Emeritus Faculty Association news December 2014
Sidney Gelber passed away 13 November at the age of 89. In 1949, performing with his wife Anita Sixfin, he gave the first U.S. performance of the Schubert Fantasy in F-minor at Carnegie Recital Hall. He earned his doctorate in philosophy at Columbia in 1954 and after teaching there as well as Brooklyn College and the Mannes College of Music, he joined Stony Brook in 1958 while it was still in Oyster Bay. In 1964 he took a leave of absence to be president at Mannes for two years. Back in Stony Brook he served as Academic Vice President and Provost from 1971 to 1981. An obituary which appeared in the NYTimes may be read here:
Friday December 5th, 10.30 am. Note the changed location for November and December only - the lecture hall Chem 412, close by the elevator.
New Vice Dean and Cancer Canter Director Yusuf Hannun will speak on his vision for the new center.
Abstract: As the new Director of Stony Brook Cancer Center, Dr. Hannun has one overarching goal: To develop a cancer center that makes a difference in the study and practice of cancer medicine - both at Stony Brook and around the world. Here in Suffolk County, with Stony Brook already delivering advanced and comprehensive cancer care in the region, Dr. Hannun plans to build on existing strengths, more fully integrate research with clinical care, expand clinical programs, recruit new physicians and investigators, and transform the Center into a basic and translational research hub.
Bio: Dr Hannun received his MD with distinction in 1981 and his residency at American University of Beirut Medical Center, Lebanon. His focus has been on the lipid mediators of cancer cell signaling. He has been the leader on three NCI R01 awards and the recipient of the National Institutes of Health Merit Award. He was Principal Investigator on a program project grant involving the investigation of physiological and pathological roles played by a class of lipids known as sphingolids, and Co-investigator on a lipid signaling core grant. He has contributed to more than 460 scholarly publications and mentored 40 post-doctoral fellows and 20 PhD students. He was elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was the recipient of the Avanti Award for Lipid Research from the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Judy Wishnia announced that although she is now officially retired from her UUP responsibilities, she wants to remind members of a couple of items. The travel insurance could be a life-saver in the event of mishap in a foreign country in that it provides help and assistance in repatriation. But you will need to have and show the membership card, which you can pick up from the UUP office on the library 5th floor. Also note that the Medicare IRMAA (income related adjustment amount) reimbursement is separate from the medicare reimbursement checks which you already receive courtesy of UUP and the legislature. It is only for those whose income exceeds a threshold which triggers extra premiums. In our case these are reimbursable through NYSHIP, but this has to be applied for by completing and returning a form to NYS Dept of Civil Service, Employee benefits division, attn: IRMAA processing, Albany, NY, 12239, along with copies of:
(1) your SSA letter stating that your premium has an added adjustment (usually sent around Nov 20 for succeeding year), and
(2) a copy of your form SSA-1099 (usually sent mid January).
If you cannot find this form and these documents you can obtain copies by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213. You can also recover reimbursements for the previous 3 years. Together with those of dependents, the reimbursements could total thousands of dollars.
Summary of featured talk: In his introduction chairman Kerber noted that the scholarly bio of our speaker Mark Aronoff summarized in the last issue, should be augmented to include his long involvement in university administration (Deputy and Associate Provost 1998 to 2007) when he took the lead to save SBU much grief from constricting rules proposed in Albany.
Today Aronoff's subject was Competition and the Lexicon on which he is preparing a new manuscript with the aid of a Guggenheim fellowship. The struggle among words can be understood in terms of the competitive exclusion principle of Georgii Gause, one of the founders of modern ecology. In studying this Aronoff has also benefited from the analogy with current member Ivan Chase's study of hermit crabs, - how shells of various sizes are sought as living accommodations which can accommodate one crab at a time as they grow up, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/life-shell-game-hermit-crabs-exchange-shells. Gause's Axiom of Competitive Exclusion (1934) was formalized in former member Larry Slobodkin's landmark book of 1961. It states that no two species with similar ecological niches can coexist in a stable equilibrium. The relationship to language evolution was actually first stated by the Abbe Gabriel Girard in 1718, "I do not believe that there is a synonymous word in any language". One member of each perfect synonym pair tends to evolve out. Aronoff reactivated Gause's principle for language development under the name blocking. Eg: ran blocks runned, fought blocks fighted, etc. In the synonymous pair hazelnut and filbert, filbert is in the process of decline, as shown by names given to derivative confections like hazelnut spread and hazelnut praline. This may be measured experimentally by means of the number of Estimated Total Matches (ETMs) in Google Search, where the spread shows a hazelnut vs filbert total of 374K ETMs vs 11K, and the praline shows 70k vs 11k. Even pronunciation frequencies can be so measured: eg: what is the difference between a vaize and a varze? (interjection from the audience: "ten thousand dollars!" - Your correspondent, ever suspicious, thinks this was a set-up).
