Falling airplanes, leaving family for work, the fake eclipse and you as digital conductor (5×8 – 11/4/13)

The Monday Morning Rouser:


We’re still waiting for the Go Pro footage of Saturday’s near-disaster over Superior, Wisconsin when two planes full of skydivers collided (animation here). Some parachutists usually wear the camera and it might provide a clue over how the planes hit each other, tearing the wings off one. All of the parachutists made it out alive and one of the pilots was able to land his safely. Wreckage from the other landed in Superior’s fairgrounds.

Someone is going to have to pay dearly for the footage (although the NTSB is going to want to get it for nothing). The instructor who has it is looking for some big money to help him get the business running again, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

Eleven survivors reportedly were to appear on NBC’s Today Show this morning, but a segment aired, there were no guests. (Update: It appears Good Morning America bought the footage, Minnesota Brown reports)

Mike Robinson, one of them, earlier told the Star Tribune how it happened.

“We were just a few seconds away from having a normal sky-dive when the trail plane came over the top of the lead aircraft and came down on top of us,” Robinson said. “There was this terribly loud bang. And a flash of fire. The wing and the strut supporting it broke off into a fireball, leaving us nothing to hang on to.

Several of those involved say they’d go back up in the air when they get the opportunity.

Barry Sinex, one of the instructors aboard, wrote an essay two years ago on how the sport changed his life:

In 1999, I founded Sinex Aviation Technologies and created software that currently runs the heavy-maintenance departments for major airlines. Unfortunately, the investors in my company began believing they could do it better. So, I quit. Yup, I quit my own company. I still owned 45 percent, which really sucked, and initiated my mid-life crisis. I had money and was bored—that’s a bad combination; just ask anybody.

So, here came the dreams again, but in them I was crashing face first into the ground most of the time. (By the way, the dreams are not a metaphor. They really were my dreams). I went to Skydive Superior in Wisconsin and plunked down the money for seven student skydives. It really scared the snot out of me. My stomach used to flip every time the door opened, and I would say to myself, “WTF?” On jump 13, just before the door opened, I came to the realization that the parachute will open. And between then and now, there has beena lot of flying, just like in my dreams.

Now, some six years later, I am instructing student skydivers. Each time I jump with a student, the fear, exhilaration and joy of my first jump returns, crushing my mid-life crisis. I sincerely appreciate the medicinal effects of the drop zone and its extended Androsky family of skydivers. Strangely, I no longer dream about skydiving, but why should I? I’m living my dreams.


There was an interesting letter from Mike McLean of Richfield in the Star Tribune yesterday, reacting to last Sunday’s excellent article about a Wisconsin man who has, basically, given up watching his kids grow up and being with his family, to make some pretty good money in North Dakota’s Oil Patch.

The Klefstads have a goal of being debt-free by the age of 40. Both Andrew and Tiffany are sacrificing; Andrew by having to leave home for three weeks at a time and Tiffany for managing the family alone while Andrew is gone.

Several decades ago, Greyhound buses would leave the Iron Range on Sunday night loaded with workers and head to Beulah, N.D., where they helped build the gasification plant. On Friday night, they would board the buses to head home, only to leave again two days later.

Both examples are of people who did not sit around saying they could not find work. They went to where the work was instead of waiting for a government program to take care of them.

Is the choice that clear? That simple? There are people who will give up their family to work and people who want someone to take care of them? Those are questions that strike at the very heart of policy over the economy these days, and it contrasts with yesterday’s St. Cloud Times story following up on the people who lost their jobs when the Verso plant in Sartell caught fire, and was later deemed not worth keeping in business.

Seventy of eighty-six people employed have found other work, making about 88 percent of what they did before.

Not ideal, perhaps, but those are jobs. How did it happen? The government got involved, according to the Times:

The 134 people who received training also benefited from the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which paid for education and made them eligible for extended unemployment benefits. Another 80 former Verso workers aged 50 and older received a state Reemployment Trade Assistance supplement of 50 percent of the wage difference between the jobs the people left behind and what they’re able to get in new employment. The benefit can mean up to $10,000 in the first two years.

“The thought process in the subsidy is to get people back to work and, … they’ll get raises or promotions that will help get them back toward where they were,” said Dave Green, program manager at the SBETC. “It’s not going to make up the difference, but hopefully it can take some sting out.”

But many of the workers were older, and it’s hard to find a job when you’re older.

“I see some of the people I worked with on the street now and I just want to go up and give them a hug,” Ginger Johnson said of her former colleagues. “I’m almost positive most people don’t make the same money or have the same vacation and benefits they used to have. The stress has been bad the last couple of years. But some I run into, they’ve found other jobs or they’re going to school or they’re retired. They seem happy. But then I’m an optimist.”

