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Practically Idealistic blog
The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist” in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson, in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism.  We learn first to play with it academically. . . .  Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.  Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true.  It now shows itself ethical and practical.”  John Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant.  Al Gore invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Green Chemistry and Renewable Energy

April is Earth Month, with Earth Day approaching April 22.

Paul Anastas, faculty member at Yale and now EPA chief scientist, is known as the “father of green chemistry.” He was featured in a Marketplace public radio piece and Yale Daily News article after receiving the Natural Products Association’s Rachel Carson Environmental Award March 22.

The work of Paul Anastas figured prominently in a national seminar on “Green Chemistry” that his Yale colleague Gary Brudvig led through the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute in 2009.

Gary Brudvig has also led both New Haven and national seminars on “Renewable Energy” through the Institute.

A February 12, 2011 post to this blog discussed science fairs, science education, and related resources.

An April 30, 2010 post treated “Earth Day, Earth Month, and Beyond.”

12:22 am edt 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Competitive Greatness, Brilliant Teamwork, a Season to Remember

A January 18, 2011 post ("The Drama and Escape of Sport") noted I was at the University of Connecticut the day before for the men's basketball team's last-seconds victory over then-highly ranked Villanova.  This blog had included previous posts about basketball:  January 26, 2009 ("Basketball, Politics, and Purpose") and January 24, 2010 ("Basketball and 'Irrational Exuberance'" – days after which the New Yorker happened to publish Carlo Rotella’s observations "On the Basketball Court with Arne Duncan"), as well as June 5, 2010  ("John Wooden, Sport, and Society").  In October 2008, "Domestic Violence No Game" argued “our state university should win the right way” – a goal later shown to have been compromised for a time by recruiting violations involving someone mentioned in that October 2008 article, even though he was expelled before ever playing a game. 

In 2009-10, John Wooden’s term “competitive greatness” fit UConn only in occasional flashes, such as the second half of last year's Texas game, which had an ecstatic conclusion for UConn fans.

Throughout this season, that greatness of spirit characterized UConn’s Kemba Walker, who in a January 2011 road game helped defeat Texas for a second straight year.  Days later, he made the winning basket against Villanova; UConn fans exulted.  Weeks later, my daughter and I were at the Georgetown game cheering when he played brilliantly, including 10 assists and 31 points on a dazzling array of shots like this.  My father and I were in the crowd March 5 when Kemba Walker, a junior not yet 21 years old, was honored with senior teammates before the game.  The reason: As a dedicated student and "gentleman" (recalled at his high school as "a kid who never gave in to any peer pressure at all"), he may graduate in just three years.  March 5, he scored 34 in a loss to Notre Dame.  UConn didn’t lose again. 

Kemba Walker’s superb play and leadership, along with excellent coaching (from Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun and his staff) that focused on defense, the development of younger players and contributions from the entire team, resulted a week later in an improbable Big East championship.  A highlight was this game-winning play against favored Pittsburgh.  Then, the national championship followed on April 4 – competitive greatness, indeed.

UConn skeptics, questioning the validity of a title over a Butler squad that shot terribly, should know that according to one measure,  Sagarin's USA Today index, the Huskies won more games this season against top-25 foes – 15 – than all but two other teams even played.  No team besides UConn won as many as ten such games.  Those 15 strong wins were more than Ohio State, Kansas, and Duke had combined.  With the second most difficult schedule in the country, UConn was 17-0 against non-Big East competition, including in the Western regional semifinal and final, where crowds were hostile. 

The NCAA tournament concludes each year with a sentimental CBS video; the 2011 version will appeal to UConn partisans, as will an adaptation by the Stamford Advocate. 

Speaking of sentiment … In a January 24, 2010 post, I reflected on the family aspect of following UConn basketball (or any other sport) as a fan and how dramatically the program has grown.  Since the late 1970s I have been attending games on campus, as well as UConn’s basketball camp for three summers in the 1980s, and have seen (in person or on TV) a few hundred games with friends and/or family.  Some of those friends now root the team on from such places as Virginia, Colorado, and California.  This year, for the semifinal against Kentucky on April 2, my father visited so we could watch together.  On April 4, I watched the first half with a friend and the second half at home, with my 3-year-old son (who, having had an afternoon nap, wore a Husky hat and played with a basketball as the game began) falling asleep at halftime.  In March, a Hartford Courant story covered “fans from around the globe” interested in the Huskies.  I forwarded the article to my brother in India; he then called my father and me days later as UConn defeated Kentucky to advance to the championship game.  My brother had viewed the game via a slightly delayed Internet connection and was about to leave Uttar Pradesh (you could say he put the Lucknow in UConn country) for Amsterdam, from which he watched the final.  

Congratulations to the Huskies – and to the university’s outstanding academic scholarship winners from fans around the state, the country, and the world.

11:36 pm edt 

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