October 21, 2013


Volume 8, Issue 10 – October 21, 2013


All Is Well With The World

Every so often, everything seems to just go right.  This weekend was one of those times.  Saturday, Chelsea started the day by beating Cardiff City (admittedly not the best of teams) by a convincing 4-1, and the Red Sox ended the day by coming from behind with another grand slam and beating the Tigers 5-2.  Chelsea is now in second place in the Premiere League, only 2 points behind Arsenal.  The Red Sox?  They’re off to the World Series, playing President Rossbacher’s favorite team, the Cardinals.  Depending on how things go, expect to see smiles or frowns on the various faces of the senior staff.

Sunday was a beautiful day, so we drove out to Alpharetta for our usual day of shopping.  On the way, we were listening to the first disc in the King Curtis box set, Blow Man Blow!, which showed up in the mail on Saturday.  For those who aren’t cool, King Curtis is an absolutely great musician who started with the Lionel Hampton big band, going into rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950’s with the Coasters (he’s the one with the great sax riffs in “Yakety Yak”).  The set covers his music in the early 60’s on the Capitol label, where he began to explore R&B.  He’s got a good voice, but most of the cuts are straight instrumentals and they’re all absolutely great.  You can hear a great live performance of his below.

Later in his career, he played with a number of major musicians, including Aretha Franklin and John Lennon, and recorded the theme song for the TV show Soul Train.   King Curtis also has an SPSU connection, via our most famous musician student, Joe South.  King Curtis played the sax parts on South’s song “Games People Play”.  Another kinda famous musician also played on that song—the guitar parts were by Duane Allman.

At the store, I picked up 3D Blu-rays of Pacific Rim and of The Wizard of Oz.  It will be interesting to see how good the 3D is on the latter, since the original wasn’t shot in 3D.

With live action movies, the results of adding 3D to a movie not originally shot that way are often not so great—I’ve gotten Top Gun and I, Robot in 3D, and frankly, the 3D added nothing to either one—they were better without it.  Jurassic Park’s 3D effects were pretty good, however, and improved the quality of the experience.  Disney and others are converting lots of animated movies into 3D and with animation, it usually goes well.  Finding Nemo, Toy Story (all three of them), Beauty and the Beast, and Lion King all looked great in 3D, despite not originally being made that way.  I recently picked up the four Shrek movies in 3D and watched the first of them last night.  I’d seen it before in 2D, but remembered almost none of the plot, so it was like watching it for the first time.  The 3D was very good, and both Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy were very funny in it.  I’ll let you know how The Wizard of Oz turned out when I see it.

I also picked up a 4-disc box set called Cameo Parkway of hit singles on the Cameo and Parkway labels from 1957-1967.  The set is great, starting with Charlie Gracie singing “Butterfly” (always liked that one), followed up with “Fabulous” (which I’d never heard before, and sounds just like Elvis).  Other groups include Jerry Arnold and the Rhythm Captains, Billy Scott, The Playboys, The Hippies, The Rays, Chubby Checker, John Zacherle, The Applejacks, Georgie Young and the Rockin’ Bocs, Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker, the Dovells, The Orlons, and The Cameos, and that’s just on the first disc!  It was perfect music on a beautiful day for the ride home.


Weekend at Their House with Joyce and Lev

Saturday’s weather wasn’t so hot, so it was a perfect day for staying indoors.  Fortunately, I had gotten an invitation to visit Joyce Mills (our former Director of the Library) to see an art exhibit at her home.  Jill, Mark and I drove down there at 2 PM.  Joyce and her artist husband Lev live in a lovely 2-story brick house with a nice deck opening into a gazebo in the back.  The main floor of the house is filled with beautiful artwork—some by Lev, some by his students (he was the Art Department Chair for many years at Spellman College), and some he had picked up along the way.  Joyce had told me that her husband was an artist, but I had never had the opportunity to see his artwork before.

The furniture in their house was stunning.  One item that particularly caught my eye was a cabinet that looked like a 1940’s Wurlitzer jukebox, but actually contained a stereo system at the bottom and wine glasses at the top.  Lev designed the living room layout himself, removing a wall and replacing it with semi-columns that he uses to display vertical pieces of art.  There is a lovely decorated-top table in the living room, and an even more attractive one in the dining room, matched by six 1950’s modern Italian chairs and surrounded by his students’ artwork, including one the size of a wall.  “It took a long time to frame that one,” he said.  Looking at their beautiful home, I turned to Jill and said “We’ve got to get rid of all our old furniture and start over.”

