November 16, 2012

The Weekly Blab

Volume 7, Issue 13—November 16, 2012


Almost Thanksgiving

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and since I’m taking a few extra vacation days next week, I’d like to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving.  May your turkey be plump and your mashed potatoes be smooth.

Military Appreciation

I had the pleasure of attending several of the Military Appreciation events this past week.  Historically, America hasn’t done a really good job thanking its veterans.  This goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War, after which veterans got next to nothing.  The original compensation consisted of notes redeemable for tracts of military bounty land, but limited to settlements to those of 4,000 contiguous acres or more—far more than was given to any individual soldier.  In theory, soldiers could combine their tracts to make up the necessary 4,000 acres, but in reality, how could someone find out who had the adjacent tract or communicate with them?  Most soldiers had no choice but to sell their notes to speculators.  In 1818, the Federal Pension Act was passed, giving veterans who could prove 9 months of duty in the regular army (not in a state militia) $96 per year.  Women were excluded (as they were viewed as camp followers), as were African-Americans (who were assumed to have fought for their freedom, and thereby not be deserving of further compensation).  Southern veterans were far less likely to have served in the regular army, since much of the fighting in the south consisted of what we’d now call guerilla warfare, and were thus mostly excluded as well.  Only about 3,300 soldiers ultimately received benefits.  One year later, even this was reduced—any veteran who was not in dire poverty was stripped from the rolls.

Things weren’t much better in later wars, with draft riots breaking out in the Civil War, and with poor returning soldiers marching on Washington demanding their bonus money after World War I.  Things have improved since World War II, but most veterans will tell you that there are still major problems that can occur trying to collect medical and other benefits.

I’m pleased to say that SPSU has honored our veterans during four days of varied events.   Military Appreciation Week began at noon on Monday, with a talk by Bob Kerr, a Pearl Harbor survivor.  Mr. Kerr told an audience of about 50 faculty, staff, and students about his experiences as a company clerk when Pearl Harbor was being bombed, just as he was about to leave for church in Honolulu.  He saw his sergeant get killed by a bullet coming through a window (that barely missed Kerr), and had to drive a truck for the first time (“you never know what you can do until you have to do it”) using it as an ambulance to move the wounded to the hospital.

Bob Kerr

On Monday night, Major General Larry Taylor (USMC, Ret.) spoke about how America has been prepared for the wrong kind of war five of the past six times, and how this has cost us dearly in terms of casualties.  He believes that the government’s primary responsibility is defense, and that military cutbacks have left America at great risk several times in the past, as well as today.

Larry Taylor

Tuesday was Military Appreciation Basketball Night with a tailgate, cookout, and color guard ceremony, and Wednesday had a very moving flag ceremony, with observers invited to dedicate flags in memory or in honor of a loved one, and to place the flag in the sycamore grove.  I placed two—one in honor of my wife Jill’s father, who was a World War II veteran, and one for our own Bill Barnes, who passed away a few months ago and was immensely proud of his own years of military service.

I couldn’t attend the closing ceremonies on Thursday (since I was at a conference in Rome, GA—see below), but it included the giving of awards, a luncheon, and a panel discussion.  We plan to have a similar Military Appreciation week every year.  Big thanks go to Dawn Ramsey and the Military Appreciation Committee for their excellent work in planning and executing this events.

Degree Updates

On Tuesday, Dean of Engineering Tom Currin and I went down to the Board of Regents for the vote on our proposed M.S. in Civil Engineering.  I know I’ve been in Georgia forever now because I knew at least half of the people who were there—various presidents, VP’s, faculty, BoR staff, Regents, and so on.  We got there early enough for about half an hour’s worth of handshakes, hugs, and other greetings.  I’m pleased to tell you that all went well and the degree was approved with no issues raised.  Folks should be aware that members of the BoR are scrutinizing degree proposals more closely, to ensure that there isn’t too much program duplications and to make sure that there is sufficient demand for the proposed programs.

Road Trip

Yesterday, Dean of Engineering Technology and Management Jeff Ray and I attended the College and Career Academy Summit, held at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, up in Rome.  The ride up was pleasant, with the traffic all headed the other way.  The Summit was advertised as taking place at Floyd County College and Career Academy on 100 Tom Poe Drive, but when I entered that into the GPS on my phone, it said there was no record of such a college or such an address.  When I got to Rome, I pulled into a gas station to ask if they knew where it was, but no one did.  I figured that it might be at Georgia Northwestern Tech, since they were a cosponsor of the event, and asked how to get there.  Trying to follow those directions, I missed the turn but was able to get there on a back road, which strangely enough went by a sign saying where the Career Academy and Tom Poe Drive were.  When I went there, I was informed that the meeting had been moved to Georgia Northwestern Tech after all.  Go figure.

