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West Virginia’s hopes are boosted by Manchin, a crucial Senate swing vote.

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West Virginia's hopes are boosted by Manchin, a crucial Senate swing vote.

 

West Virginia has long been known as “Almost Heaven,” a reference to a song and the state’s sweeping mountaintop views. As Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin negotiates his way through Congress, some jokes about the state mentioned in “Take Me Home, Country Roads” might get a little more serious.

Nick Casey, a longtime Democratic Party official, said, “Maybe we’ll get to heaven status.”

It will be a tall challenge to revive West Virginia’s economically devastated coal towns and reverse the state’s long-term population decline. In a divided Senate, however, Manchin, who grew up in the mountain town of Farmington, has emerged as a crucial swing vote. He now has his best chance in years to get federal funds back to the United States.

Manchin waded back into the fray this week over the COVID relief bill in Congress, single-handedly blocking work on the bill on Friday as Democrats tried to appease his fears about the scale and length of an extended unemployment benefit.

In terms of his own agenda, Manchin has made public comments about “common sense” infrastructure improvements that are desperately needed in his home state, such as improving rural broadband and repairing roads. West Virginia, he said, could provide the manufacturing muscle needed to “innovate our way to a healthier world.” He’s also said that if given the chance, coal miners will make the best solar panels.

Some speculate that his renewed clout would allow him to do something that former President Donald Trump promised but couldn’t deliver: re-ignite a state economy that has long been overly reliant on a collapsing coal industry.

Senators from Manchin’s state have good reason to study the needs of small towns outside the Blue Ridge Mountains. Manchin, 73, was always a well-known dealmaker on Capitol Hill, but in a 50-50 Senate, deference to the most conservative Democrat has increased since November. He was recently referred to as “your highness” by a senator from Hawaii. The game of guessing which way he’ll vote has become late-night television fodder.

Manchin’s opposition has recently aided the demise of Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s choice to head the federal Office of Management and Budget.

A senator from West Virginia hasn’t wielded this much power since Robert Byrd died in 2010. Over the course of a half-century, Byrd amassed a fortune in federal buildings, landmarks, and highways, many of which bear his name.

Casey, an attorney and former chair of the state Democratic Party, said, “This is hardscrabble land, man — our population is dropping, the death of coal.” “We now have a man who will be able to leave a legacy. And I believe there is a lot of hope and anticipation that Joe will accomplish something important and exceptional.”

Pam Garrison, a former cashier, told Manchin at a meeting advocating for a $15 federal minimum wage that Byrd has colleges and hospitals named after him because “when he came into power, he used that power for the people.”

“If you do what is right for the people, you will be remembered long after you are gone.”

Manchin, on the other hand, sees himself as an advocate for policies that benefit Appalachia and the Rust Belt, rather than a seeker of pork-barrel ventures.

“What we have to do now, and I believe it is appropriate,” he said, “is show the need and that the base has been abandoned.”

He began down that path by joining Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in co-sponsoring a bill that would provide $8 billion in tax credits to coal communities and the auto industry to promote renewable energy manufacturing.

Manchin will use his place in a 50-50 Senate, according to Robert Rupp, a political history professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College, to bring his small state to the forefront of everyone’s mind.

“He’s in the spotlight, and he has the ability to claim power,” Rupp said.

Manchin, a former governor, has deep ties to West Virginia politics. That explains why he is the last Democrat to hold a statewide office in a state Trump won by massive margins both times.

Manchin exudes a sense of unpredictability. Even after demonstrators gathered outside his state office in Charleston, he rejected a $15 minimum wage clause in the $1.9 billion pandemic stimulus package, leading others to doubt his potential legacy.

“We’re either going to smell like a rose in West Virginia, or we’re going to smell like crap, and Joseph Manchin will be blamed,” said Jean Evansmore, 80, a West Virginia organizer with the Poor People’s Campaign.

The Senate parliamentarian ruled a few days later that an increase could not be included in the COVID-19 relief bill. That was a victory for Manchin and his respect for Senate traditions, such as the filibuster, which helps maintain a 60-vote threshold for most bills.

Manchin has stated that he would never accept the repeal of the filibuster.

Anti-abortion activists rallied outside the golden-domed state Capitol in Charleston on a recent morning, holding signs that read, “Thank you Senator Manchin.”

Marilyn Musgrave, an anti-abortion activist with the Susan B. Anthony List, said, “We need to inspire him to stand firm.”

After lobbying against Manchin’s offer for a second full term in 2018, which he secured with just under 50% of the vote, Musgrave’s party is now looking to him. Manchin opposes federal funding for abortions but does not advocate for a complete ban. Despite this, he consistently receives a low rating from abortion-rights organizations, putting him in line with West Virginians who have sent mixed signals on abortion.

Manchin has been the target of reports that he’ll switch parties because of his centrist instincts in such a red state.

“Republicans have this fantasy that just because he’s conservative on certain topics, he’ll switch parties,” Rupp said.

He believes that is impossible, particularly given Manchin’s newfound power. And that’s great with Matt Kerner, a 54-year-old West Virginian who wants Manchin to remember that 16 percent of his state’s residents live in poverty, the nation’s sixth-highest rate, according to the U.S. Census.

Kerner said, “We’re hoping Senator Manchin remembers that he serves some of America’s poorest citizens.”

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Tomorrow’s school: Bathrooms, lockers, even the grass will look different, St. Paul designer says

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Tomorrow’s school: Bathrooms, lockers, even the grass will look different, St. Paul designer says

Vaughn Dierks isn’t just planning the future of schools — he’s creating it.

