February 26, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 9, Issue 28– February 26, 2015

 

 Officially a Northerner

On Sunday, we drove down to Watertown to do some shopping. It was a nice sunny day in Canton with a temperature of 30°. It’s amazing how quickly your mindset changes so that 30° is now warm. Anyway, we did our shopping and drove home, and when I went into the jazz music room in the house, I heard a dripping noise. I thought I had left my stereo receiver on, and when I looked to see what was causing the noise, I saw we had a leak. The room has a nice bay window, and the stereo system sits on its ledge. The leak was coming from the “ceiling” of the bay window and dripping right into the receiver and also all over the ledge and onto the floor.

We quickly got a small bucket to catch the drops and I took the receiver off the ledge and put it on the floor upside down, hoping it would drain out. I suspected that the leak was from an ice dam on the roof a story above the bay window. For you non-northerners, this is caused when the ice on the roof (formed from the heat of the house melting the bottom layer of snow) is blocked from being able to expand, and goes under the shingles. When it melts again, it now leaks into the house. I went outside with my snow rake, and knocked as much snow and ice from the roof as I could, even going into the bathroom on our second floor, taking out the screen, opening the window and leaning out, and using a hammer to get rid of as much ice as I could.

That, and perhaps the dropping temperature, caused the leak to slow down and after about an hour, stop entirely. We called a roofing company who came by this morning and went on the roof, shoveled it out and removed the ice dams. When I set the stereo up again, the receiver wouldn’t power on, so the water may have killed it. I’ll try to fix it (and may ask our EET folks to see if there’s anything they can do), but it may be dead. I hope not—I really liked that Onkyo, though this may be an opportunity to upgrade the next new thing, whatever that is.

 

 

Contest Coming Up!

It’s obvious that SUNY Canton is the greatest, but we need to capture the story and prove it to ourselves and to the rest of the world. I’m sure you’ve seen multiple examples of this—a great student project. A transcendent moment in the classroom. A beautiful spot on campus. A great on-campus event. A winning moment in athletics. Cool students, faculty, and staff. Something funny or touching that captures the SUNY Canton spirit.

We’re working out the details of a contest we’re going to run, called “Why SUNY Canton is the greatest place on Earth”. Basically, how it’s going to work is we’ll invite members of our campus community (faculty, staff, students, alumni, everybody) to send in a picture (or short video clip) that illustrates some aspect of what makes us great along with a caption of a few words. We’ll post the good ones and award prizes for the very best ones. Obviously, the more people who participate and the more pictures that are sent in, the better the outcome and the more prizes will be awarded.

So, start thinking about what makes us great and how you can capture the story in a picture or short video clip. Start capturing the story. We’ll be sending out information on how to submit them and what the prizes will be in the next few weeks.

 

 

More SUNY Canton Shout-Outs

There have been lots of good things happening involving SUNY Canton faculty, staff, and students. Here are just some of them:

 

Student Athletes Get Great Grades

At the Faculty Meeting last Thursday, our Director of Athletics, Randy Sieminski, announced that our student athletes had an average GPA of 2.99, which is quite excellent. The men’s team with the highest GPA was Ice Hockey, with an impressive 3.181.

MHOC

The highest women’s team was also Ice Hockey, with an unbelievable 3.350.

WHOC

Congratulations to the students on both teams, and to all our student athletes for their fine academic performance.

 

Engineers Week

This week is Engineers Week and to celebrate, our engineering and physics faculty held a series of events showcasing what they do, in the various labs in Neveldine Hall on Tuesday, February 24. The events began at noon, with a CEO Panel Discussion, followed by a Career Fair from 1 to 5 PM. At 5, the Open House began, open to the entire community. The Panel Discussion drew an enthusiastic crowd of 75 students, and the Open House drew well over 100 participants, who got to see very cool demonstrations that included our award winning steel bridge team, Lego Mindstorm robots, 3D topographical mapping, a massive wood splitter, smashing concrete cylinders, digital wrenches, using strobes to measure rotational speeds, laser communicators, and many other great things. As a chemist, I have to give a nod to the excellent water chemistry lab demonstrations that were done by CET students, though the Van de Graaf accelerator and various power-sport vehicles were definitely cool as well. Our mascot, Rudy ‘Roo, was there adding to the fun.

Engineers Day 2015-5

Our cool Power Sports lab

The big event for the Open House was a competition to see who could build the tallest free-standing structure out of spaghetti and tape, with a marshmallow at the top. There were some 20 teams with kids from 5-17 years old competing. The highest structure was a 28” tall, winning a $500 scholarship to Canton for everyone on the team. There were lots of other prizes, and all participants got a T-shirt and a water bottle.

Engineers Day 2015-10

This was a great event, and congratulations go to Dean Mike Newtown, our engineering and physics faculty, and the many student volunteers who staffed the exhibits, registered the visitors, and helped watch the youngest children.

 

Road Trip to Massena

OK—Massena isn’t the farthest place I’ve traveled to, but last Thursday, I went on a road trip there to be at an alumni gathering along with VP of Advancement David Gerlach and Destiny Petty, the new Advancement intern. Alumni Development Associate Joe Carbone was already there doing the setup at Coach’s Corner, a pretty cool pub where the gathering was held. I got a chance to meet a number of alums and tell them about what’s new at the college, as well as hear about their own experiences when they were students. Even though it’s only been a few days, several of the alums have already volunteered to work with the college in several ways that will be very beneficial.

 

Canton Idol!

After the alumni visit to Massena, we had to rush back to Canton so I could pick up wife Jill and son Mark to go to the Canton Idol Finals Competition. We got there just in time! Just like American Idol on TV (though ours was better!), the four top contestants competed in two rounds of finals, judged by a panel of faculty, staff, and student judges. The two emcees (Amanda DaCosta and Devine Pearson) were great, and the judges (Mike McGilligan, Katie Kennedy, Nikki Zeitmann, and Danesha Williams) offered good advice and encouragement.

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The four finalists were quite excellent, with the winner slated to go head to head with SUNY Potsdam’s winner in the near future.

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The four finalists were:

Grand Prize Winner: Noelle Murray (3d from left)

2nd Place Winner: Moriah Cody (left)

3rd Place Winner: Kasey Cunningham (2nd from left)

4th Place Winner: Daniel Neuroth (right)

Congratulations to everyone who participated and to our winners!

 

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Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with weather—each answer had a weather word in it. Our winner was Rosemary Phillips. Others getting all five right included Christina Lesyk, Jesse Clark-Stone, Rhonda Rodriguez, Patricia Todd, and Ron O’Neill. Lots of others got four correct, but question #3 did them in. Here are the correct answers:

  1. What you save for. A Rainy Day.
  2. Someone who only supports you when things are going well. Fair-Weather Friend.
  3. Buried by too much work. Snowed under (or snowed in).
  4. What the band plays when the President walks in. Hail to the Chief.
  5. In Carly Simon’s song “You’re so Vain”, what follows the lines: But you gave away the things you loved, and one of them was me. I had some dreams, they were . Clouds in my coffee.

 

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This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge deals with the sun—each answer has the word “sun” somewhere in it. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. According to the saying, there’s nothing new there.
  2. Huge song hit for the Animals, about a place in New Orleans that’s been the ruin of many a poor boy.
  3. Film festival started by Robert Redford, located in Utah.
  4. Major petroleum company, headquartered in Philadelphia.
  5. Romantic comedy set in Italy, it starred Diane Lane as a writer whose life takes a turn when she finds her husband has been cheating on her.
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February 19, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 9, Issue 27 – February 19, 2015

 

 Brrr….

I was looking on Facebook on Sunday and was amused to see a video taken in Marietta, GA. It seems they just had a dusting of snow there and the video showed some parents pulling children around on plastic sleds. School was cancelled due to the weather Monday in many parts of Georgia, though I don’t know why—the forecast was for a high of 48°F with rain. Ever since the ice storm last winter (which shut everything down for three days), politicians have been very antsy about the weather and close everything down at the drop of a hat. To be fair, they really don’t have the means for dealing with cold weather, with only a relative few snowplows and the like. One thing that has impressed me up here in the North Country is how quickly and effectively they clean the roads—even while the snowfall is occurring.

For those who live outside the area, we apparently had the coldest weather in the country here from Sunday into Monday—the low was -18°F here, with a wind-chill of more like -35°F. Some locations with wind-chill reached the point where the Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures are the same (I remember solving for that on an engineering exam when I was a freshman—it’s a favorite problem for engineering professors). In case you want to know how to solve for that, remember that the conversion formula from °F to °C is

°C = (°F -32)(5/9).

Since we’re looking for the point at which the two temperatures are equal, °C = °F, and:

°F = (°F – 32)(5/9)

(9/5) °F = °F – 32

(9/5) °F – °F = -32

4/5 °F = -32

°F = (5/4)(-32) = -40

 

Get Involved in This Effort to Save Financial Aid

Perkins Student Loans have been an important part of student financial aid for 57 years. Unless Congress acts quickly, the student loan program will expire, and it will be much harder for students to finance their educations. Perkins loans are really useful to students because they don’t have to be paid back until 9 months after leaving school. You don’t need a credit history to qualify for them, and the loans can be forgiven under certain circumstances. About 500,000 students benefit from Perkins loans every year. At SUNY Canton, 450 students get Perkins loans, to the tune of $450,000 each year. Please watch the video below, and if you agree with it, sign the “Save Perkins Now” petition at www.change.org. Share the video with your friends—this is something we want to go viral.

SUNY Canton Shout-Outs

There have been lots of good things happening involving SUNY Canton faculty, staff, and students. Here are just some of them:

SUNY Canton Senior’s Clothing Line is a Hit in the Hip-Hop Community!

