Good Morning Valdosta! “That our flag was still there …”

Well, I’m sitting at the kitchen table on an imposed and mandatory vacation! Yes, I live in Valdosta, that hotbed of political unrest (hee hee)! The campus at my workplace, Valdosta State University, is shut down and classes have been canceled. Only essential personnel are allowed on campus and they must wear their identification on a lanyard around their necks. Meanwhile, our somewhat schizophrenic community, while struggling to determine an identity that is either rural or urban depending on who you talk to, finds itself thrust upon the national news stage (I just watched a major segment on Fox News Channel)!

It’s interesting and coincidental that the VSU sports teams are known as the “Blazers” and our new brand slogan is “Ignite!” What ignited all this hullabaloo was a flawed protest against racial inequality which culminated in protesters walking on and even stomping on an American flag.

The protesters were subsequently confronted by a former air force officer who took umbrage with the method of protest and played “capture the flag” with them. I won’t mention motivation here, but to report that this officer left the air force after posing  nude in Playboy magazine while draped by an American flag (irony anyone?).

The intrepid campus police arrived, rescued the flag and returned it to the protesters, handcuffed the anti-protest protester, escorted her off campus, and banned her from ever returning. All this was filmed by her daughter armed with a handy phone-cam. Was this pre-planned? “We report – you decide!” Did the news outlets pay for access to the video or the subsequent national interviews? (Hmmmm …) But, I digress!

I said “flawed” protest. No question about the existence of racial inequality in this country (and in all countries, actually). However, stomping on the stars and stripes seems a bit misguided – shouldn’t it be the “stars and bars?” The American flag team fought hard to overcome the racial tenets of the Confederate flag team. (I’m walking gingerly here because, after all, I live in the deep south!) Perhaps the original campus protesters couldn’t find a Confederate flag.

Anyway, it’s all academic (where did that phrase come from?) because the US Supreme Court has determined that walking/stomping on the American flag is an accepted form of free speech. Well, maybe not accepted but at least not illegal. I’ll bet if the anti-protester had been wearing her Playboy costume, many people would have tried to abscond with the flag! (Sorry …)

This “scena” was exacerbated when it was discovered that one of the student leaders of the original protest (the stompers) had brought a backpack containing a handgun onto the campus. In an eerie turn of fate, this act was also captured on video as well as a pawn shop receipt identifying the purchaser. So, an arrest warrant was issued, the stomping perpetrator has disappeared into the fabric of society, and he is now considered “armed and dangerous.”

Meanwhile, in about three hours, as many as 4,000 people are expected to ring the campus (they must stay on the surrounding sidewalks because they’re not allowed on campus), motorcyclists are supposed to ride around the campus perimeter carrying American flags. The Valdosta mayor has declared today as our very own flag day and the VSU president has declared today to be a Day of Reaffirmation. I haven’t heard whether there are anti anti-protests planned. I wonder if there will be live TV coverage? I’m almost tempted to go watch the excitement unfold – but only almost.

Instead, I’ll enjoy this beautiful day in our “Italian villa-like” back yard and think about the students I could be helping prepare for their final exams. I’ll be figuratively watching their tuition dollars circling the porcelain facility. And finally, as lots of attention focuses on our location, I’ll be contemplating whether the original protesters realize that their efforts have backfired and that the spotlight has instead been turned on flag supporters rather than detractors?

Let’s fight against racial inequality, but let’s learn how to do it rationally and successfully. Maybe through this incident, we have – after all, learning is supposed to be the primary function on campus, right?

See you next time!  -Jim

PS. Don’t forget to comment, reply, like, subscribe – hit all those buttons over there! I’d love to hear from you!

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Storm Warning …

Good afternoon! Hunkered down in the middle of a severe storm! Lots of rain, thunder, lightning, etc. Looking out the French doors to the back yard – pool filling up! Yikes!

Moxie - stormI hope I don’t have to brave the storm to drain it a bit – nasty weather! Moxie is riding it out over there on the couch.

Today has been dedicated to reading and assessing several essays and writing assignments from the Honors Creativity class and the Development of Rock class. The last day of classes is May 4 and most of my classes are winding down and preparing for final project submissions.

Thinking of Alek who is in Toronto right now singing a matinee performance of Barbiere with Canadian Opera. You can google him to read several reviews. Next is Candide in Vancouver and then Santa Fe for Daughter of the Regiment. 

