Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Acted or Reacted - How Others See Us
No Alcohol in the House That Bob Built

From NCAA Football:

The University of Minnesota's Board of Regents has decided to go dry. The Board acted Wednesday to ban alcohol sales at all its on-campus venues, including the soon-to-open TCF Bank Stadium.

"Acted" might be a bit of stretch, actually. "Reacted" is closer to the truth, as the Minnesota State Legislature recently enacted a law mandating that if some fans would be able to buy alcohol at University sporting events, all fans of legal age had to be allowed to.

That seems like a silly law until you consider that the U of M planned to sell alcohol to people in TCF Bank Stadium's luxury boxes while making it unavailable in the cheap seats. I'm sure the Board had its reasons, but the Legislature stuck up for the little guy for once.

Of course, all this move does is correct a quirk that made the Metrodome doubly unique among Big Ten football stadiums.

The Humpty Dump was not only the Big Ten's only indoor venue; it was also the only one where students of legal age could buy alcohol during a game.

Minnesota is now one of only three schools which explicitly forbid anyone to have alcohol in their athletic venues. (Michigan and Ohio State are the others.) As for the rest of the schools? They just hope you don't wonder too much about what's going in those luxury boxes.

Still, the excitement around the opening of TCF Bank Stadium should build a bigger buzz around Gopher football than anything since the days of Murray Warmath. Tim Brewster and his crew had better be vigilant, however. If the team's performance drives the boosters to drink, they'll have to do it somewhere else.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

UD destroys Schulz article

Immediately after getting up my own little post about a rather pompous article by Dr. Shulz - in which I noted the straw man nature of his argument - Margaret Soltan destroyed the article with one of her patented SOS [Scathing Online Schoolmarm] do-overs:

SOS offers a perfect example of the straw man argument.

Straw man plus just the sort of bland vapid reassurance you’d expect from a certain sort of doctor. This is ultimately arrogant writing that thinks you’re stupid. Don’t be taken in by it.

It’s written by the chair of the University of Minnesota psychiatry department, a locus of conflict of interest.

Let’s take a look.

Much has been written over the past few years about the relationship between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. So I would like to disclose the following right now: I have worked with multiple companies over the years on sponsored research and as a consultant, and I continue to do so. During this time I have published a number of papers regarding this work — including some pertinent negative results concerning the drugs these companies make. [Dull but okay writing. He needs to provide at least one link to a study he's been involved in, funded by a pertinent drug company, that arrived at seriously negative results. This is the first instance of bland reassurance in an opinion piece rife with it.]

A recent Pioneer Press report noted I have received less money from industry in the last year. Why? Because nothing is more important to me than the reputation of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and I am concerned that the media portrayal of all physician-industry relationships as bad could affect public perception. [This is just weird. Wacky. Where's the logic? We need hard numbers first of all -- the sort of thing notoriously missing from conflict of interest forms psychiatry professors give their universities -- if, of course, they give their universities the forms at all. Quite a number of them don't seem to bother with the paperwork. Many of those who do fudge the numbers like hell. This writer needs to talk to us about that... But as to the logic: Why should his caring so much about his school's rep mean he's received less money? And I mean -- we need to know if it's five or five thousand or five hundred thousand less, don't we? And here comes the straw man: Absolutely no one believes, argues, or writes that all of these relationships are bad. Set up a straw man and knock him down. How powerful.]

What the media stories do not mention are the advances that have been made because of these relationships, which are managed carefully by institutions such as the University of Minnesota, where the Institutional Review Board approves all studies for human subjects and the Sponsored Projects Administration negotiates all contracts with industry. [He thinks you're stupid, doesn't he? Doesn't he know that you know that things aren't managed carefully at all? That this is an ongoing national scandal? You know what he's doing? He's saying There there little woman. There there little man. It's all fine. You don't need to understand -- you don't have the capacity to understand -- the details and complexities here. Trust me.]

Physician-researchers need to partner with industry to develop new treatments. It is the system we have in place. The National Institutes of Mental Health do not fund development of new compounds in psychiatry; their focus is on funding basic science and mechanisms of action after approval. [Sure. True. No one has a problem with this. Get to the point.]

When it comes to clinical research to improve and develop medicines and bring them to market, it is industry that funds that work. And the research to develop new drugs is very expensive, costing $800 million and even up to $1 billion to get a drug discovered and available for patients. [How much improved are the improved meds you're talking about? Isn't one of the big points here that professors with financial interests in new, more expensive, but by no means better pills, are pushing those, thereby contributing to the health costs crisis? When do you plan to say something about this?]

When I consider the field of psychiatry, the advances made because of new medicines — studied in research institutions and developed by pharmaceutical companies — have been enormous and life-changing. Before we had effective medications, one out of two hospital beds was taken by a mentally ill patient. We no longer warehouse psychotic patients and drug them with opiates to “manage” them. Now, we have better ways. Better medications. [Who says? Do you think I'm dumb? Do you think I'm not aware of studies showing that many, many psychiatric meds are no more effective than placebos?]

Because of the partnerships between physicians and industry and the medications that have resulted from these relationships, many psychiatric patients were able to leave institutions. Now, because of the advances in psychiatric medicine, patients in our department — who are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and friends — can be treated as outpatients. Many have jobs, support families and contribute to society. [Bland, bland, prose to match Dr. Pangloss's happyface. At this point in reading, you should be telling this writer to eat shit.]

Are the psychiatric drugs we have now perfect? No. All drugs have side effects, and the drugs I prescribe my patients are no different. [Why don't you talk not merely about side effects but effectiveness? Relative effectiveness of new, expensive and old, inexpensive? Why don't you talk about all the people who shouldn't be taking these strong-side-effect, expensive drugs in the first place? About the fact that the pills are being over-prescribed unconscionably by you and your colleagues? Where is all that?] The leading edge of our research now focuses on predicting which medications, which compounds, will be effective for our patients. The goal remains to help people live independently, or with the fewest restraints on their freedom. In our department, we develop programs that integrate efficacious medications with effective psychosocial treatments. [Gag me. You're letting Mister Doctor use pompous big words -- efficacious?? -- and how's that different from effective?? Oh. It ain't -- you're letting him do that in order to make you think he's a big ol' authority and all that you shouldn't question. Tell him one more time to eat shit.] There are always new discoveries to be made, and it is truly unfortunate that the public is hearing only one side of the story from the media.

