1) HAVE WE CHANGED? THE FLOODS WILL TELL US
I'm heading to Moorhead today to help MPR cover the flooding of the Red River. So posting here today will be a little light and there won't be a 5x8 tomorrow. What there will be, hopefully, is some dispatches from flood country.
I'm anxious to get a feel for this creeping "complacency" mentioned in Dan Gunderson's story. I checked with the neighborhood that I usually follow during the floods and the sandbag dikes were completed in two days. That's hard work considering volunteers have been hard to come by, apparently. And that strikes me as the story. Where are the volunteers? Has it not been dramatic enough? Are there other things to do? Is there just too much need?
Many of the volunteers I encountered in 2009 were from the Twin Cities, and many of the agencies that responded were metro area fire departments and sheriff departments. But times have changed in two years. Minnesota has been in "every man for himself" mode, and the legislative session has certainly set the agenda for this new Minnesota. "You've got problems? Hey, I've got problems, buddy!"
You know the best part of covering flooding in the Red River? Getting away from that mentality.
The Fargo Forum provides a little hope again with a story today that it's the kids -- you know, the lazy, video-gaming, short-attention-span kids that never leave their computers? -- who are showing the way. About 1,500 high schoolers fanned out in the area to help yesterday. They'll be back today.
This video from the Army Corps of Engineers is a good example of the intricacies of foiling a flood. We see lots of people with sandbags around homes and neighborhoods, but that's the most obvious effect. More often than not, however, a river's pathways into neighborhoods and into homes is fairly sneaky.
And, of course, when the floods are done, all of this will have to be undone.
2) MONEY TO SPARE? GO BY AIR
You can catch a plane, but you can't catch a break, Minneapolis St. Paul. Statistics guru Nate Silver has been studying which airports have the most unfair fares. Minneapolis-St. Paul is 4th.Silver said part of the reason, of course, is that Delta has such a large market share. But, surprisingly, he says when Southwest Airlines -- they were supposed to lead to substantially cheaper fares here -- operates at an airport like ours, it supresses competition from other cheaper airlines.
The most overpriced small airport in the country, by the way, is La Crosse.
3) THE STATUE CONTROVERSY
The St. Paul City Council ordered Tuan J. Pham to move his 7-foot-tall white-marble Jesus from his backyard, the Star Tribune reports today. The crime? It's within 10 feet of the Mississippi River bluff.
Rules are rules, of course, so the City Council ordered it removed.
Mitch Berg, at Shot In The Dark, says the man wasn't asking for much -- just a variance, which are granted all the time.
Mind you, it's a variance. Not a change in the law. A variance. For a statue. In a private garden.
4) COMICAL JAZZ
Some jazz musicians are known as much for their wit as for their chops. It's National Humor Month, apparently, so NPR has assembled five jazz songs "that are designed to make you laugh."
More seriously, it's worth pointing out that today is Billie Holiday's birthday, Dale Connelly reminds us.
What strikes me is how casually the world would have overlooked her, as countless millions born into similar circumstances have been. It is completely whimsical that we got to hear her voice at all - it could so easily have gone another way. Jazz impresario John Hammond went to a club to listen to a different singer but heard Billie Holiday instead. She caught a break and made a lasting impression, and as a result people will be listening to Billie Holiday long after the rest of us are forgotten.
5) BIG WHEEL BIKE VS. BUS
I'm looking for volunteers to try this in the Twin Cities. It won't be close, but it will be dangerous.
(h/t: Ken Paulman)
Bonus: All of those ideas you may have had to get out of jury duty? Don't use them.
Viral video of the day
It's the little things that give you a clue that everything is going to fall into place today.
Unless negotiators can reach a deal to extend the government's authority to spend money, the federal government could shut down this weekend. How would a federal government shutdown affect you?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: What's the future of renewable energy?
Second hour: Will Rogers- cowboy comic to political insider.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Former Sen. Dave Durenberger on the GOP proposal to eventually eliminate the Medicare program for seniors.
Second hour: Baseball analyst Howard Sinker previews the Twins home opener on Friday afternoon.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Solutions to the debt crisis.
Second hour: Remembering Manning Marable and considering his life work -- a biography of Malcolm X.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - New data from the Census Bureau show much of the metro region's growth has been in the second- and third-ring suburbs, where five cities alone added more than 68,000 people - that's nearly one-third of the growth in the last decade. The suburbs are also becoming more ethnically diverse. How are the suburbs handling the growth and the challenges brought by diversity?
MPR's Jess Mador will have the story.
