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Friday, October 30, 2009

Coal state environmentalism

The University of Kentucky just approved construction of the second LEED-certified building on the Lexington campus. LEED means Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The certification is designed to promote sustainable building and development. University of Louisville apparently has two such buildings completed and is working on more.

Guess what UK is going to name its new building? If you guessed "Wildcat Coal Lodge," then award yourself 10 bonus points for today.

The Board vote was 16-3. The negative votes came from faculty, staff, and student representatives -- the people who mostly work on campus.

The new construction project is a $7 million building designed to house the UK basketball program, which is a fairly high profile institution in this state.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

I need a new agent

Consider this a very special edition of UofL Today.

Lexington Herald-Leader, October 17, 2009:
The University of Louisville Foundation paid U of L President James R. Ramsey $1.9 million in 2007 to compensate him for state retirement benefits he forfeited, according to the foundation's most recent filing with the IRS.

Ramsey, who became president of Kentucky's second largest public university in 2002, had spent 17 years working for state government, including serving as state budget director under former Gov. Paul Patton between 1999 and 2002. While working for the state, he accrued time in the Kentucky Retirement System.

But because he left the state job without the necessary number of years of service to be fully vested, the U of L trustees inserted a provision in Ramsey's contract calling for him to be compensated for the retirement benefits he left on the table when he took the U of L job.

The foundation, which manages the university's private donations and endowment funds, paid Ramsey a $1,935,299 lump sum in 2007, the year he would have been eligible to retire with full state benefits, said Robert Gunnell, senior partner with Peritus Public Relations who serves as spokesman for the U of L Foundation.

"That was the amount that an actuarial firm calculated to make President Ramsey whole in his retirement account," Gunnell said.
Until today, most faculty and staff that I know hadn't heard about this.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Today, I received the following message in my email. The company name and phone number has been deleted:
[Deleted] Indoor Range would like to invite you to attend a free Handgun Familiarization Class on Sunday, November 8th, at 2:00 pm. This free information & training session is reserved for professors and administrators of local universities & colleges. The purpose of this event is to allow professors & administrators who have little or no experience with handguns to learn the basics about handguns and experience shooting them.

The session will be free, but limited to the first 20 professors or administrators to sign up. Those wishing to attend this event must reserve a seat by contacting [Deleted] Indoor Range (502-deleted). The event will consist of a 2-hour classroom session covering the below topics. The instructor will also take questions throughout the event. Following the classroom session, attendees will be invited to shoot on the range. Instructors will be available to assist those shooting. Everything needed to shoot (gun, ammunition, eye & ear protection, targets, etc.) will be provided.

Schedule for College Day:
Classroom Session 2-4 pm
Handgun safety
Types of handguns (revolvers & semi-automatics)
How to load & unload
How to shoot
Options to secure (lock up) a handgun
Concealed Carry (CDWL procedure)

Range Session 4-5 pm
- Shooting (for those wishing to shoot)
University of Louisville bans firearms on campus -- though local politicians recently tried to tweak the law by allowing guns in cars.

Personally, I'd ban all handguns.

I wonder if any of my colleagues accept this offer?

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back in the USSR

Saturday night, my daughter unexpectedly invited me to join her for the Louisville Orchestra's performance of Haydn's Symphony No. 82 and Shostakovitch's Tenth Symphony.

Predictably, the Haydn literally put me to sleep. In my family, I'm notorious for dozing off at various choral, orchestral, or operatic events. Haydn was like a lullaby to me.

The Shostakovitch piece, however, was terrific and I didn't miss a note.

Conductor Daniel Hege introduced the piece by telling the audience about the composer's personal history -- and about the four movements to come. He described a classic struggle between an artist and a brutal regime and made the audience eager to hear the artist's personal description of the tale.

My ears heard a resounding critique of the Soviet state -- emphasizing the brutality and illegitimacy of Stalin's rule, the composer's personal misery under that state, and the (somewhat tentative, but hopeful) elation at Stalin's death. It's hard to imagine that anyone in the west listening to this piece during the cold war ever doubted the inevitable demise of the Soviet state.

A couple of weeks ago I watched the far more popular Dr. Zhivago, which addressed some similar themes. Shostakovich's 10th symphony, however, told the tale much more efficiently -- and effectively, to my mind.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Ecological Costs of Low Prices

This is from Jefferson Decker's review of Nelson Lichtenstein's The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business in The Nation on October 5:
Today, Wal-Mart's world buying headquarters is in Shenzhen, a bustling industrial city along the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Province. In 1979 the Chinese government designated Shenzhen a "special economic zone" with low corporate taxes and few environmental regulations. Guangdong now produces a third of China's exports, 10 percent of which end up on a Wal-Mart shelf somewhere in the United States.
While I've previously mentioned the large economic bond between Wal-Mart and China, the numbers still surprise me.

