The things we think are awesome (5×8 – 6/6/12)

What we learned from Venus, guitar theft ends on happy note, some landowners cash in, talking good in the Midwest, and a dream deferred no longer.


There isn’t a lot to connect the recall election in Wisconsin with the transit of Venus across the sun. Perhaps like yours, my Facebook friends are still warring over the results of the election and they are no closer together than they were a year ago. Any election now is merely the pregame show to the next election.

Which is why I thought theses pictures are a nice antidote to that sad fact.

In India, yesterday, people stopped to watch Venus transit the sun.


They did in Saudi Arabia, too…


… and South Korea:




And New York…


It is our nature now to immediately define our differences — careers depend on that reflex. But we have things in common, too, and sometimes it takes a rock that’s been around for billions of years before we were to remind us of that.

Here are some more images from yesterday’s event.

Discussion point: What do we have in common?

Related: Things that Wisconsin Republicans and Democrats Can Agree are Awesome


There are more good people in the world than jerks, but we spend most of our time trying to tolerate and survive the jerks. Just ask The Current’s David Campbell, whose prize possession — a rare guitar — was stolen out of a friend’s vehicle the other morning.


So he posted his distress on Facebook…

HELP! My guitar, pedals and pedal board, and amp were all stolen last night from a friend’s van parked behind his house in the Powderhorn Park area sometime between midnight and 7AM. This is a crushing blow for me financially and emotionally as that guitar is a one of a kind. Doing what I can to get the word out and try and head the thief off before he/she unloads it…the jerk. Can you lend a hand? Your help would be greatly appreciated. Here’s full list of what was taken with serial numbers 🙁

Which was reposted and reposted and reposted until a teacher who was offered a guitar for $40 recognized it and let Campbell know.

Andrea Swensson, who pens the Local Current Blog has the full story…

“So I’m like, who is this person? Give me their phone number. And he was not exactly certain how to handle it, because it would implicate one of his former students if we were to go to the police. So he’s like, ‘Let me see if I can just buy it from them.’ So I call the cops and I’m like, what can you guys do? 9-1-1 says to call the Minneapolis precinct. I call the Minneapolis precinct and they say to call Property Crimes in the third precinct. And I’m like, ‘I called those people at noon today and they never called me back!’ What do I do? I’m freaking out, because this person clearly has the stuff. It’s so close to me, but I can’t get my hands on it, I don’t know what to do, and it’s totally up to this guy who I’ve never spoken to. So [the guy who sent the Facebook message] is just like, ‘I’m going to go get this sh*t from [the student].’ I’m like, ‘Alright, I guess I’ve just got to be ok with that.’ He’s like, ‘Meet me over by my place.’ I get in the car – I’m not even wearing shoes at this point, it’s like 11 o’clock at night, I hustled out there – and we’re sitting there, I don’t hear from him, I’m texting him, he’s not responding, and then all of a sudden he calls me. He’s like, ‘I got it. I got the pedal case and I got the guitar. I paid $52 for it.’

“So he pulls up and he opens his trunk and we look at it, it’s my stuff, and I was just like, ‘I have $100. Here. Take it.’ And he’s like, ‘Thanks.’ And he gave me the [student’s] number and told [them] I was going to call. So I call [them] up, and [they] just sounded really distraught – [they] had stolen goods, and [they] knew it. And [they’re] like, ‘We’re done with this.’ I say, ‘I don’t want any trouble, I just want my stuff back. Can you help point me in the direction of my amp?’ And they’re like, ‘We don’t know.’ But then today, they sent that person’s name. So I’m going to turn that over to the cops and see what happens.

A happy ending, to be sure, but Campbell also learned — as we now have — that theft of music instruments in the region is an epidemic.


For a change, some homeowners around the country are starting to get some money for the minerals that may be under the land. The New York Times reports on southeast Ohio, where the oil boom may be taking root…

Of course, this isn’t the way it works in Minnesota. Landowners don’t own the mineral rights on the land they own, the state does. And the state needs money.


We’re not sure how to translate this study from the Sunlight Foundation, documented in today’s Fargo Forum, that shows Minnesota’s congressional delegation members speak at the level of high schoolers when it comes to speeches. The Declaration of Independence is written at an “18th grade” level and the congressman with the highest level speaks at a “doctorate level.” Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech is written at a ninth grade level.

According to the study

Overall, the complexity of speech in the Congressional Record has declined steadily since 2005, with the drop among Republicans slightly outpacing that for Democrats (see Figure 1). Through April 25, 2012, this year’s Congressional Record clocks in at a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005.

