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The Weekly Blab 5.17

The Weekly Blab

Volume 5, Issue 17—January 2, 2011


The Ones Have It

So yesterday was New Year’s Day, January 1, 2011—or for short, 1-1-11.  A little more than 11 years before that happens again!  The new year is, of course, a time for reflection on the past year, and hope for the future.  This past year wasn’t so hot, with the economy being so bad, the housing market in the dumpster, and so many people having their own personal troubles.  Here’s hoping that 2011 will be better for everyone.


The Szafran family trip to Las Vegas was very nice.  We flew out on Monday, December 20 at 5:30 PM on a non-stop flight.  The plane was full, as is almost always the case these days.  Mark was in seventh heaven because not only did the plane have one of those individually controllable TV/movie things ($6.99, but well worth it), but it also had free wi-fi so he could mess with his computer.  The flight was uneventful, and my folks met us at the airport.


In quite unusual weather for Vegas, for the next two days, it poured.  This was the edge of the weather front that hit California so hard, and Nevada was not spared.  We put the time to good use by hanging out and catching up, including installing a router so that my father now has wi-fi in his apartment.  My mother and I like to watch old TV shows, and by a funny coincidence, we were watching the 5th season of Make Room for Daddy (the Danny Thomas Show), where Danny gets remarried and has a honeymoon in (you guessed it) Las Vegas.  The show was shot on location, and it is amazing how different Las Vegas was in 1957 than it is today.  The Sands Hotel (where they stayed) was about 100 rooms and a pool then, with wide-open stretches around it in a city of less than 50,000.  Today, everything is built up and Las Vegas is a city of over 2 million in the metro area.


The news in Las Vegas was all about how Nevada is going to get a 4th congressional seat, which will likely leave the delegation 2 democrats and 2 republicans.  The state house will also be reapportioned.  Since none of the senators representing the unpopulated northern part of the state want to lose their seats due to consolidation, they’re talking about expanding the legislature and giving the new seats to Clark County, where Vegas is.  It only goes to show you that east or west, the politician’s main goal is to stay in office, and they’ll do what it takes to make that happen.


The other big item in the news was the local economy, which is in very bad shape.  Nevada has a budget deficit of $2.3 billion, with 60-65% of the budget going to education.  Incoming governor Sandoval has stated he’s not going to impose any new taxes.  If he holds to that, there will be blood in the streets in the University System of Nevada, with either a university shutting down entirely, or massive tuition increases.  Georgia isn’t in that bad a shape, but next year’s budget deliberations probably won’t be pretty.


On Thursday, my cousin Karen (who was visiting her folks, who live in the same complex as my parents), her two kids and I went to Death Valley, while Jill and Mark hit the slots.  Death Valley was interesting and a little odd, in that the rain had not all evaporated yet and the salt flats were now a shallow, very salty lake.  On the way there, the roads were flooded over in a few points, which Karen took at full tilt, sending up a a huge wave on either side of us.  We did some walking, some driving, and some climbing of various formations, and tailgated our lunch.  The best views in Death Valley are at Zabriskie Point, where we watched the sun set.


We didn’t do too much the rest of the trip—just hung out, ate at buffets (or at an excellent local Indian restaurant), went down to the strip a few times to walk around and see the holiday decorations, and hit every used CD shop in the city.  My father is talking about getting a new car, since he wants to be prepared for the next several years of cross-country treks from Vegas to Houston (where my sister lives), Marietta, and Syracuse (where they summer).  He’ll turn 84 this February, so we’ll see how long he holds to this plan, but I wouldn’t bet against him.


The flight back was more crowded than I anticipated it would be on New Year’s Eve—the plane was full again.  We hit bad weather over Memphis, and the plane had to take a quick dive to get under a thunderstorm.  Aside from that, we landed uneventfully in Atlanta, and got home at about 10PM, just in time to see the ball drop.  Happy New Year to all!


Ch- Ch- Ch- Changes

Big changes taking place down at the Board of Regents.  As most already know, Chancellor Davis will be leaving with the end of his contract.  Also leaving (partially this spring, and completely thereafter) is Senior Vice Chancellor Susan Herbst, who has been selected as the new president (and the first female president) at the University of Connecticut.


Looking Forward To…

In the coming month, here’s some of what I’m looking forward to:

  • The ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the new ETC and for I-2 on January 11 at 4:30.
  • Classes being taught in the above buildings.  Hopefully, all the furniture and A/V equipment will be installed and functional on time for the new spaces to be used smoothly.
  • Beginning implementation of Degree Works!
  • Meeting the new faculty joining us this spring.
  • Giving a talk at UGA (January 25, Memorial Hall) called “The Rest of the Story” about how the rest of the USG desegregated (or didn’t, as the case sometimes was).  There’s a fascinating history here that hasn’t really been delved into. 


Teaching This Spring!

Most important of all, I’m looking forward to teaching Advanced Inorganic Chemistry (Main Group Chemistry) this spring.  It’s a course I haven’t taught since leaving Merrimack College in 1999, since New England College didn’t offer a major in Chemistry and SPSU only recently added one.  It’s my favorite course to teach, since it focuses on the areas I did my doctoral research in, and because main group chemistry is deceptively familiar but has many interesting twists and turns.  The chemistry of boron hydrides is a course in itself, due to the fact that boron has four bonding orbitals but only three bonding electrons.  Boron has to find lots of interesting ways to make the three bonding electrons “stretch” to fill the gap, a good metaphor for what we’ll be seeing budget-wise.



This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s topic is the state of Nevada.  As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.


1.  What is the capital of Nevada?

2.  What is the state nickname?

3.  What is “The Biggest Little City in the World”?

4.  What was the name of the first casino to open on what was to become the Las Vegas strip?

5.  For what unusual titles are Candyce King (1952) and Lee A. Merlin (1957) best known?