Parenting by proxy (Five by 8 – 8/26/10)

You’ve probably heard. The State Fair opened this morning. We’re watching the Webcam. That page also lists the full MPR broadcast schedule from the Fair. But you may need this: How to feel full without pigging out.

1) If you’re missing your kids youth baseball and soccer games — or any other activity where they may want you to be there — you may be doing this parenting thing wrong. Still, it’s not surprising that as we increasingly spend our days looking into the loving eyes of our smartphone, we’re beginning to turn more of our parenting duties over to them. An article in the New York Times today profiles a company that is planning to stream youth baseball league games so that parents won’t have to go to their kid’s games.

Most of the discussion surrounds whether it elevates youth sports to a major league level:

Not everyone is as enthusiastic. The idea is stoking an old debate among pediatricians, child psychologists and league officials about whether adults are too involved in their children’s sports lives and whether that is driving youngsters away. By age 13, 70 percent of children have dropped out of youth sports, according to the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State.

“It’s definitely over the top,” said Frank Smoll, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington and co-director of the Youth Enrichment in Sports program. Smoll said he was concerned that Webcams and other tech gadgets amplify sports in ways that could be harmful.

They’re missing the point. It’s not that we care so much about the game that you’ll watch it on your smartphone (we all know the jerks that take youth sports too seriously), it’s that spending time with our kids doesn’t rise to the level where we wouldn’t have to see the idea as a logical alternative.

Years ago, when I worked at a small radio station in the Berkshires, a businessman would call us just before the local high school girl’s basketball game started. We carried the games on the radio and we’d send the broadcast down the phone line, and there he’d sit… in a hotel room somewhere listening to the broadcast. I often wonder whether he spends any time now thinking about those fabulous business deals, or wishing he’d been at more of his daughter’s games.

2) An Eden Prairie couple just got their monthly electric bill — 65 cents. They installed solar panels and destroyed the notion that it takes forever for solar panels to pay for themselves, according to the Eden Prairie News. Of the $66,000 price tag, $60,000 of it came from rebates from the utility, federal, and state governments. It’ll pay for itself in three years. Are there News Cut readers who’ve gone solar? Do these numbers sound familiar?

Try running yours through this solar calculator.

The economic stimulus, obviously, sent billions into the clean energy and innovative technology sector. This week, a report from the administration described the money — $100 billion — as “transforming the American economy.” The Associated Press fact-checks that claim and finds that it’s not, partly because the equipment is made overseas.

So why aren’t we using more green energy? It’s expensive.

3) The price of eggs is jumping, thanks to the recall of millions of eggs because of salmonella. It isn’t costing egg producers any more this week to produce an egg than it did last week, they’re just grabbing a little extra cash. In the Midwest, prices rose from 72 to 81 cents per dozen to $1.01 to $1.10.

I raised chickens when I was a kid. I sold them in a little stand by the side of the road. A dozen eggs would run you about 50 cents, which is about the same as what the grocery was charging. That was 1967.

Plug those numbers into the inflation calculator, and that 1967 dozen eggs would sell for $3.26 today. But they’re not; they’re selling for $1. What’s the problem, again?

Earlier this month, food reformer Michael Pollan argued that you should be paying about $8.

Meanwhile, many people have said if people bought organic eggs, there wouldn’t be a problem with salmonella. That’s not true. “I’ve not seen any evidence suggesting that these eggs are any safer,” says Martin Wiedmann of Cornell.

4) You’ve probably seen this parody video.

The Star Tribune has the story of the Minnesota women who produced Minnesota Gurls. They were not to be done, however. Not by North Dakota Bois…

5) A woman in Northfield has a car that’s cute as a button. It is a button — or, actually, hundreds of buttons. On the blog, Minnesota Prairie Roots, Audrey Kletscher Helbling has an up-close with Mary Barbosa-Jerez’ “Bette.”

