Gongol.com Archives: 2010 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

Business and Finance Should we have bailed out the banks and the automakers?
Margaret Thatcher said this 30 years ago this month: "Too much money spent by Government has gone to support industries which have made and are continuing to make heavy losses. The future requires that industry adapt to produce goods that will sell in tomorrow's world. Older industries that can't change must be slimmed down and their skills transferred to new products if they are to serve the nation."

Business and Finance 27% of Americans haven't saved anything for retirement
And more than half have less than $25,000 saved up. Only a third have $50,000 or more in savings -- retirement or otherwise. Considering that a nest egg of almost a million dollars is what's really required to retire comfortably and with confidence that it won't run out, we have a nation in serious savings trouble.

Humor and Good News A trailer for every Academy Award-winning movie ever
(Video) Hilarious

Computers and the Internet Why kids shouldn't be allowed to use YouTube without supervision

Socialism Doesn't Work New York assemblyman wants to ban salt in restaurant cooking
You'd be welcome to add your own salt to the dish later, but the chef wouldn't. And he wants to ban it across the entire state of New York, with a $1000 fine for every infraction. This kind of absurdity comes from good intentions (he says he wants to cut down on high blood pressure) mixed with gross incompetence and a dash, if you will, of too much government power. Then again, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz takes credit for introducing the nation's first ban on using cell phones while driving, so his paternalistic notion of government has been put into law before. He also wants to add a state cover charge of $10 for everyone going to a strip club. Not everything that can cause harm should be banned.

Business and Finance Excellent tools for calculating how much of a nest egg you'll need to retire
The "retirement shortfall calculator" from AXA is especially eye-opening.

Computers and the Internet Broadband Internet access as a campaign issue
The Conservative Party in Britain wants to eliminate a tax on telephone lines that's being used to subsidize the rollout of broadband Internet access to rural areas of the country. The philosophical principle behind the policy is that broadband access should be provided through private investment rather than public subsidy may actually hurt the party's -- though the realpolitik of the matter is that the party has a lot of voters in rural areas, so the proposal might actually run contrary to the interests of many of the party's voters. The big story here is that broadband Internet access is on the verge of being regarded as a true public utility -- like water service, sewers, and electricity. That's a very big change from just a short decade or two ago.

Health Roald Dahl lost a daughter to measles
The children's author subsequently pled with parents to realize just how important vaccinations are. Particularly interesting now that the supposed link between vaccines and autism has been thoroughly smashed. Vaccinations are a modern miracle, and should be hailed for their saving power, not slandered by people relying on myths and fake "science".

Business and Finance Author says the market panic of the last few years was created by stupidity, not malice
And he's likely right. As has been said before (though it's not clear by whom): "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." It was wrong to panic in 2008, just as it remains wrong for traders and fiduciaries to take extraordinary pay for work that fails to produce extraordinary good for society.

Computers and the Internet Roger Ebert gets his voice back thanks to a computer
He lost his voice due to radical surgeries to stop the spread of cancer. Now, a company which combed the archives of his many television appearances for snippets of the many sounds and words which make up the English language has assembled a library of those recordings from which to generate a text-to-speech synthesizer in his native voice.

The United States of America Welcome to the Great Plains
For a little perspective on why overcrowding issues don't make a lot of sense to Midwesterners, consider this: The state of Rhode Island covers 1,045 square miles and has a population of over a million people. Cherry County, Nebraska, covers 5,961 square miles and has a population of 6,100. Cherry County, in fact, is also larger than Delaware (1,954 square miles), Connecticut (4,845 square miles), and Puerto Rico (3,425 square miles).

Threats and Hazards The future of the Federal deficit
Every annual deficit lumps more on top of the already huge Federal debt. For a real scare, take a look at how the Medicare/Medicaid portion of the spending side of things grows steadily and painfully from now on. Getting our deficits under control and paying down the ($12.6 trillion) national debt are matters of national security.

Computers and the Internet What you and the rest of the world are really doing online
The BBC offers an interactive infographic illustrating where people from the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, and Australia are spending the most time online, and it offers some interesting insights. Search and portal sites (e-mail services, mainly) serve up the biggest single block of traffic, by far. But there's also a surprisingly large volume of traffic to Microsoft outside of its search and e-mail services -- more than either YouTube or Facebook get in their own respective dominions. And in what should be a warning to Facebook, the old titan (MySpace) is nowhere to be found. Social networks are fickle things and giants there are likely to fall. Related: The South Korean government is training 4,000 counselors to treat "Internet addiction".

Health Could a redesigned hospital "crash cart" save lives?

