5 x 8: Are you afraid to take a vacation?

It’s opening day of the Minnesota State Fair. I’ll be working in the MPR “store” from 1-9 p.m. Stop by and say “hello.” Bring some Sweet Martha’s Cookies.


Some American businesses have figured out a way to keep people from taking so much vacation time: Giving employees unlimited vacation time.

The Boston Globe reports that as more companies remove restrictions on the amount of time off an employee can take, fewer employees seem to be taking advantage of it. If they’re taking any time off at all, it’s about the same amount they had before.

“When you only have a limited resource, you feel more compelled to use it,” one tech worker in New Hampshire said, explaining why he hasn’t taken any vacation time.

The paradox is people who are successful and driven enough to land jobs in these companies are likely to be overly responsible and hard working, so that they’re less likely to take the vacation even though it’s there,” said David DeLong, a Concord workplace consultant and author. “The workloads are so intense today that many employees feel that they can’t afford to take time off.”

You caught that, right? If you’re “successful” and you’re “responsible” and you’re “hard working,” you don’t take the vacation.

The bottom line? The American worker is afraid. If you have vacation limits, you can at least make a claim that you have to “use it or lose it.” When you have no limits, even a short vacation seems like a risk.

“There is skepticism on what’s really at play here,” Pete Morse, a labor and business attorney, told the Indianapolis Business Journal last year. “There is concern, either imagined or real, that your manager does not embrace this. That your manager wants to see butts in the seats. They don’t want you to use this.”


Authorities are already circling the wagons in the wake of the news police in St. Louis park tasered a 76-year-old nursing home resident who died from the fall.

The Minnesota Department of Health, which oversees nursing homes, wouldn’t comment on whether it is or isn’t investigating the case, because… well, who knows what thought process goes into such a statement; of course they’re investigating the case.

The most surprising statement in the Star Tribune story on the incident is this one, however:

“I think we’re going to see more incidents like this,” said Rodrigues, the long-term care ombudsman for California.

Seriously? Why? Because we can’t figure out a way to subdue old people besides using a stun gun on them?

From the archives: Death by taser
Another taser death


John and Missy Porter of Fargo want to adopt a child with special needs. That makes sense; he’s a special education director for a school system.

“I think we’ve always had a special place in our heart for children with disabilities or special needs,” Missy Porter tells the Fargo Forum. “I think this is perfect for us.”

Except that the cost of international adoption is sky high. So the Porters are holding a yard sale to try to raise money for the addition. Their three kids are selling lemonade to help.


News organizations have been reporting details of the civil war in Syria for months, but Americans don’t seem that interested in it, even with yesterday’s apparent gassing of civilians.

For some reason, the war doesn’t register here.

This video (offensive to some people) could change that. “I’m alive,” the little girl repeats.

Her name is Younma, according to the Washington Post. The health worker says she’s been psychologically traumatized by the death of her parents at the hands of toxic gas.

The U.N. Security Council couldn’t even agree on a strongly worded statement about using chemical gas to kill innocent civilians, NPR reports today.


It’s the beginning of the end for human banking. Bank of America has announced it’s eliminating drive-up tellers at bank branches. The bank says it’s not a cost-associated decision; people don’t want to bank with humans anymore, apparently; not when they can use ATMs or apps on their smart phones.

Bonus I: Ron Kelsey: The seed sack saver (Daily Globe)

Bonus II: In praise of the prairie (streets.mn)

Bonus III: Louisiana sinkhole swallows trees in a swamp.

Bonus IV: Antoinette Tuff: Meet the Woman Who Prevented a Mass School Shooting this week.

Bonus V: Sven Sundgaard talks about his rabies scare ( City Pages)


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and former Saint Paul Mayor George Latimer. From the State Fair.

Second hour: Home repair advice.

Third hour: Talking Volumes rebroadcast with Abraham Verghese.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – One of the ways rural Minnesotans are trying to recreate vibrant communities is to enhance the action revolving around local food. About two years ago in Bemidji, two people started up a small local food enterprise to give people a commercial kitchen to make money off their jams or pies. We circle back to see how locally-grown food has become a way to bring together diverse groups and to expand nutrition education to families.

