Gongol.com Archives: 2010 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

Business and Finance China promises to let its currency appreciate...a little bit
But the total amount of adjustment and the schedule for the process are still up in the air. By keeping its currency "weak", China has made it difficult for its people to buy foreign goods, but simultaneously makes it cheaper for the rest of the world to buy Chinese-made stuff. If it lets the currency appreciate a bit, Chinese-made stuff won't appear as relatively cheap to the rest of the world -- but in turn, the rest of the world is going to have to save more than it has in the past.

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The American Way A fine obituary to a mostly-unknown guardian of the light of classical liberalism
The Economist pays tribute to a long-time deputy editor who "kept the flame of free-market thinking burning during the long night of collectivism." Ideas matter.

News CNN drops its subscription to the Associated Press
It's significant news for news junkies -- a sign that the AP is in serious trouble. There's more competition than ever for the delivery of news content, and the over-use of AP wire content has made a lot of journalistic outlets sloppy and lazy.

Humor and Good News How to care for your baby

Science and Technology A map of the progress of the Sun across the daytime sky
Twice a day in the summertime, the Sun is north of due east, even north of the Tropics. Important information to remember should one ever become lost in a forest.

Business and Finance "Sonic branding"
The BBC takes a look at the rise of the "sonic brand" -- the most famous example of which is likely the "bongs" micro-jingle from Intel. The story is best heard, perhaps, through the radio program upon which the news story is based.

Graphics Graphic of the day: Charter & Atlantic

Broadcasting Podcast: As we cross the danger bridge

Broadcasting Podcast: What you put on Facebook, stays on Facebook (or at least on the Internet)

Water News Flooding continues in Iowa and Nebraska

Science and Technology In praise of science
We need to do a better job of embracing science and the scientific method than we have popularly done. We need to do more thinking than ever before, not less. There are lots of different ways to popularize scientific thinking -- from "Mythbusters" on television to Britain's "I'm a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here!" But for our own sake, we should be embracing the use of as many of these as reasonably possible. We invest enormous resources in things like sports and politics -- we should work doubly hard to make science a part of our regular thinking as well. We live in a world that includes people who are openly hostile to scientific thinking, so popularization is essential.

Broadcasting The beauty of ingenuity
People living in Kenya have managed to put up a giant inflatable screen so they can watch the World Cup. Considering that the World Cup only arrives once every four years, it's entirely possible that in four years, most people -- even in remote places -- will watch most of the Cup via video streamed to their mobile phones.

Computers and the Internet Google Voice is now open to all
Google has released its telephone-management system to the public after a long period restricted to invitees only. What's most interesting about Google Voice is that it really seems to be a testing laboratory for Google's voice-to-text algorithms. A huge amount of the world's information is locked up in things like radio broadcasts, television shows, and other media that aren't yet being indexed for inclusion in the world's databases of knowledge -- including, but not limited to, Google's own archives. By releasing the Google Voice service to the world at large, the company gains access to a whole lot of audio material upon which to test its computers. (Anyone wishing to test Google Voice can use the number assigned to this website: 918-246-6465.)

Threats and Hazards Canada's top spy says they have real Manchurian Candidates
He reportedly thinks that cabinet ministers in two provinces are under the control of foreign governments. What's the best way to keep that from happening and to limit the damage that such "controls" could do? Simple: Limit the power of government, and push the necessary work of government down to the most local level possible. Government is frequently subject to both mission creep (doing more than it should) and the commandeering of authority. Resisting both urges is an outstanding way to preserve self-government.

News General McChrystal criticizes his civilian bosses

Broadcasting Podcast: Ideas aren't free -- even if government doesn't want to pay for them

Broadcasting Podcast: Helping a listener connect to an online game

Water News Astonishing human toll from flooding in China

Humor and Good News The missing cat and the aggrieved graphic designer
Truly, one of the funniest things a person will read this month -- particularly if one has been in the position of the designer, asked to do hard work on short notice by someone who doesn't appreciate what it is for which he or she is asking

Business and Finance Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett on their campaign to get the wealthy to donate more
Many of the comments that appear on the Charlie Rose website beneath the video box are full of vitriol and nonsense arguments about how evil it is that Buffett and Gates have gotten wealthy. How short-sighted. Their wealth has been the result of productive behavior that has kept workers employed and consumers satisfied.

Weather and Disasters Earthquake near Ottawa, Ontario, felt in Chicago
It wasn't a strong earthquake, but it was conducted very far away by the unique profile of the soils and subsurface constituents in the region. Suddenly it doesn't sound quite so crazy for someone in Iowa to want earthquake insurance.

Water News Half a foot of rain in 24 hours
Some very nasty storms passed through Iowa on Tuesday night

Iowa The myth of the "cookie-cutter" suburb
What's called "cookie-cutter" in one place is called "charm" somewhere else. That exposes a logical inconsistency.

Computers and the Internet Mobile phone networks can't keep up with data demand
People are using more data than the networks are prepared to serve up

Business and Finance Apple's idea of customer service
Steve Jobs says that if his phone doesn't work very well, people shouldn't hold it like that. Sounds a lot like the joke about the patient who says to the doctor, "Doc, it hurts when I move my arm this way", and is told "Then don't move it like that." This is Apple's much-hyped "superior user experience"? Related: British Airways might need to re-think its policy on allowing adult men to sit next to children on flights. In an effort to protect those unaccompanied minors, they're probably causing excessive embarrassment to adult passengers by implying that they're up to no good when there's no such reason to believe that.

Iowa Microsoft to start building $100 million data center in West Des Moines
Iowa's governor says the state has a "trifecta" with IBM, Google, and Microsoft projects

Computers and the Internet Facebook wants to become the new search-engine rival to Google
It's not going to work. Facebook is built on decisions made by people you already know. When was the last time anyone used a search engine to try to figure out something his or her friends already had an opinion about? We use search engines to seek out new information from new sources, not recycled opinions from our friends.

Business and Finance Damning video of the BP oil spill affecting Florida beaches
There's not a lot the company will be able to do to reverse its public image now that videos of children screaming "Get it off my feet, Mommy!" are going viral. Don't be surprised if BP ends up changing its corporate name.