This morning I worked on travel planning. We’re going to Santa Fe three times this summer. During one of those trips I will become a grandfather for the first time! Alek and Daniela are about to bring forth their first child, a daughter! With those two as parents, this child will be beautiful beyond words! I plan to spoil her shamelessly!

I finished reading Michael Jecks’s Fields of Glory last night. If you haven’t discovered this brilliant author yet, you must immediately run to a bookstore and grab a copy of The Last Templar to begin an incredible journey through the medieval world guided by Sir Baldwin de Furnshill and Simon Puttock! Michael Jecks is an outstanding medievalist, but, most of all, he is a gifted story teller. I highly recommend his ouvre! I must read my authors in the order their books are published and I’ve read more than thirty of Jeck’s works. You will not be disappointed!

So, that meant starting a new book. I chose to renew my interest in the Joe Gunther series with Gatekeeper by Archer Mayor. It’s deeply embedded  in Vermont and the Vermont Bureau of Investigation. It’s great looking in on old friends to see what they’re up to and what mysteries they are confronting.

Finally, the VSU softball team has finished atop the Gulf South Conference and we will host the GSC post-seasonn tournament in two weeks. Since they are currently ranked number one in the country (NCAA-II), there’s a good chance we’ll host the regional and perhaps even the super regional as well!

It looks like the storm has abated a bit, so I’ll return to my assessment chores. I hope you will reply, comment, and tell your friends to visit. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Upcoming events include the May 1 first time in the pool and the May 6 opening of the full-time author/composer summer season!  Meanwhile, I hope to see you ONLINE! -Jim


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Academia Update

Good morning!

There’s lots of stuff going on at the university (that’s Valdosta State University)!

After some negotiations, I have decided to delay retirement and “re-up” for another year as a tenured, full professor. I will continue to split my time between the Department of Music and the Honors College. I will maintain my office in the Honors College. I will teach the honors section of Perspectives in Leadership and continue to assist Dean Mike Savoie in the administration of the college.

In the music department I will continue my online sections of Introduction to Music (Music Appreciation) and the Development of Rock and Roll, and I will do a new preparation by teaching the Song Literature I class while continuing to teach some private voice lessons.

For the Leadership class, I will again use “The Leadership Challenge” by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. I will also continue to use David Willoughby’s “The World of Music” and the Megill brothers’ “The History of Rock and Roll Online.” I have not yet selected a text for the Song Literature class, but I’m taking a serious look at Carol Kimball’s “Song: A Guide to Art Song Style and Literature.”

I will miss teaching my honors class on Creativity in the fall, but I will return to it for the spring term of 2016.

This past week I had the honor to narrate Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” in a performance by the VSU Wind Ensemble as part of the Regional Honor Band Weekend. It was conducted by my friend and colleague, Dr. Joe Brashier.

Our VSU president, Dr. William McKinney has resigned and the University System of Georgia has already appointed an interim president – Dr. Cecil Staton. For me, this marks four presidents (Zaccari, Schloss, Levy, McKinney) since I came here in 2006. I’m afraid this indicates an ongoing problem. There needs to be a culture and vision change at the university and perhaps the speed at which the USG appointed the interim indicates that there will be a strong push to deal with a variety of issues.

I have been chairing the doctoral committee for Rebecca Lanning who is completing fascinating research on the viability of entrepreneurship studies in higher education. Last week Rebecca successfully defended her dissertation in an excellent presentation before the committee and members of the public. In May, I will have the distinct honor to “hood” Rebecca at the Graduate School graduation ceremonies.

I can’t leave the academic segment without mentioning the VSU Softball team. Since coming to Valdosta in 2006, I have become addicted to VSU Blazer softball. We were national champions in 2012 and have competed at the national level for quite a while. This talented squad of young ladies is currently ranked first in the nation in NCAA II softball with a record of 42-4 and they sit atop the Gulf South Conference at 23-3. There is plenty of excitement ahead as they pursue another national championship. Go Blazers!

Looking ahead, the next post will detail some of the family activities including a new Shrader on the way! Don’t forget to leave a comment and have a great week!  See you ONLINE!  -JAS

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STT Part 2

Upon awaking Saturday morning, I realized that I was developing a full-blown head cold (yuck!). Also, it was chilly and windy. So, trying to maintain a positive attitude, I headed for Lenny’s restaurant and a traditional Pennsylvania breakfast. That part of the morning was great, especially the scrapple!

