice on the car’s windshield that needed to be scraped off. The main roads were fine, but lots of people who live in the more rural areas had to contend with icy back roads and had some trouble. There was a light rain on Tuesday and today has brought some very light flurries, since the temperature is in the high 30’s. The rest of the week is supposed to be in the 40’s, hitting 55° on Sunday and 61° on Monday. I’ll believe it when I see it.
I’ve gotten a couple of new pieces of art for my office “gallery”. The first came from our new Director of Human Resources, Suzan McDermott. Suzan had visited my office a few weeks ago and as we chatted to get better acquainted, the topic turned to music as it often does to me. I played a few songs that I thought she might like from Youtube, including Leonard Cohen’s song Chelsea Hotel No. 1 (this is not the version he released on an album—that’s Chelsea Hotel No. 2—but I like the earlier form better that he only performed at a few concerts). For those who don’t know, the song is an homage to Janis Joplin written a little after her untimely death.
Imagine my pleasant surprise when Suzan came by a few weeks later with a gorgeous framed piece of artwork collage based on several themes in the song as a gift for me. Suzan is obviously a very talented graphic artist and I love the picture!
Then, on April 4, I found three big boxes coming by mail delivered to my porch. When I opened one of them up, I saw something wrapped in what seemed to be an outer layer of a ton of bubble-wrap. Removing that layer gave me a new layer of somewhat smaller bubble wrap, inside which was something that was shrink-wrapped. Removing that layer gave me something in cardboard, which contained something taped in a paper wrapper. Getting all of that off took a good 15 minutes. When I finally saw what was on the inside, it was two pages of original comic book art, beautifully framed, from the Archie comic book that I had appeared in way back when I was at my first college, in a story the Archie company had written about microscale chemistry. The other two boxes contained the other four pages of the story, similarly nicely framed. I think the pages are perfect copies of the original pages (which are in the college’s archives), but I’m not going to open the frames to find out. They look fantastic!
So, if you come into my office in the future, you’ll be able to see the whole comic story, featuring me and my colleagues Ron Pike and Mohan Singh, set at Merrimack College (my first teaching position) and at Riverdale High School (Archie’s school). I think everyone knows the story of how this story got into the comic book in the first place, but if anyone asks me to, I’ll tell it in a future BLAB. A big thanks to Merrimack and to Cindy McGowan who sent me the pages and had them framed. I truly appreciate it.
These new acquisitions pretty much take up all the remaining wall space in my office and meeting room, so if anything else new comes in, I don’t know where we’ll put it. As the old saying goes, “what a nice problem to have”!
As mentioned above, on Friday April 6, I drove down to Watertown to attend the inauguration of the new president at Jefferson Community College, Ty Stone. The day began with a nice lunch at a local restaurant, after which we went onto campus, robed up, and became the procession of dignitaries for the inauguration. The ceremony was very nice, and the highlight was a jazz performance on trumpet by Dr. Stone’s son (accompanied by a friend on trombone) of the song “Isn’t She Lovely”, which got a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. Dr. Stone’s inaugural speech focused on the importance of JCC to the local community, and on her goals for the future.
Chancellor Kristina Johnson and President Ty Stone
The following Friday I was in Albany to attend the inauguration of the new president of The University at Albany, Havidán Rodríguez. Once again it was a very nice ceremony with the student groups Serendipity and the Earth Tones supplying some musical accompaniment. Dr. Rodríguez’ speech focused on the new “Authoring Our Success” plan for the University.
L-R: Chancellor Kristina Johnson, President Havidán Rodríguez, and Chairman of Board of Trustees H. Carl McCall
Congratulations to SUNY’s newest presidents, and I’m looking forward to working with them in the future.
More in Albany
I actually went down to Albany on April 10th, to attend the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence presentation. The Chancellor’s Award is given to some 250 students from the SUNY system. Since SUNY serves nearly 600,000 students in one way or another, winning one is quite an accomplishment, since it requires both high academic excellence with other forms of achievement, such as leadership, community service, and campus involvement! Two students from SUNY Canton won the award. Jessica Fischer is a senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering Technology, who has led many environmental efforts on our campus, including initiating a pre-consumer food waste composting operation. She also did research on wind turbines, including volunteering with WindAid Institute to install a wind turbine in a rural area of Peru. Kaitlyn Tibbetts is a senior majoring in Criminal Investigation, who is currently an intern with the U.S. Secret Service in Knoxville, TN. She received the McBride Criminal Justice Student Award through the NY State Police Chief’s Association, and was recognized as the Outstanding Associate Degree Graduate at SUNY Canton in 2016. Both are wonderful students and fine persons, and we’re very proud of them. Congratulations to Jessica and Kaitlyn!
L-R: Jessica Fischer, Me, Kaitlyn Tibbetts
On April 11th and 12th, I attended the conference “Shall Make No Law: An Exploration of Current First Amendment Issues on College Campuses” along with five others from the College—our two Co-Chief Diversity Officers Bill Jones and Lashawanda Ingram, our Director of Student Conduct Kristen Roberts, our Student Conduct Officer Nate Pietropaolo, and our Chief of University Police Al Mulkin. The conference was interesting, focusing on both free speech and religious issues, but the area is extremely complicated with lots of contradictory rulings in the courts.
The consensus view of the speakers was that campuses have to stick pretty closely to allowing any kind of speech on campus, but that colleges can have time and place restrictions for events so long as they are consistent for all groups. One of the more challenging issues is that legally, even hate speech is part of free speech and that students (and everyone else on campus) should not try to stop it, though they are (of course) free to challenge and reply to it. Some suggestions in dealing with hate speech included encouraging students to come prepared to politely ask challenging questions, or to not come at all and let the hate-speaker speak to an empty auditorium. Students often question if this is enough of a response.
We continue to work hard at SUNY Canton to find ways of having civil discussions on controversial issues, and to ensure that our students have the opportunity to engage with responsible viewpoints on all sides of contemporary issues.
Last Time’s Trivia Contest
Last time’s contest had to do with songs about dancing. Our winner was Rebecca Blackmon. Just come to my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prize—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository. Here are the correct answers:
- Beatles song that starts “Well, shake it up baby now”. Twist and Shout.
- David Bowie song with lyrics: “And if you say run, I’ll run with you/And if you say hide, we’ll hide. Let’s Dance.
- Chubby Checker had two song hits about this dance, the second one about doing the dance “like we did last summer”. The Twist.
- Most dances require having a partner, but not in this song by Billy Idol. Dancing with Myself.
- Halloween song by Bobby Pickett, the lyrics begin: “I was working in the lab late one night/When my eyes beheld an eerie sight/For my monster from his slab began to rise/and suddenly to my surprise. Monster Mash.
This Time’s Trivia Challenge
This issue’s challenge has to do with songs about flying. The first five entries with the most correct answers win a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository, as well as the admiration of their peers. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO firstname.lastname@example.org since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.
- Peter, Paul and Mary song that starts “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…”
- Tony Bennett song that includes the line “Let me see what life is like, on Jupiter and Mars.”
- The Steve Miller Band had two songs about flying. Name either one.
- Beatles song, also known as “Norwegian Wood”.
- Carpenters song about contacting aliens.