Jennifer’s pillow (5×8 – 9/7/11)



Like most people with great personal stories to tell, NewsCut reader Jennifer Nelson prefaced her e-mail to me by noting that her story isn’t as big of a deal as the “When People Do Good” entries of previous posts. Like most people with great stories to tell, she undersells her story.

Yesterday I decided to grab my camera and head out to the State Fair to take some photos since my family had an advance purchase ticket left over. It was a beautiful day. Since on the last day of the Fair vendors are usually offering deals, I made my way to the grandstand to check out a pillow that’s been recommended to me. (Since I have a permanent neck injury, the right pillow can make a huge difference.) They didn’t have any last minute deals and for my budget they are just a little too pricey. So I simply asked the saleswoman where else they sell them for future reference since I wasn’t able to purchase one right then. She told me and I was about to leave when another customer at the booth announces “I’m going to buy two of them. One for each of us,” and gestured towards me. I was a bit taken aback. This woman was a complete stranger. I’d never seen her before in my life and she knew nothing about me except that I was interested in this pillow.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yep.” She replied.

“You’re serious?”

“Uh huh.”

“You don’t have to…”

“I want to.”

By that time the saleswoman had already swiped the card. She asked if we wanted one bag or two, to which the stranger replied “You better make it two. I don’t even know her.” The saleswoman stopped dead in her tracks. “Wait, you don’t even know her and you just bought her a pillow? Wow. That’s some good karma.” I turned to thank the woman, nearly in tears and she simply smiled, said “We’re going to sleep really good tonight,” and walked away. I was speechless. Not only had a complete stranger just bought me a new pillow, but she seemed genuinely excited to do so.

The reason that this meant so much to me is what that stranger didn’t know. Seven years ago I suffered permanent injuries in a car accident. One of those injuries was to a joint in my neck that has left me with chronic pain. I have purchased pretty much every type of pillow you could imagine over the years since when I sleep wrong, I wake up with headaches, muscle spasms, and numbness in my fingers. This isn’t a visible injury and since I’m only 29, most wouldn’t assume I have an injury like that.

What’s made the situation even more complicated is that I was laid off just over a year and a half ago. It was difficult to get the insurance to cover any treatment for my injuries even when I had coverage, but when I lost my job I also lost my access to healthcare. In this economy, I have been unable to find work. I work what freelance I can, get some help from family members when needed, and am currently on my final tier of unemployment benefits. Even with all that, the bills barely get paid. When it comes to my chronic pain and injuries (which also include my knees – something that’s complicated my job search efforts since I can’t work full time on my feet), my only choice is to manage them the best I can on my own. I do what exercises and stretches I can, rely on over the counter medicine when needed, and save up my money when able for other items that help (supportive shoes, kinesiotape, braces, heat/ice packs, pillows, etc). When I stopped at that booth, I was simply trying to plan out how I could best save to purchase their product in the future. Instead I took one home that night. It may seem like such a small thing, but it makes every day a lot easier for me.

From now on, if anyone asks me if “Minnesota Nice” is real, I can confidently reply “You betcha!”

Keep ’em coming, people!


We got an inside look last night at the work of Brandon Darby, the FBI informant who blew the whistle on his colleagues who allegedly intended to come to Minneapolis St. Paul in 2008 and disrupt the Republican National Convention, including throwing bombs at police vehicles.

The documentary, Better this World, aired last night on PBS’ Point of View program.

Watch the full episode. See more POV.

Darby’s role came out during the Minnesota trial of David McKay. Darby initially agreed to be interviewed by filmmakers, but then reneged. There were no cameras permitted in the federal trial of McKay.

How did the filmmakers get all the footage of the protests? These babies….


“The Twin Cities got a $50,000 grant to put up cameras throughout the cities for the Republican National Convention as part of a security effort,” documentary producer Kelly Duane de la Vega said. “There was a massive amount of security footage filmed throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul. That footage is actually part of the public domain — not very many people know that, but we discovered that. We got a great deal of that footage, and then we started looking for our subjects. And it was like a needle in a haystack in many ways, but they would pop up, because there were cameras absolutely everywhere. There’s a scene in a Walmart where the young men are going in to buy materials to build Molotov cocktails. And that’s from Walmart’s security cameras. We’re all being filmed all the time.”

McKay’s trial ended in a mistrial, and shortly before a second trial, he pleaded guilty to one count of possession of an unregistered firearm, one count of illegal manufacture of a firearm and one count of possession of a firearm with no serial number. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

The film showed compelling scenes of his family discussing whether to make the plea or whether it was worth going to trial to say what happened and get a longer sentence as the penalty for doing so.

But the documentary suggests it was the FBI informant calling the shots and recruiting the people who ultimately went to prison while he went free.

