Gongol.com Archives: 2010 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

The United States of America Freedom means having only ourselves to blame for our failures or congratulate for our successes

Science and Technology A car for blind drivers
And it's not a joke. A team from Virginia Tech has equipped a Ford Escape with a bunch of non-visual adaptations that will allow a blind driver to demonstrate the vehicle at Daytona Speedway next January.

Broadcasting A rainbow over downtown Des Moines for Independence Day
And other items filed under notes from the Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - July 4, 2010

Aviation News How to rescue an airline from a hostile takeover
The board of Midwest Airlines, facing a hostile takeover attempt by AirTran, put together a website called SaveTheCookie.com, after Midwest's renowned in-flight cookies. Whether the website really made any real difference is up to question, but Midwest was acquired by a private-equity group, which then sold it to Republic Airways in 2009.

The United States of America Jefferson made it clear: We're citizens, not subjects
New imaging techniques have revealed that Thomas Jefferson had originally used the word "subjects" to describe Americans in an early draft of the Declaration of Independence, then willfully and deliberately expunged the word from his draft. It's a powerful distinction. For a contemporary example, the Chinese government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to keep its subjects from rioting like they did last year.

Business and Finance British employers are getting 70 applicants for every available job opening
It's not a good time to be a college graduate looking for work there. Anecdotally, the situation may be even worse for Americans in some sectors, with 200 applicants for every elementary teaching job in the Kansas City area. The overall figure was supposedly 3.3 applicants per job opening overall nationwide last year, so it might be a stretch for the overall picture to have soured considerably since then. Regardless, a lot of new jobs are just temporary Census work, rather than permanent employment. Even in better times (like early 2007), the right employers sometimes received hundreds of applications for every open job. Interestingly, there are still some job areas where employers can't find enough skilled applicants. The most important factor for recent graduates to feature in their applications and resumes? Internships.

The United States of America The US Army Band's collection of ceremonial music
Including the "Star-Spangled Banner" and the "Washington Post March"

News UK foreign policy targets better relations with India
Interesting -- the former colonist now hopes to hitch a ride on the rising economic star of the former colony

Business and Finance Are investment banks caught in a permanent feedback loop of volatility?
It's an interesting perspective: Michael Lewis suggests that the investment banks are structurally trapped in a wild oscillation back and forth between obscene profits and the imminent danger of collapse. That condition, it should be noted, makes the "investment" part of "investment bank" an oxymoron: Nothing which is perpetually at risk of total failure is even remotely similar to being what we should classically refer to as an "investment." Investments should, by definition, be stable and long-term oriented -- like an oak tree. What "investment" banks do that leads to the wild oscillations is much more like gambling.

The United States of America US Postal Service faces a $7 billion loss in 2010
So they're looking for a 2-cent increase in the price of first-class postage

Computers and the Internet One enormously (and unintentionally) dangerous smartphone application
A free application called "Grindr" uses GPS features in cell phones to allow people to post their photos and profiles and indicate that they're looking for sex. Moral considerations aside, it could be a very dangerous application. At first, of course, it will be used for its intended purpose. But it's impossible to imagine it not attracting sexual predators, criminals, and stalkers. And since the application is targeted at the gay community (with the intention of opening to straight participants by the end of 2010), it's almost certain that a violent homophobe is going to use it to pick targets, just like the Craigslist killer allegedly did. There's such a thing as sharing far too much information, and broadcasting anonymously your precise location and interest in casual sex is one of those things. People are already sharing far too much information about their private lives via Facebook and Twitter. The addition of geolocation (the use of GPS to tell other people where you are in real time) opens up a whole basket of risks that we really need to consider carefully before using freely. That was the point of PleaseRobMe.com. And if some predictions come true and this blend of geolocation and social networking becomes literally a thing we wear, we're going to need to scrutinize it closely before adopting it enthusiastically.

Broadcasting Canadian police radios are being jammed by criminals
The police say they're having radio transmissions and cell-phone calls jammed by $80 electronics that crooks are using to disrupt communications

Humor and Good News The annotated "Touch of Grey"
It's a catchy tune, to be sure. Probably the best Grateful Dead song for non-Deadheads.