Danesha Williams, a senior in Graphic and Multimedia Design, is the cofounder of the clothing line Riotte Latimore with SUNY Canton grad Christina Thomas. Currently working out of her off-campus apartment, Danesha is producing cut-and-sew designs on hooded sweatshirts, shirts, and pants, which are then manufactured in China. An article on her success recently appeared in the Watertown Daily Times, and can be seen here. Her clothing was recently worn by hip-hop artist Dej Loaf at her concert in Toronto, and a number of items on her website (here) are sold out. Danesha is also managing Michael Wallace, a SUNY Canton senior who recently won a rap music competition and is flying to Los Angeles, under her independent record label Empire the Nation Records. Clearly, SUNY Canton students and graduates are taking over the fashion and music industries, which is obviously as things should be.

Athletics

SUNY Canton athletes have been active in supporting several worthy causes during half-time of their games. On February 6, during halftime of the men’s ice hockey game against Cortland (which we lost 6-5 in an overtime heartbreaker), the women’s ice hockey team played a challenging game of sled hockey against members of the Wounded Warriors.

On February 7, on their way to beating Albany Pharmacy 82-46, our men’s basketball team hosted the North Country Region Special Olympics Shamrocks basketball team. Coached by Lesley Thompson, the Shamrocks played a well-received exhibition at half-time.

Also on February 7, our women’s basketball team hosted the Canton modified 7/8th grade girls basketball team for a 4 on 4 game to celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day. At both games that evening, members of the seven different SUNY Canton women’s teams (basketball, cross-country, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, and volleyball) were honored.

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Congratulations to all who were involved in these activities, and especially to our female athletes!

CSTEP

On January 31, several SUNY Canton students attended the Annual CSTEP Regional Career Exploration Symposium, hosted this year at Clarkson University and attended by CSTEP students from all four of the Associated Colleges.  The two keynote speakers were Calvin Mackey and Don Asher.

Dr. Calvin Mackie is an award-winning mentor, acclaimed author and motivational speaker, and a successful entrepreneur. He has won numerous awards including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, which was presented in a White House ceremony. Donald Asher is a nationally known speaker and writer on the topics of careers and higher education and the author of 12 books, including “Cracking the Hidden Job Market”, “Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why” and “From College to Career”.  He is also a contributing writer for The Wall Street Journal.

The Symposium also offered various workshops and panels in several of the STEM, Health and Licensed professions. Pierre Nzuah, a senior Engineering student, represented SUNY Canton as our Senior Speaker this year.  Pierre told his story about growing up with 15 siblings in a poor family in Africa, to becoming a successful Engineering student who’ll be attending Clarkson’s Master’s program next year.

It was a fun and educational day for all who attended.  The students enjoyed the speakers, the workshops, the dinner, and especially networking with CSTEP students from the other universities.

Love Your Library Day

Thursday, February 12 was “Love Your Library” day, with heart-shaped cookies, punch, and a drawing for an iPad on feature at SUNY Canton’s Southworth Library. Students were asked to fill out a brief survey on what they thought the library’s most useful features were, as well as what they’d like to see added. They could also double their chances of winning by doing a brief library search to find a particular book. Adding to the festivities, Dean Mollie Mott was dressed for the occasion as the Queen of Hearts, posing for pictures with the many folks stopping by. This is just one of the many cool outreach efforts by our library, which is a fantastic student-centered resource for our entire community.

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Title IX Poster Competition

I was one of four guest judges in a poster competition by Canton Central High School students to design a poster to celebrate Title IX and how it has led to more equal gender participation in sports. The winner of the contest was Hailey Leonard, a student in Grade 12. The winning poster is below. Congratulations Hailey!

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Me, Amanda Rowley, and the winning entry

Firing Faculty Over a Blog

There was an interesting article recently in Inside Higher Education about how Marquette University is moving to revoke a professor’s tenure and fire him stemming from comments he made in his blog. You can see the full article here. An earlier article (before Marquette decided to fire him) provided more detail in the sequence of events that happened and can be found here. While this has nothing whatsoever to do with anything at SUNY Canton, the situation has attracted in a lot of attention nationally, as it touches on issues of freedom of speech, unfair use of power (in more than one way), academic freedom, and gay marriage.

Bear with me here as I lay out the background, because the story is complicated. The more or less undisputed parts are as follows.

  • A graduate teaching assistant, Cheryl Abbate, was teaching a philosophy course, “Theory of Ethics” and talking about philosopher John Rawls’ equal liberty principle (which states that everyone has the right to all basic liberties that don’t conflict with another’s liberties). She asked students to name any violations of this principle that they were aware of. A student named the ban against gay marriage as an example.
  • Abbate listed the example on the blackboard and went on to discuss other examples. A second student (or perhaps it was the same one—the accounts don’t make this clear) approached Abbate after class (and taped their conversation without telling her he was doing so), telling her he was upset that she hadn’t considered the gay marriage example more carefully. He had seen data suggesting that the children of gay parents do worse in life and said that the topic was worth discussing further.
  • Abbate questioned the data, and noted that gay marriage and parenting are two different things. As reported in Inside Higher Education (which says they have a copy of the tape), the student said “It’s still wrong for the teacher of a class to completely discredit one person’s opinion when they may have different opinions”. Abbate said “There are opinions that are not appropriate, that are harmful, such as racist opinions, sexist opinions, and quite honestly, do you know if someone in the class is homosexual? And do you not think it would be offensive to them, if you were to raise your hand and challenge this?” When the student said it was his “right as an American citizen” to challenge the idea, Abbate said he didn’t “have the right, especially [in an ethics class], to make homophobic comments or racist comments.
  • Abbate said the student could have whatever opinions he liked, but that her policy was that homophobic, racist, and sexist comments wouldn’t be tolerated in her class. She said he could drop the class if he disagreed with her policy. She then asked the student if he was recording the conversation. At first the student said “no”, but admitted he was when Abbate asked to see his cell phone. Their conversation ended at that point. The student subsequently dropped the class.
  • A tenured political science professor, John McAdams, wrote a post in his blog ‘Marquette Warrior’ based on the student’s recording, accusing Abbate of shutting down the conversation in class on the basis of her own political beliefs. McAdams said that Abbate was “using a tactic typical among liberals,” in which opinions they disagree with “are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up.” He wrote that Abbate “invited the student to drop the class”.
  • McAdams’ blog was picked up by several other conservative blogs. Some of the comments on those blogs made threats against Abbate and she received a number of emails harshly criticizing and threatening her, as well as some supporting her.
  • Abbate decided to discuss the gay marriage issue the next class period, noted that the article saying that children of gay parents do worse in life had been largely discredited, and said that there wasn’t time in a class to discuss every controversy of interest.

Whew! Got all that?

As the story spread, Marquette University decided to review the situation and concluded that McAdams had acted in an unprofessional manner and had misled the public about what happened. A letter was sent to McAdams from his dean, Richard C. Holz, saying the university was initiating a process to fire him. Holz wrote:

Tenure and academic freedom carry not only great privileges but also vital responsibilities and obligations…In order to endure, a scholar-teacher’s academic freedom must be grounded on competence and integrity, including accuracy ‘at all times,’ a respect for others’ opinions, and the exercise of appropriate restraint. Without adherence to these standards, those such as yourself invested with tenure’s power can carelessly and arrogantly intimidate and silence the less-powerful and then raise the shields of academic freedom and free expression against all attempts to stop such abuse.

Holz went on to say that graduate student instructors:

“…should expect appropriate and constructive feedback in order to improve their teaching skills. Multiple internal avenues of review were available to you if you believed a situation had occurred between a graduate student instructor and an undergraduate student that called for a corrective response. Instead, you chose to shame and intimidate with an Internet story that was incompetent, inaccurate, and lacking in integrity, respect for other’s opinions, and appropriate restraint.”

With regard to the student dropping the class, Holz wrote:

As you knew or should have known…, the student told the university three days after withdrawing that he had done so because he was getting an ‘F’ at mid-term. He further specifically agreed that his grade fairly reflected his performance and had nothing to do with his political or personal beliefs. Similarly, by leaving out any reference to Ms. Abbate’s follow-up class discussion in which she acknowledged and addressed the student’s objection to gay marriage, you created a false impression of her conduct and an inaccurate account of what occurred. You either were recklessly unaware of what happened in the follow-up class, or you elected not to include these facts in your Internet story.”

McAdams is fighting the firing and disputes the university’s account of what happened. He’s written several postings on the subject, the most relevant of which can be found here and here. He argues that the graduate student was the faculty member of record in the course and thus isn’t immune from criticism, and the university has no right to restrict his free speech:

Campus bureaucrats hate controversy, since it makes trouble for them. Thus the most ‘valuable’ faculty members are the ones who avoid controversy, and especially avoid criticizing administrators. In real universities, administrators understand (or more likely grudgingly accept) that faculty will say controversial things, will criticize them and each other, and that people will complain about it. They understand that putting up with the complaints is part of the job, and assuaging those who complain the loudest is not the best policy. That sort of university is becoming rarer and rarer. Based on Holz’ actions, Marquette is certainly not such a place.”

Abbate has now left Marquette and is pursuing her graduate degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She writes her own blog and has written two responses to the situation (which can be seen here), and believes that McAdams is at least partially responsible for the threatening emails she has received. She disputes McAdams’ version of events, and views him as a bully. She says that the articles that have characterized McAdams as being fired over a single blog post are untrue:

The attempt to fire McAdams is not about a “one time act of misconduct” on his part. From what I can tell (from reading the Dean’s letter), the attempt to fire McAdams is about his history of attacking vulnerable members of the Marquette community and his repeated lies about me on his blog (that he has also repeated, on a number of occasions, to various news sources).