We all went downstairs where they had recently redone their basement, which has been converted into an art gallery of Lev’s works.  Lev’s art spans a lot of different styles, many of them multimedia.  The first three were works honoring his grandmother, with others focusing on the civil rights movement and life in Atlanta.  His work in the early 1970’s employed use of mathematical symbols on lithographs and serigraphs, and his more recent work is generated in part on computers.  He even published a book of poetry and etchings entitled “I Do”.  Lev’s art can be found at the Spellman Gallery, the High Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and in art galleries around the world.  In Atlanta, his work can be found in many major buildings, including a glass mosaic mural in a MARTA train station, the Atrium floor design in the City Hall Annex, a mixed-media construction at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, and a glass mosaic mural in the courtyard of the Atlanta Board of Education building.

SomethingsComingSomething’s Coming” by Lev Mills, Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia

 Various friends and colleagues of Joyce and Lev’s were there, including our own Jeff Orr and Maryellen McGee.  Many of them were artists and musicians, and it was a pleasure to meet and talk with them, while enjoying various kinds of salads, croissants, lemonade, and cake.  When it was time for us to leave, Maryellen’s little red sports car had blocked us in the driveway, so I had to interrupt her from enjoying the refreshments to move her car.  “I knew you’d get me as soon as I sat down to eat!” she said.

It was wonderful to see Joyce again, especially at such a nice party.



Last Week’s Round-Up

Last week was filled with interesting meetings and events, so here’s a brief synopsis.

SPSU held its second Polyday celebration on Monday evening, October 14.  The food was good, the weather was nice, and lots of friends of the University were there.  After a few speeches, President Rossbacher and Ron Dempsey announced the total that had been raised—more than $300,000, double last year’s total and more than 50% above this year’s goal of $200,000.  The Academic Affairs office even won one of the awards for having 100% of its persons having contributed (“All two of them!” said Kathy Bedette, one of the Polyday co-chairs, having hear me say it.)  Congratulations to Ron and all the Polyday volunteers.  Everyone agreed that each year’s goal should be double the previous year’s in the future, so we should be rolling in dough in about 10 years.

On Tuesday, I attended an executive board meeting of the Georgia Energy and Industrial Construction Consortium (GEICC), on which I represent the University System of Georgia.  The meeting was held at Oglethorpe Power Corporation in Tucker.  GEICC supports education, especially in areas related to (obviously) energy and construction areas.  They are interested in working with SPSU to develop curriculum and pathways for high schools students to pursue STEM careers, and are working with our ET departments.

On Wednesday, I was down in Macon for the Regents Advisory Committee on Academic Affairs (RACAA), of which I am past-chairman.  In fact, I was acting chairman for the meeting, since the actual chair had a family event which caused her to miss the meeting.  The meeting started at 9:30, so I left the house a little past 7:00 to make sure I would get there on time.  Naturally, with plenty of time, there was almost no traffic in Atlanta, and I got to Macon at 8:45.  I put my parking pass in the back window, and noticed for the first time that the meeting was at Middle Georgia State College, not at Macon State as it had been for previous meetings.  I had a moment of panic that I was at the wrong college, but then realized that Macon State had merged with Middle Georgia College and I was in the right place after all.

I went to the registration desk and found that they didn’t have a nametag for me.  When I told the assistant my name, she said I hadn’t registered for the meeting.  I was positive that I had, and when she checked the computer, the assistant said I had registered for the Diversity Summit (which is this coming Wednesday, also in Macon).  I insisted that I had registered for both, so she suggested I call up my secretary and see how I had paid.  I was dialing the number when the assistant asked: “What’s you’re secretary’s name?”  I looked at the nametags, and sure enough, there was one there for Debbie Patrick.  I told them Debbie wasn’t coming, I was, and all was set.

The meeting covered a number of important issues.  I’ll just touch on a few of general interest here, and give the full rundown at the upcoming Deans Meeting (and perhaps in the next BLAB).

