Five at 8: 8/11/09

1) It’s bad enough losing your job, but the state’s unemployment process can twist the knife, several people testified at a hearing at the Minnesota Capitol on Monday (Worthington Daily Globe – registration required). “Nobody has any time to call you back,” one person said of attempts to find out what state programs exist to help. “Their voice mails are full.” I’m doing a series of posts with first-person experiences of people who’ve lost their jobs. If that’s you, contact me.

Of course, this is a preview of how it’s going to be for the next year. With so many legislators running for governor, we’ll have to run everything through the is-the-chair-of-the-committee-running-for-governor-o-meter. This hearing was chaired by Tom Rukavina. He’s running.

2) Don’t tell bloggers and talk show hosts there isn’t a god. How else to explain the Continental Express Jet story? You know it by now, right? The small jet was diverted to Rochester because of thunderstorms in the Twin Cities. There, they sat all night. The company says they couldn’t let the passengers into the terminal. The airport manager says that’s wrong. The company says they couldn’t get a bus. Charter bus companies say that’s wrong, too.

Here’s the mystery. What’s happened to the passengers? Only one — Link Christin, a Minnesota professor — has been quoted. News organizations have put out the call for other passengers to tell their story, but none has responded. Where are you all?

This morning, Christin appeared on the CBS Early Show. He says he’ll testify before Congress next month. “I watched in the back row by the bathroom and I watched everything for six hours,” he said.

3) Funny thing about media-created heroes. They often turn out to be humans. The Josh Hamilton story has been well chronicled. The Texas Rangers slugger overcame addictions to save his life and career. Then he overshadowed Justin Morneau in last year’s Home Run Derby. Nice story. Then he fell off the wagon.

Hamilton might make a good target for some sports columnists, but not the one in Dallas who acknowledges that he’s got a drinking problem, too.

I have never been to rehab or an AA meeting – although I know people whose lives have been turned around by one or the other – but have read enough and I know enough not to say “I stopped drinking for good.”

I can’t even say that’s necessarily the goal. I would like to be that distinguished gentleman who can have two glasses of red wine with a nice steak and stop drinking for the rest of the night, but I have my doubts.

4) “Flow.” It is, a New York Times blogger suggests, the key to happiness. It’s a manner of savoring the moment, no matter how unhappy the moment may be. Deep stuff so early in the day. For Justin Schmidt, it’s about enjoying the moment when you’re stung by bees or bitten by critters. He created the Justin O. Schmidt Pain Index.

More deep thoughts: What do babies think about all day?

5) My Current colleague, Mary Lucia, ripped me the last time I relayed a study like this. “Too obvious,” she said. So I’m ducking while I pass along that optimistic women live longer. “In comparison, cynical women who harboured hostile thoughts about others or were generally mistrusting of others were 16% more likely to die over the same time-scale,” the BBC reports.

Bonus: NPR missed the mark with this two-way last evening with NPR’s Robert Benincasa, who reportedly had “analyzed” data showing many near-misses among pilots who fly via “visual flight rules.” The piece doesn’t say what data was being analyzed. VFR pilots aren’t required to file any paperwork to report a “near miss” and there’s no definition of what a “near miss” is in the reporting.

The Atlantic’s James Fallows, points out the lack of expertise in some of the reporting on the incident and subsequent calls for further restrictions.

I mentioned shortly after the tragic Hudson River aerial crash that a person who had never driven cars – let’s say an Amish farmer — might look at traffic on a busy roadway and think: how do they keep from hitting each other?!? How can it possibly be safe? Similarly, people with no experience in airplanes might look at areas like the Hudson River “VFR corridor” and think: how do they keep from hitting each other?!? How can it possibly be safe?

NPR’s conversation also suggested that VFR (basically, see and avoid) pilots have only their eyes to save them. That’s not true. There’s also a service provided by air traffic controllers called “flight following” that is available on request. Controllers, using their radar, will alert pilots to conflicting traffic. The pilot has to request this service and the controller’s workload has to permit it.

The NPR conversation also said:

There’s also been some talk of requiring aircraft that fly in this corridor to be equipped with transponders. And these are these electronic devices that allow air traffic controllers and other aircraft to know where a particular aircraft is.

This one is particularly puzzling because such a mandate already exists. It’s called a “Mode C veil” and it exists within 30 miles of major airports (including the Twin Cities) in which all planes must have an altitude-reporting transponder that can be picked up on radar.

In addition, many pilots are equipping their planes with new, relatively inexpensive traffic alert systems that alert him/her to conflicting traffic.

Disclaimer: I have an opinion on the issue that’s almost as strong as my distaste for inaccurate reporting.


Last year, the Polaroid company announced it would stop selling its cameras and producing instant film. Now that stores have sold their stocks, the price of a packet of Polaroid film is through the roof. Rapid changes in technology make it hard to keep up with the latest gadget, and even harder to let go of the ones we love. What low-tech device do you refuse to give up?

The pencil sharpener.


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: President Obama says “not now” to immigration reform. If not now, when? Second hour: Former Chowhound “alpha dog” Jim Leff spent years searching for the most delicious food across the country. He still has opinions about restaurant fare, but his latest quest is for the meals that perfectly capture a sense of well-being.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – TBA

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: After the second Vatican Council, American nuns began to modernize their lives. But the Vatican hasn’t always been comfortable with how far they’ve gone and is expressing concern that their lives have become too secular. Now, the Vatican is taking a closer look at what nuns say and do. Second hour: An exploration of American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Tim Post looks at Kurt Rambis, the new coach of the Timberwolves. The thing is: David Kahn, the general manager, has pretty well dampened enthusiasm for the team (what little existed), saying it’ll be a few years before it’s competitive. Why should people care about the Timberwolves?

Some people are moving back into Detroit, America’s basket case? Why? With every problem, comes opportunity. Anthony Brooks will report.

  • susan

    Just wanted to tell you that I really enjoy this column that you do., Keep up the great work.


  • dittrich

    On the Continental Express Jet story, I noticed it changed from 9 hours on the tarmac yesterday to 6 hours on the tarmac today. Why did that change? It’s still WAY too long to be stuck on a plane that small, but it’s still a rather large difference in the amount of time…

  • Bob Collins

    It’s been going back and forth — 6 and 9. Some are including the time they spent on the plan in total… others are indicating just the time they spent in Rochester, I believe.

  • Bob Collins

    A reader from Andover writes:

    “I was laid off in Nov from a company I had worked with for over 8 years. I work in the construction industry, so I was expecting a long layoff period. I contacted the Mn Workforce, and was immediately informed of several different programs, workshops, and seminars, and I was assigned an individual caseworker who contacted me several times to check on my situation. In spite of their overwhelming workload, everyone in the Blaine office was very concientous about making sure each person coming in to the office was appraised of their options and resources. I credit their efforts for the fact that I was able to find a full time job in the construction industry in January, which is the slowest month in the industry. By far the majority of the people I dealt with were truly concerned with helping people to help themselves. ”