Monthly Archives: July 2010

Shout out to ADA at 20!

We first endure,  then pity,  then embrace.

Alexander Pope 1688-1744.

Alexander Pope’s words come to mind as we anticipate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Change is an interesting concept to contemplate.  Sometimes the impact is instant and fleeting.  At other times change seeps in, embeds itself, is adapted and adopted, eventually appreciated

How and when did we embrace the idea of disability rights?  How and when did we fashion the infrastructure that supports inclusion — the power of advocacy groups, structural amenities including accessible sports facilities (!), adaptive technologies that facilitate inclusion and that enhance our general awareness of the needs and the contributions of those who are challenged.

It’s worth taking a look at the legislative actions that preceded the 1990 passage of the ADA.  The Disabilities Rights Movement was one of a number of initiatives that grew out of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Though the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1965 dealt with race, religion. sex and national origin there is no mention of discrimination against people with disabilities.  Disability rights did not enter the legal canon until 1973 when Section 504 of the Rehabilitation of 1973 became law.  Still, the idea was gathering strength.

Barriers along the march towards equal treatment for people with disabilities would have halted most mortals.  For example, the 1973 legislation prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability towards otherwise qualified people by recipients of federal financial assistance.  The law still did not protect people with disabilities from discrimination by employers, by public accommodations in the private sector, by publicly funded programs and by those providing federal financial assistance.  Again, the idea was catching on.

The 1970’s and beyond saw critical change affecting people with disabilities..  On the one hand, they enjoyed greater access to physical facilities and a chance to prove themselves.  The community at large had a chance to know disabled people as co-workers, neighbors, family and friends.  At the same time, information technology seized the opportunity to enhance intellectual access. The Kurzweil Reader, now relegated to antique status, offered breakthrough intellectual access in the 1970’s.  Meanwhile, the rapidly expanding population of older Americans welcomed every adaptive technology that kept them in the moving in the mainstream.

Given this slow and steady struggle,  the 20th anniversary of passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act calls for a celebration that includes a pause to reflect and renew the promise. This is also a time to publicly acknowledge that, though legislation neither solves all the problems nor addresses all the issues, it rallies the recalcitrant and puts society, including those immediately affect,  on watch.

The 20th anniversary of the law underscores that, though ADA lays down the law, real people take it from there –  people who express their needs, propose solutions,  seek the funding,  create adaptive solutions, capitalize on the latest technology, expand employment options, acknowledge accomplishments, monitor compliance, make change happen in their lives and in their work.

Towns and cities throughout the state and the nation are gearing up with special events, proclamations, and advocacy initiatives.   Minnesotans of all abilities will gather at the state’s hallmark event:

Monday, July 26, 2010

10:00- 2:00 p.m.

Nicollet Island Pavilion


Free and open

Speakers and entertainers include former US Senator Dave Durenberger, comedian Josh Blue, ASL storyteller Nic Zapko, ADA authority Peter Berg, local and national politicians – and more.  There will also be a host of exhibitors and vendors, including purveyors of “summer time food.”  Accommodations include ASL interpreters CART services, PCA assistance and audio descriptors.


For information about the ADA celebration contact the chair of the planning committee: or 651 603 2015.

ADA has a fact-filled website that explains more than you even want to know about the law, its requirements and implementation.  One staple is a 31-page page booklet, ADA Questions and Answers, offers an overview of the ADA’s requirements for ensuring equal opportunity for persons with disabilities. The primer is available in Spanish, Cambodian, Chinese, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Tagalog and Vietnamese editions available from the ADA Information Line.

St Anthony Village Farmer’s Market Opening Day Video

Hmongtown Marketplace – This Shopper’s Perspective

The plan was to share my Hmongtown Marketplace with my friend Suzanne.  The result was a half-day of Poking Around in one of the community’s treasures.  Though for Hmong Americans and Frogtown residents the Marketplace is a second home and sole source provider of known commodities, it’s a drive-by location for those who whiz by the former lumber yard on Como near the State Capitol.