Do physician-industry relationships need to be managed? Absolutely. Has the increased scrutiny in the past couple of years resulted in constructive changes? Yes. But the answer is not to break these ties completely. My patients of the future are counting on them. [Pompous, self-righteous, self-serving. Why did the paper publish it? Because of who the writer is. But the writer is lazy and cynical and he thinks you're stupid.]




Great article in the Pioneer Press about Warren MacKenzie...

Warren is a wonderful man. His concern that all of us be able to afford a little non-plastic in our lives is quite remarkable. The Pioneer Press is to be congratulated for this excellent article and also the accompanying outstanding video. It is heartening to know that the good guys can also live long and prosper...

From the article:

Warren MacKenzie doesn't want you to collect his pottery. He wants you to like it, buy it ... and use it, without fear of breaking it.

MacKenzie began teaching ceramics at the University of Minnesota in 1953. The next year, he and Alix had their first exhibition of pottery from their new studio, at Walker Art Center.

The couple had two children. Alix died of cancer in 1962. In 1984, MacKenzie married Nancy Stevens, a fiber artist whom he had worked with at the U. He retired from teaching in 1990.

"I enjoyed the interaction with students ... but I was always thinking about making pots," he said.

The MacKenzies spend their days working in their respective studios; Nancy works out of the third floor of the couple's house.

Together, the MacKenzies recently attended the opening of "Warren MacKenzie: Legacy of an American Potter" at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco. In April, MacKenzie was named a "Master of the Medium" in ceramics by the James Renwick Alliance in Washington, D.C.

His pots can be found in museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Smithsonian Institution in Washington; the National Folk Art Museum in Tokyo; and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

"Making a pot — that's the most fun for me," he said. "There are kiln people. There are glaze people. There are decorating people. There are mud people. I'm a mud person. That's where I get my greatest pleasure. I like to make pots."

He makes pots seven days a week, six hours a day.

MacKenzie hopes his pottery will enrich those who buy it.

"You can live in today's society without ever touching anything that is handmade, but I think you'll have a much less rich life," he said.

"I make a very good living selling pots inexpensively, because I make a lot of pots," MacKenzie said. "I can earn as much money by selling a lot of pots very inexpensively as another person can selling a few pots for a very high price. The question is, what do you need to live?"

Nancy MacKenzie attributes her husband's pricing strategy to his heritage. "It's so basic to him. He's a Scot, for one thing," she said. "He's opposed to all pretense."

Joan Mondale, a fellow potter, works with MacKenzie in his studio on Wednesday mornings. She said MacKenzie makes pottery — like her favorite cereal bowl — to "give people the good feeling of holding something that has been made by hand."

"We do have an awful lot of machine-made things — a lot of plastic — and I don't find those pots terribly satisfying," she said. "Warren's are satisfying."

He has no plans to retire. "You have to love to make pots. You really have to live your whole life for making pots," he said. "I hope that when I can't control the clay anymore, I'll know enough to quit. Because then it would just be putting in time. No good."

A fundraiser featuring some of Warren MacKenzie's older signed pieces will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. July 20 at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. An anonymous donor gave the pieces to the Clay Center with the restriction that the proceeds be used to help potters rent studio space. The pots will be available for viewing July 17 at the center and at northernclaycenter.org. The event is free and open to the public.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Graduate Tuition at University of Minnesota

Thoughts of Regent Frobenius

(at recent Board of Regents meeting on the budget)


video

Unfortunately, there was no second and therefore no discussion.

This is sad.

I have often in the past seconded a motion that I oppose, simply to allow discussion.

From later remarks of the Regents I believe that many were sympathetic to Regent Frobenius. I also believe that in the upcoming year the University administration will be subjected to a little more scrutiny by the Regents than has been the case in recent times. Evidence for this opinion will be presented in further clips from the Regents meeting that I will put up when time is available.

Tomorrow I will be out of town - for a week - and there will be no further posts during that time.

Ciao.

For those interested in seeing the whole
unadulterated meeting, please see this link.


(you want the 6/24/09 video)

Thursday, June 25, 2009



No Alcohol Aftermath - Truth, Not Baloney?

The Pioneer Press has a good article:

The total cost of going dry has yet to be determined, officials said, but athletics director Joel Maturi said compensation for suite buyers at TCF Bank Stadium and Williams and Mariucci arenas — all of which now will be dry — could come to about $1 million.

Associate athletics director Phil Esten said compensation will take the form of price reductions or items of value offered to fans.

The Board of Regents voted last year to allow liquor sales in the new football stadium, which opens in September, in premium seating areas but not general seating, which would have applied to Williams and Mariucci as well.

But legislators criticized the arrangement as elitist and passed a provision last session saying the U had to either sell to all fans or none.

U President Robert Bruininks didn't want to sell alcohol generally at an on-campus stadium, which meant the only option was going dry.

"(It's) an issue the Legislature should not have visited upon the University of Minnesota," Bruininks told regents at their meeting Wednesday.

Larson and Venora Hung were the only regents to vote against Bruininks' proposal to make the stadiums alcohol-free.

Several, however, mentioned going back to the Legislature to see if the law could be changed after this season.

One lawmaker, Rep. Pat Garofolo, R-Farmington, said Wednesday that he wants the U to reverse its decision so that everyone of legal age can buy alcohol at the new stadium.

Nobody has canceled a suite purchase over the alcohol issue, Maturi said, though several people have asked about what compensation might be offered to them.

All nonpremium seating for the new football stadium is sold out for 2009, and of the premium seating options, all the outdoor club seats and loge boxes have been sold, Esten said.

Thirty-two of the 37 suites have been sold, Maturi said, and about 200 of the 250 indoor club seats. Suites cost $45,000 per season, and indoor club seats go for $3,000, which means at least $375,000 in premium seating remains unsold with two months left until opening day.

The premium seating in the new stadium accounts for only about 5 percent of the seats but about 40 percent of overall stadium revenue, Bruininks said.

Forecasts projected the on-campus stadium would generate $3 million to $3.5 million more in net revenues than the Metrodome, where alcohol was for sale to anyone of legal age.

But those forecasts assumed the new stadium's premium seating would sell out, and it's unclear how much lower the stadium's revenues will be given the alcohol decision, Maturi said.

The concern is more about lost suite sales than lost revenue from the sale of alcohol, which he called "minimal in the overall scheme of things."

Wednesday's vote makes the U the third school in the Big Ten — along with Michigan and Ohio State — to have a completely alcohol-free football stadium.

Alcohol was not allowed in Memorial Stadium, the last place the Gophers played on campus before moving to the Metrodome in 1982. Fans will be able to tailgate with alcohol in designated areas outside the new stadium.

______________________

Given the sale of alcohol at University of Minnesota football games in the Dome, I think that President Bruininks is being hypocritical in making the House That Bob Built a dry one.

The no alcohol policy - except in premium seats - was clearly a marketing decision as can be demonstrated by careful examination of then Regent Metzen's remarks at the Board meeting a year ago. The idea was to make premium seats more valuable by allowing them the perk of alcohol.

So let's cut out the baloney about this being for the children... If this is the case where was Dr. B. all these years while alcohol was being sold in the Dome at Gopher football games?

And don't hold your breath waiting for the legislature to come around on this one. What Garofolo is up to is to force the U to sell alcohol throughout the stadium.

He plans to make us an offer we can't refuse...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Q: Why is this man smiling?

A: He is compensated to the tune of $740K p.a.
and has dodged, thus far, a salary cut?


(Maybe that's why his arms are crossed?)

The above picture of the CEO of the University of Minnesota appears in the current issue of the Minnesota Daily. Given the terrible situation at the U this seems like a strange pose. Maybe he is anticipating the upcoming football season in the House that Bob Built? This picture accompanies a telling piece: "Bruininks talks tuition increases, job cuts."

Elsewhere in the same issue, the Daily asks in an editorial:

Questions for our budgeteers

Is the well-off leadership at the University not thinking hard enough about alternative cost cutting or are they just not listening?

These questions beg of the University community the following: If our enlightened and bountifully compensated leaders cannot find more novel ways to reduce expenses, are they truly worth the salaries we afford them?

So maybe OurCEO is smiling because he is a fan of the late Steve Cannon. Cannon's famous sign off line was: "I got the money."

Another interesting thing about this picture is the body language. Usually crossed arms are considered a bad sign:

Arms can act as the doorway to the body and the self. When they are crossed, they form a closed defensive shield, blocking out the outside world.

Crossed arms may thus indicate anxiety which is either driven by a lack of trust in the other person or an internal discomfort and sense of vulnerability.

Crossed arms is a very obvious signal and if you do it in front of other people they will likely feel rejected and respond accordingly (including not agreeing with you).
Hmm...

Maybe there is something to this body language stuff?


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why are these people in so-called academic medicine?

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:


Several University of Wisconsin Medical School Professors

Accepted Large Corporate Payments

Thomas A. Zdeblick, an orthopedic surgeon, apparently isn’t the only doctor at the University of Wisconsin who has been collecting a substantial outside income from medical companies.

A tally by the Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee has now found that Dr. Zdeblick had at least six colleagues at the Wisconsin medical school who have also been receiving six-figure payments from makers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

The newspaper reported in January that Dr. Zdeblick received more than $19-million from Medtronic, the medical device-maker, from 2003 to 2007. That led University of Wisconsin officials to declare that their policy of requiring doctors to state only whether they were collecting more than $20,000 a year from outside sources — without declaring the actual figure — wasn’t sufficient to guard against possible abuses.

Such payments aren’t illegal, though critics, including U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican of Iowa, have questioned whether large payments to doctors might improperly influence their decisions in patient research and patient treatment.

The new cases at the University of Wisconsin described by the Journal Sentinel include Paul A. Anderson, a professor of orthopedic surgery who was paid $150,000 by Medtronic for eight days of work as a consultant;

Ben K. Graf, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery who collected $770,000 in royalties from the medical-device manufacturer Smith & Nephew;

and Clifford B. Tribus, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery who was paid $310,000 for royalties and 15 days of work as a speaker and consultant for Stryker Spine, another device company.

—Paul Basken

Monday, June 22, 2009


Mrs. Bonzo Scores!

The lovely and talented Mrs. Bonzo has written a book that has been published by Yale University Press:

The Cosmopolitan Interior

Liberalism and the British Home (1870 - 1914)

It is available at Amazon (link above).

As I like to tell my friends, if you want to know the relationship of John Stuart Mill to interior design, this is the book to buy.

From a review:

“… takes a detailed look at many important issues relating to the Victorian home, including health and sanitation, the contribution of women as taste-makers … through the wave of revulsion that greeted Art Nouveau, to the creation of a new anti-cosmopolitan view of the “British” home. The bibliography … is a testimony to the exhaustive investigations of the author.”

Charlotte Gere, Art Newspaper

Bill Gleason, a University [of Minnesota] professor, blogger and avid tweeter of all things U of M spoke out against recent administrative decisions at an open Regents forum last week.

The gist of the speech was that the University places too much importance on facilities and not enough on students and faculty, citing at the get-go a successful experience teaching in poorly maintained classrooms.

Here's the video, posted by Moneylaw, a blog that openly supports Gleason's views.

Sunday, June 21, 2009



Green Eggs & Ham - at the Birchwood!

The Birchwood is a fantastic local restaurant.
There you may take Dad on his day for GE & H...

Remember all those Dr. Seuss books he read to you when you were growin' up?

You owe him!

