August 2, 2007

The Collapse.

I live at Fourth Street Southeast and Eighth Street Southeast. The on-ramp that leads to the 35W bridge is two blocks away on University Avenue Southeast and Ninth (which is really just a long street leading to the on-ramp. in fact it's not even called ninth). I didn't feel it or hear it when it crashed, i just suddenly noticed a few sirens, and then the constant rush of sirens began to build. I have no TV but i knew something was up. I walked down to the corner market on fourth and eighth where the traffic was heavy and being controlled by a police officer and bought a few groceries, then went to go look up "ninth" to see what was the matter. I saw all this black smoke pluming up from what i thought was below the bridge. I asked someone near to me what happened; he said "i heard the 35W bridge collapsed." i had no idea what he was talking about. The fact that he meant that giant concrete bridge just could not fit its way into my head. I said, "what bridge?" Not like i didn't hear him, but i couldn't understand what he was referring to. He said, "The 35W bridge."
I called a friend who lives in the buildings right next to the 10th Avenue bridge, who said she was in her kitchen when the whole place started to shake, even the refrigerator. She said the bridge collapsed. I said, "you mean the whole highway?!" she said yeah. I started to walk to her place, through throngs of people, squad cars, fire trucks, auto traffic and dusty air. I walked along University Avenue as it crosses over 35W and saw how it just went up like usual, but like a roller coaster appeared to have a sudden drop-off point. I just couldn't believe it. It's just so baffling that the structure could collapse that it never felt real, but i knew it was.
From the fire escapes atop Florence Court at University and 10th, where my friend lives, i could see a car or two on the piece of road that was now an island in the river. I was scared, but, still, just couldn't have the whole thing sink in.
Seven hours later and i'm sitting blocks away from a disaster scene lit with floodlights and blue and red and yellow sirens, and i don't know what to do with myself. There are bodies, missing people (now numbering 20), and i'm in my apartment, ready for bed. But i don't know if i'll sleep. The death toll has reached nine now, and i doubt it will stop. With more than 50 cars being on the road at the time, think of how many fell into the water, trapping those inside.
Now it's sunk in. When i think about that, being submerged, having the ground give out underneath you, it sinks in as much as it can for a bystander like me.
How could a day start out so normal, with a few little problems and obstacles to take care of, end up with a wound left on a city that will change how we live for years?
How many times will i mental-map out a route and remember that the highway has fallen into the river?
How many times will i talk about seeing the scene as it happened this weekend to all my family in Chicago?
How many times am i going to drive past that spot with my memory of the road intact still with me before that memory fades and all i see is the devestation, ground zero?
Yes my prose is precious, but this is how i feel. I know the facts, nine dead, 20 missing, 50 or 60 injured. Of course, no one knows how this could have happened.
And tomorrow i'm going to get on the road and travel over a few more bridges, remembering wednesday evening every time.
My girlfriend's afraid to get in a car.
Does anyone else feel horrified yet strangely unaffected, like they know they're still going to do tomorrow what they'd already planned to do, even while this whole huge thing sits in the back of their mind?
I don't know. This is the strangest day of my life.

July 19, 2007

Hot Dog Chili Sauce Linked to Botulism

Botulism is a bacteria that causes paralysis in people that contract it. And apparently four people - two in Texas, a pair of siblings, and two in Indiana, an adult couple - contracted it from hot dog chili sauce. MMM, that's good chili!
The Strib's coverage sought out spokespeople from the Centers for Disease Control, Castleberry foods co. (the company that made the chili con carnage) and the FDA.
Apparently this is baffling that it happened to canned foods, because they usually heat the canned goods up to such a temperature as to kill the botulinim spores.
The spokesman for Castleberry foods was their Senior V.P. of marketing, which i thought was weird. Does that mean he's like the chief P.R. guy, or that he heads up their advertising? i dunno. I thought maybe there was someone else that could've been talked to at Castleberry, or its parent, Bumble Bee Seafoods LLC, based out in San Diego.
The article listed out the UPCs for the contaminated chili cans, always a good thing.
It was an AP article, so i didn't find any different information when i looked it up at CNN.com. Although there they didn't list out the UPCs.
About 25 cases of botulism are reported each year, but they come from home-canned goods. Again, that's why people at Castleberry and the CDC are going, "hey, wha' happened?"

