Who should be honored, the power of a grandson, walking the Twitter trail, why is customer service so hard, and the power of the sofa.
If you had to make a choice, which would you choose: Iran with nuclear weapons and us with lower gasoline prices or higher gasoline prices and a disarmed Iran?
The U.S. and other nations have chosen an economic sanctions route in their effort to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear program. And overnight, Iran responded by cutting off oil shipments to some Western countries.
Overnight in the Twin Cities, gasoline prices jumped about 20 cents a gallon -- to $3.55 -- and it's not because of Iran's action. It's an increase that's been in the pipeline since the price of a barrel of oil began rising several weeks ago, partly because oil investors are worried about the flow of oil from Iran drying up.
But Britain and France aren't big buyers of oil from Iran, and the U.S. doesn't import any Iranian oil so why does Iran's threats mean we pay higher gasoline prices?
Marketplace tackled that question this morning:
The news is pushing up prices partly because the market is concerned that what could follow next would be a further cutoff of supplies elsewhere in the region, including to major European buyers like Italy and Spain and so on. But also fears that as Saudi Arabia increases production to meet the shortfall in demand, that global spare capacity of oil production is starting to fall. And so, in the event of any unforeseen disruption to oil supplies elsewhere, the world may not have enough spare capacity to meet the incremental demand.
Already today, the price of a barrel of oil is up $1.70 -- to $105.30.
What does that mean for the driver? Almost a year ago we tracked the relationship between the price of a barrel of oil vs. the price of gasoline. It's a completely unscientific survey but a year ago the price of a barrel of oil was -- wait for it -- $105 a barrel -- what it is today. And the price of a gallon of gasoline was... $3.55 -- exactly what it is today.
Of course, the price of gasoline trails the price of oil. But it's clear that when a barrel gets to be about $119-$120 a gallon, we'll be paying about $4 for gasoline.
There's one proven method for reversing that trend: Use less oil.(7 Comments)
There are any number of reasons why I knew I had to drive out to Delano to meet Dave Grout last week, after he called to chat with me following a "newscast" I did on The Current a few weeks ago.
Grout, a Saint Paul native and son of a man who parlayed two peanut-vending machines at Lake Harriet into a nationwide coin-op game business -- pinball machines and jukeboxes -- is a long-time engineering "nerd."
"I started tinkering with radios when I was 8 years old, and started at the University of Minnesota when I was 15," he said. "I got my degree two weeks before I graduated from high school (in Hopkins). I was fascinated by mathematics and I was fascinated by electronics."
Grout says he worked on the space program when NASA was developing the Saturn V rocket ("they needed to be able to measure the stresses on the structure and I had done some work on a much smaller basis and I figured out a way to do it and provide telemetry to the control room"), helped calculate the landing site for the first Mars lander (Viking I), designed speakers and amplifiers for musicians, designed a power steering pump tester for Cadillac, restored jukeboxes, ran a pizza joint in Osseo, and took Joan Jett to his high school class' 50th reunion.
Which ones of those are true, I cannot confirm, but I can confirm the one factoid that made me want to visit him: He doesn't own a computer.
"They bore me to tears," he said.
What he's used his entire engineering life is a slide rule, the rotary telephone of engineers. We're guessing there aren't many people left who can do this, so I wanted to see it before the species becomes extinct.
Grout says this is a talent that needs to be taught in school again. "This thing is wonderful. You don't need a battery, all you need is a little light to see it. But you have to know some mathematics. In my world, if you can't do it with a piece of paper and a pencil, you ought not to be doing it with a machine because you won't know if the machine is lying to you."
Plus Joan Jett must think they're cool.(4 Comments)
For the second time in a couple of weeks, a flight crew on an airline was pulled off a flight, possibly because of alcohol consumption.
Pinnacle Airlines pulled the pilot, co-pilot, and flight attendant from its Grand Forks to Minneapolis flight yesterday. The Park Rapids Enterprise said the suspicion is that at least one of the crew members was drunk, or had been drinking within 12 hours of the flight, against company policy.
The action comes four days after Frontier Airlines intercepted a suspected drunk pilot.
Northwest Minnesota and Eastern North Dakota is responsible for one of the most famous examples of drunk flying. The crew of a Northwest Airlines flight from Fargo flew drunk in 1990, and did prison time for it.
In 2009, I met one of the participants in that case. Here's the post I wrote about it:
"Tell those people up in Minnesota 'I'm really sorry,'" Joe Balzer said to me as I left our meeting at the EAA air show in Oshkosh a few days ago. "I had my worst day," he said of the day he committed what many, perhaps, believe to be an unforgiveable act. He and two others on the flight crew of a Northwest Airlines flight with 91 people aboard, were drunk when they flew from Fargo to Minneapolis.
He was arrested, convicted, and sent to prison.
Before the flight, he and his crew spent hours in a Moorhead bar, pounding down rum and Cokes and beer.
"That evening I was full of fear," he said. "I was on probation from Northwest Airlines, things weren't going well with the crew, we were a little dysfunctional. It was a terrifying event. It was the culmination of the ultimate struggle. A year before I had a blackout in Los Angeles as a pilot for Eastern Airlines. I tried to quit drinking on my own... I didn't have a support group, I didn't have a 12-step group, I wasn't seeking wise counsel from others. My chances of success were not very good."
Balzer, who's just released his book, "Flying Drunk", says he got drunk for the first time when he was three years old, drinking with his grandfather.
The low point of his life was hours after his flight landed in Minneapolis. "There we were in (Northwest Airline's) headquarters and the results came back and they said, 'All three of you guys tested positive for alcohol,' and I thought, 'This is bad, I'm going to lose my job and I'm going to lose my pilot's license.' That night I was stranded in a hotel in Minneapolis and I paced it off in the room. I walked back from the window and I thought, 'If I get going good I can get through that window and do a swan drive.' That's how ashamed I was about what I'd done. I let myself down and I knew that, but I looked at that window and I thought, 'This isn't the right thing to do; it'd be very selfish.' I had a good cry from deep inside and I just decided to accept responsibility and change my life."
Nineteen years after the incident, and years after prison in Georgia, Balzer rebuilt his aviation ratings. "One day I walked into American Airlines after they saw me speak. I'd been rejected by over a hundred different airlines." He was hired.
Not all airline pilots have forgiven Balzer. After the arrests and trial in Minneapolis, airline pilots were the target of jokes from late-night comedians. "What matters is I own my part and I've made amends to my professional brothers who made a living," he said. "At the time I thought I was OK to fly and I know today with the clarity of a recovering person... I had no business being near an airplane that morning. Had it happened before? Yes. Does it happen with pilots? Yes. It's a problem with brain surgeons, and pastors, and school teachers, and everyone. Ninety-eight percent of alcoholics show up and do a job. There will be pilots who will still hold it against me personally and all I can do is say 'I'm sorry.'"
He's still flying for the airline and still speaking to people, knowing that there's probably a drunk in the audience. "The pilot who knows he has a problem is really playing with fire. Alcoholism is a 100-percent fatal disease. It's very important for pilots who have scared themselves ... just like I did out in Los Angeles ... if people are having episodes like that and finding themselves with DWIs, they need to get some help," he said.
One of his messages to airline pilots is seeking help doesn't have to involve losing a career. He says the FAA, pilots unions, and the airlines have created programs for recovery.
"First they can save their lives. Then they can save their careers," he said.
Listen to the interview: