The acceptable risk of isolation (5×8 – 7/11/12)

The Boundary Waters way, shrugging at corruption, two ‘shades of grey’ in library conundrum, the most famous knee in Minnesota, and return of a Fargo TV personality.


You’re deep into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, enjoying some campfire and coffee — cappuccino, actually — when your friend has what appears to be a stroke. You can’t call for help; you’re in the wilderness. And it’s still winter. What do you do?

The Albert Lea Tribune has the story today of Scott Pirsig and Bob Sturtz. Sturtz has recently returned home from a rehab facility and likely wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for Pirsig, who left his friend to get help.

The danger of being in a remote place is part of what draws people to the Boundary Waters or any designated wilderness. With cellphones being out of range, they were left in the 1998 Ford Windstar minivan at the parking lot. Scott hoped to reach the portage, hike back to the parking lot and make a call. But the melting snow from the sunny day had made seeing difficult. And it was dark. The flashlights were useless. He had to paddle to the correct bay.

Somehow, his instinct was right and he found the right bay, but finding the portage was tough. Scott paddled right along the shore and found it. He began a 1,320-foot hike to the parking lot, mostly uphill. He got into the minivan and drove. Doubting it would get a signal, he tried his cellphone, dialing 911.

One by one rescuers showed up — about 10 in all. In the middle of nowhere.

They’re still showing up in Albert Lea, Sturtz’ wife says…

She said friends have been helping out, too, including “a wonderful group of guys” who mow the lawn.

“People just jump in,” she said. “Some people bring meals. That’s nice to have a meal taken care of.”

Neither man, the paper says, favors making it easier to get help in the BWCA in these situations, with cellphone towers or other instant communication, apparently.

Scott said of all people Bob would defend leaving the wilderness wild and free of man-made structures such as cell towers, even though medical emergencies can and do happen. Satellite phones and two-way radios remain alternatives to structures. Bob nodded to confirm what Scott had said about him. The allure of the wilderness, Lisa said, is having the strength and preparedness required to deal with nature and with isolation.


Related: The key ingredient to having a corrupt society is having people who shrug their shoulders when it appears. That’s us, Eduardo Porter writes today in the New York Times:

The misconduct of the financial industry no longer surprises most Americans. Only about one in five has much trust in banks, according to Gallup polls, about half the level in 2007. And it’s not just banks that are frowned upon. Trust in big business overall is declining. Sixty-two percent of Americans believe corruption is widespread across corporate America. According to Transparency International, an anti-corruption watchdog, nearly three in four Americans believe that corruption has increased over the last three years.


Is the job of a library to provide access to literature the librarians think you should be reading, or the books you want to read? MPR’s Madeleine Baran reports the hottest title in the Hennepin County Library system right now is Fifty Shades of Grey , which has sold over 30 million copies worldwide by featuring handcuffs, sexual slaves, and sexual masochism.

It is, apparently, garbage, but that’s what the people with the library cards want. Should librarians respond to that?

Ken Hall, a Wisconsin librarian, was singled out in a May New York Times article for refusing to stock the book. He said it didn’t meet “community standards” in Fond du Lac.

On his blog he writes…

Deciding what belongs in the library is both art and science. Not all libraries are alike. We try to represent all sides of issues when it comes to ideas. We would like to say “yes” to everything, but budgets would never allow that. We make decisions based on community preferences when it comes to romance and erotica. Definitions may change with time. Though some libraries did buy Fifty Shades of Grey, we did not. For Fond du Lac today, we drew the line as best we could.

Personally, I think there is little value in the idea of a library made “safe” for all. We’re more likely to find harm from what we fail to read than what we may read inadvertently. We learn by getting outside our comfort zone. Sometimes it’s good to read about things we don’t like just to know what the other guy is thinking. Maybe our grandparents should have read Mein Kampf more closely. The world might be a safer place today.

What’s going on with the book’s popularity? On her Huffington Post blog, Laura Munson says it’s not about a craving for smut...

People want to know that they’re not alone. I think that’s why we read books. In the case of Fifty Shades, I really don’t think people are going crazy for it because of the sex. And there’s a lot of it. (I actually ended up skimming the sex scenes because they were so ubiquitous.) It seems that one of the primary places women in our culture feel alone is in their feminism. This threw me for a loop! Who knew? I hadn’t really thought about this before. According to my research, somewhere along the way, once we got the vote and equality in the work place (though some would say we still have a long way to go in this arena), sexual liberation and physical rights to our bodies etc., we got stuck. Stuck in anger.


The Timberwolves really built up the release of a video yesterday documenting star Ricky Rubio’s recovery from a torn ACL. What did we learn? Not much.



It was a messy divorce last year when longtime Fargo news anchor Robin Huebner quit after being demoted from her newscast in favor of a younger woman. She filed an age-discrimination suit. You may recall this video from her then-boss against the Fargo Forum newspaper, which also owns the other TV station in town.

Valley News Live – KVLY/KXJB – Fargo/Grand Forks

Today, it’s announced in the Fargo Forum, Huebner is going back to work, for that other TV station, and the Fargo Forum.

Huebner, 50, takes on a 5 p.m. newscast which is in competition with a newscast anchored by the woman for whom Huebner was dumped.

Bonus I: When public radio programs fight on Twitter. (

Bonus II: Anna P. Fieser, a friend of Anousone Phanthavong, has posted her victim impact statement on her blog.

Bonus III: Dear cycling fans. Women are not an “indicator species,” says.

Bonus IV: “A St. Paul artist and educator with roots in the southwestern Minnesota prairie is bringing her art to the public via a project that links art to geocaching,” Audrey Kletscher Helbling writes on Minnesota Prairie Roots today. It’s a really great review of the work of Felice Amato.


In a recent survey, technology experts said they expect an all-but-cashless society by 2020, as people turn more toward using their phones as instruments of payment. Today’s Question: If cash becomes a thing of the past, will you miss it?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Top voter issues of the 2012 presidential election.

Second hour: Military culture and the sexual assault on women.

Third hour: How close are we to a mostly cashless society?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): From the Aspen Ideas Festival: top political analysts size up the 2012 presidential election: Ron Brownstein of the National Journal, Gwen Ifill of PBS, Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report, Molly Ball of the Atlantic and Mike Allen of Politico.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – NPR reports on finding the American Dream in schools. It will profile a public elementary school in California that has become a magnet for families fromKorea. They’re willing to split up and move overseas in order to afford an American education, and to get a summer break from school that Korean kids wouldn’t get back home.