When Great Force Becomes Easy

The still summer evening was suddenly ripped apart by the heavy THWUP!-THWUP!-THWUP! of helicopters. In this part of St Paul copters are common enough as small emergencies across the state hurry themselves to nearby United Hospital. But this sound was different. It was heavy, immediate, and amplified by three of them flying low enough to sneak up on the otherwise placid city.

Then there was the shape. Medivac copters are small and light, but these were large and olive drab. Several low passes later they were joined by another sound, a gentle whoosh that might have been less disturbing had I not had the knowledge that this is what a Blackhawk sounds like.

Last Tuesday St Paul was the host to an unannounced training mission in urban warfare that included Navy Seals. Why? No one has been told why they did it here. Before, after, and during we all know essentially nothing. Our cities are being militarized and shown tremendous force behind a cloak of secrecy that is inappropriate – and naturally falls on the most vulnerable citizens of our community. But Ferguson, Missouri is hardly alone.

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An Anxious Spring

It was a long hard Winter. It’s not letting go too easily here in the heartland, with Spring coming in short fits just long enough to give us all hope. But the transition is as bright as the green carpet of grass that covers the park, as pervasive as the smell of rain in the air, and as loud as the excitement along West Seventh Street. Each moment finds its own pace.

My daughter Thryn will graduate from High School in less than a month. Her dreams of hitting the road and finding a life beyond childhood color everything in her attitude now. The dark senioritis that wants to laze the last few moments collapses into anxiety in unpredictable fits of realization. Soon enough it really will be all about her, the desires of every teen made starkly real.

For her doting Dad it’s time to let go. As a parent, I can’t be good at everything.

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The Check is … Against the Boards?

With a 5-4 win in overtime, the Minnesota Wild beat the Colorado Avalanche, achieving more than the trophy for teams that don’t end in “s”. They advanced to the next round of the playoffs, against the defending Stanley Cup holders Chicago Blackhawks in the resumption of an intense Midwest rivalry.

They also made a great stride towards the team actually breaking even this year.

As any true fan of the game knows, the playoffs bring out the fair weather fans – a term that in the hockey season applies far too literally. But there is a lot more to the game than who wins on the ice. There’s a lot of money flowing through the NHL, and I do mean flowing. Hardly any stays. It’s a great benefit to the city of St Paul, or at least my neighborhood on West Seventh Street, but how does a team stay on the ice? It’s almost amazing.

Let’s talk about the future of the NHL as the Wild has a pretty decent chance at bringing the Stanley Cup to St Paul for the next year.

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Industrial Arts

If you have any fear for the future of America, visit a FIRST Robotics League competition. Your worries will simply melt away.

Three days with my son’s team (2491 No Mythic) at the Northstar Regionals, where we were knocked out in the Finals, constantly percolated with passion, grace, and ingenuity. The 800 plus high-schoolers in Mariucci Arena, and another 800 next door in Williams Arena, redefined competition beyond the unique sport that is something like hockey with robots. These kids make things happen and realize their visions together. As enthusiastically as they learned by doing, however, their drive showed that something might be missing from their school experience.

Call it shop class, call it “technical education”, use whatever words you want. These are the citizens that will make the world of tomorrow in their image, if only they have the tools to do it. That cries out for a revival and resuscitation of the Industrial Arts in a way that I have never seen contemplated before.

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Cities and The Future

It has been a long week.  This repeat from 2010 goes to the physical nature of economic restructuring and where it must come from – our cities.  The recent snow disaster in Atlanta (brilliantly discussed here) is more about infrastructure not keeping up than anything else.  So what do we need?  Let’s start with the basics of what a city is for, and how it will serve us.

Cities mark the landscape across this nation and all others.  Images of the handiwork of a culture often define the people who come to inherit the space and, in turns, mark it with their own generation’s values.  Yet they are so much more than static collections of icons – they are where people come together and live their lives right now.  They are always ultimately about the connections that make them alive.

Even the bricks and mortar or glass and steel is ultimately a connection across time to what made the city what it is today.  Though it’s the stuff that makes up a city which gets photographed and noticed, they are much more than that.

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No Decision is a Decision?

This is a repeat from 2011 – again, the lure of my son’s Robotics League makes a new post nearly impossible tonight.  But it’s still a very important topic, given that a government that does nothing is actually a strategy employed by many politicians today.  What does that mean?  Consider this a case study.

When is no decision actually a policy?  In government it’s often the default position, a deliberate plan to stay the course and keep things the way they are.  Bureaucracy has a tendency to be conservative, punting whenever it can and allowing things to stay as they are.  But in a time of great change or even crisis, is this acceptable?  Increasingly there are signs that Minnesota has become a state mired by diffuse responsibility and an inability for the government to respond to the situation at hand in a way that is effective.

No action can be very dangerous.  But there is increasing evidence that it is become a serious problem – and I doubt that Minnesota is alone.

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March of History, Made and Unmade

Two score and Ten years ago today a crowd descended upon Washington.  They were assembled as a movement that traversed the South with Freedom Riders, sat-in at segregated lunch counters, and refused to move to the back of the bus.  It was a black crowd that filled the Mall that day, but it was also a white crowd as well.  It was an American crowd.  The movement crystalized into a moment when Dr. Martin Luther King spoke.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But the threads of history ran deeper than that moment, as Dr. King explained.

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