Vaughn Dierks (Courtesy of Wold Architects & Engineers)

Dierks is partner and CEO of Wold Architects & Engineers in St. Paul, currently working on five high schools with a total project value of $516 million. The projects — in White Bear Lake, Oakdale, St. Paul, Mora and Owatonna — give a glimpse of how education settings are evolving.

Schools in the future, he said, will change furniture, technology and even the walls to fit the needs of individual students. He sees high schools moving toward gender-neutral locker rooms, fewer personal lockers, COVID-related adaptations and synthetic turf on athletic fields.

The White Bear Lake project will demolish 60 percent of the existing school, then expand to merge two campuses into a 3,200-capacity school. Similar makeovers are planned at North and Tartan high schools, and work has started on new high schools in Mora and Owatonna.

DIFFERENT FROM GRANDPARENTS’ SCHOOLS

Students will attend schools that are different from those of their grandparents — from the hallways to the bathrooms to the grass on the playgrounds.

“Post WWII, high schools were designed with an industrial model,” said Dierks, “with classrooms and hallways down a corridor, and lecture-based instruction.”

Schools built today have wheels attached to almost everything, so chairs, tables and desks can be easily rearranged. Furniture might be set up for a lecture in the morning, then wheeled into clusters for small-group studies, and then rolled away for a yoga class in the afternoon.

“Now, everyone learns differently,” said Dierks. “Today we fidget. We move around.”

Even the walls are different. Some swing open like a “glass garage door,” said Dierks, which allows classrooms to merge.

GENDER NEUTRAL

In some new schools, there are no girls’ and boys’ bathrooms. Transgender students have experienced bullying in shared spaces, and schools responded with gender-free bathrooms and locker rooms.

Dierks’ company designs private bathrooms for any gender to use. These are no more expensive than traditional bathrooms, said Dierks, because the same number of students are served either way. Only the configuration varies, he said.

Locker rooms are evolving in a different way. In addition to the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms, Wold builds a third type of locker room for anyone to use, called community locker rooms. “These are like the family locker rooms at health clubs,” Dierks said.

An iconic sound of high school — the slamming of a locker door — is fading away.

“We found out that in the metro area, only 15 to 20 percent of students use their lockers,” said Dierks.

FEWER BOOKS, TEMPORARY LOCKERS

He said students today leave stuff in their backpacks or in their cars. They have fewer books, because much material is online. Interest is surging, said Dierks, in alternatives. Some high schools want lockers in varying sizes — small, medium or large. Others have lockers for one-day use, similar to the temporary storage lockers in malls and airports.

Wold designs schools with an eye on political support.

Dierks explained that most voters do not have children in schools — so they are less likely to support school levies. “Voters ask, ‘What’s in this for me?’ ” said Dierks.

The company designs spaces that are not only used by students and teachers, but by the public at large. That means more access to gyms and stadiums, and more rooms for public uses, such as community education for adults.

Space is added for other non-education uses. Dierks said certain rooms are built with their own outdoor entrances, so social workers, doctors and dentists can serve students without being seen in hallways.

AN EYE ON TRAFFIC, SYNTHETIC FIELDS

To see how COVID-19 has changed schools, Dierks said, just look at their parking lots.

Twice a day, they are jammed with parents driving their kids to school, avoiding the risk of getting COVID on school buses. The company tries to streamline the traffic, separating cars from school buses.

The crush of traffic even affects the placement of school entrances. Parents naturally pull up to the front door when dropping off their children, he said, creating a long line before that door. When planning a new school, said Dierks, Wold tries to position front doors farther down the anticipated line of cars.

Dierks said that grass is a casualty of modern school design.

Synthetic fields require less land because they can be continuously used without needing a break for the grass to recover.

Synthetic turf can be environmentally friendly, he said. There’s no fertilizer or pesticides to wash into streams. After rains, they shed water quickly, and the flow can be treated and controlled in retaining ponds.

Dierks said urban schools, without large numbers of fields, are switching to synthetics.

“You can play more sports on synthetics,” he said.

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High school soccer notebook: Plymouth North girls off to fast start

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High school soccer notebook: Plymouth North girls off to fast start

In one of the toughest divisions in the state, the Plymouth North girls soccer team has largely performed in the shadows of more prominent programs over the years.

But this fall, the Blue Eagles are earning respect every day. Plymouth North started the year 7-0, outscoring opponents 35-2.

“I like being the underdog, but I don’t know if that is our role this year,” said coach Eric Foley, a veteran of two stints with the Blue Eagles.

Plymouth North graduated more than half of its starting lineup from a team that finished fourth in the brutal Patriot League Keenan Division but seemed to be peaking late, losing in overtime to perennial power Whitman-Hanson in the semifinals of the Patriot Cup.

But behind a talented senior class that includes a pair of Division I commits and a quickly developing group of youngsters, the Blue Eagles have taken a big leap forward and are starting to turn some heads, especially after a redemption 3-1 win in the third game of the season against Whitman-Hanson.

“Being able to finally beat them at our home place was cool and special,” said senior captain Megan Banzi. “We have always been a team that has never been up there, but we have stepped it up and now we are one of the top teams. It’s been such a fun ride. We are so close with each other, like a family. It’s just been a heck of a start and we hope to continue it.”

