5 x 8: Here’s to the dreamers



The world belongs to the dreamers but sometimes the dreamers get it wrong. Still, Elon Musk’s “hyperloop” mode of transportation, unveiled yesterday, proposes a step ahead of the 1950s technology we’ve been living with. We have to leave it behind sometime.

Granted, some of us were told we’d be flying with jetpacks and go to space, but maybe whippersnappers will have better luck with this whole future thing.

We don’t dream much anymore, so Musk has already achieved the unthinkable: He’s got us imagining “what if?”.

“It’s insane,” The Atlantic says.

Sadly, the Hyperloop will never, ever happen. It’s a brillant, pie-in-the-sky idea that the realities of politics and construction permits would render all but impossible. Even if the technology is perfect, we can barely build a train from Orlando-to-Tampa (using already obsolete technology), so there’s no way California is going let anyone dig a five-hundred-mile-long tunnel under the San Andreas Fault. It’s taken New York City a generation to break ground on its latest subway line, and will probably take another to finish it. This nation is terrible at new infrastructure and all the billionaire dreams in the world won’t change that. (See also: the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking, this collapsed bridge, etc.)

Not that it really matters. Like the namesake of his electric car, Musk is the stereotypical mad dreamer. He imagines all manner of wild and fantastic inventions, most of which will never come to pass. But the few that do just might change the world.

Technically, it’s possible, TechCrunch says, though it, too, believes it’ll never happen.

Naysayers all. Maybe they haven’t noticed, as Mashable has, that the current pace of innovation on the planet is fairly embarrassing.

We’ve got our finest minds figuring out how to make and market photo-sharing and video-sharing apps that are slightly different from all the other photo-sharing and video-sharing apps. Engineers that might once have gone to work at NASA are now tweaking your Facebook news feed. One or two kids may dream of building fusion reactors to cure all the world’s energy ills, but I’m willing to bet many more would rather learn how to animate the robots from Pacific Rim.

The Hyperloop is only getting attention because Musk, a billionaire with a track record, is interested in it. There are plenty more fantastic and wildly unrealistic projects we could be dreaming about, and better yet, funding.


May: Minnesota Corn Planting Behind Schedule.

June: Cold, wet weather bogs down MN field work

July: Minnesota crops lag after wet, sunless spring

August: Farmers could harvest second-largest crop in Minnesota history.


The business relationship between the Wilf family , owners of the Minnesota Vikings, and the Star Tribune has been so cozy that it’s worth paying attention whenever the paper wags its finger at its partners.

In an editorial today, the paper urges “we Minnesotans had better keep our guard up” in the wake of the finding in a New Jersey court that the Wilfs engaged in civil racketeering with partners on a real estate deal in Jersey.

The paper slips in a very Minnesota-like defense — twice — that the paper avoided coverage of the failed deal because of its businesses dealings with the Wilfs.

Don’t believe for a second that Dayton and Rybak were stunned by the news of the judge’s decision in the 21-year-old case. Surprised at the strength of the judge’s language, yes, but not shocked that the Wilfs would be involved in such messy matters. After all, the words “books cooked” appeared in the headline of the aforementioned 2011 Star Tribune story.

What we have been reminded of in the New Jersey lawsuit is that the Wilf family didn’t accumulate its wealth by winning the Powerball. Hardball is their game. The Wilfs are real-estate developers in one of the most bare-knuckled markets in the country. They are canny dealmakers — and in this case deal-breakers — and Minnesota is now their partner in an important and expensive real-estate project.

The state and city are not without leverage, however. The Vikings are a consumer product, and the Wilfs understand that their business would be greatly harmed by any hint of malfeasance in their dealings with the state and city. In the wake of Judge Wilson’s smackdown, they should also be on notice that every business dealing they have in Minnesota from now on is likely to face greater scrutiny. If they’re uncomfortable with that, they should never have bought the Vikings or entered into the public-private stadium deal in the first place.

Let’s be honest, though. The words that got everyone’s attention last week when the case was decided were “organized crime-type activities,” uttered by the lawyer for Wilfs’ partners (the Star Tribune editorial even uses “New Jersey” and “real estate” as code to suggest a similar thing). That characterization never made the 2011 Star Tribune story, which instead appeared to downplay the suit by saying, “It’s not unusual for developers like the Wilfs, who typically juggle several projects at once, to be taken to court over business differences.”

More journalism disputes: NPR, Ombudsman Differ On S. Dakota Indian Foster Care Series : NPR.


In 1950, only 37% of women ages 25-54 participated in the labor force, CNN Money says.The number rose rapidly, climbing to 74% by 1990. It hasn’t budged since. Why not? The U.S. ranks 27th out of 37 countries when it comes to the percentage of women who work outside the home.

Now, a Cornell study puts the blame on family-unfriendly labor laws. The Family and Medical Leave Act entitles workers to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, it says, but only applies to about 58% of American workers.

It says with declining birth rates, it will be difficult for the country to sustain programs like Social Security if more women don’t enter the workforce.


Number of meteors I’ve seen in three nights of looking for the Perseids: None.

More: Photos from friends: 2013 Perseid meteor shower (EarthSky).

Bonus I: St. Paul woman dances, dates and is about to turn 100 (TwinCities.com).

Bonus II:Photos: B-25 Flight (8/12/13) (Winona Daily News).

Bonus III: State Fair butter cow doused in red paint; animal rights group takes credit. (The Des Moines Register). h/t: Mary Turck


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: How to pay for college.

Second hour: The vitamin myth.

Third hour: Light and noise pollution.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): From the Aspen Ideas Festival: Katie Couric interviews prognosticator and data guru Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight blog about politics and sports.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – Greg Louganis on Russia’s anti-gay laws & the 2014 Olympics

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The Twin Cities housing market is hot again, but sellers beware! While homeowners are opening their doors to potential buyers, those strangers could cause unanticipated damage. An Edina homeowner had to gut and replace the entire second floor of his family’s home after a potential buyer left the steam shower on during a showing. This story explores some horror stories, helps sellers understand who is at fault when something goes wrong during a showing or an open house and provides practical tips from experts about how sellers and potential buyers can protect themselves. KARE 11 and MPR reporter Trish Volpe will have the story.

Ten years ago, a large swath of the U.S. and Canada plunged into darkness. Cellphones and traffic lights were out, creating chaotic situations in cities from Detroit to New York. How did North Americas largest blackout happen? And what lessons have been learned that can help us today? NPR will provide the answer.