Dying to walk, ride a bike (5×8 – 1/25/12)

A bicycling report card, a kid worth rooting for, a sister’s tribute, dogs caught in beaver traps, and when you should put the video camera down.


Coincidence? The Alliance for Biking and Walking Benchmark Report for 2012 is out, showing where bicycling and walking levels are higher, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes levels are lower. While bicycling and walking fell 66% between 1960 and 2009, obesity levels increased 156%.

Surprises? Alaska has the highest number of bicycle and pedestrian commuters. Alabama has the lowest, according to the report.

The most shocking figure, however, is a 29-percent increase in biking/pedestrian fatalities since the 2010 report. The Los Angeles Times reports:

The report ranked states and cities on bicycling and walking levels (how many people commute by bike or foot) as well as fatality rates. Boston had the highest level of such commutes, and Fort Worth, Texas, the lowest. Vermont and Boston had the fewest fatalities and Florida and Fort Worth the most.

And Minnesota? Minneapolis is 7th — behind the usual cool cities — for biking and walking levels. Overall Minnesota is 18th. But Minneapolis is second — behind only Boston — in fewest fatalities.

Which brings us to keeping an eye out for a new documentary…


When ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover aired its episode on a homebuilding project in Moorhead, Garrett Grommesh was the focus. He was born with spina bifida, so the TV show built him and his family a handicapped-accessible home.

The kid is worth rooting for.

Now comes word, via the Fargo Forum, that the boy has been battling renewed complications from the affliction.

Since Dec. 16, Garrett has been home from Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul for barely five days in all.

Grommesh has written extensively on the CaringBridge site about her son’s latest battle, which left Garrett reeling from the “excruciating pain” associated with the shunt’s complications.

While doctors sought to find the right setting for the shunt – which also affects pressure on the brain – Garrett experienced several grand mal seizures and severe headaches, she wrote.

Garrett has had good days here and there, but the moments of normalcy don’t last long, Grommesh wrote.

At the home unveiling in 2010, Concordia College announced Garrett and a sibling would get a full scholarship.


121.jpg A typical obituary pales in comparison to a sister’s tribute. Dr. Mark Callahan, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, died in late December. He’d been given about 6 months to live (pancreatic cancer) nine days earlier.

His accomplishments, judging by his obituary in the Rochester Post Bulletin, were many. But his sister Peggy’s tribute, e-mailed this week to supporters of her Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, carries a much better picture:

Perhaps my most fond memory of Mark’s adventures in veterinary medicine involved a huge, recalcitrant wolf from Alaska whose mother was removed for eating sled dogs. He (the wolf) was bottle fed by me, hence had no fear. In this wolf’s golden years, he presented with some profound cardiac symptoms, so of course I called upon brother Mark. Mark and an intern (who has since become my primary care physician, and is a jewel among jewels) “borrowed” a laptop echo machine from the Mayo, valued at something like 30k, to do the diagnosis.

According to Mark, the wolf could not be anesthetized for the exam, without undue risk to the wolf’s well-being, so Mark and intern examined the afore-mentioned wolf with only our physical restraint. As one can well imagine, the wolf was angry-and expressed as much verbally and other ways- much to my brother’s delight. He was able to get a clear picture of the problem and diagnosed mitral valve regurgitation in this wolf, and prescribed a series of meds and protocols that extended this wolf’s life for quite some time. Whilst he was working, my guests from New Zealand-who happened to be filming a segment at the WSC for Animal Planet, saw and were completely taken with the scene. Unbeknownst to Mark, they captured it all on film, hoping to include this medical magic in the upcoming documentary “Growing up Wolf”. However, when Mark realized this, he exclaimed “No, no, you can’t film this! The Mayo Clinic thinks this machine is in a 7th grade classroom! This cannot be on National TV!”

Mark was a science teacher, and made certain that our summer science camps never wanted for supplies. WSC has microscopes, dissecting scopes, water analysis kits and of course, astronomy equipment so that students may share in another of his passions. He never wanted public acknowledgement for his donations. Mark saw the greater good that WSC could do, so he managed to single-handedly woo a donor into providing the donation necessary to provide the WSC with its future and final home on the Sunrise River in Linwood Township, which WSC now owns and is raising the funding needed to move there, thanks to Mark and the donor.