Pull in the parking lot ( like every street in the Twin Cities, it does need repair) and plunge into another world – a world in which English is definitely not the first language, where wondrous fruits require a how-to lesson from the vendor, where the delicate aroma of Hmong sausage, egg rolls, stick rice and a zillion other taste treats prove irresistible.

Most of all, it’s world where the awkward native Twin Citian is embraced, literally, by the owners (Toua Xiong and Nou Vang and their family) and by the scores of vendors.

Suzanne and I poked into every nook and cranny, paying  rapt attention as Nou graciously escorted, introduced, and explained the vendors and their wares.

At one point Nou asked if I were looking for anything specific.  Doting grandma that I am I targeted my one and only grandson Will Birmingham, age 19 months.  We sped to the top-of-the-line shop for boys’ togs where Nou introduced us, then surreptitiously purchased a Hmong suit for Will.  The result captures the splendor of the suit and the unbounded delight of an Irish American boy from Northeast Minneapolis who may never again settle for Carter’s

Original post from Twin Cities Daily Planet.

Minnesota Women’s Press Shares the Joy of Reading

Give us books – Give us wings!

Some years ago the theme for a national reading promotion was “Give us books, Give us wings.”  I still treasure the posters and T-shirts – and the visual image.  It’s that image that came to mind this week as I’ve had a small role in finding good homes for the unique collection of books in the library of the Minnesota Women’s Press

Any break-up is painful – the breaking up of a library collection is truly poignant. [Many books in the MWP collection were] donated by women who participated in the scores of book groups and salons sponsored by MWP.  Having purchased and read the books, these avid bibliophiles chose to share the words of women writers by contributing their books to the library.

For many years the collection was tended by volunteers, including Barb Clark and Rhoda Holden, who spent hundreds of hours at MWP arranging the dynamic collection, meticulously handwriting cards, welcoming visitors and contributors.  The collection is eclectic, charming and overflowing with books you won’t find in the chains or even public libraries with tight budgets and limited space.  A few of the volumes are autographed by the author herself.

Ever at the ready to face head-on both changing times and fiscal realities, MWP is on the move, from their long-time home near University and Raymond to a site just down the street, at 970 Raymond.  Though staff will enjoy [slightly] expanded office and meeting space – not to mention windows – they have had to phase out the library.

Mollie Hoben, MWP co-founder, quotes a volunteer who reminded her that each book arrived at MWP with a story.  Now, having gleaned more women’s stories and women’s words during the MWP years, each will take flight to carry wings to other readers who will add their own stories.

In recent days and weeks book lovers from prospective adoptive homes – colleges, schools, women’s centers and used bookstores – have been pouring over the MWP books, recalling their own reading experiences, pondering what is just right for their students, hoping to find that autograph. clipping or other memento of a past reader.

MWP will open soon in their new quarters.  The recently expanded magazine] will appear monthly in your mailbox or the corner magazine rack.  The book groups and salons will continue in comfortable meeting spaces.  Meanwhile, the books once housed in the MWP collection will be sharing their stories. the joy of reading books by and about women, and the thrill of new wings with readers of every age throughout the region.

Village Farmer’s Market Blooms in St. Anthony

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It’s Opening Day and counting for the Village Farmer’s Market in St. Anthony, Minnesota.  An introduction to the VFM first appeared in the Twin Cities Daily Planet in May.

Though it seemed a distant goal at the time, it’s here.  Vendor stalls are going up, growers, food wagons, and merchants are at the ready, and the Shop and Learn series is good to go.  Opening ceremonies begin at 3:00 p.m.  From July 12-October 11 the Market will be open every Monday (except Labor Day) from 3:00-7:00 p.m.

For the latest on the VFM, the director and board, discounts and more, check the updated website and blog which now include photos and bios of the VFM prime movers.

