Five by 8 – 6/18/10: Scenes from a disaster

Where do you start the clean-up, the life of an airline pilot revealed, death by Twitter, should class rank be eliminated, and why do men lie?

1) We’re still getting two themed sets of images from readers from yesterday’s tornadoes. One category is damage on the ground, the other are images of the warning from the skies. Some of the cities hit by yesterday’s tornadoes didn’t have warning sirens. But when you look at this image from Moorhead — sent by Kent Kolstad — it was pretty obvious what was coming.


Storm chaser Brandon Ivey in Wadena took this video of four vortices on the ground at once:

And then, somehow, the people of Wadena had to comprehend the loss of their town, and figure out where to start picking things up:

The storm hit as people were lining up for an all-class reunion, the Brainerd Dispatch reports.

The tornado in Albert Lea looked even bigger:

In Pine City, a man looked at his injured wife, and his destroyed home, and uttered the only words that one can. “Oh, God!”

Here’s the radar loop from the National Weather Service for the entire afternoon. It’s a good time to resume the debate over whether there’s a “heat dome” protecting the Twin Cities.

But the danger hasn’t passed, The Centers for Disease Control says 50 percent of tornado injuries happen during the cleanup.

By the way, on this date in 1939, a tornado hit Anoka County, killing 9 people.

You can find more videos here. And there’s a beautiful collection of sky scenes from the Twin Cities here.

2) You think it’s easy being an airline passenger these days? It’s no piece of cake being the pilot, either. The mysterious “Sam,” who flies out of Minneapolis, documents a day in the life of a pilot — Wednesday, in this case — on his blog, Blogging at FL250, including a hilarious moment in Charlotte when nobody seemed to know where the plane was supposed to go:

“I don’t know anything about that!” the gate agent exclaimed. “Nothing’s going to Atlanta. This airplane is going to Minneapolis, but the crew already timed out. Can’t you fly it?” Immediately, a half-dozen passengers surrounded me, imploring me to fly them to Minneapolis. “Hold on a sec, folks, I’m going to call our dispatch office and see if that’s what they want us to do.” I very much doubted that dispatch wanted us to fly to Minneapolis, or our phones would’ve been ringing off the proverbial hook already; I mostly wanted to know what in tarnation was going on. I walked down the concourse – out of earshot of the passengers – and called dispatch. No answer. I tried a few other desks. Same results. A glance at a national radar display on one of the flight information boards suggested why: a bright red blob was sitting squarely over Atlanta. It’s always toughest to get ahold of SOC during Irregular Operations. I just might have to get answers for myself. I walked up to another WidgetCo gate, this one advertising a seriously overdue departure to Atlanta. “Where is 5750 to Atlanta going out of?” I asked. The gate agent pulled up the flight; “It’s going out of A7, and the plane is actually already here. It landed almost a half-hour ago!” I chuckled at that. “Well, that’s our plane, and you might want to get the agent down at A7 on the same page, because he thinks he’s keeping that plane for Minneapolis!”

3) Utah executed a murderer by firing squad last night. His execution was announced via Twitter.

4) Do you remember your high school class rank (I think I was #95 out of 400, thanks for asking)? MPR’s Tom Weber reports that Mounds View will vote next Tuesday on scrapping the class-rank system. A principal says doing so would alleviate student stress and prevent colleges from using class rank against the students. The school doesn’t name a valedictorian now: it indicates the top 10 students, instead. But how does that make #11 feel?

5) Slate Magazine came dangerously close today to acknowledging that fathers contribute significantly to raising their children, but then pulled back at the last minute when the writer — a woman, not that it matters, I suppose — squared the results of a Boston College survey this way:

The answer, it turns out, is that the men in the Boston College study were probably lying about how they spend their time. But that’s no reason to be disappointed. The Boston study relied upon in-depth interviews with men after the fact. Time-use studies involve questions about the previous day’s behavior. With in-depth interviews, researchers expect subjects to have imperfect recall or exaggerate behaviors they perceive as being socially desirable–weight loss and breastfeeding are classic examples. But the direction in which they lie is socially significant. Thirty years ago, dads claimed to spend less time with their children than they actually did, since child-rearing was considered women’s work. Now they are lying in the opposite direction, which suggests that they perceive doing half of the parenting to be a manly affair.

She turned the story into a “why do men lie” story, instead.


