Five at 8 – 11/12/09: The mysteries of Anoka County

Thursday Morning Rouser, from the lobby of the Mayo Clinic:

Background here. (h/t: @SaraDuane)

1) Pull up a chair and spend a few work hours today reading some great mystery writing. It’s from Janis Amatuzio, the Anoka County coroner. There’s the Coon Rapids woman who woke up sure her husband was dead and called police. He was killed in an accident around the time she awoke. There’s the man who watched his own death and ‘thought himself through a wall.’ And the young widow who taught her to be sure to kiss loved ones goodbye every day.

She’s retiring at the end of the year, the Star Tribune reports. She’s hanging up the… whatever coroners hang up when they retire.

Memo to my colleagues. She’d make a great guest on one of the talk shows.

2) High-tech holy water. Get your hands out of the holy water! In Italy churches are responding to the threat — fear — of the flu People will no longer dip their hands in the holy water. It’ll come to them.

H1N1 apparently is bringing the inventors out. A press release says a new invention will prevent you from getting the flu from an ATM keypad. “The inspiration for this product idea was two observations: first, widespread concern about swine flu, and second, intensified worries about germ transmission on the self-service credit card terminals that have become ubiquitous in retail stores,” the inventor says. You can buy his invention for $2.99 or buy a Popsicle and pocket the stick.

3) The Big Stone Power plant isn’t going to be built but the West Central Tribune says the power lines that were supposed to carry the juice from South Dakota may still be constructed.

Wayback Machine: In the late 1970s, a mass protest swept through the normally conservative farm country of west central Minnesota. Farmers tried to stop construction of a 400-mile-long transmission line that would cross their land on the way from North Dakota to the Twin Cities. A system, which line opponents said was unfair, turned ordinary people into radicals. It also gave rise to the political career of a professor in Northfield.

4) The best show in a big city? Peeping on your neighbors. Be sure to watch the slideshow.

5) Number theory, order of operations, probability, prime numbers, the Fibonacci sequence, the origins of the calculator and computer, Pascal’s triangle, and the golden ratio. Boy, if that doesn’t scream the underpinnings of a great play, what does?

“Eureka!” is a touring play to get kids — block your ears if you’re a “what’s the matter with kids today?” sort — excited about math:

“Sixth- and seventh-grade math is the moment when students move from computational skills to more conceptual skills,” the organizer said. “It’s a time when a lot of students, especially girls, start to lose interest, and students are no longer able to see the relationship between math and life. But if you can catch their attention, in a dramatic way, you can help show the really essential connection between math and art, poetry, music, and science. Math is really the key to everything.”

Ah, math and popular culture!

Summarizing today’s lesson: If you can carry a number, you can carry a tune.


The official policy of the United States is to promote religious tolerance around the world. What should the U.S. do to promote religious tolerance at home?


Posting may be a little light until this afternoon. I’m talking this morning to Wally Englund, 85, of Richfield. He was an usher for many of the sports teams in this area until a few months ago. Parkinson’s has slowed him down. He’s a World War II vet who didn’t realize the extent of his injuries for more than 60 years.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Two experts on end-of-life counseling talk about the realities of their profession. And what families should know before and during the dying process.

Second hour: Michael Sandel takes the abstract notion of justice and applies it to the debates over Wall Street pay raises, appropriate punishment for crimes, and whether lives should be sacrificed during a terrorist attack.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Journalist Gretchen Peters on the war in Afghanistan. She is the author of “Seeds of Terror.”

Second hour:- “The First Freedom,” an America Abroad documentary about religious tolerance around the world.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Bishop Gene Robinson, the Episcopal church’s only openly gay bishop, argues the church’s division over gay bishops is nothing new. When last we discussed Bishop Robinson on News Cut, it was because HBO (and NPR) cut out his invocation from the Obama pre-inauguration concert coverage.

Second hour: Aviation writer William Langewiesche, who says the hero of the Hudson River Miracle was the guy who designed the airplane.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The St. Paul NAACP and University of St. Thomas law students are issuing an independent evaluation of a key aspect of the Gang Strike Force scandal: the computer database the gang unit developed to track alleged gang members. They’ll be talking about that and other community impacts of the Metro Gang Strike Force at a Pilgrim Baptist Church meeting tonight. MPR’s Tim Nelson is tracking.

The University of Minnesota releases a report today profiling transfer students. MPR’s Tim Post reports most come from MnSCU’s community colleges. Officials say more students are choosing to take their first two years of classes at community classes, where tuition is about half of what it is at the U. This is certainly something that was obvious during the News Cut on Campus tour last winter. Why spend twice as much money for a class at the U when you can take it for a fraction of the cost at MnSCU school?

NPR’s Don Gonyea considers the weight of war on President Barack Obama. Joe Shapiro zeroes in on La Crosse, Wisconsin, where people get some of the best end-of-life counseling in the country.

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