I wonder whatever happened to this memorial?
It was set up outside the University Avenue office of Sen. Paul Wellstone in Saint Paul on the day he, other family members and campaign staff died in the 2002 crash of an airplane in northern Minnesota.
Grassroots tributes -- usually in the form of candles, flowers, and written notes -- are among the most touching displays of loss.
They're also among the most fleeting. The weather does them in and people move on with their lives and the memorials, if not removed and trashed, fly off into the wind.
Since last month's bombing, a memorial has grown on Boylston Street in Boston.
(Image by gwp 57 via Flickr)
Boston isn't allowing the memorial to go away. With rain coming, archivists are moving it to a building, where it will be catalogued.
"I went to school to learn how to document all sorts of history, and one of the things we learned about was how you document tragedies and disasters,'' archivist Marta Crilly tells Boston.com today. "And I never thought I'd be doing it in my own town.''
Rain is heading toward Boston. It will bring out the flowers, turn the grass green, and tell us it's time to move on.(0 Comments)
Regular readers know how much the NewsCut team -- all one of us -- enjoys a good obituary.
Colleague Diana Saez has spotted one: the obituary of Antonia Larroux of Bay St. Louis, MS.
She had previously conquered polio as a child contributing to her unusually petite ankles and the nickname "polio legs" given to her by her ex-husband, Jean F. Larroux, Jr. It should not be difficult to imagine the multiple reasons for their divorce 35+ years ago. Two children resulted from that marriage: Hayden Hoffman and Jean F. Larroux, III. Due to multiple, anonymous Mother's Day cards which arrived each May, the children suspect there were other siblings but that has never been verified.
She is survived by the two confirmed, aforementioned children. Her favorite child, Jean III, eloped in college and married Kim Fulford who dearly loved Toni. They gave Toni three grandchildren: Jean IV, Ann Elizabeth and Hannah Grace. Toni often remarked that her son, Jean III, was "just like his father," her ex-husband, Jean Jr., a statement that haunts her son to this day.
From the archive: The obit we want.
Motorcycles, scrambled eggs, and the ways we live forever
The Duluth News Tribune's Andrew Krueger was sitting on the shore of the Baptism River on the North Shore of Lake Superior the other day when he decided to post to his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Suddenly, he writes, he noticed the High Falls seemed to be growing more intense.
What happened in the next few minutes is a bit of a blur, but I noticed a lot more ice moving down the river. Branches cracking as slabs of ice crashed into riverside shrubs and trees. And the turbulent water rising, quickly rising toward where I sat.
An ice jam had broken somewhere upstream. He scrambled to safety, and took this video:
...Perhaps, as I had turned my attention from falls to phone, the spirits of the north woods wanted to provide a reminder that nothing in the digital world can compare to the awe-inspiring power of the natural world.(0 Comments)
Words carry more weight when you know the lengths gone through to say them, don't you think?
From Brandon Krivohlavy's Youtube description:
My brother was deployed in Afghanistan during my wedding this past weekend, so he surprised us with this very heartfelt video he made from the cockpit of his harrier. Needless to say, it brought everyone to tears.(0 Comments)
It's been nine months since comedian Tig Notaro's life seemingly began going to hell, culminating with a diagnosis that she got cancer on the day she was to make a stand-up performance in Los Angeles, which has become legendary and which I wrote about here.
A bit of an update. Reader Brian Hanf spotted this Yahoo video as part of a sponsored series on the secrets of success.
"I don't have a complaint in the world," she said.
At the very end of that piece I wrote in October, I made a very small mention of a colleague:
This is a topic -- reacting to the worst news you can get -- that had already gotten my attention this week anyway. A colleague of ours at MPR revealed that her husband's cancer has metastasized into his brain and they had decided he would transition to hospice.
She relayed on her Caring Bridge site how he reacted when the doctor gave them the horrible news.
"Okey-dokey," he said.
He died. And last week, my colleague returned to work, stopped by my cubicle, and gave me a present: a T-shirt.
Coincidence is an odd thing.(2 Comments)
Faithful NewsCut readers have probably discerned that nothing interests me more than individuals who set out to see the world on their own terms, leaving jobs, or cubicles, or the security of the known behind.
Today, word comes of a new group of people to add to the list.
Fueled by Rice consists of six friends bicycling for "peace, simplicity, and the environment."
But not around these parts.
Having biked from China to France five years ago, they're now biking from Germany to Thailand.
Minnesota native Peter Ehresmann (far right, above) is one of the six. He writes on the group's blog:
First, excessive Income is not needed and does not lead to greater happiness, therefore maximizing income should not be a goal. A common human weakness is that one often wants more money, stuff, comfort, and security and it is too easy to never be satisfied while constantly postponing one's happiness until one gets or does x, y, and z. Van Halen sings in "Right Here Right Now," "the more you get, the more you want, just trade in one for another, working so hard to make it easy, gotta turn this thing around, right now!" Happiness is available to us right now; it is an attitude and state of mind, and the Buddhist way is to stop wanting. Enough money is needed, yes, and where one is living is a large factor as to how much is enough, but Nick read that generally a person's happiness doesn't improve much with increasing income over US$30,000/year for one person, which can usually go far enough for a simple lifestyle in a developed country and would be a luxurious amount in a developing country. Families naturally would add accordingly.
If you're stuck in a cubicle today, you'll want to spend some time with the group's photos.
(h/t: Kari Koshiol )(0 Comments)
What would YOU do in this situation?
Bob Collins is off for the rest of the day.(3 Comments)
I made a reference in a post last week about a colleague's husband who greeted news that his cancer had metastasized into his brain with "okee dokee" -- two simple words (or maybe it's one) that can inspire -- do inspire -- the rest of us to consider the perspectives of life.
His name was Ben Blat and he passed away yesterday.
Blat, Benjamin R
Age 41, of Minneapolis was called Home by his King and Friend on November 4, 2012. Survived by his adoring wife Amy Hyatt-Blat; parents Alan and Jean; brother Robert (Jenni); nephew Owen and niece Sydni. Ben's legacy also includes Amy's nieces Caitlin and Lauren and the special children of the Sunday Morning Friends classroom at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church.
It's a good thing Ben was a personal trainer at the St. Paul Eastside YMCA because he never met a snack he didn't like. A lifelong swimmer, Ben swam with the Masters program at the U and with sea lions in Maui. He was a gracious volunteer at Minnesota Public Radio events, his blue eyes and huge smile greeted guests from the Fitzgerald Theater to the Minnesota State Fair. Known to many as "Ben the Bear", he was a big, gentle, kind and joyful soul who truly loved his Lord, his "Honey", his family and his friends, both old and soon-to-be. Favorite spots included the front pew, any grill, Lake Harriet, COP and Jim's poker table. Ben graduated with honors from Emory University in Atlanta with a degree in biology.
High-fives and bear hugs to Dr. Schneider and his band of champions at the HealthPartners Riverside Cancer Care Center, recipients of Ben's gratitude, bagels and standard "okey-dokey" response over the last five months of treatment.
Ben's wife, a professional event manager, plans to continue keeping him on her volunteer roster and assign him the role of "Sunshine Provider" for all of her future events.
Visitation 4-7 PM Thursday, Nov. 8 at Washburn-McReavy Edina Chapel, W. 50th Street & Vernon Avenue at Hwy. 100. Memorial service 11 AM Friday, Nov. 9 at Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church, 50th & Knox Ave. S. Mpls. Bowties are encouraged for memorial service. Private interment Lakewood Cemetery. Should friends desire, contributions may be sent to the family. www.wasbhburn-mcreavy.com Edina Chapel 952-920-3996.
Like so many millions of other people on Twitter, I saw Louis CK's tweet earlier this month about comedian Tig Notaro's stand-up performance at a comedy club in Los Angeles, just a few hours after she was told she has breast cancer, which came on the heels of her mother falling down, hitting her head and dying, which came right after her relationship broke up, just after she battled an infection that almost killed her.
How do you start a comedy set hours after you've been told you have cancer?
How about, "Good evening, hello. I have cancer. How are you?"
Louis CK writes...
What followed was one of the greatest standup performances I ever saw. I can't really describe it but I was crying and laughing and listening like never in my life. Here was this small woman standing alone against death and simply reporting where her mind had been and what had happened and employing her gorgeously acute standup voice to her own death.
The show was an amazing example of what comedy can be. A way to visit your worst fears and laugh at them. Tig took us to a scary place and made us laugh there. Not by distracting us from the terror but by looking right at it and just turning to us and saying "wow. Right?". She proved that everything is funny. And has to be. And she could only do this by giving us her own death as an example. So generous.
I've heard her Public Radio interviews about the performance -- and about the cancer -- but until today, I hadn't bought the performance, which Louis CK provided on his website for $5.
It was, indeed, a stunning performance that forces the listener to confront how -- or even, whether -- we press on through the times.
"God never gives you more than you can handle. I picture God going, 'You know what?I think she can take a little more.'
And then the angels are standing back going, 'God, what are you doing? You are out of your mind.'
And God is like, 'No, no, no. I really think she can handle this.'
'Why God? Why?'
'No, well, you know, just trust me on this. She can handle this'
"God is insane... if there at all."
You'll want to spend the time today to listen to this episode of Fresh Air that aired a few weeks ago...
This is a topic -- reacting to the worst news you can get -- that had already gotten my attention this week anyway. A colleague of ours at MPR revealed that her husband's cancer has metastasized into his brain and they had decided he would transition to hospice.
She relayed on her Caring Bridge site how he reacted when the doctor gave them the horrible news.
"Okey-dokey," he said.(3 Comments)
Andrew Filer is an ambitious man. He's photographed every dot on the North Dakota map, and is planning a another trip through the West taking pictures of "the tiniest places I can find." He's running a Kickstarter campaign to fund that endeavor.
I love small places, out-of-the-way places, desolate places, middles of nowheres, ghost towns, and other places that have a name but not much else.
So why every town?
Filer told APM's Dick Gordon in 2008 that he wanted to see "what else was out there."
Every time I hear something like that, including Bob's recent discussion with kayaker Daniel Alvarez, I take it as one more reason to quit planning and start doing.5 Comments)
Two years ago, I wrote about several suicides in two area high schools. Because schools like to keep these things quiet -- citing a fear of causing another one -- I didn't know the name of the 9th grader from North Oaks who took her own life at Mounds View.
I didn't know she was in the student council, played basketball, ran track, loved to dance, and played the cello. Now I do.
On Sunday, Lola's "team" will join others at the "Walk Out of Darkness" event at Black Bear Crossing in Saint Paul's Como Park, raising money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and calling more attention to a problem that too many people are ignoring. They'll march in honor of Tinu, for whom Lola was a surrogate mother after their mother suffered a brain aneurysm. They'll march in honor of Mitchell Pratt, another student at the school who took his own life.
Suicide leaves a lifetime of questions.
"I wonder what if she'd survived the attempt?" she told me on Thursday afternoon.
Those can be among the cruelest words in the aftermath of suicide. What if?
Lola's former boyfriend died several years ago and she didn't reveal to her sister or other members of the family that he'd killed himself. "I wonder what would have happened if I'd been more open about it?" she says.
There is, she says, no history of mental illness or suicide in the family. For Tinu, however, there was the stress of being a teenager in the ninth grade in Mounds View. "She texted me the night before and she was worried about her grades and school work and I texted back, 'Oh sweetie, don't worry, you'll be OK; everything will be fine.'"
The next morning, Tinu was dead.
The school sent letters home with students and offered counseling to them, but otherwise kept a lid on information. It was the second suicide in the school that year; Tinu had mentioned the other one to Lola, she but didn't seem to be particularly close to the other student, and she didn't appear to be unusually affected by it. She just seemed to be a teenager.
Lola flew home to North Oaks from her job in Austin, Texas. Her best friend came to Minnesota to help bury Tinu, and write about the suicide of her friend's sister. On the day of the funeral, it rained.
After Tinu's body was lowered, the kids each took a turn shoveling some dirt into her grave. AAAAAHHHHHHHHH! I just can't think about this right now. The image. The heartbreak. Sola sobbing. Peju holding him. Lola losing her mind for a moment. Kola stoic face. Every time I recall that, I'm on the verge of breaking down. But I can't forget it either. I can't forget the heartbreak that happens when despair causes you to take your own life. You take your own life and you take a bit of everyone's heart and it gets buried down there too. When I have depressed days I must remember the sadness and heartbreak that happens if I don't seek help and healing.
Shovels and Dirt and Graves also reminded me of Boneyard Prayer. If that ever reemerged, each night of the performance might just crack my heart beyond repair. There are clear images in that production of the gravediggers shoveling dirt to dig things up or to bury them. Shit, the opening scene of that play is the process of burying a baby. That is what we did in the real world on Saturday. We buried a baby and now the most intriguing show I've ever worked on hurts my heart to think about.
At one point Lola collapsed. I saw Brianna holding her head up to the sky letting the rain pour down her face. Drew's girlfriend, Kelsey and I took turns literally holding Peju up. Sola just cried. We all just cried. We all stood around this family, this grave of a child and we couldn't keep it together. How do I recover from this?
Lola went back to Texas. Eventually, her siblings went back to school. As what would have been Tinu's 16th birthday approached in February 2011, she called the principal of the school in Mounds View to ask that a counselor check in with her brothers and her sister's friends "to give them a heads up on a day that might be hard," she said.
"They checked in once," she said. "And that was it."
Back in Texas, Lola didn't do a lot of talking about what happened. She struggled for the correct answer to simple questions people would ask, like "how many siblings do you have?" She had to size up new acquaintances to determine just the right time to tell them she had a sister who killed herself. She had to explain to people who asked about the picture of the young girl in her cubicle. How do you work into a conversation that it's your sister, and she's dead?
When she heard co-workers talking about suicide and one said people who kill themselves "burn in hell," she started talking more.
She's back at work in Minnesota now. Some of her siblings don't want to talk about what happened. Lola wants people to talk more openly about what's happening to teenagers like her sister. She describes Sunday's walk as "an action step." She wants schools to be more open to discussing what's happening. "You have a responsibility to take care of students in the midst of their seemingly-dire experiences," she says.
It is a responsibility often going unmet. Schools pretend that students who kill themselves didn't exist. They did. And still do.
"To people who have been through this, I say, 'I see you. I know that it is not over. I understand,'" she said. To people who have never been through the suicide of a loved one, she says, "I do not wish it upon anyone. It is the most evil experience of all."
"Check in with your family," she advises. "If you see someone crying at work, you could walk past them. But you never know what can be prevented just by asking a question."
Tinu's classmates -- she would have been a senior this year -- still leave notes for her on a Facebook page. Lola Olateju has been to her sister's grave twice; some family members have never been.
At some point after Sunday's walk, however, they'll choose a marker for Tinu's grave.
"I think we're ready," she says.
When she was pregnant with him, Spencer Wirth-Davis' mom, Christi, played a lot of Bach to him. "It worked," he observed today. He became a musician. On Thursday, he debuts a project in tribute to her, about two years after her death from ovarian cancer.
"It wasn't until awhile after she had passed, I felt I needed to do something to honor her and help me deal with what's going on and help me make music," Wirth-Davis (aka Big Cats) told The Current's David Campbell on this week's The Local Show.
The album, For My Mother, is a collection of instrumental Hip Hop compositions, with 75 percent of the proceeds going to the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance, in honor of Christi Wirth-Davis.
"(She was) always the person most interested in seeing what I was working on," he told me this afternoon. "The biggest and most obvious inspiration is the fact it's entirely an instrumental project. She was ...more interested in my instrumental work. I tried to avoid having the record ... be sad and depressing." He wanted it to be a celebration of her life as a person.
That it's instrumental music is significant because his mother listened to instrumental classical music to relax during her fight with cancer.
The project didn't start off as therapy, but Wirth-Davis says he realizes that to some degree, it has been. It's "the process of taking a negative situation and a negative event in your life.... turning it into something beautiful." He had drifted away from music, especially in the latter stages of his mom's illness.
He received a $25,000 composer's fellowship from the McKnight Foundation, the youngest person ever to receive it. But he needed more funding, so he crowd-sourced the funding via a website for artists.
That allowed him to quit his job at Lionsgate Academy in Crystal, a charter school focused on a students with autism. Now that the project is finished, he's thinking of returning to working with kids.
"I haven't had too much time to step back and think about what's next. What does it mean that this project is done? I don't really know what that means as far as what comes next... if that chapter is closed."
He finished the record at the beginning of the summer and played it for his mother's mother. "My grandma was in a nursing home not doing well," he said today. "I'll never be able to play it for my mom, but it was great to have a parent's parent experience it. She listened to the whole thing and then said, 'nice music.'"
She died of dementia not long after.
The album release party will be held at the Cedar Cultural Center on Thursday night.
KARE 11 is reporting today that Jane Fiemeyer has died.
The Wadena girl died just a few hours before her wish was to be granted with a video chat with the musical group she apparently adored.
Jane's mother announced on her Caring Bridge site on Monday that chemotherapy against leukemia was not working. It was a heartbreaking post:
This conversation led into a conversation about what she wanted to take with her to heaven, including her apple blanket and the leopard she sleeps with every night. She also picked out the clothes she wants to wear (including the blue wig) and the necklaces that will be around her neck. She also asked if she would have a funeral. I answered yes and then we began to discuss what she would like to see happen from the music she wants played, who will do her eulogy, pall bearers, and which clergy she wants officiating her service. It was an oddly peaceful conversation. Maybe it should have been harder, and I guarantee it will be, but at the moment we had peace and composure and I am so grateful for that gift.
Having light-rail construction outside the window has given many of us the World Headquarters of NewsCut an unparalleled opportunity to "eavesdrop" on people living their lives in interesting ways.
Colleague Dan Olson just snapped this picture of a happy just-married couple looking for the perfect place for a wedding portrait. They had just had it taken amid the flotsam and jetsam2 Comments)
We didn't have a big extended family growing up. The Massachusetts Collinses splintered from the Ohio Collinses in the '40s. There are McFarlands in Vermont and upstate New York, but I don't know them very well. My wife and children are the only connection to Minnesota. I've got cousins scattered in the wind, but in the age of travel, it's hard enough to keep even the direct family tied together, and the truth is: we don't do a very good job of it.
So it's heartwarming to read today's Minnesota Prairie Roots post by the esteemed Audrey Kletscher Helbling on the family reunion of the descendants of Rudolph and Mathilda Kletscher in Vesta.
Despite the feelings of closeness evoked at a reunion, the reality is that we are connected now primarily by memories and blood, not by the intertwining of our lives today. For the most part, we've moved away from the prairie and see each other only at the reunion or at the funerals of family members.
Several years ago, my sister Lanae and I decided we needed to infuse new energy into the reunion if we were to keep the next generation interested in remaining connected. That meant offering activities which would create memories. And so we, and other family members, have planned games. This year was no exception.
A lot of high falutin' technology conspires to drive extended families apart. Sometimes it only takes a gunnysack to bring them back together.1 Comments)
In recent weeks, I've been kicking around an idea based on conversations with a few colleagues, who -- it turns out -- ended up at Minnesota Public Radio by a circuitous route. Each of them had a "previous life" of some sort that may -- or may not -- have served as the foundation of the life they have now.
People's journeys to the "now" often aren't what you think they are. Take my friend, Sara Johnson, who coordinates MPR's "Leadership Circle," which has very little to do with farming. Or Hawaii. Or coffee. Or feral dogs.
I told her the story would make a great NewsCut post, and she agreed to write it. That fact alone tells me that even if she hadn't been a coffee farmer, Sara would still be unique.
I remember it felt utterly important that I drink my first cup of coffee - ever - before I go to the Hawaiian coffee farm I'd be calling home and work for the next few months. So, reveling in how cliché I was being, I did: in Seattle, at the world's first Starbucks.
It was rather underwhelming, but prepared me, when my plane touched down three days later on the runway that looked more like recently cooled lava than a runway (and probably was just that), for the weeks to come.
I was going to Hawaii to continue my life as a farmer, or at the very least, my life as a farmer-wannabe. After six months on an organic vegetable farm in the heartland of the United States, I found myself yearning for more farming experience. I'd landed on that farm somewhat by chance: I was worn out from the intellectual pursuits of four years of college and ready for a new experience that I'd always fantasized about, so months before graduation I spent a fall day volunteering at a farm. After just a few hours I asked the farmers if they'd have me for the whole summer, and they said, "yes." Why I'd fantasized about this life for so long was one mystery I'd yet to unravel. While in Wisconsin, I had discovered in myself a strength, stubbornness, and work ethic that was beyond what writing a paper or doing intensive research during my college years had pulled out of me. I wanted more of that person. I wanted to keep farming. I went where it wasn't winter and I could afford to go: Kona, Hawaii.
