Exploring the passive house (5×8 – 11/15/10)

New research shows the Monday Morning Rouser makes it feel like Wednesday. Really.


Last July, MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill introduced us to the only passive house in Wisconsin, which at the time was under construction. It’s a German building concept slowly — very slowly — taking root here. The house is finished and this weekend, its owner — Dr. Gary Konkol — invited people in for a tour of the home in North Hudson. But it’s more than a house; it’s a power plant which will sell electricity to the local cooperative. Here are some of the images I shot:

You can find more information about this carbon-neutral home on its blog.


The commission that is recommending cuts to eliminate the budget deficit in the United States released its report last week and most of the attention focused on phasing out the mortgage interest deduction and raising the retirement age for Social Security. But former NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin points out it also is calling for an end to public subsidies for public broadcasting.

He writes today that it can be done:

But as Richard Sambrook, the former head of BBC News has observed, “the build it and they will come” mentality among broadcasters – public and commercial – hasn’t worked. So a new approach is needed.

Sambrook has written that public media needs to “stop looking in the mirror and start looking out the window.” There are communities outside of public media that have achieved an astonishing level of self-sufficiency. What they lack in expertise, public media can provide. What public media lack in public support, grass roots media can provide.

The threat posed by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform may just be the vehicle for focusing the attention of public media to achieve a more useful and long-term outcome.

But Dvorkin doesn’t spell out the answer to the obvious question: How?


self_portrait.jpgJessica Matson-Fluto thought the cabbie was taking her home on that June 2004 night. But he wasn’t. He was taking her to a secluded spot in Moorhead to assault her, the Fargo Forum reports.

In the days following the attack, Matson-Fluto felt like she “was on display,” that everyone knew what happened. It was all anyone wanted to talk about.

She left Fargo, retreating to her family’s cabin in northeast Minnesota.

“I lived with my family for six months before I started to function again,” she said earlier this month at a downtown Fargo coffee shop.

She eventually moved back to Fargo and worked service-industry jobs. Then, one day while scrubbing toilets, she realized she was not making the most of her second chance.

She started drawing self-portraits as therapy, and has since become an adjunct professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Here are some of her portraits.


Why didn’t someone tell me before this that there is a Corduroy Appreciation Club?5) YOUR CHERISHED MAIL

It was the winter of 1979, I was alone in a new (basement) apartment in the coldest part of Massachusetts, working in local radio for $135 a week. I’d missed Christmas with my family because my car had frozen in the -20 degree weather. And then the electric bill arrived. $100, which was a lot of money in 1979, money I didn’t have. And the majority of winter was still to come in my all-electric apartment.

Then a letter arrived with a check for $100. It was from my sister who’d heard I was having a tough time. She said I never had to pay the money back, but someday I had to pass it on… to someone else in a difficult situation. And so I have; many times.

That’s the most cherished mail I ever received. NPR is looking for yours.

Tell them. Then tell me.

Here’s their not-very-full Flickr collection so far.


The Northstar commuter rail line between Big Lake and Minneapolis turns a year old this week having failed to meet ridership projections. What will it take for commuter rail to catch on in Minnesota?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The risks of airing your personal and professional dirty laundry on social networking sites.

Second hour: Paul Auster’s new novel about abandoned homes and broken families speaks to Americans’ experience with the recession. He continues his themes of existential crisis and search for identity seen from his best known work, “The New York Trilogy.”

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute talks about media ethics and media bias.

Second hour: A debate from NPR’s Intelligence Squared series: “Is government stifling the American spirit?” Debaters are Phil Gramm, Laura Tyson, Arthur Laffer and Nouriel Roubini.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Admiral Mike Mullen

Second hour: The literature of exile: Conversations with authors far from home.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Local food is everywhere. From the growth in farmer’s markets to restaurant menus, some people are turning more to locally-grown food. Now, it’s gotten to the point where some people say the local food movement needs become a more sophisticated system, to step it up a notch. Dave Peters will preview the issues.

The heath reform law changes flex accounts starting January 1. Most over-the-counter meds will no longer qualify. You can only get reimbursed for them if a doctor prescribes them for you. The mileage reimbursement rate has also gone down. And the total amount you can put into your flex account is going down. MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki will detail the bad news.

Chris Roberts will have a piece with the creators of the yet-to-be-completed opera “Our Basic Nature.” It’s based on a Radio Lab show about “Lucy,” a chimpanzee who was raised just like a human. The opera is being performed at Nautilus Music Theater in St. Paul tonight and Tuesday night as part of its “Rough Cuts” series.

  • Derek

    So when does the local Corduroy Appreciation Club chapter start up? We need 11 members to get an official charter.

  • Bob Collins

    We’ll need a motto. How about “Hear us coming!”

  • CPAP

    Bob, thanks for the passive home photos and captions, this will serve as a substitute for the tour I had hoped to take (I am occasionally called upon when it snows and this was one of those weekends).

    Even ignoring environmental costs I believe (hope) passive homes concepts are part of our future. From a strict economic viewpoint, rising energy production costs will likely soon outweigh decreasing energy conservation costs. We’ll be going passive for the money! I hope someone at MPR is working on a story about retrofitting passive concepts into existing homes.