April 7, 2014


Volume 8, Issue 29 – April 7, 2014


A New York State of Mind…

Last Wednesday, after teaching my 8:00 AM Inorganic Chemistry class, I made a quick trip into New York City last week for the official vote of the State University of New York (SUNY) Board of Trustees. Every time I’ve flown recently, I’ve run into snowstorms, so I was wondering what would show up this time. As it turned out, nothing for me, but I heard that it had snowed in Canton over the previous weekend. The flight from Atlanta to NYC-Laguardia was uneventful. It left on time and I had one of those extra legroom seats. We landed on time, I hopped into a taxi, and 30 minutes and almost $50 later, I was in midtown Manhattan at the Hilton.

A small group of folks from SUNY-Canton had driven down for the official vote and to lend support: Dr. Joseph Hoffman (the interim president), Michaela Young (the assistant to the president), Karen Spellacy (interim provost), and Lenore VanderZee (director of university relations). I had met them previously during the campus interview, and it was nice seeing them all again and having a chance to talk to them further. Later that evening, we all went out to Remi, a nice Italian restaurant nearby.  The risotto was excellent!

On Friday, it was breakfast at Lindy’s with Dr. Hoffman. Lindy’s is a pretty well known breakfast place in Manhattan, where the Broadway crowd goes to eat. All the breakfasts there are named after famous people. I had the “Ray Romano”, which is two eggs, bacon, hash browns, and a big waffle, along with orange juice and coffee. Having watched Everybody Loves Raymond throughout its run, I would have expected it to include some lemon chicken, but whatever. After breakfast, I had a set of meetings with Michaela, Karen, and Lenore, just to get to know each other a little better. Afterwards, we all walked over a few blocks to SUNY’s Global Center on East 55th Street.

The open trustees meeting began with Chancellor Nancy Zimpher saying a few words about me and my background, followed by the board of trustees’ secretary calling for the official vote (which was positive). They then called on me to come to the podium and say a few words. Chancellor Zimpher then gave a similar introduction for Dr. Kristin Esterberg, provost of Salem State University in Massachusetts, who was then voted in as the new president of SUNY-Potsdam, a college that’s 10 miles away from Canton. The trustees wanted to introduce and vote in both north-country presidents at the same time, and up to that point, who had been selected for the Potsdam position had been a secret. The Canton-Potsdam area actually has four colleges there, namely the two SUNY’s and two private universities, St. Lawrence University, and Clarkson. The four presidents and colleges work closely together to support development in northern New York. In the small-world department, the interim president at SUNY-Potsdam, Dennis Hefner, was someone I knew, since he was the former president of SUNY-Fredonia, and I had interviewed there and met him back in 2005, at the same time as I interviewed for the VPAA position at SPSU.

After the vote, we walked to Michael’s, another nice restaurant for lunch. I tried to stay true to Georgia by ordering a pizza with mushrooms and Vidalia onions.  We all then checked out of the hotel, and Dr. Hoffman was kind enough to give me a ride back to Laguardia. We left the hotel at 4:00, and with the Manhattan traffic I didn’t think I was going to catch my return flight, which was leaving at 5:20. We got to the airport at 4:50 PM, and fortunately, Laguardia has separate security check-in’s for each of its buildings, and I was TSA Pre-checked. Thus, it only took me three minutes to go through security and my plane was leaving only two gates away. When I got there, they were loading zone 1 (which I was in), so I just walked right onto the plane. Another nice surprise—when I got to my row, the person in the aisle seat offered to switch seats with me, since she was friends with the person in the window seat, and wanted to talk to her. The return flight was otherwise uneventful, other than having to wait a little while after landing since there wasn’t an open gate for us to go up to. We still arrived on time, and I was home by 9 PM. Friday, it was back full circle, teaching Inorganic Chemistry at 8:00 AM.


Everything’s Better in 3-D

I’ve seen a couple of good movies lately, which I’d like to recommend to the few of you who haven’t already seen them.

