Gongol.com Archives: December 2008
Brian Gongol

December 24, 2008

News What should really come first at Christmastime
People, in short. Related: The Pope chose a pretty awful time of year to start excluding homosexuals. Not like there would have been a good time to start doing that, but at Christmas, especially?

Business and Finance Average 30-year mortgage rate hits new record low: 5.14%
This is an amazing development, considering that less than 20 years ago, a plain old passbook savings account at a bank usually paid 5% interest. The cost of capital right now is remarkably low. That, in turn, says something remarkable about just how profoundly bad the situation is for General Motors right now. If the company were healthy, it would be able to take advantage of these extraordinarily low interest rates and borrow whatever it might need to buy the equipment and do the plant reconfigurations it would need to convert from building vehicles in low demand (like SUVs) to those that are in high demand. But instead of reconfiguring plants, GM is shutting down its factories. Classic business decision-making theory says that you can run a short-term loss if that will make it possible to turn around in the future, but if there's little or no hope for that loss to be recovered, you declare it a sunk cost and shut down. It's still possible to save GM, but it's hard to be optimistic when management has been given until March to plan for long-term viability. There should already have been a 100-year business plan in place, and if there wasn't, the executives should've been locked in a cabin somewhere in Montana until they came up with one before a dollar of Federal money was sent their way. Otherwise, it's going to end up looking like the cohabitation of government and business that is the Chinese auto industry now. Related: Americans actually saved almost 3% of their income in November, in a remarkable break with past convention. Now, if only the habit were to save more reliably during boom times and not just when there's panic in the air.

Science and Technology Of course mobile phones are coming to the subway
While there's inevitably going to be consternation over the rise of awkward moments caused by conversations that probably shouldn't be overheard, there's so much personal incentive for individuals to be able to conduct their own conversations that it far outweighs any possible measure of community discomfort at being unintentionally involved in those conversations. And as micro-laptops catch on, it should come as no surprise if urban commuters spend ever-more time using any kind of telecommunications access they can get to communicate -- whether by voice or keyboard.

Health Why 72 degrees is the perfect temperature
It's the ideal temperature at which the body can release its own 98.6 degree heat at the same rate it is generated

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