If green eggs make you a little nervous, there are other goodies available, such as:

Steak and Eggs Sandwich

Bacon, Cheddar & Basil Cornmeal Waffle

Veggie Burrito

Brioche French Toast

Quiche du Jour
(#1 = veggie)
(#2 = smoked trout)

Simply Scrambled

Hurry on over for Father's Day Brunch from 9 am - 2 pm.

Support our community businesses who use local produce.
Excellence Within Our Means

Remarks Delivered at the Board of Regents Meeting
University of Minnesota, June 17, 2009

by W. B. Gleason

I've carved out what I had to say at the meeting. The audio is out of synch, but it appears to have been that way in the original. I have to do some av stuff in the Fall for teaching, so learning a little about how to do this will hopefully be useful.

In case you are wondering, President Bruininks was present at this meeting. So the first half of the talk was addressed directly to him.


video

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tom Rukavina - My Favorite Public Servant

Tom doesn't mince words. He has an iron range straightforwardness that appeals to someone who grew up in Pittsburgh/Braddock where the (steel) mills and (coal) mines lead to a certain, shall we say, indelicacy of expression...

So Tom is quoted in MinnPost:

A lot of unallotment
By Brian Lambert | Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The tumbrels rolled and Gov. Pawlenty manned the guillotine pretty much as promised. The Strib's Pat Lopez delivers that paper's breakdown of the governor's unprecedented unallotment plan, with several well-scripted quotes ...

The best, not too surprisingly, comes from Tom Rukavina. Lopez writes,

"Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, accused Pawlenty of 'lying through his teeth' about the true effect of his cuts. 'The governor is going after seniors, renters, the poor, disabled and mentally ill to pay for the budget deficit he created when he vetoed the Legislature's balanced budget. It might help protect his national conservative credentials, but it weakens the Minnesota we all value and cherish.'"

Yikes. Someone won't be getting invited over for burgers on the deck.
Don't worry, Tom. When you're in the Twin Cities you're always welcome to come over for burgers and beer on our deck.

ps. We don't serve chardonnay...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mayo Clinic to Open New Facility,

at the Mall of America
...


"I'd like a health care sandwich, please, with plenty of Mayo..."



As if the U didn't have enough trouble with its current competition - Allina, etc. - the big kid down the road is establishing a clubhouse right in the U's back yard. Think of the possible package deals. It's a marketer's dream.

"We fly you in to Minneapolis/St. Paul airport where you take the light rail over to the MOA for a day of shopping. While you are there you can get all of your health care needs taken care of at the famous Mayo Clinic MOA."

"And if you should happen to have any condition that needs further work, we can take you down to the Big House in Rochester for serious slicin' and dicin'.
We have nice air conditioned shuttles that will do this. Want to stop on the way for a little gambling? No problemo. We'll swing by Mystic Lake. Horse racing? Can do. Canterbury Downs is on the way."

"You're from Minneapolis or St. Paul? That's fine, too. Just take the light rail from downtown Minneapolis to the MOA. No more trouble for you than going to the hospitals in Minneapolis and St. Paul. We don't even ream you for parking, unlike our competitors. And, you'll have the Mayo cachet. After all, we are the best. No one else in Minnesota is even close. So why not go for the best? You deserve it. We're no more expensive than lesser alternatives. "


Mayo Clinic to lease space at Mall of America

By CHEN MAY YEE, Star Tribune

In another step in the evolution of health-care delivery, Mayo Clinic said Wednesday it has signed a letter of intent to lease space in the second phase of the Mall of America.

Mayo CEO Dr. Glenn Forbes said the prestigious clinic has not decided what services it will offer at the Bloomington shopping mall, but said they might include diagnostic screenings, telemedicine and health and wellness consultations.

It would be the first Twin Cities facility for Rochester-based Mayo.

Mayo officials described the planned facility as a "gateway'' location that would connect patients to its main campus in Rochester.

"It's not our intention to replicate what we're doing in Rochester,'' Forbes said at a news conference attended by Mall officials and Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Mayo officials said they plan to spend the next 12 months deciding the nature of the facility and the size of their investment.

Mayo has been considering a Twin Cities presence for years, but may have been motivated by rapid changes in retail medical services in the last few years.

The famed institutition has not been spared the effects of the recession in the last 12 months. Last year, Mayo barely broke even as expenses raced ahead of revenue. Gifts from benefectors were down and the clinic, like other organizations, suffered big investment losses.

The main Rochester campus and branches in Jacksonville, Fla. and Scottsdale, Az. treated about 526,000 patients last year, about the same as the year earlier. However, income from patient care was down significantly because more of them were Medicare patients. Medicare pays less than private insurers for the same procedures.
The pie is only going to get smaller and Mayo apparently plans to take some of it from University-Fairview and other already existent hospitals in the Twin Cities. When there is an oversupply of medical buildings and services, then the weak and inefficient will fall by the wayside.

If the race is to the excellent and the efficient, then Mayo should do well. If you have any doubt about this, read Dr. Gawande's excellent June New Yorker piece about health care. There he is extemely complimenary about the way Mayo does things.

If the U was worried recently about competition from St. Thomas, they should really be concerned by this move on the part of Mayo.

But of course the present AHC administration seems to be in no big rush: about ethics reform, about conflict of interest reform, about employing double dippers...


Don't worry, be happy?

Where's my fiddle?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gopher Becomes Boilermaker

University of Minnesota chemistry department chair to become dean of College of Science at Purdue.

From BoilerStation:

Purdue Names [U of M] Chemist New Science Dean

It's a plum job. That is what University of Minnesota's Jeffrey Roberts is saying about being named the next dean of Purdue University's College of Science.

Roberts, whose own research includes aerosol surface chemistry, has been at the University of Minnesota since 1990 and directed the University of Minnesota Research Site for Educators in Chemistry, a National Science Foundation-supported initiative, from 2001 to 2007.

Question: Why are you leaving University of Minnesota and coming to Purdue?

