Signs of Spring

My Northern Garden - Mary Schier - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 10:31pm

Siberian squill ready to bloom

Sunday’s gorgeous weather had me outside at last, flinging caution to the wind and raking a few spots in the lawn, cleaning out some of the beds I can reach from the sidewalk and looking for signs of life.

The Siberian squill, which have long been one of the plants I measure spring by, are just one day away from blooming and the miniature cabbage heads of sedum can be spotted under the leaf-mulch. I’ve been looking for them, but there’s no sign yet of the Iris reticulata that is usually the first plant blooming in my yard. Perhaps it is a victim of the long winter. It may still appear yet. Last year, it was April 22 when I first spotted them. They’ve bloomed as early as March 25 in the past.

With the forecast calling for decent temperatures and occasional rain this week, we could see a burst of bloom by next weekend. Here’s hoping!


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Categories: Citizens

Minnesota’s Next Gen Energy Act unconstitutional

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 8:21am



Judge Susan Richard Nelson issued an order yesterday declaring Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act unconstitutional because it “constitutes impermissible extraterritorial legislation and is a per se violation of the dormant Commerce Clause.”

I finally found a copy of the decision, I was looking in all the wrong places.  Here’s the Order (thanks to the STrib for posting it):

April 18 2014 Order – Next Generation Energy Act Suit Minn. Stat. 216H.03

It’ll likely be appealed, but I wouldn’t bet on any success.  The impact of this decision will be what I’ve been expecting — dreadful — the doors are open for even more coal plants (note the discussion of surplus capacity in the decision) and with CapX mostly built, we’ve got the infrastructure for 50+ years of coal generated electricity exports across Minnesota to market, and 50+ years of mercury for our fish, and all those emissions for us to breathe.  Great, just great.


Categories: Citizens

Naomi Mitchison, "The Triumph of Faith"

Rob Hardy - Rough Draft - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 7:47am
Naomi Mitchison, “The Triumph of Faith,” in When the Bough Breaks and Other Stories. London: Jonathan Cape, 1924.
Naomi Mitchison (1930).For those who have never heard of Naomi Mitchison: she was born into a prominent Scottish family in Edinburgh in 1897, married a future Labour MP, and enjoyed remarkable success as a novelist in the 1920s and 1930s as the author of historical novels set in the ancient Greek and Roman world. The novelist Winifred Holtby considered her work of Nobel Prize caliber. She would later become one of the first women to publish science fiction with her 1962 novel Memoirs of a Spacewoman. She was also a socialist, a feminist, an advocate for birth control and free love, and in her sixties travelled to Botswana (then the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland) and became an honorary member of the Bakgatla tribe. She died in 1998 at the age of 101, and according to her friend Isobel Murray remains “one of the great neglected writers of our time.”
The New Testament scholar John Court called “The Triumph of Faith” “an imaginative tour-de-force.” In the novella, Mitchison re-imagines the Letter of Paul to Philemon (the third shortest book in the Bible) as a Roman comedy. The characters includes the family of Philemon, the recipient of Paul’s letter and landowner of Colossae: his hot-tempered and sanctimonious son Archippus; his wife Apphia; his daughters Phoebe Martha and Dorcas; his steward Onesimus; and his slaves Charope, Artamo and Chet. The other characters are Philemon’s neighbor, a pagan philosopher, and his steward Balas, a worshipper of Mithras. The action is divided into two acts, each divided into six scenes with different narrators.
The plot itself unfolds like a Roman comedy:* Phoebe Martha, the daughter of the Christian father, is in love with the pagan philosopher; slaves carry letters back and forth; Archippus blusters; there’s poison; there’s a happy ending—at least for some of the characters. In the midst of these Plautine flourishes, Mitchison touches on serious issues of faith, religious intolerance, and the status of women.
In her note on her sources, Mitchison wrote: “Not unnaturally one always used to take sides with the barbarians against Rome.” And she reserved special sympathy for “the fair-haired slaves” from the North, her own “possible ancestors,” who found themselves oppressed and powerless in an alien land. This sympathy almost certain had its roots in her own experience as a girl who was denied many of the opportunities open to her older brother. In “The Triumph of Faith,” Phoebe Martha addresses a remarkable speech about her status as a girl to Chet, her father’s Scythian slave:It’s so hard being a girl! Here I am, just the same as a man, really, and no worse than my brother anyway—I’ve got all same eyes and hand and ears and everything else that matters! But because of two or three silly little differences I have to be treated as if I was an animal, ordered about, not allowed to decide anything for myself! I’m shut up, I’m watched, I have to do what men tell me—nothing’s my own, money or husband or religion—I have to take what they give me and say thank you! Oh, it is unfair—haven’t I got a soul every bit as good as theirs? When she exhausts herself with this outburst, Chet says quietly, “Yes, I understand.”
Both Phoebe and Chet are outsiders, and feel a stinging sense of the difference between their inner potential and their external powerlessness. In one of the most richly imagined scenes in the novella, Chet goes into a trance and calls on his Scythian gods to work powerful magic—but in the next scene, he finds himself tied to a post, waiting to be whipped. There’s a gap between his imaginative power and his real power—a gap that Mitchison, as a woman, understood all too well.
As a little girl, Mitchison attended the Dragon School in Oxford with her older brother, but when, as she puts it, “the awful thing happened,” she was taken out of school to be taught at home. The “awful thing” was her first period. Until she was twelves, she had been “for all practical purposes a boy,” but puberty changed everything.
The beginning of puberty, menarche, provides an important recurring theme in Mitchison’s fiction. In “The Triumph of Faith,” when Phoebe Martha runs away from her father’s house to the house of the pagan philosopher, she’s clutching a bunch of roses the philosopher has sent to her. Her father’s steward Onesimus follows her, and tells us in his narration: “Every here and there were red rose petals, shaken loose from Phoebe Martha’s flowers: they reminded me of trailing a wounded deer...”
The name of Phoebe Martha’s intended husband is Menarchus.

Parts of this post are excerpted from a longer essay I’m writing about Naomi Mitchison.
*Mitchison may perhaps also have had in mind Pierre de Marivaux's 1732 comedy The Triumph of Love, which was set in one of her favorite historical places, ancient Sparta. 
Categories: Citizens

Crazy for Comets

My Musical Family - Joy Riggs - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 6:32pm
I confess, I did not get up early the other morning to catch a glimpse of the “blood moon” lunar eclipse. But I followed the news coverage with interest, and I have also followed people’s excitement about the event with interest. No matter how much we learn about the universe, and no matter how much our technology changes and evolves, it hasn’t taken away the sense of wonder that comes from looking up at the sky at a natural phenomenon that only happens once in a blue – or red – moon.

One of the cool moon photos I saw online was this multi-exposure photo taken by Star Tribune photographer Brian Peterson that shows the progression of the eclipse – the first total lunar eclipse visible in the continental United States since December 2011.

The images in this Star Tribune photo were taken between 1 a.m. and  2:46 a.m. on April 15, 2014.With thoughts of celestial bodies already floating around in my mind, I was surprised yesterday to discover – in the midst of researching my great-grandfather’s connection to Tacoma, Washington – that in the spring of 1910, people in the United States were going crazy for comets.

I will explain. But first, a bit of background. I have been working on a scene in my book about G. Oliver’s experience in Tacoma, the one time in his career that he failed to successfully organize a band. To try to make sense of what happened and why he failed, I spent some time last weekend reading Tacoma newspaper clippings in the Riggs family scrapbook. Most of them are dated and are from the Tacoma Daily News, but they are not pasted in the book chronologically, which makes it more challenging to trace the sequence of events.

Tacoma had a handful of newspapers in 1910, as most cities did back then, and yesterday I discovered that old issues of the Tacoma Times can be accessed for free online through the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America website.

I spent several hours paging through the newspaper online to see if it had also covered the band situation. I realized right away that the Tacoma Times, founded in 1903 by Edward Willis Scripps, had a much different feel than its rival, the Tacoma Daily News. It seemed geared more toward a working-class audience interested in labor issues. Disturbing crime-related headlines were often splashed across its front page, and it contained many eye-catching illustrations and editorial cartoons.

Through my reading, I learned that the time G. Oliver spent in Washington state coincided with the appearance of not just one, but two comets.

In mid-January of 1910, while he held the job of director of a city band in Grand Forks, North Dakota, G. Oliver traveled to Tacoma to meet with businessmen in that city. He proposed to organize a new concert band of up to 50 members that would help promote the growing city and would provide entertainment for residents. The Tacoma Daily News reported on Jan. 20 and 21 that local businessmen were meeting with a “bandleader of considerable reputation in the east” but did not disclose his name. The article did not explain how long G. Oliver was in the city, but it probably was not more than a few days, because he would have been missed in Grand Forks.

The Tacoma Times mentioned nothing of this, but a few days later it printed its first of several articles about the sighting of a comet. The front page article, “Many Tacomans Saw Comet,” said, “A comet was visible for half an hour above the western horizon about 6 o’clock last night. Its size and brilliance caused many to think that Halley’s Comet had arrived ahead of schedule. The comet is a fast traveler and soon disappeared below the horizon, leaving a luminous trail in its wake. The heavenly visitor has been reported ‘seen’ from all parts of the country during the past few days.”

The comet coverage in the Times continued: the stories described the comet as a crimson-orange color, noted that people in California were planning their suppers around the timing of the comet, and quoted an astronomer as saying that the huge comet, which later was called the Daylight Comet, “is the largest foreign body ever in the solar system so far as is known since the art of writing was discovered. ... This comet is magnificent beyond all powers of description. We are now making history that will endure for the ages.”

I am not up on my comet history, so I did a quick search and discovered that, indeed, the comet that appeared in January 1910 is one of the greatest comets recorded in history. So far. (If you’re interested in reading more about the Great Comet of 1910, check out this blog post.)

The appearance of this comet whetted people’s appetites for what was yet to come in May – an appearance of Halley’s Comet, which had not been seen since 1835. Many people looked forward to the event with great excitement, although there were some people who worried it would bring about the destruction of the earth.

Halley’s Comet inspired songs, including this one by Harry Lincoln.Some of you might already know about Mark Twain’s connection to Halley’s Comet. He was born in 1835 shortly after the comet appeared, and in 1909 he said:

I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: “Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.

He died on April 21, 1910, and within a week, the comet was close enough to be seen with the naked eye.

By the time of Twain’s death, G. Oliver had quit his job in Grand Forks and had been in Tacoma for three weeks, trying to organize the new band. He received the support of the businessmen and many musicians, but others took offense to the idea of an outsider from a smaller eastern city coming in and taking charge. G. Oliver’s attempts to stir up support, including an April 17 concert in Wright Park – exactly 104 years ago today! – attracted a large crowd and did get a brief mention in the Tacoma Times.

An article about the April 17 band concert in Tacoma’s Wright Park.But what really got the Times excited was feeding people daily information about the coming Halley’s Comet, due to arrive on May 18. Even the newspaper’s society columnist, Cynthia Grey, contributed to the coverage. One of my favorite research finds yesterday was her lengthy article about how one could plan a comet-themed surprise party for the evening of May 17.

It included this description:

The guests gather in a circle just before the time we are supposed to begin our bath in the comet’s tail, and write their wills. Reading the wills is funny, as each would will each something to fit his peculiarities. The one who writes the cleverest gets a copy of the Essays of Marcus Aurelius, the stoic, done up in an asbestos package as a prize.

Suddenly, the light is turned down. The hostess whispers, “The comet is coming!” and in bursts a figure (daddy or little brother) clad in a sheet smeared with phosphorus. If he can’t get this paint he can flash pocket electric lamps under his covering of thin cloth. The comet runs into everybody and everything, kissing the girls and slapping the men, and runs out.

Grey suggested that guests come dressed as Greek gods, and her recommended menu included stuffed egg salad on lettuce, punch and two kinds of cake: angel food and devil’s cake.

“The person enacting ‘the comet’ proposes the toast of Epicurus, ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die,’ she wrote. “Of course, if anybody seriously thinks the world’s coming to an end, he might not care to attend such a party. But most of us think we’ll still be alive May 18 ... whatever happens we all want to stay up to have the experience that will be historic under any circumstances.”

The approaching comet also caused some people to reflect upon the changes that the United States had experienced during the previous 75 years. In a May 16 piece in the Tacoma Times, the writer wondered whether the comet would recognize the place. “... What changes the railroads made! Then came the telegraph, the telephone; then wireless, automobiles; and we are now learning to fly! What will the earth be like when Halley’s Comet comes back in 1985?”

The top half of the front page of the Tacoma Times from May 18, 1910.May 18, 1910, came and went, and people survived (except for Mark Twain). But the band effort did not have a happy ending for G. Oliver. When it became clear by early June that Tacoma was not an environment where his directing star could shine brightly, he left – just like a comet – and returned to the Midwest.