On the Daily Show last week, Gov. Tim Pawlenty suggested that “iCollege” courses might replace conventional classrooms in 20 years. Can online classes take the place of traditional colleges?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Conventional wisdom tells us that talent and high intelligence are rare gems that are genetically scattered throughout the population. But author David Shenk argues that the new science of human potential suggests otherwise. (Rebroadcast of 4/12 show)

Second hour: Author Monica Ali is considered one of the best young novelists in Britain. Her latest novel, “In the Kitchen,” is about the efforts of a chef to succeed in a once grand restaurant, despite huge pressures at home and a murder. Kerri Miller talked with Monica Ali on the stage of the Fitzgerald Theater May 19.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks discusses budgets, tuition and the future of higher education.

Second hour: National Press Club luncheon, featuring Rajiv Shah, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development. He’ll talk about Haiti disaster relief and other global concerns.

Science Friday (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: A look at the history and future of airships. Plus, plastic man-made antibodies that work in mice, and how to geek out your Father’s Day.

Second hour: An Alaskan reporter who covered the Exxon Valdez spill talks about how little has changed, and what the future might hold for the residents of the Gulf.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – We will, obviously, have multiple reports on the damage from the tornadoes.

MPR’s Dan Gunderson has another installment in his series on how Minnesota-made pollution is threatening one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world.

  • vjacobsen


    It’s so wonderful to see another school decide that instead of inspiring greatness, we should just teach our kids to aspire to mediocrity.

  • Bob Collins

    I guess the question would be, “why does there need to be competition to get kids to aspire at all?” Why can’t education be like, say, golf? You compete against yourself? Why can’t you strive to get an “A” on the next quiz because you got a “B” last time?

    And isn’t this, really, what life is all about? You start out thinking you’re competing against the rest of the world and eventually you figure out that what drives you is “you.” You answer to the voice in your head. You don’t need a list of where you rank, you know where you rank, because you actually measure yourself by your own standards, not someone else’s.

    In the absence of competition, we always seem to assume that people will regress to mediocrity. I wonder if there’s any sort of research that proves that?

  • Kassie

    Lots of colleges use class rank for determination of scholarships. If the school stops ranking then it will be basically taking scholarships away from students. I got an automatic scholarship from Morris because I was top 10% and had a certain ACT score, I would have got more if I was in top 5%.

  • Kim E

    5. Why did this author automatically assume that fathers are lying about being interested in spending time with their kids and enjoying being a parent? Even if she thought it was a suspicious or unrealistic increase, shouldn’t we be happy that at least it increased at all? She took an unnecessary negative view of this study that I believe was supposed to show an optimistic trend.

    Wow. Happy Father’s Day, everyone.

  • Paul

    The problem with class rank, and grading in general, is grade inflation.

    I do remember my class rank, and was disappointed in myself at the time. Now…meh.

    re: In the absence of competition, we always seem to assume that people will regress to mediocrity. I wonder if there’s any sort of research that proves that?

    People sometimes need an external force to drive them to succeed, but competition is not the only external force that works. But for some people, some achievers, it definitely does work well. For others, though, its a destructive force. Consider the occasional suicide we hear about of students who don’t meet often impossible expectations.

  • vjacobsen

    It’s the “We don’t want to make students feel bad by saying some kids do better” part of the argument that I find most ridiculous. And yes, Bob, I agree what you said about learning to have that determination to do better coming from within. However, the drive to get perfect grades will still be there for some students, and they will still stress out about grades. So then to reduce stress, will we have schools eliminating grades? Will they keep grades secret as some colleges do? How about we go the Hampshire College route and let the students decide what grades they deserve?

    Bottom line? I bet if you did look at countries with better students, they have very competitive education systems. Because THAT’S LIFE. Someone will always be better than you at something, and will always know more than you know. If kids learn that before they leave high school, they will be better off for it.

  • Krista

    I’m a teacher, and the school in which I work did away with class rank a few years ago. Kids are still graduating, still getting into good colleges, still getting scholarships, still becoming productive adults. I don’t think taking away class rank has made them any less driven. They still have to “compete” against everybody else on the ACT, SAT, and PSAT. I’ve been a teacher for 12 years, and I don’t think the kids I work with are settling for mediocrity based on what they have chosen to do with their lives.

  • kennedy

    Regarding class ranking: One of the reasons given for doing away with the system was to eliminate stress on the students.

    Most students couldn’t care less about their rank as long as their parents are happy and they graduate. As for students chasing the number one spot, I suspect it’s as much about a competitive parent as it is about the student wanting the top spot. I also suspect that adopting a top 10 system will cut down on bureaucratic demands from those parents jockeying for position, which may be an unspoken goal.