THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 9, Issue 7 – August 18, 2014
On the Road Again
Most of this past week was spent on the road. Here are some highlights:
Albany to visit SUNY Central
On Monday afternoon, I flew from Ogdensburg to Albany on Cape Air. Ogdensburg is the smallest airport I’ve ever been to—it’s a small square building with a single counter, a single gate, and a single runway. They do the security check a few minutes before the flight and the passengers go on the plane, which is a little six-seater. If there’s a seventh passenger, he or she has to sit next to the pilot in the copilot’s seat. The flight lasted an hour and provided beautiful views of the Adirondack Mountains. The landing was as smooth as silk. Everything was fine, except I had to wait 40 minutes to get my luggage—it seems they only had one or two people working for the airline, and they had to service their other flights (to Massena and to Boston) before they brought the luggage out. I’m told by regular fliers that the delay was quite unusual for them.
I took a taxi to my hotel, the Holiday Inn Express, very close to SUNY Central. After checking in, I asked if there was a good Indian restaurant nearby, and the hotel shuttle took me to one on Lark Street. Lark Street is Albany’s “hip” location, with lots of interesting restaurants and clubs. The restaurant, Jewel of India, was quite good, with a nice variety of food that they spice to whatever level you like. I had Samosas as an appetizer, followed by Chicken Korma and Aloo Ghobi. All were excellent, and I was truly stuffed at the end.
Tuesday was taken up by meetings with various SUNY Central staff. They are all housed in a beautiful building that formerly was the headquarters of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad, the line that goes from Albany to Montreal. The building looks like a larger version of something at Oxford University, and is quite impressive. There are a lot of good people down SUNY Central, some of which I met during the interview process. It was a pleasure to see Elizabeth Bringsjord (Interim Provost) and Bob Kraushaar (Associate Provost and Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty and Professional Development) again and to meet so many new people. All were extremely helpful and kind, offering useful advice on how to move forward with some of the degree programs we wish to add, and information about all sorts of good things, including SUNY’s international programs, OPEN SUNY, retention issues, financial aid, legal issues, and fiscal issues. Regarding the latter, the good news is that they confirmed what we already knew: we are in solid financial shape. The SUNY Central staff also frequently mentioned their counterparts at Canton, and it was great to hear the high praise they had for our administration.
On Tuesday night, I went to the “must go” restaurant in Albany, Jack’s Oyster House. I was going to order a steak, but the waitress mentioned a shrimp and scallops over angel hair pasta dinner special, and I was hooked. After a nice salad, the main course came out on a giant platter, with the shrimp, scallops, and pasta surrounded by about 50 mussels. It was fantastic! Once again, I was totally stuffed.
New York City: Meeting Senator Gillibrand
On Wednesday, it was up at 4:30 AM in order to check out, take a taxi to the Rensselaer railroad station and catch the 6:55 AM train to New York City. As it turned out, I got there a little early, in time to get the 5:55 AM train, which was just about to leave. I love riding on trains. As far as I’m concerned, it’s by far the best way to travel when you have the time, with the wide seats, big picture windows, ability to get up and walk around, and the nice dining and sleeping cars on the longer hauls. The trip was extremely beautiful, with the rails on the old New York Central’s “water level route” paralleling the Hudson River and providing spectacular views almost the whole way. The train arrived at Penn Station in Manhattan right on time, at about 8:30 AM.
It was only a seven minute walk to the Doubletree Hotel, and against all the odds despite my early arrival, they had a room ready for occupancy for me. The hotel staff there were extremely helpful—the best I’ve ever seen anywhere. I was checked in in a jiffy, complete with warm chocolate chip cookie. My room was on the 14th floor, so I was hoping for a spectacular view, but it was only of some rooftops.
I took a taxi to 3rd Avenue, to join New York’s U.S. Senator Kirstin Gillibrand for a news conference announcing her Campus Accountability and Safety Act bill providing support for victims of sexual assault on college campuses. SUNY strongly supports the Senator’s bill (as do I personally), and they had sent out an announcement, asking those who were able to come in person to attend.
There were quite a few film crews present to hear Senator Gillibrand, as well as Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer, Leslie Crocker Snyder (founder of the first Sex Crimes Prosecution Bureau in the country and coauthor of New York’s Rape Shield Law) and SUNY Commissioner of University Police, Bruce McBride all speak about the bill and their support for it. Also speaking were two brave students who spoke about their experiences having been sexually assaulted on campus and then not receiving support from their colleges after reporting the incidents. Several such incidents have been extensively written about in the press.
Our own SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher was the first university system chancellor to support the bill. Her statement noted:
“SUNY has a long and unwavering commitment to combating sexual assault and we strongly support Senator Gillibrand in her efforts to make this pressing issue a national priority just as we have done here in New York. With resources, training, expert and caring staff from law enforcement to attorneys to student affairs all working together to protect and assist students, SUNY can and should be a national model. Under Senator Gillibrand’s leadership Washington is coalescing and is poised to act, making college campuses safer so we can grow our public mission of educating more students and educating them better than anywhere else in the world.”
The bipartisan bill includes provisions to create campus resources and support services for student survivors of sexual assault; setting minimum training standards for on-campus personnel; setting new transparency requirements for campus reporting of sexual violence (with penalties for those who don’t); creation of a uniform process for campus disciplinary proceedings; and requiring MOU’s providing for coordination with law enforcement when the victim requests it.
