Gongol.com Archives: March 2011
Brian Gongol

March 9, 2011

Computers and the Internet Five status updates nobody should ever share online
Just because Facebook, Twitter, and other services make it unthinkably easy to broadcast our thoughts to the entire known universe doesn't mean we should do it without thinking.

Broadcasting Sometime this year, a national EAS test
The United States never conducted a national activation of the old Emergency Broadcast System, which was a cultural mainstay of the Cold War. Now, for the first time, the government wants to run a national test of the Emergency Alert System, the successor to the Emergency Broadcast System. It wasn't activated on 9/11, even though there was pretty clear evidence that it should have been. Now, we'll find out if it even can be activated successfully nationwide -- more than a decade after the system was established. That it's been in operation that long without having been tested nationwide is one of those reasons why it's hard to take seriously any promises that the Federal government will ever be able to really "protect" Americans in an emergency.

Science and Technology The sky in time-lapse looks a lot like the ocean
Both are fluids...we just don't easily see the sky behaving like one, since it happens on a different time scale. Time-lapse shots of San Francisco's lively atmosphere provide a striking view of this fluid motion.

Iowa Small school districts in Iowa are sinking into a demographic hole
As farming becomes more efficient, fewer farmers are needed to produce the same volume of crops -- and more. That means there are fewer jobs in the towns that support farming, which in turn means those towns are shrinking. Iowa faces a long-term challenge: It's not going to be possible to maintain population in all of our small towns, nor even in most of them. So we'll have to figure out how to concentrate our efforts on "saving" a limited number of communities that might then have a chance at creating enough economic gravity that they can support regional trade and perhaps support some neighboring communities. People generally make most of their decisions based upon a limited number of factors: What's easiest, what's closest, what's most familiar, and/or what's best for their families. Proximity to a vibrant larger community -- one with good stores, restaurants, and things to do -- is essential to taking advantage of these pre-existing biases in people's decision-making. The future of Iowa's communities could pretty easily be predicted based upon whether they're within half an hour's driving distance (give or take a little) of communities that satisfy those needs. For those that don't, it's going to be extremely tough going in the future.

Broadcasting How much is a long-term business relationship worth?
The University of Minnesota has broadcast its football games on WCCO-AM since 1943, along with a lot of other university sports. That relationship is now over, due to the many vagaries of college sports broadcast contracts, particularly in the modern era of granting exclusive rights to a single network. One former announcer put it this way about how things used to be: "You just took it for granted -- everything was on WCCO". How much is a relationship like that worth? How much is lost, culturally, when there are no longer certain long-term institutions that they can rely upon? One of the great things about America is that we know when it's time to blow up the old and replace it with the new, but it's also sad to see that old relationships that could have been kept fresh and vibrant are instead allowed to fade away.

Water News How clear should Iowa's waters be?

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