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17 posts from May 2011


The prototypical "Up Nort'" Weekend

I made a very quick trip over the weekend to the cabin on a lake near Emily, Minn., that my Dad and stepmother share with relatives. 

I was at the lake for only 25 hours. But somehow I managed to experience the prototypical "Minnesota weekend at the lake up nort'" weekend. It included:

A long drive: Four hours to get there from Rochester on Sunday morning, and 5 hours and 35 minutes to wrestle my way home through an endless train of PWs, ATVs, RVs, SUVs and TODs (ticked off drivers).

A pot luck: We had an informal family reunion built around food that included a couple of hot dishes; lots of cold "salads" (only one of which had lettuce in it); crackers and cheese; barbecued pork in a crockpot and three different kinds of bars. 

A boat ride: Between showers. 

A fish fry: For brunch.

A little fishing off the dock: The blue gills and bass were hitting on Monday morning.

An injury. No weekend at the lake is complete without someone getting hurt. This time it was me. I was attempting to fillet a largemouth bass, but instead ended up filleting part of a finger. I'll live.







More advice for graduating seniors — keep permanent body art to a minimum

Images-1 I've gotten a lot of positive feedback to my Saturday column in which I imparted some advice to graduating high school seniors.

One bit of advice I didn't include this year, which a couple of blog readers had suggested, was for young adults to avoid permanent body art, primarily tattoos — particularly on the neck or face. (That looks like it would hurt.)

I didn't include the tattoo advice this year because I've made reference to it in previous columns. But it's still valid advice. I know someone who now regrets the tattoos she got when she was in her late teens and early 20s. She says it seemed like a good idea at the time, but now that she's a young professional she's embarrassed by her body art and is pretty limited in what she can wear. Dresses, skirts and sleeveless blouses, for example, are out.

I won't even get into the piercings fad. But at least most of those surgical holes grow back. 



One man's music is another man's noise

Images At the Walt Stark Campground in the Pillsbury State Forest near Pillager, Minn., there lives in spring, summer and fall a family of whip-poor-wills.

I don't know how long they've been coming back to the campground, but they've been there at least since 1999, which is the first year I started taking part in an annual horsebackriding/camping trip in the forest. Every night, rain or shine, these birds put on an evening concert. Or, maybe it's not a concert. Maybe they're just complaining to one another about the kids. It's loud and clear — Whip Poor WILL, Whip Poor WILL, Whip Poor WILL! It goes on for about a half-hour, and it's music to my ears.

Other guys in our group don't hear it that way. They hear it as a loud intrusion on our evening campfire conversations. One guy has threatened to shoot the birds. Another guy tries to scare them into stopping by running at where the noise is coming from, swiping his boots through the tall grass and rattling branches. It works. For about two minutes, and then they start right up again.

I use this experience as a way of explaining how I feel about the continual whining and complaining in this community about noise — or even the potential for noise, particularly as it applies to outdoor concerts.

The latest complaints are coming from folks who live near Barlow Plaza, where its owner, Steve Barlow, has proposed to schedule a few outdoor concerts on weekends this spring and summer.

C'mon. It's two or three nights a year. The concerts would be over by midnight. Relax. Enjoy the music, or shut the windows. We're a big city now. Let's celebrate the fact that we now have some fun, outdoor entertainment options during the summer — and, yes, even a few bars downtown — rather than complain. 

When I arrived in Rochester I was in my 20s, and there was no end to the complaints about how boring and unexciting our town was. (Now, all of a sudden, we're TOO exciting?) Now that I'm in my 50s I haven't changed my tune. I STILL think Rochester could use more outdoor concerts in summer.



Proof that the Legislature actually passed a bill...

Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, and Rep. Duane Quam, R-Byron, watch Gov. Mark Dayton sign the State Agency Value Initiative. The two Rochester area lawmakers authored the law, designed to discourage state agencies from wasting money at the end of a budget cycle on items it might not need by rewarding them with half of any unspent funds to be set aside for future projects.  


Why doesn't the Legislature convene in March instead of January?

Whew! The world didn't actually end on Saturday. So, the blog continues...

Here's another possible remedy to the chronic problem of our lawmakers not being able to finish their work on time. Why not start the legislative session on March 1? The length of the (regular) session would stay the same, and we'd still keep the date for the end of the biennium at June 30.

But, this way, if the Legislature and the governor can't come to agreement a government shutdown would be imminent, like within a day or two. (The way things are now, the two sides can screw around for another month, and probably will, before the threat of a government shutdown forces them to reach agreement.)

Another impetus for getting things done would be the fact that summers in Minnesota are way too short, and the prospect of sitting in meeting rooms for a third of our three warm-weather months might prompt lawmakers to actually get done AHEAD of schedule.

What do you think?


Is suicide legal in Minnesota?

I'm not trying to be sensational with that headline...

The Minnesota House's vote to repeal the state's primary seat belt law has been attracting a lot of response from readers. Many of the opinions from proponents of the repeal are like this one from a letter to the editor writer in Mower County:

Regarding the article in Wednesday paper about the House voting to repeal the primary seat belt law — good. At least in this matter somebody up there at the Capital has some sense.

The state has no right to tell me what to do with my own body. If my doctor tells me that I have cancer and I refuse treatment can the state make me? No, it cannot.