Banzi is half of a pair of four-year starters who are the catalysts, along with fellow senior captain Carly Schofield. Banzi is headed to play at UMass Lowell, while Schoefield is bound for Central Connecticut State.

An elite three-sport athlete on the South Shore as a Patriot League All-Star in soccer, basketball and softball, Banzi spent her first three seasons in the back, tasked with shutting down the league’s most dangerous players, but has shifted to a more offensive role this year and thrived.

“This season, I feel like I am more free and I can attack more, which I think has definitely changed my game and my perspective on how I play,” said Banzi. “I love attacking, but when (Foley) needs me to come back and help out on defense, I’m always willing to do that.”

Meanwhile, Schofield is leading the Blue Eagles in scoring for the third consecutive season as their sniper up front, off to a torrid start having already registered 16 goals. In Plymouth North’s most recent win, a 3-0 victory at Scituate, all three senior captains scored as Kathryn Tocci joined Banzi and Schofield in finding the net.

That firepower is complemented by two more seniors and three-year starters holding it down in their own end of the field in defensive anchor Erin Richards and goalie Kylee Carafoli, who has five shutouts this season, giving Foley a wealth of experience down the middle of the field.

Seniors may form the nucleus, but Foley believes that the supporting cast, many of whom have taken on increased responsibility this season and have allowed him to be comfortable going 18 deep, have been critical to the team’s scorching start.

“I expected us to be competitive and some of the young kids have really responded,” said Foley.  “We have competition in the group, which is making every one of the kids work hard and rise to the occasion.”

This year’s success may seem surprising, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Plymouth North went 13-5-2 in 2019, snapping a four-year tournament drought and winning their first postseason game since 2013 before falling to eventual Div. 1 state champion Bishop Feehan.

Last fall, the Blue Eagles dealt Patriot Cup champion Hingham its only loss of the season, the other traditional titan of the Keenan along with Whitman-Hanson. Foley is hoping that it’s those types of wins that convince his squad just how high their ceiling really is.

“I think it’s all kind of contributed to where we are now,” said Foley. “I think it shows the players what they are capable of. The kids are starting to believe in each other and themselves, and that’s the most important thing. What I think they can do versus what they think they can do are two different things.”

And those two things appear to be converging.

“Our first goal is to have fun but our second is to win the league,” said Banzi. “We have that goal every season but we always fall short. But this season, we are confident and we are strong and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.”

Geography lessons

What type of an effect will the new statewide tournament format have on this fall’s postseason? When it comes to soccer, probably a significant one.

The last time that MIAA soccer tournaments were held in 2019, Eastern Mass. teams won just one of the six titles awarded in the divisions that encompassed the entire state — 1, 3 and 4 — with the Bishop Feehan girls taking home the lone EMass crown in Div. 1.

While those Central and Western Mass. squads that hoisted trophies two years ago certainly earned their championships by beating the best that EMass had to offer, many have opined that both the fewer amount of teams and depth of talent in those brackets gave those on the other side of 495 an inherent advantage, not just in soccer but across all sports.

That was certainly the case in 2019 for soccer as in five of the six championship games, CMass or WMass teams played one or even two less contests to get to the final than their EMass counterparts, and arguably less stressful ones, one of the main issues that the tournament overhaul was designed to fix.

Maybe the same champions would have emerged in the new system, but with EMass programs historically more conditioned to navigate the type of gauntlet this year’s postseason is sure to be, it will be interesting to see where on the map the hardware ends up this fall.

The first statewide rankings are scheduled to be released this week.

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Yes, U.S. 52 north at Lafayette Bridge is always a mess. MnDOT has a plan.

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Yes, U.S. 52 north at Lafayette Bridge is always a mess. MnDOT has a plan.

As pretty much everyone who regularly drives U.S. 52 north over the Lafayette Bridge into St. Paul knows, it’s a mess. And a dangerous one at times.

After years of complaints from drivers and some local officials that began soon after the current bridge opened in 2015, the Minnesota Department of Transportation agrees it’s a problem that needs fixing and has a three-stage plan already underway to address the problems and, eventually, perhaps fix it for good.

Last year, the agency installed additional signs and markings along the roadway.

This fall, work will begin to add a large, over-the-roadway digital sign well before the bridge to help drivers understand what lanes they should be in and whether there are backups ahead. Officials said that system could be completed as soon as this winter and no later than spring. The sign will likely be located around Plato Avenue or farther south.

But those are just signs and sensors. Engineers have recently begun studying how to more permanently fix the problems via construction and potentially rejiggering the north end of the bridge. The soonest anything like that could be completed would be five years, but it would likely be longer.

The Lafayette Bridge is the terminus of a full-speed highway where tens of thousands of vehicles daily skirt the St. Paul Downtown Airport, span 362 feet across the Mississippi River and railroad yards with views of the capital city skyline, drop to 30 mph, and ascend the St. Paul bluff to hook up with Interstates 94 or 35E or local city streets.

An aerial view of the Lafayette Bridge on U.S 52, bottom left, as it merges with Interstate 94 and Seventh Street in St. Paul on April 11, 2018. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

But the typical experience of the drive is anything but scenic. Instead, it’s too often a white-knuckle, head-over-the-shoulder, gas-and-brake, lane-jockeying affair that is more tedious and stressful than typical St. Paul driving.

The problem is the center lane. It’s seemingly always backed up. And dangerous.

MnDOT isn’t using the term “design flaw,” but engineers analyzing recent traffic and crash data acknowledge the current configuration, which can be confusing to some drivers, is a culprit. Those who worked on that original configuration say they were boxed in by cost and political and geographical constraints — and they and their computer models were caught unawares when problems started.

