Gongol.com Archives: 2010 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol



Humor and Good News How to make some awesome Pac-Man costumes
With ghosts, too

News Mrs. Cleaver has died
Barbara Billingsley was best-known as the mother in "Leave It to Beaver", but her funniest appearance ever was in "Airplane!" when she offered to translate jive.

News Palestinian Authority may try to get the UN to establish a state

Broadcasting Podcast: Why should investment bankers be paid more when they're producing less?
Also: Why monarchies stink, why we shouldn't be bothered by changes in labor patterns, and why immigration requires some cooler heads to prevail.

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Agriculture Agricultural exchanges could do a lot of good for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Some helpful knowledge transfer could make a lot of economic difference for two countries that rely on agriculture for 31% and 43%, respectively, of their national economies. It's just too bad that CNN's report on their visit told next to nothing about what they were actually here to learn, and quotes a farmer as saying, "Soybeans are up $3. Corn is $3.25 up. And I get that information three times a day." They made that mistake because they didn't know enough to realize that when the farmer said "Soybeans are up three", he meant three cents a bushel. "Corn is 325 up" means $0.0325, not $3.25. A $3 rise in the per-bushel price for corn or soybeans in a single day would be an impossible spike. Disappointing work by CNN on an important story. Reducing poverty around the world will require a lot of innovative thinking -- and in some cases, some surprisingly simple steps, like providing bed nets to stop malaria.

Iowa Life for auto dealers after the automakers canceled the franchises
A surprising number of Iowa dealers seem to have survived losing their franchises with the Big Three Detroit automakers

Business and Finance How a business picks an exit strategy
One choice: Find a company that's looking for businesses to buy.

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.

News The man likely to become China's next president

News Labor strikes leave France without gas

Water News The EPA wants to know what happened to containers swept away in flooding



The United States of America A classic American political movement
(Video) New York has a political group called the "Rent is Too Damn High" party. They can't really be taken seriously as a political movement, but one has to admire the moxie.

Humor and Good News Dispatches from the Sesame Islands
Re-imagining the Sesame Street characters as the first animals encountered on a weird, remote island

Humor and Good News Seven things you don't need to photograph

Computers and the Internet Firefox 3.6.11 is out
It's mainly a security update over prior editions, but that makes it important to download and install

Iowa Who can't love a judge who threatens lawyers with a 2x4?
An Iowa judge claims to carry an "ABMT" -- Attorney Behavior Modification Tool

Humor and Good News Who taught this chimp to flip the bird at police officers?



The United States of America A civics exam for Americans
These days, a lot of people are getting a lot of things wrong about what it means to be an American -- like making the mistake of thinking that this is was established as a "Christian" nation. It wasn't. The US was founded during the height of the Enlightenment era, which was specifically a time when reason independent of religious influence was ascendant. It's a nation in which all are free to be Christians (or anything else, including non-religious) -- not a "Christian nation".

Socialism Doesn't Work Why so many giveaways?
When did it become standard practice for states to subsidize large companies that come asking for forgivable loans in the name of "job creation"? It's a direct subsidy, and no matter how happy some employees may be to get those subsidized jobs, there are competitors and innocent bystanders who end up getting taxed to pay for them.

Computers and the Internet A reverse-search engine for image matching
Upload a picture and see what other graphics on the Internet match it

Humor and Good News A Pandora station for those who like alternative rock and electronica
Oh, wait: That's an audience of one? Good thing it doesn't matter.

Business and Finance The never-ending stream of bad business logos



Socialism Doesn't Work Don't "friend" the Communist Party on Facebook
In Vietnam, the government is using social-networking tools to spy on its people -- which highlights the risk to Americans and others that "friending" anyone on Facebook (or any other site) may reveal more information to the other party than one might intend to. Everyone needs a litmus test by which to decide whom to "friend" and whom not -- whether that's "people I know from school" or "people I've been drinking with" or "people whom I'd trust with my wallet", and then that litmus test needs to be applied consistently. Lots of groups and organizations use the back-door method of creating individual profiles on Facebook instead of creating group profiles, and that method means that their "friends" aren't even protected by Facebook's rather weak privacy protections against abuse by groups, since the same protections don't apply to individual user accounts. God help anyone who would "friend" the Communist Party anywhere -- or one's own government. Your government is never your friend; it is only a tool to be used for your own protection against anarchy and oppression.

Humor and Good News Sometimes, the engineers are the real heroes
An engineer from Boeing noticed another driver swerving erratically and realized the driver had passed out at the wheel -- so he pulled a stunt move to bring the other car to a halt before it crashed through an intersection and killed somebody. This is the kind of story teachers ought to use in physics classes to show that acceleration isn't just an academic subject. On a related popular-science note, some researchers have figured out how quickly a dog of a given size must shake to get rid of the maximum amount of water on its fur. The video is absolutely worth viewing, if only for the point at which a graph appears on screen comparing the rotational speed of a golden retriever to a salad spinner.

The United States of America Why Nebraskans were long prohibited from buying stuff sold on TV
Because the Strategic Air Command was located in Omaha, the state was served by a lot more phone lines than it ordinarily needed during the Cold War. Between a surplus of phone lines and a lack of a regional accent, the state was ideal for handling the call centers needed to serve the (800) lines people would call to place those orders. But the peculiarities of the Bell System during that era meant that people living in Nebraska couldn't call the same (800) number as the rest of the country, so to prevent confusion, the ads just said they couldn't call at all. Nebraska remains a major call-center state, even though the Cold War has been over for 20 years, which only goes to show that we continue doing a lot of things well after the initial reason for having done so has gone away.

Broadcasting Tribune Company dumps Randy Michaels
Just because a person is CEO doesn't mean they no longer have to behave like an adult

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Aviation News World's first passenger spaceport opens
It's in New Mexico, and the first runway has opened. Commercial passenger space travel is just around the corner. And in related aviation technology news, an Australian company is planning to develop heavy-lifting balloons to carry freight. It could be a remarkably useful tool for getting relief supplies quickly and cheaply to places hit by disasters.

The United States of America The standard American accent today was probably the one used by the British in 1776
In other words, "General American" is the original version of English; British accents today are the ones that have evolved away from the original

Computers and the Internet China's government is going into competition with Google Earth

Humor and Good News Haven't we called Barbara Boxer "Senator" long enough?
(Video) Hilarious political satire based upon a real moment of self-absorption by a California Senator

Computers and the Internet The evolution of media continues
Prominent journalists who established themselves in "legacy" media like newspapers are migrating to the Internet without fear of losing their credibility or their followings. That's because the medium itself is less important than the quality and content of what a person has to say.