The transformation into my island self was a swift one. I became tan-skinned and freckled (more than usual); I became a barefoot bikini-wearing, hitch-hiking in my multi-colored halter dress woman, not-quite-free-loving-as-the-others but open nonetheless; I became machete-wielding coffee farmer, on the farm at the end of the long, bumpy road that only feet or 4-wheel drive could climb; I became aware of my tiny place in things as I looked from my perch atop that mountain, machete in hand of course, and saw ocean all around me, far as the eye could see; I became obsessed with maps that showed my distance from everything and everyone I loved; I became island dweller; and, the greatest surprise of all at the time, I became early morning riser, coffee drinker, made from the very beans we were tending.
The time I was a coffee farmer in Hawaii. I see it now from a distance, perhaps the way one might watch very old family movies of the time long before they were born. Images on the screen disjointed, a little shaky, familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. My time farming coffee in Hawaii is more about the feeling of the place and the strange stories of everyday life, moreso than the actual experience of growing, tending to, and roasting coffee. Farming was the least of it, though I marveled, like the Midwesterner I was, at avocado trees, banana plants, and funky tomato-like fruits that grew on bushes and tasted somewhat like smoked pork. They made the strangest tasting guacamole! Not to mention the deep, earthy, purple spinach that seemed to burst in your mouth and needed nothing, nothing at all to make it divine. I learned - and ate - by the system of permaculture. Things wanted to grow here, unlike my last farm in Wisconsin where it was true work to "work the land"; where I learned firsthand why people called farming "back-breaking labor." Things in Hawaii wanted to grow. And once they grew, they wanted you to devour them, with love of course.
A juicy tangelo dripping down my dirty face at the end of an afternoon pruning the coffee trees. Or a morning ruined by an over-eager attack of the sugarcane field, stickiness all over my hands, my teeth sore with the sweetness, and my stomach quickly cramping as a sugar-crash set in. Who knew eating could lead to such deep pleasure, and such satisfying naps? Here I could eat an avocado a day picked off the tree outside my hut and buy strange fruit from a roadside vendor, fruit that had a jelly-like center and tasted like, of all things, vanilla pudding.
Working on a coffee farm in Hawaii was about the senses being alive. And it was about leaving what you knew of life and yourself on the "mainland," throwing it all away, and finding out who you were here.
Here I swam over a mile from shore to join a group of dolphins. Here I stuck out my thumb on the side of the road to go places. Here I put my hand in the earth to bring huge ginger roots to the surface. Here my only friends were a girl from back home who we called Goob, and two wandering souls named Scooby and Kev.
They took us to see the sunset in the "best location" on the Big Island, which ended up being at the end of a hike along rocky coastline from atop a rock practically falling into the sea, and was certainly worth it. They showed us gigantic, alien-like stingrays, attracted to the lights of a fancy hotel. They gave us a break from hitching and drove us where we needed to go, blasting Queen's Greatest Hits the whole way. They watched as giant waves almost took me under, and laughed as I came gasping up to their beach blanket, spitting out saltwater and shaking my mop of hair, getting sand everywhere. They wanted us to know the Island they knew, and when our interest wavered for a second, they disappeared forever.
Here I was often alone. My first hitch without Goob tested me, and I walked for many minutes before finding the courage to stick out my thumb. I was rewarded with a pickup truck of stoned and happy surfers, driven by Darren. They wanted me to come to the beach with them, but all I wanted was a ride to the market and proof that I could do this by myself. The first hitch solo made future ones easier, and helped me find the courage to also say no to rides that for whatever reason felt unsafe. Here being alone meant trusting yourself and your instincts always, and it was one of the greatest lessons the Island taught me.
Alone, I found myself returning home one day, and I could see the yellow house up ahead, around just a few bends that told me I was close. Suddenly, about a hundred yards ahead, a feral dog was standing, legs stiff, teeth bared, and a low growl emanating from somewhere ominous. I turned, walking away slowly, even though I didn't know what to do. Out of sight of the wild dog - of which this place had so many and which always filled me with fear - I stopped in my tracks and gathered myself. I had nowhere to go but to that yellow house. So I turned, ready to face the dog. Around the bend where it had stood mere minutes before, was empty road. I looked around at the lush plants and jungle, and there was no movement. Not even the sense of it was left. I walked on wondering whether the dog was real or an apparition. And if the latter, what was its message to me?
This was the rhythm of the island, and my life there. Were the things you saw and experienced real, or a dream? I awoke most mornings unsure.
On the island I expected to meet people with whom I deeply connected. But the only person I discovered there was me - me without my mainland buffers or definitions or stress. It was that me who would also discover how frightening and disappointing people can be.
I quickly learned that the organic coffee farmers may have lived a seemingly idyllic existence, but just beneath the surface something more sinister stirred. Not even a week into my adventure, I began to learn of the story that influenced every other story coming out of this family of four - a tale of a single moment in time, an accident and injury that would change one, and by doing so, change them all.
They lived on the edge of chaos, and so while they could explain the principles of permaculture and complimentary farming - things growing in harmony, life dependent on each other and supporting each other - they couldn't master the principle for their own family. The possibility of violence was always there. It was a loose thread always on the edge of unraveling the whole garment entirely. Occasionally there was a little pull, which would shake the ecosystem of the family, before sending them into silence, then something between acceptance and denial.
I found the work to be easy and a bit boring, but I learned quickly this was also a part of the island lifestyle. While the work seemed easy, being around the dysfunction of the family was not.
I stood in the grove of the coffee trees, or among the beans drying on platforms, and listened as toxic words came screaming out of the yellow house. I felt how it affected me, but I could escape it - I could go swim in the great blue ocean or walk in the shaded bamboo forest - but what about their two, young but ever-more-aware kids? Or the land itself?
As the family shook and crumbled in front of us, the coffee began to taste bitter in my mouth. It felt as infected as this place and these people. My work on the farm made me accountable somehow, and so on a day when the violence reached a new level, Goob and I decided to leave that place. We escaped on the back of Scooby's motorcycle and a pick-up truck respectively, and didn't look book. You didn't look back on the island: only forward, at the horizon, at the stories yet to be told.
Today, I don't know how much of Hawaii is still with me, but back then my three months trained by skilled organic coffee farmers made me valuable. Goob and I pruned a coffee plantation in the next town over, in exchange for lodging on an out of season hoshidana, a coffee drying platform. I was covered by a slanted, tin roof, but otherwise open to the elements and the creatures that crept around in the darkest night I'd ever known. But the toilet and shower were downright luxurious compared to the off-the-grid farm I'd come from. So I spent my last month pruning a coffee orchard a few hours a day, exploring the rest of the Big Island during every other waking moment, finally getting my dirty body clean at the end of each adventure, and sleeping exposed to everything.
Was I a coffee-farmer? Or a drifter sleeping in the open air? Or a seeker and traveler trying to figure out who I was outside of my normal context?
You asked me to tell you about the time I was a coffee farmer in Hawaii. Is that this story? All I know is this is the story of when I was not who I am now. It's the story of when I was someone else.
(All photos courtesy of Sara Johnson)
Why do you live where you live?
A friend of mine who has a difficult time ending relationships tends to convince himself he needs a new job on the other side of the country as his relationships sour. He's more of a free spirit and leaves a lot more to luck than most people I've met, but a lot of us end up chasing jobs, lovers or our dreams when we decide to move and a lot is left to a gut feeling on what is the best place for you.
Upwardly Mobile is a new app that can replace a bit of that gut feeling with some cold hard data. The Sunlight Foundation created the app to factor various economic factors including average salary for your profession, cost of food, gas, housing and other quality of life factors. A move for love, family or a dream job aren't factored in.
Take the survey and compare what is important to you. Would you be better off living somewhere else?
-Michael Olson(2 Comments)
An intangible benefit of writing the NewsCut blog and some other blogs I pen are the connections blogs can make between unrelated people.
I've already written, for example, about how the connections created by a tornado and the reach of the Internet helped a widow in a tornado-ravaged city in Indiana get a picture of her husband back from a man in a Cincinnati suburb who found it on his lawn (that picture, by the way, was returned to Marta Righthouse Tuesday evening).
Then there's this post from 2009 about the first person killed in the first Gulf War. Every year on the anniversary of his death, it seems, I hear from a member of the family who discovers the post via Google. The Internet and its search engines make it hard for people to be forgotten.
Today I was reminded again of the "connections" the Internet can give us.
My brother, Mike, died last week in Massachusetts and I was asked to say a few words at his graveside service. So I told the story of Everett Ek of Rochester (left), whose obituary appeared in the Star Tribune last week (you can also find it in the Rochester Post Bulletin). I'm a big reader of obituaries, especially the ones that capture the personality of the individual, rather than follow the boilerplate copy that renders most obits sounding like the one before.
Everett Ek's wasn't like that:
Everett enjoyed his final days. He shared a visit with Kellen, his great-grandson, on Saturday. "Papa" made scrambled eggs for his granddaughters, Alahn and Korah, Sunday morning after their stay over. Monday, he went cruising on his Harley and cleaned out his man cave, aka the garage. Tuesday morning found him savoring a Grain Belt in his man cave with Bob, a morning coffee klutch buddy. Later, when he went out to work in the yard on that beautiful day, he fell to the ground and was gone. Everett and his dad each lived their lives to the fullest, 72 years and 48 days.
Because I told Mr. Ek's story to a group of people 1,200 miles away, many of them also shared the stories of my brother -- the motorcycle rides he made and his habit of showing up for camping trips with 10 pounds of pork chops and only 10 pounds of pork chops. None of it was headline material; all of it provided a much more valuable snapshot of his life, more than any company he worked at or award he received.
Everett Ek died this week after making scrambled eggs for his granddaughters and because he did, you know that he once was on this earth and mattered. A woman loved purple, another loved her fax machine, and my brother just got his last ride from some other good and decent people.
I posted my remarks on one of my personal blogs. The phone rang in the NewsCut cubicle today. "This is Mrs. Everett Ek," she said, and I knew immediately who she was. A relative had also found the post via Google and called her to say, "you won't believe it."
She said she didn't want the obituary to be like all the others so she told it to a friend who wrote it. Today, I learned that Mr. Ek, who apparently always wanted to ride a motorcycle, finally did so at age 69 at his wife's urging. He was the oldest person in the motorcycle safety class at the community college, a class that called him "Papa."
They had a nice funeral, she told me, especially when they opened the doors of the church to hear the person outside revving up the engine on the motorcycle. It was a Catholic mass with the usual amount of standing, sitting, and kneeling. A faithful family dog attended and sat and stood as custom dictated.
None of these things is "headline material," and yet these are the threads that connect us. Because a man in Rochester made eggs for his granddaughters, a man who loved pork chops died in Massachusetts, and some guy in Saint Paul writes a blog for a living, we are never really forgotten.
How I love you so, Internet.
Photo top: via Ek family
Photo bottom: via Collins family
Roseville Area High School student Claire Frick has died.
She was diagnosed with a deadly childhood cancer at 16, and on Valentine's Day this year, she found out the cancer had spread to her brain and there was nothing more that could be done.
The Pioneer Press chronicled the family's ordeal just last Sunday:
During her fight with this disease, she has continued to sing with her school choir and compete with the speech team, and has traveled to Washington, D.C.; New York; Montana; and Orlando. She's also maintained straight A's, putting her among the top in her class.
She is spending her last days resting at home under the care of her family and hospice nurses, receiving numerous medications.
To make matters worse for the Little Canada family, Claire's mother, Jane Frick, was diagnosed with breast cancer in October.
Her mom wrote on her Caring Bridge site yesterday...
My dear Claire, my youngest child, my pudgiest baby with the "thunder thigh" roly poly legs, who grew into a shy and quiet but oh so sweet little girl with pigtails, always maintained her physical "cuteness" and somehow by-passed those "awkward" years of middle school, and evolved into an amazing adolescent who was more concerned with civil rights and justice than with her own teenage rebellion, and finally who became a woman under the most difficult circumstances ever - being robbed of many joys and privileges so many of us take for granted - that first true love, voting in a presidential election, graduating from high school, with the parties that go along with that rite of passage, using her artistic talent to attend the College of Visual Arts (CVA) where she intended to go, dreams of the future - having a significant relationship, having children, growing old, going to Paris, riding one more roller coaster. We mourn your loss but cherish and celebrate your memory. You will forever be in my heart and I will forever be your mom and I love you.
Thanks for listening ~ Jane
Each holiday, the National Retail Federation is kind enough to tell consumers exactly what that day's merriment will cost them.
Today is Valentine's Day (yes, it is too late). And despite a struggling economy, the federation's surveys predict Americans will spend an average $126.03, "up 8.5 percent over last year's $116.21 and the highest in the survey's 10-year history."
Total spending on the day is expected to reach $17.6 billion, larger than the entire economies of Laos, Tajikistan and 90 other countries.
Chocolates and flowers are gigantic on the day, of course. Highlights from the survey show you'll spend an average $168.74 on clothing, jewelry, greeting cards and more this year -- if you're an "average male." Women will spend $85.76 on average, or about half the "average male."
-19 percent will buy jewelry, the highest percent in the survey's history. That works out to $4.1 billion, $600 million more than last year.
-13.3 percent will hand their beloved a gift card, up from 12.6 percent last year. Very smooth.
While it's all great fun, we feel the need to go Calvin Coolidge for a moment and remind you that your disposable income -- the money you can afford to throw around -- hasn't yet rebounded from the Great Recession.
We'll be showing this chart later to loved ones. We're sure they'll understand that we did not forget Valentine's Day but are simply waiting until real per capita disposable income rebounds. Yeah.
Sometimes we need a reminder that there are more important things in the world than football stadiums, bases on the moon, or political squabbles.
This picture is one such reminder:
Photographer Stephen Geffre of Minneapolis took this picture of his wife, Michelle Shaffner, and child, Thomas, and posted on his Facebook page with this explanation:
"Holding it together while your kids is suffering is a hard thing to do. Most of the time you find the strength because that is what you have to do as a parent. Yet there is that time when tiredness, fatigue, stress and sadness all converge and you have to let go. Today was that time for Michelle."
We look forward to seeing another picture soon with lots of smiles.
(h/t: Curtis Gilbert)(6 Comments)
Photo by Dominic Alves via Flickr
Growing up Jewish in Minnesota, I knew I was in the minority, but I also knew a lot of Jews. Between Hebrew school, synagogue, and my family, there were plenty of bar and bat mitzvahs to attend, people to wish Happy New Year and those who understood that matzah is gross, but matzah balls are delicious.
So I always assumed that everyone else knew Jewish people, too. But I grew up, went out into the world and realized I was wrong. Jewish people make up about two percent of the Twin Cities population -- and a far smaller percentage of outstate Minnesota. I was surprised to find out that I had friends and co-workers who didn't know a single Jewish person growing up. So being one of the few -- or only -- Jewish people they know, I get questions. And since Chanukah is the most visible Jewish holiday, I get a lot of questions about Chanukah.
The following are all actual questions I've been asked by friends and co-workers over the past couple years.
What is Chanukah?
Chanukah is Hanukkah is Chanukkah is Channuka is Hanuka. Since Chanukah is a transliteration of a Hebrew word, there is no one correct way to spell it. The "CH" sound is not the same as the "CH" sound in "cheese" -- but rather is more of a throat-clearing sound. Hear the word pronounced here.
Does Chanukah start on Dec. 8?
Nope. Well, occasionally. Chanukah takes place on the same date every year on the Jewish calendar -- the 25th of Kislev. The Jewish calendar is lunar, meaning each new month starts at the new moon. Most years there are twelve months, but every few years an entire leap month is added to keep the calendar more aligned with the longer solar cycles. So Chanukah starts on a different secular date every year -- sometimes as early as late November. This year, the first night of Chanukah is on the 20th. Jewish holidays start at sundown, so if your calendar says Dec. 21 is the first day of Chanukah, that day started at sundown the night before.
What is Chanukah about?
Tablet explains succinctly: "Hebrew for "dedication," Hanukkah is an eight-day-long celebration commemorates just that: the purging and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE after the Jews' successful uprising against the Greeks." In rededicating the temple they re-lit a flame that is meant to never go out, but only had enough oil for one night. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight nights.
Is Chanukah a big deal?
In the scheme of Jewish holidays, no -- but due to its proximity to Christmas, it's become the most visible Jewish holiday. The most important Jewish holidays are the High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) that mark the new year and the days of atonement that follow. These take place in the fall.
What's a dreidel?
It's a four-sided top that is used to play a game that involves putting chocolate coins (or actual coins) into a pot, or taking them out, depending on which side the dreidel lands. There is a different Hebrew letter on each side...the first letters of each word in the phrase "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham," which means "a great miracle happened there." I've always thought this game is fairly boring and it doesn't really have a clear end. In my family, we stopped playing when we got bored (which meant after about five minutes).
Are there Chanukah songs beyond "I had a little dreidel?"
There are a few. "Maoz Tzur" (aka Rock of Ages) is often sung as is "Svivon," which is another song about a dreidel (except this time in Hebrew). My favorite is the Yiddish "Oy, Chanukah"....but I can't find it online, so this Woodie Guthrie Chanukah song will have to do:
Are there particular foods you eat at Chanukah?
It's traditional to eat foods fried in oil thanks to the whole oil miracle thing. Latkes are fried potato pancakes that are closer to hash browns than actual pancakes. Sufganiyot, another traditional food, are basically jelly donuts.
You really don't celebrate Christmas?
Nope. Growing up, we didn't celebrate Christmas since it's a Christian holiday and we aren't Christian. We did observe Christmas in our own way -- by going to eat Chinese food and going to see a movie. Now, like nearly half of Minnesota's Jews, I'm married to a nice goyishe (gentile) boy and attend his family's Christmas celebration.
Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?
Yep. That one's an American holiday and we're American, so we celebrate it. Though watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is close to a religious experience for me.
If you have any other questions that I didn't cover, please leave them in comments. I'm always happy to answer them. It's a good time of year to celebrate, keep traditions, make new ones and kibbitz. Happy holidays, Chanukah, Christmas, Solstice, New Year and whatever else you're celebrating this month. Hope it's a good one.(23 Comments)
"Can you watch that gate and make sure none of the cows walks through?" Mena Kaehler asked as she drove by with a bucketloader full of silage for some of the heifers and bulls on her and her husband's 163-acre farm in St. Charles last week. It's a little after 7 a.m. -- morning chores time.
It was a reasonable request of two public radio city slickers -- me and photographer Jeff Thompson -- who were anxious to show our agricultural chops, minutes into spending the day with the Kaehlers in southeast Minnesota farm country.
While Thompson and I chatted at the gate, at least one heifer walked by us undetected and into the no-cow zone. The escapee was Miss Hoya Saxa, who was scheduled to be picked up in an hour or so by her new owner, having been sold at an online auction a few days ago for more than $24,000.
"No!" the anguished voice from the returning bucketloader shouted. Mena Kaehler recognized that the family's big payday was heading for the running of the bulls, and not needing to acknowledge that public radio city slickers make lousy gate guards.
It didn't take much for her to steer the bank account back to safer ground, and she didn't have to tell us the lesson we just learned: Every detail matters on the farm, and inattention can cost you plenty.
Mena and Ralph Kaehler are the fifth generation of Kaehlers working this farm, and with any luck, there'll be a sixth someday. One of their sons is working in New York, trying to get a bankroll started to buy a farm. The other is a student at Ridgewater College in Willmar. They hope to be partners one day.
But there's a rite of passage on the farm. "You don't come here to get into farming," Ralph Kaehler says. "You go somewhere else first, and then you come back." Ralph went to Colorado to get a Masters degree, where he met Mena, and came back to Minnesota to take over his part of the farm from his mother 20 years ago. His dad died in 1984.
You also go to college. All seven children of Kaehler's mother, Maxine, went to college. "I did it," she says proudly when I asked her how.
"We want to be able to give them this farm; we've told them that from day one," Mena says of her own sons. But, she adds, there's no family pressure to continue the farm.