It was a real honor to meet Senator Gillibrand, who has been in the forefront of the national movement to stop sexual violence in the military and on campuses. She was kind enough to mention me in her press release, which you can read in its entirety here. On the way out, I was briefly interviewed by FIoS, which is a cable service in the New York City area. You can see me here, though you’ll see they mangled my name a bit.
Partying with Canton Alumni
After the press conference, I walked down one of the side streets to find a restaurant for lunch. Jackpot—I spotted the Bukhara Restaurant, an excellent (you guessed it) Indian buffet. It had all my usual favorites—tandoori chicken, saag paneer, aloo ghobi, etc., as well as very nice chili chicken and shrimp bhuna. I was only sorry I didn’t have two stomachs.
I got a text from David Gerlach (VP of Advancement at SUNY Canton) just as I started eating, saying that he and Jamie Burgess (Alumni Development Associate) had just arrived in the city. They met me at the restaurant after lunch, and we had a nice walk across Manhattan back to the hotel. If you ever want to see Manhattan on foot, walking on 50th St. from 3rd Avenue to Broadway, then on 48th St. to 8th Avenue is the way to do it. You get to see lots of famous sights, including the NBC Studios, Rockefeller Plaza, Radio City Music Hall, Saks Fifth Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Paramount Plaza, the location on Broadway where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, and multiple Broadway theatres. It was a bit muggy, and by the time we reached the hotel, I was thoroughly soaked.
We went back to our rooms, and I had a shower, caught up with some email, and had a brief rest. At about 5:00, we went over to the Houndstooth pub, just around the corner, for an alumni gathering. The party was hosted by Tom Walsh and Meghan O’Sullivan Walsh, and held in an attractive private function room in the pub’s basement. It was a lot of fun to meet our alumni and tell them about recent changes at the college and some future plans. Dave had each alum introduce him or herself, and give a reminiscence about Canton. It was wonderful to hear so many stories of success that each attributed to the excellent start they got at the College. Several of the alumni offered to help us in various ways (thanks for volunteering, Darnella Valentino and Richard Ng!). The gathering had a nice spread of fruit, veggies, and appetizers, and the beer was excellent as well. The party finished at about 10 PM, and we trudged back to the hotel, exhausted.
On Saturday, I drove down to Saratoga Springs for another alumni event, this time at the world-famous Saratoga Racetrack. I was lulled into a false sense of security getting off the highway, since the traffic was light. Turning onto route 9P, it quickly became bumper to bumper with the racetrack crowd. I found a parking space in a restaurant parking lot by the entrance ($30!), and walked in to the park. I’d been to Saratoga for concerts as a boy growing up in Syracuse, but had never been at the racetrack before. The racetrack drew what seemed like 50,000 people that day, which also featured pleasant 72° weather. The gathering was in the Carousel, a restaurant area on the second floor of the grandstand, where we had our own reserved area. There was an excellent turnout of about 50, and everyone had a good time reminiscing and betting on the races, as well as enjoying an excellent buffet. Dave, Jamie, and I gave out prizes for the alum who had come to the event the most times (Mike and Wendy Spina), for the person or couple with the best hat (Angela Gray and Jay Simmons), and for the one who won the most by the 5th race (Charles Obermayer).
Once again, it was great to meet our alumni and connect with them and their times at the College. I also had the chance to meet three former faculty members, John Shapazian, Gil Schugart, and Mike Gordon, and had a nice chat about the “old days”. John has a whole new career these days—he’s one of the most successful handicappers in America! How cool is that?
I left at about 5:00 PM for the drive back to Canton, getting back at about 9:00 PM with some rain along the way.
This past week had two family celebrations for the Szafrans.
August 9th was my parents’, Daniel and Simona’s 61st anniversary. They met at a party in Israel on April 28, 1953, and just a little more than three months later, they were married. You can see that my parents don’t waste any time! Two years later, they had me. Not too many people get to their 50th anniversary, let alone past their 60th, and they still act like newlyweds.
August 14th was my sister, Drorit’s birthday—she is now 57 and was born in 1957. Her name comes from the Hebrew word “dror”, meaning freedom, with the female diminutive ending “it”. When I was little, I couldn’t pronounce here name, so I called her “Dulda”, and I’m the only one allowed to still call her that. She is a social worker who lives near Houston, Texas, and has tremendous compassion for everyone who she works with.
Last Week’s Trivia Contest
Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with Canton’s mascot, the kangaroo. Our winner was Janel Smith. Others getting all five included Greg Kie, John Jodice, Rajiv Narula, and Renee Campbell. Here are the correct answers:
- Only continent on which kangaroos are found native (other than in Canton, NY). Australia.
- Infraclass of mammals, including kangaroos, that carries their young in pouch. Marsupials.
- Where the judge has already decided the verdict before hearing the evidence. Kangaroo Court.
- Children’s TV show, also starring Mr. Green Jeans and Mr. Moose. Captain Kangaroo.
- 2003 movie starring Jerry O’Connell, about two NY friends who get caught up with the mob and have to deliver $50,000 to Australia. Kangaroo Jack.
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
It’s summertime in the North Country, and the corn is in full bloom. Our quiz, therefore, has all answers having something to do with “corn”. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO firstname.lastname@example.org since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!
- A stale joke is said to be this.
- General MacArthur used one to smoke.
- Short story by Stephen King, it became a pretty so-so movie in 1984 and an even lousier one in 2009.
- Horn of plenty.