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The Weekly Blab 4.9

The Weekly Blab

Volume 4, Issue 9—December 20, 2009


Happy Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, so I’d like to wish everyone a merry Christmas, a happy Chanukah, and belated best wishes for Eid Al-Adha and Diwali.


SPSU Students Go Wild

While most departments and student organizations at SPSU celebrate prior to the holidays by having a pot-luck party, the SPSU ACM student chapter hosted a Will It Blend party where high-powered blenders were used to destroy old computer parts and to let off some steam.  The “party” was captured on video by the Marietta Daily Journal, and can be seen at the following link.


It’s the Economy, Stupid

There’s still no news about what spring may bring with regard to further budget cuts, but the news across the US doesn’t look pretty.  The Chronicle printed a map showing how much each state had cut higher education spending since the recession began, and Georgia is shown to have cut spending by 4% from 2008-present, compared to an average cut of 6% nationwide.  Our neighbors don’t look to good—South Carolina cut 20%, Florida 22%, Alabama 21% and Tennessee 18%, with only North Carolina showing an increase of 2%.


The business pages of the newspapers have lots of “things are getting better” stories, which hopefully are true, but most people are pretty fed up with the economy in general, and the banks and other financial institutions in particular.  There was a particularly good article in the Wall Street Journal, of all places, about why there is a real “fear of finance” right now.


The real bottom line, it says, is that people see that the financiers promised better risk management as justification for their high salaries, but there was only risk (at public expense) and very little management.  The public sees the result as Wall Street getting bailed out, and Main Street left to its own devices.


Until people get comfortable with finance again, which includes banks lending money more easily and people being willing to borrow, the economy will only grow slowly.  That means that the next few years will be tight ones.  What can we do to help things along?  The main thing that has helped SPSU has been our rapid growth, which has gotten us both additional formula funding and additional tuition revenue.  Even with the budget cuts, we’ve still been ahead in total dollars (at least until now).  Thus, we haven’t had to do some of the harsher things that other USG institutions have been compelled to.   So, make sure that there are seats available for courses the last minute rush the week of January 4, teach our somewhat larger classes, and we’ll muddle through this to better times.


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s trivia contest dealt with the months and years.  A B.B. King CD from the Szafran duplicate repository goes to the winner.  Our winner is Doug Morris (Math Dept.), with 3 correct.


(1)   Since the prefix dec- means “ten”, why is December the 12th month?

Because the Roman calendar  began in March, and December was the 10th month.

(2)   The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar.  Since 12 lunar months (of 29-30 days) are shorter than one solar year by about 11 days, what happens to those extra days?  [That is, how does the calendar deal with this problem?]

       They are part of an extra month (“Adar II”), inserted 12 times every 19 years.

(3)   Why is Christmas celebrated on a different day by western churches (Catholic, most Protestant) than by eastern churches (Orthodox)?

Because the Julian calendar (used by the Orthodox Church) is 13 days (or so) behind the Gregorian calendar (used by the Western Churches).


And two hard ones:

(4)   Our current counting of years (AD or CE) was first suggested by the monk Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, and not commonly adopted until the 9th century.  What was used before that in western countries?

Several methods—years in the reign of a monarch, years since the founding of Rome, or years since the biblical creation of the Earth.

(5)   One of the reasons that the former counting of years was abandoned was that the world was supposed to end in what corresponded to 500 A.D.   A more recent “end of the world” was October 22, 1844, which was the date for the second coming according to the Millerite Christian sect.   When the day passed without incident, how did they refer to that day afterwards?

      “The Great Disappointment”


No Trivia Quiz this week—see you next year!