Five by 8 – 6/23/10: Knowledge, passion, and fun

Comparing your kids with China’s, should pols be voting themselves pay raises, the BWCA under assault from above and below, a good duck story, and in defense of a state rep on the Iron Range.

1) Among the many must-listen offerings this week is Marketplace’s series on China’s “one child” policy. Listening to last evening’s episode, it was easy to fall into the trap.”Oh, man, China is going to clean our clock.” Parents spend 10 to 50 percent of their yearly income on their kids’ early education, they go to school most of the day, what’s not to fear? Then later in the piece we hear from a woman next door to the reporter, who doesn’t understand the concept his kids display when playing on the “monkey bars.” The concept: Fun.

“We don’t think fun is that important,” Shirley Wang says. “Skill, your capability to survive in society is more useful, more meaningful than to just have fun.”

And later still we hear from a woman who says the children of China have no passion.”

“Nothing makes her very happy, or very upset,” she says about her daughter. “In our time, I used to dream about eating a meatball every day. Kids today have no passion. They have everything.”

Which brings us to an old question : Which is more important in life? Passion, fun, or knowledge?

2) Should politicians be voting pay raises for themselves? Ramsey County commissioners have given themselves a 2 percent pay raise, a year after voting one down, and two years after awarding themselves a 25-percent increase. The salary for a commissioner will rise to $84,048. There is a ripple effect to these kinds of decisions. In 2008, the Washington County commissioners voted themselves a pay raise despite laying off county employees and cutting budget items. Their rationale? They weren’t paid as much as Ramsey County board members.

Should Ramsey County board members have voted themselves a pay raise?survey software

3) Cellphone towers don’t cause cancer, an independent study in Britain has found. “People don’t like these things towering over their gardens and every time they get a headache they think it’s responsible,” said John Bithell, a retired research fellow at the Childhood Cancer Research Group at the University of Oxford. “But there’s no scientific evidence, not even in animals, to back this up.”

But it can ruin a view. Up on the edge of the Boundary Waters, a suit was filed yesterday to stop construction of cell tower. According to the Friends of the Boundary Waters:

AT&T has proposed to build a 450-tower on an elevated ridge within two miles of the Boundary Waters that will loom approximately 600 feet above the surrounding wilderness landscape, a height that rivals some of the tallest skyscrapers in the Twin Cities. The tower will be illuminated day and night with strobe and beacon lighting, and will be visible for miles inside the wilderness area on several popular lakes, including Basswood, Fall, Ella Hall and South Farm Lakes.

Who’s responsible for this incursion of technology? How about people who go to the BWCA and still want to use a cellphone?

Here’s a slideshow I did several years ago on the subject of our visual friends:

The edge of the Boundary Waters may be ground zero for the next mining boom. MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill reports that several mining companies are exploring in the area. Few mining efforts produce the pollution that copper mining does:

When the drilling is done, workers will bury the muck on site, a state requirement. The trouble is, around here there are so many wetlands, it would seem impossible to keep the muck out of the water system. Duluth Metals officials say there won’t be enough mineral waste here to be any cause for concern.

This drilling is a precursor to what could be a deep shaft mine, more than half-mile below the surface of the earth. A mine would produce tons and tons of ground-up waste rock.


4) You know what restores a little perspective to life? A good duck story. Or even a bad duck story. The Duluth News Tribune has a good duck story today. A brood tried to make it from a downtown perch to Lake Superior and needed significant assistance from those creatures with two legs…

“They pretty much followed the mom and we sort of kept them going the right direction,” Brent Johnson said. “We got across the street and then onto the upper Lakewalk (over Interstate 35). But then the hen flew across the railroad tracks, and the little ones then started jumping off the bridge to follow her.”

Once again, the ducklings, tiny wings flapping, survived the fall. But they couldn’t make it over the tracks.

“I had to help them over,” Brent said. “And then they couldn’t get up onto the board of the boardwalk, so I helped them there, too.”

Here’s your mid-week duck break:

5) A very public defense. State Rep. Tom Anzelc is charged with harassment. Minnesota writer Aaron Brown pens a defense and indicts the “Iron Range experience.”

I’m just plain sad that a guy like Tom gets sent up in the court of public opinion as another Iron Range cad when he’s, in fact, a good deal more progressive and deferential to gender relations than 90 percent of the political structure here. Most people who truly know the Iron Range know what I’m talking about: the off-color remarks, subtle chauvinism, and old boys network that come to characterize the aging political structures of such locales. Tom has always been different to me, at least since I’ve known him when we began a friendship that spans two and a half generations of the Iron Range experience.

Bonus tracks) An overnight rain should propel the weeds in your garden to new heights today. What to do? Eat them…

While you conduct your yard sale. (KRCC)


The commander in charge of the Afghanistan war is in trouble for being openly critical of the Obama administration. Should Americans hear directly what’s on a general’s mind?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: A recently released study found 180 websites that promote eating disorders and provide suggestions on how to engage in eating disordered behavior. Midmorning examines the psychology and the culture of eating disorders.

Second hour: Writer Ben Greenman’s latest stories conjure the mystery of letters, particularly in relationships. He muses on why handwritten notes sent through the mail have a power that instant messages do not.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – Rep. Tim Walz discusses the relationship between the generals, the diplomats and the president as commander in chief. Congressman Walz is the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to serve in Congress.

Second hour: Movie producer Oliver Stone speaks to the National Press Club. He’s making a sequel to the movie “Wall Street.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Politics with NPR political editor Ken Rudin.

Second hour: Next week, Elena Kagan sits down in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer all kinds of questions about the constitution. When you listen to the color commentary, you’re likely to hear constructionism, textualism, and originalism.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The Environmental Protection Agency is studying a new class of potential pollutants. Nanoparticles might change energy generation, provide new medical treatments, or help clean up pollution like oil spills. But these nearly invisible particles could also cause significant environmental damage. MPR’s Dan Gunderson will have the story.

Things are really looking up in Wadena, the hardest-hit by last week’s tornadoes. A Saturday work day has been canceled. Meanwhile, teams of state, county and federal officials are fanning out across the state to tally up the damage from last week’s devastating tornadoes. Ambar Espinoza is tagging along.

  • Kim E

    1. I believe that passion, fun, and knowledge are all connected. If you want to gain knowledge, it helps if you have a passion for the subject matter or for learning in general, in which case increasing your knowledge would probably be fun. Without the passion, gaining knowledge isn’t fun.

  • BJ

    Should politicians be voting pay raises for themselves?

    YES – and your poll proves why. Well your poll doesn’t really prove why since one it didn’t ask the question “if given the chance to vote to increase pay would you” and two it really is not a scientific poll.

    The public would never do it. Even when they vote 93% of the time to elect the same incumbents they would never vote to increase the pay for them.