Gongol.com Archives: May 2007
Brian Gongol

May 23, 2007

Graphics Graphic of the day: Campaign Ireland
Ireland really is holding elections tomorrow. They have an interesting method of proportional voting based upon rank-order voting.

Humor and Good News How fake is (some) modern art? Really, really fake.
Minneapolis TV anchor whips up 5-minute "modern art" painting and sells it for $1,200. He thinks a Velvet Elvis requires more talent than most abstract art.

The American Way Gotham Prize: A new incentive prize for cancer research
Incentive prizes (or "inducement prizes") are a fantastic way to use the free market to get things that we often rely too hard upon the government to get

The United States of America Is Michael Bloomberg the right person for the White House?

Threats and Hazards Russia spying more on US than any time since the Cold War
And in other clandestine activity, Iran is spending "hundreds of millions of dollars" training militias in Iraq. General Petraeus thinks they're trying to keep the US bogged down in Iraq in order to keep attention off of whatever else Iran might be up to.

Business and Finance Beyond the strong password
Data security isn't just a matter for Internet-savvy people using robust passwords. It's also a matter of making sure that the people you know don't go around giving away personal information about themselves -- or you -- even if they never use a computer. Too little is done by most companies to ensure that all of the pieces match up when someone makes a purchase, so letting even a little bit of personal information slip out the door needlessly is enough to put people at risk. Ironically, Google is working at a direct cross-purpose to this concept by promising a future in which Google knows everything about you and actively helps you make decisions. That's not quite the "learning machine" that Charlie Munger wants us to be. It's unfortunate, but in some ways the overreach of data-driven companies like Google ushers in a sort of soft-serve version of the nanny state.

The American Way Food as an incentive to get poor kids to go to school
In places where per-capita income is practically nil, foreign aid is probably most efficiently put to use in creating tangible incentives for kids to attend school, because they won't get out of poverty if they don't increase their human capital. Catholic Relief Services gives kids in Mali much-wanted vegetable oil as an incentive for showing up for school. CRS is one of the best charities around.

Socialism Doesn't Work Interior decorating by the German secret police
Totalitarianism of any stripe is one of man's worst inhumanities

Business and Finance "Any form of broad index fund ... [is] far better than a third car"
Advice from Ben Stein. He also says, "Learn skills that can't be defeated by foreign competition." Useful thoughts. Stein is among the best writers for reminding people that saving for the future isn't just a matter of having a nice retirement -- it's also a bulwark against calamity in case of bad health or other unforeseen problems.

Water News Inspection robots get some press

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