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6 posts from February 2012


Reader: It's time for everyone in the word to stop using gasoline for a few days

Images-1A Rochester native, who now lives in St. Paul, sent me the following email suggesting an international gas holiday as a way of helping to bring down high gasoline prices and showing members of OPEC and other oil-producing countries that we mean business.

I think it's a great idea, but I'm way to busy to organize it. Pluse, I don't have any connections in Portugal or Eritrea. Anyone else interested in taking this on?

Dear  Editor,

I think it is time for every country in the world to declare a gasoline
Every person that can get by without a car or truck do just that.
Let those greedy people who control the oil supply of the world dump  their
excess wherever they can find a place to dump it; in the ocean, in the
desert, wherever.

I really feel their prices will come down after a few days of the  Gasoline

Yours truly,
N C Horton Sr.


Rochester resident compares shoveling ordinance to ancient British tyranny

Here's a note from an anonymous reader following our latest — light — snowfall...

Rochester Minnesota 2012 department of public works. Citations
for Removal of snow from sidewalks. Rochester England 1200s King John
miss-used taxation of the Poor for self gain.
Rochester Minnesota 2012, 15th February 10.20am. Little snow. Less than
24hrs $120 for forced removal of snow after tenant cleaned majority at 8pm
night before. $50 to even challenge. Rochester England 1200s King John
Over taxed, unpopular King - lost most of kingdom - Hated by People!
The citation rule is fair when justifiable, but less than an inch,
majority already cleared, temperatures above 32oF???? Shame.
Where is our Robin Hood Rochester Minnesota. This POWER is a blight on
public rights.
Shame on you King John.... History remembers you.Shame on you
Rochester.... This is dishonesty of the worst kind.
Ashamed Rochesterian


A recipe for "funeral hotdish"

I was just cleaning out some old emails from my "Ultimate Minnesota Hotdish" recipe contest last summer and ran across a recipe from a reader for "funeral hotdish," as in something warm and comforting you might eat at a winter Minnesota funeral... I'm getting hungry.

Funeral Hotdish  

1-2 lbs. browned hamburger with some onion to taste.

1 can of cream of tomato soup

1 can of chicken with rice soup

1 can of vegtable beef soup

1 can of cream of mushroom soup

1 large can of chow mein noodles

 Mix all together in a casserole dish and bake covered at 350 degrees for about 1 hour and uncovered 15 minutes until slightly brown.  Makes a large batch and can be frozen before baking. 

 Sarabeth Watson



No, I didn't say all elderly people should be put in nursing homes

I knew this was coming. I got a call this afternoon from an 81-year-old man who read me the riot act for suggesting in my Tuesday column that elderly people be put in nursing homes if they can't shovel their own sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall.

"I've been reading your column for a long time," he said, "and I almost always agree with you. But this time you got it wrong. You said people who don't get the walks shoveled on time should go into nursing homes." 

To recap: In my column today I supported the new, tougher city regulations that increase the fines for people who neglect to shovel their walks more than 24 hours after a snowfall, to around $100 for the average home. I answered the claim that the new regulations will be an undue burden on the disabled and elderly who can't shovel their walks — at least not in a timely fashion — with this. If you can't physically maintain your property — lawn, sidewalk, etc., — and you can't afford to hire someone to shovel your walk, or get a neighbor or relative to do it, then perhaps it's time to consider other living arrangements. Such as an apartment, or condominium or — if you're in poor health — an assisted living facility.

I  knew some people would jump to the conclusion that I hate old people. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I simply suggested that home ownership in a city comes with certain responsibilities and you can't expec the city to make exceptions to those responsibilities because of physical infirmity, regardless of age.

