Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

I once turned down a job interview at UT-Martin

Because it was too close to the New Madrid Fault, I jokingly explained to the phone caller.That, and the fact that it was in Martin.Tennessee. And it was in late 1989 or early 1990, at the same time all this was going on. From Buzzfeed.

The Day the Earth Stood Still
The third day of December 1990 was a Monday, but schools in the small southeast Missouri town of New Madrid were closed. 
In fact, some 40,000 students in portions of Missouri and surrounding states — Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana — had the day off, and some districts had canceled Tuesday and Wednesday as well. The reasons given by school officials varied. Some said the cancellations were made out of an abundance of caution, or in response to community pressure. Others said that even if schools had remained open, many kids would have been absent anyway, because their parents wanted to keep them at home, or had decided to leave the area. The closings had been announced weeks, in some cases even months, beforehand. 
“People all over town were packing up their china and they were screwing things to the wall,” recalls New Madrid resident Sandy Hill. National Guard units in Missouri and Arkansas had spent the prior weekend conducting preparedness drills. Emergency management offices had been swamped with thousands of calls.
In downtown New Madrid (pronounced MAD-rid), however, there was plenty of activity along Main Street. The typically sleepy town of about 3,000 was suddenly packed with personnel from more than 200 news organizations from around the world, along with at least 30 satellite trucks. Then there were the street preachers pronouncing it the end of the world and the thrill-seekers who wanted to be able to say they’d been there, in that town on that date. For some, it was a good excuse to celebrate. The local museum sold commemorative T-shirts, and restaurants added specials to the menu. One downtown bar held a daylong party. 
The reason for the contradictory scene was this: New Madrid is the namesake of a seismic zone spanning several states in the lower Midwest and South that was the site of some of the largest earthquakes in recorded North American history. And about a year earlier, a self-styled climatologist named Iben Browning had predicted a 50% chance of another one on Monday, Dec. 3, 1990, give or take a couple days.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Actually, as a former English major

I knew most of these things.  Note that I wrote former, and not old....From Time.

7 Things You—Probably?—Didn’t Understand About Punctuation!!!!
We use it every day. It’s on nearly every page we read. But that wasn’t always so. A thousand years ago writingyouseelookedalotmorelikethis 
It took centuries for the punctuation marks we use today—and the rules we have now about how to use them—to be invented and adopted. Along the way, there were marks that didn’t make it, rules that got thrown out and opinions so violent that men have been brought before judges to account for their apostrophes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Since we're all broke around the holidays

Here are your best choices for cheap pens. From Lifehacker.

Those of us who love our pens know that they can be more than just a writing instrument that we toss out and replace with a new one—they can be great tools that help us work and feel more creative. That said, most of us don't want to drop hundreds of dollars on a pen if we don't have to, so this week we asked you which budget pens were the ones you make sure never to let someone borrow and walk away with. Let's take a look at the top five, based on your nominations. 
As with many Hives of this type, we're grouping together some popular models into brands, mostly because many of the brands here have so many varied models (and you voted for them all) that we think it's better to cover more territory than less. Still, you offered up way more great pen nominations than we can feature here, but we only have room for the top five.

Monday, December 14, 2015

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Or tips on fighting that impulse to buy from The Atlantic. You're welcome. For the footnotes, you'll need to visit the site.

Why You Bought That Ugly Sweater
There is a science to every sale. Among other findings of interest to retailers, researchers have shown that customers are drawn to items sitting on the middle of a shelf, as opposed to the ends [1], and that we perceive prices to be lower when they have fewer syllables and end with a 9 [2, 3]. Stores have figured out how to manipulate us by overpricing merchandise with the intention of later marking it down, knowing that (thanks to a cognitive bias psychologists refer to as “anchoring”) we will see the lowered price as a deal [4]. And they have learned they should give us options, but not too many—it’s well known that choice can be overwhelming to customers and can discourage purchases [5]. 
What is less well known is that snootiness can deliver a sale. Say a customer walks into a luxury store and is greeted with an askance look from a salesperson and no offer of assistance. You might think the customer would turn around and take her money elsewhere. But one recent study found that, compared with friendly salespeople, rude clerks caused customers with low self-confidence to spend more and, in the short term, to feel more positively toward an “aspirational brand” (that is, a brand that you covet but cannot afford—think Jaguar or Louis Vuitton) [6]. Speaking of insecurity, when a customer who feels badly about her appearance tries something on and spots an attractive fellow shopper wearing the same item, she is less likely to buy it [7]. Which means stores are wise to avoid communal fitting rooms.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Infographic Friday

Happiness in the Workplace
Please include attribution to with this graphic.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Chamber of Commerce honors ETSU’s Office of Professional Development

East Tennessee State University’s Office of Professional Development is the recipient of the CenturyLink Faith in the Future Award, presented recently by the Chamber of Commerce serving Johnson City-Jonesborough-Washington County.

