Archive for August, 2007

MSP Dragnet: Larry Craig

By now, I’d hope we’ve all heard the Senator Larry Craig “restroom sex code” story at the MSP Airport.

Me? I’ve been in the MSP Airport restrooms four times in the last week (separate trips to L.A. and N.Y.).

Coming in on a late 11 p.m. flight Tuesday, us weary business travelers — who often avoiding talking to each other — found ourselves having a heated discussion about Larry Craig’s MSP bathroom escapades in the very bathroom where the arrest took place!

I saw this reenactment today and thought I’d share:

State Fair with the Kids

If you have young kids, you know that going to the State Fair with them is a different experience than going with adults. I took my two sons, aged 6 and 3, to the Fair today. Following in the footsteps of the Skeptical Diner’s reviews of Fair foods, I present my reviews of State Fair Activities with Little Kids. One note: the State Fair can be an expensive proposition. My grades will largely ignore the cost of the activities, but the summary will try to mention what things cost so you can make your own judgement on cost / benefit.

ACTIVITY: Little Farm Hands

SUMMARY: A chance for kids to get an idea of where their food comes from in a non-threatening manner. Kids gather corn, eggs, vegetables, and milk, then deliver it to the market, where they get play money that is exchanged for a real food item. Not terribly educational, but my kids love it. It’s also free.

GRADE: A-
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Where have all the dinos gone, long time passing….

I had lunch with a friend from out of town at the Green Mill on Grand, and as I was scooting along Grand Ave back to work, I saw a flatbed truck, loaded up with the painted dinosaurs that have been all around town for the past couple of months. So it looks like Extinction City for our fine fiberglass friends, after one last hurrah at the State Fair this weekend. They go on auction on 9 September with the proceeds benefiting the Science Museum of Minnesota.

I’m a little burnt out on all the fiberglass statues from the past couple of years, but at least this one is for a good cause. I just hope that all the ones bought on auction end up in people’s backyards.

Reflection on the Bridge Collapse

The following comment was left on our bridge collapse post by Kim who works with the Ramsey County Dive Team. I think Kim articulated very well what a great many of us are thinking.

You know, it seems human nature to always want come up with one person or thing to blame when something happens. I don’t care who is at fault. I don’t even care why it fell. No matter what answers we get, it doesn’t change that it happened. Just look at it this way, it could have been worse. We are lucky not all of the lanes were open with normal rush hour and Twins traffic. I work with the Ramsey County Dive Team and arrived down there with in an hour of it falling. As I arrived under the 10th street bridge, I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say. All I could think of was to take some pictures because I will never see this again. Silly isn’t it? I mean when you think about it. People just died, but I thought to take pictures…

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Orga(nix)?

So, there’s a little opinion piece in CityPages today about Target’s “organic” line of Archer Farms foods sponsoring the Mill City Farmer’s Market (affectionately known in the House of Green as “our” farmer’s market).

Early this summer (maybe late this spring), I was accosted by a fast, fun, and friendly Targeteer who unceremoniously shoved a free full-size box of organic one-step pancake mix into my hand.

Huhwhat?

I went to the farmer’s market for organic cheese, heirloom radishes, and a yak roast. I don’t even really know what to do with box mixes.

But that’s just me. I’m not going to stop going to Mill City Farmer’s Market… I adore what they have going on there, and I know the produce, eggs, cheese and meat I buy was tenderly reared by someone who cared. I like shaking the hands of the people who grew the food I put in my mouth and on my growing daughter’s plate.

I also understand that Target’s heart is in the right place (as CP notes), and I know that Mill City Farmer’s Market gets more publicicty (read: $$) with a big corporate sponsor.

But it’s still cognitively dissonant to me. City Pages makes a good point: Target didn’t invent organic — just like Al Gore didn’t invent the internet.
56 organic booths. 65 Target bullseyes. Something just isn’t sitting right.

Northwest Trying To Convince Me That Services They Don’t Offer Me Are Great For Me

I got a rah-rah email from Northwest Airlines a few months back announcing that, “Thanks to the loyalty of WorldPerks members and the hard work of our employees, Northwest Airlines has successfully completed the restructuring process. We could not have accomplished this without your support.”

Seriously? I only fly a few times a year, but I can’t remember the last time I didn’t fly Northwest. (Oh, wait, yes I can. It was last February taking Sun Country to Cancun. But before that?) So it’s not like I continuously choose Northwest over other airlines because I think they’re awesome. I just don’t have that many other options that aren’t a lot more expensive, living in a Northwest hub city. The oppressiveness of airport security, the continually decreasing amenities, and the distinct worsening of service makes air travel more something to endure than enjoy.

Here are some of the “enhancements” that Northwest is telling me I can look forward to following the restructuring:
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The Skeptical Diner: State Fair Edition (Redux)

Social obligations led to a second visit to Fair, and eight more brief write-ups of the food.

