September 2005 Letters to the Editor

The Mail


My Dad the Geek

The joy of seeing James P. Lenfestey’s great story “The Original Geek Squad” (July) was overwhelming, to say the least. I am bursting with pride. Kudos and roses to your editorial staff and Mr. Lenfestey for bringing this story to light.

My dad, the late Arnie (Arnold A.) Cohen, was an original member of the “First Friday” lunch club at Parrish’s Supper Club. He was referred to in the article by the remarkable Sid Ruben, and he’s also in the group photo of the famous magnetic memory drum on page 63 (second from left, wearing glasses). He passed away in August 2003 at age 89.

The patent for the magnetic memory drum—a device that became basic in the field—was awarded to my dad and two others. Growing up, I can honestly say I didn’t know what it was all about. And for good reason. I remember asking my late mother why a black car was periodically parked for a length of time across the street from our home in southwest Minneapolis. She told me it was the FBI watching our house—and that I was to tell no one. My dad was working on an important project, and they wanted to make sure it was “safe.” I was 9 years old at the time and was thrilled by the secrecy and intrigue.

I knew the high national security clearance my brilliant father had. In 1963, my family trundled off to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a three-month hiatus. I thought Dad was teaching a special summer course at MIT. Years later, I learned that he and some colleagues actually had been huddling together for the summer to figure out how to get computers to talk to each other—the forerunner of the Internet.

Two years ago, when my father passed away, I carefully combed through and filed his papers—hundreds of documents and letters from noted scientific, government, and international figures. I held history in my hands.

Mr. Lenfestey’s story was a glorious belated Father’s Day gift. Thank you so much for this gift to my father, his family, and his colleagues.

Golden Valley

Duty Calls

I enjoyed reading Lucie Amundsen’s essay “Dependents’ Day” (Back Talk, July). Her ability to somehow find humor and articulate it so well, given the challenging family situation she’s lived through, was simultaneously entertaining and extremely touching.

So many families have to find ways to cope with the daily challenges of having one or both parents, sons, daughters, cousins, and/or friends deployed in the war. This writer flawlessly communicated her ability to finesse single parenthood—and its endless challenges—while balancing her appreciation for others who have had to make even greater sacrifices than she and her family. I’m glad you published this piece and sincerely hope to read more from her in your publication in the future.


I Will Survive

Tim Gihring’s profile of Judith Niemi (Who, “Paddle Power,” July) has given me so much hope. I was fascinated by her wilderness program for women from the start of the article, but what really got me is her program for cancer “survivors,” as we are referred to in the medical literature. I am a two-year breast cancer survivor. I’m originally from Hibbing but now live in Florida. Returning to my beloved Minnesota to spend time with other cancer survivors and face the challenges of a wilderness experience would suit me so well.

Your article came at just the right time for me. A dear friend who started a cancer support group here in Tallahassee, Florida, died recently after a 10-year battle with breast cancer. It has rocked my world. Knowledge of Ms. Niemi’s program gives me something to look forward to—a goal to set and work toward. Thank you for this beautifully written and inspirational article.

Tallahassee, Florida

Low Blow?

I just read the article “Running on Empty” (July) about Duluth rocker Alan Sparhawk’s need to put things on hold for a while. I thought it addressed Sparhawk’s struggles evenhandedly, for the most part, but was absolutely disgusted by your lack of sensitivity with the “Sparhawk Down” line on the issue’s spine. Here’s someone being open and vulnerable and taking measures to “get healthy” after being diagnosed with suicidal depression, among other things, and you think it’s cute or funny to make a joke about it? This is someone’s life you’re talking about. Words are power. I thought it was unnecessary and hurtful.


Magic Memories

In “Sue Z Says” in your July issue, Sue Zelickson wondered how many of us remembered the old Magic Pan on Nicollet Mall. After college, in the spring of 1978, I applied for a summer job at the restaurant and was interviewed by a young assistant manager named Tom. Not only was I hired, but two years later we were married. Next week we celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We recently had a dinner party with friends and served some of the Magic Pan–style crêpes with their famous orange almond salad. We remember the restaurant well and remain friends with some of the employees from the late 1970s. Our understanding is that the last restaurant to close was in San Francisco in the early 1990s.


You Don’t Know Jax

Your July dining listings included a sidebar called “Alfresco, from A to Z.” It reminded readers that “Decades ago, newspaper columnist Barbara Flanagan fought the city of Minneapolis to sanction outdoor dining…,” followed by a list of restaurants to choose from. For some reason you omitted Jax Café, which offered the first outdoor dining in the Twin Cities.

Not only do we have the first and one of the best outdoor dining spots available, but we spend more to maintain it than most restaurants spend all year on the inside. Several of the restaurants listed offer nothing more than three tables on a sidewalk along a bus stop—with a limited menu. Also missing from the list is Kozlak’s Royal Oak in Shoreview, another beautifully maintained patio that’s been providing full menu service for more than 27 years. I encourage your readers to visit Jax Café and Kozlak’s Royal Oak to see what dining alfresco in Minnesota is all about.


More Intersex Reflections

I would like to commend Minnesota Monthly for publishing the article by Ann M. Bauer on the condition known as intersex (“The Second Question,” June). As a licensed psychotherapist working primarily with adolescents who are coming to terms with being intersex, I know how the silence around this issue compounds their feeling of being “freaky” and different. For parents and adolescents, articles like this are an important therapeutic tool; they help people come to terms with their situation and feel legitimized and visible in the world. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

Watertown, Massachusetts

Tween Beat

My name is Kristi Becker, and I am 12 years old. My mom gets Minnesota Monthly. I’m writing to tell you that I saw your June issue about the lakes around Brainerd. I was very pleased because I go through Brainerd on my way up to my cabin on Ponto Lake.

A lot of the places you featured in this issue I know about—Treasure City, Paul Bunyan, and Gull Lake. It was very cool to read about. I hope you can keep coming up with new and exciting things to put in your magazine.

Lino Lakes