THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 9, Issue 21 – December 22, 2014
Not Quite Weekly…
It’s been a few weeks since the last issue of the BLAB. I’ve been on the road a lot at alumni and SUNY events. When I’ve been on campus, I’ve been in back-to-back meetings, which pile up whenever I’m on the road. Something had to give, and for the past few weeks, what gave was this blog. Anyway, I’ll get it out as often as I can
Happy Holidays to All
Whether it be Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or National Chocolate Day, I hope everyone has (or has had) a happy holiday season, and gets some rest and quality family time. If you haven’t seen the College’s holiday card, you can see it here, complete with music and a calendar of December festivities. Don’t forget to click on each day of the month—there is a little something to see or hear on each day. See you all after the new year!
Trip to New York
Since the last BLAB, I’ve taken two trips to New York City. The first was on Monday, December 8 for a SUNY Presidents Meeting. I drove down to Watertown to take a USAir flight to Philadelphia, changing there for a connecting flight to New York City. Since Philadelphia is actually further from Canton than NYC, it always feels stupid to do this, but it’s the best way to fly to New York. Pleasantly enough, SUNY Canton’s Women’s Ice Hockey head coach Dave LaBaff was on the same flight, heading to Florida, and was sitting in the seat next to me. Small world! We had a nice conversation on the flight down.
There was a small reception on the campus of SUNY Optometry in Manhattan, and afterwards, Skip Sullivan (president of SUNY Alfred) and Kristin Esterberg (president of SUNY Potsdam) and I went out for dinner. Skip and I have known each other for a number of years, since he also has Georgia roots—he was the president of West Georgia Technical College from 2006 to 2013, and we worked together on a number of academic initiatives.
The presidents meeting on Tuesday was at SUNY Central, and getting there turned out to be a bit of a problem due to heavy rain and high winds in New York City. While NYC has plenty of taxis, whenever it rains everyone is trying to catch one of them! There was quite a line at the Marriott (where I was staying) for taxis, but fortunately, Candace Vancko (president of SUNY Delhi) was further up in line and offered to split a cab with me. The cab let us off about a block from SUNY Central, but by the time we walked there, we were soaked. The meeting dealt with a number of topics, including the upcoming state budget (and what SUNY hopes will be funded within it), as well as initiatives about improving graduation rates, the new SUNY Sexual Assault Prevention Policy, and proposed changes to the Patents and Inventions Policy. The outlines of an Enrollment Growth Plan were also presented.
Everybody at the meeting was trying to leave early because of upcoming inclement weather. I thought about leaving early too, but the weather report for Watertown called for sleet and ice, so I decided to wait it out and go as originally planned.
Following the presidents meeting, SUNY had scheduled a meeting for new presidents, which was quite useful. We were told some of the nuts and bolts about how the state government budgeting process works in New York, as well as how best to interact with our legislative colleagues and the media.
The next morning, I flew out to Philadelphia without incident. I almost got bumped off the flight to Watertown due to overbooking, but there were five no-shows and I was finally let on. Yep, Dave LaBaff was on this flight too, coming back from Florida, where he told me the weather had been much nicer than in NYC. It was snowing in Watertown as we landed and there had been a little sleet, but nothing too bad. The highways had been treated, so the driver back to Canton was fine until I reached the town limits, when it started to snow harder. The roads in Canton hadn’t been plowed recently so they were a bit sloppy, but I still reached campus without incident.
Trip to Brooklyn
After a few days of meetings on campus, it was back to New York City (Brooklyn this time) from Saturday until Wednesday for a pair of alumni visits and to see SUNY Canton play Vaughn College in basketball.
