Speak Memory: During the entire run-up to approval of UC Merced and construction of its first phase, including all the bogus environmental review documents and the illegal water and sewer hookups with the City of Merced, boosters from the Regents to UC presidents Roger Atkinson and Robert Dynes, UC Merced's first chancellor, Carol Tomlinson-Keasey ("the Cowgirl Chancellor"), representatives Gary Condit and Dennis Cardoza and their talented staffs, former state Sen. Dick Monteith (who declared the campus a "done deal" before it was, actually, a done deal), every realtor, bank and local land owner and local elected official (if a distinction between these classes can be discerned), every planner, our own Sonny Star, the local gigolo press, and most of all, the Great Valley Center (now a UC Merced partner), declared that the campus would be a "high-tech, bio-tech engine for growth in the San Joaquin Valley." We were promised another Silicon Valley right on the banks of Bear Creek, bright young things full of bright young ideas would be starting companies right and left, so we had to build proper housing for them here, there, and everywhere.
Nothing is more responsible for Merced and probably Modesto's national notoriety as foreclosure-rate capitals than the Coming of UC Merced and the total real estate-marketing illusion of all those brilliant people that were going to transform our economy from "old" agriculture to "new" technology. What we got instead were retiring Silicon Valley engineers following the hot tips of their financial advisors that you couldn't go wrong speculating in Merced real estate.
All that history makes the bit of recycled Bobcatflak in Sonny Star's pages (see below) pathetic proof of the "boondoggle" and "land deal" that UC Merced was and is. Here we have a student obviously of some mathematical ability designing "a more efficient wood-burning stove for Prakti Designs, a company based in Pondicherry, India."
This is presented as one more example of American know-how fulfilling its sacred mission to "developing countries" (formerly known as "undeveloped countries," "less developed countries," or the "Third World") -- areas beyond Merced County and its 21-percent unemployment.
Pondicherry is what is known as a "union terrority" (administered directly by the central government) rather than a state in India, due to complexities of colonial history. Originally built by the Dutch and the French, object of the aggressions of the British East India Company, Pondicherry is located on the Tamilnadu coast of the Bay of Bengal. The state of Tamilnadu is the home ground for nearby Sri Lanka's Tamil minority. Pondicherry is promoting itself as a high-tech and bio-tech growth center. In terms of agriculture, however, the local press reports an increase in farmer suicides due to real estate expansion for urban growth.
Prakti Designs appears to produce designs for less polluting, more efficient stoves for poor people around the world. Appropriate bio-energy technology is one of its main missions, fitting well with the project presented below. It also appears, from a half-hour web search, to be funded by Shell Foundation, based in the UK, which claims to be "independent" (of the oil company whose logo it displays). Another organization Prakti is connected to is Aprovecho, an American non-profit dedicated to sustainable agriculture, permaculture, and design solutions to all the world's problems. Impeccable. Lovely farm in Oregon.
Why do we smell a rat? In part because we sure could have used some of this low-pollution bio-energy stove design at least in central Merced last winter, where the acrid fumes of trash burning in fireplaces was a regular feature of evening walks.
In larger part, because the University of California is really not even anchored to California anymore. It is a global university. Less than a quarter of its budget comes from the state anymore, which may have been at least as much a problem with the state Legislature as with UC, but it has been the fact for several decades. UC cares about as much about Merced as WalMart does, whose distribution center and air pollution UC is bringing to Merced as surely as it brought the Mission Interchange and the Campus Parkway. These are institutions so huge they have long, long ago lost the ability to care about anything but themselves.
Perhaps UC Merced officials should ask the "independent" Shell Foundation if it couldn't rustle up the missing half-million dollars needed for First Lady Michelle Obama's upcoming appearance at the campus, the development project that "put Merced on the map" by sucking out its money, its local autonomy, destroying its character and landscape and leaving it with Depression-level unemployment. That's not to say that our regional economy wasn't always problematic and fragile, veering between boom and bust depending on cycles of overproduction of agricultural commodities, swings in global markets, and droughts and floods. But the speculative building boom is a cat of another color entirely and its anchor tenant turns out to be a "high-tech, bio-tech engine of growth" for India. Another source of contribution for the First Lady's visit is UC's companion global conglomerate, WalMart, a great marketing "engine of growth" for China.
But, hey, Sonny Star got another UC Bobcatflak puff release to regurgitate (we mean "chronicle"). The official charade must go on because that's all that is officially left.
Badlands Journal editorial board
First Class: Top math student will pursue graduate studies at UC Merced...DANIELLE GAINES
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is one of several that will chronicle the lives of members of the UC Merced inaugural graduating class. As pioneers at UC Merced, their contributions will leave a lasting effect on the Merced community...
(UC Merced graduating senion Paul Tranquilli) settled on applied mathematics because "it will give me the ability to get involved in a lot of fields. The flexibility is what makes it interesting," he said.
By definition, applied mathematics creates equations and computer models used to provide a mathematical basis to guide other areas of innovation like design or engineering, said UC Merced professor Mayya Tokman.
Tokman has been working with Tranquilli for about a year on a research project to create a more efficient wood-burning stove for Prakti Designs, a company based in Pondicherry, India.
"This is a project that can have a really big impact on the lives of people in developing countries," Tokman explained. "There are millions of people who use wood burning stoves."
Tokman and Tranquilli created a mathematic equation to simulate the efficiency of the stoves. Using that equation, Prakti can test various prototypes of the stoves quickly and with relatively little expense.
"It will basically keep the consumer's cost down by avoiding multiple physical prototypes," Tranquilli explained. With the virtual version, the company could conduct billions of tests until the best design is created.
Tokman said the new design could decrease the amount of smoke -- and the related health issues -- in homes with wood-burning stoves. It could also provide a more efficient heat source in communities where wood is hard to find.
That's not the first research project Tranquilli has been involved with at UC Merced.
In 2007, he was listed as a co-author with UC Merced professor Arnold Kim on a study published by the Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer.
The article, titled "Numerical solution of the Fokker-Planck equation with variable coefficients," was Tranquilli's first published work as a scientist.
This past March, Tranquilli was awarded the campus' first math prize.
Led by professor Francois Blanchette, members of the UC Merced faculty devised the UC Merced Applied Mathematics Prize to recognize the achievements of the most outstanding undergraduate math student on campus.
Tranquilli qualified for the prize by earning the highest GPA in the math program, doing so consistently in upper division and math courses...Tranquilli doesn't know where he wants to settle either; San Diego is too crowded, but Merced is too sparse.
Someday, he will calculate a future that's just right.