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Keith gets grilled by Hurricane Mari

Keith was in the backyard with Leslie getting acquainted with her father when they heard, “God damn it!” come from the kitchen. “Son of a —!” Lesli went in to see what was wrong. Hank said to Keith, conspiratorially, “Vocabulary like that, you’d never know she’s an English professor, would y’?”

“No comment.”

“Smart man.”

“What do you do, sir?”

“Okay, I can tell you’re doing your best to be polite and put a good foot forward. That’s also smart. But, no ‘Mr.’ and no ‘sir’ please.”

“Just Hank.”

“Now, y’ got it.” He walked up on the patio, waving Keith along. “Come on, treat yourself to a taste. Time you get done meetin’ my wife, you’ll need it.”

He crossed to the rolling bar, took two glasses, put them on the umbrellaed table along with an ice bucket. Reached for a bottle of Dewars. “Pick your poison. See anything you like?”

“Yes s—.” He caught himself. “Uh, yeah. Some of that jug of Jack Daniel’s’ll do just fine.” A jug it was. Bigger than the others by far, a half-gallon of Tennessee sippin’ whiskey. Otherwise known as bourbon. Hank seemed to make a mental note. Dropping rocks in their glasses, pouring, he picked back up, “Me, I quit teachin’ college. At the same place. That’s where we met — hear tell you and my little girl met under some interestin’ circumstance.”

Keith kind of squirmed. With another warm, easy smile, Hank continued: “Stony Brook University. Not that I didn’t like it — did you know Louis Peterson once taught there?”


“Wrote Take A Giant Step. Damned good play. First Black dramatist on Broadway.” He interrupted himself to hand Keith his drink and hoist his own glass. “To yours and Lesli’s happiness.”

“Thank you, sir.” And caught himself again. Hank winked. They sipped. “Anyway. I used to teach directing. To students who, most of them, figured they already knew all there was to learn. Between you and me, all but the best of ’em, I wondered how they managed to walk from one end of a stage to the other without falling off.”

Keith laughed. “After enough of that,” Hank continued, “I chaired the department a few years, then said, ’Nah.’ Had written a book that did well enough. Continue Reading →

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Backyard composting — an easy way to turn food waste into a natural resource

We hear about composting a lot but often it seems like a complex task only for experienced gardeners. What really is composting and how can it be more accessible? Michael Chaney, founder of Project Sweetie Pie, can often be found on the organization’s urban farms throughout North Minneapolis among the youth engaging in community agriculture. Chaney, who understands the role of composting within urban farming, says Project Sweetie Pie is exploring and learning more about increasing composting within their urban farms. Composting can close the gardening loop by creating usable, nutrient-rich soil to grow food. Once you get started, composting is easy, economical and great for the environment! Continue Reading →

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Reducing volatile organic compounds: good for business and the environment








Two Minneapolis businesses are already benefitting from the change

By Isaac Peterson

Contributing Writer

Conclusion of a  three-part story


Last week MSR readers learned of a new grant program that Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is offering to help businesses with the cost of complying with new regulations to reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This week readers are introduced to two business who have already benefitted from the program. MPCA and the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (or MnTAP, a program at the University of Minnesota) have teamed up to offer small businesses with matching grant funds of up to $100,000.  


How can cutting down on VOC’s help your business and the environment? Let’s look at the experience of two Minneapolis small business owners and see how reducing VOC’s helped them. Continue Reading →

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Removing toxic chemicals from the environment requires new emission limits







The costs for small businesses to comply could be ‘enormous’
By Isaac Peterson

Contributing Writer


Many people are talking lately about the numerous disparities in Minnesota between the White population and communities of color. People of color lose in every category. One little-noted area of disparity is environmental; people of color are exposed to more environmental pollution than their White counterparts. (The MSR has recently published the findings of scientific studies identifying these environmental disparities: “Race matters most in determining who breathes bad air,” May 8,  and “People of color most vulnerable to toxic chemical disasters,” May 15) . But while some are talking about the problem, others are doing something about it. Continue Reading →

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Ten basic no-cost or low-cost ways to stay cool, save energy, reduce emissions 

As we enter the hot days of summer with temperatures over 90 degrees, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources reminds consumers of some simple no-cost or low-cost energy-saving tips to help keep cool, conserve energy, and reduce utility bills. “There are some basic steps we can all take to reduce our energy use over the hot summer months,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “These measures are kind to both our pocketbooks and the environment. Reducing energy use decreases carbon emissions from burning coal and petroleum products, and this has a positive impact on our air and water quality.”

