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14 posts from January 2012


A crow assassin dines on his prey

Reader Dana Skare passed along these photos of a hawk — maybe an bird person can tell me what kind of hawk this is — taken a year ago from the driveway of his house near Saint Mary's hospital.

Is this the answer to our crow problem — more hungry predators?

Falcon 16 Dec 2010 002
Falcon 16 Dec 2010 014


Should school cafeterias offer vegan alternatives?

I received the letter below from a group called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. That's kind of a deceptive title. Actually, it's a PETA-like organization, only for people in the health care field, that promotes a vegan diet and protests animal slaughter and testing.

It was written in response to the new, healthier school lunch guidelines released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week. 

Generally, I think these groups carry things way too far when it comes to promoting a diet free of meat, dairy and egg products. But I think they have at least the germ of a point here. I realize that the USDA wants to help maintain strong meat, dairy and poultry industries here. They're a huge part of our economy and that's as it should be. But do we really need to feed our kids meals that include milk every day? Do we really need to include a meat product every day? Is it necessary to use cheese as the only distraction to get kids to eat their vegetables?

If you haven't done so already, check out the USDA's new Supertracker website. It's one of the better free sites I've seen for tracking your food intake, exercise and weight, and I've been using it religiously for a couple of weeks. In addition to the tracking capability, it also includes recommended thresholds for certain foods, to maintain health and lose weight — or not gain any.

For example, the program recommends that a guy my age not take in more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day — which so far I'm finding pretty difficult. I hadn't a clue how salt-laden some canned and prepared foods contain.

It also includes a very small allowance for "empty calories" — things like pop, beer or wine, ice cream and candy.

As you might expect, it recommends a lot of fruit (two cups) and vegetables (three cups). But the baffling thing to me is that it also recommends a relatively high amount of protein — (for most of us that means meat and eggs (six ounces), and dairy products (three cups).

Do we really need that much meat and milk or cheese every day?

My guess is that the USDA can get by recommending a tiny amount of salt because the salt industry doesn't have a lot of lobbyists in Washington looking out for its industry. But the dairy industry? The pork and beef industry? Different story.

I'm not suggesting that the USDA, or medical doctors, or any other group recommend a vegan or vegetarian diet. I come from a long line of dairy farmers and beef ranchers and I absolutely love meat and cheese. But wouldn't it be OK to tell Americans that it's all right to eat a meatless main meal once or twice a week. Or that there are alternatives to steak, burgers and bacon to supply our protein needs. Or that you shouldn't have to disguise green beans or broccoli with cheese to get you kids to eat it?

Here's the letter:

School lunches may soon look different—but not different enough to stem the tide of childhood obesity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture just issued new guidelines for school lunches, but as a dietitian, I think it’s unfortunate that burgers, pizza, and other unhealthy foods will likely still be front and center.

The new guidelines do not require schools to offer meatless entrées or nondairy beverage options to all students. Meat, milk, and cheese are packed with calories and saturated fat, and they play a huge role in the obesity epidemic. The new guidelines offer low-fat and nonfat milk, but these products are still high in sugar and cholesterol. And a cup of 1 percent, unflavored low-fat milk has about the same amount of calories as a cup of sugary soda.  

It is estimated that students get half to one-third of their calories at school. We need to make sure schools provide foods that set our future generations up for lifelong good eating habits—and lifelong good health.


Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.  
Director of Nutrition Education
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine 
5100 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Suite 400 
Washington, D.C. 20016  


Why I favor "Moneyball" for best picture, and tobacco spittin' Brad Pitt for best actor

Images-8I don't get a vote, but here's why I favor "Moneyball" for Best Picture and Brad Pitt for Best Actor.

1. It's the only nominated movie I've seen and I liked it. I could quit there, but ...

2. Brad Pitt and I have a few things in common: We both attended the University of Missouri (I actually graduated from Mizzou while he dropped out near the end of his senior year). We both majored in journalism. And, we're about the same age — well, OK, within six years. Hard to believe Brad turns 50 next year.

3. Its about baseball, my favorite sport.

4. It exposes tobacco chewing as the filthy habit it is, with Billy Beane/Brad Pitt spitting into a cup every two or three minutes throughout the film. (I once traveled from Bismarck, N.D., to Buffalo, Wyo. in a pickup with a guy who spit into an uncovered Styrofoam cup the whole way. I'm getting sick to my stomach just thinking about it.)

5. It isn't about vampires, unrequited love, or some famous figure in history who speaks with a British accent.

There. Done. I hope Meryl Streep wins best actress because, well, she's the best actress on the face of the earth. And because she's willing to play a woman over the age of 40 — Margaret Thatcher and Julia Child — with pride and dignity. I'll give her a pass on "Bridges of Madison County." 