How many buttons? Mary doesn’t know. She knows, however, that it takes her one hour to affix buttons onto a six-by-six inch area. So progress is slow, hampered even more by Minnesota weather. While Mary owns a garage, the interior temperature fails to rise high enough for button adhesion in the winter.

That doesn’t discourage her, nor does the fact that “you lose buttons always.”

Mary has driven Bette between Northfield and Louisville many times and tells me that art cars are common in Louisville, but not so much in Minnesota.

She’s happy to talk about her project and the statement she’s making about turning an item associated with status into a piece of art.

Mary really doesn’t mind either if you touch her car. In fact, she is amused when a button falls off into an unsuspecting hand. “I’ll see them stick it in their pocket as they scuttle away,” she laughs.


Bonus: The gadgets of prison inmates.


The Minnesota State Fair opens today, and among the expected visitors this year are journalists from several foreign countries. What can the State Fair teach visitors about Minnesota?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: As many as 2.8 million foreclosures are predicted nationally for this year — 46,000 of them in Minnesota. The government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) is designed to help consumers facing foreclosure — but critics say HAMP is poorly managed and needs to do better in order to meet the growing number of troubled mortgages.

Second hour: The UN says there are now 1 billion people who don’t have enough to eat around the world — the highest level in 40 years. What’s the moral obligation of countries like the U.S. and Europe to step in and are we providing aid effectively?

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: U of M meteorologist Mark Seeley with his annual State Fair weather quiz (which is available online).

Second hour: U.S. Sen. Al Franken

I don’t suppose he’ll do this again:

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: For his latest project, Harry Shearer gets serious. The question, he asks, is why the flooding that killed hundreds and devastated New Orleans five years ago wasn’t prevented.

Related: The Lens Blog. New Orleans through one block.

Second hour: Host Neal Conan talks about what lessons you draw — if any — from the legacy of Martin Luther King

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – What had been planned as a meeting to determine whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would push back the timetable on diversion planning, is now a briefing for Rep. Oberstar on the project. Corps officials say it’s likely that no decision will be forthcoming at the meeting. MPR’s Dan Gunderson assesses where this idea is going.

Food is one of the main attractions at the State Fair. A lot of the food may not be healthy, but fair officials say their vendors have an excellent track record of serving safe food. MPR’s Lorna Benson tags along with the Health Department as they inspect fair food vendors to find out how they ensure its safety.

  • kwatt

    Of the $66,000 price tag, $60,000 of it came from rebates from the utility, federal, and state governments.

    Happy to pay for someone else’s solar panels.

  • Joanna

    The devil is in the details: at least two of the rebate programs they used don’t exist anymore, and they were “fortunate” to qualify for another (I don’t). I have looked into installing solar panels, but without the tax breaks and rebates, I simply can’t afford the initial outlay even if I could guarantee future savings. The same goes for my old boiler, retrofitting the windows; if I want to send my kid to college without beggaring her with student loans, these are bills I can’t afford.

    The fact is that the state and federal governments DO need to help out families with average incomes if we want to have any expectation of reducing overall energy consumption through greener technology, thereby lessening our dependence on dirty fuels like coal and petroleum. We will all benefit when we have more energy efficient homes and businesses.

  • Joanna

    PS–the parody videos? priceless! they are going out to all my relatives.

  • kennedy

    Re: Green energy is expensive

    Spending $66,000 on solar panels to save $600 annually on energy is folly (unless you can get some schmuck to subsidize 90% of the cost). It takes more energy to product the solar panels than they can possibly provide over their useful life. That is why they are in sparse use for testing.

    On a related note, the same goes for upgrading hybrid vehicles. While it is good PR for Mayor Rybak to upgrade the batteries on his hybrid, it is not really an energy saver. It simply swaps the power source from a gasoline engine to a coal burning power plant. People seem to forget that it takes fuel to generate electricity. Maybe because most people can’t see the smoke stacks (or nuclear plant).