Five at 8 – 10/30/09: Do old people have value?

1) Here’s a little pick-me-up for people who are old enough to, say, remember the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Old people are irrelevant, Philip Greenspun posits. Technology has done that.

An old person will know more than a young person, but can any person, young or old, know as much as Google and Wikipedia? Why would a young person ask an elder the answer to a fact question that can be solved authoritatively in 10 seconds with a Web search?

How about skills? Want help orienting a rooftop television aerial? Changing the vacuum tubes in your TV? Dialing up AOL? Using MS-DOS? Changing the ribbon on an IBM Selectric (height of 1961 technology)? Tuning up a car that lacks electronic engine controls? Doing your taxes without considering the Alternative Minimum Tax and the tens of thousands of pages of rules that have been added since our senior citizen was starting his career? Didn’t think so.

Ironically, the technology that has made old people irrelevant, has also kept them alive longer, Greenspun says.

Apparently this is let’s-kick-the-heck-out-oldtimers month because the blog The Man Who is Thursday also picks up the topic:

Most people aren’t abstract thinkers and therefore whatever wisdom they have to impart is very concrete and specific to the peculiar circumstance of their environment. Social change has been so drastic over the past few decades that older people don’t really understand the specifics of what their children and grandchildren are going through and thus often can’t really be that helpful. Our choices are not their choices and their wisdom is for a time long past.

See? Ain’t that a knee-slapper to start the day, oldies? What say we all meet at our lawyers’ office this morning and rewrite those wills?

2) The recession is over and the resale prices of homes are up. How long would it take at the current pace to sell all the homes in the Twin Cities that are for sale? Teresa Boardman has taken pen to paper: between 4 and 8 months.

3) The latest One in 8 Million episode from the New York Times: A guy who lives on a boat and makes a living giving tours of New York Harbor. How’s that idea going over in your cubicle? Did I mention he doesn’t have an alarm clock but is awakened each day with the gentle waves of the morning commuter ferries?

4) I Spend My Free Time With Dead People.” Slate looks at the strange hobby of “graving.”

5) What’s all this talk about Minnesota Today? MinnPost’s David Brauer looks at this MPR initiative, and asks the question, “Why should taxpayers pony up for journalists?”

Bonus: Update. Earlier this week an autistic man took a 20-minute tour of New York City by helicopter, and then started sketching a huge panorama based only on his memory. Today, he’s finishing it. Prepare to be blown away by this savant.


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Taped interview with New York Times columnist Gail Collins.

Second hour: University of Minnesota etymology expert Anatoly Liberman joins Midmorning to talk about odd spellings, and the words we love just a little too much. We Public Radio folks love this sort of stuff.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Second District Congressman John Kline discusses the war in Afghanistan.

Second hour: A new documentary from Stephen Smith about the history and value of pre-school.

Talk of the Nation (1 – 3 p.m.) – It’s Science Friday! First hour: The 40th anniversary of the Internet and a running research roundup.

Second hour: A look at the history of cannibalism.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Tim Nelson looks at what happens when you put that black goop on your blacktop driveway and considers whether the state should ban coal tar.

Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein, the Mummy – the iconic ghouls. However, they have their genesis in a very specific time and place — at Universal Studios. What gave rise to these classic creatures? Why did they scare us once, but not now? Does that sound like a story from MPR’s Sanden Totten? It is.

The Uptown Bar is closing on Sunday. It has a storied history in the local music scene. The Current has put together a three-part video documentary.

Mark Zdechlik will total up the number of jobs created in Minnesota — or not — by stimulus cash.