July 18, 2007

Amped-Up camp

this was a story i found when i came home from work tuesday night (actually wednesday morning, so this must be going in the 18th's paper) about a rock n roll camp for young girls aged 9 to 17. It's called Girls Rock n Roll Retreat (GRRR) and they have it out in Golden Valley. This is a program where girls get to put together a rock band and let loose, (which i think is awesome, and if i ever had a girl, or a boy, i'd put em in stuff like this. especially with girls i think it's important to get them havin good self esteem early on.) and local women who have ties to the music world in some aspect, or in the case of Karen Gustafson, the camp director, a psychologist. It seems the goal is to get girls in the mindset that they don't have to be the pretty singer - they can be the (badass) drummer or whatever. This camp here in Minnesota is tied up with the International Girls Rock Camp Alliance, which started in Portland, Ore., in 2001.
So i went to the web to see if the IGRCA had a Web site. Of course they did. girlsrockcamp.org. they list out their values:

We value the power of music as a means to create personal and social change;
We value efforts that actively expand opportunities for girls and women;
We value positive approaches to fighting sexism;
We value integrity, honesty and respect;
We value appropriate sharing of resources, cooperation, and collaboration;
We value using our collective voice to further our mission;
We value diversity.
(pretty f'in cool)

they also have a camp for ladies 19 and up. And in Portland they're trying to put together an all-girl "break crew" for those who dig hip-hop. People from the group in Portland also started a record and distribution label. This is something pretty neat i've never heard of before.
Their mission statement reads "The Rock’n’Roll Camp for Girls, a 501(c)3 non-profit, builds girls self-esteem through music creation and performance. Providing workshops and technical training, we create leadership opportunities, cultivate a supportive community of peers and mentors, and encourage social change and the development of life skills."
The strib's article is in the lifestyle section. It covers the couple of days of camp the girls have, where they split off by role in the band - singer, guitarist, bassist, etc. - and work on their craft, attitude and look, then they get together for band practice. Girls with prior experience are not allowed to play covers. Everyone writes songs. (rad.) There's good voice in there from both the volunteers at the camp and the girls who are participating in the camp. There's no bits on crowd reaction. The camp ended with a show in front of about 200 people.

http://www.startribune.com/389/story/1307901-p2.html

the pioneer press wasn't running anything on this, not that i could find anyway.
Definitely a cool alternative camp experience for kids in the summer.

July 12, 2007

Man goes on police chase early tuesday morning

a 26-year-old man named Jimmy gene McNab was all wasted and had a chase across three county lines in his mustang with police. they finally stopped him basically because his car was nearly undriveable (my words, not the reporter's). I found this online at the strib's Web site. his tire was flat and it had lost so much rubber that he was driving on the rim and shooting sparks everywhere. Then as soon as he gets out of the car, a little dog gets out with him. Luckily the dog was OK. Richard Meryhew's kicker was a quote from the police saying that luckily no one was injured, even the dog turned out OK. then Meryhew says "except for McNab, whose next court appearance is July 24." i thought that was a good kicker.
Also, this story is structured just like we were supposed to structure our news story for the spot news lab. It's got the most important facts in the first section, such as what he's being charged with, where he's from, what region of MN this took place in, and then goes into a chronilogical re-telling thanks to the police report. this could have been one of our stories in a can.

June 28, 2007

Yay! The Bald Eagle!

Every newspaper Web site i went to had a headline for this story. The Interior Department removed the Bald Eagle from the list of endangered species. Yay! This comes after forty years of the bird (with help from its fellow patriots) struggling for survival. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne had a ceremony for this outside of the Jefferson Memorial in D.C.There are about 10,000 of the birds on the continent. compare that to 417, which was how many there were in 1963. Kempthorne is promising it'll never happen again.
The birds' numbers dropped so low because they were targeted by hunters, and were susceptible to DDT. but get this, since 1940 it's been federal law that it's illegal to kill a bald eagle. Wisconsin has a similar thing, it's illegal to kill a badger.

