Are we too polite? (5×8 – 12/20/10)

A Brit assesses us, let’s waste some time, what don’t Minneapolitans get about snow parking, a leg for Mustafa, and depression and mental health on the college campus.


Your Monday Morning Rouser:

1) WE’RE NOT POLITE ENOUGH. OR WE’RE TOO POLITE. ONE OR THE OTHER

The BBC’s America correspondent, Kevin Connolly, is leaving us after three years of observing us. During his stay, he visited 46 out of 50 states. He has a lot to say about us in this article, and he appears mostly to be right. From the little…


But the rejoinder “you’re welcome”, which once greeted almost any expression of thanks in America, is in retreat.

In its place is a sort of wordless acknowledgement, halfway between a grunt and a hum, “mm-hmmm”. It is a sound that acknowledges your thanks but implies that no great joy has been found in helping you either.

…to the even littler:


Americans… could speed up their journeys to work by not insisting on holding every elevator for everyone who wants to catch it as though it was one of the last helicopters leaving the roof of the Saigon embassy in 1975. There will be another lift along in a minute.

Overall, it seems, he liked us. We’re polite. Too much so, perhaps. So why are we said to be at our most polarized state since the Civil War?

Writing assignment: If you were to write one sentence to describe “us,” what would it say?

2) LET US WASTE

It’s the longest week of the year. There’s very little news being made; that’s why you’ll notice a lot of “best of 2010″ stories this week (not to mention a ridiculous obsession with the Vikings). Work? It should be a short work week. It’s not. Christmas falls on the weekend this year. So this week we’re searching for timewasters, things that can can suck up the bandwidth at work, and make it appear we’re working.

Here’s one:

Alright, here we go, then. Here’s the Google NGram viewer. Let’s play with comparisons. Minneapolis and St. Paul, for example (click for larger image).

ngram_mpls.jpg

St. Paul? Nothing. Oh, it gets worse, my St. Paul friends. It gets worse. Let’s swap St. Paul for Fargo.

ngram_fargo.jpg

Update 7:58 a.m. Reader Ken Paulman advises a different search protocol returns more interesting results:

ngram_stpaul_3.jpg

If only there were a disciple named Minneapolis.

Play with it and let me know what you learn. You’ll thank me this afternoon when you look up and the clock says 4:55. If that doesn’t work for you, try this: an online jenga game.

But, it should be noted that not everyone has the luxury of wasting time at this time of the year. The UPS people, for example.

Who’s going above and beyond in your world at this time of the year?

3) FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF “UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT”

no_parking_picture.jpg

(h/t: Andy Gifford)

4) A LEG FOR MUSTAFA

It’s not asking too much for a little good news, is it? The Uptake, fortunately, has the story of Mustafa Al-Tameemi, who lost his right leg in Iraq in 2009 and needs a new one every year.


He’s here to receive proper medical care for his left arm, leg and foot, and to be fitted with a prosthetic right leg. Sami Rasouli, an Iraqi-American, once owner of Sinbad’s Restaurant on Nicollet Avenue, is now residing in Najaf, Iraq, his original home. Sami returned to Iraq in 2003, after the Iraq war started. He organized Muslim Peacemaker Teams in Iraq to further the cause of peace. He established a sister city relationship with Minneapolis and Najaf, and he returns to Minneapolis every year to plead the cause of peace and for support of the Iraqi citizenry. Sami set up the arrangements to bring Mustafa to Minneapolis.

5) THINGS THAT MIGHT CONCERN US IF WE WEREN’T CONSUMED BY A FOOTBALL GAME , A STADIUM, AND THE WEATHER

Treatment of mental health problems among young people is allowing more of them to go to college, the New York Times reports. But it’s also creating more challenges for colleges and universities.


A recent survey by the American College Counseling Association found that a majority of students seek help for normal post-adolescent trouble like romantic heartbreak and identity crises. But 44 percent in counseling have severe psychological disorders, up from 16 percent in 2000, and 24 percent are on psychiatric medication, up from 17 percent a decade ago.

The most common disorders today: depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, alcohol abuse, attention disorders, self-injury and eating disorders.

Today’s article focuses on Stony Brook University, that’s the current home of Erc Kaler, the incoming president of the University of Minnesota.

NOW THE WEATHER…

Tonight will be the first time a total lunar eclipse coincides with the winter solstice in 372 years. And on top of that, the Ursid meteor shower, normally unremarkable, could put on a bit of a show while the eclipse darkens the night sky, LiveScience.com reports. It will be available just before the moon sets wherever you are. If you’re in Minnesota, unfortunately, it probably won’t matter.

If it should be visible, I’m soliciting your photos. Email to me at bcollins@mpr.org.

Bonus: A new bar is opening in the Northland. It’s entirely made of ice.

VIRAL VIDEO OF THE DAY

TODAY’S QUESTION

Many people will take vacation time during the next two weeks, but their cell phones and e-mail may keep them connected to their jobs. When you go on vacation, can you really be on vacation?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Lake Pepin is one of Minnesota’s natural wonders, but is chokijng on sediment that could threaten its very existence. Midmorning looks at the causes and potential solutions.

Second hour: Most journalism schools today are changing their curriculum to respond to the needs of new media. How we can prepare journalists for the new interactive style of newsmaking, especially online?

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Congressional expert Steven Smith talks about the lame-duck Congress as they conclude for the year.

Second hour: Noah Feldman, speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, about his new book, “Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Does behavior profiling at the airport work?

Second hour: Biracial and multiracial kids.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Did shoppers come back in force this past weekend after last week’s blizzard kept them home? MPR’s Marty Moylan will have the answer.

Starting in January, large industries that put out a lot of greenhouse gases will need to get permits from the federal government. The permits require that the industries use the “best available control technology” to reduce their emissions. MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill reports that the problem is there is no control technology for carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas.