November 26, 2008
Speaking of Trolleys ...
Minnpost.com has a great article called 150 Minnesota Moments We'd Just as Soon Forget.
This is a picture of people tearing up some trolley tracks in St. Paul in 1955. At one point the Twin Cities and suburbs had a very extensive trolley system that quite frankly went all over the place. As we spend billions now on light rail lines, the decision to tear up these trolley lines sure seems at the very least short sighted, and maybe even quite painful to think about.
And as an aside, I must say that writing an article about the 150 worst moments in Minnesota history sure fits with our reputation for Norwegian/Germanic pessimism. Makes me chuckle ...
November 25, 2008
The Trolley Problem
From Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer:
["S]ay a streetcar is out of control, rushing along its tracks. And say there are five people stuck on those tracks, unable to get away in time -- if the train hits, it'll kill them all. But you happen to be watching all this from a bridge over the tracks, and on the bridge are the switching controls, including a lever that if you pull it will cause the streetcar to be diverted to another track, off to the left, missing the five people. What do you do?"
"Pull the lever of course," he said ...
"That's what almost everyone says ..." [she said] "Most people feel a moral obligation to intervene in situations where human life is at risk. Oh, but I forgot to tell you one thing. There's a really big guy stuck on the other track. If you divert the streetcar, he'll be killed. Now what do you do?"
... "Well, um, I'd -- I guess I'd still pull the lever."
... "That's what most people say. Why?"
"Because only one person dies rather than five."
He could hear in her voice that she was smiling. "A Trekker to the core. 'The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.' No wonder that's what Mr. Spock believes.; it's clearly the product of rational thinking. Now what about this? Say there's no second track. And say instead of being the one hapless fellow stuck on the left, the big guy isn't stuck at all. Instead he's standing right next to you on the bridge. You know for a fact that if you push him off so that he falls in front of the streetcar, hitting him will be enough to make it stop before it hits the five other people. But you yourself are a little guy. The streetcar wouldn't be stopped by hitting you, so there's no point in jumping yourself, but it'll definitely be stopped by hitting this big fellow. Now what do you do?"
[He] could feel her head nodding. "Again, that's what most people say -- they wouldn't do a thing. But why not?"
"Because, um, because it's wrong to ... well, ah..." He frowned, opened his mouth to try again, but then closed it.
"See?" [she] said. "They're comparable situations. In both scenarios you choose to have one guy die--the same guy, in fact, to save five others. But in the first, you do it by throwing a lever. In the second, you actually push the guy to his death. The rational question is exactly the same. But the second scenario feels differently emotionally. For most people, what was judged right in the first scenario is judged wrong in the second."
Interesting conversation regarding the "emotional ethical response" and the "logical ethical response." One could argue that proximity to the "big guy" creates a kind of tenuous bond between him and the person either pushing him off or pulling the lever. The greater the distance the lesser the bond and the easier the decision becomes.
November 19, 2008
I like to walk around campus. For ten years I have walked around every nook and cranny I can find on this campus and I still haven't discovered half of the interesting things to see. This is especially true since they started construction on TCF Bank Stadium. In fact, I can't seem to walk around anything but the construction site since they started building.
One thing I have recently noticed is that they have started to hang the arches around the main entrances to the stadium. When you look at the virtual tour of the exterior of the stadium you will note five different areas where there is a big arch and a white overhang. The virtual tour simply doesn't do these arches any justice. They are simply majestic.
Unfortunately, these pictures won't do them any justice either. But at least I tried.
When you look at the stadium from Williams Arena you should immediately see the big arch being constructed on the south side of the horse-shoe:
Here is a close up of that arch. Note the immensity of it, the carved "Minnesota" curved around the top, the ginourmous staircase on the inside ... it is really quite spectacular:
There are (or will be) four other big arches like this one around the exterior of the stadium. This is the arch at the southeast end. Again, it features the word "Minnesota" around the top:
The next arch is probably the most special as it is the student entrance. It can be found on the northeast side of the stadium and it features the carving "Hats Off to Thee" around the top:
Again, note the huge staircase going up to the field. If you are in a wheel chair or if you have trouble walking up stairs, it probably sucks, but to look at it ... well it looks pretty slick. This arch also features a column in the middle with a "Ski-U-Mah" carving and two other columns with carvings that thank the students for their contributions.
Finally, at the west end of the horse shoe, one of the arches is still in the process of being hung. It looks like they use some pretty hefty duty braces to help hold the stones up:
Again, I wish these pictures could do justice to these entrances. No other college football stadium in the country will hold a candle to how majestic this place will be. Of course, that is only my opinion (and I'm a Minnesota fan to boot) but every detail seems to be important at this place, from the sidewalks, to the facade, to the scoreboard, to the seats, to the locker room, to ... well ... the arches.
Until next time...
November 9, 2008
On second thought ...
On second thought, who cares about a stupid old jug anyway? I mean, seriously. What is the Little Brown Jug? It is a piece of crap jug that used to hold water. It is the equivalent of today's plastic Nalgene bottle. Really. Michigan and Minnesota pretty much play for a Nalgene bottle. Who wants a stupid Nalgene bottle? I sure don't.
Not only that, but the Little Brown Jug is ugly too. It has a crappy paint job and the colors don't even match. Maroon on one side and a dark blue on the other. Ugly.
Plus, here we are, getting ready to move into a brand new stadium, and Michigan comes by trying to pawn their crap on us. What is one of the first thing you do when you move out of your house? You get rid of all the crap you don't want to move into your new house. Let's see ... ugly brown jug that can't even hold water any more? Brewster was wise to tell Rodriguez to take the jug back to Michigan. We've got enough to move as it is!
Now, the other two trophies ... at least they have some usefulness. Paul Bunyan's Axe? If there are some fireplaces in the new stadium it will be nice to have an axe to cut some wood. And Floyd of Rosedale? Well, that is just a high quality piece of art. We are going to need some art to spruce up the place.
So, who cares about the Little Brown Jug. By far the stupidest trophy in all of college football ... can't even hold water ... stupid jug.
Man, I wanted that stupid jug.
November 6, 2008
We want the Jug!
The Northwestern game was a punch in the gut, no doubt. But as I said in a previous post, for me this year is all about winning the Jug. Sure, I want desperately for the Gophers to go back to the Rose Bowl and I have less and less doubt that Brewster will take them there one day. I just don't think this is the year. Having said that, it is definitely a year that we can win the Jug. And that will be huge.
The Jug is the trophy that started it all. It is the oldest trophy (I don't care what Arizona or Arizona State say about it) and it is the most meaningful. Minnesota football under Tim Brewster cannot be taken seriously in the Big Ten until we beat Michigan. This is the year to do it.
Michigan is down this year. And I argue that the loss to Northwestern has focused the Minnesota football team even more towards the task at hand. A win will give us the Jug until 2011. So, not only will potential recruits see TCF Bank Stadium, they will also see the most special and meaningful trophy in all of college football.
That is how you build a winning program. You win the trophy games and the recruits will follow. A Rose Bowl appearance starts with the trophy games. Get the Jug, get the Axe, get the Pig.
Get them all, and the 1960 team will have nothing on the Golden Gophers football team of the next three years.
We are entering a new "golden age" of Golden Gopher football. It all starts Saturday.
November 5, 2008
Words cannot describe how much I want the Gophers to win the Little Brown Jug. I want it bad. However, before I get to some thoughts on the LBJ, I thought I would post an oldie-but-goodie Greet Machine entry that I originally wrote on October 12 2005:
It is entitled: My visit with the Little Brown Jug. Enjoy!
Yesterday I was determined to see the Little Brown Jug. Nothing would stand in my way. I intentionally did not go to see it on Monday because I knew it would be crowded and I wanted to take my time with it. So, at around 11:00 AM Tuesday I set out from my office for the Gopher Football Hall of Fame at the Gibson/Nagurski Football Practice Facility on the East Bank of the U of M. I thought it would still be on display.
