1) Some readers are upset that the New York Times publicized "a wonderful loophole" to avoid paying the $25 baggage fee to the airlines. And a good loophole it is:
At the end of the jetway, before stepping onto the plane, Mr. (Greg) Hamilton simply inquired if he could check his bag right there. A luggage handler who was waiting for strollers, car seats and other carry-on overflow was happy to oblige. "They put a tag on it and we boarded the plane," he said. No charge. No stress. "When we got off, the bag showed up pretty quickly," he added.
Traveling to and from New Orleans last weekend gave me the opportunity to watch people try to jam baby grand pianos into the overhead bins. Flight attendants, of course, were exasperated, but there's really no one else to blame but the airlines for whom they toil.
But why wouldn't the airlines go this route? First, it's easy money. Passengers are paying. Second, the IRS has ruled this week that the income the airlines get is not taxable.
Discussion point: Is there a better way?
One woman approached my fellow flying partner, sobbing, not wanting to go. She had just buried her daughter. Her son's eyes were filled with blood all around the white parts, victim to some sort of trauma. One thing that struck us all was that they were dressed in their Sunday best clothing. Men in suits, women in dresses with head garb, children dressed nicely. In spite of everything they had gone through, they were dressed like they were sitting in first class. You don't even see that in first class anymore!
It's all starting to make a difference:
Meanwhile, a TV anchor in Duluth says she can't read news about Haiti anymore, so she's moving to Haiti.
3) The latest battleground over government intervention is the mouths of preschoolers in Massachusetts. A new law has gone into effect that requires kids in preschool and day care to brush their teeth if they eat food there. "We're supposed to have rest time, and now we have to eat a little earlier so there's enough time for the children to brush their teeth. It's not the happiest moment," one day care provider says.
4) The full moon tonight is the largest of the year, says space.com.
A good time to look is around sunset when the Moon is near the eastern horizon. At that time, illusion mixes with reality to produce a truly stunning view. For reasons not fully understood by psychologists, low-hanging Moons look unnaturally large when they beam through foreground objects such as buildings and trees. Why not let the "Moon illusion" amplify a full Moon that's extra-big to begin with? The swollen orb rising in the east may seem close enough to touch.
5) Contemplating how good you have it. What's the worst job you can imagine? How about debt collector?
In the nearly three years that John Goebel has worked in debt collections, calling people on the phone to try to get them to pay their overdue bills, he says the responses break down into three categories: Most are angry, some are apathetic, and the occasional few break down in tears, right there on the phone.
Bonus: Cellphone bans don't work, according to a study being released today by an insurance group. "If crash risk increases with phone use and fewer drivers use phones where it's illegal to do so, we would expect to see a decrease in crashes," the study's author says. "But we aren't seeing it. Nor do we see collision claim increases before the phone bans took effect. This is surprising, too, given what we know about the growing use of cellphones and the risk of phoning while driving. We're currently gathering data to figure out this mismatch."
Maybe. But the group studied only four states and a limited amount of data in each of them. Besides, who among us hasn't -- and probably recently -- encountered a careless driver on the road who coincidentally was chatting it up? Who are you going to believe: Researchers or your lying eyes? But the study I'd like to see done. Who are these people talking to? What's so important?
Yesterday famed author J.D. Salinger died at the age of 91. His books, most notably Catcher in the Rye, have been formative reading experiences for generations of young people. What book changed your life?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: The link between salt and health, and the economic, social, and scientific reasons that we choose the foods we eat.
Second hour: Grammy winners interviewed by Kerri Miller in 2009
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: A preview of the major education issues legislators will face in the 2010 session starting next week.
Second hour: TBA
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - It's Science Friday! First hour: A look at NASA's newly stationary rover. Plus, high arts at the Planetarium, and the secret of the sexless rotifer.
Second hour: A discussion with theoretical physicist Sean Carroll about the mysteries of time and the universe.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - "Accordo" is a new chamber quintet made up of players from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra. Accordo is performing at the Southern Theater on Sunday. Chris Roberts reports on what the group brings to an already rich chamber music scene.
Several school districts in southwestern Minnesota are banding together to come up with a common calendar that would include a pre-Labor Day start, a move long opposed by the state's tourism industry. MPR's Tom Weber will have the story.
With Haiti's devastating earthquake fresh in mind, NPR looks at one way that damage could be minimized from a large quake in this country. Scientists cannot predict precisely when an earthquake will hit, but they are developing ways to give people up to a minute of warning before the shaking starts.(3 Comments)
This Sunday is the 10th anniversary of the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261, which plunged into the Pacific because the airline didn't replace a worn "jackscrew" that control the jet's horizontal stabilizer -- equivalent to losing steering control in your car.
This week, relatives of some of the 88 passengers and crew talked to the Seattle Times about a pain that doesn't goes away, much of which -- an article today says -- was caused by lawyers:
They were using us to do their thing, and that thing was money," Mark Hall said.
Some families who lost men had to deal with fraudulent claims of paternity -- from women in India and Central America -- that had to be defended. The claimants were looking to reap money from any financial settlement with the airline.
Insurance companies for the airlines, trying to quantify the loss, tried to make people put pricetags on their children, spouses, parents and siblings. The victims suddenly were defined by their jobs and potential earnings.
Kathy Janosik, Rachel's mother, said attorneys for the insurance companies made the families feel they had to defend their loved ones' worth.
"My son was an artist," Pierrette Ing said. "Does that mean his life had less value? What about the grandbabies I might have had?"
Family members did receive settlements, but the amounts, which were not made public, varied.
But, as the Discovery Channel documentary above shows, most of the anger of the families is reserved for the airline that cut corners, and a government agency that didn't do its job.
The Atlantic's Lane Wallace considers a question most of us -- hopefully -- will never have to make -- when do we run away from danger, and when do we run toward it?
You've heard the stories of heroes who could save themselves but still risked their lives to help others. Who among us hasn't wondered, "Would I do that?"
We may have an instinct for survival, but it clearly doesn't always kick in the way it should. A guy who provides survival training for pilots told me once that the number one determining factor for survival is simply whether people hold it together in a crisis or fall apart. And, he said, it's impossible to predict ahead of time who's going to hold it together, and who's going to fall apart.
So what is the responsibility of those who hold it together? I remember reading the account of one woman who was in an airliner that crashed on landing. People were frozen or screaming, but nobody was moving toward the emergency exits, even as smoke began to fill the cabin. After realizing that the people around her were too paralyzed to react, she took direct action, crawling over several rows of people to get to the exit. She got out of the plane and survived. Very few others in the plane, which was soon consumed by smoke and fire, did. And afterward, I remember she said she battled a lot of guilt for saving herself instead of trying to save the others.
Could she really have saved the others? Probably not, and certainly not from the back of the plane. Just like the Hiroshima survivors, if she'd tried, she probably would have perished with them. So why do survivors berate themselves for not adding to the loss by attempting the impossible? Perhaps it's because we get very mixed messages about survival ethics.
Perhaps, it comes down to how we instantly make decisions. But what about the decisions we make when we've had time to consider all the angles?
How is it possible -- I'm asking myself today -- not to feel guilty about not running toward danger, when you read about a woman in Duluth who leaves her career behind to buy a one-way ticket to Haiti?(3 Comments)