What makes a Minnesotan Minnesotan after a snowfall? (5×8 – 12/11/12)

Getting along after a snowstorm, can the NHL survive, end of the American ascendancy, a choir’s dream, and maybe the ‘cloud’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.


Sunday’s snowstorm has now transitioned from the “Isn’t it Pretty” stage and entered the “If You Can’t Drive Any Faster, Move Out of Minnesota” phase.

The roads have not been in particularly good shape, of course, unless your definition of “good shape” is a washboard that rattles your teeth. As much as I appreciate getting where I’m going, we have to stop and think about what we’re doing here. On secondary roads, we’re driving on packed ice. We might not be sliding right now, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be checking our deductibles if we start to. A good way to avoid that is to slow down.

And it’s true, some people don’t know how to drive in the snow. We’re not born with the ability. Yesterday on the way to work, a car on I-494 couldn’t have been going more than 30, with a pack no more than a foot behind her and every other car. As I passed her (I don’t know why they couldn’t have), the look of terror in her eyes was unmistakable. She was young. This might’ve been her first experience.

Sure, she might be better off staying home, but she might not have had the choice. She might need the money to feed a family. Today, she’ll probably be a little better at it. That’s how it works.

The Star Tribune’s Letter of the Day, however, confirms that we’ve reached a predictable phase of snowstorm recovery. The writer laments people who snowblow their sidewalk’s snow back into the street:

This is a fine example of the “my personal convenience is more important than my community’s welfare” attitude that is unfortunately so prevalent in our culture.

Snowstorms give us the opportunity to allow us to declare how tough we are; they also allow us to remind each other how nice we are.

A couple of posts on the Facebook pages of some work colleagues provide warming examples.

From Ali Lozoff:

Warning, bummer update: I just saw a man in a motorized wheelchair stuck in the snow in the Franklin & 4th intersection, with cars barely veering around him. (Those who know me well will know why this hits so close to home.) As scary and difficult as the roads and sidewalks are for the majority, PLEASE take extra special care to clear paths for those with mobility issues, and give them lots of room to maneuver.

She drove around the block but by the time she back to the intersection, he was gone. One of Ali’s friends posted…

I saw this guy too! And when we realized he was stuck we saw a good samaritan stepping up to push him out. Right around 8:15ish…

Colleague Luke Taylor also discovered who we are…

Two nice things I saw tonight:

1. On Minnesota Street in downtown St Paul: A woman driving a car got stuck on a slippery patch of snow. When the traffic lights allowed, three guys from the bus stop ran out and pushed her car to a dry spot where she regained traction.

2. On Marquette Avenue in downtown Minneapolis: A woman at the bus stop offered a pair of gloves to another woman who, blowing on her exposed hands to try to warm them, clearly had none.

What makes a Minnesotan a Minnesotan in the wake of a snowfall — charging down the highway, or giving someone a pair of gloves?

It’s only December and we’ve got a long way to go.

Related: Don’t be shy about shoveling.

More snow: One person’s pain-in-the-neck snowfall is another person’s salvation. Reader Eric Chandler got his first XC skiing miles of the day yesterday Snoflake near Duluth.

“People swarm to this place that George Hovland still runs,” he reports. “The snow brought out the people in droves and George’s parking lot was full and he was bustling around getting the place going (at age 86) after this latest pile of snow.”

“He’s a legend, 1952 Olympian, and KidSki at Snowflake every weekend introduces over a hundred kids to XC skiing every Sunday for 6 weeks through every winter. I’m lucky enough to be a volunteer KidSki coach again this winter.

“Snowflake’s a great place and George runs the place as a gift to the skiing world. I’m grateful to George and the fact that he uses his land to spread the gospel of XC skiing.”

Here’s a 2001 story on him, when he was a mere babe of 75.


The NHL has canceled more games, this time through the end of the year. Some businesses around the Xcel Center say they’re at death’s doorstep. The strike has reached the “we’re not coming back” stage for hockey fans. They’ll be back. Sports fans who swear they’ll never come back, always come back.

