Saving Ely (5×8 – 5/18/12)

The beauty in a brewing disaster, a story of struggles, the Facebook IPO, bike-to-work day, and your moment of Minnesota zen.

Note: This is the last 5×8 for a week. I’m taking next week off to do some training to be a test-pilot for this airplane I’ve been building for 11 years. I’ll tell you about it one of these days.


I don’t wish anything bad upon you, Ely, but yesterday’s forest fire that threatened the town certainly provided a gorgeous view of the intersection of nature and technology on Lake Shagawa.

The fire, as you probably know, crept within a few hundred yards of Ely yesterday afternoon — the weather having been perfect for a spreading forest fire.

“I never saw people get together so quickly. It was absolutely awesome to watch,” St. Louis County Commissioner Mike Forsman told the Duluth News Tribune. “Those two big bombers just hammered the fire as fast as they could, and they kept coming.”

“Everyone was amazing,” he said. “I had goose bumps. I literally had a lump in my throat. They saved us, and they may have saved Ely.”

Meanwhile, this image — shot for MPR by Steve Foss — renews an ongoing exercise: imagining you’ve got a half hour to get the stuff you value and get out. What do you grab?



I was sitting in on a community meeting at Regions Hospital yesterday in which a committed group of people who’ve been meeting regularly to discuss eliminating the stigma of mental illness considered various ways of breaking barriers. Viral videos, advertisements, social media all came up. I was an observer, not a participant, but I noticed what really gets people to talk about mental illness in the open isn’t any of those things. The medium is not the message.

What is? One person telling his or her own story of a struggle. When one person talks, others feel like talking, too.

Today, one person is talking about. Former WNBA player Chamique Holdsclaw is recounting — in the Washington Post — her struggle with depression. She was a WNBA rookie of the year. She won an Olympic gold medal. She was a mess.

Holdsclaw retired from the Sparks shortly before the 2007 season, without public explanation, but her reason was that she had decided mental health needed to become her main job. Basketball since then has been a part time profession. She played only sporadically in Europe and the WNBA, including a successful stint with the Atlanta Dream in 2010. But mainly she has spent the last two years working on herself, and her book, reviewing the lost episodes of her life.

“I knew these things happened, that I lived through them, but I was like, wow, I can’t believe I was that selfish and so weak that I tried to take my own life. That still shocks me. There were times I would just cry.”

One person tells a story, then others tell theirs. From the story’s comments:

I’m glad she head the courage to step up and say something about her depression. Mental illness still has such a stigma in our society that we need more celebrities to find the courage to talk about the problems with it. Depression is unlike any other type of illness in that it robs you of the joy in your life as well as much of the time you could be spending doing something else. People who don’t have it tell others to shake it off or to stop whining about things, but it is seriously debilitating and strikes when you least expect it. Only those who have had it can somehow know what someone else with depression has gone through.

Presumably at some point this summer, there’ll be a public anti-stigma campaign in the Twin Cities, thanks to the work of this group I watched yesterday. If it involves people telling their stories, it’ll work.

Related: In 2003, a mental health facility was closing down in Massachusetts, but before it was demolished, an artist was commissioned to memorialize it. The artist noticed the drab walls and little light lacked life. So she planted flowers over every inch of it.


See more pictures at the blog, Colossal, which was recommended to me by several people in the last several weeks.


It’s Bike to Work Day across America. I tearfully admit that when I shot this video a few years ago on this day, I fully intended to do it more often. I’ve only done it a few times since. And by “a few times,” I mean once.

Part of the reason I haven’t biked more is I’m ill equipped for reality. I never got around to spending the money on the doodads that allowed me to pack stuff for what I needed at work, I don’t have the cool biking clothes (I’m a jeans-and-T-shirt biker), and once I get to work, the quarters for changing and stashing stuff have been taken by the people who take this stuff seriously.

Grant Peterson, the author of Just Ride, tells NPR today that people like me should just wear the clothes we’re going to wear to work. Seriously?

“There shouldn’t be any debate at all,” Petersen says. “Riding a bicycle should be just a natural part of your life. It’s so easy. We are the only ones — ‘we,’ speaking as an American — we are generally the only ones who commute to work in racing clothing. Where is there room for debate about how ridiculous that is?”

Find more — along with pictures — here.


Facebook MBA: Behind the IPO Everyone's Talking About
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Remember how gorgeous Wednesday evening was? It was at Tischer Creek in Duluth too, apparently.

Bonus: From the BBC: Theoretical physicist Professor Peter Higgs has spent his life examining the great mysteries of the universe, including the possible existence of the elusive Higgs Boson particle. This week, he went in search of his old school.


A recent NPR poll finds substantial support for compensating people for organ or tissue donations. Federal law currently prohibits paying for such donations, but the supply of available organs does not meet the demand. Today’s Question: Would you support paying people for organ or tissue donations?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Death of the exurbs.

Second hour: Take a journey inside the secret world of our biggest export: garbage.

Third hour: Friday roundtable.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Ted Radio Hour: The Buggy Brain.

Science Friday (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: A chat with Elon Musk, on the eve of his commercial spacecraft launch to the International Space Station, restoring movement after paralysis, and a preview of a solar eclipse.

Second hour: A look at urban agriculture, and the future of food. Plus: eating your garden weeds and the science of scratching.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Tom Crann returns to the abandoned rookery, wiped out by last May’s tornado. He’s accompanied by “bird chick” Sharon Stiteler.

A group of young photographers from the north side of Minneapolis hopes to raise awareness of homes still waiting for repair after a tornado ripped through the area last spring. Euan Kerr has their story.

Republicans are holding their state convention in St. Cloud today. The primary task is to choose a candidate to run against Sen. Amy Klobuchar. MPR’s Mark Zdechlik is there.