Posted at 10:11 AM on May 5, 2008
by Tim Nelson
How often, driving over a freeway bridge or under a railroad overpass, do you think, "Hey, I'm sure glad they finished that eight weeks early"?
That thought came to my mind when I head that that Flatiron Construction thinks it can finish the new Interstate 35W bridge by September, rather than well into winter. They're not making any guarantees, but there is a $200,000-a-day carrot at the end of the MnDot stick. (You can read the story here.)
It's hard to argue with the builder's alacrity, particularly if you've spent any time sitting on Minnesota 280 in Lauderdale.
But the construction is at the point at which some of the state's most recent bridge misadventures have occurred.
An apparent miscalculation by a scaffolding engineer led to the collapse of the Lake Street bridge one night in April 1990. They had to start over. Similarly, a design flaw is blamed for the hairline cracks that brought construction on the Wakota Bridge to a halt three years ago.
That project still isn't finished.
In fact, the only engineering feat that brings fame to mind for the speed of its completion was the transcontinental railroad, which was finished in 1869.
It's also remembered for the Enron-esque Credit Mobilier scandal and a smallpox epidemic from which we'd recoil in bio-terror today.
The project also involved some early, and apparently often fatal, experiments with nitroglycerin and a forced-labor work-ethic for some of the Chinese immigrants working on the project.
There is also the issue that the railroad and its construction helped wipe out Native American populations across the West. If you set those issues aside, the construction of the railroad was an amazing feat.
At any rate, the general rule of getting things done seems to be: Fast. Cheap. Right. Pick any two.
Flatiron wasn't the low bidder on the project, and there's speculation that taxpayers may have to put up as much as $20 million more to get the job done early.(2 Comments)
Posted at 11:24 AM on May 5, 2008
by Tim Nelson
I've spent a fair measure of my time recently painfully reliving my tween years: I've been covering the Legislature while it debates a statewide sex education mandate.
Unlike the subject, the legislative discussion gets a little, um, sterile.
Luckily, there's a DVD. You hear about it every now and then at the Capitol. Its formal title is "The Talk, An Intercourse on Coming of Age." It's a school video that's mentioned as a potential element of a sex-ed curriculum.
It really isn't clear how many who talk about the video have actually seen it. The teenagers in the actual "Captain Condom" scene actually decide it's best to abstain from sex. Or pretty much from sex. But they take a rather awkwardly hilarious route to that conclusion.
"Kids are really engaged with it," says Catherine Conzet, development director at the Minneapolis-based Youth Performance Company, which produced the video. "It's something that teenagers won't roll their eyes at, like other videos... They're horrible, and they're usually written by adults. This one was predominantly written by teenagers."
It first ran in YPC's 2004-2005 season, and subsequently reappeared at the Fringe Festival, as did the other YPC smash hit: Goddess Menses and the Menstrual Show. Conzet said the YPC filmed "The Talk" for DVD because the demand for the production to tour was so high that they worried that the cast wouldn't get their school work done if they took the show on the road.
"We've sold the DVD in 28 states," Conzet says. "They're showing it in India and South America."
As a rule, we don't typically recommend sex education films here at Minnesota Public Radio News. But since Bob Collins is on vacation and I've got the run of the place, I thought I'd urge the gentle readers of News Cut to decide for themselves just what Minnesota's youth might actually be learning at school.
Click on the play button below to see the video. The clip runs about 5:20 and the second-best line is the last one.