August 2015 Technical Society News

07 Sep

Jack Neely, Contributing Editor at the new  Knoxville Mercury was the Technical Society of Knoxville speaker on August 3, 2015. He served as associate editor at Metro Pulse for much of its existence, and as author of the weekly column Secret History he has become one of Knoxville’s most popular writers and its unofficial historian. Beyond his column, he is well known for his thoughtful, well-researched, and provocative pieces of long-form journalism, not to mention his books, speeches, and other public appearances. Plus, he’s the director of the Knoxville History Project.
His father, John Neely , an industrial engineer who worked in management at Rohm & Haas,  was a member of the Technical Society of Knoxville and his grandfather also was a member. Jack said he is the family “black sheep” since all the other male members of his family have been or are engineers.

Jack obviously enjoys the history of Knoxville and he informed us we were meeting on “hanging hill” and he gave us some stories about our surroundings. He talked about some Knoxville outstanding men including Weston Fulton- one of the founders of the Technical Society.

I , secretary Bob Scott, recommend everyone read his weekly articles in the Knoxville Mercury.

Our August 10 speaker had to cancel and instead one of our Technical Society members Steve Hillenbrand, spoke about one of Knoxville’s noted personalities- the late Cas Walker. Steve Hillenbrand has talked to the Technical Society in the past about insurance claims, sinkholes, air pollution and cutting jewels so he may be one of Knoxville’s more colorful characters also. And he arrived for the talk wearing a Cas Walker t shirt and ready to tell a number of Cas Walker stories.

On August 17, 2015, Harold A. Black, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville was speaker. His title was “The crisis of 2008, the Fed, and its consequences.” Among many other recognitions, he has served as a Director and Chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He is able to speak with authority on economic subjects. Listening to Dr. Black I, secretary Bob Scott, learned that the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board (FED) has the power to induce a recession and to determine the response of the economy to the recession. In the recent recession the FED started buying “commercial paper” and “short term financial paper” to prevent a collapse.

The FED can set the interest rate charged between banks and can make it easy or difficult for banks to get money. The current rate is low to increase borrowing and spending.

The FED has killed the subprime housing which let minorities buy houses. None of the things said about subprime mortgages are true. The subprime mortgages- which comprise a small part of the mortgages and have a high default rate built into them- did not cause the last recession, instead it was the rest of the real estate market. The normal mortgages have a 4 to 5 percent default rate built in to them and the actual default rate of about 8 percent was disastrous. Derivatives spread the risk but the entire market collapsed.

The FED can set rules that strongly effect the economy. The FED has to look at the longer term economy- looking at current economic conditions results in poor policy.
Dr. Black writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News Sentinel and blogs at

The Technical Society did not meet on August 24 but toured Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus on August 27, 2015. The new building is nearing completion and it is a very impressive place. Our host was Cliff Hawks, President and CEO of the Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus.

On August 31, 2015 Jennifer Tyrell was the speaker. Her topic was “The Tennessee Science Bowl.” The 2016 Tennessee Science Bowl needs volunteers for the event on Saturday, February 28, 2016.  Jennifer Tyrell is the new event coordinator and is open to working with and recognizing the existence and relevancy of organizations to the event. The 2016 Tennessee Science Bowl (TSB), a regional competition sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) and Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), will need volunteers to serve as moderators, scientific judges, rules judges, scorekeepers, timekeepers, runners, civility award judges, and to help with volunteer registration and crowd control on Saturday, February 28, 2016, at the Blount County Campus of Pellissippi State Community College in Friendsville. Jennifer described how volunteers are trained and used and all of us can help. Volunteers will also be needed to help with team registration and crowd control on February 27, 2016, at the Hilton Knoxville Airport in Alcoa. This is an opportunity for Technical Society members to help our community in a direct way.

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