CRASHES SPIKE, CENTER LANE BLAMED

When MnDOT compared crash data from the old bridge to the current one, it was eye-popping.

In 2009 and 2010 (old bridge), there were about 70 crashes.

In 2017 and 2018 (current bridge), there were 290.

“That’s a big increase, and we’re concerned about safety,” said Melissa Barnes, the manager for MnDOT who overseas metro roadways.

Unlike many highway backups, which spawn as right-lane exiters or entrants disrupt traffic flow, the birthplace of most Lafayette Bridge problems is the center lane. That’s worse.

1632651174 894 Yes US 52 north at Lafayette Bridge is always a
Traffic backs up in the center northbound lane of U.S. Highway 52 over the Lafayette Bridge in St. Paul before rush hour on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

“The center lane tends to back up fairly severely and for most of the day,” Barnes said. “Those folks trying to get into their lane are going in and out of that slower, or even stopped, center lane. That causes crashes.”

The center lane appears to be backed up for two reasons: It’s in high demand for where it goes, and many drivers are confused, so they cross over it to get to the lane they’re supposed to be in.

WHICH LANE GOES WHERE??

The highway is three lanes over the bridge.

Here are your lane choices — and some of the confusion:

  • Left: I-94 East. That’s counterintuitive to some, since if you’re heading east — toward Woodbury and Wisconsin — your general destination is to your right as you travel north.
  • Middle: I-94 West and I-35E. This is often the highest-demand lane — and often laden with trucks — since 94 takes you through the heart of St. Paul and toward Minneapolis, while 35E is your through-route if you’re heading to points north.
  • Right: Seventh Street (both West Seventh and East Seventh — a choice you’ll make later). This is your local access. West Seventh will take you to St. Paul’s Lowertown and downtown, while East Seventh climbs Dayton’s Bluff to Metropolitan State University and the city’s East Side.

Perhaps adding to the confusion — although MnDOT doesn’t know if this is true — is the content of the signs themselves. None of the signs have any geographical references, such as “Minneapolis” or “Wisconsin” or “downtown St. Paul.” So if you’re not someone with an innate sense of the compass, or if your navigational app is glitchy, you could be stupefied. The signs also contain, as many highway signs do, road designations not commonly used by locals, such as U.S. 10 (I-94) and Minnesota Highway 5 (West and East Seventh Street).

Barnes said MnDOT officials will look into whether changing the information on signs will help.

“These signs are dynamic, so we can change what they say,” she said. “The thing we’re working on will warn people much earlier that 94 East is on your left.”

HISTORY OF HEADACHES

One other possible source of confusion: The current lane configuration ain’t what it used to be, and old driving habits might die hard, especially for those only occasionally driving the bridge.

But when was the Lafayette ever not a headache?

The modern position of the bridge opened to traffic in 1968, and by the 1970s, there were cracks in the structure, and generations of patches held it together. The deadly 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis served as a wake-up call for bridges around the nation, as well as Minnesota, and lawmakers and then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty approved ambitious plans to remedy the most sketchy around the state. The Lafayette Bridge was actually deemed to be in worse shape than the I-35W bridge.

“The project was really a bridge replacement project,” recalled Chris Roy. He’s currently an assistant division director at MnDOT, but from 2006 to 2010, he was a project manager and the north area manager — the same position that Barnes currently holds — and oversaw parts of the $130 million project that built what is there now. “There wasn’t really a whole lot of money to spread around that project because we had a lot of bridges to replace.”

Lafayette Bridge in St. Paul
Traffic crosses the Lafayette Bridge in St. Paul as viewed from the air on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)

But even though the old bridge was at risk of collapse, that wasn’t the only problem. At the time, U.S. 52 basically ended with a traffic light at Seventh Street, and that was dangerous. Over the years, increasingly robust concrete barriers were erected in front of Red’s Savoy Pizza, which was frequently struck by motorists who didn’t slow down in time.

As MnDOT engineers began tossing around ways to reconfigure the north end of the bridge, they quickly ran headlong into complications that plague any urban highway project: There wasn’t a ton of real estate — and some of it was claimed and well-defended. The owners of Red’s Savoy, as well as the Downtowner car wash business (now occupied by Mister Car Wash), were important constituents in St. Paul’s political circles, and it soon became clear that whatever pavement MnDOT wanted to pour would have to avoid those businesses and several others.

RATIONALE FOR CURRENT LANES

Even though aspects of the current configuration, such as exit left to go east, might seem counterintuitive, there was a rationale behind it, Roy said.

Typically on a highway, local streets exit on the right whenever possible. That’s how Seventh Street became a right-lane candidate. Keeping the highest-volume traffic in the center lane also seemed prudent. That left the left lane for 94 East, which they knew was awkward.

But when they punched the layout into computer models, the models showed there would be backups around rush hour and high-volume times, but nothing horrendous.

“Keep in mind, these were computers from around 2008 or something, but they were what we had,” said Roy. “The model never indicated that center lane would back up any more than what you’d expect from rush hour.”

LONG-TERM FIX?

Barnes said it’s too early to speculate on what might be a longer-term fix. Engineering, design and environmental studies are in their infancy. There’s no project yet, and no funds. Barnes said the state isn’t looking to completely rip up everything that’s there and start over, but adding lanes and possibly rerouting existing ones will be considered.