Rep. Norton says in the article "it's under your control." No, it's not; it is under control of the state. Who owns your person, you or the state?

Mangor Krogstad


All right, I get the "government intrusion" argument. I don't agree with it, but I get where these folks are coming from. However, it raised an interesting question among a couple of us in the newsroom. If you believe the government has absolutely no business telling grown adults what we can and can't do with our own bodies, does that mean adult suicide should be legal? 

A quick Internet search reveals that it's a common misnomer that suicide and attempted suicide are illegal. It was a felony in many states before the 1960s, and a few states still had it on the books — although they didn't enforce it (for attempted suicide) for years after that. But by the 1990s all states had repealed such laws.

Assisted suicide? That's a different matter.



Our Opinions Page report card from readers is in

Images-5 For the past six years the P-B has surveyed 400 readers — and some non-readers — about the newspaper. The results are in for this year, and we improved over last year in just about every category. You can read more about the survey results on Managing Editor Jay Furst's "Furst Draft" blog and in his column in Thursday's paper. But what I'm most interested in are the survey questions most directly related to the Opinions and Commentary pages.

For example, we asked readers how many days they read the Opinions pages. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they read the editorial pages at least once a week, and more than a quarter of respondents said they read them every single day.

As you know if you read this blog regularly, we're constantly accused of being politically biased. But here's how readers responded to this query: If you were to describe the P-B politically, would you say it's..

Liberal: 15.5 percent

Neutral: 42.8 percent

Conservative: 16.3 percent

Don't know: 25.4 percent

I take that as pretty strong evidence that we're pretty (to borrow a slogan from another media outlet) "fair and balanced." 



House votes to repeal primary seat belt law — what's happening in St. Paul?

Images Lot's of crazy things happen in the final days of a legislative session. It's to be expected. Lawmakers have to put it in hyperdrive and work long, sleep-deprived, mistake-prone hours to (maybe) get their work done on time.

But I have to admit that I didn't see this one coming. The House on Monday night approved a repeal of the state's primary seat belt law. According to the measure passed last night, the state would return us to the way things were before June of 2009. Troopers, police officers and sheriff's deputies would no longer be able to ticket motorists for not wearing a seat belt. Drivers and passengers could only be cited for a seat belt violation if they're stopped for another reason.

Opponents of the law contend that it's an intrusion on one's rights.

You betcha. The government has absolutely has no right to protect people from putting their lives at risk.

Don't blame only the GOP for this extreme lapse in legislative judgment, folks. Although more Republicans than Democrats support the seat belt law repeal, the chief advocate for it is a DFLer, Tom Rukavina of Virgina, Minn.

Seat belts save lives. It's a statistical fact. So do rules regulating food temperature and sanitation in restaurants. And laws dictating how you wire your home with electricity or dispose of sewage, or that require you to stop at stop signs and red lights. Or that protect bartenders and servers from secondhand tobacco smoke. If you believe government should play no role in the protection of the public — yes even from ourselves — then you don't believe in government. And that's a scary thought.

Just my 2-Cents Worth.


Advice for graduating seniors?

I'm about to start working on my annual "advice to graduating seniors" column, and I'm looking for suggestions.

Here are a few things I'm thinking of adding to the book this year:

• Don't rely completely on your GPS for directions. Printed Mapquest directions for backup are never a bad idea. Atlases might seem old-fashioned, but you'll be thankful your parents left one in the car when Direction Dorothy loses her mind in East St. Louis or South Chicago.

• Don't write anything on your Facebook Page that you wouldn't want your next boss to read.

• Try quinoa. Or kimchi. Or deep fried croaker fish. Just try it. It's a scientifically proven fact — people who go through life eating nothing but safe comfort food like meatloaf, canned corn, mashed potatoes and dark gravy are 37 percent more boring than people who are willing to try new things.

• Read poetry. Start with Billy Collins or Donald Hall, if you're a newbie.

• Watch a movie filmed in a foreign country. Even if it's Canada.

* Try giving up texting for one day. You'll live. Honest. And you'll  probably learn things, like where your oldest sister has been living for the last three years, the fact that your mom got a new job last year and the name of your cat.

• Pretend your parents know what they're talking about. Just once. It'll restore their faith in parenthood.





Will Mayo bulldoze Lourdes High School?

The news that Mayo Clinic has entered into a tentative agreement to purchase the Lourdes High School site comes as no surprise to me. The site is virtually surrounded by Mayoland, and the land-starved clinic seems to buy up nearly every piece of property it can get its hands on downtown.

But I'd sure hate to see Mayo raze the Lourdes building. Although the building isn't ancient (1944) it's a stately, solid structure that should be a good candidate for renovation rather than demolition. Unfortunately, Mayo doesn't have a very good track record when it comes to preserving historic buildings. I've often maintained that that's because of the transient nature of the institution.

Charlie and Will Mayo were brilliant visionaries. But one drawback of turning their clinic over to a board of directors rather than family is that CEOs come and go. Administrators come and go. There's not as much of an appreciation of history as there would be if the powers that be at Mayo were all natives of Rochester. The board of directors/consultative approach has worked exceedingly well for Mayo as a medical institution. But not quite so much when it comes to historic preservation.

It's never too late to change, though. It would be a travesty for 2011 graduates of Lourdes to come back to Rochester for their 10 year reunion and see that where their school once stood is now a four-story parking ramp.