If you die, how will your online friends know?
Many of you have "the envelope" tucked away in a desk somewhere. Scrawled on the front is something like, "do not open this until I'm dead." Maybe inside you've got the important stuff -- insurance papers or the locations of key documents. More often than not, the first time a family knows the envelope exists, is when they stumble across it years later while looking for a paper clip.
With more of our lives being spent online, who will know when you're gone? What will happen to all that stuff locked behind passwords only you know? What if there's stuff online that your survivors need to know that you never got around to telling them?
Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientist David Eagleman has set up the online version of the envelope called Deathswitch.
Here's how it works: You sign up for this and configure it the way you want. It sends you an e-mail however often you want to be "pinged," so that the Deathswitch can make sure you're still kicking. If you don't respond, it goes into "worry mode," and eventually, if you don't respond, it announces to the online world that, yes, you've gone toes up.
Here's an extended version of the Future Tense interview I did with Dr. Eagleman, who, incidentally, is also a writer of fiction. His first book is "Sum: Forty tales from the afterlife."3 Comments)
Five things for the water cooler. Can any offices still afford water coolers?
Speaking of baseball, cities are still considering building stadiums for professional baseball teams. Seriously. It's still 1999 somewhere.
The report also contains data on divorces, but Minnesota provides no data in this category. However, among our neighbors -- South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, as if you didn't know -- divorces are down pretty significantly.
Speaking of forgiveness, Smart Politics' Eric Ostermeier writes that requests for it in the case of Olson -- who we're hearing now has just put an English muffin in the toaster -- are unfounded.
Bob Bentley of South St. Paul has sent in some pictures worth sharing.
"I just wanted to share some pictures of a coyote we had visit us in downtown St. Paul on 3/16 and 3/17. He must have liked our little bit of shelter provided, because he was sill hanging around. We ended up calling animal control to capture him, after all, you just can't have a wild coyote right next door to United Hospital," he wrote.
Goes to show what a naturalist I am. I thought it was a fox.(8 Comments)
MPR's Midmorning is debating whether there's still a need for affirmative action. Guests in the 9 a.m. hour are Mary Frances Berry of the University of Pennsylvania and former chairperson of the Commission on Civil Rights; and John McWhorter, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and author of "Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America."
Kerri says the show stems from an appearance on the show by Gwen Ifill. She says the phones lit up when the subject of affirmative action came up so her staff knew they had to do an entire show on it.
9:09 a.m. - Berry says people have always referred to affirmative action as a quota to hire unqualified people and that's incorrect. She says it's clearly needed now. She says until the country comes up with something better, "we have to keep trying."
9:12 a.m. - McWhorter says a "very white person" has had it hard too. He says he witnessed a transition from race-based factors in universities where people would "automatically get affirmative action. You get it whether you want it or not." Basing it on skin color -- as opposed to, say, socio economic inequity -- in appropriate. (His article on the subject)
9:15 a.m. - "Nothing you've said is anything I think," Berry said. She says universities only "affirm." She says she's had many white people who don't do well on standardized tests who she's recommended. "It's about our country and our demography and who we include and what we think will be the future of our country." She says she looks at the "whole person."
9:20 a.m. - McWhorter: "People with brown skin are admitted with lower test scores".
Berry: "I don't know anywhere where that happens."
9:21 a.m. - Caller: Many people benefit who are white. She's a college instructor who says her class benefits. McWhorter says he sees "just as much diversity from the white Catholic who's 7 feet tall, from Chinese...."
9:22 a.m. - Online commenter says admission policies should be "class based." McWhorter agrees. Berry says most universities do admit people based on trying to get the working class and poor "a free ride." She does not think people who are poor should be admitted if the school isn't looking at "the whole person."
9:26 a.m. -- Kerri references the link I'd already provided above. McWhorter says he never met someone who scored well on an SAT 'who wasn't a great student.' Berry says she had one who flunked out in the first year.
9:28 a.m. - Berry explains her comment above. What she meant was that people are not admitted simply because they were black or Latino. McWhorter says he's seen that happen. "Outrageous," said Berry. First time today they've agreed on something.
Tangent time: California's ban on affirmative action under court scrutiny.
9:32 a.m. - A student at William Mitchell School of law calls to tell Berry about two cases before the Supreme Court (aside: Students, you might want to just bring up these cases for clarification, instead of trying to 'school' lawyers who live these things and probably have more intimate knowledge of the cases.).
9:36 a.m. - Pressed on whether policies of 'race only" is the consideration, McWhorter concedes "not only." But "they're trying to make 'race neutral' policies tip toward race," he said.
"In none of those California or Georgia cases did people say all they wanted to do is look at race, that's just academically irresponsible," Berry says. "You're making it sound like they're saying, 'oh, black people, let's put them in this pile.'"
"Nobody's saying that," McWhorter replied.
9:39 a.m. - "In the age of Obama, his being elected to the presidency does not resolve these issues," says Berry. "We still have all these propositions around the country... trying to get rid of affirmative action.
Tangent time: Life after affirmative action, Nebraska is trying to figure it out.
9:42 a.m. - If you're listening live, you're hearing references to Richard Sanders. Here's what they're talking about
9:43 a.m. - "Cosby" cited as an example of African American middle class. An attorney married to a doctor. That's usually not middle class in any race.
Debate over whether there should be more people of color on TV news. Berry says, "John, do you think that there are more people of color who are well educated who can read the news?" McWhorter says "yes."
This is an area where there is a lot of concern in journalism circles, that as the industry continues to die, it's taking out gains made by affirmative action first.
9:48 a.m. - Does MnDOT stiff minority-owned contractors? A caller says so and Berry says that's been the case in the construction industry for quite awhile.
"If there's evidence of discrimination in the contracting in Minnesota, then, yeah, you have to have some kind of program," McWhorter says.
9:50 a.m. - Mark from Woodbury calls to relay personal story. When he was an ungrad in Boston, he applied to several grad schools. He got a phone call from professor at U of Washington who said he could apply for many grants, and realized they were "Hispanic grants." Looking at his file later, he said he realized he was only accepted at the school because they thought he was Hispanic. He says he believes in affirmative action "when it's done right."
Berry says affirmative action is illegal in the state of Washington by referendum.
9:54 a.m. - McWhorter and Berry both say Obama probably won't make any statements above affirmative action. "He's a politician, he wants to be popular, and he wants to get re-elected," Berry says.
She says the images of he and his family has moved the discussion into an undesirable area of people thinking "we're done and we don't have to do any more."(13 Comments)
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reported today Minnesota's unemployment rate for February was 8.1 percent -- dead even with the national average.
Earlier this month, however, the department released data on the counties for January that shows the varying degrees of which Minnesotans are struggling. In Clearwater County, for example, the unemployment rate is over 21%. It's over 17% in Kanabec County.
Counties in the far southwestern part of the state, on the other hand, have unemployment rates under 6 percent. April 1983 was the last time the unemployment rate was this high (yes, now it's 1983), although the last time the state had this few people working was around 2000. And the number of unemployed here may now be the highest in the state's history, although the data only goes back on the department's Web site to 1976.
Politics in Minnesota notes that the rate of unemployment increases is among the highest in the nation. State officials predict the number of lost jobs in 2009 should hit 70,000. That figure could be hit by next month since the number of unemployment has increased by
56,000 32,000 this year alone.
Update 1:42 p.m. - Interesting chart at the Minneapolis Fed's Web site on the depth of the recession compared to other recessions.