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Thumbs Up/Down - May 10, 2013


Thumbs Down: Drivers are still failing to grasp the concept of the "zipper merge," even though it was introduced by the Minnesota Department of Transportation more than 10 years ago. It's used in work zones, such as along Interstate 94 right now between St. Cloud and Clearwater. Drivers are supposed to use both lanes until they reach the designated merge point. Then, they are supposed to take turns to safely and smoothly flow into the remaining lane of traffic. The trouble arises when some drivers, believing they are being helpful by planning for the merge ahead of time, start moving into the lane as soon as they spot the first construction signs even though the merge point is miles away. They then get frustrated when they see other drivers zip past them while they're waiting in the traffic-clogged lane. MnDOT is boosting efforts to get the word out about the zipper merge but it admits it's a tough sell. Drivers don't want to be perceived as the one who barges into the remaining lane at the last second. There are advantages to the zipper merge. It will stop drivers from darting back and forth between the slower and faster lanes, and, according to traffic experts, if followed properly, it reduces backups, maintains uniform speeds in both lanes and creates a sense of fairness. So remember: It's OK to wait for the merge.


Thumbs Down: If the ice melts enough for anglers to get out on the water this weekend for the fishing opener, they should remember one more important item besides their license, bait and gear: A life jacket. Too many are leaving shore without it. Lack of life jacket use is the number one contributing factor to boating deaths in Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resouces. Since 2010, 43 people have died in boating accidents and 35 of those victims were not wearing life jackets. "The message is simple: Life jackets save lives," said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist. Life jackets today with inflatable, belt-pack inflatable and inflatable fishing vest options are comfortable, lightweight and don't get in the way while an angler casts a line. With the late thaw, ice or ice chunks could also be an issue on several lakes. Water temperatures are dangerous this time of year, Owens added. Falling into cold water can cause an immediate involuntary gasp for air and the shock of the icy water can also cause cardiac arrest, even for people in good health. State law requires a U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable life jacket for each person on board all watercraft. In addition, all children younger than 10-years-old are required to wear a life jacket while a boat is under way.


Thumbs Up: How wisely are using your time? Alexandria's United Communities Advocating Non-Violence (UCAN) sent out an e-mail that contained good information about time and how important it is. It introduced the topic with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: "The time is always right to do what is right." It continued with the following observations: "Time is free, but it is priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you have lost it you can never get it back. Time has a wonderful way of showing us what is important. We all have our time machines. Some take us back; they're called memories. Some take us forward; they're called dreams."


Thumbs Up: Barb Van Zomeren, a former Alexandrian who developed a deep background and appreciation for agriculture while rising through the ranks of the FFA, was spotlighted in a recent article in The Land, a Mankato-based publication. Barb is the daughter of former high school ag teacher Bernie, and his wife, Betty. The article highlighted the achievements of the 1984-1985 Minnesota Officer Team 25 years after they served. Barb, the state FFA treasurer, graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in agriculture business administration and went on to achieve a longtime dream of becoming a lawyer, earning a law degree in 1995. She worked at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, as a law clerk in St. Louis County District Court, as an attorney for Farm Credit Services and then, in 1997, she landed her dream job with a premiere law firm that dealt with agriculture, Doherty, Rumble and Butler. She later married and relocated to the Brainerd area, taking a job as a tax attorney. She and her husband, John, have three young children, all in 4-H, of course. The article noted that leadership opportunities and speaking skills were just a couple of the benefits that Barb gained from FFA, benefits that got her to where she is today.