I came back to the hotel and decided to wait a bit before working my way down to Pier 60. I napped a little and eventually made my way down Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard to the pier. Parking is always an issue at the beach. After a circumnavigations of the area, I managed to find a metered space on the street. I scouted out the beach area, but it was really cold and very windy with lots of whitecaps coming in from the Gulf. Pier 60 beach - pretty empty  032815Very few people on the beach, no vendors on the pier, no buskers doing their acts – all in all, not a very successful beach day! I grabbed a fish and chips lunch at “Crabby Bills” (seemed appropriate), and headed back to the hotel.

My illness was developing rapidly and I was feeling bad. I managed to pick up some over-the-counter medication, and decided to spend the evening absorbed in March Madness.

So, after a sleepless night, here I sit, showered, packed, and ready to check out, then head over to Bright House Field to see if the Phillies can figure out the Tigers. It’s supposed to be about 66 degrees with no precipitation. After the game, I’ll head back to Valdosta arriving about 9:00 pm.

Not a great trip this year for a variety of reasons, but I’ll be back next year because hope springs eternal! Can you believe it’s almost April???  Cheers!  -JAS

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The Spring Training Travelogue …

Late night blogging from the hotel in Clearwater after watching the two elite eight basketball games. So, away we go:

Friday morning, 7:30 am
On the road, I75 south all the way to Clearwater. The forecast called for 80% chance of rain, so I was prepared for a repeat of last year when the St. Paddy’s game was rained out! After about two hours, just south of Gainesville, the rain stopped and the sky was bright. I had a glimmer of hope that there would be baseball today!
The bright sky held all the way to Bright House Field and I pulled into the parking lot knowing that the game was on! They parked me at the far end of the lot, so I took the free shuttle to the entrance. I did see a lot of umbrellas (supposedly not allowed in the stadium!) and ponchos. As a token of good luck, I left my jacket in the car. Lo and behold, the game actually started on time. IMG_1128I love my seat that I try to get every year. It’s about twenty rows up directly behind home plate. There on the left is the view from my seat. The other advantage is that it is under a short overhang which protects us from the sun and the rain!

I bought a program and was ready to keep score and the game actually started. The first four innings were enjoyable and competitive. I was sitting next to a young lady who was a Yankees fan, so that was fun. Another highlight was the fact that every time Alex Rodriguez came up to bat, the whole crowd (8,000 strong) let go with a long and lusty BOOOOO!

The first disaster came in the top of the 5th inning when the Phillies made a pitching change to Jake Diekman. Jake is supposed to be one of the hopes for the Phils future in pitching – but not on this day! He allowed 7 hits and 7 runs. Score: Yankees 7  Phillies 0! The Yanks came out for the top of the 6th inning, IMG_1129and so did the rain! Huge dark clouds had been threatening from about the 3rd inning, but the downpour was heavy by the 7th. Eventually, the umpires halted play and the ground crew brought out the tarp. To the left is the tarp in place and being rained on!

We waited about 30 minutes and then the announcement came that since it was an official game and more weather was coming in from the gulf, the game would not be resumed.

So – drove to the hotel, checked in, took a short nap to recover from the early morning drive and went to Carrabbas for dinner. After dinner, back in the hotel, I began noticing a bit of a stuffy nose and some post-nasal drip. Uh-oh! Perhaps a cold coming on. It must have been that damn Yankee fan!

I’ll continue with part 2 of the saga tomorrow morning – stay tuned!  -JAS

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Spring Break and more …

Greetings and happy Spring Break! Obviously we made it back to Valdosta. The Honors Conference in Greenville, SC was great and the evenings we spent wandering about the downtown area were wonderful. Many small cities could learn a lot from the Greenville model. The many restaurants, galleries, and shops were complimented by the live entertainment and the atmospheric lighting. It’s working for this city as evidenced by the large crowd on hand to enjoy the atmosphere. I plan to go back sometime just for relaxation and enjoyment.

I writing this from Starbucks having become stagnant in the home office! I often find it motivating to work amid the hubbub of a place like this. I wrote my entire dissertation with the TV on in the background, just for company. Occasionally I crave complete silence, but not often! Anyway, I’ll try to get a few pages down here and then it’s off to the grocery store for the weekly shopping. Since I don’t have any classes on Monday, this doesn’t really feel like spring break yet.