Also new on the website is the schedule for the season’s Shop & Learn Series which begins with a talk by Ginny Black from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency;  Ginny will offer tips on making your garden grow and composting.

The rest of the Shop & Learn series covers a spectrum of topics – recycling, cookbook collecting, Metro Transit, and local author Gail Olson who will debut her new book in a presentation entitled “St. Anthony Village – hog farms, floods, tornadoes and alligators.”

Shop & Learn sessions will meet at 4:00 and 6:00 in the meeting room at the Hennepin County Library in the Village Shopping Center aka The Village Farmer’s Market.

Added attractions include discount cards from Village vendors, prepared food vendors, and reduced child care fees are all detailed on the VFM website.

Majdi Wadi on the Move

Majdi on the move

In a June 3, 2010, the Twin Cities Daily Planet published this profile of Majdi Wadi and his Holy Land empire in the MN Voices section.  Majdi was one of two “immigrant leaders” identified by TCDP.  It was an intense learning opportunity to spend time with Majdi who overwhelmed me with his energy, ideas, and his faith that hummus is key to individual health and inter-cultural communication.

Majdi didn’t have to convince me of the virtues of his lead product, hummus,  a taste treat he is quick to boast features high fiber and an absence of gluten and cholesterol.  I’ve spent far too many hours at the Holy Land – the grocery and the restaurant – to need convincing of the wonders of hummus – flavored or natural.

By mid-June 2010 Majdi was feted on the pages of the New York Times.  Minneapolis writer John T. Edge reinforces and expands the homage to hummus and the contributions of Majdi Wadi.  This is a fun read, best absorbed over a generous helping of Middle Eastern delicacies from Holy Land’s incredible buffet.

Keep an eye on Majdi Wadi.  And get to know his mother, Fatima, the petite woman who has championed her son Majdi and his brother Samer from the start.  My librarian head envisions the publication of a magical children’s book I’ve entitled Everybody Eats Hummus. Majdi, the author, illustrator, publisher and sales rep, has dedicated the bestseller to Fatima Wadi.  You heard it here first.

In the meantime, please read the profile of Majdi Wadi in the TCDP Minnesota Voices feature.

Elections and Nonprofits

Recently I was working on a series of public events to be sponsored by a 501©3 wannabe organization that intends to apply for tax exempt status in the near future. My thought was that these summer events pose a great opportunity to invite candidates and to share heaps of information about early primaries, voter registration. absentee voting and logistics. I was appalled, disappointed, but totally sympathetic when the chair of the project rejected out of hand any involvement in the political arena. Her fear was that the organization would jeopardize that essential tax exemption. It’s not the first time I’ve met such resistance.

It is totally understandable that nonprofits are skittish. The threat is not so much losing tax exempt status but lack of valid information and an abundance of misinformation widely disseminated by those who may not welcome nonprofits or their open communication with those they serve.

When I got honest with myself, I realized that I have lingering questions myself and that it is not so easy to find the answers. What I found was a richness of information geared to voters, but not enough information for the intermediaries – e.g. my colleague planning these Summer events – who are the most effective link to the voter the non-voter.

I turned to a long-time colleague, Jeff Narabrook. the well-informed and generous point person for the Minnesota Participation Project, a project of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Building on my own ignorance, I posed a series of questions to Jeff.
By turnaround email I received a response who quickly acknowledged that, though nonprofit managers are understandably skittish about “nonpartisan voter engagement.” Then Jeff quells program planners’ angst with precise and comprehensible affirmation of nonprofits’ appropriate role.

Jeff’s answer to my first question promptly set me back on the proselytizing path with renewed passion for the cause.

Q (MT): Can a nonprofit offer voter registration information?
A (Jeff) Absolutely! Not only is it legal, but nonprofits that receive state funding are required to conduct voter registration activities. Voter registration must be conducted in a nonpartisan manner. The MN Participation Projects offers a great toolbox for those who may be considering or planning a voter education, participation or registration project.