The trip began on Saturday morning December 13 with me taking Amtrak’s Adirondack train out of Plattsburgh. There is simply no easy way to get to New York City from Canton, so I’ve been trying various things and this was the latest of them. Plattsburgh is about a two hour ride from Canton heading east. The trip was fine, except for that the directions I had stopped at the edge of the city and I didn’t know where the station was. No problem—I pulled out the ol’ iPhone and called up the map app. First problem: there was no long-term parking at the station (and very little short term). There was a small parking lot about a block and a half away, but there was no indication who’s lot it was and if I could park there. I asked at the sandwich shop across the street (and heard I could part there from one person, and that I couldn’t from another). I asked at the Amtrak station (and was told “I think you can park there). When I walked back to the car because I had forgotten my iPad on the back seat, a police car went by. I flagged it down to ask if I could park there and the officer said “I think so—I don’t see any signs saying you can’t…” I figured I had done as much as I could with this, so I left the car there and hoped it would be there when I returned.
At the station, there were a lot of students from SUNY Plattsburgh going home for Christmas vacation, since their exams had ended the day before. By the time the train pulled in (more than one hour late—from Montreal, which is only an hour from Plattsburgh), there were about 80 people waiting to get on. The way it works is that they open two doors on the train—one for people going to New York City, and one for people going to intermediate stops. Problem #2: No one was certain which door the New York City door was going to be. The student in front of me was certain that it would be the door further back, so we got into that line. When the train pulled in, they announced that it was the other door. A mad scramble then ensued, with people switching to the other line. Problem #3 was that the man at the station had shoveled two paths through a snow/ice bank to allow people access to the train, but the train’s doors were only aligned with one of the paths. To get to the New York City door on the train, I had to climb over a 3-foot high snow bank. It wasn’t so bad for me, but the students with large, loaded suitcases had quite a time.
I took a seat on the left side of the train, because I knew that that’s where the scenery would be best—the train uses the tracks of the former Delaware and Hudson company, which overlook the shore of Lake Champlain for about 50 miles. The ride was really gorgeous, with beautiful views of the lake and of snow-covered hills and fields and pretty small towns.
Amtrak is great when it comes to comfort, as the seats are wide and well padded, and there is adequate legroom. After a few hours, I was getting a bit hungry and went to the food service car. Problem #4 was unfortunately, the days of having a dining car on day trains seems to be over. The food service consisted of a counter where they would sell you pizza or hamburgers, heated in a microwave oven. I ordered a hamburger and hoped for the best, but it was pretty lousy. We were making decent time until we reached Schenectady, where we had to wait for about 30 minutes for several freight trains to clear out of the way up ahead.
At Albany, they change engines to a dual diesel/electric engine and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way into NYC. There were nice views of the Hudson River bridges all lit up at night on the right side of the train almost all the way, and we got into the city at about 10:00 PM, still an hour late. I grabbed a taxi, and got to the hotel in Brooklyn at about 10:30. After checking in, I walked up to Fourth Avenue and found a Chinese restaurant that was still open and had some dinner.
On Sunday afternoon, I took Amtrak up to Poughkeepsie (about an hour north of NYC) to meet Jamie Burgess from our Development Office, to have dinner with Ferg Folie and his charming wife Colleen. We met at the Ice House Restaurant, a very pretty place along the Hudson River with an outstanding view of some bridges.
Ferg graduated in 1980 and rose through the ranks of the Army and the National Guard, ultimately reaching the rank of major general—our highest ranking alumnus in the military of all time. Among his many accomplishments was that he served as the Department of Defense Chief of Staff and Acting Commander for the Joint Task Force “Operation World Trade Center” from Sept. 11 through Sept. 29, 2001, and was involved with coordinating response and relief efforts during the 9-11 attack recovery. You can read an article about him here, about when he came and spoke about his experiences on our campus. We had a nice discussion about his time in the military, changes that had taken place at the college, especially about plans related to our academic programs in homeland security.
On the way back that evening, the Amtrak train was going to be at least 30 minutes late, so I switched onto a Metro North commuter local instead, which was leaving in 3 minutes. The only real difference is a few more stops, and that the Metro North trains go into Grand Central Station instead of Penn. If you’ve never seen it, Grand Central Station is well worth a trip—it is pretty much the ultimate in American railroad architecture, with a beautiful central hall that has been featured in lots of movies.
