Five at 8 – 8/28/09: Seeing red

1) Without question, the darkest days in our nation’s history were the early ’80s. Everyone wore yellow ties. They were the “power ties” of the day. Yellow! I lapsed to that trauma reading today’s article in the New Scientist, “Winners Wear Red; How Colour Twists Your Mind.” It’s all about red, my friends:

In one experiment, volunteers were asked to carry out a 5-minute IQ test. They were assigned a bogus “participant number”, written in either red or black, on the corner of the test paper. Volunteers whose numbers were written in red scored consistently lower on the tests. Elliot also gave the students different coloured folders and asked them to choose their preferred level of difficulty for an IQ test. Students given red folders tended to choose easier tests

But the research also shows that just viewing something red can make you more timid.

More science: Farmers are destroying the ozone layer.

Who says science isn’t cool? The chemical structure of a single molecule has been photographed for the first time.

2) Good grief, has there ever been a bigger understatement in the news than this one? “She was in good health, but living in a back yard for 18 years does take its toll.” That’s El Dorado County Undersheriff Fred Kollar describing the recovery in Sacramento yesterday of Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was abducted on her way to school 18 years ago, and kept in the backyard of a sex offender’s home. There are so many angles here, it’s hard to know where to begin. How does a guy sentenced to 50 years for rape get parole so quickly? How does the world make it right for the girl’s stepfather, who was convicted of the abduction in the court of public opinion? How does someone who steals a girl, and keeps her isolated for 18 years end up handing out religious material? But the BBC program, World Have Your Say, has the best question: Should we be nosier neighbors?

Have we become a ‘look-away’ society? In an effort to respect each other’s privacy, have we gone too far in keeping to ourselves? Should we all be nosier neighbours?

Think carefully about this because there’s an extreme to getting involved in what your neighbors are up to.

3) Why can’t Iowa get some love? People in Cedar Rapids, hard hit by a flood a year ago, are feeling neglected. “The recovery here is only limping along as waterlogged buildings are still being gutted, thousands of displaced families remain in temporary housing, and large-scale demolition to make way for a new downtown has just begun,” the New York Times reports. The city manager says “we’re the forgotten disaster.”

Lisa Kuzela, who lost her home in the flood, writes on a blog that residents who’ve lost their homes have gotten property tax bills recently.

I was born, apparently, with the curse of good memory. So I couldn’t help but think about the comments that were posted in this News Cut post I made during the Iowa floods, based on this comment by a Star Tribune letter writer:

The difference is our fellow Midwesterners are picking themselves off the ground, brushing themselves off, and getting to work. Their first instinct is not to blame government; their first instinct is to help each other out and try to put their lives back together.

4) It’s the end of Reading Rainbow! LeVar Burton has been getting kids excited about reading for 26 years. The third-longest kids’ show in PBS history is getting snuffed out today. The show assumed kids already knew the basics of reading. That might’ve worked 26 years ago, but not anymore. Efforts are being redirected toward teaching kids how to read.

5) Is it obscenity or is it art? A woman posing nude was arrested this week at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. “There are nude sculptures and paintings all over the museum. It’s the height of stupidity accusing a live model of showing the same thing in a house of art,” her lawyer said.

In other arts news, The Naked Woman, a Picasso painting found in Iraq, may be a fake.

Bonus:: The son of a quilter is collecting quilting/crafting supplies to be sent to northern Iraq. This week, he’s getting inundated with “Bundles of Love”. (h/t: Heather Heimbuch)



“For a Minnesota expat in Jerusalem, here’s what August looks like,” Allison Schmitt writes. “During Ramadan, the annual Muslim month of fasting and celebration, the plazas around the Old City acquire a carnival-like atmosphere. Vendors sell treats, housewares and trinkets. Sidewalks are packed with celebrants. Lights that rival any Christmas display are strung from lamp posts, door frames and, in the case of Damascus Gate, ancient stone walls. It’s a welcome diversion from daily life under occupation. ”

Send your photo that screams “August!”.


Health officials are urging people to take precautions because of a likely outbreak of H1N1 flu this fall. The precautions include such common-sense strategies as handwashing and covering your mouth when you cough. How seriously do you take the threat of H1N1 flu?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Did Cash for Clunkers work? The government’s $3 billion Cash for Clunkers program was wildly popular, but plagued with problems. Two auto industry analysts assess the program that one car dealer called “the best program we all hate.”