And so the Q & A continued:

Q (M) : Can a nonprofit offer absentee voter info?
A: (J) Yes, nonprofits can provide information on any aspect of how voters can participate, from absentee voting to Election Day registration, to vouching, to special programs for victims of violence to remain anonymous on the voter rolls.

Q (M): Can a nonprofit provide information about the early primaries?
A (J) : Yes, as with the general election, nonprofits can help individuals become aware of the primary, how to register for it, and other logistics items involved in with primary.  Again, this just must be done in a nonpartisan fashion and the organization cannot try to influence how the person will vote.

Q (M) : Can a nonprofit invite candidates (challengers and incumbents) to visit their event or program?
A (J): Yes.  The golden rule:is that all candidates are treated equally.  If one is invited, all must be invited.  If not all candidates invited can attend, you may or may not choose to cancel.  Generally, if two are invited and only one can attend, it’s best to cancel.  If more than two are invited and at least two can attend, you may decide to go forward. Candidates may not be given preferential treatment and the organization may not attempt to make one candidate look better or worse, explicitly or implicitly, for example by asking leading questions.

Q (M): Can a nonprofit invite incumbents only to visit an event?
A: (J)   If they are invited as candidates, they may not only invite incumbents. If they are invited to speak in their capacity as a legislator, that is fine. It should be made perfectly clear, in writing or email, that the individual is being invited as a legislator, NOT as a candidate, and ask that the legislator not use the visit as an opportunity to campaign (please, no campaign literature, buttons, etc. during the visit).

It’s common to remind the legislator politely that the organization is forbidden from explicitly or implicitly endorsing a candidate, and that a violation of this could harm the organization and that’s why it’s important they only wear their hat as a legislator.  But if your intent is really candidate education, you should invite all candidates, not just the incumbent.    I’m less clear on what to do if the candidate has no challengers.  Can you still invite that person as a candidate to educate them?  I will look into this.

Sometimes people ask a question as to whether you need to invite ALL candidates who have filed, which sometimes can be quite numerous.  It is acceptable to limit invitations to candidates of major parties as long as the organization documents why that decision was made. At a minimum all major party candidate – in Minnesota these are the Democratic Farmer Labor Party, the Republican Party and the Independence Party – need to be included if there is someone from that party running for the seat in question.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is the elected official responsible for implementation of this and a zillion other election rules and procedures. The Secretary of State’s website provides more than you ever wanted to know about the process – polling places, rules, dates, forms and my personal favorite, the list of all candidates who have filed.

Primary election – August 10, 2010 – absentee ballots due August 9
General election – November 2, 2010 – absentee ballots due November 1

Ultimate – The Spirit of the Game

My nineteen-month old grandson Will and I shared a special experience last week.  We both took in our First Ultimate Experience.  Truth to tell, while Will’s parents tore up and down the Ultimate field at the Playing Fields of Blaine, aka the National Sports Center. Will and I mostly strolled and gawked – he was cute and I was dutiful.  Still I caught the ultimate bug.

So, as per usual, I had to Poke Around.

For starts, I learned that the essential Frisbee (aka “flying disc”) was the brainchild of early 20th century undergrads in the US.  What I thought was Ultimate Frisbee is now officially ultimate.  Ultimate, the game, was “invented” by successful Hollywood producer and director Joel Silver in 1968 as  a post-Frisbee tournament lark.  Silver is quoted as saying “It was never a serious thing when we played.  It was more of a counterculture thing” where players joked about people all over the world someday playing the game.

And so they are.  Ultimate is the fastest growing team sports in the US where approximately 4.5 million people now play – a figure that includes high school and college students and massive numbers of adults who play in leagues and clubs on playing field that range from the grandeur of the National Sports Center to far less manicured sites.  Folks play ultimate in an estimated 40 countries around the world following rules now published in myriad languages some 30 languages ranging from English to Catalan and Chinese, Slovakian, Turkish and Ukrainian.  No excuse for ignorance of the rules or the “spirit of the game.”

