Gongol.com Archives: 2010 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

The American Way Google's been testing a self-piloted car
This is exactly the kind of thing that Google should be doing -- developing non-Internet technologies instead of trying to beat in the brains of Microsoft and Apple in crowded market spaces like computer software and hardware. Smart move on Google's part. The company has three phenomenal resources at its disposal: Cash, computers, and programming talent. There are many ways in which those resources can and should be deployed that could offer Google durable competitive market advantages that it will never have in offering online services.

Humor and Good News Nostalgia meets the Internet with a side of parody
(Video) Someone at the Sesame Street team has a good sense of humor, turning one of the ridiculous Old Spice commercials into a Grover sketch, brilliantly capitalizing on the nostalgia so many Americans naturally have for Sesame Street

News Not a lot of choices to make in Omaha
Nineteen county offices in the Omaha metro will be elected unopposed this November

Humor and Good News Graffiti knitters on the loose in London

Humor and Good News Cigar Guy
A sports photographer captured a remarkable shot of a Tiger Woods-hit ball flying directly for his camera. But even better is the fact that there's a guy in a goofy costume making a hilarious face in the background.

The United States of America Lots of advisers are punching out of the Obama administration
What might be oddest is that they're leaving before the midterm elections, and all more or less at once

News The family business, eh?
The eldest son of Kim Jong-Il says he's not all that pleased with plans to make his younger brother into the next leader of North Korea. Funny thing about family businesses: They can be great for developing a long-term focus and encouraging a sort of apprenticeship that can't be matched elsewhere. But when they're unearned (like the passing on of a dictatorship), they're really just depressing.

Health Just sending a "get well" card can be enough to help the mentally ill
A little signal of support can be enough to help people who are feeling isolated

Computers and the Internet What happened to the Google mobile icon
Google used to show an icon illustrating when a site is mobile-friendly. But that icon doesn't seem to show up much anymore. What happened?

Business and Finance "Firms that do not adequately compensate risk losing their top bankers"
Revenues at lots of investment banks are relatively flat -- an they're even declining at some firms. But those firms are giving raises to their employees regardless, using the argument that they can't unilaterally disarm in the face of rising pay among their competitors. Cute excuse, but the real owners of the firms (their shareholders) deserve better. The nauseating argument that pay has to rise at outlandish rates just to keep employees from going elsewhere -- even for poor performance -- is a tired refrain used not only by investment banks, but also within collegiate and professional sports, and among high-level business executives. That argument would be a lot easier to swallow if it didn't sound quite so much like extortion -- or if it were only backed by performance that improved just as fast as the pay increases.

Computers and the Internet Google puts $5 billion into wind energy
The company is starting to get smart about diversifying away from its core business in search engines and online ad revenues. Electricity is one of the main input costs for Google, since it has to run massive computing centers worldwide 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Simultaneously, it's reaping windfall profits right now from its online businesses -- windfall profits that won't last forever. In fact, they probably won't even last for ten more years. So now is the time for them to wisely sink excess profits into other lines of business -- and in this case, alternative sources of electricity would be a wise place for that money to go, since it's both a market that's likely to grow over the long term, and a way for Google to vertically integrate its business model.

Aviation News Ignorance is bliss
(Video) An old recording of an airshow (supposedly from 1959) illustrates just how much fun it's possible to have when you don't know very much. The demonstration is compelling and thrilling, to be sure, but it includes several displays that are so ridiculously dangerous by our current standards that it's hard to believe they were ever performed.

Health So, are we really done with H1N1?
The brutal strain of influenza caused some serious panic last year, but it looks like it's pretty well-repressed for now. What have we done to prepare in case it, or something like it, comes back? Because something will.

News Former senior officials in China's Communist Party say it's time for free speech
There's really only just so long that speech can be repressed in the age of the Internet. And it's definitely not forever.

Iowa Cop shoots at KCCI-TV camera operator
People inside the studios heard what sounded like gunshots -- but they were just rocks being thrown through windows. But when police showed up and the cameraman tried to point them to the intruder, one of the officers got a little trigger-happy and opened fire.

