I start writing 5@8 around 5:30 a.m. I noticed something this morning. It's pretty dark now at 5:30 in the morning. Memo to self: Change the oil in the snow blower. Soon.
I'm back from vacation. The nice shoes feel like my feet are being bound. The tie feels like a noose. The cubicle walls appear to be moving closer.
I need a Monday Morning Rouser:
1) Why do we often remember things more fondly than we experienced them? The New York Times "Happy Days" blog ruminates on our pursuit of happiness in real time:
Perhaps the reason we so often experience happiness only in hindsight, and that chasing it is such a fool's errand, is that happiness isn't a goal in itself but is only an aftereffect. It's the consequence of having lived in the way that we're supposed to -- by which I don't mean ethically correctly so much as just consciously, fully engaged in the business of living. In this respect it resembles averted vision, a phenomena familiar to backyard astronomers whereby, in order to pick out a very faint star, you have to let your gaze drift casually to the space just next to it; if you look directly at it, it vanishes.
2) Why make a documentary about a Camaroonian drag queen? Emily Branham's post on No Map No Guide No Limits is more than a profile about BeBe Zahara Benet, a Twin Cities drag queen, it's about the pursuit of passion.
Next thing she knew, she was dancing backup at a regional drag pageant at the Gay 90s in Minneapolis. Having never been exposed much to the world of drag, I was completely taken by the heightened gender performance, layered identities, and pageantry. I decided that I would make some time away from my freelance music video and commercial gigs in New York to shoot BeBe's experience at his first national pageant down in Dallas. When we started, I thought it would probably end up as a short film, and I went in with very few expectations. I met so many incredible performers with such varied and interesting stories during our first month of shooting that at one point I wanted the film to be about the whole community of drag artists in the Twin Cities.
3) Sunday was the ritual weeding of the failed vegetable garden, during which I came up with an idea for a new News Cut series. "Failed compost bins." I've done everything the book says: A combination of browns and greens, regular turning, moisture, sun. After months -- OK, I'll admit it: years -- I have ended up with mere older browns and greens.
Stop your snickering St. Olaf.
Meanwhile, if you'd like to contribute to "failed compost bins," send your pictures to me at email@example.com.
4) There are dumber things in the world, I suppose (paying people to buy a car comes to mind). A woman in New York who can't get a job is suing her college to get the $70,000 back that she paid for a degree in information technology. The ticking time bomb of student loans is about to go off.
5) Gov. Tim Pawlenty's approval ratings shot up six points in the last month, Eric Ostermeier at Smart Politics reports today. The trouble with polls, however, is we don't really know why. Nothing much has changed in recent months. The state is an economic basket case and more people are unemployed here. Perhaps people don't believe times are so tough, perhaps they blame the DFL, or perhaps they've just shrugged their shoulders and pressed on.
Did someone says unemployed? MPR's Mark Zdechlik reports the economic stimulus plan in Minnesota isn't going to put that many people back to work.
Amazon recently released a new version of its Kindle book reader, a device that allows users to buy and read books, newspapers and other publications in electronic form. Would you trade your books for an electronic version?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
In a few hours I'll be rolling out the update to one of the strangest stories in Minnesota history: The drunk pilots who flew 91 Northwest Airlines passengers from Fargo to Minneapolis in 1990.
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - President Obama has lost public support for his health care reform bill, while the political battle on Capitol Hill has heated up. Midmorning gets at the heart of what is ailing Americans about our health care system. Second hour: Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady talk about their partnership in Hot Tuna.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - Former Vikings great Randall McDaniel will be in the studio to talk about his upcoming induction into the Football Hall of Fame and his work the past several years as an elementary school teacher. Second hour: Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, speaking in Aspen Colorado about the future of the news media. He called for a "federal bailout" of the media.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - The University of Minnesota has put a policy in place to deal with drunken troublemakers at the college's new on-campus stadium. If a student is kicked out of the stadium for being drunk and disorderly, the rest of the season they're required to take a breathalyzer test before each game to prove they're sober. MPR's Tim Post reports it's based on a model in use at the University of Wisconsin.
NPR's Christopher Joyce asks a question that should've been asked months ago: Is it really "green" to buy a hybrid car?
The Seattle police are probably right. If you're the victim of a crime, it's probably better to just do what the perpetrator tells you to do, rather than getting yourself all shot trying to be a hero.
And the Key Bank is probably right that bank tellers should just hand over the money when a would-be robber walks in and demands it. No telling who might get hurt by putting up a fight.
