March 20, 2014

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 8, Issue 27 – March 20, 2014

 

Time is Speeding Up

We all learn that time is constant in school—one minute is the same as any other minute in duration.  Of course, we know that isn’t true—some minutes are much longer than others.  As Einstein once said about relativity, “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute.”

In the spring semester, time speeds up dramatically, so much so that it’s very hard to get everything done.  On the positive side, the promotion, tenure, and reappointment documents are all done; papers are all graded; notes up on D2L for the next chapter; and I even got the OWG reports I was doing in on time.   On the negative side, I’m off on a SACS accreditation visit this afternoon and won’t be back until Thursday, assuming the weather doesn’t interfere (and as of my typing this, it looks like it might).  I can only imagine what will be waiting on my desk for me to do.

One problem with the time speed-up is that there isn’t time to watch or listen to all the cool stuff I run into and have to buy.  You’d think I’d be smart enough to know how to compensate—slow down the buying as time speeds up—but no, when I see it compulsive me still has to have it.

This past weekend, I picked up the 3D DVDs of the movies Gravity and Thor: The Dark World, and DVD sets of the 3rd and 4th seasons of the Gene Autry Show and the complete run of Firefly.  I already had the 1st and 2nd seasons of Gene Autry and they’re excellent 1950’s fun, so I’m looking forward to the newer seasons.  I’ve never seen an episode of Firefly, but since it’s created by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame), and is Sheldon’s (on the Big Bang Theory) favorite TV show, it must be great.  Firefly is #5 on the TV guide list of “shows that were cancelled too soon”.

Music-wise, I continue to accumulate super-audio CDs whenever I spot them.  What’s nice is that I’m buying a bunch (just because they’re SACDs) by musicians I otherwise wouldn’t have given a try, and many of them turn out to be quite good.  Some recent examples include:

  • The Persuasions Sing the Beatles:  The Persuasions are an a cappella group who with no accompaniment do a variety of Beatles songs—their version of “Imagine” is especially good.
  • Dark Clouds by Stu Goldberg & Cassius Khan:  This is a pretty and exotic world-style jazz album, done on piano, table, percussion, with limited vocals. 
  • Britannia, performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conducted by Donald Runnicles:  A very nice recording of well known British classical music by Elgar (Pomp and Circumstance Marches 1 and 4) and Britten (Sinfonia da Requiem), as well as some by lesser known composers such as Turnage (Three Screaming Popes) and Peter Maxwell Davies (An Orkney Wedding).  All are beautifully played, though some compositions are (ahem) better than others.
  • All Around Man by Bottleneck John:  This is a collection of Mississippi blues sung by a Swedish (!) musician using bottleneck slide technique on (usually) a metal guitar.  I’m not sure why I find a Swedish blues player so unusual—after all, there are certainly enough Swedish jazz musicians.  In any event, this 2013 release seems to be his first and only album, and it’s first-rate.

That’s not to mention the six long boxes of comics accumulated since January just waiting for me to read them.

 

OWG News

In OWG 22 (the one dealing with promotion, rank, and tenure), we’re making good progress in reviewing the P&T process.  The main items discussed were regarding outside letters and whether someone could get tenured without simultaneously getting promoted to associate professor.  With regard to letters, the committee decided to recommend that beginning in Fall 2015, outside letters be required (which is a change from KSU’s current practices), with a minimum of three letters required for promotion from assistant to associate professor, and of five letters from associate to full.  Comments will only be solicited on scholarly work and on professional activity, and the writer cannot be a co-author or a previous research advisor (which is a change from SPSU’s current practices).   No one will be “grandfathered” from this requirement.  The committee also voted to recommend that promotion must be earned prior to or simultaneously with tenure.

These recommendations have generated a lot of comments and concerns up at KSU, and some here at SPSU.  To address some of the comments I’ve seen:

  • Why should the outside letters address only research and professional service?  Why not teaching?  Generally, that IS what outside letters address.  An outside reviewer generally is not familiar with your teaching (how could they be?), and would only be interpreting your SIR results, or perhaps saying something like “I saw Dr. Jones give a talk at a conference.  The talk was good, so I’m sure he/she is a good teacher.”  Obviously, not very helpful.  Outside people will be more likely to be familiar with your scholarly work or professional service, and thus have something useful to say about it.
  • Who will choose who writes the outside letters?  No formal recommendation on this yet, but a common method is that the faculty member proposes five names, and the chair chooses three of them, or something like that.
  • Why exclude outside letters from co-authors?  The committee argued about this one.  Some members felt that we should allow one of the letters to be from a co-author.  Others felt that co-authors couldn’t be objective reviewers—they’d be reviewing (in part) themselves.  The latter view had the majority of votes on the committee, but we’ll revisit the issue at our meeting tomorrow.
  • Why not grandfather current faculty from this requirement?  This type of comment came mostly from KSU faculty, since SPSU already requires outside letters.  If we don’t require them for KSU faculty, we’ll have two different systems at consolidation, which would be unfair.  In any event, everyone on the committee felt that this wasn’t an increase in any expectation for scholarly work or service, it was merely asking some people to comment on the current expectations.  Thus, since there was no increase in expectation, there was no need to grandfather.  No doubt this will be discussed again too.
  • Since published papers have already gone through a rigorous review, what is the point of the outside letters?  Not every faculty member has journal publications as part of their package, so not every faculty member will have gone through a rigorous review in this way.
  • Three letters (associate) and five letters (full) are too many.  I personally argued for less, but this was the consensus of the committee.  Again, we’ll discuss this again at our next meeting.

If you have any comments regarding these recommendations, please contact me or one of the other SPSU members of the OWG (Al Churella, Tom Currin, Adrienne King, or Becky Rutherfoord).

 

Upcoming Cross-Cultural Events

The big event for March comes on Thursday, March 20, at 6:00 PM in the Student Theatre.  Cynthia Cooper, the accountant who was VP of Internal Audit at WorldCom and discovered a $3.8 billion fraud there in 2002, will be speaking and here for a book signing.

More events are scheduled for March and beyond.  A full list can be found at the Cross Cultural Conversations BLOG, here.  Please encourage your students to attend these events, and come by yourself.

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with the word “West”.  Our winner and the only person to get all five right was Mark Vickrey, continuing the SIS Department’s dominance of this contest.  Diane Payne and wife Jill got four correct.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Great television show starring Robert Conrad, later a rotten movie starring Will Smith.  Wild Wild West.
  2. Well known sex-therapist and radio/TV personality, born in 1928.   Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
  3. Originally the major telegraph company, it’s now a way to send money electronically.  Western Union.
  4. Major US manufacturer of home electronics, its motto was “You can be sure if it’s                        ”.   Westinghouse.
  5. Only Elton John album with “west” somewhere in the title, released in 1975.  Rock of the Westies.

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

To prove that the BLAB is always fair and balanced, this week’s trivia challenge has all answers having to do with judges.  As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  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. Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr.
  2. 1961 movie having to do with the Nazi War Trials following WWII, starring Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster.
  3. She wears a doily on the neck of her robe on her TV show.
  4. Tagline originally introduced by Pigmeat Markham, later used by Flip Wilson on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.
  5. Carrying his lawgiver and riding his lawmaster, he is the law.
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