Darn it! I missed it. The vernal equinox -- spring -- arrived this morning at 6:44, right around the time I was toweling the snow off the dog. But let's just get this out of the way first: you can stand an egg on its end on lots of days of the year.
In yesterday's "5 at 8" I mentioned the pastor in New Hampshire who's under fire for taking in a murderer on parole. So let's start a "practice what you preach" file. In Bemidji, a church with a "homeless ministry" is testing the question of whether it's really a church, or a homeless shelter, according to the Bemidji Pioneer (registration possibly required). This is going to be a heck of a story. The ACLU is in on it now.
By way of Northfield.org, we learn of a fascinating project undertaken at a cinema & audio studies workshop at Carleton. Four audio pieces examine how college kids and the town intersect. They're well worth taking the time to listen to.
Oh, Mr. President. Your Special Olympics comment was ignorant on so many levels, including the point of Special Olympics, which is that winning and a particular score are irrelevant, that the important thing is trying in the face of apparent adversity. Isn't there something important there for the "smartest people in the room" to learn?
"If I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt."
In the "covering my eyes" category, the Vermont Special Olympics start today. I'm covering my eyes because I know the state's media will head there, if only to get reaction to Obama's gaffe.
The snow-free dog is in full "it's going to thunder" posture as I write this. This is a day after he went into the closet and pulled down -- and chewed to pieces -- the expensive full-length coat I bought my wife. I've submitted the questions to the first hour of Midday, which is taking pet questions today.
This afternoon on All Things Considered: Laura Yuen reports on a grand jury in Minneapolis considering the disappearance of Somali men. She talks to one man who recently testified. He went to high school with suicide bomber Shirwa Ahmed. Marty Moylan reports on the magic wand being waved by Delta Airlines that's making the Northwest Airlines logo disappear. Tim Post reports on one of the many student groups at the University of Minnesota -- the people watchers group.
This will intersect nicely with a piece coming from NPR in Washington about two Purdue University students who stand outside and shout compliments at people.
But why wait...
Don't miss: Sasha Aslanian's story on Somali women playing basketball. It got me thinking about how little Westerners know about interacting not only with Somalis, but in particular with Somali women. A few years ago, at an MPR open house, I was greeted by a Muslim woman and was embarrassed when I stuck out my hand to be informed she wasn't allowed to shake my hand. What Minnesota needs is a good tutorial on these things. I'm certain some of you are aware of one, if so, post below.
Have a great Friday! What should we talk about today?
In Oregon, three Republicans and a Democrat have filed a bill to do that. One of them gave his view of the responsibility of bicyclists in an earlier interview to BikePortland.org:
"On the way to work this morning, coming to an intersection, I stopped, and here comes a bicycle right next to me, right through the intersection...and that is a daily thing...and until we get a handle on that and hold them accountable....they're creating a hazard out there. They're on a public highway that's designed for motor vehicles, not for those other uses...and to put everybody who's driving a vehicle into a situation like this...I think it's not right."
Alright, that suggests a certain anti-bicycle mentality, but what about the concept of contributing to the maintenance of bike paths? By the way, Rep. Phyllis Kahn, who has filed legislation this year requiring bikes to stop at intersections with traffic signals, proposed a statewide bicycle tax/registration system many years ago.
Oregon's got all sorts of interesting ideas for making money. At the start of the year, I wrote about its idea to tax drivers by the mile, because they stopped buying so much gasoline when the gas tax went up. This week, Gov. Pawlenty ordered $5 million to be spent to study the idea for Minnesota.
I've always had a "thing" about what cars say about us. There are so many stories in this picture I took this morning. The nature of stereotypes. The declaration of old political bumper stickers. The half-removed Wellstone and Bell stickers. Who tried to take them off? The owner? A Republican?
You don't have to watch The Daily Show and its occasional snips of CNBC's poor prognostication to marvel at the economists' ability to confound us. You need only look at some of the headlines this week alone.
Let's take deflation and inflation, for example, and the occasional reports of what we should fear. We'll start today and work our way back.
What is the main effect the economic meltdown and subsequent bailout efforts have had on America? It makes giant numbers that used to make our jaws drop, now make our shoulders shrug.
Example? Today some congressional economists reportedly whispered that the nation's deficit will hit $1.8 trillion this year. That shatters the previous record of $459 billion, a number which once sounded like something other than the change you pull out of your pocket and throw on the dresser at night.
How much is 1.8 trillion?
>> It would take 57,077 years for you to count that high, assuming you don't sleep. That doesn't include leap days.
>> It's 882,352,941 pounds of $100 bills. That was about the total weight of one tower of the World Trade Center.
>> You could walk around the earth 72,284,656 times, and you'd still be about 20,000 miles short of 1.8 trillion.
>> At its current rate, AIG could give bonuses to 4.4 million employees.
>> It could close the Minnesota budget deficit 331 times.
The weather experts say the Red River is going to experience some serious flooding. The river may crest higher than it did in 1997. For many people, Red River flooding that means Fargo and Moorhead, but there are more cities -- quite a few more cities -- whose residents' ears perk up when you say "flood."
Here's a timeline I built a few years ago on the 10th anniversary of the flood of 1997. Notice how slowly the disaster developed.
There is one difference -- so far -- in the flood of '97 with the coming flood of '09. Back in '97, a heavy rainfall followed by an immediate freeze helped gum things up. That's why a forecast of rain in the region on Monday (or perhaps Sunday) is being so closely watched.
Fargo has already started its flood preparations, closing off flood gates in the city. Trash collection has been suspended and the city will start public meetings on Saturday on what's coming.
MPR's Than Tibbetts sends along this photo of volunteer efforts on Friday. They're trying to fill a million sandbags there.
Facebook is being used to find volunteers. In just a few days, the Fargo-Moorhead Flood Volunteer Network has attracted more than 1,500 members. The group is going to fill sandbags on Saturday (8 a.m. - 8 p.m.) in 3-4 hour shifts at the Fargodome parking lot.
Volunteers in Moorhead are gathering Saturday at the Nemzek Field House. (You must have an ID to fill sandbags, apparently). The city has already raised bridges in anticipation of the flood.