One thing I should have added, however. A second option for people who aren't able to shovel their walks, in addition to hiring someone to do it for them, is to rely on the kindness of neighbors. My neighbors, on either side of me, are both in their 70s and 80s. They've made it clear to me that they're perfectly able to shovel their own walks. But the day they aren't able is the day I'm out there shoveling their walks for them. I need the exercise anyway. Please, folks, pay attention to your neighbors, even if you don't know them very well. If they need help with something like shoveling a walk or driveway, give them a hand.

A final point. Seniors are precisely the group of people I'm most concerned about when I condemn people who leave their walks unshoveled for weeks or months at a time. No one, especially seniors,  should have to risk a broken hip or ankle while trying to walk four blocks to the local convenience store.



It's time for a law outlawing cell phone use while driving

DownloadedFile-1A few evenings ago, while I was driving west on East Center Street a car pulled out in front of me from a side street near the Boys and Girls Club. There were no cars behind me, so there was no need for the driver to risk an accident by trying to beat a long line of cars.

I slowed suddenly to avoid hitting the car, and resisted the urge to slam on the horn. "Probably some kid, who's just going to do something even more stupid, like hit the brakes, if I push the horn," I thought. But a few blocks later, at the intersection of Civic Center Drive and Center, I was forced to hit the horn. The woman driver sat at the light for a full five seconds after it turned green. Might have been 10 or 30 seconds had I not tapped the horn.

Of course, when the driver — who by now I could tell was yapping away on a cell phone — heard the horn she accelerated quickly and then jerked to a stop at the stop sign a block away. It was the most dangerous display of driving I'd seen in, well, in about five days, since the last time I encountered someone driving and carrying on a conversation on a cell phone at the same time.

It's time folks. The Legislature needs to outlaw cell phone use while driving. I will admit that some people — I'm not one of them, and neither is the woman I encountered the other day — can multi-task just fine. They can carry on a cell phone conversation, adjust the station on the radio and smoke a cigarette while driving, all at the same time, without endangering the lives of everyone around them.

But they're in the minority. Our streets would be infinitely more safe if we outlawed cell phone use while driving.

I keep hearing three primary arguments against this:

1. Police won't or don't have time to enforce such a menial law, so it won't do any good.

2. It's a violation of our civil liberties to force us to do something against our will in the privacy of our own vehicles.

3. You can't legislate against stupidity. If people are going to do something dangerous in their cars, they're going to do it, no matter what laws are passed. What next, are you going to pass a law against fiddling with the car radio or stereo, or drinking coffee while driving?

First, making something against the law DOES change behavior, regardless of enforcement. Our now 92 percent compliance with a mandatory seat belt law some said would never be obeyed is evidence of that. The vast majority of Minnesotans are law abiding citizens, even if they disagree with some of the laws they're forced to abide by.

On point Number Two: When I was in high school and working in the dark room of our hometown paper, I helped process film (remember film?) from the scene of an accident in which two people were killed when the car they were in was broadsided. One of the victims was a high school classmate of mine. The other victim was her 3-year-old nephew. The child would have lived had he been in a car seat (they weren't required by law back then) when the accident happened. Looking at those photos affected me profoundly. Just when does a proposed law stop being viewed as a prospective nuisance and start being viewed as something that will save lives. 

And finally, it's true that you can't legislate against stupidity, but by passing a law against something, you as legislators send a strong message to the public that you mean business. Just as some people can't chew gum and walk at the same time, some people can't talk on a cell phone and make a safe turn at the same time. I'm OK with clumsy gum chewers. I'm not OK with clumsy, distracted drivers who could kill or injure the innocent people around them.


Your best chance for a look at an albino deer in Minnesota

If you want to get a look at an albino deer in the wild in Minnesota you might want to travel to Father Hennepin State Park on the south shore of Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota.

As reader Corey Belkstrom of Rochester pointed out in an email to me, there is a small herd of albino deer in the park and they're protected from hunters. (Albino deer can reproduce, but they usually don't live long in areas where they're not protected because they're so highly visible during the hunting season.)

Corey passed along several photos that he took last summer, including the one below.

Mille Lacs 032