Learn Something New Every Day!

The University of Phoenix (UOP) announced this morning the awarding of the first ever L.A.R.K. Award to Patricia Ross. Dr. Ross, educational administrator in California—not to be confused with the long-lost heiress of the Dr. Ross Dog Food Fortune—was awarded her degree in November 2010.

The two co-chairs of L.A.R.K. explained the main criteria used to honor Ross rested more on quantity and length of production than the lesser criteria of quality of research and application of findings. According to T. Oolong (professor of research), Ross was surprisingly singled out over others who had been working on their research for over 10 years, even though she completed her project in less than 6 years because “of the sheer volume of work produced.” I. N. Sane (assistant professor of leadership studies) echoed her colleague’s sentiment: “True. Most of the pages are in her work’s appendices, but Ross produced well over 600 pages. Impressive!”

When asked for her reaction to receiving this prestigious award, Dr. Ross exclaimed, “I am delighted. I never dreamed I would be a member of L.A.R.K. (Life After Research Klub). I may have to re-think my follow-up research plans. Maybe I won’t conduct a 20-year follow-up study by interviewing all 15,000 students currently enrolled at the college under review.”

Ross did not seem aware that winning the award did not automatically ensure her membership in L.A.R.K. To be accepted as a member, she first needs to attend a course titled “The Leadership Responsibility of Serving on L.A.R.K.” The course is held at the online university, Room 313K. As an award recipient, Ross can reduce her cost for taking the course with the signed approval of the dean. The actual plaque associated with the award will be presented at sometime in the future. There is no monetary award as part of the honor.

April Fools!

Did I catch you at all? Even for a minute? I have always liked April Fools’ Day. A day devoted to fun and shenanigans just seems like such a good idea. I never have known the origins of this informal holiday, however, so I initiated some online research to find out the facts.

I searched quite a few sites. Barbara Mikkelsen (2009, http://www.snopes.com/) offered the best presentation—articulate, informative, just plain fun. She clarified that the most consistent—albeit unsubstantiated—origin for the holiday took place in France in the 16th century when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted over the Julian Calendar. Apparently, those who did not get the news about the change in the official start of the calendar year from April (Julian) to January (Gregorian) and thus celebrated in April were teased as “April Fools.” Just how this ”event” grew from there to be celebrated across most of the Western world is not clear. But it is a fun celebration, nonetheless.

Further historical research suggests an earlier origin, as reported by http://www.infoplease.com. This research was reported in various newspapers in 1963, based on an interview with Joseph Boskin, a history professor at Boston University. His work noted that the day started with a decree from Constantine, Roman Emperor from 306-337. Apparently, Kugel—a court jester—was named emperor for the day to confirm his claim that he could run the country better than the emperor himself. His first action was to call for “foolishness” all day! This initial royal whim became an annual event. Given the revered status of court jesters at the time, this new holiday was especially significant. Joseph Boskin offered this explanation: “In a way, it was a very serious day. In those times fools were really wise men. It was the role of the jester to put events of the day into perspective with humor.”

There is only one problem with the research report: It was a hoax! It seems that Boskin “April-fooled” the Associated Press with his research and interview—but the story was seriously picked up by many newspapers across the country. Personally, I love this explanation—but no one is asking me. A decree for foolishness is just so much more fun than some ongoing delayed reaction to a calendar change.

I even visited Wikipedia to see what they could contribute. (Give me a break! I am on a fool’s errand anyway.) This popular site concurred that the most accepted origin for the holiday is tied up with the calendar change. However, that “truth” is hard to reconcile with references to “April Fools’ Day” in earlier literature and historical documents. Such discrepancies just add to the mystery. This site did offer some examples of notable pranks from over the years.

In 1969, a Dutch TV news show announced the development of a new device that could detect the presence of a television set within any household from outside the residence. The purpose? To help the government find TV license fee evaders. The spokesperson being interviewed—when asked if there were any way to thwart the device’s accuracy—said, “No. Well, not really. It just took too much foil to fully wrap a TV set.” Within hours, stations reported that many stores had sold out of aluminum foil.

In 1993, a disc jockey in the San Diego area announced that the Space Shuttle Discovery would be diverted to land at a small local municipal airport rather than at Edwards Air Force Base. Soon, thousands descended on the airport—creating many a traffic jam—in anticipation of the landing. There was not even a shuttle in orbit at the time.

In 1998, Burger King ran an ad in USA Today announcing it was offering its newly designed left-handed Whopper. Limited time offer, I am sure. Many customers ordered it. But even more very carefully requested the original right-handed burger. Are left-handed napkins far behind?

Every year National Public Radio (NPR) presents an extensive story that gets more and more ludicrous as it progresses. In 2008, NPR’s story focused on the government’s concern that taxpayers were not going to spend their rebate checks, thus undermining the whole reason behind the action. The IRS, therefore, would not issue the long-expected rebate checks; instead, the taxpayers would receive products, thus ensuring appropriate spending levels had been met. I never did receive a rebate check, but I am really bothered now about missing out on a toaster.

My favorite reported prank was presented by Ian Paul in his article, “Top 10 April Fools’ Day Fake News Items in 2010” (PCWorld, 2010). Google UK announced the availability of a new app for the iphone. This app translates a pet’s recorded utterances—yes, like a dog’s bark or a cat’s meow—into sounds understandable by humans. Right now the translations are only available into English, but other languages will be available soon. I love it! This possibility might just make me go buy one of those phones on which I can download an app. If I ordered a family plan, this app could help me keep in touch with my dog even while on vacation. Well, I would have to teach him the new tricks of dialing and answering the phone.

Have a great and foolish day! If you have terrific pranks to report or maybe a different origin story to contribute, please share by adding a comment. And make sure the tops are carefully screwed onto all of your salt shakers.

“Looking foolish does the spirit good.” John Updike

“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.” Mark Twain

Comments on: "UOP Awards Top Honor to Ross" (1)

  1. Rosalie S .Owens said:

    Yes. You did get me. I was getting ready to send you a congratulatory card. I LOVE the idea of L.A.R.K. I think we should start it.

    I can’t congratulate on the award, but I can congratulate on a nice blog.

    As they say in the South — Keep On A Written.

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