5 x 8: What’s it like to drown?


I have taken note this summer of the excellent series of pieces that have appeared in local media on drownings, an especially important focus given how so many communities have decided they don’t want to pay for lifeguards anymore. That leaves the job up to the rest of us.

This morning’s piece from MPR’s Sasha Aslanian provides a fascinating glimpse of an ongoing problem. There are large disparities between whites and minorities in swimming ability. “The people most at risk for drowning are males, children between the ages of 1 and 4 years old, and minorities, according to the Centers for Disease Control,” she writes.

All true, and part of a bigger problem.

Yesterday, for example, the Star Tribune noted that how people drown isn’t how most of us think they drown:

Drowning happens quickly and often quietly, unlike the screaming and splashing scenes people see on TV.

“A lot of times, drowning is silent,” Owens said. Signs include a person’s head low in the water, tilted back with their mouth at water level; hair covering their forehead and eyes; a vertical position in the water; appearing as if they are climbing an invisible ladder.

The story mirrored a few I’ve seen on local TV news in recent weeks, stories that literally made my jaw drop. I realized only now — maybe 10 years after it happened — that the kids my kids saved were 30 seconds from death.

It happened like this: In Cape Cod Bay near Truro, Mass., a family of relatively small kids took a small sailboat out into the bay while one of the parents took care of other kids on a beach blanket. From our perch on the porch of my brother’s home, we saw the boat tip and the kids — not wearing lifejackets — were thrown into the water. Though they weren’t too far from shore, they were struggling. Then, they made a bad decision to leave their boat and try to make it to shore.

My oldest sons, early teens at the time, ran to the beach, grabbed kayaks and life jackets and paddled out to them. One young man grabbed the kayak in such panic, it threatened to tip over. We threw the life jacket to him. We got to the other three and threw whatever flotation devices we could, then towed them to the beach, where they ran to their mother.

In the water their heads were tilted back. They were quiet. They were about to die. We never got a thank-you.

As we pulled the kayaks back to the beach, a powerboat appeared. It was the father. He was angry about the sailboat, which he righted and towed away without a word, mother and father both oblivious to the four children they almost lost.

For more information: The seriously surprising signs of drowning | MNN – Mother Nature Network.

Related: Becki Salmon And Her Fiance’s Engagement Photo Shoot Turns Into Rescue Mission.


As we were saying, nobody tries harder to drive customers away than the nation’s airlines. And yet, people keep showing up.

The Wall Street Journal provides an interesting statistic today. The actual ticket price now is just 70 percent of the cost of a flight.

Actual ticket prices account for just 70% of the revenue at major airlines, down from 84% in 2000, according to the Department of Transportation. Fees tacked on for checked luggage and reservation changes alone rose to a record $6.1 billion in fees last year, up from $5.7 billion the year before. Overall revenue was $159.5 billion last year.

John Thomas, head of the global aviation practice for L.E.K. Consulting, estimated that by 2020 U.S. airlines will double to $12 billion a year the amount they take in from selling different elements of the trip, some of which used to be included in the ticket price.

Aside from the now-commonplace fees for baggage, changing reservations and better seats, fees will include items such as onboard Wi-Fi and speedier security screening.

The J.D. Power survey, of nearly 12,000 passengers, found the satisfaction gap narrowing between fliers who pay for luggage and those who don’t. Among those who do, 37% found the fees reasonable, up from just 18% in 2011, the WSJ said.


** The nation’s soldiers are returning, many, of course, in bad shape. For some, one significant answer is golf.

** A Vietnam war veteran — he fought for the North — lost his arm when a doctor for his enemy amputated it. Now, he’s got it back.

** No Tim Horton doughnuts for you, Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. (Toronto Star)

** The cop who was nearly killed by the Tsarnaev brothers conducts the Boston Pops.



The Children’s Miracle Network, the thing you may support with a dollar here or there, hosted Making Waves for families at Lake Okoboji in Iowa. The person who writes the excellent TV Fury blog has a miracle child, and a view of things that most of us don’t.

