Gongol.com Archives: 2011 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol



Humor and Good News "Young Me/Now Me"
A brilliant project by ZeFrank.com, in which people submitted pictures of themselves when young...and today. Most chose to mimic the pose of their previous photo, and it's really just delightful. Simple and addictive all at once -- especially the group photos.

Computers and the Internet An SAT question for 2011: Is Apple without Steve Jobs like Microsoft without Bill Gates?
Jobs is on medical leave from Apple, but Gates is on permanent leave from Microsoft. He's busy using his epic fortune to do things like eradicate polio from the planet. The author of a ComputerWorld article suggests that Microsoft has lost its focus with Gates no longer at the helm, but it's hard not to think that Apple is even more dependent upon its founder than Microsoft is, and that Jobs's time away from Apple could threaten it enormously over time.

Computers and the Internet Ten tablet computers coming in 2011
When competition pushes the price of a tablet below $150, that will be the real breakthrough moment. For now, the price point is generally in the $400+ range, but that makes them a purchase people have to think about. Drop them to $150 apiece, and then a set of tablets for a family of four costs less than a brand-new big-screen television. That would open up a huge new market for the tablet, which right now is the province of the technological enthusiast rather than the ordinary user. They'll get to that point, but the price level must fall.

Humor and Good News Two hilarious people having a chat
(Video) Betty White and Craig Ferguson -- a recipe for great television. They'd be even better on "Frank's 2000-Inch TV".

Humor and Good News The Weird Al tapes
(Video) Not as revealing as the Nixon Tapes, but these bizarre messages left by Al Yankovic on his drummer's answering machine a quarter-century ago are a funny relic of the time when answering machines were brand-new and nobody had a smartphone.

Business and Finance Anti-product placement
Rumor has it people are sending anti-celebrities (like Snooki) their competitors' goods, hoping to inspire a negative association in the minds of a public that loves to hate its most vapid celebrities.



News Egyptian army says it won't use force against protesters
That's a huge announcement under the circumstances. Google and Twitter are cooperating to allow people to circumvent a government blackout of Internet access by delivering a phone-to-Twitter service for those who can't directly access the site itself. That step may very well be one of the signs we're on the fringe of an era in which companies rival national governments for power. It has happened on occasion in the past -- the Hudson's Bay Company could have passed for the actual government of parts of Canada for some time, and the Dutch East India Company had warships in its fleet. But it's something mainly new to us in the modern day.

Science and Technology Researchers think a baby bonobo has autism
He's at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, and they think that some of his eye movements and behaviors are signs he may be autistic. He obviously didn't get it from a vaccine.

Computers and the Internet Three rules for the safe use of Internet message boards
A segment from Saturday's "WHO Radio Wise Guys"


Broadcasting "The King's Speech": A delightful film, but wildly inaccurate
Christopher Hitchens tears apart some of the fabrications that form major parts of the movie

Science and Technology Telephone exchange names
American telephone numbers used to be identified by exchange names that revealed the first two digits of a local number in a word name, followed by five digits. We've long since abandoned the practice, but it's not hard to root out the origins of the convention.

Weather and Disasters Blizzard closes Lake Shore Drive in Chicago
A thousand cars got stuck

Computers and the Internet Google wants your mobile-phone number
Google Voice users can now port their existing cell-phone numbers over to Google Voice, so that the mobile number becomes a Google Voice number instead (that could, in turn, ring a cell phone number again). Not recommended for anyone but the boldest and savviest of computer users. Though it's unlikely to be closed now, Google has a history of shutting down lots of its experiments over the years, and Google Voice could become one of them.

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Aviation News TSA full-body scanners could get a little bit less creepy
Software is being tested at Las Vegas that turns the body scans into vague, stick-figure-like images that simply highlight points of potential concern. It certainly looks less creepy than the original body scans, though one could still be reasonably skeptical about the safety and efficacy of using those scans in an effort to thwart terrorism.

Humor and Good News Some art for your review
Just some abstract art created the other day by the proprietor of this site. Not nearly as good as anything you can see through the new Google Art Project, which offers a virtual tour of many of the world's great art galleries similar to what a person gets using Google Street View. At once, both technologically stunning (the resolution of many images is vastly higher than what a visitor could get putting eyeballs right up to the canvas) and enormously commendable (creating free access to a range of places that most people wouldn't get to see in an entire lifetime). The site serves another value altogether: Creating a sort of insurance policy against damage to the collections documented. Thanks to the project, should the unthinkable happen and a catastrophe wipe out the Museum of Modern Art in New York or the Tate in London, many of the featured works of art would still be preserved -- albeit digitally -- for posterity. It's quite the community service, really.

