Gongol.com Archives: September 2007
Brian Gongol

September 21, 2007

Graphics Graphic of the day: Personal Genome Map

Water News New atlas reveals how water structures life on land

Broadcasting Antitrust lawyer files class-action suit to get a-la-carte cable TV
The real problem isn't really with the cable or satellite companies, at least not directly. The problem is with the channel-bundling agreements that the cable networks require the carriers to obey. Either way, though, the days of those kinds of agreements are clearly on their way out, given that consumers can pretty much watch anything they want, anytime.

News 39 people indicted over terrorism-related money-laundering scheme
Part of the money appears to have been laundered through a couple of convenience stores in Maryland

Business and Finance Mattel says Chinese manufacturers didn't really cause the lead-paint scare

Science and Technology Credit problems could put downward pressure on energy prices
The Energy Information Administration says we have a lot of natural gas stockpiled, and energy prices could get squeezed if the mortgage-lending shock has any bigger consequences in the world economy. Meanwhile, those terrorist attacks in Mexico are having an effect on world oil supplies, and the EIA thinks that near-term US production of ethanol and oil won't be quite as high as previously thought.

Health Personal genome maps may be common currency within five years
Five years just isn't a long time away -- it's the difference between first grade and sixth. Unfortunately, there's been little real discussion about the consequences. And the notion of planning health-care policy with changes like this on the horizon seems almost completely impossible. Consider, for instance, the news that DNA-sensing chips might be able to pinpoint specific types of cancer and dramatically improve treatment. The number of changes we could see over the next few decades is stunning.

The American Way Free markets make Poles happy
As the country has made the transition to a market economy, the people have become measurably and substantially happier about going to work. Three-quarters actually like going to work. On the other side of things, though, the longer prosperity goes on, the better-organized the rent-seekers become: Witness the Canadians demanding higher taxes on everyone but themselves.

Business and Finance Money-losing gas stations turn to new revenue stream: Showing movies
Government regulations in India require gas stations to sell fuel at prices so low, they lose money. So one chain is planning to add 300 movie theaters to its gas stations by 2010. It seems a lot like McDonald's offering movie rentals.

Science and Technology Better smoke models mean video games with flamethrowers
That, and perhaps better wind-tunnel modeling and firefighter training. But people will probably pay more attention to the flamethrowers.

Computers and the Internet Take it easy on PDF files from unknown sources
There's a zero-day exploit out, and until it's fixed, the best advice is to open PDF files only from well-trusted sources

Iowa Iowa court says cities can't assess retroactive cable-franchise fees

Science and Technology UK to spend about $9 million to investigate nanotechnology's effects on health
The better we get at making things that are incredibly small, the more important it is that we figure out just what those things might do to us. At such small sizes ("nano" literally meaning that it's something measured at the 0.000000001-meter scale), it's easy to inhale or ingest these things. Nanotechnology has tremendous potential -- but like all tools, we have to investigate both the positive and negative externalities of its use.

Computers and the Internet New York Times gives up on online subscriptions
TimesSelect is dead. The paper finally figured out that the Internet is made up of links and references, and people don't like to be told they can't read something that someone else wanted to share with them -- just because they didn't feel like paying a fee. If the NYT can't make subscription-based online readership work, then why in the world does the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette think it can?

News Sleepwalking into conflict
For all the time American media lavish on celebrities, it appears the news media in Iran dedicate an equal amount to a campaign to make the nuclear issue the biggest crisis in recent history. One of the last things the world needs is for everyone to sleepwalk into a new shooting war in the Middle East. So, a little less Britney Spears and a little more world affairs, please? That's not to say that pop culture doesn't do some good sometimes: Hippie music infiltrated the countries behind the Iron Curtain in the '60s, and that undoubtedly helped undermine the totalitarian Communists in the long run. But when we have people around who think television should be one uninterrupted block of stupid, then perhaps we ought to set our sights just a little bit higher. Related: While considering the threats out there, it's important not to miss our own soft underbellies.

The United States of America Please, Chicago, please: Give up the Olympics bid
The Olympic Games have an awful track record of ruining the budgets of the cities they pass through, and when bad stuff happens to Chicago, the effects spill over to the rest of the Midwest.

Weather and Disasters It's not a hurricane, but...
A subtropical depression with lots of rain is headed straight for New Orleans. Just a useful reminder that the proverbial lightning can, in fact, strike twice, and that preparedness is the only rational response to the disasters of the past. We're still terrible at mass evacuations.