Face it: Things can't get any better for you. It's Friday and your name isn't Denny Hecker.
1) You're at work now, aren't you? Trying to get your "fix" of money. Your brain thinks money is a drug. You feel better just counting it, NPR reports. One expert says "the long-lasting connection between being reminded of money and feeling less pain appears to be an elaborate example of something psychologists call priming, in which thinking about one thing can subconsciously trigger a related response."
2) The upside of being laid off. Claudia Becque was a good marathon runner who hadn't quite made it to highest level of competition. Her job as a nurse left little time to train. Then Claudia got a pink slip. She had just bought a house, and she was scared. But then she decided to make the best of unemployment. She dedicated her days to practice. Claudia's times improved and she got a glimpse of what life as an elite athlete could be. She even qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials. American Public Media's The Story has the story.
So what's to worry about? Steve Olson's "How to Think Yourself Free" post on his blog today is a step-by-step with dealing with the worry of, for example, losing your job. What's the worst that could happen? What's the best that could happen?
4) When Shon Meckfessel first realized he was getting a cold last week, I wonder if he was upset about it. It saved him from being thrown into an Iranian jail like three of his colleagues, including Minnesota native Shane Bauer. He writes on the New American Media site:
I spoke with Shane twice that evening. I called him at around 8 PM and he told me they'd just been dropped off near a strip of restaurants in Ahmed Awa. A couple hours later he told me they had followed a trail up from the strip of restaurants to the waterfall, and were continuing on the same trail to camp in peace. On July 31, I woke up feeling better and decided to join my friends. At about 11:30 AM I called Shane. He told me the weather had been mild all night. That morning they had woken up early and resumed hiking along the same trail. Shane sounded very calm and content, happy to be in a beautiful environment, and made absolutely no mention of any risk whatsoever. I am absolutely certain that they had no knowledge of their proximity to the Iranian border or they would have never continued in that direction. Shane told me they were planning to turn around soon. He thought we could meet up near the waterfall.
Two text messages to Bauer were not answered, he writes.
5) I watched a lot of the funeral yesterday for Harry Patch, the last UK veteran of World War I and couldn't help wondering if the U.S. would similarly slow down for a day to honor its last member of a generation. Would a band -- Radiohead, for example -- release a song in tribute to him? Would we even recognize his name (pssst: It's Frank Buckles)?
Bonus: Because Fridays are for soft landings to the weekend, that's why.
Starting this weekend, paying customers will once again be looking at preserved, posed corpses in a Twin Cities exhibit. Meanwhile, an Illinois woman has received the heart of a Minnesota soldier who died from wounds suffered in battle in Afghanistan. Whether for science, commercial use or to save the life of another person, agreeing to give up your earthly remains is likely to involve some soul-searching. Would you donate your body for use after death?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: The balance between animal rights and the cultural claims on animals as food. Second hour: The future of fish.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: St. Olaf College political science professor Dan Hofrenning talks about the work of the Congress and the first seven months of the Obama administration. Second hour: Patrick Bergin of the Africa Wildlife Foundation, speaking about conservation and Africa's wild animals. It's animal day at MPR.
Talk of the Nation (1 - 3 p.m.) Science Friday. New solar deals in the southwest, the future of human, should we try to engineer a cooler planet, the life of Frank Oppenheimer, the man behind San Francisco's 'Exploratorium,' and beekeeping in an era of disappearing bees.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Tim Post looks at the Obama administration's plan to get banks out of the student loan business and how that's playing in Minnesota.
Euan Kerr reports on two young filmmakers who set off to find out if love exists. One of them fell in love.
This feels like a good weekend for one of our not-particularly-famous "weekend in Minnesota" photo albums. So send me your pictures and maybe we'll put one together. All pictures should be from this weekend.
August: Let's get rid of it. (h/t: Julie Siple)
Depending on your party persuasion, there are two narratives going on today regarding political discourse and the apparent backlash against Democratic policies.
If you're a Democrat: There's an incivility from Republicans that's impinging intelligent discussions.
If you're a Republican: Funny, but dissent was patriotic when Democrats were doing it.
Regardless of which camp you're in, a confrontation in St. Louis County was the predictable progression. Warning: There are obscenities in this video.(7 Comments)
The number of U.S. airliners (Airbus 330s) with malfunctioning speed systems is up to 12, the Associated Press reports today. All of them involve Airbus jets operated by Northwest Airlines.
Transportation officials are investigating a series of similar malfunctions. The recent discovery was described by people close to that investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
If pilots don't know how fast they're flying -- and apparently the pilots on these flights didn't -- there's a chance the jets could break apart by exceeding their structural limits. That is believed to have been a possible contributor to the Air France crash off the coast of Brazil in June.
Northwest and US Airways are the only (U.S.) airlines operating Airbus (330) jets.(7 Comments)
The National Vital Statistics Report has released birth, marriage, divorce, and death statistics for 2008 today.
The bottom line for Minnesota:
>> Fewer births than 2007, but not by many (5,719 vs. 5,887). Chalk it up to cold winters. Nationally, most births are in July. I'll do the math for you. October.
>> We're dyin' here. Deaths increased from 37,116 in 2007 to 38,529 in 2008. That's at least three straight months of increasing deaths.
>> The number of marriages have dropped for three years running. Minnesota did not provide divorce data, however. Marriage rates in Minnesota have been dropping since the '40s.
Times are tough but every now and again we get a reminder that we've got it better than most.
A couple of things happened this week that allowed me to take stock of things a bit better.
Act One: Yesterday a small group of newsroom types met with visiting TV and radio reporters from Iraq. Although it was fascinating to hear concerns about how they are to survive doing TV or radio and the Internet (this is a global complaint of mainstream journalists), it was the moment at which they asked about the role of government in our work, and this thing called "independence" we have.
MPR News Director Bill Wareham explained that we aren't owned by the government, we don't have to answer to the government, we don't clear our material through the government, we don't have a requirement to help state government, in particular, "get its message out."
We've seen the reaction before from visiting foreign journalists. How do you explain journalistic freedom and independence to people who have no concept of it? It surely must be as difficult to comprehend as us imagining living in a world where we have no such freedom.
Act Two: TED has posted a new video featuring Emmanuel Jal. His story of being a child soldieer in Sudan is not a new story. It's just one that never seems to lose its intensity.
How's your life going?(2 Comments)
Time Magazine turns the idea of juvenile detention upside down.
Researchers found that rather than rehabilitating young delinquents, juvenile detention -- which lumps troubled kids in with other troubled kids -- appeared to worsen their behavior problems. Compared with other kids with a similar history of bad behavior, those who entered the juvenile justice system were nearly seven times more likely to be arrested for crimes as adults.
While the study involved only boys in Montreal, US News observed, "the researchers note that the juvenile justice system in the province of Quebec has a reputation of being among the best."
What we don't have, is an alternative.(3 Comments)
The Federal Reserve today reported that consumers have paid down their credit cards and reduced debt for the fifth straight month. The cut is much steeper than what analysts had expected. In June, the Fed says, Americans cut outstanding consumer debt by $10.3 billion.
Let's go behind the numbers on that one.
There are 304,059,724 million people in the U.S. On a per-capita basis, consumer debt was reduced by a little over $33.
Not everyone has consumer debt, of course, but almost every household does. There are an estimated 111,161,226 households. On average, households reduced their total debt in June by about $92.65.
How much more to go before we have this debt paid off? There's $2.5 trillion in consumer debt still out there, or $22,514 per household.
If we reduce that at the rate of $96 a month, we'll be good to go in about 20 years.