Aviation News 40% of the top ten airlines of 2000 are gone
TWA, Northwest, Continental, and America West were among the top ten in 2000, and by the end of 2010, they were gone...all absorbed into other airlines. That's a considerable degree of consolidation in a single decade.

News Inside the town Chernobyl destroyed
25 years later, it's still a ghost town. And the images captured by a BBC crew on a recent visit are eerie.

Socialism Doesn't Work Is there a word to describe horrible safety posters in Soviet realist style?
"Terri-evil" comes to mind, but it doesn't quite seem to capture just how macabre and ghastly several of the posters really are.

News Why nobody seems to like Jay Cutler
Even in a town where sports legends are adored. Names like Ditka and Jordan and Santo are like codewords to a secret fantasy clubhouse in Chicago, but nobody seems to get behind Bears quarterback Cutler.

The United States of America What we have to be ashamed of
A map depicting that at which each of the United States is at its worst

Water News Know how to shut off your water in the cold



Business and Finance US Cellular customers will have to wait for their Android OS upgrade
It was supposed to be delivered in late January, but the company says it's waiting on the handset maker HTC to make the phones ready. The problem here isn't that some software is delayed -- that happens all the time. The real problem is that the company is making its announcements in response to angry posts on Facebook. Companies should never rely upon third-party outlets like Facebook or Twitter or AOL or anything else to deliver their messages and serve as a primary conduit for communication with the customer. There should be a clearly-identified news section on US Cellular's website where one can go to find timely updates on things like operating-system upgrades. There's a press room, to be sure, but it's just full of marketing tripe. Customers deserve to find out useful information, and the company should be sharp about getting out in front of the story and telling them -- through official channels -- what the story is and how they expect it to evolve. They should never be caught making excuses on Facebook instead. That's just bad customer service and poor brand management. By the time someone's calling out a company on Facebook, they've already exhausted the normal channels for figuring out the problem and have reached the stage of venting about that anger. That's not a smart way to run a company. On a related note, Rupert Murdoch has launched a newspaper for the iPad called The Daily, not long after closing off many of News Corp.'s other websites from free access (the Times of London, for instance, resides behind a paywall). Seems like a silly choice: As though NBC Universal, deciding that it's no longer making money putting its programming over the air and basic cable, starts charging premium-channel prices for CNBC, NBC, and Telemundo -- while launching another brand-new service that only DirecTV subscribers can pay to watch, consisting mainly of content that they can get for free from CBS. Doesn't really make much sense.

Health Why medical test reports should be redesigned
(Video) A compelling TED talk that argues that better reports would be a highly effective tool in enabling (and encouraging) patients to do something about their own health. Good information leads to good buy-in.

News How to understand the rise of China
(Video) The most valuable takeaway from Martin Jacques's TED talk is that China isn't the monolithic nation-state it's often made out to be -- but it's also very much here to stay, in one form or another. China's government is using its cash riches to make huge investments in foreign economies (supposedly offering to invest more in Zimbabwe than the country's entire annual GDP), and there's evidence it's using dastardly espionage techniques to steal corporate secrets from abroad.

Business and Finance Report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission
The report's conclusion is that pretty much everyone is to blame for what happened in the financial markets in 2008 -- regulators, corporate leaders, and investors alike. And when everyone is to blame, then there's really very little that's likely to be done. Diffusion of responsibility makes people feel like they have no individual responsibility to fix the problem. It's a report that probably contains a lot of accurate statements and observations, and that will also probably result in nothing useful.

Weather and Disasters Aerial views of the Chicago snowstorm
Two feet of snow dumped on a heavily-urbanized area look pretty fascinating from the sky

Iowa Bad news about West Glen
The West Des Moines mixed-use development is in a lot of debt-related trouble

Broadcasting Is Glenn Beck a lot like Father Coughlin?
There are some parallels, to be sure. Both have drawn upon populist anger to gain broadcasting fame.

News The swimsuit issue ... of American History Illustrated
Some styles dating back as much as 75 years still look classy. Others just look absurd.

Humor and Good News Walgreens introduces beer at a Wal-Mart Cola price
50-cent beer. Really.

Water News When it's 27 degrees below zero, who wants to work outside?

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Computers and the Internet Three ways to speed up a slow computer
Not an elaborate plan for the computer expert -- just a plain-language set of instructions for people who aren't computer experts. Novices and self-proclaimed "dummies" are the ones who need the help, anyway.