  • Due to the Affordable Care Act, there will need to be a change in the way that full-time temporary faculty are classified and hired in the future, and in the way that part-time faculty become eligible for benefits.  More details will follow as policies are developed, but in general, the new policies will be to the benefit of those faculty, so no one need worry.
  • Faculty need to be aware that they have responsibility to students needing learning accommodations beyond saying “you need to self-disclose to the Disabilities Office”.  This is especially true for faculty teaching online and hybrid courses, where accommodations for blind students (for example) need to be built into the online materials, so that electronic screen readers will be able to find alternative text tags for pictures and equations.
  • Something I’d not heard before is that comfort animals are now acceptable as a learning accommodation.  A comfort animal is an animal that reduces stress for students with various mental health issues.  Students wanting to bring a comfort animal need a letter from a doctor or psychiatrist to disability services stating that it is medically necessary.
  • The Advisory Committee on Mathematics has recommended that non-STEM majors, in general, should not use College Algebra as their Area A course, or Pre-Calculus as their Area D course.  They suggest instead that Quantitative Skills and Reasoning (MATH 1001) or Mathematics Modeling (MATH 1101) be the Area A course, and a statistics course be used for Area D, as these will be more useful to non-STEM students and will have a higher student success rate (70% plus on average).
  • Various “new” strategies are being promoted to improve graduation rates.  These include 15 to Finish (which encourages and gives financial incentives for students to take at least 15 credits each term), block scheduling, development of 4-year on-time program maps for each degree program, and increasing reverse transfer.
  • Faculty need to report their sick days, even if another faculty member covers for them in their classes.
  • A new “Amorous Relations” policy has been established to make it crystal clear that faculty or staff who engage in amorous relationships with students over which they have any authority can lose their jobs, even if tenured.
  • In the future, everything will be considered by the BoR not from an institution-centered perspective, but from a student-centered perspective.

On the way home, traffic was flowing nicely until I hit the I-75/I-285 interchange, where it stopped moving.  By the time I hit Marietta, it was 6:40 and I had missed Brian Kemp, the Secretary of State’s visit to campus.  Fortunately, Ronnie Richardson was there to jump in and introduce him, and I hear the event went well.

On Thursday, the Cross-Cultural Conversations group sponsored the visit of Mr. Ajit Kumar, the Consul General of India to SPSU.  There was a reception at 5:15 and the Consul General was expected to arrive at 5:45.  Earlier in the day, he had been in Washington DC, and his flight to Atlanta had landed on time.  Unfortunately, he hit the same traffic jam I did, a day later.  At about 6:30, there was still no sign of Mr. Kumar, though we had heard that he was caught in traffic five miles away at 6:10.  Fortunately, there was still plenty of food at the reception, and no one in the audience of about 40 had left.  We were just about to give up when he arrived at 6:40, and taking a sip of water, went directly to his presentation.  The Consul General spoke about the strong ties between the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and how this was in part responsible for the locating of the new consulate in Atlanta.  A statue of Mahatma Gandhi may be found in the King Center, donated by the government of India.  He also spoke about various economic and educational issues in India, as well as certain aspects of Indian culture.  After answering some questions about developing new universities in India and about social equalization policies, the visit ended with the taking of several photos with the students and faculty present.  A little later, Mr. Kumar, Raj Sashti, Viren Mayani (a board member of the Asian American Heritage Foundation and the Gandhi Foundation, and the president-elect of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce), Rich Cole (Dean of ACM) and I went out to dinner at Schillings, where we had a pleasant conversation including about how SPSU could become more involved with Indian Universities and the Indian-American community.

On Friday, SPSU and the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies cohosted a conference on “Infusing Latin American Studies in the Curriculum”.  Faculty from about a dozen USG universities were there, and I had the pleasure of welcoming them to the conference.  Latin America plays a huge role in the US and world economy. Political relations between the US and the various Latin American nations have historically gone up and down.  Today, nations such as Brazil and Mexico have very strong economies, are successfully beginning to deal with social inequality, and are pursuing independent foreign policies.  An understanding of Latin America is critical to having an up to date global perspective.  Thanks go to Raj Sashti for organizing the conference, as well as the visit of the Consul General from India.

At noon, I repeated the talk on “A Business Model Under Stress” that I had given earlier at the ALC.  About a dozen faculty came, and several more asked if I would be willing to share a podcast of the talk (yes—pop me an email and I’ll send you the link).   The talk went well, there was plenty of pizza, and there were lots of questions and discussion.  I think this is a good format for informal discussions, so I think I’ll schedule similar meetings in the future every couple of weeks on various topics.


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s trivia challenge focused on superhero origins.  Ronnie Richardson was the first to get all five correct, and wins a CD.  Two got four out of the five: Misty York (ETCMA), and Jonathan Lartigue (CSSE).  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Born on the planet Krypton, rocketed to earth as a baby.  Superman.
  2. Parents killed while going to the movies, son swears vengeance on all criminals.  Batman.
  3. Rocket ship affected by cosmic rays.  Fantastic Four.
  4. Man without fear given ring of power by dying alien.  Green Lantern.
  5. Homeless boy wanders into abandoned subway station.  Captain Marvel (Shazam). 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Today’s trivia challenge focuses on India.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO zszafran@spsu.edu, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. He advocated peaceful protest against British rule in India, and is considered the father of Indian independence.
  2. Popular slang term for the center of movie production in India.
  3. Largest river in India.
  4. Delicious Indian dish predominantly made up of potatoes and cauliflower.
  5. Current prime minister of India, I co-wrote five books with someone who has the same name.
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