“In a tight downtown, with multiple freeways and a river and an airport and businesses, we’re threading the needle there,” Barnes observed. “In general, we’re trying to do the best with the options we have.”

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UMD woodcock study examines game bird’s habitat needs

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UMD woodcock study examines game bird’s habitat needs

DULUTH — The little birds with the long bills need lots of logs and branches on the ground to hide from predators.

That’s one of the findings in a study by the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute that deciphered the type of forest that woodcock need to raise their young.

The study used the keen noses of Gordon setter hunting dogs to find woodcock nests in Itasca County and then place tiny transmitters on woodcock chicks, which allowed researchers to track their movements during their first weeks of life.

The study, first featured in a News Tribune story in June 2019, and led by NRRI’s Alexis Grinde, was funded with state conservation grants. It also looked at the golden-winged warbler and the veery — small songbirds that frequent the same habitat as woodcock.

The goal of the study was to find out why the three birds are doing fairly well in northern Minnesota forests but are declining steadily across much of their U.S. range.

“Across their range (in the U.S.) there has been a pretty significant, long-term decline of woodcock,” Grinde said. “But in Minnesota, where we have ample young forest due to active forest management, the birds have been pretty stable for about the last decade.”

Grinde said the birds seem to do best where they can get to multiple different types of forest in close proximity — young, medium and old trees, big and small, used for feeding, nesting and cover at various times of summer and early fall.

If scientists can figure out what types of forest habitat promote better nesting and survival among the three species, then they can provide those results to foresters and land managers to help conserve the species, Grinde said.

Small changes in logging practices, such as leaving more bigger logs and more branches spread out on the ground, could have a big impact on the birds. The key for woodcock chicks is that the logs are fairly large and are well-spaced, not in piles. Piles of slash or branches can be hiding spots for predators.

Killer chipmunks

In a 2019 file photo, Debbie Petersen holds a woodcock chick out for her dog, Riley, to sniff after the pair found the bird’s nest in Itasca County, Minn. Petersen and Riley have been helping researchers track woodcock chicks to determine what habitat they need to sustain their population. (Tyler Schank / Duluth News Tribune)

The key to the woodcock research has been Debbie Petersen and her Gordon setter hunting dogs, who teamed up to find the little birds between the time the chicks hatched but before they could fly.

Petersen and the highly trained bird dogs found and flushed the hens. Then Petersen slowly scoured the ground nearby to find the chicks. Once the chicks were fitted with their transmitters, they were set free to rejoin the hen, which is usually just a few feet away, squawking loudly about the intrusion.

For the first 30 days they were being tracked, the hen kept the chicks near logs on the ground. Because in early June, the forest is still pretty open, with fewer leaves on brush and trees than later in summer, scientists think the logs on the ground served as hiding places from predators. But they also could be using the logs and locations to look for their mainstay food — earthworms — which are common under rotting logs.

Believe it or not, chipmunks were the top predator of woodcock chicks in the study, although scientists say red squirrels, weasels and red fox are eating the birds, too. They found one of the transmitters in a pile of fox scat. Barred owls, goshawks and sharp-shinned hawks also are woodcock predators.

“We probably wouldn’t have believed chipmunks either if we hadn’t actually got lucky and seen it happening,” Grinde said. “There’s no shortage of things out there that want to eat a little woodcock.”

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Field hockey notebook: Establishing a family tradition at Dover-Sherborn

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Field hockey notebook: Establishing a family tradition at Dover-Sherborn

Molly McGill has wanted to be head coach at Dover-Sherborn ever since she was a junior playing for legendary coach Dara Johnson.

Over the next eight years — from finishing high school, to playing at Holy Cross, to coaching the Raiders’ junior varsity squad — she had a running joke with her father that if she took control, he would be her first choice as an assistant.

When Johnson surprisingly decided to step down and hand the reigns over just a week into practices, though, Molly figured out how little she meant it as a joke. And just as quickly as she asked him to join her, Thom McGill said yes.

“He’s always just kind of been a soundboard behind the scenes with me as a player,” Molly said. “When I stepped into this role this season, it was a no-brainer. I’m like, ‘Yup, easy money. Thom — my dad — (he’s) coming in.’”

“It’s just incredible,” Thom added. “It’s really just a dream come true for actually both of us. It’s awesome.”

The Raiders started the year 3-0 entering Friday while defending their Div. 2 state title from 2019. They have a young team, but there is plenty of the talent you would expect from a squad that just went the distance two years ago. Dover-Sherborn is buzzing.

What makes it even more exciting for the McGills, though, is how well the team is doing despite the frenzy the year started with.

Molly entered the year expecting to be a part-time JV coach while in a graduate program at Framingham State. Just like that, she was vaulted into the leading role. Molly has wanted it for a good while, but it caught her by surprise as she navigates a hectic schedule that prevents her from coaching on Mondays.

Bringing on Thom has been a stabilizing force. She is still working out kinks as a first-year varsity coach, so the support and trust of the team and having her father there has made a world of a difference.

“It’s just super supportive and somebody comfortable, and I can give my crazy ideas behind the scenes and not feel judged,” Molly said. “It’s definitely a little crazy. But the girls have been great, my dad — again — I’ve been leaning on him heavily.”

Thom has never officially coached, but has mentored Molly very closely throughout her entire athletic career. He quickly transformed from No. 1 cheerleader to field hockey fanatic as he helped Molly transform her game, so much that Molly never doubted his potential to be an effective coach alongside her.

