Posted at 9:39 AM on January 11, 2008
by Bob Collins
Over the last decade, we've heard so many dire predictions of the future of the Northwest Airlines brand that we admit surprise that we're a bit misty-eyed at the prospect of the end of the red tail in these parts.
As MPR's Marty Moylan reports, the Delta Airlines board of directors today is deciding whether to pursue a merger with either United or Northwest.
"The airline has stated and restated its commitment to its hub and headquarters here in Minnesota. Obviously, whenever you have mergers or acquisitions, there are so many different variables, it certainly is enough to make anybody nervous. But we do think we are in pretty good shape in terms of having some leverage to encourage them to keep that hub and headquarters here."
That's from Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman Pat Hogan. But airlines are remarkably unemotional about long ties to a region, and he acknowledges nothing is guaranteed. It's nothing personal; it's just business.
What's the rush? High fuel prices, for one. But the Wall Street Journal (subscription) says a significant motivation is the belief that Democrats will soon occupy the White House and be less likely to approve a merger.
Still, some industry watchers are skeptical that a deal is coming. Take Ray Neidl of Calyon Securities, for example.
"I think they're just trying to generate [public relations]," he told the Atlanta Constitution. If the companies were considering serious negotiations, "it wouldn't be published."
And Douglas McIntyre of the Web site 24/7 Wall Street, suggests mergers in an industry people late probably won't solve many problems.
The assumption that putting two big airlines together will save money is undoubtedly true. Compared to overall costs, those savings are probably very, very modest. Running Northwest costs about $12 billion a year. So much of that goes into fleet costs, fuel, and labor that there is not much to cut. Employees can be pushed out over time, but the unions are sensitive about it.
The largest single problem with merger two carriers is that consumers already hate airlines. The quality of service keeps dropping. They don't serve free peanuts anymore. The planes are dirty.
The head of US Air recently admitted that its merger with America West had been a train wreck of the first order. Reservation systems don't work. The employees of each company dislike one another. To put a point on it, the new company has all the hallmarks of an operator that is driving customers to rival airlines.
A merger between Delta and another large airline is not going to solve any problems. The modest savings of the combination will likely be offset by customer defections due to the poor service that comes from integrating two big carriers.
Posted at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2008
by Bob Collins
Tell us again about how video games (and consoles) rot the mind.
IBM and the Mayo Clinic are teaming up to use game console technology to advance the doctors' ability to quickly look at a brain, according to Computerworld magazine.
The chip being used is the one on which a Playstation runs.
There is, as it turns out, a connection between computers and doctors. Bradley Erickson, chairman of radiology at Mayo, invoked Moore's Law to explain the problem doctors face in reviewing images of brains. There's too many of them coming too fast. Moore's Law states that "the number of transistors that can be inexpensively placed on an integrated circuit is increasing exponentially, doubling approximately every two years."
If the PS3 chip idea works, Mayo docs will be able to compare before/after pictures of patients' brains within seconds.
How important is the non-gaming use of a gaming chip?
“It's been a godsend, a gift to science, to use this,” said Klaus Schulten, director of the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group at the Beckman Institute of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He uses the chip to generate computer simulations of working components of human cells in a process that starts with an expensive supercomputer crunching data about millions of atoms.
And it all started with Pong.
(Hat Tip: Michael Wells)
Posted at 11:47 AM on January 11, 2008
by Bob Collins
Wasn't December supposed to be death for retailers?
It wasn't at Best Buy, unless you think a 1.5 percent increase in same-store sales is something to sneeze at when we're being told hourly that consumers are pulling back and we're on the precipice of a recession.
The Minnesota-based electronics company reported today that after adjusting for a calendar shift that moved a post-Thanksgiving shopping week to November, same store sales increased 3 percent.
The Wall Street Journal describes the increase as modest, but for a bellweather stock, surely a modest increase has got to lift spirits of the folks out on the ledge, especially since it shows the housing slump isn't crushing everybody.
"OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet."
Jane Hambleton wasn't messing around when she found the booze in her son's car. "All of which proved one thing," the Washington Post said today, "America needed this. Oh boy, did we need this kind of tough love, the kind that says, 'I am not your friend. I am your mother. Eat your peas. Now.'"
So how did one parent in a country of about 80 million of them get on Oprah, or Good Morning America, or the Ellen Degeneres Show? She disciplined her kid. Perhaps that should tell us something.
The question of the right thing to do when it comes to parenting teens is rarely simple, however.
In the wake of the punishment handed out to 13 Eden Prairie High School students, whose party pictures appeared on Facebook, some parents found out what it's like to be stuck in a difficult position.
There was no proof alcohol was involved. There was no proof it wasn't. If it was your kid, do you side with the school, even if your son or daughter is claiming innocence? Or do you call the lawyer?
What's the right thing to do? Trust your kid, or trust the school?
I called Colleen Gengler in Worthington, a family relations specialist with the University of Minnesota regional extension service there.
"You back the school," she said. "But you just don't flat out say, 'nope, I don't believe you.'"
Even if there's no definitive proof of wrongdoing by your child?
"I would tell them, 'this is a consequence of putting the pictures online. There may or may not have been alcohol involved, but it's not whether I know for sure; it's how it appears and your responsibility for how it appears.'"
Ms. Gengler says the incident should spawn conversations between parents and their children about the social networking sites. "We would suggest they (parents) monitor it or ask their teen to allow them to take a look at their Facebook page, and determine whether it's appropriate. You want to get the teen to be responsible."
And on that topic -- responsibility -- listen to a special segment of All Things Considered tonight at 5:30 on young people and excessive drinking. During the half hour, host Tom Crann will talk with Nanci Oleson on how parents can communicate with their teens. Nanci covers family issues for Minnesota Public Radio and is author of the blog, How's the Family?(5 Comments)