It'll be a challenge if they do, though. The farm, on which the Kaehlers raise cattle, is small at 163 acres. "We wouldn't be able to farm 163 acres if Ralph didn't have an outside job, too," Mena says. Ralph is district sales manager for Quality Liquid Feeds.
There's little room for the expansion that keeps most farms in business by necessity. Cattle raised for breeding and beef need space, but pastureland is hard to come by these days in Minnesota.
It's harvest time, a chance to recalibrate the rhythm of rural Minnesota. Ralph's brother, Ed -- 12 years older -- has moved his combine onto Ralph and Mena's property. He rents the land from his brother to plant corn, and when he's done, the Kaehlers will graze their cattle on the corn flotsam over the winter.
"You have to treat this like a business, even though family is involved," Mena says. "And it is a business, but you still have to sit at the table at Thanksgiving."
"Ralph got a good deal," brother Ed says of the lease on the land from which he's pulling a season's worth of corn, sounding more business partner than brother.
"It's a good time to be a farmer and anyone who says different isn't telling the truth," he says while waiting for the combine to disgorge its pickings into a bin that a tractor will take to a semi parked nearby, and then take it to Ed's farm where it will be dried and stored until the price is right.
These days, the price is right. Corn is selling for nearly $6 a bushel. But farmers are as concerned about its moisture content during harvest as the price it fetches. The summer dry spell has created fairly dry corn, which should minimize the amount of time and energy required to dry it.
On this day, a computer in the combine tells Ed the corn he's picking has 17 percent moisture content. The shipper at the river in Winona won't accept anything over 15 percent. The ethanol plant farther away will not only take corn with a higher moisture content, it'll pay a little more than "taking it to the river." But the river is closer.
From his perch in the combine at the top of a hill, Kaehler can see the past and, maybe, the future. He points out four or five neighboring farms and recites the number of dairy cows each raised at one time. Then he points out the farms that still have dairy cows. He points to one farm.
People are moving out here from St. Charles and buying farmhouses. "They just want their five acres," he says. He laments that he doesn't know half the people who live in the county, anymore.
He says every farm used to raise at least one pig. "Now, you can't find a pig in Winona County," he says. Apparently, the family pig is the agricultural canary in the coal mine.
He describes a litany of challenges to farmers of smaller operations. "It's not a fair playing field," he says. Monsanto sells seed to larger operations at a fraction of the price it'll sell to him and other small farms. When land comes on the market, it's snapped up for far more than a local farmer can afford to pay.
Cropland prices are about 20 percent higher this year from a year ago, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. When the price of corn goes up in farm country, the price of everything else goes up, too.
"The owner of that property lives in Chicago," Ed Kaehler says, gesturing toward a neighboring field. "They can never make enough off it" considering the price paid, but with the differing tax laws, owners can write the difference off against other parts of their operations.
Ironically, those big operations might be his ticket to a nicer combine. This one -- 12 years old -- is reaching the end of its life. Government incentives and a big spike in the farm income have made it likely the bigger operations can afford the price of a new combine. That should lead to a glut of used combines for the smaller operation to buy.
It's big money on the farm these days. "How do you get into farming if you don't grow up on a farm?" I ask.
"You don't," Ed says.
It's a debatable point. Earlier, Ralph Kaehler said young people willing to "start at the bottom and work their way up" on a farm can advance to managing or owning one. But that, he acknowledges, isn't a strong suit for young people. Many employees of larger farm operations in Minnesota are recent immigrants.
Kaehler halts his combine; the semi is now full of corn and has to be taken to his farm 10 miles away. His cousin, Bob Larkin, has arrived from Redding, California to help bring in the harvest. While Kaehler waits, Larkin drives 10 miles to Eyota to unload the morning's bounty.
Larkin, a retired truck driver, returns to Minnesota in the spring to help Kaehler plant, and in the fall to help harvest. "I have the best of both worlds," he says. He avoids a Minnesota winter. While here, he spends a fair amount of time in the truck. If he's not hauling corn to the dryer at Ed's house, he's taking it to Winona, and waiting two hours to unload it. It takes seven minutes for the ubiquitous grain trucks to unload a full load of corn if all goes well.
On this day, things don't go well. An attachment on a tractor -- called a power take off -- snaps as it powers the auger, which carries the corn to a silo and dryer. Corn starts spilling everywhere.
"This is going to take longer than I thought," Ed says after also driving the 10 miles to answer Larkin's call for help. The harvest of 2011 grinds to a stop while he figures out what's causing the shear bolt on the attachment to snap repeatedly.
Back at the Kaehlers, Miss Hoya Saxa has been loaded into a trailer and is on her way to her new home. Ralph, back from a morning feed tank construction job in Mabel, MN., is trying to get a veterinarian to stop by for a round of vaccinations before a cattle show at the State Fairgrounds. But eight is too much for the vet to make time for the next day. He'll work out the details later.
(After lunch with his wife, 90-year-old mother, and a man who has worked for the family for 43 years, Ralph Kaehler stops to mail letters in the small town of Utica, Minnesota. Many small town Post Offices are closing, but Kaehler says everyone ends up in another town everyday anyway, so he doesn't think it'll cause big problems )
Kaehler is, unsurprisingly, as animated a booster of Minnesota agriculture as the state has. If there's a conflict between the types of farming done around the St. Charles area -- large, small, Amish, cattle, dairy, swine -- it doesn't show when he surveys the region.
He's clearly proud of the good times the industry is experiencing, but mindful that there's a yin and yang to agriculture. "It wasn't long ago I'd get up in the morning knowing I'd make less than the day before and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it," he says while driving to the giant Daley Farm of Lewiston, a family-run farm with 1,500 cows, and a stack of employment applications on a counter in the office.
He points out the environmental benefits of the large-scale operation, answering criticism of the industry not yet stated. The family has spent $1.5 million on a new technology that reclaims the bedding sand from manure from four huge barns. The cows appear to be well pampered, and a younger generation of farmer seems well established.
(At the Daley Farm, cows stand on a moving platform while being milked. Computers monitor the health and production of the cow.)
The manure lagoons at the farm are being replaced by two large ponds of mostly-liquid fertilizer that will be injected into the cropland rather than spread by tossing it through the air, as is the practice at most farms.
At the dairy where the cows are milked for all but three hours a day, the harvest ended a little more than a week ago. But it's not shipped elsewhere. "It's a self-sustaining operation," Kaehler points out. Most of what the cows eat is grown on the property, which is picture tidy and oozes "professional."
Throughout the valley, there's a "newness" surrounding agriculture. Across from the Kaehlers, Twin Valley Ag Coop has opened a gleaming new grain elevator and farm services facility. Its owners -- farmers -- deemed the time right to move from downtown. In Utica, the old grain elevator with its traditional Purina Checkerboard Square sign has been replaced by a more modern facility. The farm implements dealer appears to be selling and the sheen on the valley proclaims that while the rest of the nation's economy tanks, this is agriculture's time.
Kaehler seems to know everybody in St. Charles, Lewiston, and nearby Utica, all stops during his day. He knows Fidel Castro, too, and may be the only person ever to upstage Jesse Ventura. During a trade mission, the then-governor played second fiddle to Kaehler and his family while negotiating to sell beef to Cuba.
Farming and politics are often joined at the hip. As darkness falls, lights of the combines dot the black fields along U.S. 14. Mena Kaehler is driving to Winona for a meeting of the Winona County Planning Commission, which is holding a public hearing on frac sand mining. Ralph is off to a Farm Bureau meeting.
Mena isn't planning to say anything at the hearing, but she's the chairperson of the Winona County Board of Commissioners and there's a fair chance she'll have to decide on a proposed moratorium in a matter of weeks.
By close to 10 p.m., the commission still has only tackled one of the three proposals when it takes a break. She notices commission members are stocking up on rations of Mountain Dew and figures it'll be a long night before the next early morning on the farms of Winona County, where the harvest doesn't sleep in.(9 Comments)
Seventh grader Tyler Johnson's Prescott Middle School football team lost its game to River Falls last week, but he scored a touchdown. That's a big deal, the Hastings Star Gazette reports, because he has Fragile X syndrome, a genetic disorder that has led to learning disabilities and cognitive disabilities.
He wanted to play football this year, and the coaches embraced him on the team, with no guarantees of any playing time. He showed up for practices and was apparently OK with the fact he hadn't been in a game so far this season...
With his team trailing late in the game, one of the Prescott coaches walked over to Tyler and struck up a conversation. Then, with about nine seconds to play, the coach brought Tyler on to the field. They handed the ball off to him on the next play, and Tyler raced toward the end zone. He scored a touchdown, and people cheered like wild.
"The funny thing is, when he started to run, he saw the kids from the other team coming toward him, so he turned around and started running the wrong way," Angie Johnson said. "They turned him around, and he scored a touchdown. It was just awesome."
The Prescott coaches had talked to the coaches of the opposing team from River Falls, and they had agreed to let Tyler score, the paper reports. "The boys on the River Falls team were understanding, too, and while they chased after Tyler they knew to let him score."
His mom was videotaping the whole scene, until the camera ran out of film time before he scored.
Four-and-a-half million people. That's how many have viewed the YouTube video of the old folks trying to learn their new computer since it went up late last month.
Why do we like videos like this so much? Because they're old and computer illiterate and fun to laugh at? I doubt it. It's because they're full of life, they're cool, and they're everything we want to be not only when we reach that age, but now.
I still have a soft spot for this couple at the Mayo Clinic.
These videos serve another purpose: To remind us to call our aging parents (or grandparents) this weekend. While we still can.(2 Comments)
It's now two weeks since the last day of my vacation, when I took this not very good photo on the Heartland Trail between Walker and Akeley, Minn. It was a moment I wanted to remember: The trail was like a lesson on perspective in art class, heading perfectly straight to its vanishing point. The air was rich with forest smells. Not for the first time, I thought of what a gift these old railroad routes have become, and what a great way they are to travel through the woods.
For my money, the Heartland is the best, but I also admire the more challenging Paul Bunyan. What's the best bike trail in the state?
Although a lot of kids are leaving for college this weekend, we still have another couple of weeks of summer left to go.
We stopped at the Truro "transfer station" on Cape Cod the other day while leaving the ocean for the mountains and I captured this magnificent statement on what the end of summer looks like for many people. Click on the image for all of its full-screen splendor.
Over the next week or so -- until I get back from vacation -- snap your own image of what the end of summer looks like and send it to me (email@example.com) and if we get enough submissions, perhaps I'll put together a little presentation. Be sure to put your contact information in the e-mail in case I need to call you and record your fine voice describing your end-of-summer experience.
Bruan Blumenschein: "This is a series of time lapse videos that were shot on a small island on Trout Lake in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota.
"All shots were taken with a Nikon D5100 over the course of a few days, with a total of around 1200 photos."
(h/t Boundary Waters Blog)(1 Comments)
That blob above is a map of SXSW 2012 panel topics. You can see a full screen version here that allows you to zoom in and poke around in greater detail. Matt Biddulph is the smart guy behind the graphic.
The annual interactive, music and film fest in Austin has become a pretty big deal to folks that like to gaze into their own navels, but it is also an important gauge of where were are going as a culture.
Here's a big question for you. What do we need to be thinking more about as a society and what is occupying too much of our precious time?(5 Comments)
There are days the news isn't compatible.
In Minnesota, the big story is someone hit the lottery last night. A single Powerball ticket, sold in Dakota County, is worth about $229 million and someone's big decision is whether to take less money as a lump sum ($124 million), or collect the whole package via an annuity over a number of years.
And then there's Wardo Mohamud Yusuf, the subject of a woefully incomplete five-paragraph story from the Associated Press today. She had to decide whether to leave her four-year-old son to die when he collapsed in Somalia while walking to a refugee camp in Kenya.
She did. And he did.(3 Comments)
MPR's Midmorning focused today on a common complaint: Men aren't doing their share of the chores around the house.
But before we jump into that, let me point out a Facebook post from Mrs. NewsCut:
But not everyone lives in the heaven-on-earth world that she does, according to today's program, the genesis of which appears to be last month's Time Magazine article, "Why Men and Women Should End The Chore Wars." Trust me, the irony of the title isn't lost on me.
The article isn't available online, but a capsule says men and women now have roughly a similar workload, and women should stop pointing fingers at men:
Though it's still true that women with young children do put in more hours around the house and with the kids, at the same time their husbands are putting more time in at the office (where cutting back hours as a new dad isn't typically an option). According to the most recent data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on hours worked by women and men who are married, employed and have kids, the ladies are actually only putting in about 20 minutes more work (paid and unpaid) per day than their husbands. Sure, they're working more, but it's not the 15 hours a week difference made famous by The Second Shift, the hugely influential book by Arlie Russell Hochschild.
But a listen to today's show reveals that the term "household chores" reveals three things: Cleaning, cooking and kids. But is that all there is to running a house?
Last fall, a company released a "Chore Wars study" that might've started this latest round of fingerpointing. The company makes cleaning products. The study appeared to define "chores" as "cleaning." As MSNBC reported:
In fact, 69% of women felt they did most of the work around the house, while 53% of the men disagreed, feeling they worked just as hard as the women when it came to cleaning up.
What about "mowing up?" Or "fixing the car up?" Or "painting the house up?" Or "fixing the snowblower when it's -10 in the garage up?"
As long as the list of what makes a household run is skewed, the results are going to be skewed, too. Unquestionably, there is a culture divide in the home that's at the heart of this, not a helping/not helping divide. Viewed through that prism, men come out looking like uncaring, lazy ooofs. The number of comments to Mrs NewsCut's Facebook post reminding her how incredibly lucky she is is proof of that.
Curiously, though, when the subject comes up in public discussions like this morning, men are fairly silent.
Check today's mailbag reacting to the show:
A woman in Owatonna:
Amongst myself and my peers, we still find that between working professionally, raising children and managing a household that we women put in more time. My husband has the best of intentions for equality in cleaning, but just doesn't enjoy it and its not important to him to have a clean house. I think expectations are important when it comes to the roles of careers, child rearing and chores in the house. We have found that if I leave him a short "honey to do" list and my scaling back on how clean our home has to be that we free up our time to enjoy our life and there is more equality in our relationship.
A woman in Minnetonka:
I think the real challenge is when both spouses work full time. Both my husband and I work at least 50 hours per week. We try to share the home , kid responsibilities but it seems that I am the person responsible for keeping track of what needs to be done (signing up kids for camp, school shopping along with house chores for example) and I have to take the initiative to ask my husband to help. He is great and very willing, but if I don't ask, he won't take charge. It can be a source of conflict at times.
A woman in Woodbury:
I am 41, have owned my own business and am now back in corporate America. While owning my own business, I did the bulk of the house work and child care while still working. Since going back into the corporate work force, I continue to do more of the paperwork portion, but my spouse has picked up and is doing more of the laundry, child care(albeit directed by me schedule-wise- I tell him when to pick up kids, and when their appointments are if I am working), and will make simple meals. Again, it's up to me to get the groceries, etc.
People, let me be clear : I want to know about events and the cool things you're involved in before they happen. There's a little link over there on the right to click. If you don't think they're "newsworthy" enough, there's no harm in finding out. NewsCut isn't about "newsworthy."
Like what? Like this event, the video of which has just been posted: The first-ever Skydive for Hunger, held in Baldwin, Wisconsin last Saturday.
Heck, I could've gotten a whole post out of just the story behind the T-shirt that says, "Everything is amazing and nobody is happy."
There's a little background on the event, and the reasons for it, at the website of its sponsor, Neighbors, Inc.
Good show, folks. In my next life, I'm going to have a job jumping out of airplanes and videotaping people parachuting.(2 Comments)
WCCO provides today's "life's not fair" lesson, reporting the death of Jesse Brewington of Hampton, Minnesota. Brewington, a lead State Patrol dispatcher, was found to have incurable stomach cancer last year, but he hoped to be married on July 30, the seventh anniversary of his first date with Karlyn Smith.
It didn't work out. His condition deteriorated too badly for a wedding, and he died yesterday, the station reports.
The station profiled Mr. Brewington last April...
Posted at 2:08 PM on June 15, 2011
by Michael Olson
Filed under: Life
Rep. Anthony Weiner might have to resign over his online behavior, but he's not the only one sending out pictures of himself via text or Twitter. Experts say the online flirtations that got him into so much trouble are far from unusual.
Midmorning hosted a lively discussion with Amanda Lenhart: Senior research specialist at the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project that included some callers expressing candid confessions.
This Pioneer Press article about a Woodbury man finding a solution to his neighborhood goose problem has been making the rounds.
It's an interesting approach and it might work for a while, but this video suggests that the fake gator's effectiveness is going to be short-lived.
A Border Collie may prove to be a better solution for the long-run.(3 Comments)
Rep. Anthony Weiner's online escapades may be the latest evidence of a technical sexual revolution, an MIT researcher is suggesting.
"Crude connections may signal a 'robotic moment' for society where humans begin turning to artificial intelligence to fulfill emotional needs," Sherry Turkle, director of MIT's Initiative on Society and Self, tells InnovationNewsDaily.
Turkle, who's written "One Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other," says her research has found people more interested in "artificial" boyfriends, girlfriends, and spouses.
"They were not being ironic. They felt that people had failed them. And that a robot would be a safe choice," she says.
If you're in a relationship with a real person, are you unfaithful if you take up with a virtual one?
It depends on what your definition of infidelity is, according to Robert Weiss, founding director of The Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles. He now defines infidelity as the act of keeping secrets in a relationship.
This is going to be a problem.(9 Comments)
One of the best parts about being a news blogger is hearing from people years after you've written a post, who have a personal connection with some element of it.
Meet John Fred Moore of Deland, Florida. He's a former freighter pilot and, from what I could discern from his phone call today, a character with plenty of swashbuckling stories to tell.
Moore, who can't fly anymore because of pulmonary disease, was spending time online last weekend, trying to find out whatever happened to some of the planes he once flew, when he came across this picture on this News Cut post.
"38-Charlie was a great plane," he said, as if he was talking about a long-lost love.
The plane crashed in Eden Prairie in August 2009, killing two people aboard. He called to try to find out what happened.
"Engine problem," I said. "And the pilot stalled it..."
"You can't do that with a Twin Beech," he growled. "If you lose one engine with the landing gear down, you're not going anywhere but down," he said, recalling the time off the coast of Bimini when a similar model developed engine problems. He had a parachute and jumped.
38-Charlie had a glorious life with Air Cargo Services out of Miami, he said. "That plane probably flew a few tons of dope in its career," he said.
"And were you at the controls when it did?" I asked.
"If I was, I wouldn't tell you," he said, shortly before telling me of the hazards of flying at night in the Everglades in the '80s.
"You had 20-35 planes flying overhead at any one time, and none of them had any lights on," he said. "It was pretty easy to get into a midair."
Moore is an old pilot with time on his hands, thanks to a lousy economy and cigarettes. "When I was a kid, John Wayne and Errol Flynn smoked cigarettes and I wanted to be like them," he said. He can't fly anymore and the flight schools around Deland are closed and the airport doesn't have much business anymore so there's no one to swap flying stories with now.
Like the one about the time he lost an engine while flying a load of PVC pipe and had to land in Cuba. "It was right after Grenada so I was pretty concerned about what reception I'd get," he said. "But the Cubans were great. Better than the Jamaicans," he said.
But it was 38-Charlie, he said, that still holds a place in his life.
"I got my Mile High wings in that plane," he snickered, "if you know what I mean."(2 Comments)
Nothing, other than a M*A*S*H reunion, can make you feel older than finding out a group of fifth graders in Cloquet have dug up a time capsule that was buried almost 10 years after you graduated from high school.
The Carlton County Pine Journal has the goods on the goods buried by the 1981 5th graders at the Churchill Elementary School.
Sorenson held up the baseball glove he'd put in the time capsule, while John Thomas chuckled over the die-cast cars he'd stashed: including a Pacer and a replica of the "Smokey and the Bandit" Trans Am made famous by Burt Reynolds. Chris Mostoller laughed at his meticulous explanation of a "future wheel" and exactly how it works.
They pulled out a cassette tape of that year's greatest hits and several books, including "Charlotte's Web," a box of Pillsbury cake mix, photo collages of the students who participated in the project, blue jeans, and reports on that year's fashion trends, art, sports teams, computers, politics and the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.
The fifth graders who buried the items also showed up for the dig and read the predictions they'd made about what life would be like in 2011.
