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The Star Tribune article "New tool helps sort nursing homes" (Dec. 1) jumped off the page for me as someone who had to advocate for my father this past year.

Imagine having your father rushed with serious issues at age 89 from his beautiful assisted-living facility to the hospital, under strict COVID protocols at the time, just weeks before Christmas. It was a nightmare to navigate his care as he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As his advocate, I got a phone call from a feisty social worker days before Christmas that they were giving him the boot. No available beds anywhere so they were sending him back to his assisted-living facility on Christmas Day. The social worker called the assisted-living head nurse and gave her the news. The social worker didn't care that because of Christmas, the facility only had a small group of staffing care for the holiday, and my dad needed full-time care as he was now bedridden. Both the nurse and I were in a panic — we were given just 48 hours, and I was in tears, scared for my father and completely at a loss. Thankfully at the last minute the social worker was able to find a place for Dad — only one place to choose from, we had no choice. Luckily for us, it wasn't too bad. During the day he had adequate care, but during the night we found out that they only had one person taking care of all the patients because of staffing shortages. More than once my dad had called for help overnight and no one came. My dad was there for 27 days before he passed. The day he died, he was extremely agitated and was unable to tell us why he was so distraught. We believed that something happened during the night and, sadly, no one helped him.

The Elder Care IQ website is great, I am glad people have a resource now, but I absolutely believe our nursing home system is broken. Some of our nursing homes aren't safe enough for our loved ones who have to quickly find availability due to an extreme health crisis and just want to die with dignity. Why are our elderly not made a priority over being possibly looked at as revenue for corporate facilities?

Debbie Anthony, Coon Rapids


Give the kids their money

Regarding "Foster kids' benefits go to counties" (front page, Nov. 27): It is unconscionable that foster children, who have already struggled through a personal hell of tragedy and rejection, are deprived of Social Security survivor and disability benefits! Each child deserves financial support when their parents have died so they can build a life of security and independence. Just imagine the pain and vulnerability of a foster child who has lost both parents and may or may not have an attachment to their foster parents. When the child turns 18 years old, abandonment often occurs by not only these foster parents but by the county to boot! I shudder to think about it.

Counties across this state have options for additional funding, whereas these poor souls have nothing. Resilience is borne out of support systems great and small. It does take a village to raise a child.

The callousness of Hennepin County's director of children and family services, Kwesi Booker, when he rationalizes the practice of siphoning off a foster child's benefits to the county, is abhorrent. His quote, "I don't think it's as severe as saying it's money that's being taken out of the mouths of these children," speaks to his obliviousness. Yes, the survivor benefits for foster children have indeed been stolen. Now it's time to give the money back!

Sharon E. Carlson, Andover


The purpose of Social Security survivor benefits is to provide food, shelter, clothing and medical care for the surviving child that the parent would have provided if they had lived. It is not to build a nest egg for the child to spend when they age out of foster care. On the other hand, if the county is paying less for foster care for a child than they receive from Social Security, then the extra should be set aside for the child to use at a later date.

Kathleen Crary, Burnsville


Other factors led to industry change

Thank you for the great short history of supercomputing in Minnesota ("How did state lose its computing edge?" Nov. 27). But having been there, I have to disagree with the conclusion that the supercomputer leaders in Minnesota didn't understand or lacked the financial incentive to embrace microprocessors.

The 1980s were the boom times for supercomputers, and we certainly did recognize that microprocessors were becoming a game-changer in computing. There were three reasons why Cray and Control Data did not switch to microprocessors. (Sperry Univac made large mainframes and was a victim of the mainframe market shakeout in favor of IBM.)

First is the serial-parallel problem. A portion of a program's tasks could not easily be made parallel and had to run serially on a single processor. Microprocessors were too slow for this, which crippled the entire program run (see Wikipedia: Amdahl's law). Attempts at small processor-based parallel supercomputers were made at the time, but they were not successful (see Wikipedia: ILLIAC IV and Connection Machine).

Second, the market shrank considerably. It wasn't until the 1990s that high performance CPUs on a chip were available (see Wikipedia: IBM POWER architecture). It then became cheaper for a research lab or business to buy each department their own $50,000 high performance "good enough" workstation than pay for time on the $10 million Cray.

Third, even if they wanted to address this new market, they couldn't make microprocessor-based machines in quantity; it wasn't in their skill set or business model. As an analogy, Toyota makes 10 million cars per year for the vast consumer market. Ferrari makes 10,000 handcrafted cars for an elite few. They are focused on high-performance luxury designs and would not know how to make a price-competitive ordinary car.

True supercomputers evolved into massively parallel microprocessor-based systems; parallel algorithms improved to make that possible. However, by that time, Control Data had lost out to Cray for the diminished market and Seymour Cray moved to Colorado, leaving Cray Research to eventually be sold to others with established microprocessor expertise.

One could argue that Minnesota never really lost its computing edge; it just morphed into successor tech businesses, a strong position in medical devices and a reputable software industry. It's still there; just not as glamorously visible.

Dennis Fazio, Minneapolis


A parallel contribution to the piece on the decline of supercomputer dominance by Minnesota companies: In the late 1960s, Minnesota-based Honeywell was in the computer business, in an unrecognized position of strength in the very early stages of the "minicomputer" business. Their decision to stop development was a huge strategic error, as the emergence of Apple attests.

Skip North, Edina