Minnesota youth hockey follows State High School League's lead.

I received this email less than an hour ago from Minnesota Hockey, which is the governing body for all youth hockey below the high school level in our state.

This follows a similar change by the Minnesota State High School League a week ago.

Any form of checking is prohibited in Minnesota Youth hockey for children at the Pee-Wee level an younger, and for girls at all levels. But checks still occur, and this is an added effort to crack down, following the spinal injury suffered last month by Jack Jablonski.


Minnesota Hockey Announces Rule Changes


Minnesota Hockey Members,


In light of recent injuries in high school hockey and with continuing efforts to reduce the risks involved in hockey, the Minnesota Hockey Board of Directors adopted the following rule changes.  Effective Wednesday, January 25, 2012, the minimum penalty for boarding and checking from behind infractions will be increased.  The first level of penalty for Boarding, Rule 603, will become a major and a Checking from Behind, Rule 608, will become a major plus a misconduct.  These changes apply to all Minnesota Hockey sanctioned league, tournament and exhibition (scrimmage) games and will be in effect until the end of the 2011-12 season (July 31, 2012).  The effectiveness of these changes will be evaluated going forward.


These rule changes are being adopted on a pilot basis and all rules and definitions in the USA Hockey  2011-13 Official Rules of Ice Hockey book remain in effect.  Only the first levels of penalties for the two infractions stated above are increased.  Officials need to make these calls and must have the support of the coaches and parents if increasing the consequences for boarding and checking from behind is to have a positive effect.


These revised rules are only part of what is needed to make hockey as safe as possible.  A culture change is required that will no longer encourage dangerous and intimidation play.  Parents, coaches, officials, players and administrators, need to work together, to make that change.  Education, skill development and respect (Fair Play) are key in making the culture change and Minnesota Hockey is committed to continuing to provide leadership in these areas.


During this pilot, HEP Fair Point calculations are not changing. When tabulating total Fair Play penalty minutes, the "equivalency" penalty minute for the first level boarding and checking from behind remain the same;  Boarding, 2 minute minor and checking from behind, 2 minute minor and 10 minute misconduct.


The announcement below provides additional background.  


Hockey is a great game and wouldn't be possible without all of the efforts of coaches, officials, administrator and parents.  For all your work we say thank you and ask for your cooperation in implementing these changes.


Thank you,


Dave Margenau

President, Minnesota Hockey


OK, that was a piebald deer, not an albino

All right, my hunting friends have informed me that the deer I wrote about in the previous post is a "piebald" deer, and not an albino.

Piebalds deer, like albinos, are genetic freaks of nature that are also extremely rare. But they differ from albino deer in that they have some brown coloration, sometimes resembling a pinto or appaloosa horse. If you look closely, you'll see that the deer below has brown on the top of its head and some on its body.

Also, albinos have pink eyes. This deer, like nearly all whitetail deer, has brown eyes.

OK, then. I've learned something today. Thanks to everyone who emailed or posted on facebook to straighten me out on this. 

Reader snaps photo of albino deer

Albino deer are extremely rare, especially in the wild. P-B reader Art Pavlish snapped this photo of one on Saturday. He emailed it to me along with this note:


This morning while traveling from Lake City to Rochester my wife Donna said "did you see that"?  I said "what", she said there was an albino deer in that ravine.  I said, "yeah right".  So I turned around, and went back.  Just happened to have my good camera too.

Now, you don't see that every day. Enjoy!

Art Pavlish



Long-time legislator and Rochester native Mindy Greiling to retire

Images-4The Minnesota House is reporting today that State Rep. Mindy Greiling, whose seat is up in November — as is the case for all other state lawmakers this year — plans to retire from the Legislature when her term is up.

Greiling, a DFLer from Roseville who is completing her 10th term in the Legislature, grew up in Rochester. Long-time P-B readers might recall that Mindy's daughter, Angela, interned  at the P-B and later worked in Washington, D.C., as a reporter for the P-B's parent company, Small Newspaper Group.

Mindy was born in Rochester and went through the Rochester school system before heading off to college at Gustavus Adolphus, where she earned a bachelor's degree in education, and the University of Minnesota, where she earned a master's degree.

Her parents were the late Robert and Jeannette Rittenhouse, who lived in Rochester nearly their entire adult lives. Robert died in 1995. Jeannette died in 2010, at the age of 91.


