Forty-three degrees in the Twin Cities this morning. Forty-three. That ushers in the most terrible time of the year for households with spouses -- the annual stare-down to determine which one will be weak enough to turn on the furnace first.
We know that summer is over, of course. The State Fair has ended. The kids are back in school. And the DNR has started posting fall foliage updates, which -- frankly -- has us feeling pretty good about what's coming:
1) Why do we need to spell correctly when our computer programs will correct our mistakes when we don't? Oregon education officials have decided that students will be allowed to take their writing tests this year with spell checkers.
Officials said spell check is an accepted part of life "in the workplace, college, post-secondary training and the military." Hmmmm. Computers have calculators, too. Is it time to stop teaching math?
"The decision to let students artificially enhance their spelling skills might create a fake boost in state writing scores next year, depending on how the state adjusts scoring protocols," complains Susan Nielsen, the associate editor of The Oregonian newspaper. "That boost could give the public a misleading impression that, hey, Oregon schools are doing just fine (despite their big classes, short school year, volatile funding, groaning pension costs and vanishing electives)."
Perhaps our guidance should come from Mark Twain:
"But I appeal to you in behalf of the generations which are to follow you, ... age after age, cycle after cycle. I pray you, consider them and be generous. Lift this heavy burden (traditional spelling) from their backs. Do not send them toiling and moiling down the 20th century still bearing it, still oppressed by it ... I pray you, let the hieroglyphics (old spelling) go, and thus save millions of years of useless time and labor to fifty generations of posterity that are to follow you... This cost of time is much too expensive. It could be employed more usefully in other industries, and with better results."
2) I'm looking for tattoo fans to step forward for a future blog posts. What does your tattoo say about you? Why did you do it? Why do you keep doing it? The Boston Globe had the good sense to set up a photo booth at a tattoo convention. Here's the guy who took home "best of show:"
3) I pointed out yesterday that the gubernatorial campaign so far seems closed to any issue except the economy. MPR's Elizabeth Stawicki injects a welcomed bit of diversity to the discussion with her story today about the three major candidates' position on health care reform.
Health care reform is an issue that isn't helping Democrats at all, according to a recent Kaiser poll, and it is the second-most-important issue in the mind of voters, according to the survey.
But back to jobs, for a moment. The Star Tribune takes apart the candidates' economic plans with local economists, who seem less than enthusiastic about them. Former Federal Reserve economist Art Rolnick links one issue with another. "The best way to create jobs is to educate your kids," he says.
Meanwhile, NPR continues its occasional series on tax policy by looking at a young Connecticut couple, who agreed to open their books. Curiously, while it reveals the taxes the couple pays, it doesn't reveal how much the couple makes.
4) Guys, everything you think you know about dancing is probably wrong, according to a new study. Researchers say they intended to find out if male dancing is like wild animals, which may indicate the man's health, reproductive potential and current hormone status.
"We thought that people's arms and legs would be really important. The kind of expressive gestures the hands [make], for example. But in fact this was not the case," the lead researcher told the BBC. ""We found that (women paid more attention to) the core body region: the torso, the neck, the head. It was not just the speed of the movements."
"Dad dancing" got low marks.
5) The next phase of the stadium wars? When new stadiums are built, the old ones are abandoned or are demolished. Frequently, the New York Times reports today, taxpayers are still footing the bill on the old facilities when the new ones are built.
The finances of public authorities are often murky. To determine that the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, which was demolished in 2008, has $61 million in debt remaining and will not be paid off until 2021, one must sift through 700 pages of bond documents.
With more than four decades of evidence to back them up, economists almost uniformly agree that publicly financed stadiums rarely pay for themselves. The notable successes like Camden Yards in Baltimore often involve dedicated taxes or large infusions of private money. Even then, using one tax to finance a stadium can often steer spending away from other, perhaps worthier, projects.
"Stadiums are sold as enormous draws for events, but the economics are clear that they aren't helping," said Andrew Moylan, the director of government affairs at the National Taxpayers Union. "It's another way to add insult to injury for taxpayers."
Bonus: A man trapped by rubble in Haiti had a severe spinal cord injury. By all rights, he should be paralyzed and hopeless. Instead, he's walking, and has returned to Haiti, thanks to some people who gave a rip. How's your day?
