Gongol.com Archives: March 2011
Brian Gongol

March 21, 2011

Iowa Engineering News-Record praises Davenport for not building a floodwall
An editorial in the widely-regarded magazine suggests that Japan's tsunami warning and protection systems worked really well, but that sometimes it'll make more sense to behave like Davenport and, rather than building flood defenses, simply cede some land to regular flooding. But that's also a potentially costly choice, since Nature isn't always a cooperative force. And there's obviously a trade-off to what we spend on flood defenses, for instance -- that money could also be spent on things like defenses against cyberattacks, a man-made phenomenon that could easily be more destructive than anything Nature throws at us.

Computers and the Internet Google says the Chinese government is stepping up censorship attempts
The next three to six months could reveal a lot about China's future -- with revolutions being sparked with very little pure impetus across the Arab world, the Communist government in China appears to be doing everything it can to keep its people from finding out. But there's only so much of the Internet from which a nation can withdraw before it fails to obtain all of the benefits that come from easy information exchange. And the US is involved, too -- throwing a few hundred thousand dollars to the BBC to help with efforts to get around Internet and TV censorship in places like China. We have to be careful -- an unstable China might be more of a threat than a coherent and belligerent one. But over the long term, China can't stay the way it is. And with governments like those of Yemen shooting civilian protesters in the streets, American foreign policy is in a bind -- the Yemeni government has supposedly been helpful in fighting terrorism, but it's not a very good bedfellow.

Science and Technology Why there really aren't exactly 12 hours of daylight on the equinox
Technically, the sunrise occurs when the first peek of Sun comes over the horizon, but the Equinox is determined by the center point of the Sun, which apparently takes about three minutes to appear after the sunrise begins. Also, because the atmosphere bends light, we actually see the Sun before and after it's supposed to appear.

News No, you don't have to register your cell phone for the Do-Not-Call Registry
By law, mobile phones in the US are still supposed to be protected from auto-dialed telemarketing calls. Unfortunately, some people are forwarding e-mails that suggest that all cell phones are about to be released to the telemarketers to call at will. That's not true, and those forwards are not helpful.

Computers and the Internet Student is leaving UCLA after posting a stupid video on YouTube
A UCLA student has withdrawn from the university after getting threats and complaints reacting to a lengthy rant she posted on YouTube about how she dislikes Asians and their behavior on campus and in the library. The Internet makes it altogether too easy for people to say things they'll regret if they don't think first.

Weather and Disasters Teenager and 80-year-old grandmother survived 9 days trapped in Japanese quake rubble
Their story is pretty uplifting -- but it also really must make things difficult for rescue and recovery workers who usually stop looking for survivors after three or four days.

Iowa Depression-era mural to be uncovered after half a century under paint
It's a politically-charged painting, to be sure, but it's been in a courtroom and judges didn't think it made sense to have an emotionally-charged painting influencing juries.

Iowa Lawmaker says Iowa is going backwards on flood protection
And it could be a very bad year for flooding, too.

Computers and the Internet Firefox 4.0 is supposed to be released tomorrow
The browser has offered a strong challenge to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, and it's undoubtedly contributed to advancing the state of the art. It's interesting that the release comes now -- hopefully enhancing competition in the browser market -- just at the same time that AT&T is set to purchase T-Mobile, reducing competition in America's cell-phone service market.