In search of friendly (5×8 – 3/13/12)

Are we more insular as a species, the changing face of high school sports, Wisconsin’s voter ID law and the rights that can’t be taken away, there’s something about Marilyn, and what plants tell us about climate change.


Laura Yuen’s terrific series, The Outsiders, has reinvigorated an ongoing debate about the difficulty for newcomers to make friends and “be accepted’ in Minnesota. A serious issue? Yes. Take note of how many items in 5×8 have a “newcomer” theme to them.

We’ve discussed this here on NewsCut from time to time. What we haven’t quite figured out, however, is whether this is specifically a “Minnesota thing” or a “thing thing,” in which everyone has difficulty making friends, even Minnesotans. As a species, are we becoming more insular?

It’s difficult to answer because it’s a story that can only be told anecdotally . Many people who move here left their native soil where they had friends. Maybe it seemed easy to make friends there because that’s their there.

Maybe it’s an American thing. I came across this website last night in which foreigners lamented how difficult it is to make friends with Americans. To wit:

You know what, in general, it is hard to make friends in the U.S. compared to other countries. I say this because I’ve been to other countries where the natives were super friendly to me.

Also, it depends on where you’re located. If you’re in the big cities, people in general are disinterested in other people’s affairs, ESPECIALLY in culturally diverse cities. Because some cities are so diverse in regards to race, religion, etc., people tend to stick together and find their own crowd due to the volume of different people of various backgrounds. It’s also a matter of people’s comfort zones. People in the U.S. are way more individualistic than most countries, and this does bleed into our interactions with other people. If you try hard enough to make friends with some native Americans, you will be able to!

At this site, someone notes that it’s hard to make friends in Los Angeles:

I’ve lived here for a very long time. But I’m originally from Detroit and have a ‘mid-western’ kind of personality. I’m very friendly, love helping others etc. However, I’ve found it extremely difficult to maintain friendships here in L.A. I’m older now and some of my friends have passed away. So maybe that has a lot to do with why it’s a challenge to make new friends (because of my age).

This one says it’s hard to make friends in your 30s. This one says it’s hard for women to make friends with other women. This one says it’s tough to make “mom friends.”

Where is it easy to make friends? Those trivia lists — like this one — put New Orleans at the top. In other news: Federal officers are heading to New Orleans to fight a crime surge. Bless their hearts.

By the way, that same survey ranks Minneapolis-St. Paul as the fifth-most-friendly city in the U.S. On that Travel & Leisure survey, someone commented:

“I have lived around the world, and the friendliest people live in Duluth,MN – by far!!”

Duluth, what do you know that the rest of Minnesota may not?

All of which might bring us back to the question from this wonderful video from 2010. Why are we here and what are we getting out of being here?

Why We’re Here: Twin Cities from Seven and Sixty Productions on Vimeo.

Related: Songs to meet new people.

Not related at all, really: The second-hand effects of complaining (Neatorama).


A baseball coach on Saint Paul’s East Side says he has been replaced because not enough Asian students were trying out for the team. Michael Johnson posted this note on his Facebook page late last week (posted as written):

Yesterday I recieved word that I would be replaced as freshman baseball coach at Johnson High School after 3 seasons. The reason I was told was that there weren’t enough asian players coming out for the sport, so the school decided to hire a coach of asian decsent, who already has a coaching position at the school. Now I believe them when they told me the reason, since 2 out of the last 3 seasons we won the conference, that sucess obviously hasn’t trickled up. But lets take a closer look what really happened, a man lost his position as coach, not because of his performance, but because of his nationality. Now I’m not a rebel rouser, but just imagine if this situation was turned around, a asian man loses job to a white man to coach the soccor team to get more white kids to play. Or how about white man gets black mans job to stir more interest for whites to play basketball ? I love how the St. Paul school systems in their good heart tries to tell every student how diversity is done, accept when it comes to white person. LOL. All the while they continue to divide us. Does anyone have the number fo a civil rights attourney, or the white version of the justice brothers. LOL. The numbers are down and they want more asians to play baseball, I get that, but to let a qualified person go to hire a unqualified person because of his nationality is unacceptable in this country. If this were a position in the private sector (where your pay is based on your performance) instead of a city position, would I have lost my job then ? I have argued many times that when a private citizen invests his own capital, he wants performance, but we don’t have the same standard for tax payers investment. WELCOME TO THE NEW USA !

“Under no circumstances do we base hiring or firing on a person’s racial or ethnic background,” the district said in a statement to the Pioneer Press. “The district has a very clear policy on this, and we adhere to it.”