According to Larra Elliott, one of the activists who accompanied the three to the RNC, “Brandon . . . said something that caught my attention, like, ‘Don’t you feel that firebombs and armed militias . . . that kind of . . . action is necessary sometimes?’ And Brad was like, ‘No, I don’t feel that way.’ Brandon would not leave it alone.”

“Your own actions have taken you away from someone who might need you in the future, and you can’t be there for that person. I don’t feel anything but shame and guilt because I want nothing more to be there for the people that I love,” McKay says near the end of the film.

The POV website today offers this quiz about the use of FBI informants.


Tim Pawlenty’s first interview since announcing he was ending his campaign for the White House wasn’t with a reporter, or a news organization from the old sod of Minnesota; it was in New York, with a comedian.

The governor sported a more relaxed look, but he took a swipe at the electorate for being more interested in something other than serious policy. Then he made a joke about “shooting sparks out my butt.”A few minutes earlier, David Letterman was zeroing in on the other Minnesotan, with “top 10” reasons why Michele Bachmann’s campaign is in trouble:

10.Intern answers phone, “Hello, O’Bachmann Train Wreck”

9.She keeps referring to the Governor of Texas as Katy Perry

8.Husband is leaving campaign to host a makeover show on Bravo

7.Spent last weekend campaigning in Juarez, Mexico

6.Ranks behind that creepy middle-aged white guy, that other creepy middle-aged white guy, and barely ahead of other creepy middle-aged white guy

5.Only polling well with people who are heavily medicated

4.”Headquarters” is now the backseat of a Hyundai Sonata

3.Claims bad weather is God punishing us for J-Lo and Marc Anthony break up

2.Has yet to acknowledge the road to the White House goes through me, Dave

1.She’s running out of batsh** crazy things to say

4) 9/11 at 10

The most iconic movie and TV roles for the icons of 9/11.Meanwhile, the 9/11 Memorial Foundation has rejected the contribution of a French artist whose sculpture depicts the twin towers as a nude couple.


Kiva is a website with some Minnesota roots that lets you give small loans to people around the world. to help them get their small business up and running. This 2007 MPR story explained how the concept works.

Kiva has received a lot of attention for the innovative way it allows people around the world to make loans. Everyday people can act as banks, and make a loan of as little as $25 over the Internet.

If you log onto the Kiva Web site, you see exactly who is doing the lending and who is trying to start a business. You get updates as well, to see if the business is thriving or failing.

How well has it caught on? Check out this fascinating data map treats each loan as a dot and the type as a color and tracks the number of them over the last few years.

Intercontinental Ballistic Microfinance from Kiva Microfunds on Vimeo.

Reportedly, the the loan repayment rate is 99 percent.

Bonus: Wednesdays should always start with bulldog-police horse love stories.


Although Minnesota has a reputation for stiff penalties against drunken driving, state law addresses only the operation of a motor vehicle – not a bicycle. Today’s Question: Should it be illegal in Minnesota to ride a bike while intoxicated?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The disappearing moderate.

Second hour: Severe drought in Texas and an active hurricane season in the Atlantic are just the latest events in what has already been a wild year for weather. MPR chief meteorologist Paul Huttner joins Midmorning to discuss what’s going on with our weather.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Michael Hurley of the 9-11 Commission joins discusses what was learned in the investigation and in the decade since.

Second hour: Rebroadcast of 2004 American RadioWorks documentary about the 9-11 Commission hearings. “Witnesses to Terror.”

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

Second hour: . Authors tell their stories of taunts and teases and tears.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – A decade after the terrorist attacks, MPR’s Sasha Aslanian profiles its legacy for two Minnesotans. FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley made the cover of Time magazine for her criticism of U.S. intelligence failures. Today, she no longer has her FBI career and failed to win public office. Now on the outside, she devotes herself to fulltime activism against what she considers the US’s misguided response to 9/11. The parents of Tom Burnett Jr., who fought the hijackers on flight 93 that crashed near Shanksville, PA., have taken a different path. Tom’s death propelled them into suing the terrorists in an attempt to bankrupt them. They’re pledging to fight on and want the U.S. government do everything possible to shut terrorism down.

  • brian

    There is a This American Life episode on Brandon Darby.

  • Lucy

    About that number one story: Thanks for sharing it, Jennifer. I sure hope you find a job soon.

  • Jamie

    Hey, Bob, would you give Jennifer my e-mail address and tell her that I’d like to send her some info about job openings?

  • Jamie

    re: Pawlenty — // “The governor… took a swipe at the electorate for being more interested in something other than serious policy.” //

    Oh, please! He of the party that does their best to make sure the public doesn’t know anything that’s true about policy or anything else!

  • Rob

    “Wednesdays should always start with bulldog-police horse love stories.”

    No, they really shouldn’t.

    I can’t seem to shake the image of what their offspring would look like.