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Business and Finance Why massive deficit spending isn't going to fix the economy
Keynesian economists like Paul Krugman seem to think that the time is right for massive deficit spending by governments, in order to kick the economy into high gear. The problem is that money has to be borrowed from somewhere, and that money has to be lent by people who think the borrowers have some sort of credible plan to pay it back. The problem is that the United States has created a web of entitlement programs via Social Security and Medicare that we have shown very little stomach for fully funding. But there's no doubt we'll continue to make those payments, since the same people taking the payments are the older people who are most likely to vote. So with a structural imbalance already in place (with more cash being spent on entitlements than being raised via taxes to pay for them), where's the credibility that we'll pay back other debts that we incur? Low credibility means high interest rates (which is why people with bad credit ratings pay really high interest rates). The kind of deficit spending demanded by Keynesians assumes that the lenders of the world can't just read the budget of the United States for themselves.

Broadcasting The news from somewhere else but here
An online service offers radio stations the opportunity to outsource their news operations. It's not altogether different from the Weather Channel offering localized forecasts. You'll only ever get passable work from a service like this. Never anything outstanding, and obviously never anything on breaking news or any inevestigative reports. But is the illusion of local news coverage better than no coverage at all?

News Pitching the world's biggest tent
A tent that's about the height of the tenth-tallest building in Minneapolis has been erected in Kazakhstan to create a sort of indoor mall effect, where people can go to shops and restaurants. It's a vanity project being built to the "glory" of the country's president, who ordered the creation of the city where the tent is located. At 100,000 square meters, it covers an area about a quarter of the size of the floor space in the Mall of America.

Aviation News Israeli security says someone stole four handguns on a US flight
They checked four 9mm Glocks for a flight from Washington to New York, but the guns never arrived

Broadcasting Podcast: Will telescopes save our lives?

Broadcasting Podcast: The iPhone 4...big fat hairy deal

Water News A day of flash flooding in Iowa

Science and Technology Interview with an android
The CBC radio show "As It Happens" interviews Bina 48, a robot imbued with artificial intelligence, an Internet connection, and a "character engine" that's supposed to make it behave something like an actual human being. The goal, it would seem, is to synthesize a way to capture a human being's essence -- likely that of a particular person -- and use it to preserve their personality even after the person has died. Naturally, there will be an interest in using the personalities of some of history's most prolific writers (like Benjamin Franklin) to see whether we can approximate an answer to questions like "What would one of the Founding Fathers say about this issue?" On the positive side, it could be comforting and perhaps even instructive for people to literally hear from preserved versions of their dead ancestors. But attitudes and cultures change over time, so how will those "preserved" personalities adapt? What if great-grandmother was a loudmouthed racist? Would her preserved avatar keep on waxing philosophical about those things the same way great-grandmother always would? What if her great-grandchild brought home a partner of a different race? Would the avatar adapt?

Science and Technology Memorial service for a 333-year-old tree
People in Minneapolis will be getting together on Sunday to commemorate a 333-year-old tree that was thought to be the oldest in the city. It failed to leaf out this year, which tells botanists that it's dead. There still remains a lot to be done to confer upon humans the same kind of longevity that is characteristic of some trees.

Business and Finance "Extreme Heelys"
The people who brought us those annoying shoes with wheels in the heels are trying to keep the company from sinking into the wasteland of one-hit wonders with what looks like a miniature skateboard that attaches to an un-wheeled shoe. How strange. And how unlikely to save the company.

Aviation News How long do we have before UAVs become a domestic threat in the US?

Water News Why pumping the oil-laden water out of the Gulf is harder than it looks

Humor and Good News How can one broke economy lend money to another broke economy?
A very clever satire on the state of international finances. It's funny because it's so true.

Humor and Good News If video games came with super-easy modes

Aviation News India's busiest airport apparently has no functioning ground radar
Considering it's used mostly to prevent collisions while planes and related vehicles are moving around the airport grounds, that's a pretty spooky situation. The airport has a pretty sweet-smelling "safety policy", but the lack of ground-traffic radar puts its 24.3 million annual passengers at serious risk of death or injury while they think they're safe inside their planes. And, like most airports, it has intersecting runways, making it all the riskier.

Business and Finance Blockbuster arrives (late) to the movie-rental-kiosk business
It seems like a bit of a Hail Mary pass to try to save the company from complete disaster, but good luck to them

News A profile of the man who will probably lead India someday

Water News Guidance for safe flood cleanup

Computers and the Internet Microsoft keeps trying to improve Bing
The second-place company in a given market usually has more incentive to work hard and innovate than the first-place company

Science and Technology Dual lightning bolts in Chicago
Bolts simultaneously striking the Sears Tower and the Trump Tower. A fascinating photo worthy of a newspaper front page.

Humor and Good News Perhaps the most peculiar Wikipedia profile picture ever

Broadcasting Notes from the WHO Radio Wise Guys - July 10, 2010

Humor and Good News What's a burger between friends?
The presidents of Russia and the United States get together for some ground beef