Looking out for Bones (5×8-1/7/13)

1) KEEPING WATCH OVER ONE ANOTHER

People of Saint Paul look out for Bones, an iconic institution on Rice Street. Bones, Mike Hartzell by name, is homeless and patrols Rice Street, helping out where he can, cleaning up the sidewalks, causing no harm, and making more friends than a lot of people have.

The people who watch out for Bones even set up a Facebook page for him last year. In the heat of the summer, people would stop and give him water and ice.

And in the cold?

A lot of people were concerned about Bones when the temperature hit -25 for the last couple of nights. So one location made him a security guard for the night.

2) THE COLD REALITY OF MINNESOTA

It was only 14 below zero this morning when I took the Blog Dog on her daily walk. That’s 12 degrees warmer than yesterday (I have no idea what the wind chill is or was), and the kind of increase that warms a cold heart. The worst of the cold wave is over. We made it through. Pass it on.

The easing of the cold wave comes just in the nick of time. This morning, a TV reporter showed how cold it was by putting a can of Diet Coke on the ground and watching what happens. Some minutes later, the video showed that it fell over, proving — again — that it’s cold. Perhaps, you’ve heard.

Some people actually had fun with it.

After a week of build-up, the cold snap was everything we were told it would be — cold. But what choice did we have other than to adapt and adjust to that fact?

In his column in the Star Tribune today, Jon Tevlin calls those who didn’t cower, “phony tough guys.”

Wussies.

You know what they called this kind of weather back in my day?

Spring break.

When I was a kid, a Polar Vortex was a brand of snow machine, which we only used when it got to say, twice this cold. Otherwise we walked uphill and backward against the wind both ways to school, which never, ever closed.

News item: Minnesota this week was colder than Antarctica, colder than Mars.

For those of us in the media, it’s easy to sit in a cubicle and assume the people we serve aren’t the brightest bulbs in the package; it’s a hazard of the news industry, and it explains why we often sound like everyone’s mother telling you not to run with scissors, over and over again until you want to stab yourself.

There’s a difference, however, between fearing what Minnesota weather has to offer, and respecting it.

This was never more clear to me than the transformative week I spent in Moorhead during the Red River flooding of 2009, when I spent the time with three families desperately trying to save their homes. Armed with good data, they began building the dikes that ringed the neighborhood. And when the prediction for the crest changed — to a foot higher — they built the dikes higher. Then a blizzard came, so they put on hats and coats and boots, and kept building. And the prediction changed again. So they added another foot to the dikes. And they saved their neighborhood.

Bob Collins/MPR News/File photo

In that week, I never heard one complaint. The people separated the hype from the data and did what they had to do. They didn’t waste time posting cellphone screenshots to social networks, debating who was taking the threat more seriously, or wag fingers at each other. They didn’t ignore the threat, either. They simply adjusted to the reality of the danger before them , and went on accordingly.

There was nothing phony about them.

It took the Washington Post to assess the situation in Minnesota, and ignore the hysteria.

“It’s just another day,” said Bob Anderson, mayor of International Falls, the northern Minnesota town nicknamed “Icebox of the Nation,” where temperatures reached 30 below zero early Monday. “We know this is going to be part of our winter, and we prepare for it.”

Preparation means spending part of each fall making sure car batteries are in good shape, furnaces are tuned up and pipes are insulated. After that, Anderson said, life proceeds pretty much as normal.

He attended a wedding reception and a memorial service over the weekend, and hundreds of people came for each. The movie theater was packed. Candidates arrived to interview for an open city administrator job at City Hall on Monday morning.

But even Anderson acknowledged that not every part of life can continue as usual. “You’re not going to go outside when it’s 30 or 40 below and go skiing,” he said. “You wait until it warms up to about zero.”

The weather threat is easing and the only story left to do is the one that rarely gets done: Minnesotans knows how to take a punch.

Related: What Happens to All the Salt We Dump On the Roads? (Surprising Science).

Awful pictures of what frostbitten fingers look like (Pioneer Press).

13 Photos That Prove Cold Weather Makes People Crazy (Mashable).

3) BEHOLD, MINNESOTA! THE DRIVERLESS CAR. OR NOT.

Minnesota might be planning too much road expansion, Joe Loveland at streets.mn writes. And there might be a flaw in the 20-year plan, he says, because it doesn’t account for driverless cars:

While we would still need roads in the era of driverless cars, we might need much less road capacity, and different kinds of road capacity.

Both because of fewer crashes and vehicles that can follow each other more closely at higher speeds, we might need much less road capacity to serve travel demand. How much less? Patcharinee Tientrakool of Columbia University estimates that autonomous vehicles could improve capacity by 43%. Driverless vehicles that can coordinate with other driverless vehicles would increase capacity by 273%.

Adeel Lari, a transportation expert and former MnDOT leader who is now at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, points out that in the 1960s traffic engineers were taught that highway capacity maxed out at around 2,000 vehicles per lane per hour. With improved traffic management methods and technology, Lari and his MnDOT colleagues later found they could briefly push capacity as high as 2,600 vehicles per lane per hour.

Temporarily moving from 2,000 to 2,600 vehicles per lane per hour was a huge improvement. But driverless cars could push capacity to a jaw-dropping 6,000 vehicles per lane per hour or higher, which Lari calls a “game changer.”

4) FRIDAY NIGHT TYKES

This is what we’ve come to.