But they’re making a big splash with their “Just Drop It” campaign this week…

You’ll be back. And sports owners who lock out their players know you’ll be back. That’s why lockouts last so long.


A National Intelligence Council report got very little coverage yesterday but raises a significant question: “Are we ready to no longer be so special?”

The report, cited in the UK’s The Telegraph, says with the rise of countries in Europe and Asia, “‘the ‘unipolar moment’ is over and Pax Americana – the era of American ascendancy in international politics that began in 1945 – is fast winding down.”

How fast? Fewer than 20 years.

With a growing population and rising incomes, the planet’s demand for water, food and energy will grow by 35, 40 and 50 per cent respectively by 2030.

“We are not necessarily headed into a world of scarcities, but leaders will need to act to avert such a future,” said Christopher Kojm, chairman of the National Intelligence Council.

A wealthier China and India will likely need to rely more on food imports, driving up international prices. Families in low-income nations will feel the pinch hardest on food, likely fuelling social discontent, the study said.

The National Intelligence Council estimated that the world will have nearly 8.3 billion people in 2030, up from 7.1 billion now, but that the average age will be older – with potentially giant consequences.


WCCO gave a present to a gospel choir whose dream got stiffed by the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves, like many sports teams, charge groups and individuals to sing the National Anthem before games, and the Coon Rapids Gospel Choir didn’t have the dough.

So, as part of a holiday promotion, the TV station fulfilled a different dream instead. Who needs the Timberwolves?


Wired.com has the story of what really happened yesterday when Google’s Gmail went down: it transmitted destruct codes to Chrome, Google’s browser.

Think of it as the flip side of cloud computing. Google’s pitch has always been that its servers are easier to use and less error-prone than buggy desktop software. But the Sync problem shows that when Google goes down, it can not only keep you from getting your e-mail — it can knock desktop software such as a browser offline too.

Chrome prides itself on “sandboxing” itself, so that a problem with a single webpage can only crash a tab in the browser, and not bring down the entire program. But that’s just what happened with Monday’s bug. It clobbered the entire browser.

“That’s definitely a big and unusual problem because if the browser shuts down, that’s a failure of the whole model of Chromium itself,’ says Kevin Quennesson, CTO of online photo service Everpix.

“When you bridge authentication and identity and the cloud to a desktop application, you then get occasionally these very weird failures,” says David Ulevicth, the founder of OpenDNS, a cloud-based infrastructure services company.

Translation: It’s going to happen more often as you relinquish control of your desktop applications to someone — and somewhere — else.

Bonus I: How big a house do you really need?

Bonus II: Lyle Lovett is NPR’s latest Tiny Desk Concert…


Poll numbers show an approval rating of 60 percent or higher for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who says she wants to leave office after President Obama finishes his first term. She has said she is not interested in another run for president, but observers speculate that she may change her mind. Today’s Question: What should Hillary Clinton do next?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Inside the jobs report.

Second hour: Time and money management.

Third hour: Travel gurus Keith Bellows and Rudy Maxa discuss the healing or transformative benefits of travel.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Little War on the Prairie, the 1862 US-Dakota War.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – NPR will report on a role model who knows how to keep fellow ex-offenders from returning to prison. Probation counselor Clark Porter is uniquely qualified. His experience includes armed robbery, 15 years in federal prison, and then enrolling in college.

  • Snaab

    The problem with driving in and after snow is the number of vehicles unprepared for such a journey, not just the folks who are afraid to venture out and actually attempt to drive.

    How about investing in snow tires, that might go a long way with this problem. How about clearing your rear window, and more than the turtle hole on the front before endangering the rest of the drivers because you were so lazy.

    If you are afraid of driving in the snow, then take a class, learn about your car, learn about how ABS works, learn that all wheel drive makes you car go, but four wheels skidding is four wheels skidding, no matter what the badge on the back of the vehicle says about all wheel drive.