There were about 150 people at the Summit, about half from education and half from business.  Among the speakers were Georgia State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, and TCSG Commissioner Ron Jackson.  I thought that Jeff and I were going to be the only USG people there, but then in walked Houston Davis, the Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

Anyway, the Summit focused on how high schools and higher education can work together to prepare Georgia students for future careers, heavily focusing on career academies as the primary mechanism.  Career Academies are collaborations of business and schools, organized around one or more career paths.  Students attending them take at least three courses focused on the particular career, and in some cases, do dual enrollment in college courses.  When they finish with the Career Academy, they are better prepared for work or go on to a TCSG or USG college.  A number of speakers talked about the necessary skills that students need to learn to be successful in the job market (“addressing the skills gap”), while others spoke about career areas that currently are unable to fill jobs due to lack of qualified candidates.  Many of these career areas are things we are focused on at SPSU—Engineering, Health Care Information Technology, Logistics, etc.  I recognized several of the business leaders who spoke, either because they are currently working with us, or because they are part of GEICC (I’m on their advisory board). During one of the sessions, one of the Career Academies “showcased” one of their students and how he now was about to finish high school and already had a good job working for a company in the aluminum extrusion business.  I spoke to him and his Career Academy teacher after his presentation, and was pleased to hear that his future plans include coming to SPSU to complete a degree in Electrical or Mechanical Engineering Technology.

Movie Review

Last weekend, the watching of 3D movies continued with the viewing of “Avatar”.  I hadn’t seen the movie when it first came out, though I heard from lots of people who liked it.  When I saw a copy at my favorite used CD store last Friday, I snapped it up and watched it the next day.  I thought the movie was great—it’s a science-fiction morality play set on a moon called Pandora.  There, people from Earth are trying to mine a very rare mineral (called “unobtainium”—if you can believe it!) and being violently opposed by the indigenous inhabitants of Pandora.  The hero of the movie is a marine who has lost the use of his legs, whose consciousness is transmitted to a Pandoran-like android, thus making him an avatar.  The idea is to send him to learn the Pandoran’s ways, and to convince them to leave the area where the minerals are.  The movie is a pretty heavy-handed environmental allegory, but it was exciting, touching, and had excellent special effects.  It kept my interest throughout, and got my blood boiling in all the appropriate moments.  When I looked at the reviews of the movie afterwards, I was surprised to see that almost every review was either a 10 or a 1—there was almost no middle ground.  Those who hated it thought it was way too derivative, calling it “Dances with Wolves” in outer space.   Well, I liked it anyway.

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest focused on crying or tears, and the winner is actually my sister, Drorit.  Drorit is two years younger than me and is a social worker who lives near Houston, TX.  She reads the BLAB via its link on facebook.  Drorit got a fabulous five correct, and when I asked her how she knew the fifth question, reminded me she had spent a year or so working in Okinawa.  Your prize is on its way, sis!  The top SPSU winner was Alan Gabrielli, with the fastest response with four correct, so we’ll award him a prize as well.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Someone who complains all the time.  Cry baby
  2. English new-wave band, their albums include “The Hurting” and “Songs from the Big Chair”.  Tears for Fears
  3. Movie from 1992 about the IRA kidnaping a British soldier, it starred Stephen Rea, Forest Whitaker, and Jaye Davidson.  The Crying Game
  4. Rolling Stones song beginning “It is the evening of the day/I sit and watch the children play.”  As Tears Go By
  5. Japanese Manga comic about an assassin who cries each time he kills.  Crying Freeman.

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s contest focuses on the number four.  Why?  Why not!  As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. Frankie Valli sang with them.
  2. Baked into a pie when you Sing a Song of Sixpence.
  3. Goals articulated by FDR in his State of the Union speech on January 1941.
  4. They are the harbingers of the Last Judgment.
  5. Jazz standard written by Jimmy Giuffre and played by the Woody Herman Orchestra, it also referred to the four sax players in the orchestra, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Herbie Steward, and Serge Chaloff.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Unless I get really ambitious, the BLAB will return the week after Thanksgiving.

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One Response to November 16, 2012

  1. Even though I live in Houston, I always smile as I read about SPSU in the Blab. Sure; some of it has to do with the fact that my brother Zvi is the author, and BDOC–big dude on campus. But a bigger part is that I am enjoying how this university looks forward to the challenges ahead for their students, without forgetting to look back and honor things that came in the past. Kuddos to SPSU for their Veterans Day Celebration; as well as some of the other really important things I have read about you focusing on–diversity, the skills gap and education in general. Now, when I speak to my sons about college, I always mention SPSU–that cool school in Georgia where their Uncle Zvi is. And I’m proud to have won the weekly trivia challenge. Who knew I could get so competitive…*lol*

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