Neither has the team.

“He’s super knowledgeable of the game, he’s watched more field hockey than anyone I can think of, and I think he’s got great perspective,” Molly said. “(The players) enjoy his humor, they seek his feedback sometimes even before mine. … I’ve just been so blown away with how articulate he is with the girls and he’s just got a good demeanor.”

For Thom, he loves every part of coaching with Molly. He loves doing it for the school he graduated from, too. But he’s equally excited for the opportunity his daughter and Dover-Sherborn has to continue growing together.

“The team is young and everything, but what an opportunity,” he said. “The girls are awesome, they’re really receptive.”

Quick Spotlights:

Before Nauset senior Lauren Knight committed to Quinnipiac, she was asked who her role model was. She was quick to bring Falmouth star Katie Shanahan’s name up. Little did Knight know then that she was talking up a future Div. 1 teammate, and as the two battle it out in a loaded Cape and Islands League, they can each look forward to teaming up at Quinnipiac after spending four years together playing for Cape Cod Field Hockey Club. The competition between the two of them is fierce for now, though, with Shanahan’s Clippers already having a leg up with a 3-0 win over the Warriors. As each team keeps pace with Monomoy and Sandwich as well, the Cape Cod standouts are enjoying competing against each other for now while still looking forward to joining forces down the road.

“We’ve always had a great dynamic,” Knight said. “I’m just really excited to play with her, she’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”

“It’s great that we’re going to the same school. … To go in already knowing I have a friend of the team (is comforting),” added Shanahan. “It’s always fun playing high school though because there’s the rivalry along with the friendship.”

They’ll play each other again Oct. 20.

Maggie Sturgis is on fire for an equally scorching Masconomet team, blasting out the gates for a 4-0-1 start and a 32-3 goal differential entering Friday. Sturgis has erupted for 18 of those goals, including a career-high six scores in a 6-0 win over Marblehead.

• After five years of varsity play, a young Bishop Feehan program finally got over the hump against the school’s longtime rival by beating Attleboro 3-1 for the first time. Sophomores Kay Murphy and Ava Meehan have starred in a 6-0-2 start, leaving plenty of room for growth while the Shamrocks play at a high level.

• The first Hockomock League bout between King Philip and Franklin on Oct. 8 looks like a must-watch. Panthers head coach Michelle Hess praised her strong defense before the season but wasn’t expecting the offense to take the flight it has. Kaitlyn Carney and Payten Crandall are two of many pieces flourishing for Franklin (5-0) as it rivals King Philip (6-1).

• In its 20th anniversary, Bentley honored the 2001 Division II national champion Falcons team on Saturday. The team had 18 former local stars, led by captains Allyson Bunce (Dennis-Yarmouth) and Alicia Cabrera (Lexington).

• Methuen is making some noise in the Merrimack Valley Conference alongside Andover and Central Catholic, cruising to a 3-1-1 start entering Friday. Natalia Fiato has seven goals over her last three games to lead the way.

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Scheduling your work makes it more enjoyable

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Week 2 high school football schedule

You’ve heard it before: To be more productive, schedule your work. Actually put it in your calendar. Carve out the time. But have you heard that scheduling your work makes it more enjoyable too? It does.

Let’s consider the alternatives. It’s late afternoon, and you’re low-energy. You have a report due in the morning. “If you try and force your ‘A’ game in those moments, it’s just a very frustrating experience,” said Kelly Nolan, a time management strategist who works mostly with high-achieving women. “You dread it more because you’re not in the right frame of mind, and the creative juices aren’t there.”

Or, say, it’s 9 a.m., and your deadline is tomorrow. You try to squeeze in writing paragraphs between the emails and calls and web surfing (let’s be real). Now you’re overly busy and overwhelmed, and you guiltily cancel your afternoon meetings and a dinner date with a friend. Cue your “I hate myself” inner monologue.

But! Let’s imagine that you clear out 90 minutes, turn off your internet and phone, and just barrel through as many paragraphs as you can. Yes, they will be awful paragraphs, which is nearly always the case on first drafts (voice of experience here), “but you’ll feel more in control of your day, and feel more accomplishment because you are actually moving the ball forward on a big project, which makes you feel more sane,” Nolan said.

Sanity is invaluable. As we all move into a new routine of work from home and back-to-office, where distractions will be aplenty, discipline and scheduling are all the more important.

A few pointers:

Set start and finish times. Not doing so means that you’re waiting for the universe to magically birth a project time for you, which is delusional. The universe births asteroids and viruses, not personalized time.

Avoid a last-minute surge. Many office workers let emails and busywork fill the day, and then try to churn out focus work from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. — or, worse yet, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., the prime-time misery hours of lawyers and writers and coders. Of course those hours are wretched. “You’ll feel like you’re banging your head against a wall,” Nolan said.

Plan focus work when you’re energetic. It’ll feel easier when you’re most alert. The time will vary based on activity. For example, you might opt for writing from 9 to 11 a.m., or practicing a speech from 2 to 4 p.m., or writing a song at 9 p.m.

Shut the door. “Distractions are the No. 1 killer of getting into flow state,” said keynote speaker Diane Allen, of that blissful work state where time moves quickly, and you forget yourself and your worries. Flow is incited by work that engages your skills while simultaneously providing a challenge. Not all work assignments fit that description, but distractions end any chance of flow entering the experience.

