Monday, December 24, 2012

Exchanging Sweetness

The end of the fall semester often brings the opportunity to gather together and share, and this December was no different.  A group of cooks in our College of Arts and Sciences made goodies to share, exchanging half a dozen sweets to carry home, so that the wife and I were able to enjoy treats from colleagues, some of which appeared at that night's birthday party for yours truly.
Treats at the cookie exchange 2012

The cooks and their guests
Among the goodies were molasses cookies, Russian tea cakes, bourbon balls, and many other tasties.  Best of all was the sharing that goes with the exchange.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Seeing The Hobbit in Only Two Dimensions

Peter Jackson's rendition of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy was an astounding, mind-blowing, once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment, and certainly people had a reason to anticipate what he would do with The Hobbit.  But I have to say, after seeing the new film last night in our local theater here in little Madison, SD, it was something of a disappointment.

Yes, there were cool effects, and it was fun to see some of the same characters again.  And the story is a pretty good one.  But the results of stretching the journey into three feature films were a bloated narrative and gratuitous scenes for the 3-D viewer.

It made me a little sad.

For one thing, The Hobbit is a children's story, one Tolkien wrote and read to his children, and it was published in part on the recommendation of a nine-year old, the son of the publisher.  The movie is not one for children.  It taps into the same dark vision that Jackson rightfully employed for the LOTR films.  Even more sadly, the movie adds elements that were NOT in the novel.  For example, we see Saruman, the turncoat wizard in the later story, arguing against the continuation of the dwarves' journey, hinting at his later betrayal.  We see the dwarves hunted by a goblin king bent on revenge on Thorin.  We see the double personality of Gollum that was introduced in the LOTR movies.  Essentially, these elements were apparently added, perhaps to wed the story more tightly to the later works, but more probably to help sustain the length of the film series.

For another thing, the film just wasn't very interesting for several stretches.  The opening sequence, the unexpected party, took too damned long.  Nothing was happening, just a lot of silliness with food and the dwarves eating everything in Bilbo's larder.  I realized later that this, like some of the later battle and chase scenes, were there for their 3-D effects.  Watching them on a conventional screen made me impatient.  I guess it's worthwhile to see what 3-D will do for the movies, but it didn't do much for this movie.  It just made it longer.  Like I tell my students, it's either working for you or against you.  These long scenes weren't working for me.

Yes, I'll go to the next films in the series, but I'll try to keep my expectations low.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to Kill a Snowman (and other helpful tips)

My students in Composition II at Dakota State University have completed their final project, a slam-bam project they completed in about a week.  It's a video essay with a pretty open subject.  Many of them, because of time restraints, choose to do a segment of their longer paper as a video, but some are ready to turn to more fun projects, like one student, whose "Ways to Kill a Snowman" sounds mighty interesting.  She was, perhaps, inspired by my mention of "How to Kill a Mustache " included here. Another student tells how to make orange chicken.  Yum!

My student's efforts are included on our blog here:  They include essays on securing a network, building a man-made brain, driving the car of the future, and other wide-ranging subjects.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Meet the Other Old Boss: Our VPAA Also Steps Down

Another big announcement today indicating change at the top:

Dr. Cecelia Wittmayer, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Dakota State University announced her retirement today, effective June 2013.

Dr. Wittmayer has been a part of the institution since 1986, when she was hired as an assistant professor in marketing.  After a marketing career in the direct-mail catalog industry, she taught marketing/ advertising at DSU from 1986-1990.  In 1990, she took a three-year leave to earn a Ph.D. in Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  She returned to her faculty appointment at DSU in 1993 and received a promotion to associate professor in 1995 and to full professor in 2001. In October 1998, she was asked to serve as interim vice president for academic affairs and was named to the position in June 1999 after a national search.

She has been responsible for the academic integrity of the institution and for the resolution of conflicts involving academic areas.  As VPAA, she supervised the deans and directors of the academic support areas; she also represented the institution on the system-wide Academic Affairs Council.  Most importantly, Dr. Wittmayer has shaped DSU’s academic programs and was instrumental in getting approval from the SD Board of Regents for master’s degree programs and in adding the doctoral program in 2005.  She also was responsible for moving the institution to the AQIP accreditation process, the adoption of the CQI perspective, and most recently wrote the university’s 2012 system portfolio for the Higher Learning Commission.  Dr. Wittmayer has been a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, Delta Mu Delta and the American Association of University Women.  In addition to being an AQIP Strategy Forum Facilitator and Peer Reviewer, she has published a number of articles spanning a 20- year period on a variety of topics.

Dr. Wittmayer’s influence at Dakota State University will be felt for a long time past her retirement.  I know you will join me in wishing her well as she spends more time in her gardens and reading on her front porch.

A national search for her replacement will begin shortly.
Here too, as with the change at the Arts and Sciences dean's position, we hope that change will go smoothly and the results will be good.