Category Archives: News

Urban Legend

Today in 565 AD, St, Columba reported seeing the Loch Ness Monster.  I wonder how he would feel if he knew people were still talking about Nessie today.

Around Luverne, legend has it that Jesse James jumped his horse across a ridiculously wide gap at the Devil’s Gulch in Garretson, SD, running away from Northfield and the disastrous raid there.  I have seen the gap and I seriously doubt a horse could jump it, but what do I know? Luvernites also believe that a tornado will never strike the town because of some special characteristics of the Blue Mounds formations to the north of the city. Maybe. Maybe, though, we have just been lucky.

Any legends from where you have lived or where you grew up? What is your favorite urban legend?

 

Ben’s Rampage

I was sad to read in the Rock County Star Herald, a weekly paper from my home town to which I subscribe, that the Hills Crescent newspaper is ceasing publication. Hills is a small town southwest of Luverne, and the Star Herald, which owns the Crescent, decided to close it down. They promise that Hills and Beaver Creek news and issues will be covered in the Star Herald.

The Crescent was in publication for 126 years. It was started in 1893 and had 200 subscribers when it started. The first press they used was a Rampage brand press that had been previously owned by Ben Franklin! It was the oldest press machine in the US at the time. I think that is so cool! It only printed one page at a time. I have no idea where it got its name. It doesn’t sound like it rampaged at that pace.

Our current town newspaper only publishes Tuesday through Saturday.  It is delivered by the Post Office, so we sometimes don’t get the paper until late in the afternoon. Were it not for the local court news and the comics, we probably wouldn’t subscribe. I envy people who live somewhere they can get a real paper every day.

What are your favorite and least favorite newspapers?

Forgive Me, Harry

Today’s post comes to us from our own Minnesota Steve.

Harry Truman and I had a short conversation in October of 1963. Truman was then 79, retired and living in Independence, Missouri. He was flown to Grinnell College to make a few appearances. Truman showed up at the class I was taking on American Constitutional History. He spoke briefly, then asked if any of us had questions.

I did. Although I used to suffer panic attacks when asking a girl for a date, I felt oddly calm as I queried the former president. “The bomb we dropped on Hiroshima demonstrated the awesome lethality of atomic weapons. I wonder why the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Couldn’t we, instead, have just obliterated an uninhabited atoll? Wouldn’t that have made the point we were trying to make?”

I wasn’t trying to be a smartass, but Truman thought I was. He shouted a bewildering collection of disconnected phrases. I heard “saved half a million American lives,” but the rest wasn’t clear. Truman was pissed off, and he didn’t hide that. Mercifully–for both of us–the bell rang to signal the end of the class. Truman exited the classroom still roaring at me.

I’ve occasionally told the story of that meeting, offering it as an example of how communication can fail. I was not proud of having caused Truman distress. But neither was I ashamed of my question. I meant well. It wasn’t my fault that the man from Missouri misunderstood me.

And yet I now do feel I was at fault. My question was sure to strike him as impudent, for I totally failed to recognize how often he had been criticized for using atomic weaponry. I failed to consider context.

The decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan was made in the context of the most difficult war this country had ever experienced. For several desperate years, the outcome of that war was in doubt. Even when it was clear the United States would prevail, informed observers calculated that defeating Japan would incur terrible loss of American and Japanese lives. Experts predicted that the invasion of the Japanese homeland would be one of the bloodiest events in world history.

The decision to create the bomb had been made in fear and desperation. Truman’s deployment of the bomb was based in part on the hope that using a devastating new weapon might save lives by showing Japan that continued fighting was futile. Plus, I wonder if he ever grasped the shocking destructiveness of the new weapon.

The world was entirely different when I stood to ask my question of the retired president. By 1962, World War II was a distant memory, a war which the US had won. It was common knowledge in the 1960s that the Soviet Union and the United States would destroy each other and much of the civilized world if Cold War tensions triggered the deployment of atomic bombs. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, just a year before Truman visited my class, the world narrowly avoided a nuclear holocaust.

Truman and I experienced a clash of contexts. He was used to people damning him for using the bomb. Of course, he regarded my question as another insulting attack. How could he not? I was working from an ethical context. That was only possible because I had the luxury of viewing Truman’s decision as an ethical issue that only arose after the great conflict had been resolved. When I spoke up, the fear of losing the war was gone, replaced by fear of the bomb itself.

I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, Harry. You were a good man and a good president. I should have said so the one time we spoke. Please forgive me.

When have you regretted a failure of communications?

Is it fair to judge earlier leaders who made decisions that look wrong in light of modern realities and evolved values?

World Record

In the weird world that is Guinness, the news this week is what was the steepest street on the planet has been overtaken. For many years, the official steepest street has been (no, nothing in San Francisco) Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand, coming at a gradient of 34.97 percent.

The upstart steepest street is Ffordd Pen Llech (say that three times quickly!) in the seafront town of Harlech in North Wales, which is about 240 miles northwest of London.  Ffordd Pen Llech has a gradient of 37.45.  Apparently there was a concerted effort by the town of Harlech to win the coveted “steepest” title; tourism is expected to rise with the influx of folks wanting to see it and have their picture taken on the street.

Dunedin City Council has already met to discuss their loss and have decided they will market themselves as having the steepest street in the southern hemisphere!

Who’s the tallest in your family?

Getting Dumb and Dumber?

Photo Credit: Getty Images

According to an article I found on BBC.com, it looks like our IQs are starting to recede, or at least not continue upwards as they have been doing.

Intelligence tests (IQ tests) were invented a little more than a century ago and since that time, our scores have been increasing at a steady rate. According to studies “even the average person today would have been considered a genius compared to someone born in 1919”.  (Unless you’re comparing yourself to Albert Einstein (born 1879), then all bets are off.)  This steady increase in IQ is known as the Flynn Effect.

But now scientists have uncovered evidence that this trend may be slowing down and perhaps even reversing. Does this mean we’ve peaked as a species?

Of course the cause of the Flynn Effect has never been agreed upon by the scientific community; most seem to think that multiple environmental factors are involved (increased health, increased food availability, increased access to education, removing lead from gasoline), but nobody really knows for sure. It’s my guess that if there is a decline of our collective IQ on the horizon, no one will understand that either.

Who is the smartest person you know? Or what smart person would you LIKE to know?

New Phase of the Moon

NASA has been back in the news with the announcement that a return trip to the moon is in the works for 2024. And this means that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is back in the news with HIS announcement that he wants to bankroll 6-8 artists to go with him on a SpaceX flight affectionately named “Dear Moon”. He says that taking artists to space would allow them to “communicate their experiences to the masses in new ways”.

Of course, this project is just in the offing and we’ll have to see if it comes to fruition by 2024.

Would you want to travel to the moon? Or Mars?  Or beyond?

Gosling Crossing

After yesterday’s trail discussion, I spent quite a bit of time yesterday thinking about how we keep calm when it feels as if the world around us is unraveling. As I pondering this and driving along 66th Street, I noticed that the traffic was stopped a few cars up.  As I got a little closer, I noticed a huge gaggle of geese and goslings leisurely crossing the street, apparently oblivious to the traffic.  It was then that I realized that another piece of remaining hopeful is to RECOGNIZE little kindnesses when they happen.  All the cars stopped, nobody honked impatiently and even when the goslings finally got across the street, no one rushed hurriedly on.  A gentleman standing on the far side of 66th watched the whole time to make sure the little flock was safe.  It was just a small incident but it made me feel a little better.

Have you witnessed any small kindnesses recently?