I am sad to say that I don’ t remember doing anything special the last time Halley’s Comet was visible in the United States. It happened in 1986 (not 1985), when I was a senior in high school. Fortunately, I have lots of time to get ready for its next appearance, in 2061, when I will be 93 years old. I plan to have a huge party, and you are all invited. But be advised, it’s BYOP – Bring Your Own Phosphorus.

Categories: Citizens

Bakken BOOM and rail safety

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 3:48pm

There are more and more aspects of rail safety coming into question as people learn about life with the many Bakken oil trains rolling through our communities.

What about the greatly increased air emissions due to the increased rail traffic?  Locomotive emissions are regulated:

EPA Control of Emissions from Idling Locomotives 420f13050

The short version, from the EPA:

General Information

That regulates individual locomotives, but how are the cumulative impacts of so many trains addressed, particularly in the Mississippi River Valley, the “land of inversions?”

There’s continued talk about the new DOT111 rail cars, but how will that address the problem of volatility, that the Bakken crude contains a much higher level of gas than other crude, and that although regulators have said that the Bakken crude should be degasified before it is shipped, whether by rail or pipeline, this is not yet incorporated into standard practice.  And it bears repeating — this is an issue for Bakken crude in pipelines!  Pipelines are not a miracle cure for the Bakken crude volatility problem!

1-2-14 DOT Rail Safety Alert

It can happen here.  It has happened here.  It will happen here.  What do we do to protect ourselves?

This is a train incident in September, 2013 just across the river in Hager City, WI:

And in Red Wing:

A Wisconsin town’s fire chief was part of a discussion with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind recently regarding rail safety.  The station is one block from the river and the railroad tracks.  Congressman Kind asked the fire chief what the impact of a Bakken oil wreck would be on his community, if the fire unit could respond, and the fire chief said, “I doubt it, we’d be vaporized.”

If a Lac Megantic level explosion occurred in Red Wing, presuming that buildings two blocks from the explosion would be leveled, and maybe three blocks, it would reach to Main Street, and perhaps the block beyond:

This is how it is in all the communities along the Mississippi River, a disaster waiting to happen for us, for the River.

There’s a reason it’s called the “Bakken Boom.”  BOOM!

And in the La Crosse Tribune:

Meeting set on rail expansion plan

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal

Some people worry that a planned Burlington Northern track expansion in La Crosse will greatly increase oil tanker traffic through the area. These cars were rolling through Sioux City, S.D., this week.

5 hours ago  •  BETSY BLOOM (7) Comments If you go

WHAT: Public meeting on rail line expansion in La Crosse, organized by Citizens Acting for Rail Safety

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Commons room, La Crosse Central High School, 1801 S. Losey Blvd.

FOR MORE INFO: Email or go on Facebook to CARS, Citizens Acting for Rail Safety

The prospect of more rail cars carrying crude oil and other flammable liquids through the region has prompted a public meeting Tuesday to air concerns about BNSF Railway Co.’s plans to add a second, parallel line on La Crosse’s east side.

The expansion would eliminate the rail company’s last segment of single track in La Crosse County and reduce train delays in La Crosse, BNSF officials said.

But Citizens Acting for Rail Safety, or CARS, contends the second track would raise the risk of a serious rail accident in a residential area or a major spill in the La Crosse River Marsh and other nearby waterways and sensitive habitat.

About 60 trains a day use the BNSF line in La Crosse, which now narrows to a single track from its yard near Gillette Street in north La Crosse to just south of Farnam Street. U.S. rail traffic has increased in recent years, primarily triggered by the surge in Bakken oil being shipped from North Dakota and Montana to refineries in the east and south. U.S. railroads were expected to haul 400,000 carloads of oil in 2013, almost 40 times the number seen in 2009.

That rail surge has come at a cost, though, with at least four major oil train explosions in North America in less than a year, one of which killed 47 people in Quebec in July 2013.

The region has seen three derailments and spills within about 90 miles of La Crosse since February, CARS members said.

“They’re shipping hazardous materials through La Crosse,” George Nygaard said, “and it’s in containers not made for hazardous materials.”

The rail industry has persisted in using outdated tank cars known to be more prone to puncture or rupture in an accident to carry the more volatile Bakken light crude, he said.

CARS members maintain the increased traffic also produces more noise, vibrations, diesel emissions and other effects on air quality along the line.

The city, too, faces a substantial cost — perhaps six or seven figures — to adjust road and trail crossings and the Forest Hills Golf Course to accommodate the second track, said Mayor Tim Kabat, who lives less than a block from the BNSF line. He plans to be at the meeting along with other local legislators.

The city council recently approved funding for a title search to determine whether BNSF really does own the strip of Forest Hills land where it wants to install the new line.

The potential for some type of accident was highlighted in February when a malfunctioning Canadian Pacific Railway tanker dribbled more than 12,000 gallons of crude oil along a stretch of tracks near Winona, Minn., with some falling into area waterways and trout streams.

“There’s some real concerns — what if it happens in La Crosse?” Kabat said.

