Punch drunk on the ice, searching for our non-earthly sister, is a casino in Arden Hills’ future, why your paper shredder stinks, and can workers ever get ahead while cutting costs?
1) PUNCH DRUNK
The New York Times has released the third installment of its six-month investigation into the death of former Minnesota Wild “enforcer” Derek Boogaard and the world of athletes’ brain injuries, substance abuse, and the blind eyes of the people who run sports. By last year he was a punching bag for smaller players on the ice. He was sent to a rehab center in California, but he wasn’t taking it seriously, the paper says. “I’d like to be able to blame somebody,” his mother says. “I can’t.” On the day he died, he had six bloody marys before a night of drinking. He died in his sleep.
His family agreed to send Boogaard’s brain to researchers in Boston:
Boogaard had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as C.T.E., a close relative of Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head. It can be diagnosed only posthumously, but scientists say it shows itself in symptoms like memory loss, impulsiveness, mood swings, even addiction.
More than 20 dead former N.F.L. players and many boxers have had C.T.E. diagnosed. It generally hollowed out the final years of their lives into something unrecognizable to loved ones.
And now, the fourth hockey player, of four examined, was found to have had it, too.
But this was different. The others were not in their 20s, not in the prime of their careers.
The NHL isn’t buying the connection between the sport and the brains of its fallen stars.
Find the part three video here.
2) SEARCHING FOR OUR SISTER
There it is, according to NASA. Earth’s sister planet. Maybe. Previous research hinted at the existence of near-Earth-size planets in habitable zones, but clear confirmation proved elusive, NASA said yesterday.
Is it as exciting if you know you’ll be dead before any human ever comes close to finding out what’s there? It’s a question that’s at the very heart of the debate over the country’s space future — if there’s no payoff in our lifetime, our children’s lifetime, and their children’s, children’s, children’s lifetime, is it worth it?
The problem? This planet is 600 light years away. How far is that?
Take one light year, for example:
Light is the fastest-moving stuff in the universe. It travels at an incredible 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles) per second. That’s very fast. If you could travel at the speed of light, you would be able to circle the Earth’s equator about 7.5 times in just one second!
Coincidentally, the star Betelgeuse is also 600 light years away and it’s going to explode soon. And, by soon, I mean within a million years. Some pseudo experts say it’ll happen in 2012.
If it were within 30 light years, it would cause mass extinction on Earth. Sometimes, 600 light years is just far enough away from a sister.
3) FOOTBALL AND GAMBLING
Nobody’s saying so in these parts, but what’s happening in Foxboro, Massachusetts may be what happens in Minnesota someday: NFL football teams as casino operators. The league currently forbids teams from owning casinos, but league rules are silent on the question of whether a team can build a casino on its property, and then license another company — a Las Vegas/Atlantic City mogul, for example, to run it.
Massachusetts just changed its law to allow several casinos in the state and — what a coincidence! — New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft immediately floated the idea of a casino next to his stadium. Yesterday, he and casino owner Steve Wynn made their pitch.
If Vikings owner Zygi Wilf gets to build in Arden Hills, it’s hard to believe that someone wouldn’t make a similar proposal if Kraft’s gamble bears fruit. There’s plenty of room at the site. Kraft, for the record, built his own stadium.
The Minnesota Senate will hold another hearing on the Vikings’ stadium push today. KSTP reports that Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has settled on the current Metrodome site over two others for a possible stadium, over the objections of the Vikings, who don’t want to build a new stadium there.
4) THE CASE FOR BURNING DOCUMENTS
Don’t be surprised if the boss rolls an old 50-gallon barrel and a box of matches into the office and throws out the paper shredder. A software developer says he’s come up with a computer program that will put shredded documents together again, the BBC says.
He won a competition from the Pentagon (and $50,000) in a contest to reassemble five shredded hand-written documents and answer the puzzles contained in each of them.
A decent commercial shredder can reduce a sheet of paper to more than 400 pieces. That yields a total of 1,276,800 possible two-piece combinations – for one single-sided sheet.
“A lot of these shredders are maybe not as secure as you thought, and maybe you should get a better shredder if you want these really and truly not to be assembled,” the software developer said.
5) THE RACE FOR LOWER PRICES
The Cranky Flier blog has obtained a copy of a letter to employees from Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly suggesting the good times are over for the airline. It’s a great example of what happens when a legacy airline goes bankrupt, as American Airlines did last week. Southwest no longer enjoys the cost/price advantage it once did, because the legacy airlines, as you marooned Northwest employees know, have stripped down.
Like I said, a very somber note, but one that seems right on the money to me. This ain’t your father’s Southwest. Now the question is . . . what can they actually do about those cost problems? That’s the hard part, because Southwest employees have lived the good life. Sure, they were always happy to trade productivity for higher pay, but how much better can you do with productivity?
Kelly’s later doesn’t specifically say employees will have to give up some of the good life, but it certainly is the message:
Americans employees will make many sacrifices. It is convenient to lay the blame at the feet of Americans management. Certainly, they deserve their share of the blame. But, just as employees deserve credit when a company does well, so do they deserve some of the blame when it does not. American has outdated and inflexible work rules that render it less productive than the New Airline industry. Thats just one example of how the company lost its way, and just one example of what is imperative to change, lest they be shut down.
For us, the bottom line is simple. There may be some near-term opportunities for Southwest as American shrinks and is distracted with the human struggle of bankruptcy. American will be governed through a bankruptcy court and a creditor committee, and it will be sheer hell for them. Once they get through it though, several years from now, they will join the New Airline industry as a much more formidable competitor. We need to prepare ourselves better right now for this New Airline industry.
It’s an economic dilemma. In a world where consumers decide purchases based on price, can workers make a living and get ahead?
THE BIG STORY
The Big Story Blog will look at teen smoking, after a state report that showed slower progress toward reducing teen tobacco use.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
I’m out sick today so posting here may be light.
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Public opinion polling and policymaking, Newt Gingrich and janitors, and the death of Derek Boogaard.
Second hour: The future of aging.
Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Chris Farrell answers year-end personal finance questions.
Second hour: An American RadioWorks documentary, “Who Needs an English Major: The Future of Liberal Arts Education.”
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Has the post office outlived its usefulness?
Second hour: This history of gossip.