Five at 8 – 8/4/09


1) Dan Gunderson’s story about wind farmers and noise raises an old question here on News Cut. Is wind energy as a viable alternative dead on arrival? “Well, if I was holding a conversation with someone in my living room and someone in the corner was sitting there going bop, bop, bop at 55 decibels, it would drive me nuts and I’d kick him out,” said one neighbor of a wind farm in Valley City, ND.

When the wide open prairie is hostile to wind farms, the more heavily settled areas offer no option. Case #2: The fabulously expensive East Ridge High School in Woodbury — $95 million — wanted a windmill to generate about 40 percent of the school’s power. But the school abuts a high-end neighborhood and the neighbors objected. The plan has been dropped as the city “studies” the city’s zoning regulations.

The thing is: A series of high-tension electrical lines criss-crosses the same area. They’re not particularly pretty. But we’re accustomed to them. Windmills? Not so much. Can windmills wait out the time we need to get used to them? When’s the last time you noticed a cellphone tower?

2) From the “there are some things better told on blogs than radio” file: Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the power of the Pentatonic Scale.

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

This is a little video that’s zipping around the ‘net, but what exactly is the value of the lesson? One site said it’s teaching neural programming. OK, that’s hard. What else?

Says the site, Good Math Bad math:

As long as I’ve studied music, my teachers have always talked about how fundamental the pentatonic scale is. For those who don’t know, the pentatonic scale is a basic scale which has five distinct notes per octave, instead of the 7 of the traditional diatonic scale, or the 12 of the chromatic scale. For example, the pentatonic scale starting at C is the notes C, D, E, G, A, and back to C.

I’ve never really grasped what’s so fundamental about it. It’s got a beautiful sound – but just looking at it, it’s hard to see what makes it more fundamental than any other scale. It’s not an evenly distributed scale – the steps are second, second, minor third, second, minor third. But there’s something about it.

This video shows just how fundamental it is. Without being told to, people will naturally sing the steps of the pentatonic scale. The pentatonic scale is wired into our brains. Watch and be amazed!

And who says comments on blogs are always inane?

“It’s probably because of the frequency ratios. The ratios of the frequencies of the notes C:D, C:E, C:G and C:A are 9/8, 5/4, 3/2 and 5/3 respectively. These are all ratios of small integers, so almost all the intervals between the notes sound good (harmonic).”

Well, duh!

3) The Large Hadron Collider appears to be a scientific dog. It took 15 years and $9 billion to build the 17-mile gizmo that will either produce the particle thought to be responsible for imbuing other elementary particles with mass, or suck the planet inside out. The New York Times reports thousands of bad electrical connections and magnets that don’t work mean it could be years before it works, if ever, thus proving science’s most valuable formula: garbage in = garbage out.

4) What’s worse when you lose a job? Losing the income? Or losing your friends? Consider a recent post by former WCCO anchor Jeanette Trompeter on her blog:

I lost so much more than a paycheck. I lost my life as I knew it. And I wasn’t ready for that. Few of us “on the beach” these days were. It may be a struggle figuring out the finances and our future, but eventually we will. What I am not sure we will figure out is how to recapture that personal interaction we once enjoyed with our co-workers, and lost the day we were shown the door. Coming to terms with the fact those relationships as we knew them are over may be the hardest part of losing a job.

The Washington Post today considers another aspect of unemployment: the ‘what if?’ game — the constant wondering.

The stock market is up, corporate profits are bright, people are getting taxpayer help to overdose on “new car smell.” But in many living rooms across America, things have never looked worse.

5) Indulge the birthers (aka: Playing with your food). What if President Obama really was born in Kenya? What would happen then? A fascinating piece on has the answer: Not much.

Average citizens could not show a personalized injury because Obama’s allegedly illegitimate presidency would impact everyone in roughly the same way. Courts invariably dismiss such claims, like the 1937 case alleging that Justice Hugo Black was ineligible to serve because as a member of Congress he had voted to increase the justices’ salaries. Even membership in much smaller aggrieved groups generally doesn’t work. The Supreme Court rejected a suit brought by parents of African-American children challenging the IRS’s lax enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and another by legislators who claimed their voting rights were diluted by the line-item veto. In both cases, the communal nature of the injury precluded standing. Thus the lawsuit of Army Maj. Stefan Cook, who argued that his pending deployment to Afghanistan by an illegitimate president constituted a particularized injury, was doomed to failure. (The case was mooted when the Pentagon canceled his deployment.)


Tonight, people in thousands of neighborhoods around the country will gather to get to know each other on National Night Out and Night to Unite. The idea is to make communities safer by spreading information about fighting crime and preventing drug abuse. Do you want to know your neighbors? Would you rather keep them at a distance?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – Community and small banks are lobbying with a charm offensive in Washington against what they perceive to be the Obama administration’s financial regulatory burdens. Small banks argue that they’re not part of the “too big to fail” problem. Are they right? Second hour: Patient-centered care.

Yesterday’s Midmorning with Hot Tuna was “must hear radio.” And here’s the video:

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – In connection with National Night Out, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman will be in the studio to answer listener questions about crime and crime prevention. Second hour: A new documentary from the America Abroad series. “Diplomacy Under Fire: Out of the Embassies, Into the Streets.” Here’s the Web site.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: A discussion on the role conservative Democrats play in the health care debate with a Democrat who’s decidedly not one of them: Howard Dean. Second hour: Psychologist Robert Feldman on his new book, The Liar In YOUR Life. Plus, Garrison Keillor on the state fair.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Annie Baxter will report on how should parents talk to their kids about being laid off? Suggestion: “Kids, give me those cellphones.”

Brandt Williams profiles an award-winning Minneapolis police officer whose work is described as the definition of community policing. He patrols by bike to get out of the car and sees talking as the first step to public safety.

News Cut readers may already be familiar with him. He and his partner write the blog, Bike Cops for Kids, which I’ve cited a number of times.

NPR, no doubt, will have the latest on the husband of the U.S. secretary of state visiting North Korea today.