Sonja (nee Swenson) Mackey was spot on, having predicted that she would have a Ph.D., live in the Twin Cities and be married with one child.
Baker accurately predicted the most significant change would be the use of electronic devices in everyday lives, while Thomas (less accurately) predicted there would be space colonies and space travel in 2011.
Many of the bigger issues 11-year-old children faced in 1981 are still unresolved: storage of nuclear waste, the possibility that fossil fuels will run out, gas shortages, population growth and problems with pollution.
The 2011 kids also buried some goodies for the kids of 2041.
If you were burying a time capsule for them, what would be in it?(5 Comments)
Anglers are double-checking tackle boxes and making the final preparations before they head out on the open water for the fishing opener this weekend. But after a look at the DNR's account of state record fish one is left to wonder if the fish have gotten smarter, or simply smaller.
Of the prize fish pulled out of area lakes, most of the records were set decades ago. The biggest walleye weighed in at 17 pounds 8 ounces was caught in the Seagull River in 1979. The largest smallmouth bass was an 8 pounder caught in 1948. A 45-pound northern pike was pulled out of Basswood Lake in 1929.
There certainly are some more recent records, but the accomplishments of modern anglers are dwarfed by our elders.(2 Comments)
It's been more than two years since Flight 1549 ditched in the Hudson River and passenger Ric Elias is telling his side of the story for the first time. This new TED video doesn't go into the usual description of that day, but rather describes the kind of things one learns in the moments before the end seems near.
"The only thing that mattered in my life, was being a good dad," he said. It's a comment that links back directly, it seems, to this morning's 5x8 item on the Texas Rangers pitcher who is being criticized for skipping a start to be with his wife at the birth of their child.(1 Comments)
This poor guy is having a bad day.
How do I know? Because nothing gives it away like a trail of trash and garbage.
He was apparently driving his truck down to the I-494 on-ramp on Tamarack Road in Woodbury this morning when it opened and discharged a morning's work.
Now he has to explain to the boss how it happened, and then he has to come up with an answer for when he gets home and the spouse asks, "how was your day?"
It doesn't get much worse on the job than this. Kudos to him for stopping.(3 Comments)
If delusions make you happy, why can't that be your reality?
For many married couples, it is, according to some new research. It found that if a person is more delusional -- in a good way -- about his/her partner, they have a better chance of having a happy marriage, the Boston Globe reports:
University of Buffalo researchers recruited 222 couples heading in to apply for marriage licenses to fill out surveys on themselves, their partner, and their marriage every six months for three years. They then compared the self-ratings of respondents in terms of intelligence, creativity, athletic skills, etc., with how their spouse rated their attributes.
Those who inflated their partner's assets also reported being more happily married. "People are very good at changing their definitions to match how they want to see themselves or how they want to see others,'' lead study author Sandra Murray says in a statement. They can decide their spouse is the perfect match for them, even if they clash pretty badly.
In marriage, it seems, it's important to go into it with your eyes wide shut.(2 Comments)
This image was taken nearly 40 years ago,:
So it's probably time for an update, no?
Lars Leafblad is an incredibly well-connected Twin Cities businessman who is keenly interested in innovation and thinks a lot about why Minnesota is great and how it could be better.
In a recent interview with The Line Leafblad says that it's time to start thinking differently about what defines the Minnesota identity:
When you think of this region, there are so many great ingredients in the pot, but what hasn't emerged is a clear image. Remember the cover story on our state in Time magazine in 1973--"The Good Life in Minnesota"? The cover photo was Governor Wendell Anderson by a lake with a northern pike in his hand. It was Time's shot, of course, and I think people interpreted "the good life in Minnesota" in a lot of ways--but many people could say, that photo visualizes on a very visceral level why we love this place...
We're in a "white-paper" community. We have a lot of smart, well-educated people here, thinking and creating. We produce white papers and task forces and reports and strategic plans. But is there an image, a visualization of what we're trying to become? It would be interesting to try to come up with it. Maybe as a contest. What's the new snapshot? What's the new cover shot for "The Good Life in Minnesota"?
So what would you put on the cover to capture life in Minnesota? Leave your idea in the comments or share a photo here.
(h/t Andrew Haeg)
My neighbor across the street, Kurt, put his house up for sale this week. His kids and our kids were the same age. His kids have grown up, the couple divorced a couple of years ago and now he's heading to China. It's that way up and down the street; the kids have grown up and if the parents stuck around, they're getting older and grayer. Walking the dog this morning, I realized I don't know anyone in the neighborhood anymore. It was the kids of the neighborhood who made it a neighborhood.
It wasn't always this way, of course, it was a neighborhood of screams and giggles -- at least after school got out. And in the late afternoon/early evening, the cheering from the park made the neighborhood feel like a neighborhood.
The city has a big multi-field athletic complex now, so nobody plays in the parks anymore.
This apparently is not something that's only happening in Woodbury, it's happening in suburbs all over America. They've grown up, and gotten gray.
(h/t: Bob Moffit)(7 Comments)
Because of a disc problem in the official back of News Cut, I haven't been able to get out to the local ice skating rink this season. But Locally Grown Northfield's Griff Wigley has certainly captured the elegance of skating rinks at night here in flyover country. The only things missing are the skaters.
January is a brilliant month for the hearty souls who live here, alternately cursed and embraced. Seems to me we need a photographic reminder every now and again. If you got one you'd like to add that captures January, please send it to me and I'll try to put something together.(5 Comments)
Mark Kelly, Gabrielle Giffords' husband, holds the congresswoman's hand in her room at University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz.(1 Comments)
Under the category of "We can't recommend this" ...
(h/t Mr. News Cut, who apparently can't commit to vacation 100%...)
If we had a "cool" tag on News Cut, we'd have to apply it to this tribute to Luke Bucklin, the Sierra Bravo (now The Nerdery) co-founder who was killed in a plane crash in Wyoming last month. It's a large picture of Bucklin made out of Legos.
It was the work of programmer Dan Piscitiello:
"I started by taking pictures of all the different colored Legos in Brick House, then I took color samples of these images into Photoshop so I would know the color palette I was dealing with. For the picture of Luke, I just pulled his Nerdery profile picture off our website. After that it was ten or so steps in Photoshop as I played with different color schemes, posterization, and dithering options. At that point I enlarged the whole thing, placed a grid that represented individual pixels and hit print."
Running out of Legos was the biggest setback he faced and some days he'd spend a few hours scrounging The Nerdery looking for the pieces he needed, the company's blog reports today.
The search continues today for the Bucklin family. A plane, flown by Minnesota businessman Luke Bucklin and carrying three of his children, disappeared from radar in a storm over Wyoming several days ago.
The family, friends, and co-workers are allowing us all to experience the helplessness and hopefulness that they are, thanks to the medium in which Bucklin makes his living -- the Internet.
The family is posting updates at lukeandginger.com, sharing thoughts and news as they get it. (The latest is a weak emergency locator transmitter signal has been detected.)
At Bucklin's company, Sierra Bravo, we learn today that employees wanted to head to Wyoming to help the search, but it's being conducted in an area that challenges even the most experienced. They're allowing us to see how they're trying to get through the day.
Bucklin's church family has set up prayersforluke.com.
Bucklin's own Twitter account helps to get a feel for the man, his personality, and his sense of humor:
And on TwitPic, someone posted a very haunting -- and heartwarming -- image of a dark company, with the lights turned up bright in an office. It's Bucklin's office.
In addition to providing comfort for people who know the Bucklins (I do not), the use of the medium is providing something else: A different way for the rest of us to experience a news story in real time, giving us an emotional investment in a story we might otherwise not have had.(2 Comments)
Want to delay the time when your daughter discovers sex? Have Dad give her "the talk," new research says.
The study comes from New York University.
Most daughters reported receiving little sexual information from their fathers but identified unique contributions that their fathers made or could have made to their sexual socialization. Future interventions should assist fathers to increase their comfort with sexual communication, to identify barriers, and to provide skill-building practice to promote abstinence and safer sex behaviors among their daughters.
The study was hidden behind a paywall (what good does that do?). Fortunately, Time.com liberated it.
What do (young) women want?
Specifically, they wanted to hear stuff only guys would know, about how to communicate with men and what the carnal landscape looked like from a male's vantage point. "They felt that if they could have been more comfortable talking with their fathers about issues around sex, they might have been more comfortable talking to boyfriends or potential sexual partners about them," says (researcher Katherine) Hutchinson.
So, who should give "the talk?" Neither. Hutchinson isn't a big fan of elevating the issue to that level.(1 Comments)
It's the weekend and News Cut rules dictate that the weekend features only positive and inspiring material. Though pickings are a little slim, we've found one that can almost make a Minnesotan root for the Wisconsin Badgers. Almost.(3 Comments)
This video is getting some traction around the Internet today because of the pluckiness of the subject -- a man in Kenya who built his own airplane over the course of a year, with the help of what he learned on the Internet. He doesn't, apparently, know how to fly.
James Fallows uses the video to remind Americans that we really don't know what it's like to be a guy in Kenya who doesn't have much, but builds his own airplane..
But in my experience -- mainly In Ghana and Kenya during the 70s, in Southeast Asia in the 1980s, and in China these past few years -- there is a cumulatively very different and very powerful experience that comes from meeting person after person like the Kenyan aviator-aspirant. That is, people whose material circumstances and range of experience are vastly different from a typical person's in London or high-end Shanghai or San Francisco, and who objectively have nowhere near the same opportunities -- but who take their own life drama and possibilities just as seriously and can dream just as ambitiously. For instance, I am thinking of a man in his 70s in a village in western China whose consuming project is a handwritten history of life in his village, from his boyhood during the era of war in the late 1930s and 1940s, through the Great Leap Forward of the 1950s, to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, and onward. He is someone who wears the same pants, shirt, and jacket virtually every day, because that's what he has. He is part of "the rural poor," but he has a plan and a dream.
I am fully aware, while typing, that this sounds like pure platitude; but listen to the Kenyan inventor talk about his "boyhood interest" and see if it doesn't take on a different meaning. To tie this back to recent discussions about self-pity in America, one of the many destructive side effects of America's increasing class polarization is that people lack a vivid, first-hand awareness of the full humanity of those in different (usually "lower") walks of life.
Fallows' deeper meaning aside, it appears unlikely the plane is going to fly. He used some heavy steel parts and the engine seems pretty small. Passion is one thing. Physics is quite another. Still, here's hoping we're wrong.
When I first moved to Minnesota many years ago, an executive (who no longer works in Minnesota) pulled me aside and said, "these people... all they care about is getting through the workweek and getting to their cabin." He wasn't from here; he was from New York, where people go to work for entirely different reasons.
At the time I thought -- but didn't say -- "so? What's wrong with that?"
Colleague Tom Weber forwarded me this video today which confirms that the Minnesota sensibility is a proper one.
It was put together by Alex Horner of Minneapolis, who does this sort of thing for a living.
"I shot this on a weekend trip with my dad and uncle," he told me in an e-mail this morning. "My goal was to come back with footage of the Boundary Waters that you don't typically see. Once I edited it all together, I communicated back and forth with my dad directing what I'd like to hear, then he composed the music."
How do you like them apples, New York?
(Related: Nikki Tundel's images of autumn colors from rural Minnesota)(1 Comments)
The feel-good story of the week comes from Solon, Iowa where the kids in the senior class provided the lesson plan, naming a popular student with Down syndrome homecoming king.
Farnsworth, who was Josh's escort for the homecoming festivities, said the court was committed to making Josh king. Before the king was announced, the remaining candidates agreed to hand over their crown to Josh if it came to that, Farnsworth said.
The charity was unnecessary. The votes were in and Josh was king.
(h/t: Sarah Cooke Wolfe)
Greg Staffa lost his home to foreclosure. He's unemployed. He's taking a turtle back to Kentucky, and he doesn't want any money to help pay expenses.
"I would rather people donate it to the Humane Society," he told me this afternoon.
Staffa will take Tucker the Turtle back to Kentucky. A truck driver thought the turtle was injured, so he picked him up and drove him to Minnesota. But the Eastern Box Turtle is not a native species to Minnesota and he needs to go back. Staffa heard about the story and volunteered.
"Right now, whether you're a Republican or Democrat, a lot of people are struggling and I think a lot of people are looking for a story they can relate to that isn't about politics, that isn't about foreclosure, they just need something to make them feel good," he said. "People who have struggled with foreclosure just need someone to believe in them. It hit home."
Staffa says he has "a little bit of savings" to pay for the trip. He'll sleep at a rest stop on the two-day trip. "It's just a little bit of sacrifice to do something good," he said.
But, it's just a turtle.
"There's a little Tucker in all of us. It's more than a turtle... it's a good message to have. Captain Sully Sullenberger had a quote that I absolutely love. He went on to say that people are looking for renewed hope and they want to be reminded of the potential that exists for good, not only in the world but in each of us," he said.
You can follow Staffa's trip via his Twitter account - @Staffaroadtrip
Sundays demand a story that reminds us that we're not really like most of the news we watch, read, and hear. We're better.
The Owatonna People's Press (perhaps the best named newspaper in Minnesota) complies with the story of a 67 year old man in Owatonna whose mother died when he was 1, didn't have a father in his life, lived on the streets for years and never had a birthday party in his life.
(h/t: Bring Me the News)(1 Comments)
Do you have State Fair withdrawal yet? Today I was treating the symptoms by going through the hundreds of images of people who had their picture taken at the MPR State Fair booth, recalling the stories of some of those I talked to, while sorting through the scraps of paper on which I wrote down their names and factoids about their lives.
Both of these pictures were taken on Friday. One of the women shown -- the problem is I can't remember exactly which, so I put both possibilities here -- is Suzanne Robin of Bloomington.
Other than those things necessary to live, name one thing you've done every year for 50 years. For 50 years -- every year -- Suzanne has come to the Minnesota State Fair. She started when she was 5, and she hasn't missed a year.
She's a city kid -- from St. Paul -- which made her an exotic species to the "farm kids" back in the day. She was the guest of honor at several night-time (after hours) parties put on the 4-H kids.
Several years ago,on her 40th birthday, she was on the bus to the fair when she noticed Jesse Ventura's entourage parked its limousine at a park-and-ride and stuck the governor on the bus so he could look like an average person.
"Thanks for coming to my 40th birthday party," she told the governor, who was too narcissistic to understand anything in life that didn't directly relate to Jesse Ventura.
"I'm here to do my radio show," the governor growled, before his smarter-than-he-was aides recognized that the moment belonged to a Minnesotan on her 40th birthday.
I think Suzanne is the top picture and, if so, the bottom picture is worth noting, too. You know how you know when two people fit together well? When one instinctively keeps the hair out of the other's eyes. You want love? That's love.
I wrote the other day that an overarching theme behind the stories of many people I talked to at the fair was the job they lost. As the week went along, however, I found another: People chasing -- sometimes in a small way; sometimes not -- what their heart tells them to chase.
There was, for example, the architect from Canada who had a dream of being a stand-up comedian. I brought him over to the stage at the MPR fair booth and suggested he practice and I'd be his audience. It turns out, though, that he's afraid of standing up before people. He'll never be a stand-up comedian; he'll always have his dream, however.
Even more common was the number of people who have moved to Minnesota or from Minnesota for the same reason. "To be near the grandchildren," was the most common answer. At this time of year -- campaign season -- we try to come up with a mathematical formula for what makes our great state great. Tax rates, unemployment numbers etc. Politicians spend millions convincing you that our lives are a struggle almost too awful to bear without them. More often, however, what makes Minnesota great is it's where the people we love most live.
And it's a pretty good place to chase a dream.
I had the pleasure of meeting News Cut reader Tyler Giles at the MPR booth at the State Fair on Thursday. He sent this picture along and it cries for a caption contest (which I put on my Facebook page but it deserves wider circulation, don't you think?)
Here are some of the submissions:
"Twins assistant general manager conducts group interview with potential relief pitchers for this weekend's series with Texas. The guy in the middle insists he could start Saturday." -- Matt Wells
"Continuing it's public outreach, Linux attempts to explain to uninterested State Fair attendees why it is the superior operating system." -- Michael Wells
Penguin: "Look at all the people I won at the fair today. -- Nanci Fine
Kid in T shirt " Aw jeez, I'm sittin' here all by myself, well just me and the penguin, and the chick across from me sits down. I figure now's my chance to say something to her about her leopard when the old dude sits down with his big red stuffed thing and starts to bum all of us out.. I feel like some mini donuts.." -- Paul Bellefeuille
I had a great week at the Fair and everyone was fascinating to talk to. More on that later, but for now you've got some work to do: Supply your caption for this picture below.
And here's Tyler's set on Picassa.(4 Comments)
As I mentioned last week, I don't actually see much of the State Fair. I get all the entertainment I need at the Minnesota Public Radio booth, which is why I've taken a week's vacation to work -- double shifts -- at the booth. You can tell who I am because I'm the guy who dies a little bit each time I have to tell someone we're sold out of the women's-cut Current Rocks The State Fair T-shirt. I also got to pinch hit as a "radio personality" to a desperate group of people who needed one for a group picture. They seemed surprised when I knew right off the bat that they were probably on a scavenger hunt. The moral: Bloggers are smarter than radio personalities.
The takeaway in two days of chatting with people -- sometimes they know I'm a blogger; usually not -- is this one: an overwhelming number of conversations I'm having this year involve people who tell me about the job they've lost.
A gentleman, for instance, told me about the end of his career as a pharmaceutical salesman. He's working parking cars for the State Fair this week. "I'm happy to have the work," he said.
See you Thursday: 12:30-9.
Our State Fair is a great state fair, but if it's ever looking for a pick-me-up, a festival in Spain this week might provide some inspiration.
In just a few hours, the good people of Bunol, throw 150,000 tomatoes at each other as part of the La Tomatina festival.
We'd have to change it a bit. Instead of tomatoes, what would we use? Cheese curds? Walleye?
But maybe the people in Bunol are sitting at their computers now, looking at how we're spending the week and wishing they were us.(5 Comments)
I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for United Way ads. This one was posted today by the United Way of Central Minnesota, profiling the Arise program, in which adult mentors work with children with disabilities.
It's a good antidote to the notion that we're a people increasingly at war with ourselves.(1 Comments)
Spouses do not grow more alike over time, says a Michigan study that is based on data from Minnesota.
The finding flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which has suggested that as couples age together, they begin to adapt to the other by assuming the characteristics and personality of the other.
The truth, according to the study: It's all a matter of whom you picked in the first place, along with blind luck. You probably picked someone who was already like you. There is no apparent link between how long you're married, and how similar you become to your spouse.
The study used data from the Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research at the University of Minnesota, focusing on 1,296 couples married an average of 19 years.
The study authors issued one caveat: They didn't study couples who were more recently married. They said it's possible that a conversion to be more spouse-like happens earlier in the marriage than the couples they studied.
They also said one exception to the study of personalities is aggression. "It makes sense if you think about it," Mikhila Humbad, the lead investigator said. "If one person is violent, the other person may respond in a similar fashion and thus become more aggressive over time."
The Minnesota State Fair starts next week, but not every Minnesotan will be able to get there, of course.
In New York, a group of ex-pat Minnesotans will, instead, celebrate the State Fair in spirit with dangerously fatty food. They're holding a Minnesota State Fair Day in New York to recreate the real deal, by touring the city, looking for food on a stick.
Three ex-pats are the brains behind the effort. Jen Wise from Mitchell, South Dakota; Nina Panda from New Brighton; and Laura Carter from Forest Lake. None seems interested in moving back and on the occasion when they are, it seems mostly to be around the beginning of September.
"The three of us met because of our University of Minnesota connection, Jen and Nina graduated from Carlson in 2005 and I graduated in 2007. I was good friends with Jen's sister who introduced us; I moved to New York just shortly after Jen arrived," said Carter, who works in marketing in the design industry.
Wise moved to New York after working in downtown Minneapolis for two years but, according to Carter, was unhappy with her job and moved to New York on a whim, and loves it. "However, she is extremely proud of her Midwest roots, and she will always be a Midwesterner at heart," she said.
Nina Panda says she was sure Minnesota was "the greatest place ever," but "in order to put some credibility behind that statement, (she) decided to move away."
Here is their blog, which includes a history of State Fair foods for the unsuspecting New Yorker who just wants a, errr, taste of Minnesota summer. Here's a slideshow of last year's event. It appears we need to send them some pickle hats, or perhaps this year's stunning MPR State Fair T-shirt.
