Five by 8 – 7/14/10: The healing power of waving

1) Some of my favorite stories in the world are the stories of people who spend their day waving. The Rochester Post Bulletin today profiles a man there — I don’t know if the “half nude” description does much for the image — who likes waving at passing cars. “I do it because it makes people feel good,” he told the newspaper, which tried a bit too hard to convey that it thinks the guy is nuts. “I want to make them feel happy. We’ve been through so much with the wars,” with the economy and so on, he says. Crazy talk.

Shortly after 9/11, a guy dressed up as Superman stood on a street corner outside of the Dairy Queen in St. Cloud.


“I’m not in it for the money, I’m not in it for the attention, I’m not in it for the glamour, although I do like the attention, I won’t lie to you,” he told MPR’s Jeff Horwich. “But I am on a mission, and my mission is to unite people, and give people a good feeling about being an American. And even make them slightly believe that there is a Superman.”

More crazy talk. Where have you gone, Superman?

Maybe you remember Joseph Charles of Berkley, California. Charles Kuralt made him famous after a segment about his love of standing on a street corner. Waving.

”Keep smiling!” Mr. Charles shouted. ”Have a good day!” In his last days — he died in 2002 — he waved from his apartment. He would’ve been 100 this year. So people honored him the only way they could:

2) The Microsoftization of Apple. The increasingly heavy-handed tech company, once considered the people’s alternative to a heavy-handed tech company, is providing more reasons to worry about Apple’s increasing control of information by way of its iPhone and iPad. Earlier this week, Consumer Reports refused to recommend the iPhone 4, because of antenna problems for those who actually use it as a phone.

In response, Engadget reports, the company is deleting any reference to the Consumer Reports evaluation from its support forums.

The company insists the antenna problems are overblown, and that by holding the phone correctly, they can be minimized. This method is working for us:


Or just try duct tape:

3) Why isn’t Flugtag getting more attention? It’s coming to St. Paul next week and who doesn’t love opportunities to shove decorated things into a river?

Flugtag hit Miami last weekend:

4) I have a rule left over from my decades as an editor: NEVER use the word “may” in a headline. If may works in a headline, then may not probably works, too. And if may not works too, you may not have much of a story.

FoxNews, not surprisingly, violated the rule on Monday with a story about a conservative group’s “study” that some felons voted in the 2008 election:

Felons Voting Illegally May Have Put Franken Over the Top in Minnesota, Study Finds

The assertion was that because the difference in total votes between Norm Coleman and Al Franken was less than the number of felons who voted illegally, the election may have hinged on their votes. Maybe, but it’s lousy journalism. The story provided no information on who the votes were cast for and assumed — because it fit the intended conclusion — that they all voted DFL. There are, however, Republican felons.

Today’s rule-breaker is an article in the Boston Globe:

Depression may increase risk of dementia, study says.

It’s an offshoot of the Framingham Heart Study. Researchers tested over 900 people in the study, 125 of whom had depression:

Seventeen years later, 164 people had developed dementia, including 136 who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Twenty-two percent of the people who were depressed at the study’s start developed dementia, compared with 17 percent who were not depressed. Looking at how people scored on the 60-point depression screening test, the researchers found that for each 10-point increase, there was a 50 percent increased risk of dementia. After accounting for age, sex, and other characteristics among the participants, it was determined that depressed people were more than one and a half times more likely to develop dementia than those not depressed.

Dr. Yonas Geda of the Mayo Clinic wrote the editorial that accompanied the study in a medical journal:

“However, there is insufficient evidence at present to support the hypothesis that depression has a direct causal relationship with subsequent dementia. Only a future mechanism of disease study with a biologic marker for depression can clearly identify which of the . . . hypotheses is most pertinent.”

In other words, there may be a link between depression and dementia. And there may not be.

5) DNR officials are investing a lot in two loons. Yesterday, they outfitted two with transmitters to determine whether the BP oil disaster threatens the state bird, the Fargo Forum reports. They want to find out where they go when they leave Minnesota, and whether they come back next spring or die in the ooze. A DNR expert says the agency expects a reduction in the 12,000 loon that currently call Minnesota home, but says the return of the bald eagle here shows the bird can come back. Of course, it took 25 years to accomplish that.

In the Gulf today, there was plenty of hope that a new contraption would finally stop the oil. But last night officials said they were postponing the action because it needs further study. Over the last three months, that phrase has become code for “it’s not working.”

