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December 2010

"A Note to Parents from Bruce Springsteen, High School Cross-Country Coach"

McSweeney's, of course.

Finally, I want to address the particular interest I've taken in one student: Wendy. She is our best runner and, yes, I want to guard the dreams and visions she has of running for a NCAA Division 1 school. Sometimes, it's true, I strap her hands across the engine of my truck so she can feel the hemi-power and get inspired. Other times, I have her do a training exercise on a treadmill where she needs to wrap her legs around this contraption I built out of an old treadmill (I've coated the rims in velvet so it's more comfortable). Essentially, I want to do what I can to help Wendy. Because if she could break this trap and never come back, the rest of us who are too scared might have a shot.

"Linotype: The Film"

Scheduled for release in early fall of 2011.

Linotype: The Film is a feature-length documentary film centered around the Linotype typecasting machine invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler. Called the "Eighth Wonder of the World" by Thomas Edison, the Linotype revolutionized printing and society, but very few people know about the inventor or his fascinating machine.

Here's a trailer.

Meet Prichard, Alabama

The future has arrived in Prichard. The city has simply stopped paying pension benefits.

Among the many horrible aspects of this is that, here again, laws applied vigorously to the private sector don't apply to the government:

Companies with pension plans are required by federal law to put money behind their promises years in advance, and the government can impose punitive taxes on those that fail to do so, or in some cases even seize their pension funds.

Companies are also required to protect their pension assets. So if a corporate pension fund falls below 60 cents’ worth of assets for every dollar of benefits owed, workers can no longer accrue additional benefits. (Prichard was down to just 33 cents on the dollar in 2003.)

And if a company goes bankrupt, the federal government can take over its pension plan and see that its retirees receive their benefits. Although some retirees receive less than they were promised, no retiree from a federally insured plan in the private sector has come away empty-handed since the federal pension law was enacted in 1974. The law does not cover public sector workers.