Seniors who refuse to use computers and the Internet are missing a lot

I got a phone call this morning from a woman who asked me to send her, via snail mail, every one of the 70-some recipes I received from readers this summer as a result of my Ultimate Minnesota Hotdish Contest.

I told her that I'd already put a number of recipes up on online over the past few months, but that I didn't intend to post all of the recipes I received. She didn't like what I was telling her.

"I'm elderly," she said. "I don't have a computer. I don't feel it's fair to put things up on the computer that the rest of us don't have access to."

She has a point. There are number of things that are available online that people who don't use the Internet will never have access to. Music. Movies. Great writing. Wonderful photographs. The list goes on and on.

I know I'm preaching to the choir because you wouldn't be reading this if you didn't have access to a computer. But you're never too old to start using a computer and experiencing the wonderful world of the Internet and email.

My Dad is 76, and email has been the primary way I've communicated with him when we're not together for at least the last decade. My in-laws, also in their mid-'70s, spend a lot of time on the Internet. Not long ago, I interviewed a woman in her 90s who checks and and sends email to family members almost every day.

It's not that hard, people.

Whenever I beat this drum I'm told that some seniors are on fixed and very tight incomes, so they can't afford computers and Internet access. They scoff when I tell them that you can buy a used or 'net-only computer for next to nothing if all you want to do is cruise the Internet and receive and send email. Same with Internet service. And if you really and truly can't afford it there's free Internet service and computer use available at the public library.

But most of the people I talk to who refuse to use computers or the Internet CAN afford it. They just choose not to. Many of these folks are very proud of and almost religious about their Luddite status.

I just don't get it. There is so much information available out there that these folks are choosing to shut themselves off from. Not to mention the easy and available contact they could be having with their  children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews — anyone under the age of 50.

End of sermon. Time to duck.


Time for fans to lay off hockey refs who enforce checking rules

I was at the Rochester Century-Albert Lea boys hockey game last night when a referee called a penalty on a player for checking from behind. It was a two-and-10 penalty, meaning the offending player had to sit out for 10 minutes of playing time. His team was shorthanded for two minutes.

It was absolutely the right call. A player was digging for the puck against the boards with his back to an approaching player from the other team. The approaching player checked the opposing player right between the numbers on his jersey. It wasn't a malicious hit. It didn't even result in the other player falling down. In fact, it's a play that might not have resulted in a penalty three weeks ago, before Benilde St. Margaret's player Jack Jablonski was paralyzed by a hit from behind.

But it was the correct call. The penalized player didn't say a word. Neither did his coaches. But a fan standing near me hollered at the official. (It was a sparsely attended game and the guy was loud, so I'm positive the ref and everyone on one side of the Rec Center could hear him.)

"That's bull...," he yelled. "That's not a penalty!" "How can you call a penalty on that! That's the same bull... you called in the JV game! You guys are awful!"

I couldn't help myself. "How is that not a penalty?" I said. "He was clearly hit from behind. The refs have to call that."

"It wasn't checking from behind! You're allowed to do that when he has the puck," he said.

"Not when you can clearly see those two numbers on the guys back," I said.

We ignored each other after that.

As a diehard fan of the game and former hockey parent, I agree wholeheartedly with virtually every suggestion that's been made to deal with the problem of checking from behind. Pledges. Coaches teaching the rules. Refs enforcing the rules. Kids following the rules. But parents and other fans have a role in this, too. Nothing irritates me more than when a fan berates an official for enforcing a rule, especially a rule that's in place to help ensure the safety of the players. It has to stop.

I wonder how that parent would have reacted if it had been HIS kid who was hit from behind?




Feathered invaders in my neighborhood

According to a story in today's P-B, City officials seem pleased with the noise-laser-dive-bombing-raptor program they're paying for to keep crows away from downtown.

Anecdotally, at least, there seem to be a lot fewer crows downtown these days. But at what cost to Rochester neighborhoods? This is just anecdotal, too, but I never used to see more than a few crows at any one time in my neighborhood — Homestead Addition in southeast Rochester — a little over a mile east of downtown. 

Now, most mornings there are close to 100 of them hanging around in the trees and moving from yard to yard in my neighborhood. They seem to be particularly fond of garbage pickup mornings when either the inexact electronic arms that dump garbage into compactors or overflowing trash receptacles lead to food scraps on the street. These are gourmet days for our feathered friends. Good times.

In addition, the P-B lot next our building has been bombarded with crow droppings in recent days, a rare occurrence before the abatement effort.

I'm all for the bird dispersal program. It was worth a try. But if we're just shooing them away from the Mayo Clinic and other downtown buildings and into smaller groups in neighborhoods have we solved a problem? Just asking.