Gongol.com Archives: March 2009
Brian Gongol

March 5, 2009

Business and Finance How seriously does the Sulzberger family take keeping the New York Times?
The history of family businesses is a fascinating one, and when those family businesses are huge and massively influential and put out a product seen by millions of people every day, then it's almost soap-operatic when the future of that institution is threatened. Such is the case with the New York Times Company. Two observations ought to be noted regarding the company: First, it certainly seems that they have no substantial long-term business plan; otherwise, they wouldn't be making desperate-looking gambles by mortgaging the company's headquarters and borrowing huge sums from Carlos Slim Helu. Second, the Sulzbergers and the New York Times Company are likely to go through similar public throes over the ownership of their "family" product as the Busch family just went through over ownership of their St. Louis brewery. But in both cases, the family involved has sold off so much of their company over time that they have little chance to really control the long-term future of the institution.

Weather and Disasters Economic "stimulus" gives NOAA an $830 million bonus
Here's one suggested use for that money: Beef up the nation's Doppler radar network. Some parts of the contiguous 48 states aren't even covered. Others are 100 miles or more from the nearest radar installation, and that means the radar can't see anything for thousands of feet between the ground level and the lowest slice of the atmosphere visible to the radar beam. That can be especially dangerous in Tornado Alley, where forecasters need to be able to see what's happening close to the ground.

The United States of America Minnesota's state budget deficit: $4.57 billion
It's not only the Federal government that's become incapable of balancing its budget; states have to do it, too. And, unfortunately, the elected officials working in Washington, DC, are often too quick to override, ignore, or overstep the states, which in turn weakens state-level government, which in turn makes it more difficult for us to demand responsibility and accountability at the statehouses.

Computers and the Internet Google's Eric Schmidt calls Twitter a "poor man's email system"
Which is difficult to really contextualize, since e-mail is inherently a private exchange, while Twitter is mainly public. But in the long term, it's pretty pointless to get caught up in the navel-gazing that permeates most discussions about computer technology -- especially websites and Internet services. We should expect Twitter, Facebook, and even the mighty Google to be eclipsed by new firms with new ideas, and soon. Google likely has less than a 10% chance of dominating the Internet search market in ten years. Remember, Google hasn't even reached its own 11th birthday yet. In 1998, Yahoo was the search engine of choice. Yahoo is, of course, still around, but it's decidedly not the dominant search service.

Science and Technology A surprisingly elegant refutation of "intelligent design"
"The design of organisms is not what would be expected from an intelligent engineer, but imperfect and worse." But regardless of how life came to be, one cannot help but be cheerful over the successful deployment of the bionic eye.

Water News Iowa flood forecast: Mostly "near normal"