The award was given in recognition of the non-credit programs offered by the office.

Darla Dye, director of Professional Development, says, “In 2015, about 10 percent of the 53 programs we offered were workforce development-related. Another 12 percent were academically oriented, including courses in songwriting, teaching piano to adults, GRE test preparation and mental health first aid. We also offer learning in retirement programs in partnership with the Alliance for Continued Learning, and we implement several conferences, like the 10th annual Intermountain Brain Injury Conference. Children’s enrichment programs are provided throughout the year, including eight weeks of summer camps.

“The courses fill up fast, which indicates a desire in the community for non-credit classes,” she adds.

The office staff also serves the community by creating educational opportunities and enhancing professional expertise through non-credit courses. Those offered in the immediate future are courses leading to Professional in Human Resources Certification and Pharmacy Technician Certification, as well as the Buffalo Mountain Songwriting Workshop and cooking classes.

A list of available non-credit courses may be seen at

For further information, call the Office of Professional Development at 800-222-3878.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Just honorable mention?

After all, I'm getting a fortune from that Nigerian Prince. That should be good for more than honorable mention. Got this email a few days ago.  
Good morning. 
We're writing to let you know that you received Honorable Mention in yesterday's article titled "Who's Who in Academia" by Joseph Bozanek. 
The article will remain available at for the next few hours and is also available to download in PDF format. 
Wishing you the best of continued success, 
David Chapman, Ph.D.
Editor, News Digest International 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Too late

See the posting below. From The Johnson City Press.

Rep. Micah Van Huss announced Monday that he plans to file legislation to de-fund the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity, which in August issued a non-binding memo asking students and faculty to use gender neutral pronouns, then, this month recommended best practices for hosting all-inclusive holiday parties. 
“We had been trying to draft something that would leave the office in place, but bring more oversight,” Van Huss said in an emailed press release. “However, after this latest action, it is clear that this taxpayer-funded department in no way reflects the values of Tennesseans.” 
Reached Monday by telephone, Van Huss said, according to 2013 budget numbers, the state provides $4.2 million for the salaries of Office of Diversity staff members across the University of Tennessee system. 
Not only would Van Huss’ bill remove funding from the college’s diversity office, the representative states, but it would also create a fund “to pay for any local or state law enforcement agency that would like to decal our national motto on their vehicles.”

UT's war on Christmas

It's going to be hard for the University of Tennessee's Office for Diversity and Inclusion to get out of the crosshairs of the Tennessee Legislature. If I were they, I wouldn't be posting any recommendations for a while...It'll be Easter before we know it. From Inside Higher Education.

War on Christmas? On Inclusivity?
A set of online recommendations from the university's Office for Diversity and Inclusion -- while apparently largely unknown to most students and faculty members as they made their holiday plans -- are now being much discussed, after legislators started criticizing the recommendations and calling for the resignation of Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, even though there are no signs at all he was involved in writing or enforcing the document. 
Among the recommendations: "Holiday parties and celebrations should celebrate and build upon workplace relationships and team morale with no emphasis on religion or culture. Ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise." And "Consider having a New Year’s party and include d├ęcor and food from multiple religions and cultures. Use it as an opportunity to reinvigorate individuals for the new year’s goals and priorities." (While some have noted that Tennessee has an obligation as a public university not to endorse any religion, the theme of the guidance is about being inclusive more than about legalities.) 
Amid the outrage, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion posted a new note on its website, reiterating that the guidance was only advice and not policy. And the office stated explicitly that many people can and do celebrate Christmas at the university. "We honor Christmas as one of the celebrations of the season and the birth of Jesus and the corresponding Christmas observance is one of the Christian holidays on our cultural and religious holidays calendar," says the statement.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Don't worry, be happy

According to this recent survey, only half of college graduates think college was worth it. If half our graduates are unhappy, imagine what the many drop-outs think. Unsurprisingly, those that like us feel more engaged with us. From CBS MoneyWatch.

