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The Weekly Blab 5.27

The Weekly Blab

Volume 5, Issue 27—April 4, 2011


Continuing a Proud Tradition…

It’s a fact that when I support a sports franchise, it’s almost always the kiss of death.  During the last World Cup, I hoped that the United States, Mexico, and Ivory Coast would make it into the finals, and they were all eliminated pretty early.  Every time I started rooting for another team they promptly lost, right down to the final when I was rooting for Holland.  Last year’s winning of the Premiereship and the FA Cup by Chelsea was the exception that proves the rule.  This year, I’m off to my usual fate with Chelsea pretty much eliminated from the finals thanks to a tie with Stoke this Saturday, and the Boston Red Sox have opened 0-2.  Stay tuned, but I know which way this is going.


Out and About

Some excellent events were held at SPSU this past week.  I wish, in general, that more people—faculty, staff, and students—would show up for these, ‘cause they’re great.  Yes, I know we’re all busy, but as Woody Allen once said, “90% of life is showing up.”


On Wednesday, at SPSU’s first “Courageous Conversations” event, Dr. John Carter spoke about how the Washington DC Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial went from an idea someone had in their kitchen, to a project stewarded by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, to a national fundraising effort, to reality in 21 short years (I’m only partly sarcastic here—this is a relatively quick gestation for a national memorial).  Dr. Carter had a number of interesting artifacts with him—samples of the bricks that Alpha Phi Alpha sold to fund the initial project, a commemorative shovel from the groundbreaking, pictures, etc.—that were on display.  His talk was centered around the theme of “breaking through the wall” that so many people have in believing that something is impossible.   To me, the most interesting part was the detail Dr. Carter went into about the multitude of necessary steps to bring the project to fruition.  Too often, we believe that to identify a need is the same as meeting the need.  Carter’s talk pounded away at the fact that it’s just plain hard work, and that the people you need to help at the beginning won’t pay any attention, but will often show up to take credit at the end if you’re successful.  The MLK Memorial will officially open on August 26, and if you visit the Alpha Phi Alpha (Martin Luther King’s fraternity) website, you’ll see a cool countdown clock for the event.  The event drew a decent turnout of about 100 people, almost all of whom stuck around afterwards to ask questions and speak to Dr. Carter.  Special thanks to Arthur Vaughn for suggesting and inviting Dr. Carter, and to Jeff Orr for handling the logistics for the event.


On Thursday, as part of SPSU’s International Movie Series, Rajnish Singh introduced the movie “Mr. and Mrs. Iyer”, an Indian movie about a group of people riding a bus through rural India whose trip gets interrupted by religious rioting between Hindus and Muslims.  The movie is also a sort of story of forbidden love between Meenakshi, a Tamil upper-caste Hindu woman traveling with a young child, and Raja, a photographer who is Muslim who initially is just trying to help her with the child.  With the exception of one scene, the movie is a call for religious and cultural understanding, and comes to a reasonably satisfying and realistic conclusion.  Adding to the enjoyment of a fine movie (look on Amazon—everyone rates this at 5 stars) was the pleasure of seeing Bob Harbort channeling his inner Bernice Nuhfer-Halten, even down to a wig and nametag (photo by Rajnish).  You can’t find entertainment like that in Hollywood!  Only about 10 people came, but we all had a good time and an interesting discussion of the film followed.

 Bob Harbort channeling his inner Bernice Nuhfer-Halten, even down to a wig and nametag (photo by Rajnish)

On Saturday, SPSU hosted the 2nd Annual Bathtub Races (a revival of an older tradition).  The event was organized by students this year, and drew a respectable and enthusiastic turnout.  While fraternities dominated the top 3 results and Residence Life and Housing won it, the Honors Program took an impressive fourth place and had some excellent T-shirts.  After the races, Jill, Mark and I took a walk down the Savannah Walk (the new walkway between Building J and the Parking Deck), which is now in full bloom.  It’s the prettiest walk on campus, IMHO, and we thoroughly enjoyed it until the pollen made me start to itch and sneeze.


World of Chemistry (err... Physics)

In a previous BLAB, I mentioned the discovery of graphene (single layer graphite), a material that seemingly can do it all.  Well, Chemistry (err…Physics) marches on, and an article just appeared in Science News about a new way to make silicene, the silicon equivalent of graphene.  The idea of silicene’s existence was not proposed until 2007 by Prof. Lok Lew Yan Voon of Wright State University and grad student Gian Guzman-Verri, and first prepared as nanotubes by Guy Le Lay (University of Provence, Marseilles France).  Now, on March 24 at the national meeting of the American Physical Society, Antoine Fleurence (a physicist at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Ishikawa) announced a route to preparing silicene by growing a thin layer of silicon on top of the ceramic material (you knew it had to have boron in it) zirconium diboride.   Silicene has the same structure as graphene (sheets of hexagons, just like SPSU’s stylesheet—we’re so up to date!), and shows mega-promise as a material for electronics.  Damn physicists, trying to steal everything!


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest was about Elizabeth Taylor, and the winner (Bow Van Riper) takes the prize with only three right.  The last two questions did everyone in, which is no surprise because she appeared in so many.


1.  What color were Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes?  Deep blue or violet

2.  In what country was Elizabeth Taylor born?  England

3.  How many times was Elizabeth Taylor married, and to how many men? Eight times to seven men (Richard Burton twice)

4.  What was the first movie Elizabeth Taylor appeared in?  There’s One Born Every Minute.  Lassie Come Home was her second, and National Velvet came later.

5.  For what movie was Elizabeth Taylor’s first Oscar nomination? Best Actress in “Raintree County” (Movie 1957, Nomination 1958).  Best Actress for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” was one year later.  She didn’t actually win until Butterfield 8 (1960) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966).


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s trivia challenge is on the topic of the United States.  As always, the first with the most takes the prize, which this week is a DVD of one of the seasons of Robin Hood (the original series with Richard Greene).


1.  What state was originally a monarchy?

2.  What four states meet at a single point?

3.  In what state do the Ashley and Cooper rivers combine to form the Atlantic Ocean?

4.  What state is the leading producer of bauxite?

5.  What was the first state to be formed in its entirety from a part of another state?