Categories: Citizens

A Walk on the West Side

Rob Hardy - Rough Draft - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 8:26pm
We live on the east side of Northfield, a few blocks from Carleton College, where my wife started working in 1990, and right on the edge of downtown Northfield. It’s a quarter mile down to Just Food Co-op, and EconoFoods is even closer. It’s faster to walk down to The Hideaway than to make a pot of coffee at home in the morning. As I write this, it’s been three weeks since the car left the garage. We walk everywhere.
Ames Mill from the Fifth Street BridgeMost of my walking in town has been done here on the east side, but a walk early last week took me out of my east side comfort zone and into the less familiar territory of the west side of town. Setting out from home at about 10:00 on an early spring morning, I headed west down Fifth Street, crossing Division Street and stopping briefly on the Fifth Street Bridge to look across at Northfield’s iconic Ames Mill. Then, at the corner of Fifth Street and Highway 3, I had wait for the light to change. I pressed the button for the pedestrian signal, and an insistent voice told me to wait.
Crossing Highway 3 at Fifth StreetNorthfield is split down the middle by Minnesota Trunk Highway 3, which extends roughly 45 miles from Faribault in the south to Inver Grove Heights in the north. But until the early 1960s, there was no Highway 3, and the division between the east and west sides was less starkly defined. Buildings and businesses ran along both sides of Water St. north of Fourth St., and along both sides of Fourth St. west to the railroad tracks. The opening of Highway 3 in 1963 created a four-lane barrier between the east and west sides of town.
Unconnected sidewalk on Odd Fellows LaneOnce the light changed and I crossed the highway, I continued along the sidewalk on the north side of Highway 19 (Fifth St.), past the Malt-O-Meal factory, to the end of the sidewalk on Odd Fellows Lane. This is one of a number of places in Northfield where the sidewalk abruptly and inconveniently ends: another failure of connectivity. But there are many places where as a pedestrian I don’t feel inconvenienced by the lack of a sidewalk. Many of the residential streets are wide enough and the traffic volume is generally low enough that I can walk in the street without feeling endangered. But there are other places, such as along Woodley Street, where the lack of sidewalks is inconvenient and even dangerous for pedestrians.
The lack of a connecting sidewalk on Odd Fellows Lane is no more than a two-block inconvenience, and soon I was back on the sidewalk along Forest Ave., heading for St. Olaf College. My walk would take me around the St. Olaf campus, then back down and out Cannon Valley Drive, past the Northfield Retirement Community, to the city limits at the corner of Cedar Avenue and Thye Parkway.
When we moved to town in 1990, this corner of Northfield was still a cornfield, but in recent years residential streets have been laid out and upscale houses have cropped up in place of the corn. Home prices in this neighborhood generally run between $200,000 and $600,000. But less than a mile-and-a-half walk away (less than a mile as the crow flies) is the poorest neighborhood in Northfield: the Viking Terrace mobile home park. The population of Viking Terrace is primarily Latino, generally poor, frequently undocumented. The mobile homes are in small, close together, and in various states of repair. On a Tuesday morning, the neighborhood was quiet. I passed two older men standing outside one of the trailers, conversing in Spanish.
Houses around Liberty ParkViking TerraceIn between these two neighborhoods is Greenvale Park Elementary School. The entire west side of Northfield west of Highway 3 and north of Highway 19 is included in the Greenvale Park attendance district, and Greenvale Park is where the children of relatively affluent Liberty Park should mix with the children of Latino immigrants who live in Viking Terrace. But this isn’t always the case. In 2012-2013, Greenvale Park accounted for 46% of the loss of students from the entire school district through open enrollment, leaving a school where 42% of the students were living in poverty and 23% were learning English as a second language.
What the entire west side has in common, though, is the lack of unimpeded pedestrian access to downtown—to the grocery store, the public library, the coffeeshops and businesses that are within easy walking distance for me. Heading home from Viking Terrace, I walked down Spring St. to Greenvale Ave., where Spring St. narrows and the sidewalk disappears. If I had chosen to turn left on Greenvale and walk home along Highway 3, I would have found no sidewalk on the west side of the highway, and no safe crossing to the sidewalk on the east side.
A combined pedestrian and bike trail (the TIGER Trail) was first proposed as part of a multi-modal transportation study in 2009 as a means of re-connecting the west and east sides of the city. But opposition to the rising cost of the project has stalled the TIGER Trail in City Hall. 
I have to admit that I felt a little nervous walking through Viking Terrace, knowing that I was a minority there, imagining that a strange white man snapping pictures with his camera might be viewed with suspicion. I felt acutely that I didn’t belong there. But I’ve had the same feeling as I’ve walked down cul-de-sacs in more upscale neighborhoods on the east side. Cul-de-sacs don’t invite recreational walkers like me. No one who enters a cul-de-sac is “just passing through,” because by definition a cul-de-sac doesn’t lead from one place to another. Anyone who enters a cul-de-sac must either belong there, or have legitimate business there, or must not belong there.

For the most part, our streets are designed for the convenience of motorists and the privacy of residents, not for the communion that comes from walking and encountering each other on foot. This has been the most interesting part of walking around Northfield (255 miles as of today): this strange feeling of not belonging.

Sidewalks and trails alone won't change people's habits. They won't, on their own, cause a decrease in obesity or an increase in neighborliness. But they do create an infrastructure for that kind of change. They can make connections possible that weren't possible before. 
7.66 miles on Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Categories: Citizens

Day 15 is a wrap - halfway there!

Myrna CG Mibus - Idyllwild - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 10:50am
This year marks the 5th year of 30 Days of Biking, a challenge to ride your bike every day for 30 days straight in the month of April. I've done the challenge every year plus three bonus rounds in September.

That's a lot of biking in all sorts of weather. In past challenges, I have biked through snow, sleet, rain, hail and have been out in very nice weather, too.

The weather this April has been less than desirable. So far I've not had to bike in snow or sleet (though it's due to snow today) but it's been cold and I had to pull out my winter jacket again. Oh well. Thus, most of my rides have been short hops of a half a mile to two miles. They count. I've also had the fun of getting out on some longer rides, like two rides on the Cannon Valley Trail this past weekend when the weather was pretty nice (for Minnesota). I'm looking forward to some more nice weather so I can get some longer rides in.

Taken on one of our longer rides last weekend.
My Vaya, Zippy, alongside the Cannon Valley TrailYesterday marked day 15 of this year's challenge. You know what? I almost quit and didn't bother riding. I was tired. The weather had taken a turn and it was cold (again). By the time I got home from work and other things it was past nine. What I wanted to do was take a bath and go to bed.

But I still got out my fatbike, Bear, strapped on my helmet and headed outside. I had to force myself. It was not easy.

Owen joined me on his fatbike (he's doing the challenge again, too) and we rode around the neighborhood and talked. We weren't out long, maybe 10 minutes. But time and distance of the rides doesn't matter. As long as I get on the bike and move forward, the ride counts.

To be honest, I nearly quit after I moved forward three feet and called it a day because that would have been enough to count. But by the time my butt was in the saddle, I figured I might as well keep on pedaling and actually go somewhere. So I did and now Day 15 of 30 Days of Biking - 2014 is done!

Categories: Citizens

A Profrusion of Blooms: Flower Photos by Karla Schultz

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 4:50am

Lotus, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, 2013 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Nothing lifts my heart like the return of spring. In Northfield, Minnesota, the first floral sign has arrived. Now, visible through the winter-burnt grasses are the stalwart, yellow-green spears of Scilla siberica, the deep blue flowers, also know as wood squill, that always come first. Last year, they took over the town in late April only to taken over by a heavy blanket of snow. Twice. Once in May!

Spring is a process, though, and takes longer to unfold here than at many latitudes. When I was in graduate school, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, I marveled at the short winter. I can recall phoning a friend in Wisconsin one February and reporting: “This town is filled with flowering azaleas and I am wearing shorts”. Now when I am impatient for spring, continually asking myself, “Are we there yet?”, I take heart in looking at my sister’s beautiful images of flowers from the deep south. I hope that wherever you live, you will enjoy this bouquet.