What can one make of this complex story? I think there are problems aplenty throughout this whole scenario, not least of which is that the usual political players have responded to the blogs on the expected sides, though there have been some thoughtful comments too.

Let’s start with the student who taped his conversation with Abbate. Most people would agree that it is morally wrong to record a conversation without someone’s knowledge (a police sting, properly executed, being an exception). Why did this student do it? Judging by subsequent actions, the student wanted to catch Abbate in a “gotcha”. He subsequently went to the department chair and dean on this issue and after getting no satisfaction there (from his perspective), brought the matter to McAdams’ attention. McAdams is identified in some articles on this subject as the students’ advisor (and McAdams is accused of hiding that). That Abbate listed the example on the blackboard but then chose to move on to other points hardly seems like a motive or justification for surreptitious taping. The most obvious explanation is essentially “conservative student wanted to trap liberal professor as being too politically correct”.

Moving on to Abbate, it seems that she fell into the trap. The snippets of the conversation available online do seem to imply that she wouldn’t have welcomed a conversation opposing gay marriage in her class. Several reasons are offered by her supporters—that it would be off-topic, that her conversation was completely misconstrued, or that she was trying to live up to (or enforce) Marquette’s anti-harassment policies. I haven’t read those anti-harassment policies, but I would hope that they wouldn’t restrict any speech that might possibly offend someone—I can’t think of any debate on a controversial subject that wouldn’t offend at least someone. While she was clearly uncomfortable discussing the issue of gay marriage in her class, she ultimately did discuss it the next class period. The real point here is that while she was in charge of the class, she was still also a graduate student learning her craft. Part of learning is making mistakes and learning from them.

As to McAdams, despite his (correct) point that Abbate was the instructor in charge of the class and was therefore functioning as a teacher and not a student, he was well aware that she was a graduate student, not yet having been awarded her degree and never having been appointed even as a part-time faculty member. If McAdams thought Abbate’s actions were inappropriate, he could have alerted her department chair. Even if he thought that it was necessary to blog about her to make some larger political point, calling her out by name in his blog was not only highly inappropriate, but also unnecessary. Exactly the same political points he made in his blog could have been made by identifying her as simply “a graduate instructor teaching a philosophy course”. Some posts called what he wrote a form of cyberbullying, given the power differential between Abbate and himself. McAdams’ willingness to use the tape is also highly questionable—did he ask the student if she knew she was being taped and if the student had Abbate’s permission to use it? Even if McAdams asked and the student lied, McAdams could have easily contacted Abbate and confirmed that it was OK, and asked her for her side of the story. McAdams says that he did contact her (via email on a Sunday), but when she didn’t reply, he posted the blog nine hours later. Do I really need to say that giving someone nine hours to reply, on a Sunday, is hardly a sufficient attempt to verify facts or to get the other side?

Finally, we come to Marquette’s response. Taking each of Dean Holz’s main points, did McAdams act irresponsibly? Certainly. Did he breach academic norms by publically criticizing a graduate student by name in a blog? Yes. Did he misrepresent what happened in the classroom and subsequent discussion? That seems to be debatable—his account and Abbate’s differ, but the available evidence doesn’t significantly contradict McAdams’ blogged version of events. Did McAdams try to “shame and intimidate” Abbate and act with a “lack of restraint”? I’d say so. From the looks of things, McAdams is one of those people who is so filled with the righteousness of their cause, he can’t see where he himself crosses the bounds of propriety and is guilty of the very things of which he accuses others.

The ultimate question, though, is whether McAdams deserves to be fired for what he did. While I don’t pretend to have all the information that Marquette has, based on the charges in Holz’s letters and the facts presented in the articles I don’t see how the answer could be “yes”. McAdams’ blog, whatever you may think of it, says clearly in its masthead: “This site has no official connection with Marquette University. Indeed, when University officials find out about it, they will doubtless want it shut down” indicating he is clearly blogging as an individual, not as a representative of the university. This, of course, doesn’t remove his obligation to observe academic norms, protect the privacy of a graduate student who was still learning the ropes, and to not act like a bully. While some form of sanction might be appropriate, not all crimes are capital crimes. Many people have questioned Marquette’s seeming lack of due process in this case, as well as the lack of documentation regarding the alleged other prior acts that Holz alludes to. By moving for removal of tenure and firing, Marquette seems to be guilty of the same “lack of restraint” they accuse McAdams of and give credence to his claim that what they actually want is to get rid of an annoying critic.

I’d be interested in hearing other people’s opinions on this case.

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with advertising slogans. Our winner was Nellie Lucas. Others getting all five right included Rhonda Curtis, Christina Lesyk, Stacia Dutton, Marcia Sullivan-Marin, Will Fassinger, Rajiv Narula, Terri Clemmo, and my sister, Drorit Szafran. Here are the correct answers:

  1. Things go better with ________. Coca Cola.
  2. Plop, plop. Fizz, fizz. Oh what a relief it is. Alka-Seltzer.
  3. The quicker picker upper.  Bounty.
  4. Let your fingers do the walking. The Yellow Pages.
  5. Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t. Almond Joy and Mounds.

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge deals with weather—each answer has a weather word in it. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. What you save for.
  2. Someone who only supports you when things are going well.
  3. Buried by too much work.
  4. What the band plays when the President walks in.
  5. In Carly Simon’s song “You’re so Vain”, what follows the lines: But you gave away the things you loved, and one of them was me. I had some dreams, they were _________.
Posted in Uncategorized

February 9, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 9, Issue 26 – February 9, 2015

 

It’s Flu and Cold Season

With all the cold weather we’ve been having lately, it has become cold and flu season too. I caught a mild cold on Monday and I was pretty much rid of it on Wednesday. My wife Jill and son Mark picked up a more severe version of it on Wednesday and are only coming out of it now. It seems everyone at the College and in town has gotten it or currently has it.

It’s been cold and unusually snowy lately. Last Monday, we were only supposed to get 3-4 inches of snow, but it turned out to be 6-7 inches, and with the wind, there were drifts of 1-2 feet in places. Things were calm on Tuesday and Wednesday, but when I woke up on Thursday, there were an unexpected additional 5-6 inches on the ground, and my windshield wipers were totally frozen to the car. I had to take off my gloves to warm the wipers enough to pry them loose. Later that day, it was sunny enough to melt some of the snow from the roof, which ran down the windshield, froze, and formed two thick icicles! I had to let the car run for a while until they softened up enough to use the scraper to take off!

Yesterday, as I was driving back from Potsdam in the morning, we had something new—freezing drizzle. It was cold enough so that it would freeze as soon as it hit the windshield. Even with the blowers going full blast, they were only able to stay even with the icing. Several people pulled over to the side of the road to scrape their windshields down. This morning, there was a layer of ice on the windshield that wouldn’t scrape off, and it took 10 minutes of idling the car with the blowers on full blast to soften it enough to scrape it. We were supposed to get several more inches of snow today, but now it looks like that won’t happen. Hopefully, Wednesday’s predicted snow will also fail to appear.

 

 

Thanks to Our Donors to the Canton College Foundation

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the many donors to our Canton College Foundation this past year. From our full time folks, the participation rate was a respectable 39%. By way of comparison, the participation rate in the federal government for the Combined Federal Campaign is 21%, so we did almost twice as well. With your donations, the Foundation is able to do to many important things to support our students, faculty, and facilities at the College. Your support is critical.

I’d like to encourage everyone to support the Canton College Foundation in the coming year. You can make an unrestricted donation (in which case it will be used where the need is greatest) or you can give to any specific fund. It’s not hard—you can make a one-time donation, or you can use payroll deduction. Any area that has 100% participation this coming year will get special recognition for their efforts.

To thank the folks who donated last year, we had a “Thank You” luncheon last Friday. Almost 100 people were able to attend, and our Food Service did their usual wonderful job on the meal—it was absolutely delicious.

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Admissions Efforts

I’ve attended two interesting admissions efforts in the past two weeks that I thought you might want to hear about.

On Saturday morning, January 31, SUNY Canton hosted 35 young men (and 6 chaperones) from New York City who are enrolled in a student success program that highlights academic greatness. The young men are all either homeless or wards of the state, but through their hard work and participation in this program, are all strong academic achievers. Their visit was part of a bus tour of several campuses, because part of the emphasis of their program is to give them exposure to college life.

Due to the cold weather, their bus broke down, just across the street from Clarkson. A convoy of cars (including mine) was quickly assembled, and we ferried them over to campus, where doughnuts and coffee were waiting. As a result, the program started a little late, but all went well from then on and they were able to enjoy a hands-on lab experience in the Canino School of Engineering Technology, dinner, and a basketball game.

Last Thursday, we hosted a group of high school counselors who were here for National School Counselors Week. Mike Newtown spoke to them about our upcoming set of activities for Engineering Week, and invited them to have their students participate. He also talked about how important it was for students to learn about STEM areas early. He said: “Even if they’re just in Kindergarten, bring them—we’ll find something for them to do that they’ll enjoy.” I also spoke to the counselors about some of the new programs we’re developing, as well as how our programs all lead to jobs and help economically develop the North Country. Our message was well received by the counselors, and is part of a broader effort to engage more strongly with our local schools that Melissa Evans (our new Director of Admissions) is encouraging.

 

 

Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?

There was an interesting article in the National Geographic this month entitled “Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science”, written by Joel Achenbach. You can read the article in its entirety here.

cartoonThe article starts by quoting some lines from the movie Dr. Strangelove, where General Jack D. Ripper is showing his paranoid worldview by ranting about fluoridation: “Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?” The movie came out in 1964 and being against fluoridation was pretty out of the mainstream then, but more than 50 years later, there are still some locations that don’t fluoridate their water, despite overwhelming evidence that it is beneficial to do so.   Portland, Oregon, for example, voted not to fluoridate in 2013.

Achenbach notes that the word is full of real and imaginary hazards, and telling them apart isn’t easy. The recent panic over the Ebola virus is a good example. Despite the fact that it is only spread by direct contact with bodily fluids, there are lots of people who are afraid that it will somehow mutate into an airborne super plague, despite the fact that no virus has ever been observed to completely change its mode of transmission in humans.

Marcia McNutt, editor of the journal Science, says: “Science is not a body of facts. Science is a method for deciding whether what we choose to believe has a basis in the laws of nature or not.” The article goes on to say that the scientific method doesn’t come easily or naturally to most of us. Even people who understand and accept scientific theories still cling to their intuitions. In a recent study by Andrew Shtulman of Occidental College, he found that even students with advanced science education still hesitated when asked to affirm or deny that humans are descended from sea animals or that the Earth goes around the sun. Even when they marked these questions as true, they took longer to do so than when they answered questions about whether humans are descended from tree-dwelling creatures or whether the moon goes around the Earth (more intuitive responses).

Lots of people rely on personal experience and anecdotes, rather than science and statistics. We constantly think that coincidence is the same thing as causality, and see patterns where none exist. We’re all prone to “confirmation bias”—the tendency to only look for evidence that supports what we already believe, and to ignore everything else.

Politics, of course, has made this much worse. We’re now able to live in a world where we can filter any idea that we don’t want to hear, and only let in those views that we already believe. There are lots of people (and politicians pandering to them) who believe that global warming is a hoax, and that there is a scientific conspiracy to mislead the public. The news media tends to focus on the kooks who will give them an exciting story, instead of the more boring people who are actually doing the research.

A research study by Dan Kahan of Yale University found that higher scientific literacy was associated with stronger views on climate change—on BOTH ends of the spectrum. More literacy led to more polarization of views, not more consensus. He concluded that this is because most people use scientific knowledge to reinforce beliefs they already hold through their worldview and politics, and ignore facts that would force them to question their own beliefs. While science appeals to our rational brain, our beliefs are formed through our emotions, and our strongest emotion is to belong and fit in to our “group”. “We’re all in high school. We’ve never left high school,” says Marcia McNutt. “People still have a need to fit in, and that need to fit in is so strong that local values and local opinions are always trumping science. And they will continue to trump science, especially when there is no clear downside to ignoring science.”

McNutt says that scientific thinking has to be taught, and sometimes it’s not taught well. That has certainly been my own experience. I taught General Chemistry for many years, and one of the first things covered in the class is the scientific method. Most students have encountered it before, in high school and in other science classes, and should have been familiar with it. Yet, almost invariable, students think that a scientific law is something of a higher order of certainty and importance than a scientific theory. Part of this is because the way we use words in science is different than the way we do in everyday speech. In everyday language, a theory is something that is uncertain, whereas a law is set in stone. In science, a law is a statement that summarizes experimental results (without needing to explain why those results occurred), and a theory is an explanation for what happened that has held up to rigorous testing (but that those tests could have proven to be false).

Very few students are aware of how difficult it is to conduct a proper experiment, and the way that our biases can affect what we perceive the results to be. Almost no students are aware of the strongest defenses science has against error—the peer review and publication process. Science journals require scientists to publish exactly how they carried out their experiments in a way that allows anyone else to repeat them. Some journals actually have testers repeat the experiments to see if the same results were obtained. The article is reviewed by other scientists in the same area to make sure that the methods followed made sense, and that the conclusions drawn are reasonable based on the evidence presented. Even after publication, other scientists will reproduce and test the experiments and results, trying to disprove or extend upon them. In science, new things are proven and older things are disproven all the time. It is this constant testing and revision that allows science to “march on”.

Very few of us would like our lives and ideas subjected to the scientific methods continuous testing. Can you imagine a world where political ideas were subject to this kind of rigor? As the article concluded, “We need to get a lot better at finding answers, because it’s certain the questions won’t be getting any simpler.”

 

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with winter. Our winner was Rhonda Rodriguez. Others getting all five right included Christina Lesyk, Janel Smith, and Melinda Miller. Here are the correct answers:

  1. They were held in Sochi (Russia) in 2014, and in Vancouver in 2010. WINTER Olympics
  2. Christmas song that begins “Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?  In the lane, snow is glistening.” WINTER Wonderland.
  3. Title of the most recent Captain America movie. Captain America: The WINTER Soldier.
  4. American comedian, he co-starred in the show Mork and Mindy and in the movie It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.  He had 11 grammy nominations for best comedy album, and was the voice of Papa Smurf in the 2011 Smurfs movie.       Jonathan WINTERs.
  5. 2014 movie about a burglar who falls for an heiress as she dies in his arms. When he learns that he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her. WINTER’s Tale.

 

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge deals with advertising slogans—I give you the slogan, you tell me the product. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Things go better with ________.
  2. Plop, plop. Fizz, fizz. Oh what a relief it is.
  3. The quicker picker upper.
  4. Let your fingers do the walking.
  5. Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.
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February 3, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 9, Issue 25 – February 3, 2015

 

Deep in the Heart of Winter

January is over and good riddance, though truth be told, it really wasn’t that bad. There wasn’t much snow and even though the temperature dropped to -18 a few times, it never stayed below zero very long. The days are getting longer, though they probably won’t be getting too much warmer until mid-March.

Yesterday (Monday) was the first real snow we’ve had. The weather report predicted a high of 6° and 3-5” of snow for Canton, but the temperature never got above zero that I saw, and there seemed to be more snow, especially with the wind causing lots of 2-3 foot drifts. We’re not supposed to get any significant snow for the next week, so that’s something anyway.

 

 

Florida Trip

I spent last week in Florida doing alumni visits. It’s a tough job, but I sacrificed myself to fly down to Orlando and meet up with Peggy Sue Lovato, driving to The Villages and then south of Tampa. The weather was reasonably nice the whole time—in the 50’s and 60’s.   One morning, as I was headed out from the hotel, the clerk said “be careful out there—it’s really cold”. Of course, it was actually 50°, which is cold for there.

I drove down to Syracuse on Sunday afternoon and caught the 7:35 PM flight on Jet Blue to Orlando. Jet Blue supposedly has more legroom than any other airline and that seems to be true—I felt much less crammed in than I do on other airlines. There are some seats with even more legroom than the standard ones, but you have to pay $40 extra to get them. One odd thing—when the plane took off, they wouldn’t let people move into any of the empty extra legroom seats, unless they paid the $40. My experience has been that other airlines are OK with “upgrading” at no cost if any extra legroom seats are available when the plane takes off.

The flight landed at 9:45 and the ever efficient Peggy Sue was there to pick me up and drive me to the first hotel, located at Orlando’s Airport. She had arranged for a few snacks to be available in my room in case I was hungry, but I mostly just wanted to get to sleep.

The next morning, we drove up to a place called The Villages, somewhat near Ocala. I’d never heard of The Villages before, but there are now around 100,000 people who live there, most of whom seem to be retirees. There are three villages currently built (and a fourth one going up as we speak) with a nice town square in the middle of each one. The town square has a couple of streets of stores (mostly restaurants and boutiques, as well as doctors offices with practices focused around the elderly) and a nice park in the middle, where they play concerts every night.

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Each village has lots of events for its residents, but you have to live there and pay a fee to participate. One interesting thing—a lot of folks who live there seem to have ditched their cars, and get around on golf carts. One problem is that some of the golf cart drivers seem to think they’re Mario Andretti, and forget just how flimsy a golf cart can be if there’s a crash.

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At the hotel, I saw someone was hauling a Jaguar XKE on a car trailer, so I asked Peggy Sue to take a picture of me with it, framing it so you couldn’t see the trailer. I’ve wanted to own a Jaguar XKE since I was 10 years old, and this is probably the closest I’ll ever get.

FullSizeRenderMy first alumni visit was with John and Rosella (Todd) Valentine. We were meeting at Ricciardi’s Italian Table restaurant, but we ran into a small problem—the street it was on wasn’t on the iPhone map—it was too new! Peggy Sue knew about where it was and by the time we got there, I had called up the Google Maps app on my phone, which apparently had been updated more recently, so we were able to find it without any real problem. The waiter mentioned that the restaurant was celebrating its one-year anniversary and gave each of us a little gift bag. When Peggy Sue said “happy anniversary”, the waiter said “For saying that, you win a glass of champagne each, and 10% off your dinner”.   Nice touch!

IMG_0202John and Rosella Valentine are really delightful people and I very much enjoyed talking to them. I asked if John gave Rosella a rose every Valentine’s day, and Rosella smiled and said “No—he gives me a dozen”. She said some people had even asked if they got married because of how well their names fit together. Rosella graduated from SUNY Canton in the class of 1968 with a degree in Business Administration. She enjoyed a 31-year teaching career, and was New York State’s first Teacher Ambassador for Occupational Education. She has served on our Canton College Foundation, and is a former president of our Alumni Association. She received Heuvelton Central School’s first Alumni Hall of Fame designation, and was a board member at the Remington Museum of Art. Currently, she is active in the Lake County (Florida) League of Women Voters. Her husband John taught music for many years, and we had a nice conversation about favorite operas, which tenors are underappreciated, and which is the hardest aria to sing (we both agreed it was “A mes amis” from Donizetti’s La Fille de Regiment). It was amazing about how similar our tastes were and I was kidding Rosella that she didn’t know her husband and I were clones of each other.

The next morning, we had breakfast at Denny’s with John and Lorraine Henderson. John graduated from ATI (as we were then known) in the class of 1952, with a degree in Drafting. He was responsible for an addition to the science building, expansion of athletic facilities, and the creation of a facilities master plan at Jefferson Community College, where he worked for many years. He’s a strong supporter of the college, and told me about a number of pleasant memories he had of the time he was here.