The complaint also sheds light on the changing nature of youth sports. Many immigrants don’t play the traditional American sports. Baseball, in particular, isn’t the national pastime anymore. Football is. Outside of organized games, few kids play pickup baseball games anymore. The game of choice in Minnesota is quickly becoming soccer.


A Wisconsin judge yesterday struck down that state’s voter ID law, requiring voters to prove they are who they say they are. A similar proposal appears headed for the ballot in November. There is, of course, a difference. Wisconsin did not amend its constitution to impose ID requirements; it passed a law that could be tested against the state’s constitution. Supporters in Minnesota want to change the constitution.

Nonetheless, the decision from Judge Richard Niess is good reading:

Worded differently, as a matter of law under the Wisconsin Constitution, sacrificing a qualified elector’s right to vote is not a reasonable exercise of the government’s prerogative to regulate elections. See. e.g. Dells v. Kennedy and State ex rel. McGrael v. Phelps , supra.

Finally, on this point, we cannot ignore the proper role of the courts in constitutional litigation. Because the Wisconsin Constitution is the people’s bulwark against government overreach, courts must reject every opportunity to contort its language into implicitly providing what it explicitly does not: license to enact laws that, for any citizen, cancel or substantially burden a constitutionally-guaranteed sacred right, such as the right to vote. Otherwise we stray into judicial activism at its most insidious. Our Constitution is a line in the sand drawn by the sovereign authority in this state – the people of Wisconsin – that the legislature, governor,

and the courts may not cross, particularly under the all-too-convenient guise of strained construction and attenuated inference.

You can find Judge Niess’ decision here.

The New York Times cites the decision in its editorial today against voter ID laws.


Marilyn Hagerty mania continues unabated. She’s the Grand Forks Herald’s reporter whose review of a new Olive Garden has made her a big star across the country because….. we’re not entirely sure why. Is it that it was a down-to-earth review in a world of snooty? Or is the rest of the country laughing at the heartland’s “cuteness?”

She taped an interview for NBC’s Today Show while eating at a restaurant, the Herald reports.

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The Herald is flying her to New York to review the Olive Garden in Times Square. She’s snubbed Leno but might go on Letterman, she was on CNN last night, and she might be invited to the White House, the paper says.

Her son, a reporter for the Wall St. Journal, writes about his mom in his big-city paper:

After 65 years of writing and editing for newspapers in both of the Dakotas, she didn’t need to worry about leaving a mark on the world. She had already done that. More than a decade ago, she mused in one of her columns that it would be nice to have something named after her. It wouldn’t have to be a grand building or a stadium, she wrote. A sewage-pumping station would do. The mayor of Grand Forks eventually complied. Visitors to the town will note the Marilyn Hagerty sewage facility, with a suitably engraved plaque in her honor, on Belmont Road.

Mom doesn’t consider herself a food critic. She lives in a college town with its share of local wiseguys. She knows a thing or two about snide comments and condescension. As she told one interviewer, “I don’t have time to sit here and twit over whether some self-styled food expert likes, or does not like, my column.”

Her restaurant reviews, after all, are only a sideline. She’s more at home writing about people. One of her best stories, in my view, was a 1974 profile of a bachelor farmer, Magnus Skytland, who lived quite happily without electricity. He read by the light of a kerosene lamp and sometimes serenaded himself on his violin. He showed my mom his favorite horse, Sally, named after a former girlfriend. “I’ve had three horses named Sally,” he said.

More food: A Harvard study has tracked more than 100,000 people for 20 years and finds that people eating red meat — any red meat — significantly increased their chance of dying during the study. It’s all bad for you, the study says. This raises the very question of the meaning of life. Is it better to live longer and not know what a steak tastes like, or to die younger but know the intimacy of bacon?


In upstate New York, some farmers are learning how to grow soybeans. It hasn’t been soybean country but with a warming climate, soybeans will now grow there. Desert plants are now growing hundreds of miles north of the desert zones in the U.S. Vintners in Virginia are growing merlot grapes. And yet, Pierre, South Dakota is getting colder.

Gardeners, PBS reports, are experimenting with the changing climate thanks to a new “plant hardiness zone” map from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (available here) that divides regions into different growing zones based on the average lowest temperature

Bottom line: This might be the year to grow cantaloupe.

Bonus: As tornado season approaches in the Upper Midwest, Harrisburg, Illinois’ recovery may be a cautionary tale. The federal government has denied the region any disaster relief funds.