(h/t: Molly Bloom)(4 Comments)
Mohamed was born in 1992 in the midst of civil war in his West African homeland of Sierra Leone. Any semblance of a normal childhood was unavailable to him. As the oldest of three brothers and two sisters with an absent father and a mother suddenly ill, he was forced to become the "man of the house" at age 9, providing for his family by foraging on his own to prevent their starvation.Today, the Yankees' C.C. Sabathia, Derek Jeter and team officials Reggie Jackson and Brian Cashman took Kamara to the New York Stock Exchange, where he rang the bell and opened trading. Then they went to City Hall to meet the mayor (photo above).
When the war subsided approximately six years ago, Mohamed, who did not speak English at the time, made the difficult decision to come to the United States to join his aunt and uncle in an impoverished section of the Bronx.
Since arriving in the United States, Mohamed has simultaneously created a life for himself and improved the lives of others. He graduated in the top quarter of his class at Bronx Leadership Academy High School and earned a partial scholarship to Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, where he will work toward a business degree.
Over the last four years, he has remained the breadwinner for his family in Africa despite being a full-time Bronx high school student, working as a caddie at Montammy Golf Club in Alpine, N.J., which requires him to wake up for work at 4:00 a.m. and spend nearly five hours a day in transit in an effort to send every last possible dollar back to Africa.
He also displays selflessness in his treatment of his peers. He became a mentor and sounding board for other African students in his school, and he founded the Sierra Leone Gentlemen, which organizes benefits at his local church to raise money for children in his homeland to attend school. Despite being a student in name, his actions prove he is a teacher in life.
If your passion and mission in life requires a voice, what do you do when you lose it?
Pastor Lyle Kath, 59. was diagnosed with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma cancer shortly after becomingsenior pastor at St. Martin's Lutheran Church in Winona in 2003, according to the Winona Daily News.
Surgery left him without a voice, so he had to quit.
But he didn't quit.
The big annual motorcycle rally is underway in Sturgis, SD.
Over the years, from what we're told, the rally has changed as more wealthy biker "wannabees" have showed up in Sturgis, crowding out the -- how shall I put this? -- authentic biker.
It's hard to judge a motorcyclist by its cover, but we're seeing some signs that there's still room for the old days...
And some signs that there's not.
Lots of pictures here.(2 Comments)
It's a big, diverse, wonderful news world out there and I was reminded of this while browsing through the daily news photos from the Associated Press. Neither has anything to with the other. They just are.
Roger Ebert, who knows a little something about putting up a good fight, sends along this video from late last year which provides a good antidote to a simply awful week in news, which had us desperate to find some decency somewhere. Mission accomplished.
Fishermen reeled in a lunker from Lake Vermilion the other day -- a GMC pickup truck.
Their big catch was caught on video, which of course has made its way to YouTube.
The backstory: Melissa Hahney is known around Greenwood Township in northern Minnesota as an avid fisherwoman. She'd driven onto Lake Vermilion, parked her truck and portaged to Trout Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
She was heading home March 17 when the drama began. It had been a warm day, with the temperature soaring nearly 20 degrees above normal to 53 in nearby Cook.
"It was such a warm day and the ice was getting thinner," said Ellen Trancheff, the Greenwood Township town clerk. "About 150 feet off Moccasin Point, the truck went through."
Luckily for Hahney, the truck didn't plunge all the way through the ice, at least right away. She had time to get out safely.
Her pickup wasn't so fortunate. First the front end sagged through the ice. That evening, the entire vehicle sank about 14 feet to the bottom.
Minnesota law requires owners of sunken vehicles to remove them within 48 hours. That's where the Greenwood Township Fire Department, Armory Shell Towing in Virginia and Dave's Dive in Tower enter the picture.
By Friday morning, the water had refrozen over the truck's resting place. The towing crew cut holes in the ice. A diver attached a cable to the truck. And the fire department's air boat helped break up the ice.
Towing a 4,500-pound truck through ice is a big job. The tow cable broke twice. But eventually, the team landed their catch.
It's up to the truck owner's insurance company to decide what to do with the soggy pickup.2 Comments)
Live-blogging this morning's Midmorning conversation on social networking:(8 Comments)
They were breaking down the ice-house neighborhood on Lake Waconia this afternoon, but not before getting in one final day of fishing. The DNR requires all fish houses to be off Minnesota lakes in the southern two-thirds of the state by midnight Monday. Judging by the suburbia-looking tracks on the lake, a lot of houses have already been removed. (You can click the image for a larger image).
By the way, do you suppose this farmer got an earful from his spouse when he heard about the guy who spread manure in the shape of a heart on Valentine's Day?
Some other pictures have been posted on my personal blog.
Today's the farewell for February. Bring on March! No matter how hard we try to embrace winter, it overstays its welcome around March. Here are a few videos to help keep your eye on the prize:
Today, by the way, marks a significant end-of-winter tradition -- Fish houses have to be off Minnesota's lakes by the end of the day.
Last Friday, Keene (NH) State College gave Harriet Richardson Ames a diploma at age 100. She had taken classes at three universities and colleges in New Hampshire while working as a school teacher, but stopped after her eyesight began failing in the '70s.
But a college degree was on her "bucket list."
On Saturday, a day after getting her degree, Harriet Richardson Ames died.(2 Comments)
For a Minnesota Vikings fan visiting New Orleans, seeing the relationship the city has with its football team can make you think you married wrong.
The Minnesota Vikings have been playing coy with the state and its fans for the last few months, probably because it's good business to do so. They want a new publicly-financed stadium and it's no secret they're leaving the option open to leave Minnesota if they don't get it.
They play the New Orleans Saints Sunday night for the NFC Championship and the right to do go to the Super Bowl in Miami. They'll play in a city that is scarred still -- badly so -- by Hurricane Katrina. There was no reason for the Saints to stay in New Orleans after Katrina wiped out the city. A third of the city's population has left.
I was fully prepared to declare the substory behind this game "hype," because in any other city, that's just what it would be. But I spent today with Frank Vardeman of St. Paul, the Gulf Coast hurricane response manager for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, (I'll be writing specifically about his work later today) , trying to explore whether this "Who Dat Nation" is beauty that's only skin deep, and only among rabid football fans. It's not.
Nor is this a story of a good team in a big game diverting the city's attention from its problems. And, trust me, it's got problems.
A block from the Superdome, the former Charity Hospital is empty and abandoned. It was American's oldest trauma hospital, until it became the poster child for the horror of Katrina.
Across the street, another high-rise building is abandoned.
And across from it, another still...
The French Quarter is rebuilt so you wouldn't know a hurricane had ever visited. The city had no choice; that's where the money comes from in a tourist economy. The farther you go away from the Quarter, the harder it is to ignore reality.
Maybe sections of New Orleans don't look like much to the visiting horde from Minnesota. It's much like Elizabeth's in the city's Bywater neighborhood. Not so swell on the outside, perhaps, but a teeming pot of city love (and four-star food) inside. "It's not hype," owner Jim Harp, said when I asked him the same question I asked people all over the city. "The team is huge for us. Tomorrow morning, you won't be able to get anywhere near here."
Harp, by the way, was a claims adjuster before getting into the restaurant business. Katrina was his last storm.
Frank Vardeman will watch the game tomorrow with a co-worker who, he suspects, is worried he'll root for the Vikings. "It's infectious," he said of the relationship between the team and the city. He'd told me earlier about the work Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and other players, had done to help the city rebuild.
Brees was a football free agent when he toured New Orleans right after Katrina. "Like a nuclear bomb went off," Brees told the New York Times of his first view of the city. "I looked at that as an opportunity. How many people get that opportunity in their life to be a part of something like that?"
A nice story. But the Vikings have done community work too, and it doesn't fully explain the depth of passion that exists here.
As we drove by the buildings you see above, Vardeman answered my question -- why is there this connection between the city and the team? -- with the three words that could easily be the Minnesota translation of "Who Dat?"
"Because they stayed," he said.
And that is why Minnesota will never have the love affair with its NFL football team that New Orleans has with the Saints. The team's love for the city that loves it right back is unconditional.
"If we weren't from Minnesota, we'd probably be rooting for the Saints," a woman from Minneapolis, wearing a Vikings jersey, said to me shortly after arriving in the city this afternoon.
If she spends one more day here, there's a pretty good chance she will anyway.
The Wrenshall (Minn.) High School Wrens girls basketball squad is 0-14 this year, but that's not the worst of it. The worst of it was when the story of their 65-0 loss to Moose Lake/Willow River in December made the Associated Press wire and they got to be the butt of jokes across the country. Funny stuff, unless you're a hard-working kid in Wrenshall -- population 386 and one German exchange student playing basketball for the first time.
I wondered at the time what lesson high school athletics has to teach a team that loses 65-0, and then I realized -- as I followed the team's woes since then (they lost by 106 points to Barnum a few weeks ago ) that maybe the lesson is one that's intended more for us.
So, today I drove up to Wrenshall to watch practice and meet the team and its coaches. I was not disappointed. Eleven players (5 starters and a gaggle of junior varsity kids) started the season and nobody has quit. They're working hard in practice and keeping things in perspective. The kids on the teams they're playing are encouraging them as much as their own teammates are. They vowed never to be held scoreless again and they haven't been since. They scored a season-high 29 points in a 93-29 loss last week against Cromwell.
Graduations wreak havoc on small-town schools and, no doubt, someday the Wrens will be back at a state tournament level. When they are, they already know what they'll tell the kids on the lesser teams, they told me today. "Keep your head up and keep working hard."
You're going to love these kids. I'll tell you their story next week, after I get back from New Orleans and get back to Wrenshall for Tuesday's game.
In the meantime, Julia Schrenkler will keep things updated here on News Cut until I get things running in New Orleans through the weekend.(8 Comments)
We love our weekends, but we love our money and jobs a lot more, a new poll suggests.
Fifty-three percent of those surveyed in the CBS News poll said they would rather keep their current pay and hours at work, rather than have a three-day weekend, even if it means less time with their families.
Do we work too hard? Maybe, and that's the way we see things shaping up for the future, too, the poll said.
Looking ahead, most Americans don't expect their relaxation time to increase in the coming decade. Of those surveyed, 39 percent say that in the next 10 years, Americans will be spending more hours working, while just one in 10 expect to have more leisure time. Half say the amount of hours they work will remain the same.
Theory: A two-inch snow fall with a fair amount of wind is more dangerous than a foot-deep snowfall in calm conditions.
Penn Ave & 394
I-35W and 49th:
694 & 15th (Oakdale)
These are not rush-hour pictures from the MnDOT camera. They were taken around 10:30.
Outside of the Twin Cities, MnDOT has released this info:
Southwest-West - Willmar
All state highways in Cottonwood, Jackson, Nobles and Rock are closed due to high winds causing zero visibility and heavy drifting. Snowplow drivers are unable to keep these areas clear.
The following are closure points (locations of gates to close highways)
I-90 from Fairmont west (I-90 is also closed in South Dakota).
Highway 60 from St. James west.
Highway 71 from Sanborn south.
There comes a moment at Casa News Cut every morning that tests the breakfast dishwasher's mettle: Walk outside to put the coffee grounds in the compost bin? Or grind them up in the garbage disposal?
Regardless of the fact that I've been putting stuff in the compost bin since the Johnson administration with nary a handful of compost in return, I like to think I'm doing something good. But every man has his limits and for me, it's 10 below.
This caused me, naturally, to head to Twitter and suggest a hashtag of book titles about the Minnesota cold. Mine is "A Compost Bin Too Far."
Surprisingly, because my ideas never catch on via Twitter, the idea caught on on Twitter.
Here are some of the suggested book titles about Minnesota weather-January style:
The Sun Also Rises, But It's Not Like You Would Notice
For Whom the Bell Doesn't Toll Because the Clapper Is Stick to the Bell in an Inch of Rime
Paradise Lost Nine Months of the Year
The Unbearable Heavinesss of Being a Minnesotan
Lady Chatterley's Lover Wore Long Johns
Great Expectations of Warming Up To -11°
The Sound and the Fury of Nearly Freezing to Death
The Brothers Freezeyerazov
A Farewell to Toes
The Da Vinci Cold
The Useless Sun Also Rises
The Sound and the Furry Hat
A Heartbreaking Work of Ice Stabbering Genius
A Tale of Two Frozen Cities
(h/t: John Moe)(7 Comments)
This picture from Sunday's chaos at Newark Airport can lead to two general reactions: (a) My, people are certainly civil during a time of utter chaos and/or (b) My, flying really stinks these days.
It was all caused by a passenger who went the wrong way at the security exit (MPR colleague Curtis Gilbert was at Newark recently and said signage to direct people from Terminal C to Terminal A sends people outside of the security zone, even though there's a shuttle within the security zone to take them there).
The incident also reconfirms a truism of security. When it fails -- and the scene above is the poster child for "fail" -- it's because someone didn't do his/her job. The New York Daily News says it comes down to one security guard who fell asleep on the job.
But back to the crowd. You have to admire the ability of some people at times like this to make life a party:(2 Comments)
The videos of people jumping into ponds, lakes, and oceans as part of a New Year's Day tradition are trickling in.
The L Street Brownies in Boston are, perhaps, the best known:
New Yorkers did not go in quietly, of course:
And Lake Minnetonka.
The practice appeared to make no sense at all in any of the locales.(3 Comments)
When it comes to attracting people to St. Paul, city officials take it one person at a time.
MPR News reporter Tom Weber is giving up on the mean streets of Minneapolis and moving to St. Paul. Don't think the mayor of St. Paul hasn't noticed that he's stolen a free agent from the bigshots across the river.
Yesterday at about 5:00, while in the middle of crashing on deadline for a story, the phone rang. I expected it to be my editor but the other voice said "Hello, this is the St. Paul Welcoming Committee, welcoming you to St. Paul. I'm mayor Chris Coleman."
Oh come on. I love a joke as much as the next guy, but this was not a good time.
Yes, I'm moving to St. Paul this weekend but I knew this had to be fake. A certain fellow reporter friend and me had been trading barbs for weeks about my move to St. Paul. "The welcoming committee hasn't approved your application to move," he'd joke. "I got the special waiver," I'd retort.
The problem? This guy on this call really sounded like Chris Coleman. No offense to Hizzoner, but what comedian would spend all that time perfecting the Chris Coleman impression? I asked him who told had told him to call me, he replied that he just knew about it and wanted to call. Then my editor actually did call and I put this actor joker guy on hold - only for a few seconds, but definitely on hold. The "mayor" and I chatted a little more and then I said "I really have to go, I'm kind of crashing on something here." He said "No problem, just wanted to welcome you to St. Paul."
After the call, I still didn't believe it really was him and sought my friend to find out how he'd pulled off this joke with some impersonator. When we finally spoke, he confessed: He had called in a favor with someone in the mayor's office and the caller really was Chris Coleman. And yes, I did put him on hold.
It's worth pointing out that the St. Paul Welcoming Committee was the name of the group that organized protests during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2008.(3 Comments)
By way of the Minnesota Historical Society, we hear that Joe Garelick passed away yesterday. He was the 1938 Soap Box Derby champion in St. Paul. It was a time when 10,000 people came out to watch the Derby in St. Paul. He grew up, went off to war to be a gunner on a B-24, came home and invented a boat ladder, starting the Garelick Manufacturing Company, which still churns out marine products in St. Paul.
He was profiled in the Historical Society's fabulous Greatest Generation series. Find the story and the video here.(3 Comments)
I'd intended to go up to Aitkin for the annual Fish House Parade on Friday, but all of the Black Friday hype convinced me to sit by a campfire in the backyard of the News Cut Woodbury bureau instead.
(News Cut is again taking the half-full approach to winter. Be sure to send along your images, stories, and video.)
Today's news items that remind us who we are:
• Eighteen-year-old Tyler Shipman of Frazee, Minn., always dreamed of restoring his 1986 Pontiac Fiero, but he's dying of cancer and he worried about burdening his folks with an unfinished project. He posted his plight on an Internet bulletin board and this weekend, people flew in from all over the country to get the project done.
• In Philadelphia, a 64-year old woman is part high school cooking teacher, part drill sergeant. Her special dish? Helping poor kids get to college.
• Tim Johnson, 29, of Coon Rapids, always wanted to be a firefighter. But he died of a blood clot last month. Last week the West Metro fire district made him a firefighter.
The chances are you know someone that fits this category. Tell me about them.
I'm off this week. Watch this space for a suitable replacement.(2 Comments)
There's nothing wrong with the world that a good dog story won't cure.
Here's a good dog story:
A funeral was held yesterday for Baxter, one of the oldest working therapy dogs in the United States. Baxter comforted hundreds of patients in their final hours at a hospice, even when he was in his final hours.
Here's a Kleenex.(4 Comments)
Forgetting for a moment that it's partly a marketing gimmick by Volkswagon, The Fun Theory Web site is offering an interesting perspective on behavior. If things are fun, people will do it.
That was the theory many years ago behind Select A Candidate on the MPR Web site. Give people a little fun -- at that time online quizzes were fairly unique -- and if they become informed voters, so much the better.
The Fun Theory is being used to get people to recycle:
Or take the stairs:
or throw stuff in the trash:
(h/t: Ken Paulman)
There are any number of behaviors to encourage -- voting, or washing hands, for example. It's the how-to-make-it-fun part that's missing.
I was driving home from Walker on Wednesday night, observing the orange sunset from horizon to horizon and wondering if the world could be any prettier? Photographer Pete Howell proved it could, providing this snapshot from a sunset flight over the Twin Cities.(3 Comments)
(Photo: Liz Banfield Photography)
It's been 30 years since the peak of America's "divorce boom." Later this week, MPR's Sasha Aslanian looks at how the kids of divorce have turned out. She has some insight; she's one of them.
"'I have two bedrooms,' I bragged to other kids," Aslanian says in the hour-long documentary. "I bristled at hearing the term broken home. It wasn't until much later, in adulthood, that I laid down my guard a little bit." When she looked around her book club one night and found most of them were children of the divorce boom, she pressed ahead with her project.
"I thought it was like teams. And we were part of the losing team. And we got dumped by the captain," one woman says, recalling her parents' divorce.
Aslanian interviews her dad, who recalls the day the divorce became final, and even tracks down the divorce court mediator who processed the divorce like so many cattle in a stockyard. He turns out not to be mean and uncaring, and recalls that he often got calls from the children of divorcing parents.
Back in the early '70s, some pop psychologists of the day opined that "staying together" for the sake of the kids would do them more harm that good, granting permission for them to walk away from bad marriages.
We know more now.
"It's one of the few issues in our society where what's best for the parents is not necessarily best for the children," says Dr. Judith Wallerstein, who studied the kids from the divorce boom and produced a book about it in 2000, when Salon.com looked at the issue:
When a parent dies, a child suffers loss. With divorce, says Wallerstein, a child must cope not only with loss but with failure: "Even if the young person decides as an adult that the divorce was necessary, that in fact the parents had little in common to begin with," she writes, "the divorce still represents failure -- failure to keep the man or the woman, failure to maintain the relationship, failure to be faithful, or failure to stick around. This failure in turn shapes the child's inner template of self and family. If they failed, I can fail, too."
As a result, some of the children of divorce whose lives Wallerstein has followed (their average age at the latest interviews was 33) have grown up to be pathological commitment-phobes, expecting all relationships to end in disaster and pain. Others, going to the opposite extreme, have rushed into reckless, spur-of-the-moment, almost invariably doomed marriages in their late teens or early 20s, or selected clearly inadequate partners who are too weak and needy to leave. Even those who are happily married remain haunted by fear of abandonment and have trouble dealing with any disagreement or conflict.
That's the sort of talk Aslanian hated when she was a kid, though she acknowledged "it felt like the sky was falling" the day the divorce was announced.
The documentary tracks down the authors of "The Kids' Book of Divorce," written in 1979 by the kids at Fayerweather Street School in Cambridge, Mass. One didn't confront his parents about the divorce until years later. He chose not to marry the woman with whom he has a son. Another had a long-term relationship in her 30s that didn't lead to marriage, followed by a marriage at age 40.
What's the effect of divorce on kids when they have relationships years later? "The bad news is that you really are much more likely to get divorced as an adult if your parents divorced, and parental divorce really does affect almost every aspect of future relationships," according to Nick Wolfinger, a sociologist who studies divorce and has a formula for kids of divorce:
"If you want to stay married, marry someone just like you, except if you're from a divorced family, marry someone from an intact family."
For the record, Sasha Aslanian has been married for nearly 10 years to a man who does not come from a background of divorce. They dated for 12 years.
A segment of the documentary looks at what we've learned about the effect of divorce on kids. We're smarter now, sure, but conversations with today's kids reveal heartbreaking tales of kids still being stuck in the middle.
Hennepin County, for example, once funded mandatory programs for parents and children going through divorce, but those days are over and without the requirement, enrollment has dwindled. Aslanian tried to follow some of the kids in a class she visited three years ago, and found most had moved. One girl, now 13, whom she was able to follow, has gained a stepmother, a stepbrother, and a half brother. Her father says he and his ex-wife are better friends now than when they were married. He admits there's pain that comes with a blended family, "but there's more people to love the kids," he says.
That's known as a "good divorce." It comes partly from 30 years of doing it badly. Yet the question from the height of the divorce book is still relevant: What's best for the kids?
"I'm not advocating for loveless marriages," Elizabeth Marquardt, director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values. "But it's also the case that marriage doesn't make us happy every day. No marriage does, but your marriage serves as so much more than just a vehicle for immediate individual adult needs. It makes one world for your child, and children will tell you that means everything to them."
Aslanian says she started the project five years ago to show how kids "aren't all messed up." Then she realized the real story is "how deep this stuff cuts. The past stays with us as a cautionary tale. I still believe in love, even for divorced kids."
The documentary airs on MPR's Midday at noon on Wednesday. In the meantime, if you're a 'child of divorce,' share your story below.(32 Comments)
I'm still collecting your images that scream "August!". It's the month of perennials, for example. This weekend was also full of festivals, and a couple of neighbor kids-- I guess they're not kids, anymore -- left for college. One was stuffed into her own car and sent off, leaving the rest of us to wonder whether the marriage would survive the empty nest. The family in the other piled into the car and took the daughter to college to drop her off. August.
August -- right around August 23, actually -- is when the first fears of winter set in; the anxiety of looking at the calendar, and the still-long list of around-the-house projects. It's when the excitement of the first lawn mowing of the spring has long since given way to the mental calculations of how much of one's life is spent pushing a mower back and forth.
August. Shoot it. Send it.
Update 9:07a.m. - Mrs. News Cut sent this August scene from her ancestral homeland of the Berkshire hills.
Thanks to the good folks I follow on Twitter, I was alerted to this video today.
Moments. If you could add a second-long image from your life to the video, what would it be:
One of mine (not personally) was in the film, but I'll wait to tell you below until I see if a conversation breaks out.(10 Comments)
I have to admit I like the risk-taking, swashbuckling Tiger Woods rather than the play-it-safe brand that blew the PGA Championship at Hazeltine yesterday. Easy for me to say, it's his risk, not mine. But watching two days of "safe" golf left me unimpressed.
I admit that I often sit and think if I were younger, I'd go work on an Alaskan crab boat, spend the rest of the year as a bush pilot, and then top it off with a few months of being an ice-road trucker. Or live the life of the sons of Jack Beck, whom I wrote about here, who explore the world because they have a willingness to, while Jack and his wife, Marmy, pursue endeavors without security (BTW, I saw Jack and Marmy at Oshkosh last month and they reported their boys were "somewhere in East Africa.")
Do you take risks? And has doing so paid off for you in the quality of your life? Or have you played it safe, choosing safe harbor over the exhilaration of white water?
Lane Wallace, creator of the Web site No Maps. No Guides. No Limits, explores these questions. You can find her e-book -- Surviving Uncertainty: Take a Hero's Journey -- here is the guest on Midmorning at 10:06 (CT).
What I'm looking for is your stories of facing risk and uncertainty, especially in these troubled times. Submit them below.
10:08 a.m. - Doesn't sound like News Cut is going to get an on-air plug, so I guess it'll just be the News Cut loyalists.
10:09 a.m. "If you really want to explore the world," she says, "there's risk that goes with that. Any entrepreneur knows that..." Interesting comment on "passion." "Passion is what gets you through the long night when things go wrong."
10:10 a.m. - So what is risk? "If-- by choice or not by choice, if you've been laid off or life changes on you without your permission -- or whether you say 'I'm not happy with my job and I want to form my own business,' you are agreeing to step into an uncomfortable place." She says there's never been an adventure -- whether being self-employed or flying relief supplies into Sudan or the Congo -- when she hasn't thought, "whatever possessed me to do this?"
10:13 a.m. - Question: Is the ability accept risk something we're "hard-wired" with? Consider this from Business Management Daily:
Now scientists find that a taste for risk is hard-wired in about 10% of us, with thrill-seekers making up a small fraction. When researchers compare brain scans of thrill seekers and controls, the thrill seekers' fear centers stay dark when a balloon explodes, while their pleasure centers light up. It's the opposite for everybody else.
10:17 a.m. - Calls coming soon. Ben writes in:
I'm not a risk/adrenaline junkie, but I perform better when I'm in new and challenging situations. I am more engaged and ambitious when I am living abroad or doing something that's new and competitive. If I'm at home in Minnesota listening to MPR, I'm not nearly as ambitious, emboldened, or hungry.
That brings up an interesting point. When are we most engaged at work? When we just started the job, right? It's new. It's a little scary.
10:18 a.m. - Caller from Rochester says she turned 50 and decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. She left one of the largest employers in the city to do so. Says her big risk was quitting her job. "People need to take responsibility personally for understanding their is risk. But risk is not death. Risk is not danger. You take responsibility for what may come your way," she said.
10:24 a.m. - Caller Michael tells story of his daughter who was stuck in the Rome airport at customs. "She found somebody and was able to persuade them to help her. I got her three voicemails at once and they changed to, 'No problem, Dad, I've got it.' If I'd been there, I'd have helped her and taken that world experience from her. She's a world traveler now."
10:29 a.m. - There are always people around to tell you you shouldn't take a risk. "Three-year-olds haven't learned that anything is impossible. You look at how alive they are and they think they can do anything. Along the way, the more that we hear people say 'you need to have a practical major,' or 'you have a family, you need to be more responsible,' put bricks around your heart," Wallace says.
10:35 a.m. - Related Wallace writing: "In Defense of Liberal Arts"
10:36 a.m. - Most of the time we're afraid of the future. Wallace says in any situation, look around and evaluate "how I am right now." Most of the time, you're OK.
10:42 a.m. - Caller has a good question: "When is the risk worth taking?" Answer: "It comes down to how badly you want it. If you think life is a dress rehearsal, think again. If you're at the point where you're saying, 'I don't like it here,' you have to leave. It's not easy. It's where passion becomes important."
10:43 a.m. - Lane mentions Alan Klapmeier of Cirrus Design in Duluth. He transformed an industry, maxing out family credit cars at some point to meet payroll. He's a heck of a success story, but it's worth noting the economy has not been kind to Cirrus. James Fallows of The Atlantic, well connected with Klapmeier, notes he's left the company as CEO.
10:47 a.m. - Elise of Minneapolis writes:
This is such an important topic. The barriers to risk--especially other people--really makes sense to me. I stayed in a job I hated for four years and my contract was finally not renewed. It wasn't until then that I actually started my own business--something that I'd dreamed about for a decade. My husband was very worried about my being successful and I had some sleepless nights myself. But I was okay; we were okay and I got my business off the ground. And, I'm much happier. Last December, when I declared that I was writing a novel, so many people were skeptical. But I put what I thought I needed as a support system into place -- fiction writing classes, membership in writing associations, and a writing group -- and am working toward my goal. After hearing Lane today, I recognize some of the things I still have in my way on my journey to writing fiction. Taking risk, having passion is what makes me feel alive! Great topic, great guest.
10:50 a.m. - Caller tells the story of packing up the VW and heading west, then calling her boyfriend in Florida and saying "I'm coming back." He said, "no, you have to keep going." She says it set the stage for the rest of her life. But, no, she didn't marry the guy. I wonder what he's doing now?
10:54 a.m. - Caller Bonnie, 60, says "during the course of my life I've made some bold choices. I'm now in this place where I'm financial fine, retired, my husband died three years ago and I don't have any reason to take risks and yet I feel I need to move forward and be more bold. I'm having trouble because there's not the need that was there when I was younger."
Ah, how to find passion at age 60. Wallace says the goal in life is to stay interested. Suggests embracing freedom in later stages of life. "You can figure out what you want to see, what you want to learn, what you are curious about? You're not on autopilot until you die."
10:57 a.m. - Wallace refers to the women who flew back in the "old days," which gives me another reason to post this YouTube video.
10:59 a.m. - The show has now ended, and I'm off to get coffee, pretty much the same as I do every day around this time. But today, it's a bit depressing.(6 Comments)
Yes, I grew up in the '60s. No, I didn't go to Woodstock.
I had to chuckle when I heard Gary Eichten read this response that someone sent in to Today's Question:
Woodstock to this octogenarian was an orgy in mud hat showed the decadent side of popular culture. It had no meaning to me personally at the time and has no meaning to me personally now. I've always been a bit bemused at all the fuss over it.
...and this one...
A more interesting question might be to ask how and why thousands of aimless and whimsical youth on a weekend holiday have come to symbolize an entire generation of tens of millions?
If I squint my eyes just so, I can read this and it can be 1969 again, and you're all my father talking about Hippies.
A newspaper in that neck of the woods put this video together and, I think, actually captured the meaning of Woodstock. It means when you look back on anything 40 years later, you're bound to feel older.
Massachusetts, the home of 'activist judges' if you're inclined to believe such things, may have another nationwide case on its hands.
The issue? Dogs running free.
In the Boston suburb of Newton, some residents are fighting back against the city's designating a portion of a park as a leash-free zone for dogs, the Boston Globe reports.
''Look! Look!'' said one woman as she eyed a Volkswagon Jetta with an out-of-state license plate. ''What is that plate? Vermont? For all I know, that's a dog-walker. Now they're getting out and the radio is blaring. I don't want to be a meanie and call the cops. But really.''
There's always a lawyer ready to take any case and the one the residents hired is making a federal case out of it:
In a letter mailed to Mayor David Cohen last week, Peter F. Harrington, the lawyer retained for an undisclosed fee by Dyer and other residents, warned that adding the off-leash area to the park requires approval from the US Secretary of the Interior. He argued that the off-leash area has decreased the recreational uses of the park, in violation of provisions attached to federal money given by the department for park improvements.
Said one besieged resident:
"Until you live here, you just can't understand.''
Jack Borden of Dallas was honored this afternoon as the nation's "Outstanding Oldest Worker for 2009," which -- now that I think of it -- is an odd name for an award.
Border is a practicing lawyer. He's also 101. He gets to his office at 6:30 in the morning, leaves around 6 in the afternoon and takes a 45-minute nap in between, the Dallas Morning News reports.
"People ask me why I'm still working," he said. "When I was 5 years old, my dad handed me a hoe and said the corn needs weeding. And that's how I got started."(1 Comments)
Watching the return of the journalists from captivity in North Korea this morning, it hit me: Why isn't there a TV channel with nothing but tearful reunions?
How can you beat the surprise appearance of a returning soldier/parent at a kid's classroom?
Or the happy endings when lost kids are found:
It doesn't even have to be just people. Like this reunion of a man a few months ago and the dog he lost during Hurricane Katrina:
Tearful reunions are a good reminder that in the big scheme of things, not much else matters but those you've been waiting for.(2 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?
Posted at 12:10 PM on July 31, 2009
by Than Tibbetts
Filed under: Life
My hometown of Cook, Minn., is buzzing over a bucket wish-come-true and the video to prove it. Goldie Knapp, 84 years old and a great-grandmother, went skydiving with her daughter earlier this month.
Here's part of the backstory as relayed to CookMN.com by Goldie's daughter, Shireen Schultz:
After visiting and having a nice meal I noticed Mom fidgeting and looking as if she had something on her mind. Out of the blue she said she wanted to talk about something. I asked if she was going to make me cry! She said that I might and in the same breath said, "Before I die, I want to go skydiving!".
There was a gasp in the room... I jumped up with a fist in the air and said, "YES!" Finally I had witnesses to her wishes! Over the years Mom had mentioned this to me.
How's your bucket list looking?
I've been flying around the Twin Cities for about 12 years and the only time I notice how uniquely diverse Minnesota can be over the course of just a few miles is when I take someone for a flight who's never flown in a small airplane before; someone who knows how to take nice photographs
On Sunday, I took MPR's online producer, Steve Mullis, for a flight from the southern suburbs down to Lake Pepin, then up the Mississippi to St. Paul. A sample of his photographs provides a clearer perspective of just how different things are at the end of a stone's throw.
From the classic skyline of St. Paul (seen from the never-ending Wakota Bridge project):
To the suburban sprawl of -- I believe -- Apple Valley and Eagan
But there's still plenty of land that isn't a housing development... yet.
Holiday rush hour on the Mississippi River:
From the air, you realize just how close the Treasure Island casino is to the Prairie Island nuclear power plant in Red Wing. Lake Pepin is at the top of the picture.
Where does all the gravel come from for roads and construction and cement? It comes from scarring the heck out of the landscape:
There are more gravel pits out there than you may think.
Bluff country, Wisconsin style.
Knee high by the 4th of July? Hard to tell from up here:
(Click any image to enlarge)
Find more of Steve's photography on his Flickr page.(5 Comments)
MPR's Tom Weber is one of those people who clearly knows his way around a camera. He sent these shots from Saturday night's fireworks over the St. Croix River in Stillwater.
It's safe for the dogs to come out from under the bed now.(1 Comments)
When we first moved to Minnesota in 1992, one of the great discoveries was Taste of Minnesota, which at the time was held on the grounds of the state Capitol. I can't imagine a better setting for the fireworks than the Minnesota Capitol. The food was provided by some of the finer restaurants in the region.
Fast forward. The Taste is under new ownership and it's now held on Harriet Island, but has time passed the Taste of Minnesota by?
Greg Bossany of Elk River sent us his review this morning:
I went to the real taste of minn. some 20 years ago. There was real food products from many places. This year was a bad carnival version of what i was expecting. The worst part was two of the things i had were not even cooked all the way. If it wasn't for the music i would call this a total flop from what it used to be!!!!!
The Star Tribune's review of Taste echoed Greg's, describing it as "warmed over."
We await your review.(4 Comments)
The Pew Research group is out with a survey that says growing old in America isn't as bad as people think it is. It also isn't as good as people think it is.
Among 18 to 29 year-olds, about half say they feel their age, while about quarter say they feel older than their age and another quarter say they feel younger. By contrast, among adults 65 and older, fully 60% say they feel younger than their age, compared with 32% who say they feel exactly their age and just 3% who say they feel older than their age.
What's the matter with you whippersnappers? You feel your age? At 18-29?
The survey also appears to settle the debate about when old age begins. 68.
But, of course, it's all a matter of perspective. In its profile of Jay Smooth on All Things Considered on Monday, NPR referred to him as "an aging hip-hopper .... he's 36."
And, no doubt, feeling his age.(4 Comments)
High school grad parties, biking in the rain, a circus, a rhubarb festival, sitting on the porch overlooking the back 40, moving out of a foreclosed home, or -- as in Darby Laing's photo above -- assessing the geology around Lake Superior -- these are all snapshots of a weekend in Minnesota. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
What does your Minnesota look like? We're taking photographic evidence across Minnesota this weekend and -- as we did last year -- whipping it into a photo essay that we'll grow in front of your eyes this weekend (I hope).
To do it, we need News Cut readers to submit not only your photos, but your thoughts about the photo. It doesn't have to be high art. We're not just looking for scenery -- we know what Split Rock Lighthouse or the Rothsay prairie chicken looks like. We want a sense of how you're interacting with Minnesota, too.1 Comments)
Not that Michael Jackson's passing isn't worth noting, of course, but still...
Unless you keep up with North Dakota news, you probably haven't heard of Morgan Kolling, 8, who returned to Davenport from her Make-A-Wish trip from Disney World in April and set about raising $10,000 for Make-A-Wish trips for two North Dakota kids by selling pictures she drew.
I'm a baby boomer and, apparently, I'm supposed to apologize to this year's graduating college seniors, according to the Wall Street Journal (Boomers to This Year's Grads: We Are Really, Really Sorry), which is reviewing the commencement speeches of famous baby boomers.
Take Tom Friedman's address to Grinnell College kids in Iowa last month:
The kids weren't much buying it, the Journal article said.
But their apologies fell flat with some students, who wondered why the speakers weren't urging their fellow boomers to do more to clean up the mess they created.
"They have been pretty selfish, but they're still going to be around," said Ben Slaton, a Butler graduate. "They need to do their part."
That's a quote that makes me sad I won't be around in 40 years to hear Ben's apology.(16 Comments)
Why do demolitions make us sad?
In the case of the old Tiger Stadium in Detroit, the demolition of which
started ended this week, it's easy to figure out. Old ballparks have emotional ties.
But what emotion does this picture (taken by MPR's Tom Weber) evoke?
It's a building by St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul, no longer good for anything, and getting in the way of progress.
It was almost a year ago when the big smokestack by the river in St. Paul was blown up. Nobody cried, as far as I know, but there was a certain sadness involved.
But they're just stadiums, old buildings, and smokestacks, right?
It is only in my latter years that I have come to realize why the obituary page is the second-most-read page in the newspaper. I don't know if that's really true; it's just what I was told.
I read obituaries for two reasons: (1) To find out how many people my age have gone toes up and (2) there are occasionally great stories and fine writing.
Failing on #1, the obituary of David Humphrey in Vancouver certainly qualifies under #2.
The honored justice of the Superior Court of Ontario, we learn, had a nickname -- the Tripper, which he gained at the 1957 Grey Cup game, as told by the Washington Post's Post Mortem blog.
Humphrey stood on the sidelines, sipping cheer, in the form of rye whiskey, from a brown paper bag. He would later say he had been unnerved by a chance encounter with a fellow fan, who turned out to be the foreman of a jury who had sent one of his client's to the hangman but a year earlier. Humphrey refused to shake the man's extended hand.
The lawyer nursed his grudge as well as his drink as he stood along the Winnipeg sidelines.
A roar from the crowd caught his attention. Hamilton's Ray (Bibbles) Bawel (pronounced bobble) had intercepted a pass and was racing along the sidelines towards the end zone. He had evaded all tacklers. Ahead of him lurked only grass.
It was at this point the lawyer stuck out a foot
Mere mortals can only dream about a send-off that rich. Be sure to read it all.(1 Comments)
The people trying to save newspapers can do worse than reminding people that the Betty Ryans of the world help keep the "community" in the communities they cherish.
The reporter for the Lake Country Echo retired in December, but is still turning in stories as a correspondent from her Pequot Lakes cabin. They're not earth shattering, perhaps, by city-slicker standards, but then again community media isn't about the big city. It's about telling people what's happening in their town.
"What else would I do?" she asked me when I asked her why she's still working into her 80s (she's 81), something she's been doing since her 20s.
Her first job after graduating from the University of Minnesota was at the Post Bulletin in Rochester in 1949. "I learned that if you're a good writer, you can write when you're drunk," she says of a sportswriter on staff. "I never knew how he did it."
In her years on the Echo, she's glad she hasn't been assigned to cover sports. It's just as well. There's plenty to tell people about the people they see regularly in the area, but about whom they know nothing. There's the resorters who retired to the lakes, the citizens of the year (2006), the late bloomer in the community theater , or the folks who run the cellphone business in town.
Then again, some stories are earth shattering for those involved in them. The special needs kids who go to Camp Knutson may owe a debt to Ryan. Lutheran Social Services wanted to close the camp and sell the real estate a few years ago. Betty Ryan wrote about it, some influential neighbors read about it, and worked to save it.
"It was one of the times I actually felt I made a difference," she told me when I visited her last week.
She covers government meetings in the region and considers it a noble service. "There's nobody else going to the council meetings," she says. "There's lots of money involved. There can't be shenanigans."
Spend a few minutes with her and you get the news of the region, dominated by the effect of the vacationers, many of whom are regulars. Traffic is always the hot topic. Highway 371 reverts to a two-lane highway in Nisswa and MnDOT would like to expand it relocate it away from the downtown. Some businesses worry it'll hurt the downtown but Betty brings a more practical view to the issue.