Related: Toyota is closing a union auto plant in California.

Second hour: The history of national parks.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Michael Osterholm will be in the studio to answer questions about the flu. He is director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Disease Research and Policy.

Second hour: Remembrance of Sen. Edward Kennedy in reports and speeches.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – It’s Science Friday! First hour: The perils of multitasking, curing genetic disease by swapping DNA in eggs, the latest on the ozone layer, and the video pick of the week.

Second hour: One anthropologist’s idea that boiling, roasting and grilling our food may have given humans an evolutionary edge.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – A St. Paul inventor says electric vehicles don’t have to be expensive and are practical for our climate. He’s showing off his converted pick up truck at the State Fair. MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill has had a look.

A Blue Cross Blue Shield agent in Willmar encouraged an elderly woman to call her senators’ offices to oppose a public option in health care. Is that ethical? Health insurers say they merely encourage people to get involved in the debate, and don’t advocate a specific position. MPR’s Ambar Espinoza will sort it out.

From NPR, Robert Smith is exploring Our Lady of Perpetual Hope, where Ted Kennedy’s funeral will be held. John McDonough looks at a debate that played out on the radio about health care options… 50 years ago. And Greg Allen reports that many Hispanic migrant workers in New Orleans are alleging wage theft.

  • bsimon

    “Should we all be nosier neighbours?”

    No. But our parole officers & sherrif’s deputies should perhaps be a touch more nosy.

  • Kim V

    Where to begin indeed. Garrido used his religion to justify the kidnapping and imprisonment of 3 women, like so many other child kidnappers/molesters. This is only going to make people suspect of organized religion again as they take the beliefs of one to represent the beliefs of many. In another story I read, Garrido said in the interview that people are going to feel sorry for him once they hear his side of the story, which I say is pretty doubtful. He obviously has some sort of mental illness, but that’s no excuse for what he did. It makes me sad that no one caught on to this earlier.

    On another note, I didn’t realize “Reading Rainbow” was even still on TV! I remember watching that show in elementary school as a special treat during class. Even though the show’s creators now want to focus on teaching kids how to read, I think the show as it was did a good job at teaching the value of reading.

  • Nate

    “Should we all be nosier neighbours?” Yes. I live in a situation where we own essentially the center of our block, meaning I have nine neighbors. When we moved in over a year ago, I thought everyone would come over when mowing the lawn and say hi. I still only know the neighbors on each side of our house even though we are frequently out working in the lawn. People keep their heads down and out of the way. It bothers the heck out of me. Did I move to the suburbs so I wouldn’t have to say hi to everyone? I didn’t think so, but it sure feels like it. I hope to counter some of the closed nature of our block by having a block party, planning a neighborhood spring plant swap and the like. It bothers me that much.

  • bsimon

    On reading rainbow – we had it on a week or two ago, for an episode where the story was read by Eartha Kitt. What a voice.

    Nate – on my block, in the city, we’ve gotten to know our immediate neighbors the most, but started meeting others firstly through walking the dog, secondly through walking the kid. One guy in particular has made a particular effort to get neighbors together – in our case because we all have kids. But my point is, without that guy we wouldn’t know as many neighbors. Maybe you have to be that guy on your block.

  • Grace Kelly

    We used block parties to get to know our neighbors. When a person driving a car two days ago had a heart attack, we all worked well together because we knew each other. This suburbs story is creepier than I would ever imagine.

  • Bob Collins

    Was that the story that was in the Strib this morning, Grace? Nice story, but sounds more like people coming together out of common decency than the result of people knowing each other.

  • Jamie

    We should absolutely be nosier! It makes me furious that some people suspected things, and did nothing. And if the parole officer who visited his home without looking in the back yard doesn’t get in big trouble or fired, then his boss should be fired!

    Several years ago, there was a woman raped and murdered in an apartment near where I lived. On the night it happened, the woman’s neighbors in the building had heard strange noises coming from her apartment in the middle of the night. The neighbors did nothing! It makes me want to scream! People lose their lives because of this mind-you-own-business attitude.

    I am a nosy neighbor. I call the police when I hear or see strange things going on. I’ve never felt like the police think I’m a crackpot or that they don’t take me seriously. I’ve been told more than once that they’d rather come over and find that nothing’s wrong than not be called when they could have done something.