(h/t: Mike Edgerly)


Last summer in our neighborhood, the Blog Dog took off after a rabbit, with my wife in full pursuit. She located the dog by the yelping near a house a block away; the dog had been captured by a trap the homeowner had put out to catch rabbits.

Apparently, this happens a lot to hunters, the Star Tribune reports. At least six hunting dogs have been killed by body-gripping traps, including Doug Snyder’s near his cabin in Hinckley.

“We fought like hell to get it off, and we couldn’t,” he said. “She was melting away.”

Desperate to end Polka Dot’s suffering, he sent his son to the cabin for his .22.

“I sat and petted her,” said Snyder, 48, of St. Anthony. Then he loaded the gun and shot his dog.

“There was nothing else to do,” he said. “It was devastating. She was a great dog. I loved to walk in the woods with her.”

The Star Tribune produced a video to show how to get traps off a dog, but it only reinforced that it’s impossible for a typical human to get a trap off a dog.

John Reynolds, of Merrifield, a trapper himself, lost his dog too. He’s starting an online petition to ban the traps on public land.

“The DNR approves these trap sets knowing they are killing dogs,” Reynolds told the paper. “They just don’t consider the number of dogs killed significant enough to inconvenience trappers. Something has to change.”

As for the Blog Dog and the trap, it took three people at the vet’s to get the trap off, she survived, and nothing happened to the neighbor.


Former NHL forward Richard Zednik was in Námestovo, Slovakia on Sunday, coaching youth players inside a new hockey rink when fate again showed the circumstances which remind us that there are times to put the camera down, and run.

Bonus I: For pure writing ability, we bow today to Winona Daily News commentator Jerome Christenson, who wrote about falling on the ice recently, and saved his point for the last two paragraphs.

Bonus II: The Marine who issued the “shoot first, ask questions later” order that led to Marines storming homes and killing unarmed civilians, didn’t get the three months in jail a plea bargain originally suggested. He didn’t get a reduction in pay, either.


In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama spoke of a United States in which the many can share in economic growth, the middle class is supported and everyone gets “a fair shot.” Today’s Question: Does everyone in America have a fair shot?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: As a special advisor to the White House on healthcare policy during the battle over healthcare reform, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel was painted by critics as a proponent of “death panels” and rationing. He joins Midmorning to discuss how the Health Care Reform Act is going to impact the actual delivery of care.

Second hour: A recent study by the Harvard Business Review showed that out of 2,000 of the world’s top CEOs, only 29 are women. Why are there so female executives?

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Steven Smith discusses last night’s State of the Union address.

Second hour: Rebroadcast of the State of the Union address and the Republican response.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The Political Junkie from Orlando on the Florida primary, the debate in Tampa, Gov. Romney’s taxes, Newt’s Gingrich’s angel and the president’s State of the Union.

Second hour: The end of the shuttle program left America’s future in space in doubt and put thousands of NASA employees out of work. But many on the space coast hope that private industry will lead the way back into space, and prosperity. Talk of the Nation examines the future of Florida’s Space Coast.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The New Orleans Music Box. A resurrected home in the Lower Ninth Ward is capturing the pulse of New Orleans. Artists have created a kind of village where sounds made by New Orleanians — from their voices to their heartbeats — are transformed into a musical kaleidoscope. (The New York Times reported on this in November).

New Orleans, Part 1: The Music Box from BURNAWAY on Vimeo.

  • Elaine Love

    Bob, thanks for the scope of the stories you cover. Every day, 5X 8 is the best read of my day.

  • Bob Collins

    Thanks, Elaine, that’s very nice of you. You sit on the couch here before sunrise every morning slapping it together and you just never know whether it ‘works.’

    Hey, offer still good for a tour of MPR/coffee when you’re in the neighborhood for session.

  • Pat McGee

    Thanks, every day, for your postings. And especially today thanks for the link to Jerome Christenson’s poignant writing about life and falling on the ice. It is an eloquent reminder of how quickly life changes while we have other plans.

    (In my own case, I did not fare as well with my slip on the ice. It was and continues to be a very expensive fraction of a second of my life. But, it could have been even worse.)