IMG_0222[2]John Henderson and Gordon Myers

That afternoon, there was a gathering at Franco’s Ristorante for alumni who live in The Villages, with about 25 people in attendance. It was nice meeting with many alumni I’d never met before (as well as the Valentines once again), and a good time was had by all. I gave a short talk about some of the new programs we’re planning at SUNY Canton, and the alumni were happy about the directions we are pursuing. As has happened so often, I got to hear stories about how SUNY Canton had made all the difference in setting up their careers.

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On Wednesday, we drove down to Sarasota, checked into the hotel, and then drove to Cape Coral to meet Bob and Margaret Rogers for lunch. Bob graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology in 1960 and was a member of one of the most successful basketball teams in Canton’s history, helping lead the Northmen (as we were then known) to a 34-6 overall record in his two years. He went on to play Division 1 basketball at New Mexico State, and went on to work in the elevator industry for 41 years. He recently made a generous scholarship gift to the college honoring Hall of Fame Coach Stanley Cohen that will provide future students the opportunity to achieve their educational goals.

When we got back to the hotel, I tried to call a friend of mine, Sandra Stone, who is the new Regional Chancellor (which is what they call presidents of branch campuses in Florida) for University of Southern Florida—Sarasota-Manatee. Sandra had been the president of Dalton State College in Georgia, so I knew her very well. Another Regional Chancellor is also a friend of mine—Han Reichgelt at USF-St. Petersburg, who was my Dean of Computing and Software Engineering at SPSU. Unfortunately, Sandra was tied up in new president meetings the next two days, so we weren’t able to get together. Maybe next time.

That evening, I wanted to try and find an Indian restaurant, and fortunately, there was one at the next shopping center over. We decided to walk there, because it wasn’t very far, but as it turned out, the sidewalk didn’t go the whole way (making us walk on the shoulder of a busy highway), and there was a fence that needed to be climbed over to get to the road without having to backtrack quite a ways. Still, we persevered, and the restaurant was quite good.

Thursday for lunch, we met with Bernie Regan at Gecko’s, a south-west themed restaurant. Bernie graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology in 1965, and went on to serve in the US Army. He then worked for UPS in their corporate domestic and international engineering groups. He established the Bernard C. Regan Family Endowed Scholarship, and built the Regan Flag Station at the front entrance to our campus. He is on SUNY Canton’s College Foundation Board of Directors, and serves on the executive committee. Among other things, we talked about how to get more people to consider making unrestricted gifts to the college—most people want to restrict them in one way or another, making them less flexible in what they can be used for. We also talked about that afternoon’s gathering in Sarasota, at a different Gecko’s. About a dozen alumni and supporters came to the gathering, which again was very pleasant.

IMG_0270That night, we drove back to Orlando and stayed at the airport Hyatt Regency (quite a place—you can take the elevator to the 3rd floor, which is where the gates to the airlines are). I was able to change onto an earlier flight going to NYC at 9:40, and change there for Syracuse. I got to Syracuse about 1:00, got the car, and was back in Canton by 4:00.

 

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with military ranks. Our winner was Terri Clemmo. Others getting all five right included Bill Prigge, Sean O’Brien, and Robin Gittings. Here are the correct answers:

  1. This Marvel super-hero carries a shield. Steve Rogers is his secret identity. Captain America.
  2. Steven Spielberg movie about the WWII D-Day invasion, and the search for the last surviving brother of four servicemen. Saving Private Ryan.
  3. Longest running American soap opera still in production, it premiered in 1963. As of January 23, 2015, it had 13,229 episodes. General Hospital.
  4. 1958 movie about a backwoods rube who is drafted into the army. It launched the careers of both Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. No Time for Sergeants.
  5. The character’s name for the Stalag 13 commandant in Hogan’s Heroes. Colonel Wilhelm Klink.

 

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

In honor of our first “big” snow this year, this week’s challenge deals with the word “winter”–every answer has that word in it. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. They were held in Sochi (Russia) in 2014, and in Vancouver in 2010.
  2. Christmas song that begins “Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?  In the lane, snow is glistening.”
  3. Title of the most recent Captain America movie.
  4. American comedian, he co-starred in the show Mork and Mindy and in the movie It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.  He had 11 grammy nominations for best comedy album, and was the voice of Papa Smurf in the 2011 Smurfs movie.
  5. 2014 movie about a burglar who falls for an heiress as she dies in his arms. When he learns that he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her.
Posted in Uncategorized

January 26, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 9, Issue 24 – January 26, 2015

 

 

Budget Time

We’re now in the middle of budget time for both the State and the State University of New York. Last Wednesday, I left Canton at 5:00 AM for a trip to Albany. The temperature was -7 when I left, and as I drove through the Adirondacks it only got colder, reaching a low of -18 along the way. After Long Lake, the temperature started up again as the sun came up, and by the time I reached I-87, it had gone into positive territory.

I got to Albany at about 9:00 AM, drove downtown to Empire Plaza, and started looking for a parking spot, since I had an appointment to meet one of our legislative colleagues, Assemblymember Deborah Glick (Chair of the Higher Education Committee) at 10:15 AM. Normally, it’s not too tough to find one there, but later that day, the Governor was giving his budget address, titled “New York State of Opportunity”, so there were a lot more people there than normal, including a lot of press, and the parking was scarce. I circled the area a few times and finally found a spot a few blocks away at a meter. The meter only took quarters and dollar coins, but amazingly enough, I had a dollar coin and a few quarters, which bought me about an hour and a half. I got to my meeting at 9:30 and Assemblymember Glick was able to see me early. She had visited SUNY Canton in the past and was very familiar with our programs. After a very pleasant and informative meeting, I got back to the car just before the meter ran out.

I checked into the hotel, though I had to wait a little before the room was ready. I dropped my suitcase in my room and walked back to Empire Plaza (about a 15 minute walk) to go to the Governor’s speech. The speech was at 1:30 PM, but I had to check in and get my credentials and then go through security, and I wasn’t sure how long that would take. I went into the underground corridor that goes into the Convention Center and joined the line of other people waiting to have their credentials checked. After about 15 minutes, the line started moving and we were let in. Who is the first person I saw at the entrance of the Convention Center? June O’Neill, the Chair of Potsdam’s College Council (and wife of Ron O’Neill, the Chair of our College Council).

After exchanging hellos, things went pretty quickly, because they had a large room to get the credentials, with different lines for last names beginning with A-C, D-F, and so on. They quickly found my name, I got my “green” tag (which allowed me a special seat—not general admission), and went into another room (staffed by about a dozen people) to check my coat. After that, I had to go through security. I took off my coat, emptied my pockets, put them in a bin, and went through the metal detector, which was quiet, but buzzed about five seconds later. They sent me back and I walked through again, and exactly the same thing happened. It turned out that the guy scanning the bins was causing the buzz—he had noticed a London policeman’s whistle on my keychain (which I picked up way back in 1991, when I first went to London, and has been on my keychain ever since). He told me he had to confiscate it. When I asked why, he said “because you could use it to create a nuisance”. He apologized, but said he had to take it and I wouldn’t be able to get it back.

I went into the main arena and asked the ushers where I should sit, pointing out I had a “green” tag. They took me to the general admission seats on the far right side. I thought that was wrong, but then spotted Dr. William Murabito, SUNY Morrisville’s President, and sat next to him. After about 15 minutes, we were told we were in the wrong section and directed to one a little closer to the center. I knew that was the right place, because the seats had the names of the person who should be sitting there taped to them, and I promptly found my name (right next to Dr. Murabito’s seat!).

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People slowly filled in, and everything but the center section of the arena was filled by 1:25 PM. During the wait, I had a chance to talk to President Kristine Duffy (SUNY Adirondack) about some areas our two colleges might work together on.

An announcement was made saying “in exactly five minutes, the speech will begin, so please take your seats”. Five minutes came and went, and after about 25 more minutes, an announcement was made saying “in five minutes, the speech will begin”. Five minutes later, the members of the state Supreme Court came in and were applauded, and then there was another pause. After about 10 more minutes, the members of the state Assembly and the state Senate came in. The stage party was introduced by the Lieutenant Governor, and then Governor Andrew Cuomo came in and began to speak.

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The speech itself lasted about 90 minutes and noted many successes over the past year, which put New York in its best shape in 20 years. It had both serious and funny moments, laying out the Governor’s main priorities and how they would be realized. There were also some controversial moments, dealing with P-12 Education and with the Community Colleges. You can read or listen to the entire speech (and see the PowerPoint he presented) by clicking here.