Answer: Purdue is a superb institution, with a long-standing commitment to excellence in the STEM -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- disciplines. President Córdova and the board of trustees have an exciting new strategic plan. To be dean of science at Purdue is to have a plum job, so it was not a hard decision to make.


Q: What is it about the STEM education that is so attractive?

A: Economic success in the 21st century is going to require that students be well trained in the STEM disciplines. It is going to be essential for the economy of Indiana and for the nation as a whole.


Q: As you know, Purdue has the Birck Nanotechnology Center. Will you be working with them?

A: I am excited to get on campus and get to know the researchers in the Birck Nanotechnology Center. Research will still be a part of what I do, even though I expect to be mighty busy as dean.


Q: Are there any changes you are planning to make at the college or continue on its current path?

A: I need to spend time getting to know the college better.


Q: You were awarded the Special Creativity Award from the National Science Foundation in 2003. What is that?

A: That award is given by the National Science Foundation to funded researchers whose work is judged to be moving in unusually exciting or creative directions. It happened when I began working in aerosol chemistry.


Q: Outside of the academics, what is your family looking forward to?

A: Oh, just fitting in to West Lafayette. We are excited to attend some of the Convocations events. My youngest daughter wants to go to some Boilermaker games. We're interested in finding out more about the farmers markets. We just want to fit in.


Ouch! Wouldn't you like to hear a conversation like this involving one of our administrators? Jeff will do a helluva job at Purdue.

Selective Amnesia Demonstrated by U of M Administration?

Thomas Lee, in his most excellent blog - Patents Pending - goes after the U of M for one of my pet peeves.

Selective memory

Posted on June 14th, 2009 – 8:41 PM

By Thomas Lee

“The benefits to the university are substantial. This is designed to help faculty who develop ideas with economic potential to develop a business plan, work with venture capitalists to refine their ideas, and do research necessary to move the idea into something that … can help fuel Minnesota’s economy.”

University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks- October 2004

Development of this type of biotech laboratory and entrepreneurial corridor will help the region and state take better advantage of its native assets, such as the university, the Mayo Clinic and companies like Medtronic, Guidant, Cargill and Ecolabs, important forces in medical, industrial and agricultural applications of bioscience. University faculty, for example, bring in $500 million per year in sponsored research funds, and their work drives the development of new technologies, which in turn create the need for laboratory incubator space.

Star Tribune Editorial Board- October 2004

My, what short memories we have. The two above quotes in 2004 referred to the construction of the University Enterprise Laboratories, a 120,000 square foot laboratory and office facility in St. Paul that was supposed to incubate promising startup companies based on research originating from the University of Minnesota.

Today, do you know how many of the 25 or so companies at UEL come from the U? Zero. None. Zilch.

I don’t know what’s more upsetting: that we can spend $20 million on a building that, despite the name, has little to do with the U or that our state government has repeatedly failed to pass an angel investor tax credit that could provide crucial, hard to find, early stage funding to high tech startups.

Hmmm….building or money, building or money, building or money. I’m going to say money.

The state didn’t actually spend anything on UEL. The non profit group that oversees the facility took out a $13.8 million bond that it might not be able to pay back when the principal comes due in 2012. The U chipped in $2 million, and corporate titans Medtronic and Xcel also contributed funds. St. Paul is also on the hook for a $6 million loan.

In hindsight, the brains behind the project admit that UEL didn’t go exactly to plan. For one thing, in 2004, the U’s Office of Techonology Commercialization, which is responsible for licensing U technology and spinning off companies, was, at best, ineffectual, and at worst, dysfunctional. You can’t incubate U-bred companies when they don’t exist. Either someone didn’t do this due dilligence back in 2004 or really didn’t really care.

UEL officials note the building is 95 percent occupied by some promising startups like Syntiron and Cima Nanotech. They also say the building’s attractive, spacious design is a plus when investors and companies visit.

Okay. But UEL supporters back in 2004 didn’t exactly say the goal was to build what’s suspiciously looking like a $20 million real estate showpiece.

For some reason, Minnesota just likes the idea that building buildings will somehow create a biotech industry. The U, perhaps learning nothing from this experience or maybe would just like to forget UEL all together, is moving forward with a $292 million project to build four bioscience buildings behind its new football stadium. The state will pay the debt service on $233 million of that bond.

Minnesota is also providing millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements to the planned Elk Run biosciences project in Pine Island. At least that project has the backing prominent biotech investor Steve Burrill. But there’s been little information so far about how such a business model is going to work.

I don’t want to be a complete hater but I think it’s important to acknowledge our mistakes and learn something from it. To stimulate a biotech industry, one needs things that can’t easily be seen or touched-a risk taking enterpreneurial culture, backed by strong state support and a robust pool of venture capital.

But that requires the type of reasonable, strategic thinking that seems to be lacking in Minnesota.

Especially at the University of Minnesota, where the administration seems hell-bent on repeating the mistakes of the past. As long as they can get the money out of someone, apparently what they have said in the past doesn't really matter.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


University Enterprise Laboratories (UEL)

A Wild Success or a Disaster?

It all depends on who you ask. And whether you are willing to learn from experience, or continue to believe that new buildings alone are the answer to all of our problems...

From the Star-Tribune:

The $20 million facility in St. Paul, which opened with great fanfare in 2004, has been struggling to forge a new identity amid a severe economic recession and a diluted, if not ambiguous, relationship with the University of Minnesota.

For one thing, none of the 25 or so companies that inhabit the UEL originated from university research, even though the building is home to the school's Office of Technology Commercialization and the U contributed $2 million to the project.

Minnesota has long flirted with the idea that incubators can stimulate a bioscience industry. In 2007, the Mayo Clinic and the university inaugurated a $25 million, three-story genomics research facility at a Mayo building in Rochester. There have been a few licensing deals, but no companies have yet emerged from the partnership.

The U is also spending $233 million over the next decade to construct four major bioscience buildings in "Discovery Square" on its Minneapolis campus, just a few miles from UEL.

Experts caution it takes time for biotechnology start-ups to develop. Still, the experience of University Enterprise Laboratories offer a cautionary tale that buildings alone can't create companies and industries.