Bonus: Back when we were profiling people who had become unemployed, we met Rhoda Quick, who had not only lost her job, she was about to lose her home. Months ago, we provided the good news that she’d found work. But she dropped a comment on us late last night that she couldn’t save the house:

Well my house was foreclosed on June 30th, 2010. I am grateful to have a good job at UnitedHealth Group since December 2009. My daughter and I are moving into a nice apartment at Newport on Seven in St. Louis Park in August. Now I am busy packing up my house that I lived in for over 25 years. We are looking forward to a bright future!!!


Today’s Midmorning looks at how ideas of heaven have changed over time. What’s your concept of heaven?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: A decorated combat veteran, Rhodes Scholar, and White House fellow confronts the realities of the choices we make when he begins a correspondence with a convicted murderer who grew up in a similar neighborhood in Baltimore and shares the same name

Second hour: An historical look at heaven, and what it means today. Eighty percent of Americans say they believe in heaven, yet few can articulate anything specific about their belief. A new book looks at how the concept of an afterlife has changed throughout the ages.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Jon Foley, of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, discusses the ecology lessons learned from the Gulf oil spill.

Second hour: Fred Barnes, E.J. Dionne and Morris Fiorina, speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival about the Tea Party movement and domestic culture wars.

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

Second hour: Sorting out consumer reviews.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – School districts are cutting budgets and teachers at a time when universities and college keep turning new teachers out. What’s the job market like for new and recently-graduated teachers? MPR’s Tom Weber will have the story.

  • bsimon

    great 5×8 today. There’s often a Statue of Liberty waving from the corner of 66th & Nicollet in Richfield.

  • The assertion was that because the difference in total votes between Norm Coleman and Al Franken was less than the number of felons who voted illegally, the election may have hinged on their votes. Maybe, but it’s lousy journalism. The story provided no information on who the votes were cast for and assumed — because it fit the intended conclusion — that they all voted DFL. There are, however, Republican felons.

    But, don’t you know, Bob, that DFL politicians are “soft on crime” and thus felons are naturally going to vote for them, and since Franken is “a soft on crime liberal”…

    It’s nonsense of course, but its persuasive nonsense.

  • julie

    Well, he’s not Minnesotan, but how about Vincent Falk? He does a little more than wave:

  • JackU

    @4 I won’t argue the Fox News point, but I think your followup on the Boston Globe article is a bit of a reach. Studies like the one sited are published to push things forward. You left out the start of the paragraph containing the quote from Dr. Geda of the Mayo:

    “The association between late-life depression and cognitive impairment does not appear to be spurious,’’ Dr. Yonas Geda of the Mayo Clinic writes in an editorial also appearing in Neurology, referring to Saczynski’s study and two others with consistent results.

    So the Boston Globe picks up a story about medical research done in Boston that points to further research on how the brain works. But as Dr Geda’s comments indicate it is certainly an avenue that should be explored. Since there may be a link, further study is warranted.

    One last quote from the study author from Boston:

    The study can’t say that depression causes dementia, Saczynski said, but it spurs greater interest in understanding what biological mechanisms might be related to both depression and dementia.

    From my view they explained the process very well. If we wait for absolute certainty with respect to scientific research before reporting, there will be no science reporting.

  • Bob Collins

    I’m mostly talking about headlines, not the stories themselves, but let me give you two “may” headlines to better make my point regarding science stories:

    “Aluminum may cause Alzheimer’s”

    “Vaccinating your children may cause autism.”

    My guess is that the headline in the magazine in which the the scientific article appeared did not use the word “may.”

    Would not the use “may” end science reporting? Oh, gosh, no. “Scientists examining possible link between depression and Alzheimer’s” works just fine.

    And, of course, is more accurate, which is the goal of good journalism.

  • Sadly, you’re right about Apple.

    For two decades the Justice Dept. let Microsoft bully them and consumers without let up. Apple almost went out of business thanks to Microsoft’s sociopathic leveraging of their OS and office software monopolies.

    Apple survived and (this is the sad part) learned from Bill Gates & Friends to perform as a pack of ruthless corporate robber barons.

    Abolish all software copyrights, promote open source, and put an end to the privatization of science to benefit the few at the expense of the many. Capitalists and their pit bull attorneys have done a brilliant job of retarding new technologies, locking up breakthrus and shackling innovation.