Many moons ago, in the hand-held timing era, I went home from a
conference track meet with the white ribbon instead of the green one
because a coin toss was the only way officials could break down our "photo finish" in the 100-yard dash. With
today's timing technology, they could probably have fitted the entire final of runners
in the imperceptible gap between me and the other guy.
For spectators of many Winter Olympics events, it's extremely to difficult acquire a sensory appreciation of how the race concluded. Some are run as time trials rather than head-to-head, but even seeing racers together, it's difficult to discriminate when they hit the finish within hundredths of a second. Abstracting the result to a number makes it clear, but not visceral.
Of course, television viewers can watch in-progress digital readouts and time comparisons, and we can rerun the "tape" and break it down in slow motion. These methods all rely on the visual sense to convey the information.
The New York Times takes an interesting approach to illustrating the very small differences among finalist finishers, using sound to portray the intervals. (The player for listening to several finishes is here.)
We experience races primarily in the visual realm, but our visual sense is best at discriminating totality. Our sense of hearing, the player demonstrates, is highly attuned to picking up these small differences that are very difficult to judge in a visual field.
Although we don't usually think of it this way, when we listen to music, we are perceiving the spaces between the time and intervals — exactly what race officials have to do.
One other thought about finishes after watching the end of the women's hockey final the other night. The gold-winning Canadians were joyous, naturally, and the second-best Americans seemed to hold onto disappointment bordering on despair.
Elite athletes in all sports want to win, of course, but I wonder if there is a psychological difference in the way competitors react to defeat, based on the style of competition — whether it is team vs. individual sport, and whether the final competition is against the field or a single opponent.
Shell Oil, one of the major players in developing western Colorado's oil shale into actual oil, announced this week that it is dropping a contested application for conditional water rights on the Yampa River near the Piceance Creek Basin, where much of the fable trillion barrels of American oil remains locked up in rock.
The company said in its statement, “The exact scale and timing for
development will depend on a number of factors, including progress on
our technology development, the outcome of regulatory processes, market
conditions, project economics and consultations with key stakeholders.
That's what companies have been saying about oil shale since before my mother was born. (A local newspaper editorialist makes that point, punctuating a talking-head video with a 1920 oil shale news story.)
I remember as child my father pointing out street signs falling down in a patch of desert, where developers promised oil shale was going to bring a monorail and a burgeoning new community. Ten years later, I was working on drilling rigs that were sampling the Piceance Creek shale deposits, and fiften years later, a big oil shale project collapsed with oil prices, nearly taking the entire western slope economy with it.
It's not much of an overstatement to say that experience made many locals here feel about oil shale after Black Sunday the way 9/11 made Americans feel about terrorists.
Regardless of what happens to prices in world oil markets, one irreducible fact remains. Most oil shale reserves are in the arid west, where water is a very precious commodity — with competing demand from agriculture, growing cities and power generation. Extraction technologies that work in pilot programs still must be able to scale. With water shortages all over the west now, that's a big hurdle to overcome.
What's good for General Mills usually is good for Minnesota. And
despite the state's gigantic revenue shortage, some proposals at the
Capitol to give further tax cuts and credits to businesses deserve a
But the assumption that more tax cuts are the only way to
strengthen the state's economy is just plain wrong. It misses the truth
on the flip side: What's good for the public also is vital for business
in the long run.
I honestly don't expect to convince anyone with an opinion piece. I think most Strib readers have made their minds up already. They either believe that taxes are a form of armed robbery and that I and every liberal want to be on the other end of the gun, or they are appalled at what has been wrought — and is yet to come — after seven years of No New Taxes and Gov. Pawlenty's warmup laps for his presidential run.
The best I can hope for is that some of the latter people will talk to their elected representatives and give them the courage to do what is right for Minnesota now and in the long run.
We were also told not to spend a lot ink showing how reasonable we are or how badly certain people will suffer from cuts in government services.
But we are reasonable, I think. We know cuts must be be made in spending. We have advocated for years on behalf of reforms that will make government more efficient and make it easier to kill sacred cows that aren't working — and not just those sponsored by the other party. We think it's vital to have a business-friendly state, but subsidies and tax cuts aren't the best way to do it.
The real, hard work has to be done with specific proposals put before the legislature for raising revenue and cutting spending. We can't do it with nice generalities and blanket tax hikes or across the board cuts. And we can't do it without looking at the structural budget imbalance and addressing that instead of kicking the can down road for another year.
Tim Pawlenty has been a huge disappointment as governor, and it will only get worse. The DFL and GOP members of the legislature are the ones who will have to suck it up and stand up for their state. Pawlenty is only going to treat Minnesota as a float in his presidential parade.
And that means we have to suck it up, too. There's going to be pain ahead, and we have to act like big boys and girls as it comes.
I wish I could be optimistic about having more company when the time comes.
Finally caught up with colleague Dane Smith's piece on Gov. Pawlenty's seven years of bellicose budget language.