The Gallup-Purdue study pinpointed the following six factors that the researchers said strongly related to great jobs and satisfying lives after college: 
  • Had at least one professor who made students excited about learning.
  • Had professors who cared about the student as a person.
  • Had a mentor who encouraged the student to pursue goals and dreams.
  • Worked on a project that took at least a semester to complete.
  • Had internship or job that allowed student to apply what was learned in the classroom.
  • Was extremely active in collegiate extracurricular activities. 
Sadly, only 3 percent of graduates who participated in the first Gallup-Purdue survey could answer yes to all six factors.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Moving the needle is hard

On graduation rates. Life gets in the way, more than ability. Especially for the adult students. I sometimes wonder if all the interventions we try have limited effectiveness--everything seems to work for a while but nothing sticks. From The Hechinger Report.

Despite Efforts to Increase Them, University Graduation Rates Fall
Among the 2009 starters, 53 percent have graduated within the subsequent six years, down 2 percentage points from the class that entered in 2008, according to the National Student Clearinghouse, an independent organization that tracks this. That means there were 71,000 fewer college graduates nationwide than from the group that started college in 2008, even as the White House and others warn that more degree holders are needed to fill jobs in the knowledge economy. 
The rate at which students left school without earning any degree also rose, from about 30 percent to 33 percent. That means 153,000 students appear to have dropped out altogether with nothing to show for their educations except, in at least some cases, debt. 
The biggest drop came among older students—those who started college not at 18, but at ages 20 to 24—fewer than 34 percent of whom graduated, down from more than 38 percent the year before. 
The higher-education institutions with the worst graduation rates were four-year private, for-profit colleges and universities, fewer than a third of whose students got degrees.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Monday, Monday

So good to me...According to Newsweek, anyway.

You're 100 Percent Wrong About Mondays
Monday is our clean slate, the absolver of past sins, promising the most American thing of all: a fresh start. Let the French have their languid mornings, their interminable August sojourns to the Amalfi Coast. We are a nation of Mondays—or at least we were, in the days of Rosie the Riveter, the days before “Netflix and chill.” 
From an existential standpoint, hating Monday makes no sense. Mondays will constitute precisely one-seventh of your existence on this planet. It seems unwise to consign so much time—about 63,232 hours, if you live to 76 and sleep eight hours a day, by my calculations—complaining about the vagaries of the Gregorian calendar. Unless you move to Bora-Bora or become very rich, you will likely always live in a society with Mondays. And you will have to work on Mondays, and there will be an email waiting for you from that insufferable martinet in the Chicago office. Also, a long line at Chipotle. And no paper towels in the bathroom. 
My point isn’t just deal with it. Rather, use the supposed lemon that is Monday to make philosophical lemonade. If the notion of returning to work on Monday morning truly makes you miserable, consider switching jobs. If you drank too much over the weekend, today drink less. Went shopping on Saturday? Give a fiver to the homeless guy standing near the entrance ramp to the freeway on Monday. 
I do get that Monday can be a challenge. It shouldn’t be a prison sentence, though. We’ve pretty much agreed that Monday sucks and that the best way to spend it is to complain until it finally slinks in dejection toward Tuesday. But what if we didn’t complain about Monday? What if we devoted rigorous contemplation to the things that bothered us, instead of blaming our unhappiness or unease on poor and guiltless Monday? I know I sound like a high school guidance counselor, but I happen to think high school guidance counselors are the unacknowledged philosopher kings in our midst.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Whatever else you say about higher education in Tennessee

You can't say it's boring. We're a laboratory for innovation, right now. This is one change I think will prove highly successful. Of course, I don't work at a community college. From The Chronicle of Higher Education.

One State’s Big Shift Away From Remedial Courses Leaves Questions for Colleges Everywhere 
Tennessee is the first state in the nation to eliminate its free-standing remedial classes and give just about everyone a chance to dive right into classes that count for credit. 
Tennessee is in the vanguard of a national movement spurred by aggressive lobbying by groups that argue that the traditional approach to remedial education is a dead end. It’s in the vanguard of a national movement spurred by aggressive lobbying by groups that argue that the traditional approach to developmental, or remedial, education is a dead end. 
The "corequisite" model puts a student who would normally require remediation first — like Ms. Massey — directly into a credit-bearing mathematics or English course. Learning support is wrapped around it, through additional coursework, tutoring, or labs. 
It’s an approach that has proved highly effective for years for students who narrowly miss the cutoff for college-level courses.
What’s different today is that the idea is being expanded and applied across college systems, and even some states, for the vast majority of underprepared students. 
The rollout in Tennessee comes at a challenging time for the state’s community and technical colleges, which are straining under an influx of about 15,000 new students.