Azalea, Calaway Gardens, 2009 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Spring Forest, Calaway Gardens, 2009 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Wood Violet, Macon, 2011 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Wild Azalea, Calaway, 2009 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Daisy, Atlanta, 2012 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Green Flower, Calaway Gardens, 2011 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Hibiscus, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, 2006 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Dogwood, Calaway Gardens, 2011 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Daisy, Calaway Gardens, 2011 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Honeysuckle, Macon, 2011 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Trumpet Creeper, Macon, 2011 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Mountain Laurel, Calaway Gardens, 2009 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Magnolia, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, 2011 (photo: Karla Schultz)

Categories: Citizens

ACRL Information Literacy Framework Feedback Deadline Extended

Pegasus Librarian - Iris Jastram - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 6:58pm

In case you haven’t heard (as I hadn’t) the deadline for submitting feedback on the ACRL Draft Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education (part 1 and part 2) has been extended. Submit feedback (via SurveyMonkey) by Monday, April 21st at 5pm Central Time.

If you would like to crib from (or disagree with) the feedback Carleton and St. Olaf have sent, feel free to do so.

This document will set the tone for our work for the next several years, so it behooves us to make sure it accurately reflects our work and our learning goals for our students. (In other words: GIVE THEM FEEDBACK because we care about this stuff.)

Categories: Citizens

Responding to the ACRL draft Information Literacy Framework

Pegasus Librarian - Iris Jastram - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 1:39pm

As you are no doubt aware, ACRL is drafting a replacement for the Information Literacy Standards. They’re hoping for feedback on their draft of the Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education (Part 1 and Part 2) by 5pm Central today5pm Central on Monday, April 21, 2014.

The Reference & Instruction Librarians of Carleton and St. Olaf got together and, over the course of 3 meetings, synthesized our comments into a unified response. Here is what we have now submitted to ACRL as answers to their questions.

In what ways will the focus on threshold concepts help you to generate conversations with other campus stakeholders (such as disciplinary faculty partners, members of the general education curriculum committee, and academic support services staff)?

The term “threshold concept” has not yet come into widespread use here on our campus, but the concepts themselves will provide valuable support and backing for conversations we have with our campus stakeholders. They resonate strongly with our work on our campus. In particular, the messages of the framework that will most strongly support our work include: a) that this is firmly rooted in critical thinking, but still defined in a very information-based way, b) that this is about building “credibility within [an] ecosystem” and performing “expert moves” within a context (from lines 170 and 173), c) that we focus on student learning strategies rather than a simple ladder of skills, and d) that context can’t be separated from information literacy, but that information literacy is all about ethical and effective participation in a community’s discourse. The context-based language will help us communicate with faculty, giving us official vocabulary to talk about the ways in which information literacy is both a discipline unto itself and also integrated into other disciplines.

How do the sections for knowledge practices and assignments/assessments provide helpful guidance when considering implementing the new Framework? What else would you want to see in these sections?

The “Knowledge Practices” sections do a good job of taking the threshold concept and delineating representative “expert moves” that help increase credibility within a community. Since the concepts are, by definition, difficult to grasp, these sections provide instructors and students alike with a handhold while grappling with the larger concept.

The “Metaliteracy” sections have such potential, but currently fall short. They are far too focused on social media and the producer/consumer metaphor. There is such a wealth of information on metacognition in the scholarship of teaching and learning, and we suggest that this would be a richer, more framework-like direction to take these sections – not removing the social media aspect, but adding crucial focus on self-knowledge, reflection, and putting that self-knowledge to use to participate effectively in the community (whatever platform that participation uses). Emphasis on reflective practice is crucial.

The assignments and assessments sections will be helpful during the transition to and adoption of the new Framework, but they will quickly become dated. We suggest that these be housed in a supplementary document aimed at helping librarians make the transition to thinking and teaching based on the Framework for two reasons. First, they would not bog down the central document of our profession with suggestions that will never be generalizable in the way that the rest of the document is. Second, they could be updated on a regular basis without necessitating full-scale revision of the Framework.

We plan to include additional materials in a subsequent phase (described in the welcome message). What other elements would you find helpful that aren’t mentioned in our plans?

“Ethical Participation” is listed in the definition of information literacy (line 162), but hasn’t yet made much of an appearance in the framework itself. It should either be woven into the current threshold concepts or be given its own concept. And of course, it is far more complex than simple citation practices or copyright adherence. It also involves knowing what kinds of evidence can support what kinds of claims, etc.

Metacognition is a vital component of critical thinking and learning. You gesture toward it both with the new focus on affect and also in the metaliteracy sections, and you have a section mentioning it on line 246, but calling it out specifically and integrating the richness of the scholarship on the topic would greatly enhance the Framework.

A third suggestion is to include, either woven into the others or as a stand-alone concept, some discussion of the importance of managing one’s research materials (bibliographic management, appropriate back-ups and security, file management, data management, research notes, etc). This has implications not just for grants and general effectiveness, but also for increased creativity. Well organized files and notes help researchers see patterns and connections that may not be apparent otherwise. Well documented decisions about research, research materials, and products of research aid in sharing and reuse (or better decisions about keeping some information private).

Is there anything else you would like for us to know?

Definition of Information Literacy:
Line 161: Change the order of the list to “finding, using and analyzing scholarship, data, and other information”

Structure and Terminology:
The “experienced researcher” formulation can be problematic. We see what you are trying to achieve with that formulation, but in practice it can often make it seem like only experienced researchers are actually creating anything. Take Line 425 for example: “with the experienced researcher adding his or her voice….” That makes it sound as if less experienced researchers are not adding their voices – like they have to wait to get some sort of certification before they can create meaning.

The term “Learners” is used throughout the document. We feel that this is jargon that may become dated. Since ACRL explicitly serves college and research libraries, and since the audience here is for less experienced researchers, we feel that “students” more accurate and simply describes the audience here. We understand that “Learners” also comes from the language of K-12 education, and that continuity is useful between standards, but “students” resonates with faculty far more strongly and will help us get faculty on board with this document.

And finally, the first concept is named using a very short sentence: “Scholarship is a conversation.” We feel that the other concepts would be better served by this construction than by being forced into the “noun as noun” construction (which muddies the waters at best and causes outright confusion at worst).

 Notes on the “Scholarship is a conversation” section:
“Negotiate meaning” (line 425) does not work well for all disciplines, but “negotiate understanding” works well. We recommend “negotiate understanding.”

This section would be greatly enhanced by including some discussion of ethical participation.  Conversations die quickly if people don’t think you’re participating ethically.

It might also be worth emphasizing that engaging with sources in a conversation does not mean parroting back what other people have said. So conversations involve adding to the body of knowledge rather than summarizing. The act of synthesis is vitally important, but simple summary is insufficient.

