The soldiers’ quilter (5×8 – 8/2/12)

Sewing for soldiers, a new direction in treating mental illness, tax-free gold for Olympians, the bad grammar debate, and the happiness experiment.


marisela.jpgWhen I met Marisela Solesbee, left, in Wisconsin late last week, she was taking a break from what comes naturally these days: making quilts. Solesbee, of Corona, California, makes quilts for wounded soldiers being treated in Germany and those returning to the U.S. after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Solesbee started making the quilts after her cousin died in the war in 2010. Her three sons are also in the military, two are deployed, and one is about to leave for the war.

“I just talked to him this morning,” she told me. “We said our goodbyes.”

Ms. Solesbee did not question her sons’ decisions to join the military. “I’m not from this country,” she said. “But I’m a citizen now and I love this country. I’m proud of them.”

Each quilt is different, she says, although the American flag in the center is standard. She writes a short note on a card when she sends a quilt off to a soldier.

She’s made 85 quilts so far, and there are 85 soldiers somewhere who might be wanting to meet her. They won’t. She doesn’t sign her name or address to the cards, because it’s not about her, she says.

Someday she’ll make three quilts for her returning children, but she’s not thinking about stopping quilt-making anytime soon. “I think we’re always going to be at war somewhere,” she said.

Update 8/29/12 – Here’s the audio of our interview, courtesy of EAA Radio.


In the Freudian days, mental illness was thought to be centered in the life of the family. Then it was thought it was exclusively to be within the brain itself. That led to attempts to treat the illness with pharmaceuticals. Now, anthropologist Tanya Marie Lurhmann writes in the Wilson Quarterly, the social factors have to be considered as a cause.

The article is behind a paywall, but the Boston Globe’s “Braniac” blog dissects it:

Research from around the world, Lurhmann writes, has shown that social life plays a much larger role than you might think. Immigrants, for example, suffer at higher rates than normal – especially when their social environments are stressful (“One of the more disconcerting findings if that if you have dark skin, your risk of falling victim to schizophrenia increases as your neighborhood whitens”). And changes in one’s social situation can help lessen the impact of the disease. If sufferers are relocated to cleaner, more organized homes, for instance, their symptoms become easier to manage. In India, doctors take a totally different approach to schizophrenia, and end up with better results – patients “had fewer symptoms, took less medication, and were more likely to be employed and married” than their Western counterparts.

If true, the assertion could change the way mental illness is treated, requiring the sufferer to change his/her “social world.” How that might be accomplished isn’t clear, however.

More science: Caffeine has promise in treating movement symptoms in people with Parkinson’s disease, a new Canadian study suggests.


The U.S. athletes who win gold medals at the Olympics, get $25,000 from the U.S. Olympic Committee. They’ll pay a nearly $9,000 income tax bill on their earnings. Should they?

“Athletes representing our nation overseas in the Olympics shouldn’t have to worry about an extra tax bill waiting for them back at home,” Sen. Marco Rubio said in unveiling legislation making the bonuses tax free.

Related Olympics: How NBC is editing the Olympics to create drama where none existed.


Is bad grammar making the language more “vibrant and relevant?”

An English professor in North Carolina says students today are better writers than their counterparts 30 years ago, which should shock their counterparts of 30 years ago who’ve read the current works.

On NPR’s Monkey See popular culture blog today, Linton Weeks explores the notion that the kids are destroying the language…

In the pre-digital era, he says, “most texts we read came from published works — books, newspapers, journals, et cetera. This means they represented the variety of English associated with such media — generally formal, edited prose using the grammatical and orthographic conventions of ‘standard English.’ ”

Such texts are still part of our world today, Gordon says, “but we also encounter very different kinds of writing online and sometimes elsewhere.” He cites the use of “U” to represent “you,” confused homophones such as “you’re” and “your” or “it’s” and “its,” and the use of newish terms like “LOL” for “laughing out loud” and “totes” for “totally.”

But it would be wrong to take such contemporary usages as indicative of the deterioration of the language or even a relaxing of the rules of grammar, Gordon says. “They are trivial matters in terms of the overall structure of English.”

But another professor gets it… well… right:

“Good grammar is credibility, especially on the Internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.”


Bonus I: North Minneapolis’ attempt to set a record for longest Soul Train line at last weekend’s Flow Northside Art Crawl.

Bonus II: What constitutes the good life? Why do we work more hours to accumulate more wealth? How much money is enough?

Bonus III: New math and the summer vacation…


(h/t: The Big Picture)

Bonus IV: A public address announcer at a minor league ballpark (he also plays the music) was ejected from a game for playing Three Blind Mice…


Republicans in the Legislature have gone to court to object to the titles Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has assigned to two ballot questions that concern proposed constitutional amendments. One deals with voting procedures, and the other with the definition of marriage. Today’s Question: What titles would you give the ballot questions for the proposed constitutional amendments?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Car accidents and teen drivers.

Second hour: Incoming college freshmen take financial control.

Third hour: Crime labs and tainted evidence.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A debate from the Intelligence Squared series. The motion they debated is: “No Fracking Way: The Natural Gas Boom is Doing More Harm than Good.”

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Art, exploitation and violence. A filmmaker reconsiders the violence in his films in the wake of the Aurora massacre.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Interest rates are at record lows. That’s good news for some borrowers, but not all. NPR takes a look at who is getting to take advantage of low interest rates and who is not.