I’m telling you now: Turn off your damn email, and carve out time for focus work. You can thank me later. You’ll quickly discover that by doing so, you’re also freeing up the rest of your time. You can now leave at 4:30 p.m. without guilt, and not need to think about work on evenings or weekends.

— Rate.com/Tribune News Service

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Pediatrician’s advice: How to deal with tantrums

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Pediatrician’s advice: How to deal with tantrums

Our son seems easily stressed out and has awful tantrums. What can we do to deal with this?

As a behavioral pediatrician, I have seen and heard it all. Children who have tantrums to end all tantrums in the middle of a store. Children who refuse to eat or won’t sit still at a restaurant, which quickly escalates to screaming and throwing food. Children who unbuckle themselves from car seats or kick other children at school for no apparent reason.

It can be scary, overwhelming and challenging to confess these situations out loud. Parents often feel confused, bewildered and embarrassed. “Why won’t my child listen to me? What did I do wrong? Is there something wrong with my child?”

Sometimes a child’s behavior is because of something that has been happening or has happened to the child or to someone in the family.

For children who have tantrums, it can be because they don’t yet have the words to tell you what is bothering them. Or maybe they can’t make sense of what is happening around them and the strong feelings are hard to control.

For many families, unpredictable events happen, which can be traumatic and affect how a child feels and behaves. For example, when parents make the hard decision to separate or divorce, it can be very confusing for young children. They may act out, cry or feel sad, lose developmental skills or have trouble sleeping. Some have problems concentrating and have a hard time at school.

Potentially traumatic events like these are referred to as adverse childhood experiences. They can include neglect, parental substance abuse, domestic violence or a death in the family.

Experiences of social inequities also can be traumatic and trigger toxic stress responses. Examples include living in poverty, family separation, being the target of racism or rejection because of sexual orientation or gender identity. And, certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused children many troubling losses. Our body has stress systems to protect us so that when faced with a scary situation, we are ready to run and hide. This fight-or-flight response can be triggered whenever a child is scared of any number of things such as dogs, the dark or spiders. This same system can also be turned on when a child has any adverse experience.

However, adverse childhood experiences are likely to last longer than a single moment, which causes children’s stress systems to be turned on for a long time. When this happens, the stress becomes toxic to their overall health. The more ACEs children face, the more harm they can have over time. Likewise, chronic ongoing adversity can have an equally negative effect. Adults who’ve experienced one or more ACEs as a child or are exposed to ongoing chronic social inequities over time are at higher risk of depression, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions during their lifetime.

The good news is parents can help buffer children from this stress before it becomes toxic. Providing safe, secure and nurturing relationships (sometimes called “relational health”) helps reset the body’s stress system. In addition, research suggests positive childhood experiences are just as important.

One of the most important is to spark moments of connection. This may be through shared book reading, for example, or participating in family routines and community traditions. You can also model how to accept all emotions. Relational health is key to combating adversity, and promoting skills like collaboration, connection and communication that are essential to help children develop resilience and thrive.

When parenthood gets challenging, talking with your child’s pediatrician is a great first step. Pediatricians are trained to not only monitor your child’s physical growth, but also their social-emotional health.

We want to ensure all children, and their families, have the resources and skills needed to thrive. To do that, we will always be ready to listen, without judgment and with compassion.


Dr. Nerissa S. Bauer is a behavioral pediatrician in Indianapolis and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. This column provided by Tribune News Service.

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King: Gig economy focuses on worker independence

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King: Gig economy focuses on worker independence

Napoleon didn’t deride the English as “a nation of shopkeepers,” although that phrase is commonly attributed to him. In fact, it was Bertrand Barere de Vieuzac, a French revolutionary who used it when attacking the achievements of British Prime Minister William Pitt, the Younger.

I think Napoleon was too smart not to have realized that a nation of shopkeepers is a strong nation, and that if the English of the time were indeed a nation of shopkeepers, they would constitute a more formidable enemy.

A nation of shopkeepers, to my mind, is an ideal: self-motivated people who know the value of work, money and enterprise; and who are almost by definition individualists. So, I regret the constant threats to small business coming from chains, economies of scale, high rents and some social stigma.

But mostly I regret that in our education system, self-employment isn’t celebrated and venerated as being equivalent to work at larger enterprises. We define too many by where they work, not by what they do.

I have always believed that one should aspire to work for oneself, to eschew the temptations of the big, enveloping corporation and to strike out with whatever skills one has to test them in the market and to have the customer, not the boss, tell you what to do.

Our education system produces people tailored to be employed, not self-employed.

But things are changing. The gig economy was well underway before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and now it is roaring. Many employees found that the servitude of conventional employment wasn’t for them.

The gig world differs from the small business world that I have described in that it is small business refined to its absolute core: a one-person business, true self-employment.

There are many advantages in self-employment for society and for the larger business world. Hiring a self-employed contractor is easier for a company, not having to create a staff position and pay all the costs that go with it. Laying off a contractor isn’t as traumatic. The worker is more respected, and is asked to do things not commanded. The system gains efficiency.

But if employers come to see the gig economy as just cheap, dispensable labor, then the gig economy has failed.

The gig worker shouldn’t expect security but should be treated in a business-to-business environment. He or she needs to know how to drive a bargain and to have the moral courage to ask for a contract that is fair and recognizes the value that is intrinsic in the gig relationship.

I am a fan of Lyft and Uber. They offer self-employment to anyone with a driver’s license and a car — and the companies will even get you into a car. But the bargain is one-sided. The driver has the freedom to work what hours he or she chooses but not to negotiate the terms of their engagement. That is decided by a computer in San Francisco.

This gig worker can’t hope to hire other drivers and start a small business: It doesn’t pass the gig contract concept. I have talked to many ride-share drivers. They revel in the freedom but not the income.

Gig workers can be, well, anything from a plumber to a computer programmer, from a dog walker to an actuary.

But for the free new world of gig working to become part of our business fabric, the social structure needs to be adjusted by the government to allow for the gig worker to enroll in Social Security and to charge expenses against taxes as would an incorporated business. Jane Doe, who makes a living designing websites, needs to know that she is a business, not just freelancing between jobs.


Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. This column was provided by InsideSources.

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‘Ordinary Joe’ star riffs on show’s ‘what if’ premise

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‘Ordinary Joe’ star riffs on show’s ‘what if’ premise

The new NBC drama “Ordinary Joe” stars James Wolk and envisions one character’s life as it progresses along three different career paths: as a cop, a nurse or a famous musician.

“The show is a ‘what if?’ premise,” said Wolk. “What if you had made a certain career choice, and how does that drastically affect your life? In our story, I play Joe Kimbreau and you see him on the day he’s about to graduate college and he’s faced with three very different paths.”

Had Wolk’s life taken a different direction, he might have gone to law school, he said. But acting it was, and for many audiences one of his more memorable roles was on “Mad Men” as the upbeat account man Bob Benson, aka the guy on the receiving end of Pete Campbell’s indignant “Not great, Bob!” mini-tantrum.

Wolk’s credits also include “Lone Star,” “Political Animals,” “Goliath” and “Watchmen.” When asked about a cringeworthy moment from his career, he told a story about the CBS drama “Zoo,” about a global animal uprising. Wolk starred as a zoologist who is running safaris in Africa when the show begins.

It ran for three seasons from 2015 to 2017. But his first day at work was one for the dogs.

His worst moment: “I was playing a character who had spent 10 years in South Africa, and when I got the role I called my friend who is South African and I said, ‘OK, I want to come in with a strong South African accent. Because this guy grew up there, he’s been living there for 10 or 15 years — don’t you think he’d have a South African accent?” And my friend said, ‘Yeah, of course he would.’

“He lives in the States now, so he put me on the phone with a bunch of his friends who he grew up with in South Africa. And I’m going through hours on the phone with these guys. I’m getting the lingo, I’m getting their slang, I’m working on the accent. I’m going deep into it.

“And I go down to Louisiana, where we filmed the show. And my wife had said to me prior to the first table read, ‘Jimmy, did you do the South African accent at any other point, like when you read for the role or when you met with anyone?’ And I said, ‘No.’ And she said, ‘Well, did they tell you should have a South African accent?’ And I said, ‘No. No, no, no — but this guy has been living in South Africa for 10 or 15 years, you don’t understand, he would have a South African accent. I’m a serious actor, I’m going to have this accent.’

“So I ignored her advice and went to the table read. And because it’s the first day, people from the network are there, the producers are there, the writers are there. I was playing the lead of the show, so I had a lot of lines. It wasn’t just one scene. So I did the entire script with a South African accent. And slang, like: ‘I’m from Joburg!’ (Slang for Johannesburg.) I just went for it. Every scene.

“We finish the table read. And afterward our creator-executive producer slowly walked over to me and he goes, ‘Hey.’ And I go, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ I’m thinking: I nailed that.

“And he goes, ‘So … what’s going on with your voice?’ And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he was like, ‘You’re kind of saying certain words certain ways.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m doing a South African accent.’

“And he goes, ‘Yeah. Don’t do that.’ ”

— Tribune News Service

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Finding cause of pup’s upset tummy

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Finding cause of pup’s upset tummy

As luck would have it, my dog finally stopped throwing up after a few days, but I wonder if you might add some insight into the cause. My dog is just under a year old and is a pitbull cross. She is spayed and fully vaccinated. Two weekends ago, I took her to a large outdoor festival where there were a lot of dogs with their owners. Many of the dogs drank water from the same bowls as we made sure to hydrate them during a hot day. The following day, I gave her some treats with some of the meat trimmings left over from our barbecue. It was the next day that she started vomiting some yellow bile in the early morning and this happened a few times as well as the next day. Could either the shared water or the meat been the cause of her vomiting? I want to make sure that I avoid exposing her again to whatever made her sick. Lastly, should I be concerned? Could she have picked up a parasite?

Sometimes we do not know what causes a dog to vomit. Vomiting may occur immediately after ingesting something that does not sit right with the stomach, or it can occur some time later. What you describe is called bilious vomiting, which is sometimes seen with an empty stomach, more often in the morning hours due to stomach acidity and a lack of food. It is usually not problematic and can be corrected by changing diet, time of feeding or medications as needed.

As such, it may be that neither the shared water bowls nor the meat trimmings caused what you observed and since it seems to have resolved there is little need for concern. There can always be some small amount of risk associated with many dogs being together, including parasitism, so having a fecal sample tested for that might be worthwhile. Giving a dog meat trimmings needs to be done carefully since some dogs have sensitive stomachs and too much fat can lead to a bout of pancreatitis.

Between your two events, there is always the possibility that your dog may have also ingested anything else that might have triggered an upset stomach but luckily it sounds as if things have resolved. Should the vomiting return, I would have your veterinarian take a look at your dog.


Dr. John de Jong owns and operates the Boston Mobile Veterinary Clinic. He can be reached at 781-899-9994.

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