The major points in the speech were:

  • The State will maintain its fiscal discipline (spending increases of less than 2%).
  • Small business taxes will be cut from 6.5% to 2%, and property taxes by $1.7B for middle-class homeowners. Tax relief would also be extended to renters.
  • Infrastructure: Republic and Stewart airports will be made tax-free zones. Thruway tolls will not rise next year. $500M will be invested to expand broadband, mainly upstate.
  • Steps are being taken to make SUNY and CUNY colleges engines for job growth. Additional funding ($50M) will be provided for SUNY 2020 and CUNY 2020. A venture fund of $100M will be created to help entrepreneurs in New York.
  • Reforms need to be made in the Community Colleges to make them “training centers” and linking them to employers in the various regions of the State.
  • Upstate New York economic development: Regional Economic Development Centers will continue to be emphasized. Buffalo (which was NY’s biggest economic problem) has now turned around. Funds to support agriculture ($50M) in the Hudson Valley and Southern Tier. $20M will be devoted to green companies in the Southern Tier. $65M will be invested in railway and port hubs (including Ogdensburg). $50M will be invested to modernize the State Fair. More land will be bought for Fort Drum, and Rte. 26 will be improved. Tourism will continue to be emphasized.
  • A global export-import bank will be established for the state, and trade delegations will go to major trading partners. New York will be one of the first states to trade with Cuba.
  • The minimum wage will be raised to $10.50 ($11.50 in New York City). The procurement goal for minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses will be raised to 30%.
  • The State’s P-12 education system needs dramatic reform. 32% of prospective teachers failed a 12th grade literacy test. Full tuition will be paid for SUNY or CUNY graduate program applicants if they will commit to teaching in NY for 5 years. The current teacher evaluation system is baloney—98.7% of the teachers are rated effective, but only 38% of the students are college ready. 50% of teacher evaluations will be based on state (not local) exams, and 50% by outside evaluation. Tenure will only be granted after five years of effective performance. Highly effective teachers will get a $20,000 bonus. Ineffective teachers will be helped to improve, but school districts will be able to remove teachers after two “ineffective” ratings.
  • If a school fails for three years (178 failing schools in NY), it will be taken over by another school district, a not-for-profit, or a turn-around expert. More money isn’t the answer. The state average is $8K per student, $12K in high needs districts, in many failing districts it is $16K, so the money has already been spent with no change. 100 more charter schools will be added to the state cap. Add $365M for Pre-K funding, and spend $25M on a pilot to extend it to three year olds.
  • The current state formula has P-12 funding going up 1.7% ($377M). If these reforms are adopted, funding will be increased 4.8% ($1.1B).
  • 16- and 17-year olds will no longer be sent to adult prisons—a separate set of facilities will be developed for them.
  • Criminal justice system needs to be more color-blind. A statewide reconciliation committee will be set up between police and community. More minorities recruited onto police. Race and ethnic data will be collected on police actions. Replacement vests and body cameras provided to keep police safer. An independent monitor will be created for any case when a civilian dies in a police action and no true bill is issued by a grand jury. The monitor can recommend a special prosecutor.
  • Implement “Yes Means Yes” sexual violence policy like SUNY’s in private colleges.
  • Increase homeless budget by $403M.
  • Since P-12 would be getting considerably more (assuming the reforms the Governor recommended are implemented) and since the State’s share for Medicaid would rise by 3.6%, all other areas are essentially flat funded.

After the speech, I walked over to Lark Street, where my favorite Indian restaurant (the Jewel of India) is located, and had my first meal of the day—I hadn’t had a chance to eat earlier. The samosas, tandoori chicken, and aloo ghobi (potato and cauliflower) were delicious! I went back to the hotel room and relaxed for a bit. Lenore VanderZee (our Executive Director of University Relations) was driving down to Albany and called (using speaker—no hands!) to do some strategizing for some meetings we were having with legislators the next day.

On Thursday, we met with several members of the State Senate, both to introduce ourselves, and to ask for their support with several of SUNY Canton’s budget and program priorities. The meeting included Senator Patty Ritchie (Chair of the Agriculture Committee. She represents Canton and Watertown), Senator Joseph Griffo (Chair of Energy and Telecommunications, Chair of State-Native American Relations. He represents Potsdam, Rome, and Utica), Senator Kenneth LaValle (Chair of the Higher Education Committee. He represents eastern Long Island), and Senator Betty Little (Chair of the Cultural Affairs and Tourism Committee. She represents Plattsburgh and the north-east of the state). The senators were all very interested in what we were doing, and gave us some excellent advice on how best to move forward. The meetings lasted all morning, with one in the afternoon. We then worked on a funding proposal for some of our proposed academic programs. At about 6:00, we went to dinner at a very nice Thai restaurant (the Sweet Basil) on Delaware Avenue.

Friday began with a breakfast in honor of the Chancellor Nancy Zimpher at the Egg (Albany’s Center for the Performing Arts). This was followed by the Chancellor’s State of the University Address, held in a full theater in another location in the Egg. The following major goals were described:

  • Increasing the number of graduates with a post-secondary credential to 150,000 by 2020. Currently, the number of graduates is about 93,000.
  • Putting a SUNY college counselor in every high school in the state.
  • Investing in a success equation: ACCESS + COMPLETION = SUCCESS, where allowing for greater student access to higher education (also targeting adults without a degree), and taking the steps necessary for them to complete their education will lead to success for the students, colleges, and the state.
  • Increasing the focus on graduating students in four years, citing Buffalo’s “Finish in Four” program as a best practice.
  • Implementing SUNY Excels, a set of metrics by which SUNY will measure how we are doing and if we are improving. She called on all of us to be able to prove that our state funding is being used effectively.

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Chancellor Zimpher thanked the Governor for his support, especially focusing in on the increase in funding for SUNY 2020, a set of challenge grants to elevate SUNY as the catalyst for economic development in the state.

After the address, Lenore was able to leave for Canton, but the SUNY Presidents met for lunch with various people from SUNY Central to discuss the State and SUNY budget more in detail, and to lay out some strategies for achieving our goals. This was followed by a meeting for new Presidents, where various intra-SUNY funding opportunities were discussed. We finished up around 3:30 PM, after which I was dropped back at the hotel, got my car, and drove back to Canton. I got home about 7:20, just in time to take Mark to get a pizza at Sylvia’s.

Over the course of the semester, we’re going to be discussing much of the above: defining some metrics to measure ourselves against, reviewing and improving our strategies for retention and graduation, implementing our own “Finish in Four” program, putting some teams together to work on grants, and completing work on our first round of new program proposals. I’ll be going to Albany and Washington frequently to talk to our legislative colleagues about the great things that are going on at Canton, about some new directions we’re pursuing, and to try to secure additional funding for our efforts. At the same time, I’m going on several alumni visits in Florida and later, in Arizona. It’s going to be a busy time!

 

 

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with numbers. Our winner was Christina Lesyk. Others getting all five right included Rhonda Rodriguez, Jeff Ray, Robbie Gittings, Janel Smith, and Terri Clemmo. Here are the correct answers:

  1. Curly, Larry, and Moe. The THREE Stooges.
  2. Nickname for the Beatles. The Fab FOUR.
  3. Movie starring Jack Nicholson about him being transferred from a prison to a mental institution. ONE Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
  4. Wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.       The SEVEN Deadly Sins.
  5. Vladimir John Ondrasik III’s stage name. He’s a singer who’s top 40 hits include “Superman (It’s Not Easy)”, “100 Years” and “The Riddle (You and I)”. FIVE for Fighting.

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge deals with military ranks—every answer has a rank in it. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. This Marvel super-hero carries a shield. Steve Rogers is his secret identity.
  2. Steven Spielberg movie about the WWII D-Day invasion, and the search for the last surviving brother of four servicemen.
  3. Longest running American soap opera still in production, it premiered in 1963. As of January 23, 2015, it had 13,229 episodes.
  4. 1958 movie about a backwoods rube who is drafted into the army. It launched the careers of both Andy Griffith and Don Knotts.
  5. The character’s name for the Stalag 13 commandant in Hogan’s Heroes.
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January 19, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 9, Issue 23 – January 19, 2015

 

 Welcome Back!

Vacation is over and it’s time for a new term to begin. Remember, we’re still doing the Engagement Grades pilot in the third week of the term. It’s especially useful if you use it proactively—tell the students that you’ll be doing the engagement grades in the third week, and let them know what you’re going to base the grades on (which may be some combination of attendance, classroom participation, grades on an early assignment—whatever you are actually doing). In previous terms, faculty have found that this motivates students to make a better early start, and as we all know, good beginnings lead to stronger endings.

 

NCAA trip

As many of you may be aware, SUNY Canton is in its final probationary year with respect to joining the NCAA’s Division 3. The NCAA is, of course, the largest of the university athletic organizations. Normally, the probationary period lasts four years, but our athletic director, staff, and program are so strong, the NCAA waived one of the years. This past Wednesday, I flew down to Washington DC for their national meeting. Randy Sieminski, Courtney Bish, Liz Erickson, and John Vandevere also attended.

I drove down to Watertown and took USAir from there down to Philadelphia, and after a short layover, took the short connecting flight down to Reagan International Airport in DC. Washington has three major airports (Dulles, BWI, and Reagan) but I always prefer to fly into Reagan because it is the closest to the city and accessible by the Metro. The conference was held at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort, so that’s where I stayed. It’s a little bit east of DC in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and unfortunately, there’s no Metro stop anywhere near it, so I had to take a taxi.

The Gaylord National Harbor Resort is quite nice—huge meeting rooms that can easily handle a convention of 5,000 people, big restaurants, and good-sized rooms. The rooms are arranged in a bit of a maze, however. I was on the ninth floor in room 9086. At one point, I took a different elevator up to the floor and when I followed the room numbers going up, they reached 9082 and then jumped (as best I can remember it) to 9301, with 9086 nowhere to be seen. I’m not sure why I tried this, but I walked back to the 9200 corridor, walked to the end of it, and found myself in a corridor with rooms in the 9100’s. Turning left, the numbers dropped, and I eventually found room 9086. The room to the left was 9084, and the rooms thereafter went into the 9500’s. Go figure.

Anyway, I put my suitcase and stuff in the room and texted Courtney to see if everyone else had gotten there (they had driven to DC). Courtney and Liz were staying in a different hotel and were going to get dinner there, so I called Randy and he, John, and I went out to the Thai Pavilion, a restaurant a short walk away. Neither of them had ever eaten Thai food before, but it was a very good restaurant and we all enjoyed it.