It’s Texas (surprise!). The Esquire network is premiering Friday Night Tykes that documents a football league where the kids are all under age 10, the Los Angeles Times says.

“The trailer is definitely troubling to watch,” an NFL spokesman said, adding that the league being shown in “Friday Night Tykes” is not part of its Heads Up Football Program, which seeks to improve player safety in youth football.

An Esquire Network spokeswoman said, “Friday Night Tykes” provides an “authentic and provocative glimpse into an independent youth football league in Texas.” The spokeswoman added, “We believe ‘Friday Night Tykes’ brings up important and serious questions about parenting and safety in youth sports, and we encourage Americans to watch, debate and discuss these issues.”

Related: Chris Kluwe: I was fired for speaking out about same-sex marriage (CNN).

5) CHURCH WITHOUT THE RELIGION?

NPR this morning profiles a Los Angeles meeting of Sunday Assembly, a church for people who don’t believe in God. The brainchild of two British comedians, the movement has since spread across the globe, and there are now about 30 chapters from Dublin to Sydney to New York, NPR says.

“Some people who were raised with religion rejected it for certain reason that leaves them with a bitter taste in their mouth about religion: either they had bad experiences in their church, or they saw hypocrisy in the youth pastor, or they felt that religion was manipulative or all the litany of reasons people might not like religion,” Phil Zuckerman, who teaches about secularism at Pitzer College in Southern California, says. “Those people are a little bit angry at religion.”

BONUS: How a Pothole Repair Crew Helped Land a Plane on a Bronx Highway (The Atlantic Cities). (h/t: John Olson)

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The consequences of oil independence.

Second hour: Fifty reasons to reread books from high school.

Third hour: Cris Beam’s novel The Intimate Life of American Foster Care is included on the New York Times list of 100 Notable books for 2013. Cris Beam was on our program on 10/21/13 talking about her book and conditions of foster care families. We will replay this segment. The second half of the show is a live segment about the kind of support foster care families need to be successful. We’ll look at a few community support models from around the country.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – Live National Press Club: Gen. Ray Odierno, U.S. Army chief of staff. He was commanding general in the Iraq war and will discuss the Al-Qaida linked militia strength in Iraq cities, and other concerns of the U.S. military.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – A look at the polar vortex.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – American troops ousted Islamist militants from Fallujah and suffered many casualties. Now they see on the news that the Iraqi city is under threat again. Whats it like for them to see Fallujah back under siege after
they fought two major battles for the city? NPR has reactions from U.S. veterans.

Today’s Question
How should Mayor Hodges address disparity in Minneapolis?

  • Dave

    (2)

    The only time I ever watch the local news is when there’s some very interesting event that affects a wide area, such as this cold snap. It’s usually KARE that I watch. They did not disappoint with boneheaded stories. This one was by Jana Shortal who was tasked with pestering a furnace repair guy and a plumber whilst they went about their business.

    First house had a pipe freeze and burst because the owners forgot (didn’t know?) to turn off an exterior spigot. Plumber tells us that, you know, this sort of thing can happen with -50 WIND CHILLS. I immediately thought of you, Bob, and nearly tweeted you, but I figured you would just get mad.

    Then our intrepid reporter tells us (and these are her words) that furnaces just “clunk out” when it gets this cold. Instead of that worthless tidbit, maybe tell us which parts fail, why they fail, if they’re hard/expensive to fix, if there’s any preventive maintenance we can do.

    No, they just clunk out! Geez people! This is why I can’t watch local news.

  • kennedy

    Re #5: “…they had bad experiences in their church, or they saw hypocrisy in the youth pastor, or they felt that religion was manipulative …”

    These sound like problems with other people or the politics of organized religion, not problems with God. By establishing a “church without religion” it seems you get the negatives of organizational politics, and the purpose for organizing is to associate with people that share a bad opinion of religion. That’s a lot of negativity.

    • jon

      From what I read it sounds like the purpose isn’t to share bad opinions about religion… it is about coming from a common background to form a community.

      You know like a church. (except maybe not the most segregated places in the country, because the background is about an experience not about a culture.)

      Of course it you want to discuss problems with God… my issue with him is that the people who tell me he exists also tell me that he share (remarkably) the exact same beliefs as they have… probably because he instilled those beliefs in them… and many of those beliefs aren’t about love, and forgiveness or turning the other cheek, but about carrying a big stick, and denouncing anyone who disagrees with you… Really God comes off as a bully… and if the people who support him support being bullies, why the heck would I want to hang around with them, or with their God… If I were to impose my own belief structure on God, then clearly I would be plenty ok with him, but I have to question if this omnipresent being actually exists, and ultimately I come to the conclusion that it seems very unlikely that there is an all powerful being in the universe and he agrees with everything I think and feel.

      • kennedy

        “.. my issue with him is that the people who tell me he exists …”

        Again, the problem comes back to not liking the behavior of people. Yeah, some people are really unpleasant. Some claim a religious justification for their bad behavior. People who go to church, or synagogue, or mosque are no different (no better) than anyone else. Some of them do bad things. Some do some really bad things. And some of them do some really good things.

        Religion is powerful because it deals with the nature of existence and the purpose of ones life. People can act like bullies in forcing their belief (or unbelief) on others. And that conflict usually focuses on items that are pretty obscure rather than the primary message of loving and helping each other.

  • MrE85

    Glad to see Bones had a warm place to stay. I have seen him and his dog on Rice Street for many years.