5 x 8 : Ode to a bridge


See? We love the old things we say we hated all those years. The Hastings Bridge completed its job last evening when the last car drove over it, perhaps driven by a driver who — like most other drivers — cursed its existence all those years when it was a pinch of a slowdown.

And then, people started walking across it, led by a bagpiper marking the end of the life of the bridge. The new Highway 61 bridge has opened, to send traffic streaming at a good clip into the speed trap on the other side.

The new bridge, MnDOT says, will last 100 years. “Old blue” lasted just 62.

The Pioneer Press has lovely pictures of people saying goodbye to something that’s just a “thing.”

Here’s the last picture I took of the bridge before the young upstart moved in.



Yesterday was another day for bad news in the region, with the story that a woman was shot dead, apparently as she tried to leave a relationship with her boyfriend.

Jim Anderson at the Star Tribune penned a thoughtful essay recently on the role he has, calling families during times of tragedy to get their story. It can be a lousy job. Or not, he writes:

There is no chin-pulling ethical dilemma here about a reporter’s detaching feelings: Writing sad stories is sad. Emotions, unlike opinions, are true and undeniable.

A family who has honored you with their trust of telling their most awful and intimate story is a privilege, demanding sensitivity — and really, just simple humanity. It also heightens the responsibility of being their voice, of getting it right, of not making a horrible situation worse.

Families publicly grieving offer us all lessons: the meaning of grace in this troubled life; the value of family and friends, and on the process of grief, in particular, that some parts of that process never end.

There’s no shortage of bad news, and from our isolated vantage point, we often don’t think about the people whose business is bad news.
Five years ago, for example, I wrote the story of chaplains in Minneapolis, whose job it was to notify the families of victims of the I35W bridge collapse.

“One of the things that we look for in chaplains and the type of chaplain that we’ve been able to get in Minneapolis is people who have a genuine calling for working with people in crisis and who have a belief that because we’re there, this terrible situation will be better because we spent the time to talk to them, to make the notification in person, to help put them in touch with the resources they need.”

“We see ourselves as the ones that walk the families through the valley of the shadow of death,” he said. And after a relative is told of the death, he said notifiers should have nothing to ever do with the family again. “Like a smell that might take you back to your mother’s kitchen, we remind people of the death of their loved one and the healing process can’t begin. We get hugs sometimes. We get handshakes and then people say ‘thank you. I hope I never see you again.’”


Somebody is burning American flags in Willmar. It’s not illegal unless the flags aren’t yours and, in this case, they weren’t. The police released surveillance photos of the suspects, leading to the question: Why on earth did someone even bother to install surveillance cameras?


The numbers aren’t adding up for long-term relationships in the black community, NPR’s Code Switch blog reports.

Just a quarter of those surveyed — said they were looking for long-term relationships, but 43 percent of single black men said they’re looking for a long-term partner.

The data, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is stunning in its revelation of the cultural differences between men and women in the black community:

When that data on dating was shared with Kristin McDonald, she was incredulous. “Shut the front door!” McDonald said. She was gathered with her black women’s book club at a popular eatery in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Like McDonald, they were all in their 30s and mostly single.

McDonald and the other women in the group said that they interpreted the term “long-term relationship” as meaning a prelude to marriage.

“I think that a lot of men think that they want to get married,” she said. “Men see it as a sense of accomplishment. ‘Once I get married, I can check something off the list in the things I want to accomplish in my life.’

But why are so few women looking? McDonald says a lot of her girlfriends were raised by single moms, and marriage wasn’t modeled in their homes, and today it seems unlikely.

“Who wants to say they want something that they don’t feel like they could ever achieve? It just makes you feel like, ‘Damn!’ you know?” McDonald said.


Bob Dylan has been feted in France, decorated by France’s Légion d’honneur, the Wall St. Journal says. The announcement of the honor caused weeks of hand wringing from the right, who objected to Dylan’s youthful lifestyle and his opposition to the war in Vietnam.

Bonus I: Can one question one’s own faith and even the existence of God and still remain devout? Rev. Andrew Greeley did, WBUR’s Cognoscenti says. He died last week.

Bonus II:
The joint chiefs of staff and their underlings tried yesterday to explain why the military is so bad at stopping sexual assaults. There are about 10 new cases a day in the military. (Photo: Associated Press)

Dana Chipman, Raymond Odierno, Martin Dempsey, Richard Gross, Frederick J. Kenney, Robert J. Papp, Vaughn A. Ary, James F. Amos, Jonathan W. Greenert, Nanette M. DeRenzi, Mark A. Welsh, Richard C. Harding

This picture — and other wider shots I’ve seen — sent me to check the demographics of the U.S. military. Thirty-eight percent of the military is ethnic minority. In 2011, 16.9 percent of all new recruits were Hispanic. Women make up a little more than 14 percent of the military.

You couldn’t guess any of those numbers based on the brass that got clobbered by Congress yesterday.

Bonus III: Biological clocks “beat quicker” in the cities. (BBC)

Bonus IV:
How can you not know you’re pregnant? It happens. (Duluth News Tribune)

Have doping scandals changed your view of professional sports?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Sexual assaults in the military.

Second hour: Why do rational people believe in conspiracy theories?

Third hour: Congress has proposed legislation to appoint a Science Laureate of the United States, a position designed to promote science education and research to the general public. During her interview at the World Science Festival, Kerri Miller asked all of her guests about the proposed position, and what value they think a Science Laureate could bring to the United States.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Live National Press Club address by secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Some great songs by great composers never made it to the public’s ears. These tunes live only on the shelves of the Library of Congress. Now a musical trio has collected some of the hidden musical treasures — and brought them to life. NPR reports on some of the greatest songs you’ve never heard.

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory opens the Gorilla Forest tomorrow. It’s a $1 million exhibit overhaul that adds six new gorillas to the zoo and the largest all-mesh gorilla enclosure in North America. Tim Nelson has a look.