Iowa New owners might close the Terra offices in Sioux City
Little-known to central and eastern Iowans, Terra Industries is #704 on the Fortune 1000 and one of the biggest companies in the state. It's announced a plan to merge with CF Industries, and that could very well lead to a closure of the Terra headquarters in Sioux City -- and if not a closure, most likely at least a reduction. It's the result of a less-than-friendly takeover, so some outcome with fewer people and less control from Sioux City is pretty likely. That would make the second major blow to the Sioux City economy of late, following the announcement that the John Morrell meatpacking plant is closing in April. In 1920, Sioux City was larger than Phoenix, Albuquerque, and Las Vegas -- each much larger than Sioux City today -- and it was about the same size as Tulsa. Des Moines at the same time was bigger than Nashville, Fort Worth, or El Paso, and about the same size as Houston. The future of Sioux City in 2020 looks far less bright, which is deeply unfortunate, both for the community and for the state.

Science and Technology How little we know about what lives under the sea

Water News Why public utilities should consider raising their rates just a little bit every year

Broadcasting What happens when television has to behave like radio
Craig Ferguson conducted an "experiment" with his show recently in which he dismissed the entire audience and did a show that was exclusively one-on-one with a single guest. It should be noted that television like that sounds -- literally, sounds -- different from most television.

Computers and the Internet The Amazon filler-item finder
How to find just the right item to round out an order on Amazon.com to carry that order up to the free-shipping minimum

Humor and Good News Happy St. Patrick's Day
(Video) "Danny Boy" delivered with a Muppet Show twist

News A new billboard at Wrigley?
The new owners of the team and the ballpark want to obscure a big rooftop ad across the street from the Friendly Confines with a new illuminated billboard. If they try to put in a Jumbotron, there will be bloodshed.

Broadcasting Show notes from the WHO Radio Wise Guys - March 13, 2010

Water News Chlorine: The lifesaver

Health Do yourself a favor: Take two minutes for a self-exam today
Take a minute or two and conduct some basic self-screenings for cancer. Early detection saves lives. There's lots of misinformation about cancer that finds its way around the Internet, largely because we've been trained to wait expectantly for some sort of magic-bullet solution to cancer. But cancer risks can be significantly reduced through a balanced diet, exercise, and early detection and treatment. Meanwhile, science is making great progress towards improving genetic detection, which holds great promise for some types of cancer. Instead of forwarding hoax-ridden e-mails about "cancer cures" and false threats, people should instead remind their friends and family to assess their health once a month.

Humor and Good News Every time you make a PowerPoint, Edward Tufte kills a kitten
Tufte is an information designer who has a lot of valuable things to say about data and how we comprehend it, and he is renowned for his criticisms of PowerPoint abuse. Like all technologies, PowerPoint itself is neutral. But it's often used badly, and it's that use that causes harm.

Broadcasting Lady Gaga's epic music video: Just one big product-placement event
It's a really long music video -- about ten minutes, or getting close to the length of Michael Jackson's "Thriller". She's an intriguing artist -- seemingly well-aware of the absurdity of modern pop stardom, and willing to play the publicity like a well-tuned fiddle. It doesn't hurt that the hooks in her music (like the one in "Poker Face") are powerful earworms. Assuming she doesn't do anything colossally stupid and manages to keep generating new tunes, she'll probably be one of the artists we still recognize in 2030.

Computers and the Internet The singing man on ChatRoulette
(Video) ChatRoulette is a service that randomly connects a person's computer (including the webcam) to some other user at random. It's a novel idea, but it's also so easily abused or turned into something tawdry (it's not hard to imagine how many perverts and weirdos would like to use a service like that) that it should be considered the Internet equivalent of a seedy bar in the worst part of town. There may very well be good people hanging out, but you shouldn't send your daughter there.

Science and Technology Putting population density into perspective
At the population density of Brooklyn, the entire United States could fit inside the state of New Hampshire. On the other hand, at the much sparser population density of Nebraska (22.3 people per square mile, making it one of our less-densely populated states, though not the least-densely-populated by far), the population of the United States (308,898,000) would cover 13.8 million square miles. The entire planet has an estimated 148.94 million square kilometers, or about 57.5 million square miles. So, if we were to spread out at the rate we presently populate Nebraska, we'd take up about 24% of the available land area on the planet. One rate of population density isn't necessarily better than another -- it all depends upon how it's used.

News Truck driver appears unaware he's pushing a car sideways down the highway
Someone needs to find out what kind of tires were on the car being pushed. They appear to survive highway speeds while going sideways.

Water News Saylorville Dam might not be overtopped this coming week, but it remains a possibility.