There are some devices that aren't well known, playing an important role along the Red River. Gravel Blisters, Trapbag Levees, Aqua Dam Levees, Hesco Levee, Aqua Fences and Big Bags. Tom Robertson will report.
MPR's Euan Kerr says minimalist composer Philip Glass collaborates with choreographer Lucinda Childs to remount a dance piece at the Walker Art Center which was booed in Minneapolis when first performed in the 1970s.
NPR takes a closer look at Brett Baier, an emerging player at Fox News.(13 Comments)
We were warned and our doctors were warned, but it only was a matter of time that reckless use of antibiotics would catch-up with us. Obviously there are many legitimate uses for antibiotics, but apparently it was one sore throat too many, or one unfinished prescription too many because the superbug is here.
The writing was on the wall, or at least your screen, with articles like this one from Reuters from 2009:
In a simple Internet search, investigators found 138 online vendors that sell antibiotics without a doctor's prescription. More than one third supplied the drugs with no questions asked, while 64 percent made their own prescriptions after having prospective customers fill out an online health survey.
Wikipedia has a pretty image that illustrates how resistance is built by these superbugs.
Schematic representation of how antibiotic resistance evolves via natural selection. The top section represents a population of bacteria before exposure to an antibiotic. The middle section shows the population directly after exposure, the phase in which selection took place. The last section shows the distribution of resistance in a new generation of bacteria. The legend indicates the resistance levels of individuals.
Maybe IBM can save us? It's a long-shot.(7 Comments)
Quentin Goehring of Oakport Township spent all day yesterday sandbagging against a rising Red River. That was a lot to ask of a 75-year-old man. It was too much to ask, as it turned out.
Around 7 last evening, he had a heart attack and died.
Today, the call went out for volunteers to help protect the home where he lived and dozens answered the call. That's his grandson on the far left of the picture.
"A lot of people were complaining yesterday about having to be out sandbagging," one volunteer told me. "We're not complaining now."
I'll have more on this later(2 Comments)
I wasn't at all surprised when I saw the line of cars stretching down a dead-end dirt road in Oakport Township on Thursday afternoon. The Red River Valley is full of decent people who answered requests on a local radio station to help save the home of 73-year-old Quentin Goehring.
He was sandbagging against a river approaching from across the street on Wednesday evening, when he slumped over and died. The family will plan a funeral and celebrate his life, but right now the river is still rising.
"This is something we'd never see down south," Grace Bichanga said. Her aunt and uncle own the farm where Mr. Goehring lived. "We're motivated. People were complaining about having to sandbag yesterday, but we're not complaining today."
Adam Wilson, 14, of West Fargo was sandbagging all morning elsewhere, but headed for Oakport Township when his mother texted him that a man had died.
Dozens of volunteers shoveled sand into sandbags and loaded them onto pallets. Two bobcats took turns moving them to near the house where Matthew Goehring,Quentin's grandson, built the dike around his grandfather's home...
"He was real healthy, he walked every day and he worked every day," Karl Goehring said of his father. "He could outwork me and he could outwork his grandkids," he told the Associated Press.
At the very least, they came close on Thursday.(3 Comments)
This was the scene on south Moorhead's Riverview Circle neighborhood two years ago as the Red River headed for its 40-foot crest...
This was the view on Thursday afternoon, as the river approached nearly the same level...
It's hard to overstate how things have changed here in two years. A longer head-start will do that for you. But so will the continuing education program living near the Red River constitutes. The residents of this neighborhood have built what appears to be a stronger sandbag dike against the river than they did in 2009, and appear to have built it mostly by themselves. There are no busloads of volunteers arriving, no National Guard trucks ready to evacuate people, few trucks moving around, no sirens, and not a lot of worry, from what I could tell.
Still, the river poses the same threat it did in 2009. "It only takes one breach," resident John Brummer said as he walked the neighborhood, missing few opportunities to remind a city council member, or a city engineer of a few things that could be tightened up.
Up the street, the Kirk family was adding a few sandbags and spreading plastic on their share of the dike that rings this neighborhood, sitting 42 feet above the Red's zero level.
In many ways, the residents here face an emotional dilemma. On the one hand, they've put back-breaking work into protecting their neighborhood and there's a slight sense of disappointment at the notion that the Red won't rise to test it. On the other hand, nobody is welcoming the river to the backyard.
And so they wait, socializing when they can...
Unlike two years ago, most of the snow is gone. The temperatures were in the 30s in 2009; they were in the 60s on Thursday. The ice covered the river in '09; it's gone now. There was an overriding sense of urgency in 2009; there's confidence in 2011.
It's hard to tell whether any of that is good or bad.(1 Comments)