First up is Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. We’d picked up the 3D-DVD a few weeks ago, but this was the first chance I’d had to watch it. Gravity got very good reviews and it was easy to see why. The special effects were first-rate and reminded me of the 3D IMAX documentary about the Space Station that I’d seen a year earlier. In fact, some of the scenes seemed to be taken directly from the documentary. The acting was also excellent, and the plot kept us riveted throughout. The basic story is that an accident occurs when the Russians destroy a defunct satellite of theirs, and the debris from the satellite winds up destroying the space station. Ultimately, Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) has to make her way to a Chinese space station to get back to Earth, with the clock ticking against oxygen loss and several other perils. The movie takes place in “real-time”—it lasts about 90 minutes, and covers about 90 minutes of time in Dr. Stone’s life. Pretty cool, and a big thumb’s up from both Jill and me.

Another good 3D film is Thor: The Dark World, continuing a pretty good run of films based on characters in Marvel Comics. I’ve always liked Thor, having bought the comic since 1966 or so. The movie is pretty true to the comic, with a few updates from the 60’s comics that don’t do any harm to the stories. The special effects are excellent. Chris Hemsworth is very true to the comic book personality and action orientation of Thor, and Natalie Portman is a somewhat updated version of Jane Foster, Thor’s earthly love interest. In the comic books, Thor was originally Donald Blake, a lame doctor who finds a walking staff that if he strikes it on the ground, turns him into Thor. Jane was his nurse. In the movie, the Don Blake storyline is dropped, and Jane is an astrophysicist of sorts. The plot of the movie has the dark elves wanting to take over the universe when the nine worlds (which are the Norse mythological worlds, not the nine planets) move into an alignment called the convergence. It provides lots of opportunities for grand battle scenes and lots of destruction, both of Asgard and of Greenwich, England. Jill and I enjoyed it as much as The Avengers, and I’d put it among the top of the list for this type of movie.

Finally, Jill and I both enjoyed a fairly obscure older movie (from 1942) called I Married a Witch, starring Veronica Lake. The story begins with Jennifer and her father Daniel being burned to death back in 1672 for being witches by puritan Jonathan Wooley. Somewhat surprisingly, it is quickly revealed that they actually were witches and somewhat nasty ones at that. As she is burned, Jennifer puts a curse on Wooley that he and his descendants will never find happiness in love. The puritans plant an oak tree over their bones so that they won’t be able to come back to life, but in modern times, a lightning bolt hits the tree, releasing their spirits. Jennifer then goes off to find the Wooley’s descendant (played by Frederic March), who is running for governor and engaged to be married the next day to a rather irritating society woman (Susan Hayward). Jennifer wants to really give him trouble by giving him a love potion so that he’ll fall in love with her instead, but as these things usually go, things don’t go exactly as planned. It’s a pretty funny movie of the screwball comedy type, and the wedding scenes are especially funny. The television show Bewitched is clearly based on several elements of this movie. Also of interest is that the two stars, Lake and March, absolutely detested each other in real life. The DVD is on the Criterion label, which means it is of really nice quality.


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with the word “horn”. Our winner was Marietta Monaghan, first to get all five right. Also getting them all were Joel Fowler, Ronny Richardson, Marka Ormsby, Patrick McCord, and Mark Stevens. Here are the correct answers:

  1. SPSU’s mascot. Hornet.
  2. He stuck in his thumb, and pulled out a plum. Little Jack Horner.
  3. The giant rooster-like Looney Tunes cartoon character who spoke with a southern accent, for example: “You gotta—I say, you gotta keep on your toes. Toes, that is.” Foghorn Leghorn.
  4. To bamboozle.  Also professional wrestler Dylan Postl in the WWE. Hornswoggle.
  5. Britt Reid, who fought criminals and drove a car named “the Black Beauty”. The Green Hornet.


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s trivia challenge has all answers involving the word “green”.  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. Wisconsin-based football team.
  2. Television show set in the fictional town of Hooterville, starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor.
  3. Book featuring the character Sam-I-Am, it is the 4th best-selling children’s book of all time and contains only 50 different words.
  4. Science fiction movie from 1973 starring Charlton Heston, about a wafer that’s supposedly made out of plankton (but we ultimately find out isn’t).
  5. Song by the Lemon Pipers, some credit it as the first bubblegum #1 pop song.
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