Tag Archives: st. paul

Evening Harvest: April 28, 2012

A teacher, a student and a 39-year-long lesson in forgiveness

The beauty of an apology is that everyone wins because it reveals not only who we are, but who we hope we are.

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Riding the Subway with Stanley Kubrick | mcnyblog

As you can see below, with the exception of iPods and smart phones, activities on the train haven’t changed much in the last 66 years, including shoving one’s newspaper in everyone else’s faces.

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Brett Keller » Hunger Games survival analysis

The only statistically significant effect (at the traditional and arbitrary cutoff of P<0.05) comes from the Gamemakers’ rating variable. The career dummy variable just misses the cutoff (P=0.065) and might be significant if we had a larger sample size and saw similar trends in the data, but effect is in the wrong direction: holding other things constant (sex, age, and Gamemakers’ rating), Careers do less well than non-Careers! Of course, this only happens in this analysis because Peeta and Katniss (but mostly Katniss) are awesome.

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The Romneys’ Mexican History

This state of feeling in between, I would soon learn, defines nearly every aspect of Mormon life in the old colonies. The settlers’ descendants, numbering several hundred in all, keep alive a culture that’s always been caught between Mexico and the United States, between the past and the present, between stability and crisis.

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The Port Huron Statement: Still Radical at 50 — In These Times

To mark the 50th anniversary of Port Huron–and what we hope is the dawn of an enduring youth movement–In These Times asked 14 activists, ranging in age from 21 to 72, including three people who attended the Port Huron convention, to reflect on what that statement offers us today. Their responses follow, preceded by the portion of the statement they found significant.

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Ax-Man: What Surplus Should Taste Like

That taste, for the record, is a metallic, shop-class tang.

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The Things He Carried by Jeffrey Goldberg

I could have ripped up these counterfeit boarding passes in the privacy of a toilet stall, but I chose not to, partly because this was the renowned Senator Larry Craig Memorial Wide-Stance Bathroom, and since the commencement of the Global War on Terror this particular bathroom has been patrolled by security officials trying to protect it from gay sex, and partly because I wanted to see whether my fellow passengers would report me to the TSA for acting suspiciously in a public bathroom. No one did, thus thwarting, yet again, my plans to get arrested, or at least be the recipient of a thorough sweating by the FBI, for dubious behavior in a large American airport.

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a tale of two camps

Here’s an interesting juxtaposition: from Minnesota Public Radio, the 55th anniversary of the burning of Swede Hollow:

Some people thought of it as a sort of stopping off place on their way to greater prosperity, but for a lot of people it was the place where they lived. So, you paid five dollars a year for a right to live in that Swede Hollow. Early immigrants who came there, settled there. Some of them worked at the Hamm’s brewery just above, some worked in construction in St. Paul. There’s some indication that some of those Swede Hollow people helped build James J. Hill’s House.

And from the New York Times, a photo essay about an immigrant camp perched on the bluffs above Union City, New Jersey:

“I was shocked that people could live like this so close to a great city like New York,” she said. “I wondered: How did they live? What were their days like?”

What’s the difference between these two shanty towns? Besides half a continent, half a century, and a few shades of skin color, not a thing. Swede Hollow (and the Irish camp nearby, Connemara Patch; Minneapolis had the Bohemian Flats on the west bank of the Mississippi) have taken on a gauzy layer of nostalgia, and upstanding people can proudly trace their immigrant roots to such hardscrabble settlements. But the similarities are much greater than the differences.

The piece on Union City’s camp notes that it has “been there for decades”; much as we would like to imagine that shanty towns are a new development of our current economic distress, they’re a much more systemic phenomenon. Where there’s a need for cheap labor–whether to build a railroad monopolist’s mansion by the cathedral, or to clean a hedge fund manager’s Manhattan apartment–there will be off-the-grid, casual camps for people who can’t afford more than discarded tarps and tar paper. The powers-that-be regard them with a wink and a nod, at least until they become more inconvenient than the laborers they house are worth.

roadside memorials

Every morning, I ride past the “ghost bike” at Snelling and Summit, where Virginia Heuer was killed on September 27, 2008. It’s a stark reminder that even a relatively safe route like Summit Avenue can be treacherous, and that bicyclists and pedestrians fare very poorly in tussles with automobiles. I keep my wits about me when I ride, pay attention and obey the rules of the road, but 25 pounds of bicycle are no match for a ton and a half of car.

Most roadside memorials are a mixture of the public and the private, erected out of personal grief but also telegraphing the cost of highway fatalities as tables of statistics cannot. We have become largely numb to highway deaths: the CDC estimates about 3,900 deaths from H1N1 between April and October; 300 U.S. soldiers and Marines have died in Afghanistan this year; 37,261 people died in traffic accidents last year, down a bit from the previous year but still far too high.

New York State Senator Joe Griffo has recently called for a uniform memorial marker to replace the “flowers and other makeshift memorials” left by family and friends at the site of a fatal crash. While Griffo’s campaign has a reasonable origin–the recent death of a Henrico, Virginia woman laying flowers at her granddaughter’s roadside memorial highlights the risks they can pose to mourners–it also has a feeling of normalizing something that should really be abnormal and shocking. Standardizing the horrible, making mundane the tragic, seems like entirely the wrong direction to go.

To the extent that roadside memorials jar us out of complacency, remind us that the people who die on our roads every day have families and friends, that the vehicles around us are in fact occupied by fragile and mortal humans just like us, they might even be considered a safety feature. At the very least, an occasional memento mori does wonders for the soul.

I’m glad that the “ghost bike” movement places these stark reminders at the scenes of tragedy; I only hope they don’t have to place any more.

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