For starters, being with so many hard-luck families made it hit home that we’re a hard-luck family. That should have sunk in by now after 3 years of pretty public ups and down with two sets of premature twins, but apparently it hadn’t. This just seemed different. There were wheelchairs and g-tubes and cancer patients and obvious struggles. And we fit right in.

While I tried not to read too much into it, there seemed to be an underlying sadness and/or wisdom in every face – they all seemed weathered. Again, just like us. It’s hard to know why adults end up that way, but there was very little guesswork necessary with the kids. One girl really stuck with me. She’s maybe 7. Probably a cancer or leukemia surviver. Short, soft-looking blonde hair. I felt sick as I watched her wait in line for a ride – it seemed patently unfair that such a beautiful child should know such pain, hardship.

Meanwhile, our own miracle baby wasn’t herself during the trip, sort of lethargic. Vomiting more than usual. On the ride home, she spiked a fever of 104-plus. We nearly stopped at a rural ER. Once again, I found myself taking mental notes on how work and life could be rearranged in the event that she again wound up being hospitalized for an extended period of time. Thankfully, it hasn’t come to that. But it could, if not now then anytime in the future. It’s likely the same for everyone at the event – we’re too often waiting for the bottom to fall out.

That’s nothing new; I just didn’t think it would stand out so much in this room. Oddly, the situation drew more attention to our various conditions – at least in my mind. Like, it’s easier to hide in the healthier segment of society.

Related: Dickinson County News: Local News: 'Making Waves' day sets young worries aside.


Got the day off? Go search for art. Amy Carlson Gustafson, at the Pioneer Press, reports today on the artists who are creating their work, hiding it around Saint Paul, and challenging you to find it and keep it.

Here’s how it works: Artists are invited to create a small piece of work, hide it somewhere in the Twin Cities, then on Friday, post photo clues on Facebook and/or Twitter. The finder is asked to post or tweet a photo to let the group know the art has found a good home.

Of course, not all of the art is found by group members. A random passer-by could just as easily snag a piece, adding to the mystery.

“There’s some joy thinking about who discovers it and thinking about where to hide it,” Wang said. “And taking this silly little picture.

Here’s the Facebook page.

Bonus I: The Wheels4Kids program in Willmar was about to give a dozen bikes to needy kids. Then someone stole them.

Bonus II: Minnesota moments. New from Minnesota Audobon.

What do you make of the Egyptian coup?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Friday Roundtable, our panelists will examine how to be a leader, and how leadership has changed, in an era of uncertainty. (Rebroadcast)

Second hour: This summer, certain observers have started to make noise about Voyager 1 reaching the edge of the solar system. The craft, which was launched in 1977, is expected to pass out of our solar system and move into the deeper reaches of the solar system. However, scientists aren’t exactly sure how we’ll know when we’ve reached the edge, and recent developments seem to point out that what we thought would change – might not, in fact, we’ve thought we’ve reached the solar system edge many times before! So how will we know when we finally make it into the great unknown, and what do we hope to discover there?

Third hour: Ask the veterinarian.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL: Chef Marcus Samuelsson on food, family, and community.

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – Is alternative medicine really medicine? A
scientific look at acupuncture, herbs, and mind-body therapy.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – If you asked a musician for the biggest names of all time in jazz and Latin music, Tito Puente would most certainly make both lists. The famed bandleader played a big role in Latin music in the United States, popularizing the mambo, guiding salsa music and inspiring Latin rock. Long before his death more than a decade ago, he also set the standard for Latin jazz. A new collection explores a pivotal period in his work, from 1949 to 60. MPR’s David Cazares reports

Investigators from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement raided the Hmongtown Marketplace on June 11. They confiscated hundreds of pounds of mislabeled or unlabeled medications, syringes and chemicals that were being sold by more than a dozen vendors. No one was arrested, though the investigation continues. We look at the under-the-table selling of meds from both the law enforcement and Hmong community’s points of view. Rupa Shenoy will have the story.

When it comes to city transportation, pedicabs are like the Wild West with few rules when it comes to fares. Now, New York City is trying to regulate the industry and bring some law and order to pedicabs. NPR is covering the issue.