Ultimate is a self-refereed sport well summarized in a section of the World Flying Disc Federation Rulebook entitled “spirit of the game”.  The elements:

  • Know the rules
  • Be truthful about your observation
  • Be fair-minded to both sides
  • Be clear in communications
  • Be respectful to your opponents

This entire essay is a delicious read, including tips on improving spirit and capturing feedback on spirit at the end of each game.

Will and I saw all this happening that evening in Blaine.

The World Flying Disc Federation is the ultimate gospel – or should that be the gospel of ultimate?  In any event, the WFDF tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the sport.  The history is engaging.  If you need to prolong the international competition generated by the World Cup, you’ll love the stats. A recent WFDC post announced a new archival website exploring the totality international ultimate. To this librarian archives make it real.

Though I’m more interested in the history and spirit of ultimate than the rules, here’s a great explanation of “the game, explained as simply as possible” that offers a comprehensible intro to the ethos, the rules, the terms, dimensions of the playing field  and ways to get involved.

For an informal and subjective take on ultimate, Dana Thompson, writing in Seattle Woman Magazine, captures the “spirit” from the perspective of women playing with Seattle’s Riots .  It’s a delightful read covering history and rules peppered with insights about the sport.   Thompson includes a number of sage quotes from Seattle Riot veterans including  Liz Duffy who observes that “ultimate takes good sportsmanship to a higher level, putting respect for your teammates and opponents above winning.”

Will and I will be back in Blaine soon for another Tuesday evening watching his parents-as-players and their ultimate friends – on both teams – running at top speed, then back- slapping, laughing, chanting some amateurish cheers, then going out for a Surly’s.

Meanwhile, Will is catching the “spirit of the game” and I’m learning to appreciate a sport that has long been a part of my life though not of my understanding.

The “spirit” of Poking Around pays off again!.

Rummaging in the US Government’s Attic

As an inveterate rummager I take unending delight in this uber blog, a powerful if understated blog that aims to provide “fascinating historical documents, reports on items in the news, oddities and fun stuff and government bloopers.”

Properly outfitted with the Freedom of Information Act a volunteer crew scavenge relentlessly in federal public documents heretofore hidden from public view.  They then post the most delicious government communications, reports and other documents on

For those of us who just can’t get enough, they manage a dynamic email distribution system that lights up the mailbox 2-3 times every week.  And that’s a lot of us.  The site does no marketing, is run by volunteers, and averages about 6000 unique users and 190 GB of downloads per month.

Forget the dusty holiday decorations, the kids’ broken toys, the wicker baskets and the bent spoons – go instead for some of this snippet listing of long-hidden treasures posted within the past few days on Government  Don’t stop here – poke around!   It’s like this EVERY week – rain or shine!  A rummage sale not to be missed but to be savored

I Love Podcasts!

Sometimes a Poke evolves into a Probe.  Such is the case with this Probe into one of my favorite pokes, i.e. podcasts.

I love podcasts!  I love to poke around and learn about new pockets of podcasts.  I love audio and video podcasts, but mostly I love audios, audios that capture lectures, interviews, posts by journalists, scholars, and thinkers who ask good questions and elicit ideas and information from unexpected sources.

What got me started on this poke and probe path is the forthcoming meeting of the 35th Annual Community Radio Conference, the gathering of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, set to meet in St. Paul, June 9-12, 2010.  These folks are major players in the world of podcasting – because what they produce is creative, unique and now accessible.

Podcasts are intellectual recycling, an ergonomically correct alternative  with great potential to simplify life, share ideas and wrest the viewer/listener from the rigors of commercial-saturated audio and video media.  Though the name “podcast” suggests iPod plus broadcasting, the fact is that podcasting predates the iPod invasion and actually grew out of the RSS feed format.