Check out the following 10 tips to keep cool, save money, and help prevent unnecessary power outages by easing high demand on electric power this summer:

• Close curtains and blinds and pull shades during the hottest times of the day to keep the hot sun out. • Set your thermostat to allow your house to be warmer than normal when you are away. Continue Reading →

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Sisters energized to help their neighbors, keep communities safe








By Courtney Mehus

Contributing Writer

Combined, Nicko Spehn and her sister Alicia Ellis have more than 57 years experience as employees of CenterPoint Energy, who respectively hold the positions of dispatching manager and supervisor of appliance services. These two sisters, working together, have helped shape multiple initiatives for CenterPoint Energy both in the office and in the community. One of the most important programs that Spehn’s leadership has influenced is the Stay Safe, Stay Warm program. For the past five years she has been involved in organizing efforts which provide free heating system tune-ups to qualifying customers. The Stay Safe, Stay Warm program has been around in one form or another for over 20 years. Continue Reading →

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Some chemicals in everyday products may contribute to obesity







By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Contributing Writers


Obesity is a huge problem in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates have doubled for American adults and tripled for kids and teenagers aged six through 19 since 1980. Today, 31 percent of American adults and 15 percent of youngsters are classified as overweight. The rise in obesity and related health problems like diabetes is usually attributed to an abundance of high-calorie food coupled with the trend toward a more sedentary lifestyle, but there is more to the story. A growing number of researchers believe that certain chemicals collectively known as “obesogens” may be a contributing factor to the growing obesity epidemic. Continue Reading →

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Organic agriculture: Is it sustainable?

By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Contributing Writers

Dr. Henry I. Miller’s May 15, 2014 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal has indeed made waves in the organic farming community. Miller, former director of the Office of Biotechnology at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, argues that conventional farming — which uses synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers and often genetically modified (GM) seed stock to maximize yields — is actually better for the environment, producing more food and using less water compared to organic farming. “Organic farming might work well for certain local environments on a small scale, but its farms produce far less food per unit of land and water than conventional ones,” says Miller. “The low yields of organic agriculture — typically 20 percent to 50 percent less than conventional agriculture — impose various stresses on farmland and especially on water consumption.”

Miller adds that organic methods can cause significant leaking of nitrates from composted manure — the fertilizer of choice for most organic farms — into groundwater, polluting drinking water. He also cites research showing that large-scale composting generates significant amounts of greenhouse gases and “may also deposit pathogenic bacteria on or in food crops, which has led to more frequent occurrences of food poisoning in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

“If the scale of organic production were significantly increased, says Miller, the lower yields would increase the pressure for the conversion of more land to farming and more water for irrigation, both of which are serious environmental issues.” He adds that conventional farming’s embrace of GM crops — a no-no to organic farmers — is yet another way we can boost yields and feed more people with less land. Continue Reading →

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Free Drop-in Discoveries and Meet the Gardener programs

Tamarack Nature Center will again offer two free, family-friendly program series this summer focused on nature and gardening topics. The Drop-in Discoveries series will run Saturdays from 10 am — noon and cover a variety of nature topics. Meet the Gardener programs will be offered Mondays from 10:15 – 11 am and will highlight a different gardening topic weekly. Drop-In Discoveries programs will be led by volunteer Discovery Hosts and feature up-close visits with live animals, including Tamarack’s resident owls, snakes and salamanders. Participants will also get hands-on experience with touchable artifacts, like skulls and skins, and sample edible treats from the Discovery Hollow garden. Continue Reading →

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Author writes about energy sources of the future

Nuclear power: seems scary, but safe

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer


The environment can be saved through innovation, says award-winning futurist and author Ramez Naam. The Egyptian-born Naam who regularly lectures on energy, environment and innovation as an adjunct faculty member at Singularity University, wrote The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet that looks at climate change and how to invest in scientific and technological innovation to overcome challenges. During his hour-long conversation with Minnesota Public Radio’s (MPR) Jonathan Foley, the author-professor proposed at MPR’s Top Coast Festival May 31 at Minnesota’s Coffman Union that the federal government offer “huge economic incentives” to large corporations to do more environment-friendly innovations. “We are not creating any economic incentives for any [U.S.] company to actually capture any potential carbon dioxide that escapes,” he explained. “Cutting carbon emissions in half is not enough. Continue Reading →

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