  • Matt B

    Re #1, one of my friends that lives in St. Paul last night posted that he saw a group of guys, he thinks they were from the Macalester football team, standing near Grand Avenue on campus to help push cars that were getting stuck.

  • jon

    Snaab : My father told me a simple truth when I was learning to drive. Some cars/trucks have all wheel drive. All cars/trucks have all wheel brakes.

    Now here is my winter driving rant for the season.

    Just because it snows the 2 lanes road did not become a one lane road that is twice as wide, please stay on your side of the road, and try not to plow into my car head on.

    During a snow storm, headlights should be on. This isn’t just my suggestion, it actually the law, you can get ticketed for this. The rest of us shouldn’t have to spend so much time figuring out if that is a car coming towards us or a patch of heavy fog/snow. Turn on your lights, be seen, the better I can see you the less likely we are to collide. (Side note, when I’m flashing my brights at you this means something, consider what it might mean before just assuming I’m an ass hole)

    Please stop plowing the snow back into my drive way. I can handle clearing the drive way after it snows, I can handle clearing the driveway again after the plows go through… but I can’t understand why I need to have another pass from the plow just to push all the stuff that is already well off the road back into my cleared drive way… but some how still manages to avoid clearing the snow in front of my mail box.

    Lastly… if this is your first time driving in snow, or your first time driving your present car in snow, find an empty parking lot. Then go slide around, learn how your car handles in a skid, learn how your car stops and how long it takes, get a feel for it. This will help you understand not only how your car handles but also understand where other people are trying to go when they are sliding around. On a good day with good motorists in MN in the winter, a car can fishtail around a corner, cut across 4 lanes of traffic, and every other driver will react to move around them… I imagine it’s what it would look like if some one sponsored “The Shirners ON ICE!” minus the fez’s.

    I don’t have a problem with people going their own speed. Know what I’m capable of, and often times I know what they are capable of just by watching them drive along the road. I (like every one else who has driven here a significant amount in the winter) have watched the 4 wheel drive SUV’s barrel past me on the highway at 5-10 over the speed limit on an ice pack only to wipe out in front of me as they try to change lanes, and luckily get stopped relatively gently by the snow pack. Take your time go at your own speed, but be considerate that others also need to get where they are going, so try not to commit vehicular man slaughter.

    With that, I’m done for the season… See you all next winter for a similar rant. (though I’ll probably complain about the headlight thing again when it’s raining in spring, once again during summer storms, and maybe during the fall if it’s foggy.)

  • Robert Moffitt

    1) I’m sure my expression driving on Snelling Ave. from Fairgrounds to 94 matched the young woman on 94. It was scary as heck — cars spinning out in all directions — at 20 mpg.

    I had an accident last month (mea culpa) that left my little Honda crunched (fixed now) and me bruised and sore, so I’m a little more wary than ususal on the icy roads.

    4) Amen on the Coon Rapids Gospel Choir story. H/T to Angela at Jason’s Station.

    Bonus II: Lyle Lovett? Double win.

  • JackU

    #1 – Got stuck behind a car on the ramp from Como to Snelling last night. Two lanes were being used but the left lane was blocked by a semi also stuck on the pack ice. Hopefully warmer temps later in the week will help get that cleared up.

    #5 – You mean you only have one browser on your system?

  • Transplant from the south

    Thanks to those who are expressing understanding for the more terrified drivers. I am one of them. Oddly enough, I was braver when I first moved here, approximately 20 years ago. I developed a winter driving anxiety more recently for reasons I can’t fully explain. At any rate, I cannot move due to family obligations (a teen who would not want to be leave her school, a husband I love who does not want to move and whom I would have to divorce, an older relative who moved to be near me), and I cannot afford not to work. Public transportation is also not an option due to where I live and work. Given all that, I am working to make the best of things. I bought snow tires last year, and am now driving around chanting, “It’s okay. My tires are good. Everything is going to be alright.” I did practice a little “wild” driving on our quiet street Friday night after the snow had made it a little slick. I am doing what I can to conquer the anxiety. It’s slow going (no pun intended), so I appreciate understanding from others around me. I really don’t WANT to be that slow, white-knuckled driver (though I don’t want to charge around like an overconfident idiot, either), and I’m working not to be that person. In the meantime, I have to get to and from work.