Finally, we have rival affixes, when two morphological patterns sometimes converge on the same meaning output and thus produce potential synonym pairs. In the simplest cases, one affix is overwhelmed and driven to extinction by the ascendance of another. This happened to -ment in the face of -ation. Both -ment and -ation were borrowed into English from French as ways of forming abstract verbal nouns, but -ment lost traction during the 17th century due to a dearth of new verbs. This can be verified experimentally using Oxford English Dictionary Online (www.oed.com), to trace the development of new words over the last 750 years.
Two potentially synonymous words can co-exist if they manage to avoid synonymy by some differentiation of convenience or meaning. Such a convenience niche is whether the stem is mono or poly syllabic: there are about five times as many -ize words as -ify words, but the ratio is almost reversed for words with monosyllabic stems, where -ify words outnumber -ify words by almost the same ratio. The pairs historic/historical, economic/economical, and cyclic/cyclical, for example, survive because they find a small differentiation of meaning niche. eg: (courtesy of a chemist in the audience) The discovery of MRI was historic. There is a historical plaque downstairs. The history of this is also interesting: The suffix -ic comes from Greek (ik) through Latin (ic) and French, and likewise -al (although with no Greek). Both suffixes form adjectives, but -ical is a bastard concocted in English since. So again in terms of Google ETMs: -ic counts for 10613 whereas -ical counts for only 1353, (. . . except when the stem end is logic, then ical wins, . . . and except in some scientific and medical circles, where the -ic form is still preserved: eg: psychologic, biologic, etc. Audience interjection: doctors are trained in Latin and a little more pretentious in choice of names?)
Somewhat untidy and confusing, but competition will always be resolved eventually, even if it can take some time to work itself out; eg: more quiet, quieter. As in ecology, at any given time, competitive states may be more numerous than resolutions.
Our study has concentrated on the English language. This is a good choice in view of its long history of over 1000 years in written form, only rivaled in this respect by Kannada in S.India. In contrast ancient languages like Sanskrit and Chinese were frozen in classical form for writing, like the use of Latin in English, so we do not have a written record of the spoken language as it developed. The same is true of modern Russian, French, and German which are controlled by their governments, whereas nobody controls English.
Stony Brook Rotary community opinion survey
The Stony Brook Rotary has recently put out a request for suggestions to improve the quality of life in the Three Village community. In particular they asked for ideas and recommendations for "improvements in the areas of environment, health, and education, and steps to be taken to make those improvements".
Since these local forums have often been dominated by strident anti-university rhetoric it might be a good idea for some of us to respond to this request. Members and others may do so by picking up a rotary mailer form at local businesses or by going to the website: www.stonybrookrotary.com and clicking on the item corresponding to our header above.
To start the ball rolling here are two suggestions that your correspondent is sending in:
(1) It is well known that many SBU students vacate to the city on weekends for the lack of a nearby (walkable) " town center". Such a town center is part of the attraction of many universities in the class to which SBU aspires. So here is a suggestion: To foster business growth opposite and close to the LIRR station, the North Country School should sell its 25A frontage there, vacant and never used since its inception. Besides local business growth, this would help a school district currently wondering what to do about its deficit, as well as the university in its mission.
(2) This year we got a beautiful circular hiking trail in the woods and former Forsythe Meadows abutting the Stony Brook village center. Once inside, the trail is clearly marked by split rail fences, mowed pathways and white flashes on trees, all courtesy of county legislator Kara Hahn. But even most local people do not notice the sign on a gravel driveway entrance half way up Hollow Road. And at the park entrance off this driveway there are only 4 public parking places. So here is the suggestion: reopen an entrance to this park by the side of the Ward Melville recreation center in Stony Brook Village, which happens to be very close to the half way point of the new circular trail. A trail entrance was previously open at this location for more than 40 years, during which time there were no problems observed by your correspondent and frequent user. This could attract a new clientele of mature hikers (eg from the LI Greenbelt Trails Conference which draws up to two dozen at a time to thrice weekly hikes) and also likely increase customers to village businesses.
Interstate Crosscheck is a computer system designed to capture the names of voters who have illegally voted twice in the same election in two different states. Kansas originated Crosscheck, so far tagging almost 7 million voters, and its Secretaries of State have been distributing it since 2005 to 27 other participating states. A six-month investigation by Al Jazeera America has now revealed that Crosscheck rosters caught nothing more than matching first and last names. And voters remain on the suspect list even when middle names, Social Security numbers and suffixes don't match. By now the number of voters tagged in some states (after also comparing party registration lists) exceeds the margins in recent senatorial elections.
Emeritus members can check if their name appears (in the two states that have responded to freedom of information requests) here:
It is perhaps fortunate for your correspondent that NY has refused to participate, because his very common name is on this part of the list almost a thousand times. But before you gloat, check your own name. It may influence your decision as to where to retire.