On Friday I’ll be up early and off to Clearwater, FL for my annual spring training trek (I know – you’ve heard about this before!). It’s about a four hour drive and I’ll go right to the ballpark, then check into the hotel after the game. The Phillies seem to be having their usual issues again this year – injuries! My weekend is a bit later this year, so perhaps the roster will be more solidified than in my previous visits. One of the highlights of this journey is breakfast on Saturday and Sunday at Lenny’s restaurant which is a little bit of Pennsylvania transplanted to Florida. It’s the only place I know to get my “scrapple” fix and I look forward to it every year! If you don’t know about scrapple, you’re probably better off! Suffice it to say, “It is what it sounds like!” But – I grew up with it and absolutely love it, especially with eggs and home fries for breakfast. Lenny’s imports the stuff from Dutch country and it’s authentic!

Saturday afternoon and evening, I head for Pier 61 and take in the artisans and vendors on the pier, check out the beach bunnies, and take in the shows presented by the various street buskers. Around dinner time, I’ll find a seafood place and then hang out on the beach to take some photos of the fabulous sunsets that always happen there. After the game on Sunday, I’ll head back and arrive home around 9:00 pm. And, having no classes on Monday gives me a day to recover!

In my writing world, I’m getting ready to charge into chapter two of Venice Key which is a conflict chapter where the protagonist, Adrian Stone, begins the difficult task of identifying a skull left on top of an Indian burial mound. Since this is the first draft, I’m trying to just get words down, but it’s difficult for me not to edit as I go, which slows the process down considerably.

In my reading world, I about to finish up Dear Old Dead, Jane Haddam’s Father’s Day book featuring Gregor Demarkian. I think I will go to Tim Ellis next. Ellis is a fascinating author I discovered on Amazon/Kindle where he was selling books as an indie author for about $1.99. I was attracted to him because he had several careers before he settled on being a full-time author. He was even a former educator! Anyway, he is prolific in several genres, but I fell in love with his Parish & Richards series about a middle aged inspector who marries his young female partner’s mother and then adopts her thereby becoming his partner’s stepfather! Ellis’s wit and sarcastic dialog has endeared the series to me and I’m excited to begin Deceit Is in the Heart, number 15 in the series. If you want to check out this series, start with A Life for a Life (No. 1).

In my composing world, I waiting on word from Colla Voce about a choral piece, When Christ Was Born of Mary Free. These notifications always take longer than I want them to, but I think this is a good piece and I hope they will add it to their library of my works. Meanwhile, I’ve started a new setting of the traditional text, There Is No Rose. This has been difficult because I idolize the Britten setting and I’m not sure there can be a better one, but this sequence of pitches kept haunting me and they just seemed to lock onto that text. I’m pleased with where it’s going so far. I’ll keep you informed as to the progress.

This is plenty long now, so I’ll leave the university update until next time. If I can put a similar amount of words (750) into Venice Key before I leave here, I’ll be pleased. I’ll start on that now and then off to grocery shop! I’ll see you online, and – Cheers!  -Jim

PS. Thanks for the comments – keep them coming, please!  -J

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A wet night in Greenville …

Late night blogging from Greenville, SC! I’m here with colleagues Mike Savoie and Garner Rogers as well as six honor students who will be presenting at the conference. It was a long, wet drive through Macon, Atlanta, finally arriving in Greenville. Nice Hyatt Regency hotel! One student has already presented with more to come tomorrow. There will be a poster session on Saturday morning, then it’s back to V-town.

Totally dedicated to travel and conference today –  no web design additions or work on Venice Key.

I did manage to dine across the street at the Blue Ridge Brewery – Low Country Shrimp and Grits (Yum!) accompanied by an adult beverage.

I caught the Cincinnati OT victory over Purdue and couldn’t watch any more of the Kentucky drubbing of Hampton.

It’s supposed to be really nice here tomorrow, but I’ll be spending most of it in presentations. Hopefully I can drag this machine along and find some time to catch up on the above work. ‘Til then …  -Jim

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Erin go bragh …

IMG_0148Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

For the past three springs I’ve spent this day at Bright House Field in Clearwater watching the Phillies try to tune up for the oncoming season. Due to a change in the university’s calendar, this year I’m here in the gazebo writing to you! Next year we’re going back to the usual spring break schedule and so I fully intend to put on my Phillies green garb and head south! This year, however, I’ll be in Clearwater from the 27-29. As previously mentioned, I’ll see the Yankees on Friday and the Tigers on Sunday, with a beach day in between!