Many climate scientists believe that urgent action is needed to reduce global carbon emissions. Professor Judith Curry is not convinced. This climate expert parts company with her colleagues. But she goes out of her way to reduce her own carbon footprint. NPR profiles the controversial climate scientist.

  • Matt Black

    Re #1) I’ve been at my current company for 6 years and have reported to two managers in my time here. Both have been very good, as has the company as a whole, about encouraging people to take time off and just get away for a while. We do have a cap on our vacation time (168 hours for under 5 years, 192 above, it all rolls over year-to-year) but I’ve never been anywhere near it.

    I keep hearing more and more stories about people not taking vacation time and I’m glad that our company seems to push people to take some time off, turn off the email and just walk away for a few days.

    • Ali E.

      That is a very generous policy. Can I ask what the company is? I have triple the vacation time that my husband gets (similar to what you have) and we are hoping to have more time off together as a family. It’s always nice to hear about good management and strong supportive workplace policies- definitely not the norm these days.

  • vjacobsen

    #5) Those bank apps screw up all the time. The last couple of times I’ve used it to try to deposit a check, it’s refused and made me go to a bank. At least when I go through the drive up, there’s no mystery if my transaction will get accepted.

  • Ryan V
  • MrE85

    I’ll stop by the MPR booth if I have the time. Parade, lecture…it’s a busy day at the Fair for me today.
    1) Guilty. Over the past 30 years, I’ve used maybe half the vacation days I’ve earned. I’m trying to break that habit as I near retirement.
    2) Another civil war in the Middle East. Horrifying, but what are we supposed to do about it?

    • jon

      1) not a problem I suffer through, I use my vacation, one way or another, though as I’m saying this I have at least 2 weeks of time off accumulated…
      2) not another civil war in the middle east, it’s the same civil war in the middle east for the last 2 and a half years… in the time that egypt has overthrown their government established a democracy, and then overthrown that, syria hasn’t gotten past the first overthrow of their government. This war has been going on for almost 2.5 years… and other than occasionally taking notice, the US public generally ignores it. When we do pay attention to it, it is only because we are criticizing a local political party/politician for not doing more about it.

  • Vince Tuss

    I use one of two U.S. Bank branch drive-ins. Used to hate them for the ecological waste, but now I have kids. I went to one of them downtown last week, and I wondered when the last person had dropped by and wondered how boring it might have been waiting for someone. At the neighborhood branch, those tellers are shuffling back and forth to the counter and the windows. They’re always busy.

  • jaime

    #1: I admit that I have lost vacation time because I’ve failed to take it. However, I am the only person who does direct “customer service” for students looking into going to a specific college program so if I take vacation I pay for it for many days when I get back just trying to catch up on emails and returning phone calls. So the vacations I do take better REALLY be worth it. Additionally, my employer (U of MN) offers “professional development leave” whereby I can request an extended leave to, in theory, pursue some sort of course or research that will advance/enhance my professional goals (obviously it would need to be approved by my supervisor). Problem is that I work on a yearly contract, so in theory my employer could hire someone in my absence, decide they will work out better, and choose to not renew my contract. So I guess it is a bit of fear creeping in for that particular “benefit” option.

    #2: Disgusting. I’m not sure there’s any situation that would make using a taser on a nursing home resident ok.

    #3: Kudos for the family for wanting to adopt! I wonder why they are choosing an international adoption – would a US adoption be less expensive and help kids closer to home? No judgment; I am asking because I’m not familiar with adoption rules/regulations/policies/options.

    #4: Civil wars are messy and brutal and it’s hard to watch the videos and read the media reports from that region of the world. Yes, it’s been going on for a long time and I would expect that it’s not going to end soon. Our own civil war lasted 4-ish years and considering that the Confederate flag still makes an appearance, some are still fighting it…

    Bonus III: I sure hope the person filming has a boat nearby. Don’t think I would be comfortable standing on the EDGE OF A SINKHOLE that just swallowed a bunch of trees.

    Bonus IV: The woman should get some sort of national recognition for her efforts – not everyone would have had the chutzpah to stand up and talk with the shooter. Kudos to her.