Which brings us back to the question we asked last Monday — how much family and roots would you give up for a job somewhere else?

Related: Are robotic smart machines behind the jobless recovery? (CBC News)


This picture of the weekend’s solar eclipse is getting handed around the Internet…


It’s fake.

Phil Plait at Slate says:

There are plenty of clues to show it’s not real, if you know where to look. For one, the real eclipse was annular, meaning a lot of the Sun was still seen around the silhouetted Moon. That’s not apparent here. Plus, the bright Earth (and Sun!) would wash out the background stars in a picture like this, so you’d not see them, and certainly not the Milky Way (the fuzzy band under the eclipse in the artwork).

The picture is certainly realistic otherwise! The artist notes he used images from the European Southern Observatory; the Earth and Milky Way are both clearly real shots.

Related: These Are Some of the Most Amazing Views of Earth You'll Ever See (Wired Science).


Brian Solis, who studies and speaks on the impact of social media, considers his connected life.

I’m not addicted. I’m not in need of a digital intervention or digital detox. I intentionally live this connected lifestyle because I find value more times than not. It’s a choice. But, still I wonder. I wonder if the value I get out of my interaction across a dizzying array of networks is right or simply right in the absence of discovering alternative value or utility.

It comes down to virtue I suppose and where I choose to rank the qualities of social networks and connectedness in what ultimately defines who I am and what I do. Again, it’s a choice

In social media, there has to be something more fulfilling than attention and validation around this digital self-expression. There must be something more rewarding than the measure of people who see or respond to my expressions.

A Like, Retweet, comment, response, or view shouldn’t mean as much as they appear to, yet I see those who are consumed by the duality of a social life support system…living life in the real and digital life and trying desperately to tie them together. By way of illustration, Millennials and Generation Z kindle an unhealthy fixation on the number of interactions and followers they have on Instagram and Tumblr. Just follow the activities of a 13 year old on Tumblr, SnapChat or Ask.fm to see appreciate the inordinate worth placed on the number of people that follow them or respond to updates. If they don’t get what it is they solicit, they’ll try again…this time with a bit more fervor. As time passes, they’re self-conditioned to expect a baseline reaction.


The best picture in the news is at the top of this page.

Winona Senior High School junior Hunter Bailey was running a five kilometer race at the Minnesota State High School League cross country meet and running sixth not far from the finish line — a pretty good spot to be in for a kid who missed last year’s race because of health issues.

That’s when he pulled or tore a muscle, the Winona Daily News reports:

This was another blow to a humble athlete that always says “thank-you” after an interview, says yes sir to race officials and offers to bring a spare set of headphones for a teammate, just in case they forget.

But, sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes your boss yells at you for being too chatty at work. Sometimes you don’t get the last piece of chocolate cake and sometimes your body gets hurt at the most important time in your cross country race, when your making your move toward the front of the pack.

It will be all about perspective from here on out. Bailey has one more cross country season and two in track and field. I’ve watched Bailey’s brain battle his body as he worked through that iron deficiency last season. He made enough of an impression to be ranked by the coaches association. Others believe he belongs on the podium and will eventually get there.

He’s a lucky kid, though. He had a dad who was there.

As usual, the MSHSL’s John Millea has some other fine stories from Saturday’s meet.

Bonus I: Saturday Night Live takes on the controversy over its lack of diversity among its cast.

Bonus II: Ten Lost North Dakota Places (GhostsofNorthDakota.com).

Bonus III: Is this an accurate reflection of Uptown life?


An apartment complex in Uptown is marketing itself in the same way Las Vegas marketed itself with its “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas campaign.” The apartment complex’s suggestive ad campaign says “don’t get married until you spend a year” in the building. Get it out of your system and have fun doing so. Another sign says “‘I don’t remember her name, but her APARTMENT!'” And a third says, “Tarts welcome.”

(h/t: Ali Lozoff. Josh Carson via Facebook)

Should the U.S. government reconsider clemency for Edward Snowden?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: How to fix the ACA.

Second hour: Should E-cigarettes be banned?

Third hour: Garrison Keillor discusses his new book of poetry “O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound.”

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, speaking at the National Press Club about national parks, conservation, and generations to come.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – Neil Tyson deGrasse discusses “Dark Universe,” a new show about the stuff our cosmos are made of. Plus: A look back at the National Cancer Act.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The Minnesota GOP says health plans sold on MNsure are 20 percent more expensive than what’s available on the market today. Not wrong, but misleading by omission of context. MPR’s Catharine Richert will have a Poligraph update.

Remember when the first down in football was NOT marked by a yellow line? The technology behind that TV visual revolutionized the way people watch the sport. And the company behind that technology has changed the way we enjoy many other sports. NPR takes a look inside Sportsvision.