On signs (5×8 – 8/28/12)

Signs in the news, the helicopters of Minneapolis, where are the fathers, your partisan status, and the glamorous world of a country at war.


We need more bells and whistles to get our attention these days. Evidence: flashing stop signs. This is the new thing in public safety. Regular old stop signs don’t get our attention much anymore, apparently, so now they’re putting flashing lights around them, screaming, “hey, this is a stop sign, buddy!”

Bob Ingrassia at Idea Peepshow encountered the new flashing sign off Silver Lake Road (29th and Crestview) in St. Anthony Village and has considered this notion: If it takes flashy stuff to get us to notice stops signs, are old stop signs now less safe?

The effect may be imperceptible at this point. But what happens when other neighborhoods start pushing for those fancy flashing stop signs? Imagine the day when half the stop signs you encounter blink at you as you approach — shouting “Look at me!” — and the other half just stand there like boring wallflowers.

My contention is that drivers will grow to expect stop signs to blink at us. They’ll stop seeing those that don’t. I can hear the excuse now: “I never saw that stop sign, Officer. It wasn’t flashing!”

And then we’ll find ourselves needing to upgrade all stop signs just to get back to a level playing field. And when all the signs flash, we’re back to where we started … with all signs being equal. When everyone is special, no one is special.

And once all the stop signs are flashing, what will we use next to make the really important ones stand out?

More signs: In Stillwater last night, officials were told a simple sign would’ve saved their son from dying from a parasite in the water of Lily Lake. One child died a few years ago of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis and the lake wasn’t closed. Then another child died.


The helicopters zipping around Minneapolis last evening were part of some “training exercise” by police and homeland security forces, preparing for some sort of urban assault.


The police put out the word last week that these exercises would be going on, so that people wouldn’t jam 911 with questions. But people called anyway. Question: If you were going to have some sort of high-profile break into a building downtown, wouldn’t a good time to do it be when helicopters are buzzing around the building focusing on some scenario that isn’t like to ever happen and police are ignoring 911 calls?

Oh, and one other question: What is the reason cops need this sort of training?


The woman who copy edits birth announcements for the Fargo Forum newspaper has noticed that more often these days there’s no father listed.

So Kathy Tofflemire has written a commentary today (“Does it take a village to raise a child or committed parents?“) that’s bound to get people stirred up.

Children aren’t doomed if they are born to a single mother, but statistically they are more likely to struggle with hardships.

Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, says, “Raising children is a challenge and an enterprise. Having two people involved in that enterprise will typically make it easier.”

He notes that divorced fathers are more likely to stay in touch with their children than fathers who never married their children’s mothers. And he also says that children living with parents who cohabitate do less well than children of married parents.

And that’s my worry. Will all of these children born to unwed parents thrive to the same degree as those born to married couples?

Tofflemire acknowledges that she was a single parent.


You probably know you lean either left or right, but how far? You’re 12 questions away from finding out. PBS NewsHour has rolled out the “Political Party Quiz.” The quiz stores how you and others have fared and it reveals — at least so far — that most people are neither very liberal nor very conservative, a factoid, of course, that is not at all mirrored in many political choices we’re given.


Could there possibly ever be a more glamorous age than the late 1930 and 1940s?


CBS has filtered out images from a Library of Congress Flickr page, isolating women at work, showing mostly war-era work. They got no benefits for their work, and lost their jobs when the men returned from war. And even for woman who served in the military, many got no veterans benefits.

Bonus I: Related: Sometimes newer isn’t better. Lauri Ulvestad, of Ames Iowa, has one of those newfangled push-button starters instead of a key on her KIA SUV. So when the accelerator got stuck while she was driving on I-35 earlier this month, she couldn’t just shut the thing off.

For 35 minutes, she had to whiz down the highway at more than 100 mph.

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Bonus II: Figures. NASA today broadcast the first human voice from Mars. It was a bureaucrat’s. What would have been cool? Neil Armstrong’s.


The Republican National Convention is compressing its activities into a shorter time because of the weather, and the television networks are offering only limited coverage of its proceedings. Meanwhile, the party’s nominee for vice president has been known for weeks, and its presidential choice for much longer. There has been even less suspense on the Democratic side. Today’s Question: Are the conventions still relevant?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: What issues matter to young Republicans?

Second hour: Why is the demand for high-skilled, foreign workers so high in Minnesota?

Third hour: How will Samsung verdict impact gadget launches?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Fourth District congressional debate, live from the State Fair.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The latest on Hurricane Isaac.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Dan Deacon composes music on a computer, but a new project brought him into the studio with other people. NPR previews his new album, which mixes electronic music with an orchestra.