"When I'm driving through a town, I've never felt that I needed to stop and go shopping," she said. "The only thing we wanted to do is get to the cabin," she says of her years traveling with her late husband from Mounds View to their then-vacation home. "On Saturdays we'd go shopping."
Ryan says she has no plans to end her newspaper career and is looking for the next story. "The next story is the best one," she says.
Through the summer I'll be profiling people in Minnesota who are in their 80s and above and still working. Make your suggestions.
The closer one gets to the Minnesota Capitol and the exhausting politics therein, I find, the harder it is to remember that Minnesota is still a heck of a place to live.
Above is but one example I found today on a road trip to the Pequot Lakes area.
"We only have this shade of green for a few weeks," Betty Ryan told me. She's the longtime reporter-now-correspondent for the Pequot Lakes Echo. I went to see her today because she's 81, still reporting, and provides a good barometer for what constitutes news in her neck of the woods. I'll write about her later.
She and editor Nancy Vogt pointed me, however, to this story. The paper helped Publisher's Clearing House track down Anna Newton of Pine River, who won $1,000.
The woman plans to use the money to go to Dollywood. If there's money left, she might visit her sister in California, whom she hasn't seen in 50 years.(2 Comments)
I had planned to pluck the occasional commencement speech and present them here during this graduation season, then I went and forgot to post up this one last weekend at Tulane by Ellen DeGeneres.
My favorite line in a speech of favorite lines: "Your definition of success will change as you get older."
Now then, does anyone remember anything from their commencement speaker? My college commencement speaker was Lee Remick, and I can't recall a thing she had to say.
(h/t: Gerry Tyrrell via Facebook)
The lede (opening paragraphs) on some stories just scream, "read me."
Take this one for example in the Detroit Lakes Tribune (registration possibly required).
Erika Schumacher offered an odd answer in class when she was asked to write something about herself:
"I was abducted."
She graduated from college on Sunday after a rough few teenage years when she was taken by a cult started by her grandfather. She said her horse helped her through the ordeal and now she's graduated cum laude with a triple major in health sciences, biology and chemistry.
It's a nice pick-me-up story.(2 Comments)
Today, of course, is Bike to Work Day. If you have any pictures to share, I'd love to pass them along during the chat. Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted at 4:09 PM on April 22, 2009
by Than Tibbetts
Filed under: Life
In the course of my work putting together news on MPR.org I'm often asked to find an image to accompany a story.
This often leads to an interesting trip across the world as seemingly thematically unrelated images congregate around a particular keyword search.
Today, we took a trip across the world with "box".
We previously went around the world in "Arms".
There's a video sweeping across the Twitterverse today that should. It's a marvelous antidote to the Billy Bob Thornton video below. It also is one of those moments in pop culture that forces us to think about the things we think we know, but don't.
Embedding is disabled for the video, so you'll have to click here.
The appearance of a would-be singing star has captured the hearts of the UK. Scotsman.com has a fabulous article on her.
Neighbours told how Miss Boyle had been teased by local children who called her names because she lives alone with her cat Pebbles - but added that no-one was laughing now.
"Her voice is lovely and we'll all be supporting her during the show. Hopefully this will stop kids making fun of her because I know it upsets her sometimes, even though she says it doesn't."
I presume someone is already writing the screenplay.(7 Comments)
If all kids get is kudos, it can be a recipe for lots of therapy later, he says: What are they going to do when they get even the slightest bit of criticism later in life, in college or on the job?Well, OK, but what's wrong with that paragraph? "If all kids get is kudos...." is hardly the underpinning of parents who are interested in instilling confidence in their developing children. It's an argument built on a faulty assumption.
Yet we also found much that is troubling. Some adults hold misguided beliefs about raising moral children, and some parents have little investment in their children's character. And the bigger problem is more subtle: a wide array of parents and other adults are unintentionally-- in largely unconscious ways-- undermining the development of critical moral qualities in children.Next to losing a fortune in your retirement account, the easiest thing in America is to look at its youth and declare they're entitled, self-absorbed, and poorly parented.
** It's probably a sign of the times that with just a few days before the start of the baseball season, most of the stories in the New York Times baseball section are about two new baseball stadiums in the city. There are a couple of nifty Flash presentations about Citi Field (which my cubicle neighbor, Bleacher Bums' writer Chris Dall calls "TARP field.") and the new Yankee stadium. If everyone in your office has busted their NCAA bracket, consider a pool for when the Mets will dismantle the walls in the outfield after the players start grumbling. A 16' high wall deep in centerfield, which is 408 feet from the plate? That's not going to last long.
At this time of the year, the sight of green grass in baseball is all the hope many of us have to cling to. So consider these images of Boston's Fenway Park an intervention.
** Is this really where we want to take high school athletics? A high school version of March madness?
** When is it OK to make a kid cry? This question is getting a surprising amount of attention because of an anti-smoking commercial from Australia in which a kid is lost in a train station (when you smoke, you abandon your kids.)
On the Today show this morning, Matt Lauer gave the commercial's producer a tougher grilling than Dick Cheney ever got.
** I'm filling in for Jon Gordon next week on Future Tense and thinking that maybe we should tackle this question. If something is taxed in its physical form, should it be taxed in its digital form? Minnesota wants to tax digital downloads of music. Sounds easy enough, right? It's not as if we didn't see it coming. But how about a little consistency when it comes to buying stuff online? The other day I renewed my Norton Anti-virus program. Symantec charges Minnesota sales tax. I ordered some electrical wire the week before, no Minnesota sales tax.
** Hot dish has the power to unite a community, says the Worthington Dailiy Globe. This is a sweet little story of people all over the country, making Sue Suman's hot dish recipe, and sharing Worthington memories while sending good thoughts to Sue, who has been diagnosed with cancer.
What we're covering
The governors of North Dakota and Minnesota are announcing a plan for a permanent flood control solution for the Fargo-Moorhead area. MPR's Dan Gunderson is on the case. Stephanie Hemphill will take a look at the "second crest" of the Red River. Former MPR reporter Martin Kaste, now a star at National Public Radio, looks at changes in how the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency conducts workplace raids under the Obama administration. Most of the people netted in a recent raid in the Pacific Northwest were released. And NPR's Linton Weeks considers how pets are doing during this recession.(2 Comments)
A page one-worthy story not found anywhere near page one.
As an aside, mainstream media, there's no point in putting videos out if you're not going to allow it to be embedded. Nothing goes viral that way.
Bob Bentley of South St. Paul has sent in some pictures worth sharing.
"I just wanted to share some pictures of a coyote we had visit us in downtown St. Paul on 3/16 and 3/17. He must have liked our little bit of shelter provided, because he was sill hanging around. We ended up calling animal control to capture him, after all, you just can't have a wild coyote right next door to United Hospital," he wrote.
Goes to show what a naturalist I am. I thought it was a fox.(8 Comments)
In the course of my work putting together news on MPR.org I'm often asked to find an image to accompany a story.
This often leads to an interesting trip across the world as seemingly thematically unrelated images congregate around a particular keyword search.
Today, I took a trip across the world in "arms".(1 Comments)
I'm not sure exactly what to say about this story that crossed the Associated Press a few minutes ago. Plus, it's a minefield. The story? Women being laid off are getting to know their kids better.
Lucas and other laid-off women like her are involuntarily experiencing the life of a stay-at-home mom, and they are getting to know a lot more about the details of their children's daily existence. They are also discovering some of the things they have
Couldn't the same be said of men getting laid off?(8 Comments)
Monday. Why does it seem like Mondays always behave like a Monday?
MPR's Tim Nelson was patrolling the St. Paul waterfront today when he saw someone's summer being ruined.
"This house boat was bobbing down the Mississippi in downtown St. Paul between the ice floes about a 7 AM. Firefighters watched until the motor vessel Mary J fetched a crane to get the boat out of the river. Police said the boat appeared to be unoccupied." --Tim Nelson
From what I understand, there was some discussion in ye olde newsroom about whether the death of Garrison Keillor's brother constitutes "news." The story ended up on our Web site.
I think the death of everyone's brother should be news, but only if the story is written by a brother or sister, the people who knew them best.
Former Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman is on Morning Edition tomorrow with Cathy Wurzer and he talks a bit during the interview about covering funerals. "I love funeral stories," he said. "They're not just sad and grieving, but you hear so many great, wonderful, funny, touching stories at funerals. The press rarely covers someone's funeral. You should be sad and happy if you're alive in this world because that's the kind of world we live in."
All of that is a prelude to tell you that Keillor has written a touching tribute to his brother.
When your brother dies, your childhood fades, there being one less person to remember it with, and you are left disinherited, unarmed, semi-literate, an exile. It's like losing your computer and there's no backup. (What it's like for the decedent, I can't imagine, though I try to be hopeful.) If I had died (say, by slipping on an emollient spill and whacking my head on a family heirloom anvil), I believe Philip, after decent mourning, would've gone about locating a replacement.
If your brother dies, improvise. Someone you run into who maybe doesn't fit the friendship profile but his voice is reedy like your brother's, the gait is similar, he takes his coffee black and his laugh is husky, he starts his sentences with "You know," and the first words out of his mouth are about boats. I didn't run into him in Rome but I'm sure he's out there someplace.
I may start stopping in at some funerals, just to write about the people we didn't know, and wish we had.(1 Comments)
You know that game they play at the St. Paul Saints game where a couple of fans spin around while holding their head on a vertical bat, and then try to run a few yards? That must be what being a former president of the United States is like. You go from being the center of a universe to being a guy who does... well... what?
A Dallas hardware store took out an ad in a newspaper, offering a greeter's job to former president George Bush. On Saturday, the greeter-in-chief showed up to claim the gig.
How do you perceive homeless people?
A story out of Boston today raises the question. A homeless man found a woman's wallet. A homeless man found it and returned it, which is what got the headlines in the city.
But perhaps the story was actually in the last sentence of the story:
Susan Clancy regrets not knowing the man's name, but said his honesty
has changed the way she perceives people living on the street.
Why is it news when a homeless person commits an act of honesty?(3 Comments)
For all the effort we put into the process of buying a car, including making sure it makes a distinctive statement about who we are, the reality is that most cars pretty much look like every other car out there, which may be the unintended message we send these days, now that I think of it. We're all pretty much like everybody else.
It wasn't always thus.
On Tuesday, General Motors announced it would consolidate its brands, close some plants, and fire more workers. Its Pontiac brand, already dying, would be taken off life support. Goodbye, muscle cars.
The economic meltdown may well finish off the brands that gave us a pathway to the nostalgia. We have a looming nostalgia crisis. What will the next generation turn to 30 or 40 years from now?
What will we be oogling at over at the State Fairgrounds or on the streets of downtown St. Paul on those hot summer nights? Old Starbucks coffee cups?(4 Comments)
Let's face it: It's a lot easier to embrace a Minnesota winter during a thaw in February. Nonetheless, the Art Sled Rally in Minneapolis this weekend really is one of those only in Minnesota events that makes you long to be outdoors, as depicted in this video by Chuck Tomlinson, posted today on MN Stories.(7 Comments)
There's something about the early part of a gorgeous sunrise (this one was from this morning), that makes you feel like anything is possible in the coming day.
And then the sun comes up.(2 Comments)
About 400 immigrants became U.S. citizens today in a ceremony at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. They came from Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Cote D'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Sudan, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, The Gambia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USSR, Vietnam, and Yemen.
Tom Crann will have some of their stories this afternoon on MPR's All Things Considered.
I'm not a big fan of all of the prep sports coverage in the Twin Cities media, but the last two "I wish I had that story" stories have been from that genre.
The most recent is today's compelling story from the Star Tribune's Michael Rand about cross-country skier Libby Ellis, who is ranked #2 in the state but hadn't competed in enough races to quality for the state races, because she's been competing overseas.
And so her competition -- South High -- "threw together a last-minute competition in the subzero darkness at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday that allowed a jet-lagged Ellis to compete -- and win -- the Section 6 individual title on Wednesday."
It's the one thing that has saved prep sports from massive funding cuts: The assertion that sports still has the capacity to teach something to kids.
As usual, the greatest show in town is the comments attached to newspaper stories on Web sites. In this case, there was the expected appreciation that sportsmanship is still alive.
And then there was this:
Yes, I agree it was fantastic for the South coach to arrange this impromptu meet, but I don't get why they would bend-over-backwards for an egotistical person like this. Who are these "coaches" anyways? Before jet-setting across the globe to compete in international races, it might be a good idea to make sure you have your ducks in a row at home (i.e. keep track of races participated)! Before they edited the story, they reported that she had missed all but 2 races due to illness and international travel. It's unfortunate that a lesson couldn't have been taught here... instead she gets bailed-out and will probably expect others to go to extremes to cater to her needs in the future.
The reaction to what is a sweet story of sportsmanship raises the question: Is it possible to agree on anything in the age of the Internet?(9 Comments)
Now this looks like fun, even though I realize that many things that look like sit-back-and-enjoy-it fun are often a lot of work. This is Mark Kiefer, zipping along Lake Phalen recently. The "Fire and Ice" Ice Racing Competition is taking place this weekend, according to this story from MPR's Toni Randolph.
It prompts me to issue one of my periodic requests for pictures showing how you've spent the weekend in the dead (perhaps that's the wrong word!) of winter. It'll be interesting to see how many are inside shots and how many are shot outside.
Lucie Amundsen of Duluth went for a walk today along Park Point in Duluth. I've played with the contrast for effect.
The temperature hit the 40s, making the snow snowmanmakeable for the first time in months. Sara Kimm of St. Paul sent us proof:
As did Matt Wells. The construction helmet might just get the snowman a share of the bailout funds.
Nathan Moore says he spent the afternoon trying to teach his three-year-old daughter to cross-country ski.
He says he failed. I think not... at least in the big scheme of things. When dealing with three-year-olds, as I recall, it's all about the big scheme of things.
Find more pictures from Nathan on Flickr.(1 Comments)
There are days I wonder what we'd talk about if we didn't have fools, crooks, and liars. This is one of those days.
Hitting us first today was news that the woman who gave birth to 8 children this week, already has six kids and had the 8 embroyos implanted. There also doesn't appear to be a father in the picture, and the grandfather -- with whom she lives -- has gone back to Iraq to try to make some money to support them all. That was the top story on the TV news today. Seriously.
That was followed by a story that Barack Obama showed a rare moment of anger when he found out that $18.4 billion of the bailout money -- you'll recall it was originally supposed to help people and banks with foreclosure problems -- went to Wall St. bonuses. "That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful," Obama said while hosting a meeting in the Oval Office with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Vice President Joe Biden.
Then we have Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, who was given the political death penalty, by the Illinois Senate on Thursday. "He reminded us today in real detail that he is an unusually good liar," Republican state Sen. Matt Murphy said.
Closer to home, John Harold Richardson, 40, was charged Thursday morning with felony theft. He allegedly stole a laptop from a blind woman on a bus. It was a special Braille laptop.
What would we be talking about if it weren't for these people?
Maybe the swell 6th birthday party Gabriel Hurles had in his kindergarten classroom on Wednesday. When he opened a large wrapped box, it was his dad, who shipped out to Iraq last summer. Earth-changing news? No. But neither is a woman with 14 kids.
Or maybe we'd be talking about the Minnesota kids who are wrapping up Catholic Schools Week by "donating a truckload of household items they collected for Bridging, a Twin Cities nonprofit that provides dishes, beds and other items for families in transition."
What's MPR covering today? It's day 5 of the Coleman-Franken election trial. Toni Randolph has a piece on All Things Considered tonight on ice sailing. Midmorning's first hour focuses on "the allure of Pluto and the public outrage over its recent demotion from planet status." (I had no idea there was such outrage. I was paying attention to the big gift-wrapped box). Gov. Pawlenty is continuing his public appearances to support his budget proposals, speaking primarily to business groups. As I mentioned yesterday, the Minnesota Department of Health today is unveiling its plan for deciding who gets immediate help when the flu pandemic comes.
What are people talking about around your water cooler?(3 Comments)
Recommended reading for a Saturday morning: John Millea of the Star Tribune wrote a piece today about last night's New Prague boys' basketball game against Shakopee. It was the first game for the kids since the death of their coach, Jeff Gravon, who died of cancer. It deserved a more prominent spot than the editors gave it (A stupid feud between some neighbors was somehow judged to be front-page material). Kids can surprise you when you only expect them to act like kids.
Here's an article from last year on Coach Gravon.
His funeral is being held today.(1 Comments)
As promised, here's a look at some of the ice sculpting taking place at St. Paul's Rice Park.
Caution: Amateur video ahead:
For other weekend entertainment options, we turn to Barbara Schaller from Burnsville, who wrote to us this week:
"I am easily amused. Last Thursday morning (January 15, 2009), I was in my back yard clad in silk long johns under my long nightgown, a turtleneck over my nightgown, taking pictures of frozen soap bubbles! See them here. The temperature was -24 degrees. I've been doing this for 35 years, weather permitting (believe it or not, it doesn't often get cold enough), and the last time was five years ago when our two-year-old granddaughter was visiting. She was out there with me and giggled and clapped and laughed from the bottom of her toes. She won't remember it and I will never forget it."
Release your inner soap bubble-maker this weekend.
And, of course, the Pond Hockey Championships are taking place on Lake Nokomis this weekend. MPR's Tom Weber did a dandy story on them last year.
The St. Paul Winter Carnival is underway. It's becoming harder to know when it's going on anymore. In recent years it adopted a rather Abe Vigoda-like place in the collective consciousness ("He's alive? I thought he was dead!") when announcements came in that the warm weather has canceled the ice sculpture competition. They don't do the big slide at the Capitol anymore. And there are quicker ways to blow zillions of dollars these days than building ice castles.
The Medallion Hunt was a big deal when the St. Paul Pioneer Press was a bigger deal.
The Vulcans? I still don't get the Vulcans. But I digress.
The Winter Carnival is underway and the ice sculpture work is starting around Rice Park. Later today, when we go over to celebrate winter with our every-Friday-lunch-hour skate at the rink outside Landmark Center, I'll snap some pictures and post them here.
Which brings us to.... your pictures.
In Ely the other day -- Wednesday, if you're aching to know for sure -- the town park was filled with giant boxes of packed snow. I'm guessing they'll be carving snow sculptures this weekend.
People who make ice sculptures are usually professionals. People who make snow sculptures often aren't. It's an art form for the people, by the people, and perishes from this earth in short fashion.
I'd pay big money* for your pictures of snow sculptures past, and the story behind them. Use this form.
And while I'm on my usual Friday topic -- embracing winter -- here's one from the mailbag.
Sara Kimm sent this picture of a pick-up hockey game last Saturday in the Groveland neighborhood (it was Hockey Day in Minnesota). The girls beat the boys. "I shared photos with the other hockey parents. One family is from Australia and the mom sent the photos to friends and family there and told me, 'I sent them because they have no idea what life is Minnesota is like.'"
As I recall, it was no more than 9 degrees on Saturday. Pressed for the truth, Sara admitted the girl with the T-shirt, is hers. That's embracing winter!
(* = This is a lie)
Photo via Getty Images.(2 Comments)
The logic behind Hockey Day in Minnesota on Saturday was lost on the guy who takes care of a rink in the Birchwood Village neighborhood on the shore of White Bear Lake. It's a day of watching hockey on TV, if you have cable or satellite TV and subscribe to Fox Sports North, which came up with the idea. He figures everyone who wants to watch the sport in the state of hockey, should be able to. He works hard to make sure everyone who wants to play it, can play it, too.
He was just finishing up shoveling the overnight and morning snowfall off the rink on Sunday. He had flooded it the night before. It is, of course, outside, just the way God intended hockey to be played.
So on Sunday we had our own Hockey Day in Minnesota, the first time -- I have to admit -- I've tried to play the sport since I played in a senior league. That was 1983 -- 26 years ago -- and I'm much more senior now.
When I was a kid, we played pond hockey and our hockey leagues always played in outdoor rinks. After our games, we'd all pick up shovels and clean the ice. Those days, I learned on Sunday, are gone.
"Kids today," our snow-clearing benefactor said, "they drive around the neighborhood until they see me finish shoveling." Then it's hockey time. And they don't shovel the ice when they're done, he told us.
We arrived just as he was finished shoveling, oddly enough. After a bit of a warm-up, we were ready to organize a game among the 10 or so people who trickled in. When it's time for strangers to play hockey, there are no words. One person throws his stick down at center ice, and then another, and another.
