Five at 8 – 8/25/09: The Rochester debacle

1) The ExpressJet fiasco in Rochester has fueled calls for a passenger bill of rights. But the Cranky Flier blog points out if one had been in place, it likely wouldn’t have changed the fact a planeload of people had to sit on a plane in Rochester for six hours earlier this month:

But what would that have done here? Would Mesaba get fined? That might still happen anyway. Would the passengers magically have been transported off the plane? Not simply because of a law. A federal law probably wouldn’t have changed much here. Continental, for example, already has a policy to get people off the plane after a certain period of time.

Which brings up Today’s Question:

Based on your experience, what basic rights do airline passengers deserve? Recent incidents of people being stranded for hours in a grounded airplane have added momentum to efforts to pass a passenger’s bill of rights. And one airline – Sun Country – has changed its policy to require that passengers be returned to the terminal if a wait exceeds four hours

2) Not entirely unrelated to the above: What is the fastest way to evacuate a room? Put something in front of the emergency exit, according to research scientists.

Physicists timed a crowd of 50 women as they exited as fast as possible through a door, and then repeated the experiment with a 20-centimetre-wide pillar placed 65 centimetres in front of the exit to the left-hand side. The obstacle improved the exit rate by an extra seven people per minute – from 2.8 people to 2.92 people per second.

More science: You think you’re oh-so-productive as a great multitasker? You’re wrong, a Stanford study says. “People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time,” researchers said. Here’s your test: Stick the iPod earbuds in, crank it up, sing along, and try to read a newspaper, or talk on the phone.

The researchers are still studying whether chronic media multitaskers are born with an inability to concentrate or are damaging their cognitive control by willingly taking in so much at once. But they’re convinced the minds of multitaskers are not working as well as they could.

The secret of productivity is as old as parental advice: Worry about one thing at a time.

This online multitasking test has nothing to do with the study, but it’s a productive way to kill time at work.

3) Things that are just wrong department. Bob Dylan is considering being the voice of GPS systems. “Oh…. mama. Could this really be a dead end?”

“I probably shouldn’t do it because whichever way I go, I always end up at one place – on Lonely Avenue,” he told the BBC.

Once you’ve sold out to Pepsi…

4) It’s like watching grass grow. Try as they might, there’s just no way to make grass that exciting. Truckloads of Colorado grass arrived at the new Twins ballpark last night. Here’s the stadium Webcam if you’d like to watch its installation.

By the way, there actually is a webcam to watch grass grow. Of course.

5)Where do the rights of parents begin and end department: Let’s say you’re 13 years old and you want to sail around the world. Let’s say your father — for whatever reason — has decided you’re old enough to do that. Meet Laura and her father, Dick Dekker of the Netherlands, where a court is being asked to strip Laura’s parents of their parental rights. Why? Because they think their daughter should be allowed to sail around the world if that’s what she wants to do.

What if you let your kid eat junk food at McDonald’s? Are you a child abuser? This UK columnist says you are. Which is too much for Christopher Scanlon of Australia’s The Punch.



Lisa Giefer of Osceola, Wis., writes, “August means a vacation road trip to the North Shore. Stop at Pattison State Park for leg stretching and wading in the cold lake. L-R: husband, son

Send your photo that screams “August!”.


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: In a new book, David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal looks at the extraordinary power that Ben Bernanke has taken on in his effort to stave off financial collapse.

Second hour: Opponents of health care reform say centralized medical care in countries like Canada and Britain is not as good as health care in the U.S. The picture is more complicated than both critics and supporters suggest.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: George Wozniak of Hobbit Travel answers listener questions about recent incidents where air passengers were stranded on planes, and the possible Congressional action on an “Airline Passenger Bill of Rights.”

Second hour: Satirist P.J. O’Rourke, speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California about his new book, “Driving Like Crazy.” Here’s a similar presentation from June.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Hilda Solis has deep roots in organized labor… Both her immigrant parents were union members. Now, she’s secretary of labor, and she spent her first months in office handing out stimulus money.

Second hour: The men and women of the ’80s TV drama Thirtysomething struggled

to navigate the end of youthful rebellion, and the onset of adult responsibility. The cast joins Neal Conan.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – A House committee gets an update today on how the money voters authorized (by way of a sales tax increase) for outdoors and arts is being spent. Rep. Michele Bachmann is holding a town meeting on Social Security in St. Cloud. One or both of those may appear on the show this evening.

MPR’s Sasha Aslanian will stop by the show to talk about her documentary on the children of divorce.

If liberals were so hot for health care reform, why aren’t they making more noise about it? Chris Roberts has the answer.

Euan Kerr profiles local filmmaker Patrick Coyle’s new film, which uses Minneapolis as the backdrop for a modern thriller about a Catholic priest.

Nationally, Laura Hertzfeld looks at how some people are using the recession to rethink their career, and maybe even pursue a new passion. Michael Sullivan tells us about what happened when 15 kids with HIV showed up for school in Saigon, in a country with one of the most progressive anti-discrimination laws.

  • Bob Moffitt

    The reason the cast of “thirysomething” is on is because 22 years (!) after the show first aired, it is now available on DVD.

    NPR took the marketing pitch hook, line and sinker.

  • BJ

    @Bob Moffitt – So what, it was a good show and sometimes pop culture is ok to report on. It can’t all be about how global warming is our fault and multitasking is bad. 🙂

  • kennedy

    Bob Dylan is garbled in stereo. Who’s gonna understand when he’s piped through a single speaker on the back of a GPS unit?

  • Alison

    On Midday, the guest, George Wozniak, kept talking about pilots not wanting to lose their place in the que for takeoff by going back to the gate during an extended delay. Is there some reason in this age of computers that the que has to be a long line of planes filled with people? Why couldn’t a computer keep track of when a plane is ready to go and then, if delayed by weather, allow that plane to get back into the que in their previous place?

  • Bob Collins

    I believe part of the calculation is where the plane is going and what time it’s scheduled to arrive there. Presumably, you can have a plane ready to go, and it’s not so much getting a slot where they’re taking off from as much as it may be getting a slot where they’re going.

  • kennedy

    Regarding a crowd of women exiting a room faster if there is an obstacle in front of the door…

    I could take the high road and talk about similarities between crowd movement and fluid flow. Or I could take the low road and make some sort of sexist joke.

    I don’t think I can do justice to either, so fill in your own punch line.