The conference started the next morning and I was at various sessions (some of them designed for new presidents) all day. About 3500 people were in attendance from all over the country. As I was walking to my first session, I promptly ran into Courtney and Liz, who were going to theirs. I walked in to hear the keynote address and one of the first people I ran into was one of the delegates from Saint Lawrence University—small world! I thought I knew almost no one at the conference (other than our own folks), but a little later in the day, one of the afternoon sessions was moderated by Lori Runksmeier, the Athletic Director of New England College, where I was VPAA from 1999 to 2005. It was nice to see Lori again and to catch up on some old friends. After all the meetings, there was a reception at 6:00 PM where I caught up with Randy and John.

After the reception, the ECAC was hosting a party at Bobby McKey’s Dueling Piano Bar. The place was packed and very loud, and when the dueling pianos started to play 1980’s music, it only got louder. I ran into Skip Sullivan (SUNY Alfred’s president) there, who I’ve known for several years because I had worked with him when we were both in Georgia. I also met a couple of delegates from Worcester State College, which is located just a couple of blocks from where my wife grew up. We had a nice chat about what a nice city Worcester is—excellent restaurants and a fun night life, without the traffic or high prices of Boston. My favorite comic book store (That’s Entertainment) is there too—I’ve been getting my new comic books from them for more than 30 years, and the owner, Paul Howley and his family have been close friends of my family for decades. After about an hour, the noise was just too much, so Bill Murabito (SUNY Morrisville’s president) and I left to walk back to the hotel.

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Friday, breakfast was served in the foyers between 7:00 and 8:00 AM, and the sessions began immediately after. There was a lunch for Division 3 presidents, more meetings, and then a reception for presidents, where I ran into a big bunch of people I knew who had worked in Georgia while I was there, including Lendley Black (Chancellor of the University of Minnesota—Duluth, he had been the provost at Kennesaw State University), Cheryl Dozier (President of Savannah State University and one of my favorite people—I first knew her when she was the head of Diversity Affairs at the University of Georgia), Tim Hynes (President of Clayton State College), Bud Peterson (President of Georgia Tech), Dan Papp (President of Kennesaw State University), and Linda Bleiken (President of Armstrong Atlantic State University). While walking down the corridor that afternoon, I also saw Donna Shelala, who was Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration, and is now the President of the University of Miami.

After the reception, I attended the Honors Dinner, where 10 athletes from this year and 10 athletes from 25 years ago were honored. Their stories were all quite remarkable in terms of challenges overcome, as well as their academic and athletic achievements.

Saturday began with breakfast between 7:00 and 8:00 AM, followed by the main business session for Division 3, where fifteen different proposals were considered and debated. The most controversial was one to allow D3 colleges to play football in the spring, which narrowly was defeated. After voting on all the proposals was finished, a motion to reconsider the spring football decision was introduced, and went down to an even narrower defeat. There was a small closing reception after the business session, and the conference was over.

I wasn’t flying back until Sunday morning, so I spent the afternoon walking around the National Harbor area. Until 1984, the area had been Salubria Plantation, built in 1827. The plantation house burned down in 1981, and the area has been redeveloped into apartments, upscale restaurants, and a wharf area that includes the Capital Wheel and a metal sculpture (called “The Awakening”) of a giant, half buried underground.

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There was also a store that sold nothing but Peeps (the candy).  Who knew that there was such a thing?

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The weather was a bit cold, so there weren’t too many people around. Before the National Harbor area was redeveloped, there was strong opposition to it because it was so hard to get to, and its distance from public transit. There’s some talk of extending the Metro’s green line there in the future.

I left DC at 8:30 on Sunday morning, in a light rain. When the plane landed in Philadelphia, the rain was heavier and I heard later that there had been a multi-car pileup that morning due to ice on the highways. The flight to Watertown was a little late taking off due to the weather and quite bumpy, but the weather was good when we landed. Strangely enough, it was warmer in Canton than it was in Washington—the temperature got into the 40’s and much of the snow had melted, though a little snow is expected overnight.

Something that a lot of people don’t know is that student athletes, on average, have higher grade point averages and higher graduation rates than non-athletes. While this surprises some folks, it makes a lot of sense, since the work ethic and time management skills needed to be a successful athlete are also skills that are quite applicable to being successful academically. We have a great group of athletes and coaches at SUNY Canton, and the NCAA will be enriched by our joining.

 

 

CD Release Party

Back on Saturday the 10th, the jazz combo “A Fine Line” had a CD release party up at the Parkview on Main Street in Canton. For those who don’t know, the trio consists of Bill Vitek (keyboard, who is a department chair and teaches philosophy at Clarkson), Dan Gagliardi (bass, who teaches Math at SUNY Canton), and Mike Magilligan (drums, who is the Assistant Librarian Digital Technologies and Learning at SUNY Canton). Their new CD is called “Conversations, Vol. 1″, and its great—nice versions of several jazz standards and some new stuff too. Jill and I went to the party, and had a great time. The Parkview is a nice place to listen to music with surprisingly good acoustics for a brick walled room. There was a light snow falling, so I was afraid that the turnout was going to be small, but instead the place was packed.

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The music started at 7:15 or so, and went on for a good hour and fifteen minutes, with some friends joining in on sax, flugelhorn, and vocals. After a short break, there was another 30 minutes of music. The entire evening was fantastic—lots of great improvisation and coolness. It’s really impressive to see how much first-quality music is available in the North Country—I’ve attended many excellent performances already, and look forward to many more.

 

Collector-Mania

This is a great time to be a collector of comics, movies, and music, three of my big passions.

When I was a boy, you could buy comics on the newsstand for 12c, but once they were gone they were gone forever. The major titles put out annuals once or twice a year that sometimes reprinted old stories, but in general, unless you could find an old comic at a flea market or the like, you were out of luck. Comic book stores began to show up in the 1970’s (though many have now closed since sales of comics have been falling for years). Today, there are several companies that reprint old comic strips or comic books into collector’s hardcover volumes, making it possible to put together a complete collection of your favorite title. I own lots of these things, including EC Horror Comics from the 1950’s (about 20 volumes), Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories by Carl Barks from the 1940’s through the 1960’s (30 volumes!), and early DC and Marvel comics. I also have runs of the Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, and Buck Rogers comic strips. While I was in Washington, a hardcover I had ordered featuring the various artists who had drawn Betty and Veronica in Archie comics came in the mail. Along with Wonder Woman, Betty and Veronica is the longest-lived comic book title with female lead characters. It’s a very nice volume of beautiful art by Dan DeCarlo, Henry Lucey, Bob Montana, and several other good artists who have drawn the comic over the past 70 years. I’ve always liked Archie comics, and as most of you are aware, was even in one in a story about microscale chemistry.

Movie-wise, more and more things are available at relatively low prices on DVDs. Yes, I know you can stream movies on Netflix, but they don’t have all that much of the older movies that I like, and besides, I like to own ‘em. I especially like movies in 3D, which was a craze in the 1950’s that got revived a few years ago, but seems to be fading out again. Too bad, because good 3D can pop your eyes out and can really add to a movie. With many movies, though, it’s used in a pretty unimaginative way, and really doesn’t add all that much. Over the break, I got a few new 3D DVD’s, of which I’ve watched two: “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “Pina”.

Many of you will remember “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” from Saturday morning monster movie shows on TV. It came out in the early 1950’s, and was the last of the great classic monsters. What I didn’t remember was that it was originally shot and shown in 3D, using the same basic techniques that are used now. Jill and I both really liked the movie (which I don’t remember every having seen before, and Jill hadn’t seen it since she was a teenager), and the 3D effects were a lot of fun. There was also a “making of” feature (only in 2D, darn it!) that was great, not only talking about how they made the monster costume and interviewing the two actors who played the Creature, but also interviewing the beautiful Julie Adams (the female lead in the movie) who had interesting things to say about acting in the movie and about her wardrobe.

“Pina” is a movie about German modern-dance pioneer Pina Bausch. The dance numbers were quite striking if a bit avant-garde for my taste. I gave up trying to understand what was going on in the numbers about half-way through the film, deciding instead to let them wash over me without trying to interpret them. The 3D in the movie was unbelievably good—huge depth of field, so much so that at times, I couldn’t tell where the borders of my TV were. 3D really adds to a movie about dance, since it gives “heft” as well as interesting perspectives to what the dancers are doing. There was also an excellent “making of” feature, also in 3D, showing how things were done. At one point, a man holding a boom mike at the side of the screen decided to shift over a bit. When he got up, it looked like someone else had been sitting in our living room, and it gave us quite a start! If you’re interested in modern dance or in innovative use of 3D, “Pina” is a great movie.

Finally, music-wise, it’s a great time if you love classical music. The major labels are issuing huge box sets of first-rate recordings for almost nothing, and I’m taking full advantage. A year or two ago, Sony put out a 60-disc set of symphonies conducted by Leonard Bernstein, mostly with the New York Philharmonic. These are great performances with marvelous remastered sound, packaged in an lp sized box with a nice softcover history of the recordings. I picked it up a little after it came out, for $80 (including postage), which comes to a little more than $1 a disc. Even when I was a boy, a record cost $4.98 for a stereo recording, so this is an incredible bargain. It has now sold out, and the price is a bit higher (about $150 last I looked). A second big box set, this time 80-discs of concertos and orchestral works conducted by Bernstein has now come out, and it just arrived in the mail. I picked it up for $100, again just a little more than $1 a disc, and I’m looking forward to listening to it.