Still, it's hard not to feel bad for Jim Nicholson, a bank teller who'd had just about enough last Tuesday. As the Seattle Times tells it:
Instead, Nicholson threw the bag to the floor, lunged toward the robber and demanded to see a weapon. Surprised, the would-be bank robber backed up and then bolted for the door, with Nicholson on his heels.
Nicholson, 30, chased the man for several blocks before knocking him to the ground with the help of a passer-by. Nicholson then held him until police arrived.
For his trouble, Nicholson got fired.(1 Comments)
A guy was shot this morning while sitting on his steps in south Minneapolis. He was simply waiting for his ride to work. The bullet hit his hands and then his chest. He wasn't seriously injured.
City living, eh?
In Pincher Creek, Alberta (Pop: 3,625) yesterday, a man decided to go for an early-morning stroll. Along the way, he was gored by a bison. He died.
Country living, eh?
Supporters of Cash for Clunkers have suggested the program is both a floor wax and a dessert topping - it's both good for the environment and a boost to the economy. Good mileage automobiles use less fuel. Less fuel is less pollution. It's hard to argue with that logic.
But a study a few weeks ago raises more of a question about the drivers of fuel-efficient vehicles.
Quality Planning, a consultant to the insurance industry, studied the habits of drivers of hybrid vehicles. It found they drove their vehicles 25 percent more than drivers of non-hybrids.
"The additional miles driven by hybrid vehicle owners would seem to offset the net ecological benefit of owning a fuel-efficient vehicle. After all, a gallon of gas is a gallon of gas, no matter which type of engine is burning it," Dr. Raj Bhat, president of Quality Planning said on a posting on the firm's Web site.
Bhat says he doesn't know, however, if the lower per-mile cost encourages people to drive more miles each day or take more trips.
But why wouldn't it? It's an established fact, of course, that the cost of fuel changes our driving habits. As the price of gasoline went up last year, people combined trips and drove fewer miles. Why wouldn't a reduced per-mile cost similarly affect drivers' behavior?
A good question, perhaps, but one that doesn't have an answer. We'll have to do this anecdotally. If you've bought a hybrid -- or other "fuel efficient" vehicle -- in the last year or so, what was the bottom-line impact on the total amount of fuel you purchased? Did you change your habits from your gas guzzler days?
Update 3:03 p.m. - The Transportation Department released data on Monday showing the vehicles traded in so far averaged 15.8 miles per gallon, compared with 25.4 miles per gallon for the new purchases, or a 61 percent improvement. That's a lot of extra driving you can do and still be ahead of the game.
Update 3:41 p.m. - Here's the link to the Christopher Joyce piece on how long you have to wait to offset "new car carbon." Audio should be available by 6 p.m. The story runs this afternoon on All Things Considered.
Update 3:47 p.m. - MPR's Curtis Gilbert sends along this e-mail from Friends of the Earth:
Based on calculations done by colleagues of ours at CalCars (www.calcars.org), replacing an older, lower-mpg vehicle with a new, higher mpg vehicle reduces CO2 only if the replacement vehicle provides more than twice the fuel economy of the vehicle it replaces. This is why Cash for Clunkers is not an ultimately environmentally progressive program: the emissions avoided from transitioning to a 22 mpg vehicle from an 18 mpg vehicle does not, over the lifetime of the vehicle, make up for the energy embedded in the older car that is destroyed before its useful life is over, as well as the energy involved in manufacturing the new car--unless the mpg of the new car is double that of the old.
An important alternative to Cash for Clunkers is an idea that a colleague of ours, Felix Kramer of CalCars, has developed--i.e. to dedicate the cash that consumers would have put towards a new car to convert their older vehicles to electric vehicles. Please see more on this below and at the following link: http://www.calcars.org/scrap-or-retrofit.html(12 Comments)
A Census Bureau report has a little bit for everybody in the school funding debate.
Overall, Minnesota is decidedly middle-of-the-pack among states when it comes to per-pupil public education spending, according to the report released today by the Census Bureau.
The state finished 22nd, spending $9,539 per student in 2007, slightly below the national average of $9,666.
The state was 49th in the amount of per-pupil education expenditures that come from the federal government ($670). But the state's commitment to public education is actually much higher. The state ranks seventh in the country in the amount that comes from the state ($7,679).
$4,329.20 of the state's spending goes for salaries (15th), $400 goes toward general school administration expenses (46th).4 Comments)