Notes on the “Research as Inquiry” section:
Inquiry can mean an iterative process or a single question. Perhaps it would be clearer to formulate this as a very short sentence (like “scholarship is a conversation” already is). We suggest “Research is iterative inquiry.”

Line 487: “open or unresolved” is limiting and actually untrue for some methodologies. In many disciplines people go back over the same ground. You could probably just cut this portion of the sentence and be fine.

Notes on the “Format as Process” section:
This section was nearly impossible to understand as it is written. We feel it needs quite a bit of work. The concept as it is currently named makes almost no sense to any of the people we have asked. For one thing, “Format” in library jargon most often describes print/digital/microform/etc. Perhaps what you mean here is “genre” or even “product.” Please consider removing the term “format” entirely. The title would probably be best served by a short sentence rather than a “noun as noun” construction — we suggest something like “Product informs process.”

The scope and focus of the concept is also murky. It seems to be trying to teach two things at once: 1) the process and method matter and help predict what you can get as an end result, and 2) some genres of end product impose methodological constraints. In addition, while the section acknowledges some emerging forms, as a whole it is highly book- and article-focused. This focus leads to a sense that this is primarily about understanding a static set of things. In reality new forms emerge,  and it is important for students to be able to recognize the non-static “alive-ness” of the universe of output types.

Finally, we would also love to see in this section a good way to talk about the different artifacts of a publication you find online: pre-prints, working papers, etc.

Notes on the “Authority is constructed and contextual” section:
This is a hugely important concept that could be strengthened by adding some language about the economics of information (how does research get funded? What gets distributed? Who gets access and through what funds?). This is also tied to the problems of “filter bubbles” where Google and others rank results based on what they know about you already, and your friends feed you information that they like or know you will like, and it becomes harder and harder to stumble on information from other perspectives.

This section could also be strengthened by adding some mention of the importance of knowing both how to navigate information power structures and also influence those structures (via scholarly conversation).

We suggest cutting the example of the Weather forecasts and sticking with a stronger version of what appears on line 21 of part 2: “Scholars within a discipline DO value specific publications or publishers over others.” We also note that previous threshold concepts in this Framework have not relied on examples as much, so it would both strengthen this section and even out the writing style of the document to leave the examples out of this portion.

Notes on the “Search is Strategic” section:
This section could perhaps be subsumed into the section on Research as Inquiry.

If it is not merged with the Research as Inquiry section, we offer several suggestions for improvement. First, under “Dispositions,” add a bullet saying that expert researchers are flexible and patient (or tenacious) – they’re willing to keep digging, to take what they’ve learned and apply it to new searches, etc. Also add the importance of creativity in search. That combination of creativity and iterative work are crucial to strategic searching, and it is also necessary when students are trying to decide whether results are relevant to them or not. Lack of creativity or tenacity lead to two common problems: Results are “not on my topic” (don’t name my full topic in its title or abstract), or the first 5 results are sufficient regardless of whether they adequately fill the information need.

This section could also be strengthened by mentioning the importance of reading (result lists, abstracts, articles) in order to learn the vocabulary of the scholarly conversation you’re delving into. Since search systems rarely go beyond matching the exact character string of each word you type, if you’re typing the wrong words you will get disappointing results. (This also ties back to the concept of engaging in a scholarly conversation – interlocutors have to understand each others’ language.)

This section focuses rather narrowly on search systems and doesn’t leave much room for exploration, either guided or free-flowing.

Finally, on line 175 of part two: “I-Search papers” is jargon with a pretty narrow audience. We recommend aiming for more generalizability

Categories: Citizens

Why would you want to keep your copyrights when you’re not planning to republish?

Pegasus Librarian - Iris Jastram - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 11:16am


Wikimedia Commons

A scholar I know in another field (Hi Dad) recently asked his publisher for an author agreement that would let him retain his copyright while the publisher retained non-exclusive rights to do whatever the publisher needed to do, now and forever. The response was interesting to me because one of the biggest questions was “Why would you want these rights, anyway? We don’t understand.”

This was actually the first time I’ve thought about that question in that way. Of course nobody’s planning to take the same volume to another publisher, and realistically a whole huge volume isn’t something normally republished in PDF online, either. So realistically, what might a scholar reply to this question?

Here’s what I came up with this morning, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

You are not being paid, so it makes sense to retain ownership of the thing you produce. Further, if you repurpose your material in the future, it will save you the time and expense of seeking copyright permissions to use your own work. You give many presentations that might benefit from the inclusion of the material you produce, you teach courses where you might want to reproduce or display portions of your work. You may want to distribute a “good parts version” at a conference (which would further your goal to share knowledge widely and would also be a good teaser for people who might have been on the fence about buying the full work). In addition, once the publication goes “out of print” you’ll have recourse to find a new avenue for distribution. You are certainly not trying to limit the publisher’s work in any way, but you would prefer not to have them limit your work.

I can imagine a clause in the contract (though I’ve never seen an example) where you also agree not to produce a directly competing product. You’d want to word that carefully so that they couldn’t claim breech of contract with other, similar scholarship that you would produce with or without owning the copyright to this particular work. Realistically, you’re not going to take this work and re-publish it on your own to compete with their version of the volume, but they may want that in writing.

I also shared my ACRL author agreement with him (still my gold standard for author agreements).

I’ve only ever published with library types, so I don’t have to articulate all this stuff when I ask for a non-exclusive agreement — it’s kind of built into our profession. Have you had similar conversations? What resonated well?

Categories: Citizens

Dallas Crow Poetry Reading and Sidewalk Poetry Documentary

Rob Hardy - Rough Draft - Tue, 04/15/2014 - 8:49am
If you live in Northfield or nearby, you're invited to celebrate National Poetry Month with a poetry reading by Dallas Crow this Thursday, April 17, at 7:30 p.m., at Monkey See, Monkey Read. Dallas is a 1988 graduate of Oberlin College, teaches English at the Breck School in Minneapolis, and in 2013 published his first poetry chapbook, Small, Imperfect Paradise (Parallel Press). You can read an excellent review of the chapbook at Verse Wisconsin Online. I'll be opening for Dallas with a short selection of my own poems. Copies of our chapbooks will be available for purchase and signing.

Dallas has also contributed a poem to St. Paul's sidewalk poetry project, which is the model for Northfield's sidewalk poetry project. I currently have three short poems stamped on Northfield sidewalks, and in 2013 I served as a judge for the sidewalk poetry competition. Local filmmaker Paul Krause made a documentary about the 2013 Sidewalk Poetry Contest, which is now available in its entirety.

