The 99-week syndrome (5×8 – 1/27/11)

Why don’t long-term unemployed have a job, Tim Pawlenty: the sequel, heroes and zeroes, and the joy of human hibernation explored.


MIT’s Philip Greenspun dares ask the question “why don’t people get jobs after 99 weeks of unemployment? “It seems strange to pay someone for 99 weeks and hope that somehow the employers that didn’t want them when they were fresh out of work would somehow want them after two years of idleness,” he writes today.

He doesn’t stop there. He’s compiled a list of what someone could do over the course of 99 weeks:

* earn most or all of a bachelor’s degree if done at an efficient school such as University of Phoenix where courses are self-paced and/or in session all year rather than the lazy half-the-year calendar of a legacy university

* earn an MBA (1 year at a modern school; 2 years at a legacy school)

* become a competent video editor in Final Cut or Adobe Premiere (two weeks?)

* become a competent photo editor in Adobe Photoshop or The Gimp (two weeks?)

* develop reasonably fluency in a foreign language, even without an instructor, using tools such as RosettaStone (one year, possibly including a trip to Guatemala or China or wherever)

* start and finish an aviation maintenance degree and FAA certification (typically about 1.5 years)

* learn heavy equipment operation

* complete almost any trade school, e.g., plumbing or electrician

* go from zero computer knowledge to being a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer or a Cisco network engineer

You get the subtext, right? If you’ve been out of work for 99 weeks, you haven’t worked hard enough to make yourself marketable.

Greenspun asks, perhaps rhetorically, what’s wrong with his thinking?

Who’d like to take that one?


You had to know this was coming. After Tim Pawlenty’s fabulous cinematography wow’d ’em in Hollywood with his trailer for his book, the spoofs are beginning. That’s just the way it works on YouTube, governor. The first comes from an old nemesis of the governor’s — Alliance for a Better Minnesota:

.. and another…


If you’re looking for a “what would I have done?” story, this is it. The Duluth News Tribune this morning has the unbelievable tale of two ice fishermen, stranded on broken ice on Lake Superior in a storm.

It was awful,” said Popko, 61. “It was like a bowl of Jell-O with all this busted-up ice. He (Wick) and I would be in troughs between the waves, and we couldn’t see each other. … I really didn’t think I was going to make it.”

The heroes? Members of the Ashland Fire Department — government workers, you know — who braved white-out conditions because someone needed help.

Did someone say heroes. More grandparents are raising their grandchildren, MPR’s Tom Robertson reports today. “They’re trying to figure out how they are going to have a secure retirement,” an AARP spokesman says. “They’re worried about the cost of health care, and now many of them are now faced with helping their children and their grandchildren get back on their feet, too, so it really is a tough time.”



Sgt. James B. Hurley was off fighting in Iraq. While he was, a bank swooped in and foreclosed on his home, even though a law there — like one in Minnesota — barred the bank from doing so. It is, sadly, a typical story of banks calling the shots. It should have been an easy fix. The law is on Sgt. Hurley’s side, right? It didn’t matter.

A new report, by the way, says this and the economic meltdown were entirely avoidable.


If bears can hibernate, why can’t humans? Researchers at the University of Minnesota Duluth are studying hibernation therapy that might benefit transplant recipients, trauma survivors and surgical patients.

All of which is nice, but many people are wondering if we can just sleep through winter? No.

One thing to think about: Bears have dangerously high levels of cholesterol when they hibernate.

It’s appropriate, perhaps, that Minnesota seems to be at the heart of hibernation research.

Almost 12 years ago, a U of M researcher claimed he’d discovered the “switching gene” that tells the body to store fat for hibernation. And yet, here we are… up early and heading for work.


President Obama on Tuesday called the present time “our generation’s Sputnik moment.” But he also noted that the United States ranks ninth in the proportion of young people with college degrees. Does America have what it takes for a Sputnik moment?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Friday is the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Midmorning examines what lessons the nation has learned about coping with disaster since the Challenger exploded before our eyes in 1986.

Second hour: Much has been written about George Washington, but less is known about how George Washington’s upbringing and private life shaped his view on politics and leadership. Historian Ron Chernow’s new biography aims to change that.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Gov. Mark Dayton’s senior advisor for job creation, Kathy Tunheim

Second hour: An international radio town hall from PRI, connecting Kabul, Afghanistan and Washington DC. The broadcast is called “Joined by War: A Conversation Between Afghans and Americans.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Brooke Army Medical Center is the Pentagon’s only burn center. Dr. Ian Black sees wounded soldiers and Marines with horrific injuries. He’ll discuss advances in military medicine.

Second hour: . Telling the stories of Mexican-Americans, voices of Chicano literature The House on Mango Street gave Chicana writer Sandra Cisneros a voice.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Despite the Minneapolis school district’s decision to honor all credits received at Broadway High School, and the district’s insistence that students are not to blame, students say they still feel like they’re being punished. With the disclosure that some credits might have been improperly awarded, the district says all credits will stand, but some might no longer count towards the core classes needed to graduate. The students interviewed say that will leave them in school longer and make them the innocent-but-punished bystanders in a school or district snafu. MPR’s Tom Weber will have the story.