I recently picked up the 70-disc set of Vladimir Horowitz’s complete recordings on RCA which was available again (great!), as well as a new 40-disc set of his live recordings from Carnegie Hall (also great!). On my wish list (which means I’ll probably get them in the next couple of months) are some the big box sets of recordings conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Karajan was arguably the greatest conductor of the 20th Century (though as a human being, he was much less exemplary, including having joined the Nazi party twice in the 1930’s), and I already have the big boxes of his 1950’s and 1960’s recordings on the EMI label, and from the 1960’s on Deutsche Grammophon (DGG). I’m looking at the 1970’s and 1980’s DGG boxes as well as trying to fine the EMI box set of operas that he conducted, which has been out of print for some time. It seems every time I turn around there’s another mega set of these things. They’re all tempting, but at the end of the day, how many different recordings of Beethoven and Mozart’s symphonies does anyone need?

 

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with the word “year”, in honor of the New Year. Our winner was Christina Lesyk, an adjunct faculty member at SUNY Canton. Others getting all five right included Rhonda Rodriguez and Terri Clemmo. Here are the correct answers:

  1. Expression about what you do on January 1. Happy New Year.
  2. Many schools and colleges issue them annually. SUNY Canton’s is called the Paysonian.  Yearbook.
  3. Your spouse might have this if they start talking about the person they dated before you were married. Seven Year Itch.
  4. Excellent 2013 movie based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, who was abducted and sold into slavery. 12 Years a Slave.
  5. Rolling Stones song from their “Satanic Majesties” album, it has also been done by The Tragically Hip, Sky Cries Mary, and Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade (I love all those band names!). The first few lines are: Sun turnin’ ‘round with graceful motion/We’re setting off with soft explosion/Bound for a star with fiery oceans. 2000 Light Years from Home.

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Together, each of the questions in today’s challenge relate to a number. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Curly, Larry, and Moe.
  2. Nickname for the Beatles.
  3. Movie starring Jack Nicholson about him being transferred from a prison to a mental institution.
  4. Wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
  5. Vladimir John Ondrasik III’s stage name. He’s a singer who’s top 40 hits include “Superman (It’s Not Easy)”, “100 Years” and “The Riddle (You and I)”.
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January 5, 2015

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 9, Issue 22 – January 5, 2015

 

 Happy New Year

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday break and a good time celebrating the new year. May 2015 bring you everything you and your family need, and be a time of progress, peace, and tranquility for us all.

 

It’s Different in the North Country

I’ve had a couple of experiences lately that show me that life is a little different, in a very good way, up here in the North Country.

In our new house, there are two kinds of radiators—the floorboard radiators which are in all the rooms upstairs and some of the rooms downstairs, and the flat wall radiators which are in the living room, dining room, music room, and kitchen. Up until now, the floorboard radiators have worked fine, but we never got any heat from the flat ones. I had always figured that the flat ones were part of the original set-up in the house, and had been replaced with the floorboard ones. Lately, though, with the cold weather, the living room had gotten a bit chilly, so I concluded that something was wrong. On December 31, at about 1 PM, I called Grant’s Plumbing and Heating to see if I could get someone to come by and take a look at our system, which to a layperson like me looks impossibly complicated. Reasonably enough, they said that they’d be glad to send someone, but that this would likely have to wait until after the new year. I said that was fine, but mentioned that I live right in town and the answer might be as simple as throwing some switch that I was unaware of, and if someone could just pop in for a minute to look at the system, I would appreciate it. They said they’d try. At 3:00, I got a phone call from Grant’s saying people would be coming by from a job they had just finished to take a look at 3:30. Sure enough, at 3:30, they came by. When I told them how complicated the system looked, they just smiled and said: “No problem. We’re the ones who installed it.” Within a few minutes, they diagnosed the problem—zone 3’s light indicated that the zone was working, but the pump wasn’t actually circulating anything and would immediately short out its fuse. They replaced the circulator and sure enough—heat started coming out of the flat radiators. Problem solved, by very pleasant and fast-working experts. So, within 3 hours of my initial phone call on the day before new years, I had my furnace diagnosed and repaired. I’ve never experienced service like that anywhere I’ve ever lived before.

Then, last Wednesday, I somehow managed to tear my right shoulder’s rotator cuff. I have absolutely no idea how this happened, but it started to hurt badly on Wednesday night. I figured I had just strained something, so I tried to give it some rest and got a heating pad on Thursday, but it only felt worse. By Friday, things were even worse, and the rest and heat didn’t seem to be helping. So, on Saturday, I figured I needed to go to the hospital. I drove over to Potsdam (one-handed, which was a bit challenging to put the key in the ignition and to shift gears) and walked into Canton-Potsdam hospital. After about five minutes of giving them my name and information, I was turned over to a nurse (a SUNY Canton grad!) who whisked me to a diagnosis room, took my blood pressure and some information, and told me that a physician’s assistant would be by in a minute. He was, checked a few things about how I could and couldn’t move my right arm, and said the radiologist would be by in a minute to take an x-ray. She was, the x-rays were promptly taken, and I was back in the diagnosis room. The doctor came by two minutes later, checked a few things, gave me a prescription and gave me a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. Only then did they ask what kind of insurance I had and took my card number. The whole process took about an hour.

I drove back to Canton, got the prescription filled, and took the first pill, which was a steroid called Prednisone. It seems to be doing the trick—the pain is gone if I don’t lift my arm very much, and I’ve got a bit more mobility each day, so I think things are improving. I’ll be seeing the orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday for follow up. The truly unusual part, though, was that on Sunday morning at 9:30, I got a phone call from the hospital making sure that I was feeling better, and that the steroid was working. I’ve never EVER gotten a follow up call from a hospital before, let alone a call on a Sunday.

I’m sure that everything in the North Country (or in the new year) won’t go quite this well, but this has been quite a beginning.

 

And Speaking of Good Things…

I wanted to pass along a thanks form Pat Alden, who works with the Holiday Giving Tree program that was sent to Betty Connolly and to my office:

We had a very successful year with the 2014 Holiday Giving Tree Program, and SUNY Canton helped significantly, taking care of gifts for at least 30 children.  Betty, it was so nice to work with you and I’m just sorry we didn’t connect again before your retirement.  Thanks so much for delivering all the gifts to Church and Community.  Overall, 142 families were served and 357 children, which is a significant increase over last year.  Things went pretty smoothly, but I want to say once again that the role that SUNY Canton plays in this program is important, and you made it possible.

So, I’d like to add my thanks to Betty for her fine work, and to thank everyone in the SUNY Canton family who participated in this important program that does so much good for the neediest in our community.

 

Brightening Our Winter

There was a nice article in Mother Nature Network (you can read it in its entirety here) called “Seven Cultural Concepts We Don’t Have in the U.S.” some of which I thought addressed dealing with the winter blahs in an interesting way and others of which are just plain good ideas. The title is a bit misleading, since I know plenty of people in the US who embrace one or more of these ideas, but it’s certainly true that some of them aren’t all that widespread and aren’t really part of our American “culture”. Here’s a synopsis.

IMG_7063In Denmark (rated as one of the happiest countries in the world), they have a cultural concept called hygge (“coziness”)—a coziness that can come from lots of different sources. An example given on NPR was “…a cloudy winter Sunday morning…fire in the stove and 20 candles lit to dispel the gloom. My husband, puppy and I curled up on our sheepskins wearing felt slippers, warm snuggly clothes and hands clasped around hot mugs of tea. A full day ahead with long walks on the cold beach, back for pancake lunch, reading, more snuggling, etc. This is a very hyggligt day.” The German concept gemütlichkeit is similar—its peak usage is in the winter, and it means surrounding yourself with pleasant circumstances. In Germany, this usually includes drinking good beer!

9f0755a10947e5008d871a77fbc6b96309f78ed1_lIn Norway, a concept called friluftsliv (“free air life”) says that being outside is good for people’s mind and spirit. Time spent exploring and appreciating nature falls into this concept—hiking, taking photographs, meditating, playing or dancing outdoors. While I don’t know that winter in the North Country would be my favorite time for friluftsliv, I’ll certainly try to do this most of the year. A similar concept, from Japan, is shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”), says that spending time in forests or other natural areas is good preventative medicine, since it lowers stress. Chemically speaking, the science behind this is that phytoncides (pheromones for plants) are known to lower stress when humans are exposed to them.

wabi-sabi-simple-book.163100418_stdAnother Japanese concept is wabi-sabi (“embracing the imperfect”). It celebrates objects that are worn, cracked, or patinaed, accepting the idea that life takes its toll on all of us and that we should appreciate that. It’s a concept that lends itself to recycling and reducing consumption.

Also from Japan, is kaizen (“continuous improvement”)—a business concept that encourages every employee, from top to bottom, to come up with small improvement suggestions on a regular basis. At Toyota, 60-70 suggestions from each employee are shared and implemented per year. These are small improvements, not big changes. Setting small goals for yourself or your area, and meeting them.

jugaad2Finally, from India, we have jugaad (“innovative fix”)—being able to fix something in an innovative way, or figuring out a solution that lets you get more from less. An example is what an engineering college did in Peru (where the humidity is high but there is very little rain)—they designed advertising billboards that also convert humid air into drinkable water. As a college of technology, our students should be carrying out project work in many of their courses that call on them to imagine and create innovative (and often low-tech) fixes for everyday problems. These days in higher education, with higher expectations and declining state support, practicing jugaad is not only a good idea, it’s a necessity.

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

There wasn’t one!

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

In honor of the new year, each of the questions in today’s challenge involves the word “year”. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Expression you say on January 1.
  2. Many schools and colleges issue them annually. SUNY Canton’s is called the Paysonian.
  3. Your spouse might have this if they start talking about the person they dated before you were married.
  4. Excellent 2013 movie based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, who was abducted and sold into slavery.
  5. Rolling Stones song from their “Satanic Majesties” album, it has also been done by The Tragically Hip, Sky Cries Mary, and Colonel Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade (I love all those band names!). The first few lines are: Sun turnin’ ‘round with graceful motion/We’re setting off with soft explosion/Bound for a star with fiery oceans.
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