Five by 8 – 6/17/10: The best friend you ever had

We don’t ask much, living in Minnesota and all. It’s been a terrible month, weather-wise, which makes morning’s like today more special than if we’d been spoiled by an occasional glimpse of the sun. This morning, however, I could do this for the first time in weeks:


Sitting on the deck, enjoying coffee, listening to birds, and scouring the Internet for 5×8 candidates. This is the suburbs, so any minute now, the lawn mowers should start.

I’ve been sitting out here for awhile, now. Last night, at 10:30, it was still twilight in the northwestern sky. Around 3:30 this morning, it started getting light. In June, Minnesota is like Alaska without the oil spills. If you had your choice of anywhere to wake up, where would it be?

1) I so enjoyed reading your stories yesterday about your favorite summer job, that I’m compelled to pry into your diary again. Tell me about the best friend you ever had. I ask because of a New York Times article today that confirms that the educational ‘experts’ are at it again. When I was a kid, if you wrote with your left hand, they’d whack you until you wrote with your right hand. Now, the story suggests, they might whack you if you have a best friend.

But it’s not just them. It’s us. We don’t turn our kids loose in the neighborhood anymore. We schedule our kids’ times. We’ve done this to them:

That attitude is a blunt manifestation of a mind-set that has led adults to become ever more involved in children’s social lives in recent years. The days when children roamed the neighborhood and played with whomever they wanted to until the streetlights came on disappeared long ago, replaced by the scheduled play date. While in the past a social slight in backyard games rarely came to teachers’ attention the next day, today an upsetting text message from one middle school student to another is often forwarded to school administrators, who frequently feel compelled to intervene in the relationship. (Ms. Laycob was speaking in an interview after spending much of the previous day dealing with a “really awful” text message one girl had sent another.) Indeed, much of the effort to encourage children to be friends with everyone is meant to head off bullying and other extreme consequences of social exclusion.

Another group of experts — psychologists — say this new no-best-friend era will make kids very good at superficial relationships.

So maybe you’re the last generation to have a best friend. Tell us about it.

2) Let’s be honest here. Making fun of Rep. Michele Bachmann is a cottage industry in Minnesota. Entire blogs would go out of business if they couldn’t write something — anything — about her on a daily basis. And quite possibly she hasn’t quite realized the national media often has her on their shows because she says outrageous things and that’s the fuel that makes the national talk shows zip.

Eric Ostermeier at the Smart Politics blog looks at her record and concludes she’s more conservative than her district, and that the gap is among the widest in the country:

The analysis found that the difference between Bachmann’s ideological ranking and her district’s partisan ranking was among the Top 15 largest among GOPers in the U.S. House.

The Republican tilt for Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District of +7 points makes it only the 142nd most Republican district in the country. Representative Bachmann, meanwhile, tallied the 28th most conservative score in National Journal’s 2009 vote rankings, or a district partisan vote/Representative ideology ranking differential of +114.

The theory may well be true. But how often do we treat the issues that compel us to vote as an equation, as opposed to, say, someone who entertains us (Insert Jesse Ventura analogy here)? Perhaps over the last two elections, the 6th District has employed a “close enough for government work” view when it comes to elections.

3) A BP executive is under fire today for referring to people on the Gulf Coast as “small people.”

“I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies who don’t care. But that is not the case in BP. We care about the small people,” BP Chairman Karl-Henric Svanberg told reporters.

He has since apologized.

Even if he really meant that people who aren’t chairman of oil companies are a life form just above sea plankton, how would you refer to the people who couldn’t understand what President Obama was saying the other night because he used some words that had up to three syllables in them?

A CNN story says the president of Global Language Monitor says Obama’s speech was too difficult for Americans to understand:

He singled out this sentence from Obama as unfortunate: “That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge — a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s secretary of energy.”

The average number of letters in the words Obama used in his speech the other night? Four. “Small” has five. If we’re a people who can’t understand a sentence like that Dr. Chu highlights, that pretty well explains why we can’t plug an oil leak.4) Today’s “What if the world were more like John Wooden” moment comes courtesy of Houston, Minnesota’s John Green, via the Pioneer Press. Green, who played basketball for Wooden at UCLA, recounts a game at Williams Arena in his sophomore year. It was his homecoming, and all of his Minnesota family and friends were there:

“Anyway, we’re warming up at Williams Arena, and the referee comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, (No.) 45!’ I thought, ‘Holy cow, what have I done now? The game hasn’t even started.’ He said. ‘You’re captain.’ I said, ‘No, you made a mistake.’ He said, ‘Is your name Green?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘I didn’t make a mistake.’