The net job growth and prosperity that Pawlenty promised would
result from burning the boats has not materialized; in fact, we are
worse off economically now than we were a decade ago. And now Pawlenty
is asking us to believe that we should disinvest further in our
schools, in our safety net for those who inevitably fall, and in all of
the human capital and physical infrastructure that sustains our
The savagery of the language is as fierce as ever, and it harmonizes
with the choleric rage fomented at Tea Party rallies, in which our own
governments are transformed into our enemies and our taxes, already
among the lowest of any wealthy democratic nation, are evil incarnate.
Dane and I are girding our loins for tomorrow, when our op/ed on taxes appears in Sunday's Strib.
The cat has been getting tumors near his vaccination sites (there's fuel for anti-vaccination fire!), and last visit to the vet, he had another one removed.
Before the day was through, one of his stitches had come out.
Now, the way a man would manage this problem — assuming he noticed anything — would be to let nature take its course, which is kind of a proactive-sounding way of doing nothing.
A woman, however, worries that another stitch will come out, and then... Well, all creation could become unraveled.
So a trip to the drug store produced a sort of steri-strip designed to help secure the wound. That seemed just as accessible to a grooming cat as the original stitch, so a band-aid was placed over the strip. The band-aid looked too lickable and was already having trouble adhering to the furry skin, so next came an Ace bandage wrap around the midsection, secured with a piece of packing tape.
Packing tape wasn't really designed as an elastic bandage closure, so next came the cry: Where's the duct tape?
At last, we were approaching male problem-solving territory!
This latest intervention may work, if only because the cat does not want to be ministered to for a sixth time.
I thought about posting a photo, but I want to spare everyone in the family, including the cat, further embarrassment. However, if this continues to be a problem, I may start to get interested after all, now that it is an engineering problem and not a matter of survival of the fit.
I'm not going to expend too many pixels on the question of whether Joseph Stack was a terrorist or just a tax-hater for flying his airplane into a building containing IRS offices. He clearly had serial difficulty paying his taxes, based upon the diatribe attributed to him, and maybe that frustration was enough to drive him postal.
Reading between the lines, his troubles may have started when he fell in with a group of people who were convinced the income tax was unconstitutional and believed they had a legal basis for avoiding taxes. The anti-tax extreme has spawned other "martyrs" like Gordon Kahl and Robert Beale.
In the sense Stack bought into and acted on behalf of this movement, he might be considered a terrorist, but I think the truth might be simpler and more disturbing: That he is one of many damaged (financially and emotionally) Americans who attempt to elevate their unresolved personal pain into a grandiose purpose.
And fighting taxes right now is a popular purpose.
In this, he has something in common with the dispossessed young men Muslims who are recruited as suicide bombers. They are fed selective knowledge and myths about immortality and are given a chance at glorious resolution as they strike a blow at the enemy.
The enemy they hold responsible for their own failures.
In America, the cause becomes Liberty or Freedom. While these sad figures can arise from either end of the political spectrum, those on the right seem now ascendant. The ideas that sustain them are gaining something approaching mainstream credibility. "Taxes are theft!" "It's your money!" "Time to go rogue."
Those media figures, as well as the Palins and Pawlentys who pander to the same audience, help connect personal psychosis to a Great Cause — which makes it more likely some will act out in public instead of in their own garage.
Whether he was connected to a movement or not, Stack may represent a dangerous trend in American political life. Because for all his financial troubles, he didn't have to hijack the airplane he flew into the IRS office.
He owned it.
And, to be clear, people on both sides are trying to make Stack out as a political figure. They just don't agree whether he was a populist, a communist or a teabagger. I think he was a Stackist, who absorbed anti-government and anti-establishment rhetoric from wherever he found it to shore up his own sense of persecution.
Let's just say Karl Marx isn't getting much play these days, except from the right wing.
It is the single largest item in the bonding bill. It is
controversial by nature, considered suspect by many legal scholars and
criminal behaviorists, and it will likely secure the infrastructure of
a permanent and exponentially more expensive government function into
perpetuity. Yet it will likely be approved without rigorous debate
because politicians never want to see campaign ads saying they are soft
Pawlenty wants an $89 million expansion of the facility for sex
offenders at Moose Lake, which holds predators we think will re-offend.
Public officials might air doubts about civil commitments privately,
but they also know it is impossible to offer a nuanced response to a
The Moose Lake facility was briefly a bargaining chip in the bonding bill. But it's more significant for the reasons Tevlin notes. It institutionalizes a long-term expense — call it a reverse entitlement if you like — by building a dedicated facility to hold sex offenders after their sentences are completed. And it perpetuates the constitutionally dubious practice of punishing people for crimes they might commit in the future.
No matter whether this works or is even right, building the detention facility means the policy is likely to continue. And people got more exercised over the cost of a few flat screen TVs at the current Moose Lake facility.
And conceal and carry advocates should love this one. A driver with a carry permit uses his loaded handgun to stop another driver from honking and flashing lights at him.
I wonder how he'd answer the survey question about using his weapon to foil a crime?