Algae blooms causing harm to people, pets

The Star Tribune had a story today online headlined "Did algae that killed dog also sicken child?" i know there's a certain consensus on the use of questions on headlines, but that's a different story.
There's this weird form of algae called blue-green algae that blooms in shallow lakes that get a lot of runoff, which puts more phosphorus and nitrogen in these lakes. It apparently smells awful (of course. it's got runoff from dairy farms. cows. methane. you get the picture.) swimming in this stuff can irritate your skin and eyes, make you vomit severely, or sometimes die, like the little yellow lab in Wright County that died a couple weeks ago.
Now, The Minneapolis Pollution Control Agency is wondering if this boy in Blue Earth County swam in similar stuff. He's not dead, but he did get sick. Star Tribune reporter Tim Harlow said "Health officials have not specified the nature of the illness or whether there is a direct link between the child's illness and the toxic algae."
but, even so, the MPCA has started closing little lakes they think are at risk. Wright, Blue Earth, McLoed, Kandiyohi, and Douglas counties are the singled-out counties by the MPCA.
Unfortunately, The Pioneer Press had nothing about this story on its Web site.
The St. Cloud Times ran a story on this two weeks ago when the dog died.
I found out there that the dog was swimming in and drinking from Fountain Lake near Montrose. Apparently blue-green algae typically becomes more of a problem later in the summer, when the temps are higher.

Algae blooms causing harm to people, pets

The Star Tribune had a story today online headlined "Did algae that killed dog also sicken child?" i know there's a certain consensus on the use of questions on headlines, but that's a different story.
There's this weird form of algae called blue-green algae that blooms in shallow lakes that get a lot of runoff, which puts more phosphorus and nitrogen in these lakes. It apparently smells awful (of course. it's got runoff from dairy farms. cows. methane. you get the picture.) swimming in this stuff can irritate your skin and eyes, make you vomit severely, or sometimes die, like the little yellow lab in Wright County that died a couple weeks ago.
Now, The Minneapolis Pollution Control Agency is wondering if this boy in Blue Earth County swam in similar stuff. He's not dead, but he did get sick. Star Tribune reporter Tim Harlow said "Health officials have not specified the nature of the illness or whether there is a direct link between the child's illness and the toxic algae."
but, even so, the MPCA has started closing little lakes they think are at risk. Wright, Blue Earth, McLoed, Kandiyohi, and Douglas counties are the singled-out counties by the MPCA.
Unfortunately, The Pioneer Press had nothing about this story on its Web site.
The St. Cloud Times ran a story on this two weeks ago when the dog died.
I found out there that the dog was swimming in and drinking from Fountain Lake near Montrose. Apparently blue-green algae typically becomes more of a problem later in the summer, when the temps are higher.

June 14, 2007

Air advisory issued

The Star Tribune reported that this afternoon and tomorrow, the Twin Cities area, along with St. Cloud and Brainerd, are "under attack" from pollution that may compromise the air quality for "sensitive groups" like people with allergies (me) and old folks or people with respiratory problems.
The pollution is known as ground-level ozone. Apparently, this is just all the crud that comes out of cars and exhaust and stuff mixing with other crud and being baked by the hot sun. It must have something to do with the brief period we've been having of no rain; maybe all the dryness makes for better crud-cooking conditions. I only speculate this because a Pollution Control supervisor said the advisory will last until late Thursday or Friday when showers are expected.
Meanwhile, The Pioneer Press reports that people who like to run and play outside, in addition to those who suffer from allergies and respiratory ailments, should take it easy for the next couple of days, to cut down on the risk of being irritated. They also say that this air pollution advisory falls just short of a full-on pollution alert.
The P.P. also says that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is asking people to drive less, not cut the grass, and not have bonfires. These ground-level ozone things build up during the morning.
The Pioneer Press points you in the direction of where to track pollution levels.
Neither story really has any sources. Strib had one - these might just be briefs for now. Maybe we'll hear more on it tomorrow.
Some sites that may be useful
www.weather.com