  • DavidG

    #1: We can only carry over 1 year’s worth of vacation, so I am using vacation time. However, I do often find myself scrambling to use the last hours over the limit at the end of the fiscal year, and carrying over a full year’s worth of vacation time.

    A large part of that is, in fact fear. I’ve been at my current job 8 years, but before that was 4 layoffs over 8 years. The payout of unused vacation time was a welcome cushion for unemployment, and that thought is still in the back of my mind.

  • Dave

    The war in Syria hasn’t registered with Americans because we haven’t (yet) invaded or bombed them. You could say the same thing for the umpteen wars going on in Africa or wherever else. Until we get directly involved, it’s not going to be on our minds. I don’t think that’s an American thing either. Who wants to follow closely every single war? You’d get clinically depressed in minutes.

    • A year ago, people thought all they had to do was change their Twitter avatars and retweet a bunch of stuff and countries could have democracy. Even the social media people are too bored to give a damn now. I sure hope no one is wondering how the Holocaust could’ve happened. It could happen easily today.

      • Dave

        I don’t know if it could happen “easily,” but I agree that it could happen again.

        As for the social media thing, yeah, that bugs me too. Just click “LIKE” on the prostate cancer page and suddenly we’ve solved prostate cancer. Bob, are you “aware” of breast cancer?

  • dwp4401

    #2 Well now…. NewsCut states that “Authorities are already circling the wagons.” Bob, you don’t know that. You are merely assuming that the cops did wrong… because that’s what you always think.

    Police are BAD… so says Bob Collins…

    • Circling the wagon meaning everybody’s clammed up on information. But thanks for playing, Duke.

      • dwp4401

        Not so fast. You ALWAYS assume the police are at fault. Read your own post. You have been doing this stuff for years…. you are seldom right.

        • jon

          Seems like a bit of an unfair assessment…
          Bonus II: http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2012/11/5x8_-_113012/
          Doesn’t seem to put the police at fault for anything.
          “I see a kid who cared about his town and died making sure someone else in town was OK”

          • dwp4401

            Jon, I remember those posts and they don’t change my opinion at all. I have been an eye witness to events that Bob Collins has written about and acts as if he were a participant. He has an agenda.

            He has a template and he will not allow his crayon to color outside the lines that the Main Stream Media has chosen.

            BTW, I wish I had the easy access to NewsCut archives that some people seem to have. 😉

          • I use Google just enter “MPR Newscut” and your keyword. Works great. It’s all I ever use.

  • kennedy

    Re#2: Not all old people are physically infirm. A while back there was an incident where one nursing home resident body slammed another, killing him.

    NBC News – Verne Gagne

    • wendywulff

      Agreed. The nursing home called the police for a reason. They were unable to handle him. He was armed with a knife and a scissors, and put the knife to his own throat. Trying to wrestle with him wasn’t an option, or the nursing home employees would have done that themselves. So the cop,found himself having to make a split second decision, and the guy died of pneumonia, while they were treating his injuries. I feel awful for him and his family, but it isn’t really fair to judge the cop in hindsight.

      I know 3 cops whose careers ended, their ability to work in any job, or even function normally in their families ended, because they hesitated to use force on an emotionally disturbed person. One of them got a brief mention in the news, but no support from the city where they worked. One of the emotionally disturbed people was let go by the courts because of their emotional disturbance, and proceeded to assault someone else.

  • Guest

    Jaime, both of my sons came to our family through adoption, one internationally and one domestically. We choose the international route at first partly because it was a more certain path. Most domestic adoptions these days, the birth families are picking you. Which is fine, but we had put off having a family for so long, we wanted to make sure we actually get started. Since then, an already complicated paperwork process for international adoption has gotten even more so. Plus, we’ve aged out of a few programs. Since we were less pressed on the family front the second time and friends of ours had a successful domestic adoption, we went the domestic route. Both can be fraught with expense and paperwork, but I’ve been happy both times.

  • It’s a delicious coincidence that the taser story comes the same day as the one about Antionette Tuff.

  • Jeff

    I love taking a vacation. It shows how valuable I am to my organization. I have to spend a lot of time training other people to do my job while I’m away and they see how much work they have to do when I’m gone.