"It's natural to [construct buildings] because that's what you can see," Bianco said. "It's the physical embodiment of our hopes and dreams. But we don't have the talent or capital here."

[Peter] Bianco was the first CEO of the UEL before he resigned in 2005. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the project at first, but in hindsight said the project lacked some ingredients crucial to a successful incubator. To facilitate easy interactions with students, researchers and faculty with companies and investors, a university-related incubator should be located on or next to the campus, he said.
[Au contraire, says U Dean Bob Elde...]
Elde says the facility, at University Avenue and Hwy. 280, is ideally located between the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses.

"It's the hub of very critical activity and the desired spot for start-ups to be there," Elde said.
[So which is it folks?]

"Without a doubt, the board is very satisfied," LaFrence [Andrew LaFrence, a partner at KPMG and chairman of UEL Board of Directors. said.] "UEL has been wildly successful."
[The glass is very, very full!]


...the incubator has not met its initial expectations, said Dale Wahlstrom, CEO of BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota.

"... it has not stimulated the bioscience industry the way that we hoped," such as developing spinoff companies from the U and Mayo Clinic.
[Ah, no - the glass is not even half-full.]
The incubator also faces some serious financial challenges. Though the building generates positive operating cash flow, it remains heavily dependent on donations, which accounted for nearly 60 percent of its revenue in 2007, according to financial documents.
Most importantly, UEL faces a 2012 deadline to repay a $13.8 million bond it primarily used to fund the renovation of what was a Target Corp. distribution center. The board is trying to refinance the bond but given the weak commercial real estate market, LaFrence says he's not sure what will happen. There's been speculation that the UEL shopped itself to the university, but LaFrence said there were no serious discussions.
As a result, UEL is trying to cut costs. It laid off its general manager and hired a real estate firm to manage day-to-day operations.
Wildly successful?

Time for some straight talk about UEL and its implications for Discovery Center?

I didn't think so...

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Let's make her an offer she can't refuse..."

From the Daily:


Dean of the grad school resigns

Her term ends June 30.

BY Elizabeth Sias

PUBLISHED: 06/15/2009

Gail Dubrow, the Dean of the University of Minnesota’s Graduate School, resigned. Her term ends on June 30. She declined to comment further.

__________


"He who blinded by ambition, raises himself to a position whence he cannot mount higher, must thereafter fall with the greatest loss."

Niccolo Machiavelli

__________

BE IT RESOLVED: That the University Senate of the University of Minnesota disapproves the Provost’s plan to dissolve the Graduate School as announced in the Feb. 9. 2009 memorandum;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the University Senate demands that any proposal to dissolve or otherwise to restructure the Graduate School comply with the University of Minnesota Policy on Reorganization.

[from motion passed by U of M Faculty Senate, 30 April 2009]




Excellence Within Our Means

[I thank a kind friend for making valuable suggestions about a draft of this piece.]

Remarks to be delivered to the Board of Regents, University of Minnesota, on June 17, 2009

Thirty five years ago, as a new Minnesota PhD, I went down to Carleton to start my teaching career. The chemistry laboratory facilities were, at that time, much worse than those in the state's high schools. And yet Carleton, today, is widely acknowledged as one of the best institutions of its kind.

There is a lesson here that I have never forgotten: People, not buildings, are what makes an institution excellent.

An imperfect acknowledgment of this idea is our administration's use of the phrase “human capital.”

Along with reminding me of my old lesson about the primacy of people, this phrase reminds us all of the old caution to pay attention to what people do, much more than to what they say.

In the matter of the Bell Museum, the new biomedical research buildings, MoreU Park, and modification of the Regents scholarship program, the administration asks sacrifices of us. It also asks people to anticipate the possible loss of 1200 jobs. But while it asks others to make sacrifices, the administration doesn't make its own. A salary freeze at the level of $750 K is not the same sort of sacrifice as that made by a person earning less than ten percent of this amount and ultimately losing his or her job.

We all wish the best for our university. But many of us disagree with the current priorities of the administration and have been saying so for quite some time. This administration has ignored those who do not subscribe to the goal of being one of the top three public research universities in the world.

People who think that we should be one of the best universities in the Big Ten have been called “doubters” by our president. This is disturbing.

The following words are addressed directly and respectfully to the Regents.

Your desire to support President Bruininks is admirable. But some things that I have witnessed at Board meetings over the past few years lead me to believe that more skepticism about the administration's priorities is in order. Signs of this skepticism have begun to emerge.

Last year some of the Regents dared suggest that perhaps there should be no alcohol in the stadium. I think they were right, but they were browbeaten by the stadium's strongest proponent.

One of the Regents has recently argued that cuts to employee tuition reimbursement are inappropriate.

Regent Larson pointed out last December that requesting a budgetary increase that included a new Bell Museum was a mistake in the current economic situation.

I hope the Regents will be sensitive to the charges of elitism or arrogance that can readily be made for inappropriate financial requests to the state legislature.

We share a common goal – an excellent university. But our priorities should recognize the primary importance of people as fundamental to our land grant mission. Our fellow citizens must be convinced that this is so. Only then will we be able make our shared goal of excellence a reality.

Thank you for the opportunity to make this statement.

Friday, June 12, 2009


President Bruininks

and Other Highly Paid Administrators

Need a Salary Adjustment

Dinosaur Whines in Strib:

The regents will meet Wednesday to receive feedback about the proposed budget and will take final action June 24.

One of those who hopes to address the regents is Bill Gleason, associate professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology.

Gleason said he disagrees with Bruininks' priorities and suggests that, as a first step, Bruininks and others paid more than $250,000 should take an immediate 10 percent salary cut. "How about setting a good example in this area before lopping off the heads of what will turn out to be many lower-paid people?" Gleason said. "Leadership matters."


Some members of the U of M's administration have already demonstrated such leadership:

From the College of Design Memo From Dean Fisher
May 26, 2009
Monday Minute, May 26, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

Mark Twain once said, "Action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often." One action the college has taken has certainly registered with the University.