Categories: Citizens

Nitwit Blubber Oddment Tweak

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 8:01pm

Julia made me this excellent piece of art for my birthday. She included both one of the funniest lines in the first Harry Potter book (the "few words" that Dumbledore offers to the new class at Hogwarts [#spoiler]) and various illustrations of themes and scenes from the books.

She’s a pretty great Muggle.

Categories: Citizens

Complete Streets: All of Northfield on Foot

Rob Hardy - Rough Draft - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 11:21am
In 2009, Stephan Bossert embarked on his quest to walk every street in Minneapolis. He took along his camera and the walking stick he needed since shattering his femur in a motorcycle rickshaw accident on vacation in Cambodia. As of October 2013, he had walked 80 of Minneapolis’s 87 neighborhoods. His walks are recorded in photographs posted on his (public) Facebook page.

Walking the West Highland Way.  July 2011.I started to get serious about walking in August 2010. Early each morning, before the sun was up and the temperatures had started to climb, my wife and I walked out to the James Gang coffeehouse for a generous house cup of medium roast (currently $1.95 with a free refill), a round trip of just under 4 miles from our front door. At the time, I was about 25 pounds overweight, and at my most recent check-up my doctor had been concerned about my cholesterol levels. By April 2011, after months of almost daily walking and cross-country skiing, combined with improved eating habits, I had lost 40 pounds. My cholesterol level was no longer a problem. My blood pressure and resting heart rate had also improved significantly.
In early July, my wife and I travelled to Scotland, where over seven days we walked the hundred-mile West Highland Way and climbed Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain. But most of my walking has been done on the streets of Northfield, Northfield. So I was interested when City Council Member Erica Zweifel suggested that I follow in Bossert’s footsteps, so to speak, and set out to walk every street in Northfield. It seemed like a perfectly realistic goal.
I experienced a setback in my walking last March, when a serious skiing accident in the Arboretum sent me to Northfield Hospital in the back of an ambulance. But now I’m back at full-strength, and since the second week of March 2014 I’ve walked 235 miles—almost entirely on Northfield city streets (except for weekly walks out to Dundas to enjoy a pastry at Martha’s Eats and Treats).
I suppose there are various ways of going about the project of walking every street in Northfield. For example, I could be obsessively systematic, as I tried to be when I took this 11.56 mile walk on March 18, starting on the east end of First Street.

When I described this route to my friend Christopher (who in January completed a 135-mile bike race through the woods of northern Minnesota in record cold temperatures), he told me I was crazy. Coming from him, I took that as a compliment.

Northfield is a relatively small city, and at my current pace (40-50 miles a week), I could walk every street in a fairly short time. Most likely, I’ll proceed at a leisurely pace, choosing a section of the city to walk and incorporating it into one of my longer daily walks. Many of my walks will retrace ground I’ve already covered (like the walk out to Martha’s), but gradually I’ll fold in previously untrodden parts of Northfield. And from time to time, I’ll blog about my walks here.

Coming soon: A Walk on the West Side
Categories: Citizens

Postcard: April 14, 2014

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 5:29am

Categories: Citizens

Pelicans and Wing-spreading Posture

Penelopedia: This & That in Northfield - Sun, 04/13/2014 - 6:54pm
This morning there were several groups of American white pelicans resting on or near sandbars near the west end of Lake Byllesby, near Randolph, Minn. They were far enough out that we needed the spotting scope or a strong camera zoom to really see what was going on.

What appeared at first glance to be one large bird (above) turned out to be two (below).

An American white pelican's enormous wings, with a span of  roughly 8 to 9 feet, are one of the most beautiful sights in birddom. A couple of the birds today were holding their wings outspread in the behavior we've also seen in vultures and cormorants. It may be done to dry feathers; it may be to absorb warmth (thermoregulation); or perhaps other reasons. See, e.g., Whatever the reason, we saw a nice demonstration of it today. This is a gorgeous display of the black tips on the otherwise white wings of an American white pelican.

There is a good overview of American white pelicans and both their historical and recent presence in Minnesota, where it is a "species of special concern," here.
Categories: Citizens

Riding and Writing

Myrna CG Mibus - Idyllwild - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 3:30pm
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einsten

I'm at the Anderson Center in Red Wing this weekend with two of my writing friends, Joy and Chris. We're here having a writing weekend and are working on our various writing projects. The Anderson Center is an awesome place. We're staying in a huge house surrounded by lots of green space and a sculpture garden. It's quiet here and it's a perfect place to write, read and rejuvenate.

It's also a perfect place for bicycling as the Anderson Center is right by the Cannon Valley Trail. So in addition to packing some books, my journal, fountain pens, computer and works in progress, I packed Zippy, my Salsa Vaya, so I could ride this weekend - partially because I like to ride the trail, partially because I'm in the middle of another 30 Days of Biking challenge and partially because I find that riding helps me write.

Earlier today I rode about 12 miles. Most of the ride was on the Cannon Valley Trail but the access roads from the Anderson Center to the trail was partially on gravel so I got some gravel in, too. I also deviated from the trail and enjoyed exploring a new-to-me pathway to a park. Both the access road and the park path had some pretty steep hills so I got some hill work in. This is my longest ride in months. Overall, I feel pretty good but it's pretty clear I have some work to do before I can manage the RiotGrrravel ride in June let alone the 60 mile Minnesota Ironaman ride I signed up for at the end of April or the 50 mile Bike MS Ride I'm doing in May.

My Vaya, Zippy, along the Cannon Valley Trail.
The sign marks the head of a walking path
leading up to the Anderson Center's grounds.While my biking time this weekend is helping me get in shape, I did find myself wondering if it would be wiser for me to spend less time on my bike and more time actually writing during my writing weekend. I mean, I'm here to write, right? And Joy and Chris are writing so much that they both told me they finished their books while I was out on my ride. Okay so they were teasing me but I know they both made progress on their projects whereas I have hardly touched my book or essay projects this weekend.

But here's the deal. My riding time is very much helpful to my writing time. While I ride I create blog posts in my head. I craft sentences. I come up with ideas. I get inspired by the things I see. Pedaling jogs my memory and I recall things that will fit into the stories I'm working on. Sure, it's frustrating that I can't jot down my perfectly crafted sentences and stories while I'm riding my bike. Some of my in my head writing does get lost because I forget what I was going to write by the time I get back to my desk. Or maybe it doesn't really get lost and it's still in my head somewhere? Actually, it doesn't really matter because I have found that my riding time helps motivate and inspire me to write when I DO get back to my desk.