“I looked over at Coach, and he had the biggest smile on his face because he knew probably 50 percent of the people (at the game) were my friends and relatives. I can just imagine what they must have thought seeing me go out to halfcourt and shake hands with (Gophers senior captain) Ron Johnson from New Prague. They must have thought, ‘My God, he’s just a sophomore and he’s a captain already?’ ”

John Wooden’s funeral will be held tomorrow.

5) Spotted in Maine (by my sister) over the weekend. “Congratulations underage graduates; now how about getting hammered with some cheap beer?”

June 13 003.JPG


State health authorities say it’s dangerous to drink raw milk, but some consumers and other advocates insist that it’s a healthy alternative. Should government be able to prohibit the sale of raw milk?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The latest guidelines for what Americans should eat were released this week, and they are geared toward battling the obesity epidemic. But when there’s such a disconnect between dietary recommendations and what Americans actually eat, will the guidelines make any difference?

Second hour: Vuvuzelas, balls that take funny bounces, and one epic goal-tending blunder have marked the first week of the 2010 World Cup. What’s to come in the tournament, and at the state of soccer in Minnesota.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Director Courtland Nelson talks about the newest state park on Lake Vermilion.

Second hour: A new American RadioWorks documentary about the “War on Poverty.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: What’s changed and what hasn’t in being openly gay in public school?

Second hour: President Obama left no doubt who’s picking up the tab for the gulf oil spill. But how do we calculate that bill?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – A new report released today shows wide inequalities still exist for women in Minnesota when it comes to income, leadership positions, economic status, and health. MPR’s Rupa Shenoy will have the story.

Minnesota says it may crackdown on raw milk sellers. Off-farm sales are illegal. But the sales are going on in plain sight. MPR’s Mark Steil looks into what the enforcement effort has been up to now?

So the Big 10 is going to have 12 teams and the Big 12 will have 10 teams. Welcome to the new math of college sports. MPR’s Tim Post examines how the University of Minnesota will benefit — or not — from expanding the Big 10 conference. Insert your U of M athletic jokes here.

Lake Winnipeg, the world’s tenth-largest freshwater lake, is threatened by runoff from farms in the Red River Valley. Excessive nutrients threaten drinking water, commercial fishing and recreation. Red River floods tend to dramatically increase the impact. Canadian scientists are monitoring the effects of the pollution with a specially outfitted research ship. The data is used to support efforts to reduce pollution in Canada, but Manitoba has no authority over the largest source of pollution, south of the border in Minnesota and North Dakota. It’s sounds like MPR’s Dan Gunderson has been on a road trip.

  • I’ve been blessed with some very good friends.

    The best have to be Scott and Felicia.

    My Friends the Olsons™ gave me a leg up to escape a failed relationship in Southern California and move up here. I lived with them for a time before moving out on my own, and returned the favor and moved back in when Scott lost his job.

    We cook together, game together, take trips together (you’ve seen some of my photos). And, despite some tensions, manage to live together.

  • re: The CNN Story and people being unable to understand the President:

    Have you seen the movie “Idiocracy”, Bob?

  • Kevin M

    I have an interesting core of friends. I am thirty years old, college-educated (as are all my friends), but somehow have maintained close relationships with at least a dozen of my best friends from high school. My closest friend I’ve known since I was in third grade. When I talk to other people I get the feeling this is unusual, but no matter what city I’m in I know there is someone who if I called, would be at my side within three hours, and for whom I would do the same if needed. I couldn’t choose one “best friend” in a traditional sense, but I have a network of people I’ve known for too long (and know too much about), to leave behind. This is not in some “inside joke, high school good times” way, rather we just have not shifted that much in our personalities, politics, or priorities despite disparate formative experiences to drift away from one another. I consider myself blessed to have so many best friends whom I’ve known for so long. To answer the end of your inquiry though, yes, there were bullies in our school too – it wasn’t a Corey Haim buddy pic or anything. We just moved out of school and moved on with our lives and decided we all still cared about one another despite our different goals.

  • Heather

    I met my best friend at college, 20 years ago. We haven’t lived in the same place since then, but only my husband knows me better. She’s a presence in our house via telephone, and I’m grateful to have someone with whom I share so much history, and who has been willing to stick with me through all of life’s changes.

  • Amanda

    It’s sad to me to think that our generation is the last to have a best friend. I’m going to go the middle-aged route and blame that darn television.

    I don’t know where I’d be without good friends and “best friends.” I’ve always had more than one, that’s how great they are. There’s no superficiality involved in these relationships, but they do need attention and effort to in order to keep friends close and the friendships functional. From the best friends I got into all kinds of trouble with growing up, to the confidantes that have helped me through the toughest times of my adulthood, I feel it’s a sign of emotional maturity to maintain friendships, not to mention the more fulfilling life close friends give you.

    I will never undestand middle-school texting.

    And Bob: Sit up straight in your chair! You’ll ruin your back.