This particular quote emphasizes the way that Wal-Mart, like many other businesses, manages to evade environmental standards imposed in the United States (and in other affluent western nations).

Shenzhen is a very large city these days, with over 10 million residents. The people there are relatively wealthy as the per capita GDP exceeds US $8500 -- one fruit of 20% growth rates for 20 years.

However, the UNEP's 2007 report Shenzhen Environment Outlook emphasized the growing environmental burden of unsustainable development. Under the "business as usual" model, which the report calls "Scenario A," disaster looms in the next two decades (p. 157 of Chapter V):
In a short term, the economy will retain a fast growth pace but in a long run the resources and energy can hardly meet the demand of the influx of population and surging industrial development, and water and land resources are in tight supply. Massive sea filling projects have great impacts on coastal ecology and urban expansion has reached the extremity. Pollutant discharge is more than doubled and serious pollution is threatening urban ecology. As the impact of resource depletion and environmental destruction loom large, the economy falls into recession after experiencing fast speed development. Various contradictions emerge as a result. In a word, Scenario A presents a picture of a deteriorating society.
This is a very high cost of "Always Low Prices."

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Baseball wrapup

I really enjoyed the Tigers-Twins game Tuesday that reflected a prolonged regular season. My sympathy goes out to the Detroit fans among my group of friends. I've also seen long stretches of several post-season games and many of those have been fairly exciting too.

As a Royals fan, however, this was a difficult and somewhat depressing year. The team was very bad and the post-season is populated by long-time rivals -- including the cross-state Cardinals ('85 World Series foe), Phillies ('80 World Series opponents), Yankees (ALCS opponent in '76-'77-'78-'80), and former AL West competitors Twins and Angels. People from Kansas grow up predisposed to dislike teams from NY and LA (Dodgers), meaning that my post-season choices are basically the Rockies (the AA farm team is now in Tulsa, near where I completed high school; at that time, Tulsa was a Ranger farm team) or Red Sox (who were briefly my home team in 2005, but are already down 0-2 in their first round divisional series). Ugh.

What can be salvaged from this baseball season? On September 26, the KC Star had this nugget about my team's young power-hitting first baseman:
Billy Butler became just the seventh major-leaguer to hit 50 doubles in a season before turning 24....

PlayerSeason, teamAgeHRRBIAvg.OBPSLG2B
Hank Greenberg1934 Tigers2326139.339.404.60063
Alex Rodriguez1996 Mariners2036123.358.414.63154
Enos Slaughter1939 Cardinals231286.320.371.48252
Albert Pujols2003 Cardinals2343124.359.439.66751
Stan Musial1944 Cardinals231294.347.440.54951
Miguel Cabrera2006 Marlins2326114.339.430.56850
Billy Butler2009 Royals232193.301.362.49251

Grady Sizemore also hit 50 doubles in 2006, but he turned 24 midseason (August 2) that year. Also, I edited Butler's totals to reflect his final seasonal numbers.

Greenberg, Slaughter and Musial are in the Hall of Fame, A-Rod and Pujols seem destined for Cooperstown, and Cabrera is off to a very good start.

Basketball practice starts next week.

Hat tip: I'm fairly certain that Brian Wood's post, which brought Butler's historic accomplishment to my attention, can only be viewed by SABR-L members.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009


Yesterday, at Duck of Minerva, I blogged "Peace Prize" about Barack Obama winning the Nobel award. I noted my surprise since nearly all of his many peace and disarmament initiatives remain in the discussion or implementation stages. At this point, I argued, he has generated far more hope than change and the gap between them is wide.

As I thought more about it through the day, and talked to friends and colleagues, I became convinced that the Nobel committee decided to reward certain norms of behavior and process that they must think promote peace. Obama the Non-Bush has obviously changed the way the US behaves in world politics and altered the image of the US.

As a Habermasian, I can certainly appreciate the decision to reward procedural norms. However, it still feels like a form of recognition that could have waited another year or two. Most Bush critics hoped for new results as well as new processes.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sustainability Report Card 2009

Many local administrators are pleased that the Sustainable Endowments Institute has awarded the University of Louisville a grade of B+ in its 2009 report card.

The University has improved its grade for four straight years. In 2007, for example, I noted the C+ that the school was awarded.

In the intervening years, the university has created a Sustainability Council (I'm a member), completed a greenhouse gas audit, participated in the preparation of a climate action plan, committed to reducing emissions via that plan, etc.

This is real progress, but there's still a long way to go.

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