I was wrong. When I got there people were setting up for Mason's weekly press conference and the HOF was filled with tables. Some people from Famous Dave's were also there setting up a table of food. I turned to the first person I saw and asked as calmly as I could, "Where is the Jug? Do you know where the Jug is?"
He answered, "Dude, I work for Famous Dave's. You'll have to ask someone else."
Man! I was ticked. I thought, "I should have come on Monday! Idiot!" So I stood there stewing a little bit.
Then I looked across the HOF and saw Pam Borton, the women's basketball coach, standing at the top of the stairs. I don't know why, but this prompted me to walk up the stairs. "Maybe Pam knows where the Jug is," I thought.
When I got to the top of the stairs she began talking with someone else, but I noticed I was at the doors to the football program's main offices. I could see some of the football team milling about through the glass doors and a student secretary sitting at the front desk. My determination knew no bounds! I walked into the offices and strode right to the front desk like I owned the place.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw in a side room the box that houses the greatest trophy in college football. My heart jumped! "It is in here somewhere," I thought. So, I turned to the student secretary and said, "Do you know where the Jug is?"
She answered, "Do you want to see it?"
"Oh yes," I said, "Very much."
So, she got up and went into the side room where I saw the box. Ah, but instead of reaching into the box, she reached under the table the box was sitting on and pulled out the Jug. I thought to myself, "Now there is Minnesota ingenuity! If a thief came to steal the Jug he would think it is in the box. He wouldn't even think to look under the table! Good thinking Mase! Under the table! Genius!"
She brought the Jug out and set it on the reception desk. Oh man ... words cannot describe the feeling of seeing this piece of history just sitting there right in front of me. So many games, so many players, so many memories. It has its own aura around it that you just can't escape. So, I started to take some pictures:
I asked, "Can I touch it?" and she said, "Sure!"
I couldn't believe it. So, I spun it around and found the most recent score:
From an office down the hall I heard a voice, "We just painted the score on! Don't mess up the paint!"
Does anyone else think this is as weird as I think it is? I mean, this Jug is literally priceless! It is irreplaceable! If it was ever put up for sale at an auction what would a Michigan or Minnesota booster be willing to pay for it? Millions I would wager. And here they are letting me, a total stranger, touch it and spin it around seemingly without a care for its safety. I was in heaven!
So, I asked, "Can I pick it up?" The student secretary looked at me kind of strange and said, "Well sure. Go ahead. Do you want me to take a picture of you with it?"
"Yes!" I answered. I gave her my camera and I picked up the Jug. The words of Lloyd Carr, the Michigan head coach, repeated in my head:
"I don't hold it up in front of the team ... I don't trust myself," Carr said. "I certainly don't want to be remembered as the guy who destroyed the Little Brown Jug. Anybody that handles it needs to be careful with it. Sometimes I worry after the game about the players."
I can't believe they let me pick it up. I can't believe they let anyone touch it! It is amazing to me. And yet, pick it up I did, and here is the picture to prove it:
I may not look "giddy" but I was really, really "giddy." Holding the Jug is something not a whole lot of people get to do, especially if you are from Minnesota.
Anyway, I put down the jug, thanked the student secretary and I walked through the door. A football player near the door saw me and my goofy grin and he gave me a goofy grin of his own. I laughed and walked out the door.
It is truly strange how happy this Little Brown Jug can make people. 19 years of frustration wiped away will do that I guess. Now the Golden Gophers will play for the Axe, but for me the season is already a success. It would certainly be nice to beat Wisconsin, don't get me wrong. I will trudge back to the HOF and ask to see the Axe, too. I may even pose with it like I am smashing the Jug! (Or maybe not). But having the Jug ... that is enough for me. It has been a while since I have been so happy to be a fan of a Minnesota sports team. I thank the Golden Gophers football team for that.