Our leadership group -- Associate Deans Kate Solomonson and Marilyn DeLong, Assistant Dean Kate Maple, Chief of Staff Kathy Witherow, and I -- may be the only college deans at the U taking a 10 percent reduction in our appointments next academic year in order to help balance our budget. That reduction equals 26 days without pay, which some of us will spread out across the year and others will take mostly during the summer. I commend my four colleagues for joining me in this voluntary reduction; such an action does not happen nearly as often as I think it should among the leaders of organizations in times like these.

[Time for President Bruininks and members of his crack administrative staff to do the same? Is a salary freeze at $740 K equivalent in sacrifice to a much less well-paid person losing their job?]

Show us the money?


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Could It Be That President Bruininks Is About To Do The Right Thing?

[Actually, he doesn't appear to have a choice.]

I was present at the Regents Meeting when the unofficial Regent for Athletics (that would be David Metzen) excoriated his colleagues for even suggesting that there should be no booze in the House that Bob Built, because of a commitment made to the athletic department that they would be allowed to make money to support themselves. Obviously then-Regent Metzen felt that alcohol, either free or for sale, was a part of this. Several Regents - to their credit - disagreed.

Now that Dr. Metzen has moved on to bigger and better things - a job with Tim Pawlenty - perhaps President Bruininks feels that he can escape the wrath of Metzen. Unfortunately, Dr. Metzen is Pawlenty's agent for negotiations about re-allotment with the U. Ouch! Watch this space...

From KSTP:

U may bar booze at all campus sporting events

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - This fall's eagerly awaited return of University of Minnesota football to a campus stadium will feature nostalgia, pageantry and fresh air. But no beer.

University President Robert Bruininks will recommend Friday that regents ban alcohol from the new stadium after state lawmakers demanded that fans in the TCF Bank Stadium cheap seats get as much access to booze as those in the suites.

He is extending the no-alcohol policy to the hockey team's Mariucci Arena and the basketball team's Williams Arena. While alcohol isn't broadly sold in either, it has been available in suite and reception areas.

"We know people will drink before they get to our games. We're not naive," Bruininks told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday. "But we do think this is the best, most responsible way to manage our game days and to really make this a high-quality experience for our fans."

Lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty hemmed the university in by attaching conditions to a liquor license for the football stadium. They said the school could sell alcohol stadium-wide or not at all. They also blocked the university from serving free alcohol to fans in premium seating areas, such as luxury boxes and club rooms.
[Ah, so he had no choice..]

University officials opposed the conditions, saying stadium-wide sales would be out-of-step with on-campus stadiums in the Big Ten and send the wrong message to students about drinking. Lawmakers argued that limiting booze to people holding expensive tickets smacked of elitism.
[And they are right. Tom Rukavina had this one nailed.]

The old campus stadium was torn down after the school shifted games to downtown Minneapolis in 1982. The novelty of the climate-controlled Metrodome wore off fast. Average attendance steadily slipped and fans began clamoring for a new home. Three years ago, state lawmakers authorized the $288 million, horseshoe shaped stadium with room for 50,000 fans.

[Fans? Would that be University of Minnesota administrators - Robert Bruininks - and the local sports mafia? Attendance couldn't have had anything to do with the team? The Metrodome was not the attendance killer. I saw the Gophers play Iowa and Northwestern to loud and large crowds. Of course they had a team then...]


The decision to go dry will be a change from collegiate games in the Dome, where fans could buy beer no matter where they sat.

"Bringing football back to the campus changes everything," Bruininks said. "This is an educational institution and it's not a professional sports venue. The change in venue here was critically important."
[Lord love a duck. This is an absurd argument.]

The decision could come at a price. Although the university's original plan would have made booze available to only 5 percent of stadium ticketholders, the offering made those pricier seats more attractive.
Online promotional materials for premium seating in the new stadium highlighted extra amenities. Selling points for the 20,000-square foot DQ Club Room, for instance, are the "expansive lounge area with private bar and concessions" and an "expanded food and beverage menu."

Minnesota officials said there are few campus football stadiums at large colleges where alcohol is available throughout the building. Syracuse University and the University of Cincinnati are among them.
[Ah, yes... So it is possible. And it was being done in the Metrodome.]

William DeJong, a Boston University professor who studies college drinking, said the move by itself won't prevent alcohol smuggling but the school's new policy should reduce consumption.

"The general rule of thumb in dealing with alcohol is if you make things less convenient, if you make it harder for people to make bad decisions than fewer will make bad decisions," DeJong said. "It seems like a bizarre argument to me to allow sales in every part of the stadium because people just might bring it in anyway."

I would like a brew while attending an athletic event. I'd even like a glass of whine. But either let everyone of age have access to alcohol or no one. And to be honest it is probably better to have a total no alcohol policy as far as enforcement.

There is a moral to this story that the Administration needs to learn. Think about the implications of your decisions before you do something stupid that is going to get you in trouble. Arrogance or its appearance does none of us any good.
The Mote in Bob's Eye

From the Purdue Exponent:

Purdue’s six-year graduation rate has increased from 68 percent to 72 percent over the last four years.

Those numbers demonstrate that Purdue is ahead of the national average. A recent study by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, found that American four-year colleges graduate 53 percent of entering students within six years.
The University of Minnesota's number is what, 55%? Well at least we meet the Lake Wobegon standard of (slightly) above average. Madison's number is 79 and Illinois 80. Even Ohio State and Pitt, who share some of the same institutional challenges, clock in at 62 and 65%. Michigan State is at 71% and Michigan is 85%.

Sounds like we've got a lot of work to do in this important area. Maybe we should use for this purpose the resources being siphoned off to become the top three yadda, yadda?

Maybe a new administrative post could be created? Let's see - how about Associate VP for External Intelligence Gathering And Educational Policy Espionage. Wow that must be worth at least $250K per annum.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Ruckus over RUC

Over at the other site, I just put up something with a few snarks directed at the AMA.
Immediately after firing it off, I found yet another reason to be annoyed at this organization.

