October 28, 2013


Volume 8, Issue 11 – October 28, 2013


Strange Series

It’s been a strange World Series so far.  In game 1, the Red Sox blew out the Cardinals, but it all started with a bunch of errors on the part of the Cards.  The reverse happened in game 2, with the Cardinals winning because of a bunch of Red Sox errors.  Game 3 was stranger still—bottom of the ninth, and the runner is ruled safe at home due to interference?  When has that ever happened before?  In game 4, there was the bottom of the 9th pickoff, where no one has any idea why the base runner was caught napping.  I’m half-expecting a space ship to hover by during game 5 and take a routine fly ball back to Saturn, thereby converting it into a home run.

Weekly News Round-Up

Last week was a busy one with lots of interesting events.

SPSU’s annual soup cook-off was at lunchtime on Tuesday.  Fellow judges Rich Cole (Dean, ACM), Ann Lay (secretary to the Dean of ETM), Alana Kyriakakis (University Counsel) and I enjoyed the 21 different types of soup.  Choosing the winner was quite difficult, with only a point separating 1st and 2nd place on both my and the other judges’ lists.  When we compared results and picked the highest scorers, the winning soup was by Joel Fowler (Mathematics). 

On Tuesday afternoon, President Rossbacher, Ron Dempsey (VP for Advancement), Russ Hunt (Dean of Extended University) and I met with Shan Cooper (Vice President and General Manager) and two of her colleagues from Lockheed.  The meeting was to explore new ways Lockheed and SPSU could work together and support each other.  A couple of new ideas came out of this that we will be looking at in the future.

Later that evening, we all attended the annual SPSU Scholarship Dinner.  I’ve been lucky enough to have been asked to be the emcee for the past several years, and I always thoroughly enjoy it—seeing the students all dressed up and proud of their success, and thankful to the scholarship donors who help make that success possible.  Kit Trench and the Development Office did their usual great job with the logistics of the event, and when the two students closed the evening by giving short speeches about how much the scholarship support meant to them, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

On Wednesday, I was down in Macon for the annual USG Diversity Summit.  Other members of the SPSU team included Ron Koger (VP Student Enrollment Services), Sonia Toson (Business), Mary Ellen McGee (Affirmative Action Officer), Jeff Orr (Director, ATTIC), Jeff Ray (Dean of ETM), and Kami Anderson (ETCMA).  I was part of a panel speaking on “Promoting Diversity as a Community Value” facilitated by Michele Perry-Stewart (Gordon State), Liz Jiminez (Georgia State), Pearl Alexander (Georgia Tech), and Marc Muneal (Gordon State).  I was representing what administrators can do to promote diversity, and described our Cross-Cultural Conversations group and our many campus activities related to diversity.  After the talk, quite a few people came up to me saying “I didn’t know you all did so much at SPSU” or “We’re going to try to use what you all are doing as a model for our campus”. 

Other talks at the Summit focused on the recent Supreme Court Fisher Decision and its implications on higher education, concurrent sessions on “Keeping HOPE Alive” and “Successful Bridge Programs”, and a session on Strategic Diversity Leadership.  The Fisher Decision session was especially interesting from a historical point of view.  Eric Segall (Georgia State) gave a rather sobering talk on how the Supreme Court, contrary to popular belief, has generally made rulings that hindered the advance of equal rights.

On Thursday, President Rossbacher, Bill Prigge (VP Business and Finance), and I met in the morning with Renva Watterson (Interim President of Georgia Highlands) and two of her colleagues about how SPSU and GH can work together more closely.  We agreed to set up a small committee to both “pick the low-hanging fruit” and to look at some more long-range projects, with an overall goal of involving GH students more strongly into campus life and having more students transfer to SPSU when they complete their associates degrees.

The annual Pumpkin Launch was held in the afternoon, and as usual, the weather was beautiful, the crowd was large and appreciative, and the various trebuchets and catapults were quite imaginative.  Only a few pumpkins were launched backwards, though those few made the crowd scatter quickly!

Premiere Night at SPSU

A very cool event was held on Thursday evening.  Not only did the ETCMA Department show the documentary film Heaven + Earth + Joe Davis, but also hosted its Director, Peter Sasowsky.  Sasowsky is the founder of Serious Motion Pictures, a script-to-screen production company that produces documentary and narrative films, corporate communications, and media for foundations and philanthropies. In addition to producing and directing he has served as writer, editor, and motion graphics animator on numerous projects.

The film Heaven + Earth + Joe Davis won top honors at SF Indie Film Festival, and Memphis Independent Film Festival, and is the story of Joe Davis, a self-taught genius/crazy person who is a research affiliate in the Biology Department at MIT and in the George Church Laboratory at Harvard Medical School, but is also essentially homeless since neither institution pays him.  Quoting from Wikipedia:

His research and art includes work in the fields of molecular biology, bioinformatics, “space art”, and sculpture, using media including but not limited to centrifuges, radios, prosthetics, magnetic fields, and genetic material.  Davis’ works include the sculpture Earth Sphere, a landmark fog fountain at Kendall Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, near the MIT campus; RuBisCo Stars, a transmission of a message to nearby stars from the Arecibo Observatory radiotelescope in Puerto Rico, carried out in November 2009; New Age Ruby Falls, a project to create an artificial aurora using a 100,000 watt electron beam fired into the magnetosphere from a NASA space shuttle, which has not yet been carried out, and Microvenus, a piece of symbolic art involving engineering the genetic code of a microbe.