I’m still working on web design. I’ve added the published choral compositions to the music page and the two fiction works-in-progress to the books page. I’m trying to get in 1000 words for Venice Key this afternoon, so I’ll pause the design activities as soon as I finish this post.

GazeboIt’s a beautiful day here, a balmy 84 with a nice breeze through the gazebo. Moxie is relaxing and sleeping while gravitating from the shade to the sun. There are many jet fighters from Moody AFB buzzing around (some very low!) on their various training missions. I had a scare yesterday when my new laptop lost all internet connections! After 90 minutes on the phone with Dell Support (BTW, they were really great!), I downloaded a new WiFi/Bluetooth driver, restarted, and everything is working fine. Disaster averted! I really love this new machine. It’s a Dell 11.6″ 2 in 1 with touch screen capabilities. It basically replaces my iPad and works in tandem with my 17″ Dell that has become a desktop clone in the upstairs office.

It’s time to go see what’s happening with that skull discovered on top the burial midden on Venice Key. Curious? I’ll start excerpts when we officially relaunch. Meanwhile, go find some green beer, boil some cabbage, and dream of leprechauns, rainbows, and a pot of gold! I’ll see you ONLINE!  -JAS

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In Progress …

IMG_0077Saturday dawns wet, but warm. I’ve started fleshing out the pages of this new site. Unfortunately, when I moved from Go Daddy to here, I neglected to save my page information – so it’s start all over time! Tedious, but I think it will eventually be more user friendly. On the surface, the Word Press platform is fine, but when you want to tweak it just a bit, there is a pretty steep learning curve, at least for someone like me who is a code newbie!

It’s nice to be in the outdoor gazebo. The breeze is a bit on the chilly side, but it’s 73 now and expected to hit 81 a bit later. Lots of rain overnight and this morning. The sun was out for a brief moment but now it’s overcast again. It’s unfortunate for the Azalea Festival which is an outdoor fine arts fete in Drexel Park across from the University. I also plan on attending the VSU softball double-header today if they are willing to brave the wet weather.

What’s on my Kindle?

I’m currently reading “Dear Old Dead” by Jane Haddam (Gregor Demarkian) Philadelphia/NYC

The “up next” list includes (in no particular order):
“Spider Woman’s Daughter” by Anne Hillerman (Leaphorn & Chee; Anne is Tony’s daughter) Arizona/New Mexico
“Fields of Glory” by Michael Jecks (One of my absolute favorite authors – check out his blog and videos)
“Gatekeeper” by Archer Mayor (Joe Gunther) Vermont!!!
“A Necessary End” by Peter Robinson (Inspector Alan Banks) England!
“Black Diamond” by Martin Walker (Bruno, Chief of Police) France!

I got about 1000 words in yesterday on Venice Key – just beginning, really. The plot os loosely set, but it promises to be a plotter/pantser combo unless the muse hits me with a 2×4! The protag for this one is Adrian Stone a village police lieutenant on a small island key off the west coast of Florida – shall we say VERY similar to Cedar Key … (which, BTW, is an amazing place to get away from it all! I’ve been there quite a bit this year for research and relaxation. It’s “old Florida” as the locals say, or “Florida before the mouse!”

Nick Flemons is not quite dead yet. I abandoned Twin Killing about a year ago, but lately the story has been on my mind again.  It’s probably because of my upcoming spring training trip to Clearwater.

I better get back to web design until it’s time for softball!  Cheers!  -JAS

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Relaunch …

IMG_0077As blogging season peeks around the corner, I felt it was time to spring clean my various operations. This isn’t the official relaunch yet, just the exhibition season as it were. As I plod (or re-plod) through the vagaries of Word Press, I’ve made some decisions about how my work will be presented online.

I’ve dropped Go-Daddy as a web hosting service while keeping my domain name ( with them. I’ve contracted with Web Hosting Hub to be my new server. I’ve also finally settled on Word Press as my site editor. Now all I have to do is write the damn thing on a more regular basis than once or twice a year.

I’ll spend the next few days designing a new version of this site and hopefully launch before next Thursday when I’m off to the Southern Regional Honors Conference in Greenville, SC. Coming up after that is the annual spring training trip to Clearwater, FL to attempt to figure out why the Phillies always contend for the worst team in baseball title! Two games this year – Yankees on Friday and Tigers on Sunday. Saturday is beach day!

Meanwhile, it was almost 84 today! I’ll talk to you soon ,,,  -JAS

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