Then, someone picks through the pile, throwing one stick on one side of the rink, and another on another side, until all the sticks have been sorted. Wherever your stick ends up is the team you're on.
We played for several hours, the snow still gently falling. The larger and younger players who had no trouble getting around me seeming larger and younger than ever before.
I scored a few goals, although I have to admit two of them came against the kid who was stuck in goal and wasn't that interested in being there. His dad had dragged him off to the rink along with his brother, and he wasn't about to enthusiastically work hard to keep our side from scoring on his team -- a team featuring his dad, by the way.
We had a few little kids playing with us, and when one of them got the puck, we all slowed down and let them by us, pretending to put up a spirited defense. That made me smile until I realized that the younger and larger players were doing the same thing to me.
And then it was over. I told my hockey-playing pal it was time to leave; I had things to do and having a coronary wasn't one of them.
Besides, I didn't want to get stuck shoveling the ice.
Photo: Clearing White Bear Lake for hockey in 1909. Courtesy: Minnesota Historical Society.(6 Comments)
Dennis LeTourneau knows where he'd be today if not for some of the people in the Hennepin County judicial system. "I'd be dead," he said without hesitation. He is sure heroin would've killed him.
LeTourneau was one of 23 people graduating today from the Hennepin County Drug Court, a unique program that people who know what they're talking about insist is the answer to reducing the problem of repeat criminal activity from addicts. It's the second graduating class since the program was changed to focus on addicts.
People who choose the drug court system undergo a 12-month program that includes 12-step meetings, therapy, and education classes. They have to report to probation officers and agree to be tested.
"It costs $36,000 to send someone to prison, " Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson said today. "It costs $6,000-$9,000 to get them through Drug Court." Nonetheless it's a tough sell at the Capitol. Magnuson eliminated pay raises for judges in his budget request this year, but included $6 million for Drug Court.
When it comes time to convince legislators, Magnuson could do worse than have them listen to LeTourneau, or Mindy Heinkel, who thanked her probation officers and judges today noting, "It changed my life forever." James Hill said his probation officer joked with him "we can always execute" during his 12-months in the program.
It wasn't a hard program for LeTourneau. "The hard part was making the decision (to go through the program), because I was still in that life," he said. That life was a heroin addiction that started five years ago. He remembers his first shot of heroin and why he took it. "I had a girlfriend who was into it," he said.
LeTourneau has gotten clean, earned his GED, and started a business. He's also mentoring others who are in the program, according to his probation officer, Stacey Pratt (shown below congratulating graduate James Hill). "It was easy for him because he made his mind up at the beginning that he would remain determined to turn his life around."
While receiving plaques at the Hennepin County Government Center this afternoon, many graduates hugged or at least shook hands with a gauntlet of probation officers. A couple muttered "thanks," and walked away, turning their back without acknowledging the people they had to call every day for a year.
But most also knew where they'd be today otherwise. "I know people in prison who'd give their left arm for this chance," LeTourneau said.
This Saturday, an Aberdeen, South Dakota basketball coach is likely going to pass legendary hoops coach Bobby Knight for most collegiate victories. They have a few things in common besides basketball. Knight is known for throwing chairs. Don Meyer, the coach at Northern State University, has to sit in one; he's been in a wheelchair since last September when he fell asleep while driving to a team retreat and hit a semi-truck head-on.
His leg was amputated and during the operations to put him back together, doctors discovered he has cancer in his liver.
"I have to be strong for our team now," he told a local newspaper. "When alone with my wife, I might not be as strong, and I might break down and cry and wonder how I'm going to deal with (the cancer). When you are with people you work with, it's easier to be strong."
Today he told South Dakota Public Broadcasting "the people of South Dakota would do anything for people who need a hand," and he knows that first-hand. And like Coach Knight, his players insist he teaches more than basketball. Take this description of the accident in a recent Sports Illustrated article:
When his players reached the car, Meyer was still conscious, but his left side was battered. Yet instead of panicking, the players summoned the poise that Meyer had already cultivated in them. One of them called 911. Senior captain Kyle Schwan asked a few veteran players to help the younger players form a prayer circle, then joined graduate assistant Matt Hammer and sophomore guard Brett Newton next to Meyer.
Schwan grabbed Meyer's hand, and the young men fell back on the slogans of the practice court. We've gotta be tough, Coach! It's the fourth quarter! Dead-ball breathing! Narrow focus! NBA! Next Best Action!
"They saved my life," says Meyer, who was airlifted to an Aberdeen hospital after a 30-minute wait.
"It's a testament to Coach," Schwan says. "In essence he saved his own life because of the way he taught us."
Meyer, 64, will coach in his wheelchair Saturday night. A win against the University of Mary gives him his 903rd of his coaching career, one more than Knight.
(Photo courtesy of Northern State University)
We pause now to say something nice about downtown St. Paul. This afternoon, a small group of us went to the skating rink in downtown St. Paul next to Landmark Center. The weather was so cold (9 degrees) that even many Minnesotans said it was too cold to skate. But, in our continuing News Cut theme of "embracing winter," anything above -10, with bright sunshine, and with one of the world's most gorgeous buildings as a backdrop, it wasn't too cold. Oh, did I mention it's free? ($2 if you want to rent skates).
There were only three people on the ice when we showed up. Famed Realtor and blogger Teresa Boardman came to take some pictures (she took the one above). Equally famed blogger Mitch Berg stopped by to say "hello."
We're going to try to do this again next Friday, and we hope you'll stop by to join us, especially if you can't skate very well.
In the picture above (left to right): Annie Baxter, Tom Weber, Betsy Cole, Julia Schenkler, and some doofus. You can find more of Teresa's pictures here, all of which are a reminder that when it comes to winter, St. Paul "gets it."
Take that, Minneapolis.(5 Comments)
It would be a pleasant diversion if the year-end reviews of the news that are so commonplace, would include the many kindnesses extended by average people to other average people who have done extraordinary things.
If they did, the story of Joe Gomer, 87, and the people of Duluth would certainly make the list.
Joe is a Tuskegee Airman, an African American World War II pilot, one of a couple hundred who are still alive. Barack Obama invited them to his inauguration, but there were no plans made to transport them around Washington or find them a place to stay. When you're 80 and 90 years old, you don't just fly off somewhere without having things like that settled. Besides, hotels in the DC area are ushering in the era of change by jacking hotel prices up to around $1,000 a night.
An article in Monday's Duluth News Tribune (reg. required)started the donations. A travel agency and the Experimental Aircraft Association picked up the tab for the travel, and some Minnesotans have made arrangements with friends or relatives in the DC area to provide accommodations.
A similar story is playing out in Indiana. Quentin Smith, 90, told the Indiana Post Tribune a similar story. A day or so later, Smith had all he needed. "I was indifferent about going, really, but after all this the last few days, I feel obliged to go," he said Wednesday, chuckling. "I had no idea that many people cared about my going."
If you'd like to read more about Joe Gomer's WWII exploits, visit a Web site dedicated to him from his daughter.
You know by now that Barack Obama has been named Time's Person of the Year. Who saw that coming?
But who is your person of the year? Someone you know who made a difference in your life or someone else's life. It could be a big thing, it could be a little thing, it just has to be a thing that impressed the heck out of you.
I am not -- by virtue of DNA -- an optimist, and I've made a good living not being one. Still, when I opened up this morning's Star Tribune to read that not enough people are donating to the Salvation Army or Toys for Tots or the food shelves, I couldn't help but notice that thousands and thousands of people are. People are still often doing the best they can to help people they don't know.
Buried deep -- far too deep -- in the story was Kathy Ware, a public health nurse from Inver Grove Heights, who can't throw as much money into the Salvation Army pot this year as in past years, so she's helping out in another way -- she's taking her turn standing by the kettle ringing a bell.
And that's our DNA. Generosity and anonymity go hand in hand.
In today's New York Times, Ted Gup, a professor of journalism at Case Western Reserve University, writes about growing up in Canton, Ohio. Around Christmas 1933, a local newspaper ran the story of Mr. B. Virdot , who vowed to help 75 unfortunate families, men and women "who might otherwise "hesitate to knock at charity's door for aid." He was said to be a man who was prosperous, lost it all during the Depression, and then returned to prosperity.
"...to me, the story had always served as an example of how selfless Americans reach out to one another in hard times," Gup wrote. "I can't even remember the first time I heard about Mr. B. Virdot, but I knew the tale well."
This past summer, Gup finally found out who the Mr. B. Virdot was.
It was his grandfather.(1 Comments)
A day after Veterans Day, four Twin Cities area vets got a 22-harmonica salute on Wednesday. (Left to right) Marie White, Merlin Marlow of Robbinsdale, Howard Helland of New Hope and Larry Robillard of Bloomington, are the oldest members of the Silvertones Harmonica Group.
Every Wednesday for more than seven years now, they and a couple of dozen others have met for a few hours in the Winnetka Learning Center in New Hope, ostensibly to play harmonicas together, but mostly to just be with each other. On Wednesday, their group serenaded them with some patriotic songs and then listened to their war stories. About 50 others showed up to listen.
"I was teaching harmonicas at the high school," Marlow said. "I came to the learning center and decided to start a band here. We started with four people and before long we had 27."
Robillard, 89, played with the Minnetonka Harmonicas before moving to the Silvertones. "It kind of dissolved," he said. "People died."
"When I was about 14 years old, I used to go up to Milaca and work on my aunt's dairy farm," Marlow said, describing his start in harmonica showbiz. "She played the harmonica and said, 'Merlin, you're going to learn how to play the harmonica. At night when we started milking the cows, she had me play the harmonica because the cows gave more milk."
Marlow went off to war before the others. He joined the Navy and served on the carrier Enterprise and thanks God that a storm delayed the carrier's scheduled December 7, 1941 return to Pearl Harbor by one day. . Helland was an engineer based in Iceland. Robillard was assigned to a destroyer, and White was a nurse with the Blue Devils 88th Division in Italy.(1 Comments)
A national law firm is providing a benefit unique to a generation. A support line for members of the "sandwich generation," the baby-boomers who are trying to raise their own kids, while also taking care of their parents, according to the Boston Globe. Goodwin Proctor is setting up a hotline specifically for care-givers in its employ:
Staffed by registered nurses and geriatric social workers, it will help employees navigate the complex maze of medical and social services for the elderly and disabled, including housing, transportation, insurance, nutrition, and nursing care.
It will also offer assessments and referrals, and will field questions such as how to persuade aging parents to move into assisted living or give up their driver's licenses.
In turn, the firm hopes the service will improve productivity and reduce turnover, since the time demands and emotional toll of caregiving can have a deleterious effect on workplace performance.
About 20 million people are in the "sandwich generation." Joan Brunwasser, who heads a national group for election reform, described the challenges last week when her mother got sick near Election Day:
My mother was most considerate about when she get sick. Timing really is everything. Had she been ill on Monday night, I would have been hard pressed to be downtown with her and at my polling place by 5:00 the next morning. (I was a volunteer poll watcher on November 4th.) Likewise, if she had gotten sick on Election Day itself, I would have been physically incapable of responding that evening. After that long, long day, I felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck. At least I was able to rack up one good night's sleep before the flu struck. Way to go, Mom!
Companies have good reason to consider adding the benefit. Members of the "sandwich generation" are more likely to get sick themselves, or lead an unhealthy life, according to a study this month from Indiana University.
Compared with people caring for a single generation, people in the sandwich generation were less likely to check food labels, wear seat belts or choose foods based on health values. They also smoke more.
Are you a member of the sandwich generation? Tell me about your life. You can either post in the comments below, or write to me using this form and we can talk about it.(1 Comments)
The economic meltdown is bad. Most of us are pretty scared, more than a little angry, and our ears perk up when we hear people throw the "D" word around pretty loosely.
Earlier this week, a poll showed that almost 60% of those surveyed think a depression is likely. "Most of those people don't know their history," a guest said Wednesday on MPR's Midmorning.
Elizabeth Schaefer, 86, of Shoreview is as good a history book as any of the thousands she probably touched in her career as a librarian. She was born seven years before the stock market crash of 1929 and grew up during the Great Depression.
Elizabeth was born in Chicago. Her mother took care of the kids and kept an eye on the money. Her father worked as a railroad engineer when the railroad had work.
"They didn't talk about their financial problems with us, but they must have saved their money, because my father wanted a place where we could walk to school without crossing the street, so he went out for a loaf of bread one day and came back with a house (See photo)," she told me during my visit at her retirement community in Shoreview.
Her parents were strict and kept the kids in the yard and sent them to a Catholic school. "My mother refused to buy the school uniforms so she made them for us. But, of course, it didn't look like everyone else's."
"Mom was always saving," Elizabeth said. "She'd make a little bit of meat and a lot of noodles to go with the soup. You were supposed to add one can of water and she'd add two." In the evenings, men would knock on the door looking for food. Her mother would share the supper. They'd eat it out on the porch and then move along. "We were fortunate we had a house to live in," she said.
Her mother kept strict track of what it took for her to go to college. "It was $800 and I paid it all back my first year." She worked as a librarian for 25 cents an hour. She tried to get a job in a library in Chicago, but didn't realize when she submitted an application to the alderman, she was supposed to include a bribe.
After getting married, she says she never had any arguments with her husband over money. "He'd cash his check and put it on the dresser, after putting some in the bank."
She never stopped "saving things that possibly had another life." At her retirement home, people put things they don't want anymore in a cart. She pulls things out of the cart and offers it to others. How often do they take it? "Not too often," she says.
She, too, made her childrens' clothes when they were small. Her kids have grown up to be frugal, but also generous with others through food drives and other charity.
How does she view the panic of the last few weeks?
"It's out of my hands and you just have to trust that God's gonna... whatever happens happens and hope somehow you have what it takes to cope with it," she said.
She says she always talked to her daughters about saving for tough times. "People didn't do that because they didn't believe that. They'd make fun of you for being frugal. You never know what's going to come. I see so many people that... when people get married, they think they have to start out with a house and everything in it, stuff that people worked for years to save for...I'd die before I'd pay finance charges on credit cards. It seems like if you don't have the money for it, you go without it until you do have it."
Things are bad. Things may get worse. But there's plenty of evidence that says it's no Great Depression.
I'm not much of a photographer, but even if I were, I have a rinky-dink camera that doesn't take much of a picture. But if you live in the Twin Cities, the chances are pretty good you saw it: One of the most vibrant rainbows anyone has ever seen. It went from horizon to horizon (this picture was just outside the door of the world headquarters of News Cut).
No, there's no pot of gold to be found. But, you know, the market had another bad day today, the economy is in complete shambles, and many of our workplaces and families are being (or about to be) decimated by layoffs.
What do you say that just for now, we believe that it really is a sign?(2 Comments)
If you could write a letter to the people who will soon be raising the next generation, what would it say?
Dear parents of the next generation:
Don't stink at it.
I'm thinking about this because of an informative -- for some of us, depressing -- op-ed piece in the Star Tribune today by William J. Doherty, a professor of family social science and director of the Families and Democracy Project at the University of Minnesota. In Mom and Pop go over the top, Doherty takes on "hyper-parenting," specifically, attending your children's sports events:
The mark of a good parent in today's world is personal chauffeuring rather than group carpooling, cheering loudly from the sidelines at all games, advocating with coaches for their child's playing time, and backing away from any activity (such as family dinners and PTA meetings) that conflicts with year-round sports schedules that rival those of professional athletes. The top-rated parents become agents for their children's sports careers; average parents just try to keep their balance in a world that rewards excess.
It's ironic that parents who would never miss an athletic event often overlook what research and common sense attest are the most important activities that parents do with their children, things like having meals with them and quietly reading to them
Hyper-parenting, according to Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld is full of terrible consequences:
We suspect that this hyper-rearing way of life contributes to the increasing incidence of teen-age depression, substance abuse and sexual acting out. So what should parents do? Cutting back just 5-7 percent in scheduled activities can help families embrace sanity. Character development and interpersonal relationships can become central again, as they should, by de-emphasizing activities and accomplishments.
I have recently entered the phase of my life where my children are grown and -- mostly -- on their own. Neither of them has stuck up a bank (yet) or joined a violent underground movement to overthrow the country (yet). And so I have more time to reflect on their upbringing by reading articles like Professor Doherty's. It's guilt time.
I was one of the baby boomers who took comfort in the salve of the observation of the '80s that my generation of fathers would be more engaged in the raising of their children than our fathers who, if we read between the lines of the observation, apparently did it all wrong and we turned out as perfect as we were because of (a) our mothers and (b) our own cunning.
A generation later, we are learning that we did it wrong, too, and the correct way of raising children is -- as it turns out -- the way our fathers and mothers did. Who knew?
Parents of the next generation, here's tip #1. There's always someone out there telling you you're doing it wrong, warning you to change your ways before your kids rob a bank and undermine the government. Be ready for it.
You'll be constantly bombarded with studies and articles to make you question the quality of your parenting. Let's just take this week, for example:
My generation is now releasing their over-parented, over-scheduled kids to the world. Our job is (mostly) done. We have more time to sit back and read the reviews above, knowing that we don't get a do-over. It is a moment of parental passage, and it's way worse than the "terrible twos."
So today, I'm calling on the News Cut parenting veterans to compose a letter to the parents of the next generation. Armed as we are with the knowledge we did it wrong, we can nonetheless provide some guidance.
I'll start, and you can add your paragraph in the comments section below. Keep it positive and base your paragraph only on your own experiences, not on criticizing others.
Here's my contribution...
Dear parents of the next generation:
Do the best you can.
Oh, by the way, I won't be blogging much today. I'm taking the afternoon off to go golfing with one of my kids. We may stop at a bank first and a government building later.
-- Bob(12 Comments)
A Time Magazine blog has an interview today with a man who is studying what happens when we die.
Many people, the author admits, aren't so sure about the project...
Because we're pushing through the boundaries of science, working against assumptions and perceptions that have been fixed. A lot of people hold this idea that well, when you die you die, that's it. Death is a moment, you know you're either dead or you're alive. All these things are not scientifically valid but they're social perceptions. If you look back at the end of the 19th century, physicists at that time had been working with Newtonian laws of motion and they really felt they had all the answers to everything that was out there in the universe. When we look at the world around us, Newtonian physics is perfectly sufficient. It explains most things that we deal with -- except if you go to the really low level beyond the atoms.
Do we really want to know the answer if there's a possibility it totally rewires our concept of life and death?(8 Comments)
Last week, while soliciting your everyday stories of life, I told you about a family I met while on vacation. I told you a little bit about them and mentioned that I'd interviewed them for a piece I was writing for a personal blog and newsletter. The piece is now done and I wanted to invite you to read more about the family, if you're so inclined. It's written for a specific audience -- airplane builders -- but I think you might enjoy it, anyway; at least, I hope so.
Oh, and this is me reminding you to share your tales of living your life. You'd be surprise how interesting you are.(1 Comments)
I'm back from vacation (Oshkosh). It was a working person's holiday as I spent much of the time talking to people with interesting stories to tell and then, ummm, telling them. Sound familiar? (I posted the stuff on my other blog).
Among the more fascinating people I met was Jack Beck and Marmy Clasen, and two of Jack's kids -- Jonathan and Peter. They live in Germantown, Wis.
Jack and Marmy were married back in 2004, and lost their jobs on the same day. Jack taught Hebrew and let's just say Craig's List is not full of people looking to hire professors of Hebrew. Marmy's dad died not long after they lost their jobs. Jack had a dream to build his own airplane and, so, without jobs and a low "vibal" state, Marmy bought Jack the first "kit." They'll be flying their plane within a few years.
Why did they proceed on a journey without the usual guarantees and security many of us prefer? Because you only live once and some journeys you have to take on faith. Peter and Jonathan -- both in their 20s -- have gone abroad, working in orphanages and traveling in countries from here to Nepal. Why? Because sometimes you begin a journey with no assurances; you take some things on faith.
Jack wanted to tell me their story (which I'll publish in a weekly newsletter I put out for airplane builders), but Marmy told him it's a boring story. It's not a boring story, and therein lies the #1 trait of people with interesting stories: they don't think their stories are interesting to other people.
So as I get back up to post-vacation speed on News Cut, it's time to ask you again for your story, even if you think your experiences are boring. Chances are, they're not. Here's the form. Tell me about your journey.(3 Comments)