 220px-Prix_ars_electronica_2012_50_Joe_Davis_-_Bacterial_RadioJoe Davis, with the Golden Nica of the Prix Ars Electronica  2012 for his “Bacterial Radio”

The film was quite interesting, showing both the genius and craziness of Davis’ personality.  Why is he practically homeless?  Because he has no interest in making money or commercializing his work.  As he put it, “If it’s a choice between waiting for the money and doing what I want to, I’d rather do what I want to.”  It was a pleasure speaking to director Sasowsky and hearing how he got the idea of making the film and how he carried it out.  Thanks go to Ava Werner (ETCMA) and the rest of the department for hosting this event.  Let’s start working on Steven Spielberg for the next one!


Soccer Doings

Meanwhile, Chelsea continues its winning ways, beating big rival Manchester City on Sunday.  The game was great not just because Chelsea won (though that would have been good enough) but how they won.  I’ve written before about Fernando Torres.  Chelsea paid $50M for him three years ago, and he really hasn’t done very much for them in the Premier League, scoring very few goals.  On the other hand, he’s done just fine in when they play in the European Champions League, scoring quite regularly.  This season seemed to be off to a similar start, with no goals for Torres in the Premier League yet, and a bunch in the Champions League, including two on Tuesday against Schalke 04 (a strong German team), putting them in the top of their group.  Torres has been playing better this year—the “new” (he was their manager for a long period earlier, too) Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, has a lot of confidence in Torres, and has been playing him a lot.  Torres has been very aggressive lately and anyone watching him knew that something good was bound to happen sooner or later.

In the Manchester City game, Torres started badly when a ball was well placed to him just in front of the goal, with only the goalie in his way.   Torres captured the ball well, but proceeded to boot what should have been an easy score high over the goal.  Not letting it get him down, four minutes later, he got the ball and made a run for the goal, outpacing two defenders before making a perfect pass to teammate Schurrle, who tapped it in to give Chelsea the 1-0 lead.  Torres almost scored a few minutes later with a blast from well out, but it struck where the right post meets the crossbar, bouncing away.  An inch to the left and it would have been the goal of the year.  The half ended 1-0, but when play resumed, Manchester City went on a tear and tied the game up a few minutes in with a beautiful goal to the top left corner by Aguero.  Both sides battled it out, but the score remained 1-1 into the 90th minute.  The ball was then kicked into Manchester City’s half of the field, and both ManC defender Nastasic and ManC’s goalie Hart went after it.  In a horrible bit of miscommunication, Nastasic lightly headed it past Hart and toward his own goal, and Torres was on the spot, kicking it in giving Chelsea the last minute win.  Hopefully, this will be the start of many good things for Torres.

_70743939_torres_gettyTorres scores the winning goal

Speaking of Chelsea, SIS faculty member Carl Snook sent me an email asking if I had every said why I’m a Chelsea fan.  I don’t think I have, but the story is not exactly interesting. 

I like soccer, and when the Fox Sports Channel started to carry it, I decided I had to pick a team to root for.  Given that I’m a Boston Red Sox fan, it would have made some sense if I had picked Arsenal, who are sort of the Red Sox of English Premier League football—the team that often comes close, but always manages to lose in a really weird fashion.  Arsenal’s team colors are also red.  Some of you may recall that that there was a move called Fever Pitch, starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, about a guy who loved the Boston Red Sox more than his girl friend.  The movie was released in 2005 and originally had the Sox losing at the end, as usual.  Unfortunately for the filmmakers, as everyone in the universe should be aware, 2004 was the year that the Sox finally won the World Series after an 80 year drought.  Thus, they had to shoot the end of the movie again and have the Sox win.  What most folks don’t know is that Fever Pitch is a remake of a British movie of the same name (a pitch is the field upon which one plays the soccer game, so the title works for both sports), about a guy who loves Arsenal more than his girlfriend, released in 1997.  Arsenal wins too.  The British filmmakers were smarter though—their movie was about the 1988-89 season, so they already knew the ending!

Anyway, like I said, rooting for Arsenal would have made sense.  Nonetheless, when I started watching matches on the Fox Soccer Channel, I got intrigued by a Chelsea player named Didier Drogba.  When Drogba was on, nothing could stop him.  He would make spectacular goals out of seemingly nothing, and I found myself rooting for him and for Chelsea.  His last year for Chelsea was 2012, and he ended his service with a bang.  His last game was for the Champions League Championship, and not only did he tie up the game with a last minute goal, but when the overtime period didn’t yield any goals and the game went to penalty kicks, Drogba scored the winning goal on the last kick.  I was screaming my head off, as were millions of fans watching the game.  I’ve stayed loyal to Chelsea even though Drogba is no longer playing for them.  Word is he’ll be back some day as a coach or manager.


Drogba being congratulated (!) after scoring the winning goal in the Champions League, 2012


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s trivia challenge focused on India.  Tom Rotnem (SIS) was the first with all five correct, and wins a CD. Here are the correct answers:

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



This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Today’s trivia challenge focuses on the number “4”.  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. Independence Day.
  2. Derogatory term for someone with glasses.
  3. Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm.
  4. The four elements of ancient Greek cosmology.
  5. Song with the lyrics: “But our good times are all gone, and I’m bound for moving on.   I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way.”  Neil Young and Johnny Cash both sang it, among many others.
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