  • andy

    1) Snow tires are a wonderful thing. I bought snow tires and cheap black rims a couple of years ago and they make my lightweight, compact, front-wheel-drive (with no traction control) 5-speed manual transmissioned car an absolute champ in the slippery stuff. In the spring, I’ll put the normal summer tires/rims on. Easy as pie.

  • Tyler

    Having grown up in eastern Iowa, I feel that I am better-equipped to answer this question than you natives:

    What makes a Minnesotan a Minnesotan in the wake of a snowfall ?

    The answer is definitely the “charging down the highway” answer. In a storm like the most recent one, school would have been closed for a day, probably two. Business would have been closed. People would have worked from home, enjoyed the day, or gotten caught up on chores. This foolhardy mentality of “gotta get to work no matter what” is a waste of time and gas, and a dangerous one at that.

  • Joanna

    I had to drive to a medical appointment yesterday, and the icy ruts are truly scary. I have three more appointments today, and bus is not an option. I dread getting back on the road, and I plan to take alternate routes in hopes of avoiding the speeding yahoos who think that it’s a point of pride to crowd other people when the conditions are so bad. Stay safe, everyone!

  • BJ

    Driving in Minnesota snow is kind of like electing someone to Congress. All the other congressmen stink, but mine is great. Kidding, kind of.

  • andy

    @Tyler – I agree with you 100%

    Two winters ago in Chicago (where I am) we had a huge 20″+ snowstorm. It began snowing mid-day so I decided to leave work early so I could make it safely home (normal 45 minute commute). I couldn’t believe the grief I got from coworkers about leaving early! Despite my early exit, it still took me 3 hours to get home because it was snowing so badly.

    Oh, and one of my foolhardy coworkers who gave me static about leaving early stayed the whole day, and ended up being stuck on Lakeshore Drive all night (remember that news story?)

  • Heather

    I’m with Tyler. Sometimes it’s ok to bend to the weather. Sometimes it’s even wonderful!

    Also, I couldn’t help but wonder this morning why I didn’t see a single inch-thick slab of ice on I94 in WI. What are they doing differently? There was still a thin layer of slippery, but people were taking it easy and the surface just wasn’t as terrifying as it gets a short way into MN.

  • boB from WA

    Re #2 : Sad to say I’ll probably be one of those who returns to hockey, even if hockey has not been good to me. I can’t/won’t take the pledge ‘cos: a) I know that this is one of the few sports that I’m passionate about resulting is a quasi-addiction; and b) I believe it’s too easy to make pledges that don’t/won’t make a difference to those who control the cash.

    So…in the meantime, I’ll be content to get my “fix” by watching college hockey on NBCSN and the local Portland Winterhawks on Comcast.

  • Cara

    Took me 45 minutes (!) to get from Louisiana to Highway 100 northbound on 394 yesterday evening. Just as I was getting on, my daughter called from 494 & 100, asking me to come get her. 3 hours on the road last night. Sigh.

  • Cara

    boB from WA: College hockey (and high school) is more exciting anyway.

  • David

    “This foolhardy mentality of “gotta get to work no matter what” is a waste of time and gas, and a dangerous one at that.”

    Agreed. I took the day off. I wonder if some of it has to do with school closings, when they close school for a day it needs to be made up. Also, people get angry because they have to find care for their kids or stay home.

    I only think of the other side of that coin. The streets are deadly and you want your kids standing on the side? Also, it’s not like buses can get around in this weather. The school that my wife teaches at didn’t even have a late start. Of course almost no kids show up, but they administration sees it as a win; no days/hours to make up.