A Senate committee on Monday passed the so-called right-to-work bill, which would make union membership and dues payment voluntary in Minnesota. Today’s Question: Should workers in union-covered jobs be able to opt out of dues and membership?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The proposed voter ID law for Minnesota.

Second hour: The debate over the proper use of the English language, and how far we’ve strayed from it, rages on in a world where texting and tweeting is now shaping how we write.

Third hour: March 11 marked the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear power disaster that devastated Japan. One of Minnesota’s two nuclear power facilities, Prairie Island, recently had a chemical leak which stirred up concern about the safety of plants here in the states. With hundreds of nuclear power plants in the U.S., we look at how regulations have changed since Fukushima and whether Americans should be concerned about nuclear power plants across the country.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Bright Ideas: Bruce Schneier on security issues.

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

Second hour: When someone you love dies, you grieve. It’s part of the healing process. But under proposed new guidelines, that grief may soon be considered a mental disorder, and treated as major depression. Necessary grief, or diagnosable condition? Plus, the stars of Key and Peele on race, stereotypes, and comedy.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Too often, a tornado siren may be a community’s only signal of impending disaster and that is simply not enough. Sirens are a decades-old technology, but new technology is trying to make a difference that can save lives with weather radios and alerts on smart phones.

  • Ho B

    If you can’t ‘Friend them’, then ‘Buy them’

  • Kat S.

    2) I would have been tempted to do a review of that basketball coach’s contract simply based on his use of “LOL” in his Facebook rant. However, I am a confirmed grump about the use of “LOL” as a kind of punctuation to a thought. Either the previous sentence was funny or it wasn’t. Have a little faith in your own writing abilities.

    5) I am also a confirmed grump about this warm weather and the lack of opportunity for snowshoeing in St. Paul this winter. I could be reconciled to a warmer Minnesota if it allows us to grow decent peaches, though. It seems we’re getting closer– my zip has moved from 4a to 4b.

  • Kassie

    I think it is hard to move anywhere and make friends past college age. But, I also think a lot of people come to Minnesota and complain about not finding good enough pizza and not finding good enough Mexican food and not finding whatever it was that made their coastal city better than Minneapolis. THEN they complain about not finding friends. Who wants to be friends with someone who hates on Minnesota all the time?

    I actually had dinner with someone who after me putting them in their place about Mexican food here in Minnesota, they actually complained that our GANGS were not as notorious as their gangs. They couldn’t let it rest. Where they were from was so much better. Why would I want to be friends with that sort of person?

  • Bessy Sue

    @ Kassie,

    You must be talking about Georgia?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Re Red Meat poll: I like the taste of beef as much as the next guy ( I’ll take mine cooked to a seared raw, please.)

    That said, at different points in my life I’ve opted to be more or less meat abstaining, for ethical beliefs( don’t kill stuff), environmental and health reasons.

    I currently try not to eat too many mammals, and those that do find there way to the grill had a healthier diet and more free ranging play time than most children in this country.

    Gotta say that I’m quite surprised that the responding news cut reading clan so overwhelmingly states that they would rather die than stopping eating the big dumb methane producers.

    I know it’s not exactly scientific, but still.

  • Kassie

    Jim, I voted for meat! That’s because I really like meat. Especially good lamb. But, I eat about 75% of my meals vegetarian, if not more. I do it for cost, the environment, and it is often just what I like to eat. But, the idea of never having a steak again makes me sad.

  • kennedy

    Not sure about the other survey responders, but I have a natural skepticism of this kind of study.

    It turns out the ‘meat eater’ group is also more likely to smoke, consume alcohol, less likely to excercise, and consumes more calories.

    Blaming it all on the red meat seems like a reach. I will continue to eat meat, but also eat chocolate and drink red wine for their reported health benefits to balance out.

  • Hillary

    Regarding making friends, one thing I’ve heard consistently is that we socialize at home a lot more than some of the coastal cities, especially if you’re over the bar scene. It takes a longer acquaintance to be invited over, and you usually meet at work, in the neighborhood, or at church.

    On meat, I’ve been vegetarian for over 15 years. Anecdotally, it feels like there are more vegetarians around than there were ten years ago. It’s certainly easier for me to eat in restaurants.

  • The Irish can’t brew decent coffee

    Regarding those who travel in clans, eat red meat, (corned beef and cabbage anyone?), drink beer and kiss blarney, I find it interesting that the truth around your Patron Saint’s Day is about running people of a different worship out of town because they are not your kind.

    How’s that for unfriendly?

  • nora

    bacon isn’t red meat. even if it was, meat should be taxed (or at least reported) at a rate that reflects the real cost of producing and consuming it.