I have found that the time I spend writing and editing in my head helps me write and edit when I put pen to paper. I have found that I crave the physical exercise and that moving makes me feel happy - and that when I'm feeling happy I can focus and keep working even on difficult writing projects. I have found that I need to move - bicycle, walk, garden, be physical in some way - in order to stay balanced in life. I have also discovered that I need to be feeling balanced in life in order to keep on writing.

So it's all good. I'll not worry about losing out on writing time because I'm riding my bike. All of that time on the bike is time well spent - both for my physical self and for my writing self. Biking helps me stay balanced so I will keep on pedaling and keep on writing, too.

Feeling rather balanced and happy along the Cannon Valley Trail

Categories: Citizens

Bib Number 204

Myrna CG Mibus - Idyllwild - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 4:39pm
Back in February I read a post on the Salsa Cycles Facebook page: "Minnesota area women - if you are thinking about taking on a gravel event, but perhaps intimidated by the typically 100-mile distance, this might be something you are interested in. RiotGRRRaveL - a 30 - 35-mile women & family friendly gravel ride near Hastings, Minnesota on June 21st. Hit the link to learn more..."

That post spoke to me. I've been interested in gravel rides and races but have been VERY intimidated by the 100 mile distances. As a fairly slow rider who likes to talk a lot and stop for coffee on my rides, I've also been pretty intimidated at the thought of riding a gravel race with a bunch of competitive men (the vast majority of bike racers, gravel and otherwise, are men). Immediately intrigued, I clicked on the link to learn more - and within moments I signed myself up to ride RiotGrrravel

The fact that I signed up for a gravel ride, let alone a race, is pretty crazy. I have a gravel bike (a Salsa Vaya named Zippy) but I had some issues with knee pain so rode less than 50 miles total of gravel last year. I am a slow, back of the pack, sort of bike rider. Add to that, on one of my few gravel rides last summer I managed to tip over in a rather comical slow motion fashion and skin up my knee (Whoops! I have a cool scar now, at least.). With my lack of gravel time, lack of speed, and lack of confidence in my riding skills, It's an understatement to say that I'm not prepared to ride a gravel race.

So it's a good thing I have a couple of months to prepare because I'm officially registered for RiotGrrravel and have been assigned bib number 204 for the race!!!! 

The race will be held on June 21st in Hastings, Minnesota area and will be about 30 miles long. The ride filled up within a month so I feel lucky to be among the 100 riders. There are cool prizes, pastries from a local bakery (motivation enough for me!), and the ride promises to be reasonably challenging but not over the top.

My goal is to finish the race and gain confidence - and have fun in the process! 

So with the race less than three months away, it's time for me to get riding some gravel. A couple of days ago I had my friend, Marty,  made some minor adjustments to Zippy in hopes of fixing my knee issue. Since then I've ridden Zippy twice on gravel and my knee was okay. That's a good start! My friend Lisa is riding the race with me and we are planning to get out and ride some gravel together in the weeks to come to prepare for the ride. I don't know Lisa terribly well but she has such a positive spirit and outlook on life that I know she will be a great riding parter.

Now I just have to put on many, many, miles on Zippy and get ready for June 21st - Look out RiotGrrravel, here I come!!

Categories: Citizens

Hollydale yesterday… interesting…

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 1:43pm

This is the Hollydale Project proposed route, the one that Xcel Energy couldn’t demonstrate need for if their Certificate of Need depended on it, and it did, and they didn’t.  Hence their petition to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission for withdrawal of Applications for both their Certificate of Need (12-113) and their Routing Permit (11-152).  I love it when that happens…

This was a great victory to get Xcel to acknowledge that this project was in trouble, that they couldn’t demonstrate need, not that they admitted it outright, but close enough.  The down side is that they are persistent, and when they want something, they keep trying, sometimes the same thing, sometimes something different.  What will they do here?  Who knows, but I doubt they’ll disappear.

There was a surprise filing letter and proposed decision option sent by Paula Maccabee on behalf of WPNA at 8:37 a.m., less than an hour before the meeting began, and half an  hour after we’d already left for St. Paul, first I learned of it was when it was passed out at the meeting.

WPNA Decision Recommendations

Here are the changes that were requested:

D. Future Filing Requirements

2. Require the company to file a discussion on their public outreach efforts and an update on improvements made to the load serving capacity of the distribution system serving the area six months from the date of the order granting withdrawal and quarterly thereafter.

I don’t get it… why?  And no, that doesn’t work.  Where Xcel is saying they’ll be back, after developing a more palatable option through discussions with stakeholders, why eliminate the disclosure of its “public outreach efforts?   Thankfully, this was not adopted.

From Xcel’s filings, it’s clear that the Hollydale Project is “desired,” strongly desired, despite that it’s not “needed” in any criteria-based sense.  Xcel wants this project so badly that it has stated that if permitted to withdraw this application, it is coming back, and that:

The residents of Plymouth and Medina, as well as other key stakeholders, have expressed serious concerns about the potential impacts of this Project…

… that “it may take some time to collaborate with stakeholders on developing a new solution…”     

… and that it “intends to work with the community and stakeholders on developing a more widely supported electrical solution…”

Withdrawal Comments January 29, 2014

Xcel Reply Comments February 19, 2014

Those words get me more than a little concerned, particularly where at a meeting organized by Commerce at Plymouth City Hall, after we’d gone around the room in introductions, Sen. Bonhoff said, very pointedly to me, “Who are you?”  “Why are you here?”  “Who is the Barry Family?”  I got the idea that she though I shouldn’t be there, that it was to be a more private party, and I shouldn’t have been invited.  And yesterday, a woman present in support of WPNA asked the same questions.  Hmmmm… Oh well.  We’re parties to this party!

This Hollydale Project was an odd project, in ways that weren’t fully addressed in the proceeding:

  • First is the inherent legal definition of transmission – this project, as proposed, would change this line from a relatively unregulated 69 kV line to a highly regulated “High Voltage Transmission Line” as defined in statute.
  • The project as proposed represents a significant physical and electrical change, from an inactive 69 kV line to a high capacity HTVL that is an operating part of the grid.
  • This project would require a change in ownership – Xcel is requesting to buy the easement, gain the powers that ownership of easement interests represents, and planned to use the easement to build a line of a very different character than what was built under the original easement.
  • This project would change the purpose of the line through Plymouth and Medina, from a purpose of rare emergency backup for the local distribution system, to a high capacity grid support for the 345 kV system.

Now the application has been withdrawn.  Xcel says it’s going to work collaboratively to come up with a “new solution.”  Let’s see what happens next!

Categories: Citizens

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