Billboard backlash (5×8 – 7/2/12)

Another look at the Un-Fair campaign, a quick jog around the world, the flood runner of Duluth, are family vacations worth it, the end of the AC throttle.

The Monday Morning Rouser…


Should the Duluth News Tribune have published the picture of the Un-Fair anti-racism campaign billboard, which was defaced with racial slurs last week? The newspaper says an Un-Fair spokesperson tried to discourage the picture, claiming it would be “unethical.”

The campaign has specialized in in-your-face marketing, but the newspaper’s Robin Washington, who had the conversation with the Un-Fair spokesperson, suggests it’s backfiring…

I don’t know if the conversation left me more dumbfounded or appalled, but regardless, I wasn’t alone. Afterward, I heard from other Duluth residents of color expressing frustrations with the Un-Fair Campaign for putting provocative messages into the open forum and leaving people of color to deal with the consequences.

One example was the lack of a coherent message or leadership from the campaign when white supremacists came to Duluth in March in response to their first billboard messages. Another is the current flap, with the selection of a billboard in the East Hillside rather than in Lakeside or Hermantown, for a campaign specifically intended to sensitize white people.

Not to mention choosing a billboard easily at arm’s height.

The campaign is run by white people and is aimed at white people, but the backlash against the campaign — obvious even on NewsCut’s comments — is against African Americans.

Some people at a rally yesterday wondered whether the campaign has been effective.


If the recent past is any indication, not many people are going to work this week, timing vacation plans with a mid-week holiday. A little boating, fishing, barbecuing is the order of the week, unless your name is Tom Denniss, who jogged through Winona on Saturday.

Denniss has taken a lot of time off so that he can jog about the world, the Winona Daily News reports. It’s a trip he started planning in 2010, to help raise money for OXFAM.

On Saturday alone — you recall how hot it was on Saturday, right? — he made it from Kellogg to Winona.

He writes about his journey on his website, Tom’s Next Step. And while we’re observing him, he appears to be observing us, like the bride and groom who stopped for a snack at Dairy Queen.

He started the U.S. leg of the journey in San Francisco on June 10, traveled down to the southwest, up through Denver to Fargo and across Minnesota.

How did he escape notice to now? He doesn’t appear to have a specifically-planned route.

There’s a lesson there… somewhere.


It’s pretty clear that we’re going to be hearing flood stories from Duluth for the rest of the summer, all of which appear to reinforce amazement that nobody died when the flash flood struck the Northland nearly two weeks ago.

For example…

FloodRunner from Duluth Outdoors on Vimeo.


It’s sad the New York Times is even asking the question today: Are family vacations worth it?

In it’s Room For Debate series today, the paper takes the “glass half empty” view of the world.

For those traveling as families, are the long car trips spent mediating back seat fights, or the delayed flights and hours spent chasing tireless toddlers around crowded airports, worth the time and money? Surely these are not the summer getaways we were dreaming about in February.

Should parents soldier on, trying to create those imperfect yet irreplaceable family memories? Or should they drop the kids off at Aunt Myrtle’s and go to Club Med?

Let’s go out on a limb and suggest the writer either doesn’t have a family or has a very young one. And typically of 2012, the “experts” debate whether parents should vacation without the kids.

Mothers and fathers need not be consumed by guilt for taking the necessary steps to ensure the longevity of their relationships. Loving, affectionate, intimate parental relationships generally lead to stable home environments in which children thrive. So vacations without the kids are ultimately win-wins.

You know these kids are going to be grown and gone soon, right? Make your family memories while you can because they’re part of the bank account you draw on later in life.


Those “throttling” programs that electric utilities used in the ’90s to cut energy consumption appear to be on the way out, Midwest Energy News reports. In exchange for a couple of bucks’ savings on your bill, utilities can shut your air conditioning off for a few minutes, to save electricity. But the recession has cut the use of electricity to the point where the throttling is seldom used, even on days like today.

Xcel, for example, has only activated the program twice in the last four summers.

The mid-Atlantic, of course, could use a little AC right around now. From Ohio to Virginia, storms took out the electric grid and it could be days before people get it back.


James Fallows says America used to be about resilience…

Still. How can it be that in the imperial-capital city of the richest nation the world has ever seen, people are told that it will probably be a full week* before electric power is restored? For the second widespread multi-day outage in the past two years. No lights, rotting food, no communications (internet, TV, and radio out, no way to charge cell phones). We have neighbors with little children, who get very hot — forget air conditioning, even electric fans won’t run — and want to have milk from the refrigerator. We have neighbors who are elderly, and very sick, and have medicine that needs to be kept cold and monitoring machines to run. This is not special pleading for our neighborhood, just a reminder of the whole modern existence that depends on electricity. I would worry that when we return we will not be able to get our other car out of the garage, which has an electric door-opener — until I remember that it doesn’t matter, since the roads on all sides are still (as of Sunday night) blocked by huge trees like the ones shown in a Washington Post photo today.

Related: I flew north of Northfield last night and noticed the fields that I documented after the flooding a few weeks ago are still ponded with water. But a field or two away, the corn is high. This person — on the ground — found the same thing…

It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year in farm country: It’s haying season.

Bonus I: The hunt for the “God particle” is almost over. What should we look for next?