Weather and Disasters Floods set back progress in Pakistan by years
These are the kinds of events that make people's whining about a recession so tiresome. A recession is unpleasant, and no doubt causes some degree of human suffering. But when a recession is over, bridges and buildings are still standing, and even an awful recession only puts an economy back by one or two years, compared to normal growth. But economic cycles are inevitable, and thus so are occasional downturns. We know this, so we can't be excused for not preparing for those cycles. Massive, calamitous natural disasters like the flooding in Pakistan, on the other hand, can truly set things back by many years.

Science and Technology Mice may be able to regenerate cells just like salamanders and newts
And if they can do it, most likely so can we

Science and Technology There is no convincing evidence that cell phones can cause brain cancer
Really large studies are showing no apparent signs of risk for most cell-phone users

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Humor and Good News If you liked "Arrested Development"...
...then you might be obligated to watch "Running Wilde". It isn't quite as good as "Arrested Development", but that show set an impossible bar, and "Running Wilde" does at least contain Will Arnett in a starring role, David Cross as a supporting actor, and Mitchell Hurwitz as a director/producer. It gets better with each episode, so start from #1; don't go backwards. And Keri Russell is quite pleasant to look at, too. For other videographic hilarity, see the animated Taiwanese coverage of the Brett Favre controversy.

Humor and Good News A first-person view of parachuting onto a football field
(Video) Really quite impressive

News Cynicism without real criticism is a recipe for bad politics
A columnist remarking on the recent Australian federal elections makes the excellent point that just because we're bombarded all the time with what's branded as political "news" doesn't mean that we're actually aware of the policies being debated, nor that we're really becoming better critics of those policies. We're just becoming cynical.

Computers and the Internet It's not clear why the UAE reversed its plan to ban the BlackBerry, but it's a good thing they did

Science and Technology Triceratops and torosaurus: Not different species, just different ages
But who doesn't have a softer spot in the heart for triceratops than for the mostly-unknown torosaurus? Let's stick with triceratops as the species name, OK?

Business and Finance RIP Benoit Mandelbrot
One of the most novel mathematicians of the modern era has died. His book "The (Mis)Behavior of Markets is a work of genius, explaining exactly why financial markets behave erratically, even though thousands (if not millions) of people think they're smart enough to predict those same markets. Mandelbrot's work explains exactly why someone like Bernard Madoff can't honestly produce impeccable, smooth results year after year. (That crooked scheme netted Madoff some high-on-the-hog living, though. Too bad he was living high on the backs of the ill-informed.)

Computers and the Internet China is using malware attacks to spy on South Korea
Infected attachments sent with spoofed e-mails are poking holes in South Korea's security

Threats and Hazards The state of America's budget: Worse than critical
The Concord Coalition thinks we could be suffering trillion-dollar deficits every year from now through 2020

News A brilliant scholarship offer
The University of Nebraska offers a free-tuition scholarship to seventh-graders who obtain a perfect score on any section of the ACT or SAT. It's a brilliant offer: First of all, these are the kinds of kids to whom the university would likely offer a scholarship later, so why not make the offer early? Colleges are offering athletic scholarships at ridiculously early ages, so why not do the same for actual scholars? Second, it establishes credibility that old "State U." is serious about academics (even if the selection method is a little arbitrary). Third, it makes for good publicity: Who can say anything bad about an offer made to a bookish junior-high student? Well done, Nebraska.

Science and Technology You can't multitask, nor can anybody else
We're only capable of switching our attention quickly from one task to another. But every time you switch, your brain has to re-set -- so too much switching only results in lots of lost productivity.

Humor and Good News "How to wallow in unbridled hedonism"
Panel three of the comic is artistic genius

Humor and Good News How Grandma sees the television remote control

Science and Technology Snails moving at something faster than a snail's pace
Truly spectacular time-lapse video. Impressive even for those who don't like nature shows.