Most students in Minnesota are heading back to school this week, if they haven't done so already. What would you like your kids to learn by the end of the school year?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Paul Douglas and Will Steger have a news conference to link extreme weather with climate change. I'll take that in and have a post later on.
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Reverse gender pay gap.
A surprising finding in the latest census data shows that young, single, childless women are out-earning their male counterparts. One expert says that it all comes down to women attaining more education than men.
Second hour: Recent research on birth order -- you probably read about this on 5x8 a few weeks ago -- suggests that though oldest children are smarter, the younger ones work harder.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Steven Smith talks about what Congress may accomplish when it returns next week, and how its actions will be shaped by the looming election and the prospects for change in control of the House and Senate.
Second hour: TBA
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: NPR political editor Ken Rudin.
Second hour: Arianna Huffington is mad. Big banks, she argues, got taxpayer money and turned it into huge profits instead of lending it out. Politicians in Washington let them get away with it. Not to mention, the nation s fiscal system is broken. Arianna Huffington on her new book, "Third World America."
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - MPR's Euan Kerr profiles a St. Paul photographer who is opening a huge show at the Walker and releasing material from his new project "Broken Manual," which investigates the idea of men escaping from society.
In a series of promos last week, CNN promised that its look at the Michele Bachmann campaign would be "beyond the sound bites," and would be "inside the campaign."
When the product was delivered yesterday, it looked very much like CNN was left outside, with a quick sound bite.(4 Comments)
The new flashing yellow turn signal is intended to warn drivers that oncoming traffic has a green light. MnDOT says studies show the flashing yellow arrow is safer.
The first use of the new signal begins today at the Interstate 94 and Highway 95 interchange in Woodbury. MnDOT tested the idea at the intersection of Highway 110 and Highway 149 in Mendota Heights.(5 Comments)
What made "tornado alley" move 500 miles north -- to Minnesota -- this summer? Why have there been two major floods in Iowa in recent years, and annual flooding in the Red River Valley of Minnesota?
A report issued today by Environment Minnesota, an environmental advocacy organization, stops short of definitively saying the disasters are attributable to global warming, but said "extreme weather" is likely the result of a warming planet (See the report).
"This is not a coincidence," meteorologist Paul Douglas (left above) said. "We've had an accumulation of coincidences. I tell people, 'strip out the ideology. Look at the numbers. Look at the science.' This has been an amazing year." (Listen)
Douglas acknowledges that one year does not a trend make, "but we've had 384 consecutive months where the global temperature has been warmer than the 20th century average. Now I'm all for serendipity, but at some point you step back, you connect the dots, you look at the pieces of the puzzle; something is going on," he said.
The report said the sea level has risen by 8 inches since 1870, snow cover has decreased in the Northern Hemisphere over the last 40 years, and the amount of precipitation falling in the top 1 percent of rainfall events has increased 20 percent in the last century.
"Just a month ago, the remaining largest ice shelf in the Arctic broke up. All of the ice shelves that I've traveled on in the Arctic and Antarctic have broken up, " explorer Will Steger said at a news conference (Listen), held at Douglas' Excelsior weather forecasting company. "It was 700 feet thick." Douglas says he's starting a new company to make wind energy more profitable by providing more dependable wind forecasts for companies.
Those calling attention to global warming are usually reluctant to link weather events to climate change -- especially during blizzards and cold snaps. "What's happening on a planetary scale now is consistent with what climate scientists were predicting 20 years ago," Douglas said. "Just the sheer number of coincidences, taken together, there's no argument that greenhouse gasses have spiked 20 percent. There's no argument that the amount of water vapor floating overhead has spiked by 4 to 5 percent. So we're loading the dice... increasing the probability of these extreme events."
But critics of the concept of climate change and global warming say there's no saying for certain that what's happened in Minnesota this summer, for example, is attributable to climate change. They want a smoking gun.
"By the time the last piece of the puzzle falls into place -- and even the skeptics come around and say 'yes, you're right.' It will probably be too late, Douglas said.
Ken Bradley, director of Environment Minnesota, discusses the report. (Listen)