Bob Stepno's Other Journalism Weblog
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Thursday, June 26, 2003

Tarheel News

Although it's hardly headline news beyond the University of North Carolina School of Journalism & Mass Communication mailing list, I successfully defended my long-delayed dissertation there this month. I owe many thanks to the kind members of my committee, who agreed to return to campus in the summer, travelling not only from not only from suburban Chapel Hill, but from Maryland, Wyoming and Siberia.... all to spend a couple of hours with me in the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame room. Deb Aikat, my defense committee chair, greeted me with a firm handshake afterwards, assigned some final revisions, and last week I delivered the 20-pound-cotton-bond copies to the official who measures margins, an intriguing final hurdle (or ritual) in getting a Ph.D....

I also successfully piloted my sixteen-year-old vehicle back to New England in one piece. That's "one piece" if you don't count the three-times broken crown on a wisdom tooth, extraction of which is my next hurdle of the summer.

The trip to Chapel Hill also gave me raw material for another research project -- if I can figure out what it is. While I was "ABD" and not registered for classes, my UNC e-mail address was dormant. Apparently that didn't keep list mail and spam from accumulating -- especially mail sent to a terribly generic e-mail alias that pranksters may have used to register for porn. So I now have an archive of four years worth of fine spam -- 30 megabytes that must be good for some kind of research. Or maybe I can sell it to the highest bidder on e-bay?

Frog Blog

On the way home, I swung through Willimantic, Conn., to see what all the fuss is about the frogs, which had come up in conversation recently with a fellow online-journalism watcher. (Vin Crosbie's blog also may be telling me where to apply for my next job; I hear Northeastern actually has an opening...)

Since my last visit years ago, Willimantic (once a city, now part of the town of Windham) has installed an attractive bridge adorned with giant frog-on-spool sculptures. The spools are for the thread mills that once made the"Thread City" famous in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The frogs (shhh... this may be a secret) commemorate the town's 18th century notoriety... when fearful Windham citizens heard terrible sounds in the night, bravely armed themselves for a counterattack against savages, and in the morning found only thousands of dead frogs -- who apparently had gone out with a bang of a party whle their pond evaporated in the summer heat. There was even a colonial top-ten hit about "The Battle of the Frogs"

And now the poor town has Dave Barry to contend with! Hasn't it suffered enough?
4:15:55 PM    

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