Monday morning, it was back to Poughkeepsie to meet with Jamie and visit another alumnus who lives in the area, Glenn Werlau. Glenn graduated in 1957 and since 1965, founded and runs a company named Werlatone that manufactures high power RF devices for military and commercial users, in which he holds multiple patents. Glenn had recently hosted a group of 15 SUNY Canton engineering technology students and faculty for a tour of his manufacturing facility (you can read about it here), and is a strong supporter of our EET program. We had a very pleasant lunch and discussion. As we were leaving the restaurant, we saw a group of employees from his company and family who happened to have come in to the very same restaurant. Small world!
After returning to NYC, I had the evening free and went to visit Jill’s sister Ellen and her partner Etta, who live in Greenwich Village, one of my favorite parts of the city. We had a very nice dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Moustache, and caught up on lots of family stuff.
Tuesday was the basketball game, which was held at the new Barclay Center in Brooklyn. It’s a really nice venue for professional basketball—the Brooklyn Nets play there, and the New York Islanders hockey franchise will be joining them there in the near future. The stadium itself is quite large and the tiers are very steep, so no seats are all that far from the court floor. There were about 100 SUNY Canton fans there, as well as 60 or so from Vaughn (even though they’re a NYC college, we had more fans!). The game itself was very exciting, with Canton taking an early lead, Vaughn coming back and taking the lead briefly, and Canton getting the lead back. About five minutes from the end, Vaughn surged again and almost tied it up, but we pulled ahead and wound up winning 72-64. After the game, I met with several of the players’ parents and with some Canton alumni.
We went to dinner at Applebee’s at Atlantic Station, a nearby shopping center, and then back to the Barclay Center for a pro game—Brooklyn vs. the Miami Heat. Our seat were in the nosebleed section—up so high I was a little nervous about climbing up the steps and walking across the tier to my seat.
About 10 minutes in, the game was delayed about 30 minutes because there was a leak in the roof and water was dripping onto the court—I’d never heard of that happening at an NBA game before, but Inez McDermott, a faculty member from my second college, informed me she had seen a Celtics game that was called because of fog! It seems that it was a really warm night and the ice under the parquet was melting, causing fog and puddles on the floor! I guess I don’t watch enough basketball.
On Wednesday, it was back home on the Adirondack to Plattsburgh. This time, I bought a sub in New York City before getting on the train, so I was set for food. The ride up was very nice along the Hudson, though when we got past Albany the fog rolled in and the weather was fairly dismal. Still, the scenery along the lake was nice, and when we arrived in Plattsburgh (only about 30 minutes late), my car was still there. It rained most of the way on the ride back to Canton, and after picking up a pizza for Mark, I rolled back into home at about 6:00 PM.
Last Week’s Trivia Contest
Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with the Andy Griffith Show. Our winner was Rajiv Narula, a faculty member in Chemistry at Canton, who was the first to get them all right. Others with all five correct included Bill Prigge (in Tennessee), Anne Williams, Terri Clemmo, and Jennifer Jones. Julie Cruickshank told me the interesting fact that Hal Smith (who played Otis Campbell, the town drunk, on Andy Griffith attended Massena Central High School, up here in the North Country! She’s a Massena native, so she ought to know! Here are the correct answers:
- Andy’s profession. Sheriff.
- Opie’s teacher, who Andy Taylor eventually married. Helen Crump.
- He worked at Wally’s Filling Station, and later joined the Marines, spinning off into his own TV show. Gomer Pyle.
- Barney’s girlfriend’s name. Thelma Lou. Her last name was never given.
- The one food that Aunt Bea couldn’t make well—Barney said they tasted like kerosene. Pickles.
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
The trivia challenge will be going on vacation this week. Look for it in the new year!