If you had time to achieve your dreams… (5/8 – 6/13/11)

The Monday Morning Rouser….


hudsonbaybound 071.JPGAnn Raiho, from Inver Grove Heights, and Natalie Warren, of Florida, are trying to become the first women to paddle from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay. They left Fort Snelling earlier this month and are on their journey via the Minnesota River. According to their blog, they made it to New Ulm, and they say they’re on schedule.

Next, we’re off to a  part of the Minnesota River that has fewer cities, so sorry if we are hard to reach for the next week. We will hopefully be in Montevideo by next weekend thus ending most of the upstream portion of our trip. Hooray!

We want everyone to know that the Minnesota River is a hidden gem. Even with the flooding and heat and wind, we have really enjoyed the Minnesota. We’ve seen otters and eagles and jumping fish and felt like we were totally in the wilderness at times. I think we’ve only seen about 10 boats on the 150 miles of the river we’ve traveled. Get out there and paddle!

Since Patrick Plys was young, he wanted to ride a bicycle around Lake Superior, the Duluth News Tribune reports. “It was one of those things that were always on his bucket list. He was just too busy with running a business and raising five kids,” his wife said. Then doctors found a tumor in his brain. He’s just finished his cycling dream.

Today’s discussion: If you had the time, what adventure would you embark on?


For all of the documented successes of blogs as a way to get first-hand information, people like Tom MacMaster keep the medium from full acceptance. MacMaster, it was revealed this weekend, is Amina Arraf, a blogger who said she was Syrian-American and went by the name Gay Girl In Damascus. “Her blog caught on just as the protests against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria became widespread and the crackdowns more violent,” NPR’s Two-Way reported.

But “she” turned out to be a he. And he wasn’t Syrian, he was American. An apology came yesterday:

I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground. I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.

I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in this year of revolutions. The events there are beıng shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.

This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.

However, I have been deeply touched by the reactions of readers.


Tom MacMaster,

Istanbul, Turkey

July 12, 2011

The sole author of all posts on this blog

This is a dangerous game, especially with social media from the Middle East (and unlike many people, I include blogs in the definition of social media). Social media in the Arab Spring has fueled international support for intervention in events from Egypt, to Libya, and to Syria.

But don’t get too smug, mainstream journalism. You’ve got your own ethical problems when major TV networks are trying to put a happy face on “checkbook journalism.”


There’s been a pretty entertaining kerfuffle going on in the inside world of restaurant reviews. It stems from a section on St. Paul area dining in the book “Opinionated About U.S. Restaurants 2011,” written (organized?) by Steve Potnicki. Famed local food expert Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, writing in Minnesota Monthly, rose to the defense of the Vietnamese food scene here, which Potnicki’s collection panned, calling it “no better that decent.”

Potnicki took exception, noting that he collected opinions of others and suggested that if Grumdahl didn’t like it, that’s the fault of Minneapolis St. Paul diners…

The guide is based on a survey, and if a restaurant gets enough votes, it is included in the guide. For some reason, the people who voted for the other Minnesota restaurants did not vote for the city’s Vietnamese restaurants. But since you are digging yourself into a hole, let me make it a few feet deeper for you: Most of the Twin City’s reviewers came from the La Belle Vie/Solera mailing list. So according to your logic (not mine), it would seem that Tim McKee’s customer’s just don’t care for Vietnamese food. Clearly that isn’t the case so I don’t understand why you made up that straw man to begin with?

A restaurant guide is made up of respondents from a mailing list for a restaurant? Wouldn’t that naturally lead to a glowing review for that restaurant? For those of us who eat only to live, it’s a bit of a peek into the world of people who tell you where to eat and why.

Another commenter on the Minnesota Monthly article assesses it this way…

So you freely admit that you did pen the review in the book with your name on the cover, yet you, Steve Plotnicki, did not dine at the locations and based most of your reviews from a series of 2nd hand sources gleamed from “yelpish” nuggets off of an online survey from individuals that you do not know and have not vetted at all. You should have called your tome: “Opinionated about other peoples anonymous internet opinions about dining, by people who did an online survey”.

If you can make the time, it’s fun reading while waiting for your order to arrive.

(h/t: Michael Knutson)


Should data about the way you drive be anyone else’s business? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to announce this month that it will require “black boxes” on cars. The Web site, Dvice, knows exactly what you’re thinking…

Before you start screaming about government overreach, you should know that almost every new car already has a device like this fitted at the factory. For example, GM has fitted one to almost every new car they’ve built since the early 1990s.

The new rules are aimed at evening out a patchwork of state laws about who can access to the data, while standardizing the devices themselves so that the data is easier to recover. Currently, the devices are used mostly be car manufacturers to cover their own butts, by helping to determine whether an accident was caused by driver error, or some problem with the vehicle.

This sounds like a sensible idea, as long as strict limits are places on what data is recorded, and who has access to it. The potential for abuse is huge, such as cops using it to issue speeding tickets, or GPS data being used in a divorce case to show who you were visiting. Still, the upside could be pretty significant too, for example proving that you weren’t speeding when you had an accident.


If you buy an electric car, the government gives you a $7,500 subsidy. If the taxpayers weren’t “helping,” would the car cost you about $7,500 less? NPR is taking a look at the electric car market, which — it says — is “white hot.”

There are few places for people to charge their cars — other than with the contraptions they get or buy when they buy the car. The industry is using the “you go first” approach. If enough people buy the cars, enough charging stations will pop up nationwide. At about $43,000 for a new car, that’s a heck of a gamble.

Take the Nissan Leaf, for example. I started exploring it last night after seeing an ad during the NBA game. I learned its slogan is “we believe in zero,” which is appropriate because that — judging by this map — is your chance of finding a charging station in the Midwest.


This is a map of planned public charging stations for the Leaf by the end of next year.

Kwik Trip, however, is installing charging stations, Midwest Energy News reports. But it’s more symbolism than reality. They’re 110 volt chargers. A 480-volt charger would take a half hour to charge an electric car.


President Obama’s approval rating has dropped again, and voters say most of the issues they’ll be thinking about in 2012 concern the economy. Today’s Question: How do you rate President Obama’s handling of the economy?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Tonight Republican presidential hopefuls debate in New Hampshire. What must the contenders do to separate from the field?

Second hour: Ian Brown, author of the “The Boy in the Moon.”

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks, who steps down as president at the end of the month.

Second hour: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the National Press Club.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Chasing the economic recovery.

Second hour: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Last year, one of Rhode Island’s worst-performing high schools abandoned a proposal to fire every teacher. A school reform plan was put in place instead. But after a year of tumultuous transition, many teachers have left and students feel cheated. NPR will look at a tough lesson in turning around Central Falls High.