Between 1996 and 2005, Republicans overall spoke at consistently 2/10ths of a grade level higher than Democrats, except for 2001, when a rare moment of national unity also seems to have extended to speaking at the same grade level. But following 2005, something happened, and Congressional speech has been on the decline since. For Republicans as a whole, the decline was from an 11.6 grade level to a 10.3 grade level in 2011 (up slightly to 10.4 in 2012 so far). For Democrats, it was a decline from 11.4 to 10.6 in 2011 (also up slightly to 10.8 in 2012 so far.)

Part of the reason for the decline, the Foundation says, is that politicians don’t speak to persuade each other anymore.

Colbert can take it from here…


Larry Richardson of Kansas never forgot the glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge he got one night in 1968. He was sailing under it, on his way to Vietnam.

He never saw it again but when he returned to the farm and proposed to his wife, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, he promised to take her to the bridge. He never did. He built a replica of it on his farm instead.

“The 10th anniversary came and went, and then the 25th,” he said. “And two weeks ago was our 43rd.”

So it was more than an offbeat whim to model their farm bridge after the Golden Gate. It was an old memory, intertwined with life, near-death, marriage and the regrets we all feel when we wish we’d followed our dreams.

When Larry started building his replica in 1994, he and his father, who lived nearby, were estranged.

But when he heard about the project, his dad decided that Larry needed help. And to be honest, given the level of planning – or lack thereof – you can understand his point. Larry’s only model was a picture postcard of the bridge.

San Franciscans found out about this dream deferred, and did something about it.

For years, Richardson told his wife that when they finally would see the bridge, he’d give her a kiss. Yesterday, she got her kiss. (Photo: Sarah Rice)


See more great photos here.


Wisconsin voters went to the polls yesterday in only the third gubernatorial recall election in the nation’s history. The lieutenant governor and four state senators also faced possible recall. Today’s Question: What lesson do you take from the outcome of Wisconsin’s recall elections?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: What is a radical today?

Second hour: The effect of longer prison sentences.

Third hour: National implications of the Wisconsin recall.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): MPR’s Bright Ideas series: host Stephen Smith interviews Jim McCorkell about his program to help disadvantaged young people do well in college.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie. Likely more talk about the recall election in Wisconsin.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The number of multicultural churches in the United States is on the rise. Nikki Tundel spent time at the Church of All Nations in Minneapolis, where the congregation is made up of people from 25 different countries, to learn what’s behind this trend.

  • BenCh

    Re: #1

    Is it really any surprise that Wisconsinites can all agree on sports, food, and beer?

  • Chris H

    I’m really happy that David Campbell got his guitar back, but why did he leave all his gear in a van overnight?

    That just seems to be asking for trouble.

  • Bob Collins

    // but why did he leave all his gear in a van overnight?

    The answer to that question is in Andrea’s post.

  • Kassie

    When I write for work, it usually is graded at about a 12th or 13th grade level. Things we publish for out of my office for clients must be at a 6th grade level. It is really, really difficult to write for a lower level. I imagine it is even harder to speak at a lower level, but that’s what politicians do. For some reason Americans want their politicians to sound like a high school student instead of a well educated lawyer or businessperson, which is what most are.

  • Greg W

    // but why did he leave all his gear in a van overnight?

    Leaving gear in a locked van overnight shouldn’t be an invitation to theft.


    Another great, thought-provoking 5×8. That’s the reason why it’s one of my first stops every morning.

    I have a really small request.

    Could you please update the 2-3 PM slot in the “What We’re Doing” section with BBC Newshour?

    I would like to know what aspect of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee they will cover for the hour. 🙂

  • Jim Shapiro

    50% of the population is of average intelligence – or less.

    There is a populist method to the locutorial madness of politicians, who – despite all indications – tend to be of above average intelligence.

    In our “We’re #1!” society, not too many people like to be reminded that they aren’t number one intellectually.

    Thus, the dumbing down of political discourse.

  • Mark

    What I find interesting is the huge divide between the language of politics and the language of policy.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Mark – “huge divide between the language of politics and the language of policy.”

    The majority of professional politicians are trained as lawyers.

    Parlez-vous quasi-legalese?

  • Mark

    Yes Jim- my point was that I find the contortions pols make in engaging the public fascinating, given the linguistic precision in policy. It’s sledgehammers and scalpels. It’s not rocket science as to why, they are designed for 2 types of audiences and 2 types of processing routes (peripheral and central).

  • Jim Shapiro

    Mark – Nice.

    In re scalpels, maybe if we’re lucky, a statistically significant pride of politicos will suddenly make themselves available for postmortem neurological research.