Gongol.com Archives: August 2011
Brian Gongol


August 19, 2011

Business and Finance Panic on the stock-market floor: Unjustified
The problem with what's happening now is that people are pulling money out of stocks to shovel it into "safe" accounts that earn little or no interest but carry little risk of loss. They're too late to make the switch, particularly if retirement is coming soon but isn't quite here yet. Cashing out now just means you've locked in your losses, so a little patience is in order -- maybe a couple of years' worth. If the overall market hasn't recovered within 5 years of now, we're in pretty dire condition anyway. Things will be different then, of course -- there's a good chance that the world five or ten years from now won't have a Euro anymore, or at least, not one that's used by as many countries as use it today. But it's critical to remember that no matter how bad things get in the stock or bond markets, we didn't all just become stupid. The things we know how to do -- flying airplanes, building bridges, performing surgery -- we still know how to do. And we as a species learn more things to do every day -- and if we're smart, we learn new things as individuals every day as well. The scorecard may look a little different, but the fundamentals haven't changed. Circumstances will evolve, China will play a larger role in the world economy, people in poor countries will get opportunities to take up low-wage work, and entrepreneurs will still break their backs trying to get rich. Oh, and whenever there's a bad day on the stock market, we'll be subjected to the painful cliche of the brokers with their hands on their faces.

Computers and the Internet Google wants to take over the old Motorola cell-phone line
There's a lot of debate: Is this so that Google can step up its presence in the smartphone market, or so that it can make use of all of the company's patents and collect the royalties from them? Given that HP is exiting the smartphone business, one has to wonder whether the Motorola phone business is as profitable as Google might expect a new acquisition to be. We'll have to see whether antitrust regulators even let the deal go through. Google's CEO says the acquisition is Google's way of defending itself against Microsoft and Apple, which he makes the bold step of accusing of "anti-competitive patent attacks on Android". Is it hubris? It's definitely an interesting decision, right on the heels of the shutdown of Google Labs, which seemed like a really bad move at the time, and still does a month later.

Computers and the Internet HP wants to spin off its computer-making business
It's a third of the company's sales, but the profit margins are below 6%, and the CEO wants to focus elsewhere. They're also killing off the WebOS project, though they may end up selling it elsewhere. The company hasn't formalized plans yet, but plans to do so in about 12 to 18 months. They're trying to become a cloud-computing company, starting with a big acquisition.

Computers and the Internet "Woot" and "retweet" make it into the OED
The Oxford English Dictionary puts a stamp of approval on the existence of the words, even if the editors don't think "woot" should have replaced "hurrah"

Health Archaeologist says don't blame the rats for the Black Death
The 1300's plague killed too many people too fast to have been spread by rats, says Barney Sloane, who also says he's tried to find evidence of lots of rat corpses from the era in the dirt, but to no success.

Science and Technology How much oil is beneath North Dakota and Montana?
The USGS says up to 4.3 billion barrels, which leaves a big gap behind Venezuela's 296.5 billion-barrel reserve, and Saudi Arabia's 264.5 billion barrels.

Science and Technology Spice found in curry powder could help identify explosives
It changes color in the presence of TNT

Agriculture ISU agronomists think the corn crop will be worse than the USDA expects
Flooding and the recent hot, dry streak could put a significant dent in the total crop this year

Iowa Does anyone like the new Cy-Hawk trophy?

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