ITEM: Battered cheese curds

SUMMARY: We got these from one of the more permanent-looking buildings, as opposed to a food cart. They weren’t the fine cuisine cheese curds of Town Talk Diner, but the Fair is a completely different venue and audience, so all we really can ask for is warm, cheesy, and a nice balance of crispy exterior and gooey interior. Check, check, check.

GRADE: A-

ITEM: Swedish Egg Coffee

SUMMARY: The theory behind this stuff is that when you brew coffee with a raw egg, the egg moderates the acidity and gives you a smooth, delicious brew. In reality, the stuff tasted like weak diner coffee and/or slightly tainted hot water. Either the brewers were terrible or the idea is terrible, and the Norwegians win yet another point in the Norway versus Sweden hatefest.

GRADE: FAIL

ITEM: Deep Fried Oreos

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MN Zoo’s MN Trail is a howling good time

mntrail_lodge.jpgI have a long relationship with the Minnesota Zoo, especially for a non-native. My grandparents have photos of me at the zoo in a stroller when I was smaller than a rhesus macaque. I’ve gone at least once a year since, and in the last five years, my family has made good use of our annual pass — hitting the zoo at least five times a year or more.

This winter we were touring the zoo’s indoor exhibits, (of which there are a great amount if you have little human monkeys you want to keep out of the cold), and after climbing the ascending sidewalk to the former beluga whale area, we were dismayed to see the Minnesota Trail was closed for renovation.

While most zoos feature exotic animals from far-off countries, the Minnesota Zoo prides itself in its educational exhibits featuring North American wildlife — including the MN Trail, which features otters to eagles, mountain lions to wolverines from Minnesota.

After a year of hard work, the MN Trail reopened last month with a brand new look and a few new animals. Log siding and a spongy floor were the first big surprise. New exhibits featuring raccoons, coyotes and gray wolves joined the old traditionals, including the beaver dam exhibit, which opened in 1978 and was the first exhibit to show beavers underwater anywhere in the world.

And the renovations have no end in site. Central Plaza in front of the monorail area (where the playground and picnic grounds are/were) is currently closed as the massive Russia’s Grizzly Coast exhibit, which will feature brown bears, sea otters, Amur leopards, and wild boar, takes shape. It should open in 2008. I thought it would be fun to let loose a grizzly while the construction is in progress. Might speed things up.

The zoo welcomed its 30 millionth guest in late July, and with its efforts to bring the zoo into the new millennium, will surely hit 60 million faster than an Asian forest tortoise can cross the road.

YAHC: Yet Another Highway Closing

MnDOT’s website has a whole bunch of good info. There are roads and bridges closing all the time! The latest news on the Crosstown project contains this gem:

All lanes of I-35W from I-94 to Hwy 62/Crosstown and westbound Hwy 62 from Cedar Ave/Hwy 77 to Lyndale Ave S will be closed from approximately 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, through 5 a.m. Monday, Sept 10. The work is part of the Interstate 35W/Highway 62 Crosstown reconstruction project. Heavy, sustained wind or rain could postpone the closure.

Crosstown project-related work occurring over this weekend includes demolition of the 50th Street bridge; drainage and temporary roadway construction; bridge work at the west and east junctions of I-35W and Hwy 62; placement of steel beams on the Diamond Lake Road bridge; and relocation of girders for the widening of the I-35W bridge over Minnehaha Creek.

Due to the work above Minnehaha Creek, Minnehaha Parkway will be closed from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8. Bike and pedestrian paths will not be accessible while Minnehaha Parkway is closed.

We ought to be pretty used to not being able to use large swaths of highway at a time by now. Start planning your alternate routes. Or ride your bike or the bus.

(via SW Journal)

The Skeptical Diner: State Fair Edition

Everyone yaks endlessly about the food at the State Fair, and I’m not about to spurn what is basically a local cottage industry. Let’s get some terms straight up front: a lot of the stuff sold and consumed at the fair is an atrocity committed against culinary norms. It’s poorly fried garbage made from cheap ingredients. That said, the sights and sounds of the midway and/or farm animals and/or charming canned home-style jams really provide a lot of atmosphere, and that goes a long way. So as you read the following evaluations, remember that my expectations were geared appropriately low while grazing for what seemed like 12 straight hours today.

So, minus any purple prose and rhapsodic wanking, here’s some news you can use from the fair.

ITEM: Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar Cookies

SUMMARY: One of the fair’s perennial stalwart offerings, these small, thin warm chocolate chip cookies are comforting in their straightforward nature. $13 buys a bucket, which turns out to be enough for five fairgoers … and five of their friends. A good buy, so long as you don’t rupture your stomach.

GRADE: B+

ITEM: Belgian Waffle on a Stick

SUMMARY: A great concept executed by penny-pinching savages. A ribbed shaft of foamy “waffle” arrives coated in low-quality chocolate and then topped with whipped topping and some sprinkles. This thing could really use chocolate with more backbone or a waffle with more… well, waffley-ness… or real whipped cream… at any rate, not all that good, and guaranteed to make you stagger toward the nearest exit.

GRADE: D

ITEM: $1 All-You-Can-Drink Milk

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