One of my heroes among the physician/health writers is Roy Poses.

The AMA has been brow-beating Dr. Poses lately and their behavior in this matter seems outrageous.

For a nice example of the good work at Gooznews on Health, we have:

RUCkus Over Physician Pay

by GoozNews ~ 10 Jun 2009 04:55pm

Too many specialists, not enough primary care physicians. For lots of observers of the health care scene, the greater financial rewards that accrue to procedure-oriented specialists lies at the heart of the health care cost crisis (for a good discussion of the physician pay issue, see this morning's column by Washington Post writer Steve Pearlstein).

One issue Pearlstein didn't address (nor did Atul Gawanda in his much-discussed New Yorker article that even President Obama has taken to quoting) is the obscure committee of the American Medical Association that establishes the relative value of physician pay. Want to know why primary care docs earn on average $160,000 a year while any self-respecting radiologist can organize his practice to generate $500,000 a year in income or more? Just ask the folks at the AMA's Resource Based Relative Value System Update Committee (whew, there's a mouthful), unaffectionately known as the RUC.

Actually, maybe you'd better not ask the folks at the RUC, because they may not take kindly to what you write or say about them, which is what Roy Poses of the Health Care Renewal blog discovered after he wrote about it last February. In today's update, Dr. Poses discloses that the folks at the AMA demanded a retraction for his efforts to expose the inner workings of the RUC. Then they failed to respond to his queries about what exactly he had misrepresented in his original posts.

To learn more about the ruckus over RUC, read Dr. Poses' posts. He's quite eloquent on the topic.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


On Wade Johnson's Final Adventure

Yesterday I posted the sad news that Wade Johnson, a Carleton graduate, has died in a mountaineering accident in China. Carleton is a wonderful school for people who love academics but also have other strong interests. Wade is a great example of the kind of person who can thrive there.

From the Star-Tribune:


Wade Johnson was an avid rock climber who organized trips for his friends in college -- but he was also the guy who reminded them to wear helmets.

"He went out of his way to create adventures for himself and others," said Amy Alstad, a senior at Carleton College who joined other students Monday in a gathering at the Northfield school to remember their friend's life.

Earlier Monday, on a peak in southwestern China, rescuers struggling through high winds and blizzards found Johnson's body. He and two other American mountaineers were buried by an avalanche.

Johnson, 24, a 2007 Carleton graduate from Arden Hills, had been working for Sender Films of Boulder, Colo., which makes climbing and outdoor adventure films. He had planned to start a Ph.D. chemistry program this fall at the University of Washington, where his girlfriend attends medical school.

On Monday, Johnson's parents, Bruce and Susan Johnson, issued a statement saying, "We are devastated by the loss of our son Wade. Our grief is profound as the reality of his loss sweeps over us. Yet he was a boundless joy for us as his parents.

"We are comforted by the fact that Wade lived and died doing the things that he loved. It has been transformative to experience the outpouring of support and love from literally all corners of the world."


Johnson, who earned Phi Beta Kappa honors at Carleton, was also a potter who played jazz and classical piano.

As an undergraduate, Johnson was a wilderness first responder who participated in the National Outdoor Leadership Schools and the American Alpine Institute, according to Carleton College. He was also chosen as a teaching assistant for a fly-fishing class taught by college President Robert Oden Jr.

He spent his semester abroad in Australia and spent six weeks exploring New Zealand's South Island. Johnson produced his first rock-climbing video while minoring in film studies, and he became a filmmaking intern at Sender Films in February 2008.

As a student, he also belonged to the Carleton Association of Nature and Outdoor Enthusiasts and worked at the college's climbing wall for three years, where he helped teach classes and set routes. "He sort of was our rock climbing community," said Alstad, adding that Johnson was meticulous about safety.

Carleton will host a memorial service for Johnson, tentatively planned for 10:30 a.m. on June 19 at Skinner Memorial Chapel.

_________

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay...

To An Athlete Dying Young


Tragic and sad.

Monday, June 8, 2009

To an athlete dying young...

___

I taught chemistry at Carleton in the mid-seventies. Wonderful people. Learned more in three years than most of the undergrads.
Wade Johnson was a chemistry undergrad (2007) who planned to start grad school at UW next Fall.

Sadly, Wade Johnson has died in a climbing accident.


The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

AE Housman


More Openness and Transparency in Minnesota?


Despite public assurances from DNR officials that no side deals with U.S. Steel were being worked on, documents show what state negotiators have offered, or at least considered, during the negotiations:

• Agreeing to recommend approval of 25-year taconite leases to U.S. Steel on 240 acres of land, a deal worth an estimated $10 million.

• Providing the steel giant $5.4 million in free biomass fuels such as wood chips, and offering to have DNR workers assigned to help manage U.S. Steel's interests in converting from coal.

• Turning over 3,000 acres of wetlands to U.S. Steel anywhere in the state and ensuring that DNR and Pollution Control Agency staff put a priority on U.S. Steel's needs.

Other bright eyes have lit on these developments:


Did Pawlenty skirt state law on legacy park?

By David Brauer | Monday, June 8, 2009
The Strib's Mark Brunswick has a nice get on the Pawlenty administration trying to skirt state law to seal a Lake Vermilion state park deal. The Legislature capped a payout at about $13 million for the 3,000-acre up-north parcel; owner U.S. Steel insists at least twice as much, but the state felt that appraisal was bogus. So the administration tossed some goodies the steelmakers' way: 25-year taconite leases worth $10M, $5 million in free biofuel and 3,000 acres of wetlands. Still didn't work.

More Vermilion: Brunswick says the administration "sought to help U.S. Steel get its higher appraisal certified." A contractor hired to review both appraisals expressed shock the tightfisted TPaw was trying to justify "a substandard appraisal"; she was told to keep politics out. A gubernatorial spokesman elides the question of whether the extras were proper. Guess we'll find out what the steelmaker can really reap for selling the land to developers.

But, but, it's his legacy...