If you don’t have hours to probe, don’t get started with podcasts!  I’ve tried to focus on podcasts that are Minnesota-specific, audio, and spoken word (as opposed to the inestimable mountains of music about which everyone seems to know anyway).  My goal is to whet the listener’s audio appetite – no effort to plumb the depths that are both endless and shifting.

Note #1 about what follows:  Virtually all of these podcasts can be streamed on your PC.  They can also be downloaded and stored for replay on whatever audio device you have stuck in your ears.

Note #2 is about access: While traditional media are organized by topic, podcasts are organized by series or distributor. The user just needs to know where to look.

Note #3:  These are by or about Minnesota and Minnesota agencies.  In the interests of open government I tried to focus on publicly supported sources, though that’s a broad category that encompasses sports, public radio, the U of M and other key players in the world of podcasting.  I did not include state agencies per se.  Watch for a future blog.

Basic introduction to podcasting as a resource:

Try the University of Minnesota Digital Media Center for a great introduction/  They even support an ongoing Podcasting Discussion Mailing List.

Public Radio Player from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting focuses specifically on public programming in their excellent Q&A introduction to podcasting and related technology.

Christina Lopez at the University of Minnesota has written a superb piece about the potential of podcasting well worth more poking around.

Ready to listen?

Following is a totally random sampling of Minnesota audio podcast options – there are scores of other possibilities if you have but the time and a smattering of intellectual curiosity:

The University of Minnesota offers an incredible portal to podcasts of every stripe – lectures, interviews, backgrounders, opinion pieces and more.  Some samples:

  • Missed the Great Conversations series?  Check out the podcasts– everyone from Seymour Hersh to Ken Starr to Rafael Yglesias – fabulous!
  • Culture Queue from Radio K offers a pot pouri of information, ideas and opinions on current issues ranging from eating local to slam poetry and Tea Baggers..
  • The Civil Engineering department produces regular audio and video podcasts to which you can subscribe.

UMD is a podcasting mecca.  Check the Designer Network or, for the latest on research on The Lake (Superior, that is) try the Minnesota Sea Grant Feeds Library which offers audio programs and updated news and events on water quality, coastal communities and aquaculture.

The U of M is but one of many of Minnesota’s academic institutions floating through the airways to students and the general public. Check out St. Cloud State’s great website or what’s happening at Alexandria Technical college or Austin Community College for samples – virtually every publicly supported academic institution is in the podcasting game,

Access Minnesota is self-defined as a “weekly public affairs radio show featuring noted academics, authors, politicians and business leaders engaging in common sense conversations about compelling and relevant issues in the state of Minnesota, across the national and around the globe.”  It’s a joint project of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association and the U of M.

Some Assembly Required is a superb series of weekly podcasts based on music and audio art, an exploration of the world of sound collage.  Produced locally by MnArtists the series is now nationally syndicated.

Want to know more about Minnesota architecture – broadly defined? Check Minnesota Builds for stories, interviews and heaps of photos on the complementary website.

Truth to Tell, heard first on KFAI’s, features interviews with a wide range of Minnesota decision and opinion makers.   Northern Sun News, another KFAI product, features interviews about current issues particularly ecology, peace and justice

And then there’s Minnesota Public Radio the ubiquitous audio giant that podcasts just about everything.  Start here to explore the library of podcasts from MPR.

Or check out KYMN in Northfield where you’ll find nearly a score of locally produced programming ranging from the Law Review to an After School Special to Art Zany and Tech Talk’

No surprise, the Vikes are in the game, so to speak. So do the Wild.  And the Lynx.  And the Twins.  You get the picture….

But you might not know about The Icebox Radio Theater, an independent, nonprofit arts organization in International Falls.  They’re dedicated to using the “old art of radio drama to tell new stories about their corner of the world, i.e. Northern Minnesota and Northwest Ontario. Or then there’s the MN Standup Comedy podcast series or La Casa Rojas, Spanish language podcasts beamed and streamed from St. Paul.

The list and the listening go on!  Dip for now, then drink deep of the audio stream….