Bonus II: The great baseball nerd roundup is over. The Society of American Baseball Research (the stats people) held its annual convention in Minneapolis over the weekend. Chris Jaffe of Hardball Times wraps up the action by noting one of the best parts of his trip was the drive through Wisconsin.

Eight years ago, my then-16-year-old son and I were in Cincinnati to watch some baseball when we walked through the hotel where the SABR convention was being held. “Where are the women?” he asked. Some things never change.


Congress, which has been suffering in public approval ratings, has picked up its pace recently and begun passing legislation in a show of bipartisan cooperation. Today’s Question: What’s your attitude toward Congress these days?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Examining the Supreme Court and the health care decision.

Second hour: City infrastructure and climate change.

Third hour: How a Mexican drug cartel makes its billions.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): From the Aspen Ideas Festival: a panel discussion about the pros and cons of the U.S. health care system, featuring Tom Daschle, Vin Weber, David Brooks and Joe Klein.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – In his new book, Rajiv Chandrasekaran tells a story about Afghanistan 50 years ago, when the U.S. pumped in money and people to win hearts and minds… and failed.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – An effort to democratize neighborhood improvement began with stickers. In New Orleans, they began popping up on abandoned buildings, vacant lots, and so on. The stickers featured the words “I Wish This Was” followed by a blank. Residents filled in those blanks with their ideas.That story — as NPR’s Cities Project begins.

  • “Remember that trip we took without the kids, honey. That was the best trip of our lives!”

    Sounds more than a little hollow to me. I agree with you, Bob.

  • With our families more spread out across the country, almost all of our vacation time gets used to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Chicago or Grandma and Grandpa in Phoenix. We have tried to take a vacation (or long weekend) without the kids every year since they’ve been born. This past week we took our first full-on family vacation with the kids (ages 4 and 7). It was spectacular. So fun to experience a new city (Toronto) with them. There were drawbacks (we don’t typically plan a city vacation, they wanted to know where we were going NEXT!), but their reaction at seeing Niagara Falls, and wandering through Chinatown, throwing rocks into Lake Ontario, and going in the CN Tower was priceless.

    I think the article is a reflection of the fact that most parents live their entire lives through their children today. All they do is cart the kids to practices, work, and stay at home staring at their own iPads or TVs. They don’t take time for themselves as a couple. I’m not sure one kid-less vacation a year solves that issue, but I suspect it makes plenty of parents feel like they’ve solved that issue.

  • Sue

    We have gotten too busy with job requirements in the last few summers to take a trip. Finally able to take a driving trip out west with husband and three children (ages 17, 14 and 11). Best thing we have done as a family in a while.

    Had me wishing I would have planned better in the past to make sure we took the time to take a family driving tip. Sure, we had the opportunity to sit in the car with kids fighting and complaining. But we also got to see some pretty special moments of our kids growing up and actually enjoying their time together.

  • Tyler

    Regarding electricity – I put a tube-style TV on Craigslist this weekend and it got me thinking – just about everyone I know has upgraded to flatscreens, including my elderly luddite parents. I wonder how much that has contributed to reduced energy consumption in the US.

  • David

    We take our kids on several vacations a year: A summer vacation where they get to spend a week with uncles, autns, cousins, and grandparents and a few weekend retreats to Duluth.

    Prior to having two kids we’d go to the Caribbean every year in the winter, the thought of starting that up again and maybe having it be just a parent trip (with friends) every other year is pretty tempting.

  • BenCh

    One thing about traveling that has changed is that kids no longer look out the window. I can’t remember where I was reading about this, maybe in the book Last Child in the Woods, but kids are losing a connection with nature. I used to remember watching the farms and clouds go by on road trips. Even now I have a hard time getting my wife to take in the scenery since she seems to be glued to her ebook reader on long car rides. Kids now can read, watch tv/movies, play games from a screen in a car and are losing all the sights that come with a road trip.

  • bsimon

    While I am dreading the travel time when I take my kids to visit my mom in CA later this summer, the 5 days we’re there with cousins, step-cousins & grandparents will be a great experience. Having said that, time away from the kids is valuable too. My wife is taking our daughter to my Dad’s for a week with the cousins / step-cousins on the other side; while our daughter is with family, my wife gets to take a solo bike tour, which is a valuable time to recharge (next year is my turn).

  • Bob Collins

    //One thing about traveling that has changed is that kids no longer look out the window

    My kids did, at least long enough to forever refer to Indiana as “the nothing state.” :*)

  • Robert Moffitt

    As a transplant from the Hoosier State, it would be hard to argue with your kids, Bob.

  • JackU

    Re: Indiana

    My personal impression of Indiana is that it is the land where RVs come from.

  • kennedy

    Re: #5

    Seems a little ironic for James Fallows to complain about the loss of resilience while also complaing that someone else is working too slowly at fixing his problem.

  • Paul J

    Re: Indiana

    If I may join the disappointed-with-Indiana bandwagon…

    My experience was driving back from Niagara with my elbow out the window. I noticed a small flock of geese rising from a pond on the right and crossing the highway overhead. Suddenly, a gritty, brown mess exploded on my elbow and up my arm onto my neck. Some goose, who had apparently been eating sand all morning, dropped a load right on me. Fortunately, there was a truckstop one mile later where I could clean up.

    While I was mildly impressed that the bird had such good aim, it really did leave me with a bad impression of the place.

  • Jim!!!

    re Bonus I: Journalists and everyone else should stop calling it the “God Particle”.