Gongol.com Archives: 2011 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

Business and Finance Sales decline in 2010 for DVDs, CDs, video games, and movie tickets
DVD sales went down by 13%; music CDs nose-dived by 19%. A lot of people have turned to streaming (two-thirds of Netflix users are on the company's streaming service), and a lot of people don't have a lot of spare cash to spend on entertainment.

Business and Finance A very golden parachute for Google's outgoing CEO
Eric Schmidt, who already has a rather large collection of shares (approximately 140,000 shares, according to NASDAQ and SEC filings), is getting a $100 million stock-and-options deal as he exits the job.

Business and Finance The manifesto of an angry investor
What's happening under the guise of "professional" money management is infuriating. There has to be a better way.

Humor and Good News Flavor Flav's Fried Chicken starts up in Clinton, Iowa
The rapper has opened the first restaurant in what he hopes will become a chain -- in Iowa. For real.

Computers and the Internet No more real estate listings on Google Maps
Too bad; it was a nice feature while it lasted. But the company says other options exist and it's too much work to keep up. That, if nothing else, says that Google can come up against competition it can't best.

Computers and the Internet Another attempt at a question-answering service that won't really take off
For all the information that's stored on the Internet, there's very little in the way of effective means of reliably obtaining answers to one's own questions, short of learning how to become a search-engine superstar. Now comes Quora.com, which attempts to combine the democratic style and flavor of Wikipedia with the question-and-answer format of Yahoo Answers. But let's be honest about this: This has been tried and tried again, never with any resounding success. On the Internet, speed trumps customization (if you have to try three or four different searches to get the answer you're looking for, it's still better than waiting three days for someone to answer your first question precisely), and it's really just not sensible to think that there's a lot of new ground to cover -- certainly not after even Google folded Google Answers. But that doesn't stop people from trying, even though it really isn't worth any individual user's time to become a regular participant. (And that, it should be noted, is why these sites are doomed in the long term: If I have a really good answer to your question, I want to get paid for it. So if I'm not going to get paid, why should I answer, unless I have some backdoor means of getting compensated? Thus, you'll find any number of people posing as credible experts on Q-and-A sites when they're not, either because they have something to sell, or because they can't establish their credibility elsewhere and find that answering questions online gives them some semblance of a feeling of authority.

News The cost of bad roads
A lobbying group says that bad roads cost the average Omaha driver $1,100 a year in accidents, vehicle wear, and wasted gas. Campaigns for better roads have been around for at least half of America's history, predating Teddy Roosevelt's time in the White House. But the recurrent problem is this: As with all infrastructure, people tend to notice only when it's falling apart -- not when it's working well and is properly maintained. Thus politicians have very little incentive to promote the adequate funding and upkeep of the infrastructure while in office, but do gain credit for "fixing" problems once the condition has deteriorated badly. It's not a well-thought-out way to manage essential public services like roads, sewers, and parks. The I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis on August 1, 2007, is a classic case study in what happens when neglect compounds over time.

Broadcasting Legendary BBC World Service to be cut dramatically
The organization is going to release 650 people from work -- 25% of its staff -- in an effort to deal with $80 million in government budget cuts. The result will be a considerable cutback in the service's global radio footprint, which raises a question: How much would that footprint (or any portion of it) be worth to a commercial sponsor?

Broadcasting Al Jazeera's role in the current unrest in the Arab world
The news network is playing a rather strange role in spreading information about some protests -- and keeping quiet about others

Socialism Doesn't Work Chavez encourages squatters to set up around Caracas
The Marxist-style socialist is trying to win over the poor -- but in the process, he may be irritating a lot of people in the middle class who want nothing to do with squatters in their city

Iowa The fastest cable-TV repair truck in history
Someone stole a Mediacom truck in Des Moines and managed to get through at least three sets of stop sticks. No legitimate cable-repair guy in history has ever tried so hard.

News The remaking of a worn-out shopping mall
A developer wants to turn Omaha's Crossroads Mall -- which has seen better days, especially since a much fancier mall opened up a couple of miles down the street -- into a mixed-use development, with a focus on college students as residents. Interesting concept.

Computers and the Internet Three things you should know before using an Internet message board
Plus a bonus fourth recommendation

Science and Technology The worst parking-fee machine ever
It's like some nightmare of design

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The United States of America A whole new way to be terrorized
The stupid color-coded "homeland security threat level" system is going away. It was obvious years ago that the color-coded system was a failure, but at last it's being ended. The new system is the NTAS (National Terrorism Advisory System), which appears to be just a specific list of threats people ought to know about. We'll see how the implementation goes, but it looks like a vastly better approach than the yellow-that-never-ends threat level of the old system.

Science and Technology The gorilla who strolls around like one of us
An adult silverback gorilla in the UK has been captured on video walking around on his hind legs like a human being, and a former caretaker says he was doing that 20 years ago. While walking on two legs isn't itself a particular signal of evolution, it is a reminder that some animals are capable of learning innovations from one another, as well as a reminder that evolution itself hasn't simply stopped for any animals, just because we've figured out the science. Quite to the contrary, all of our animal neighbors are still evolving, just as we are.

Iowa Downsizing (student) government
The Northern Iowa Student Government has voted to shrink itself. An unusual move.

News Dig a big hole, then leave it unfilled
That's what kids sometimes do in the yard, but what about a developer who wants to build a tower in downtown Omaha? The city's getting upset because a developer started work four years ago and hasn't gotten past the big-hole-in-the-ground stage.

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