Gongol.com Archives: 2011 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

News The Onion positively nails the Penn State tragedy

Computers and the Internet Is Facebook worth $100 billion?
They're rumored to be considering a public offering of stock, to which lots of people will likely be attracted just because it's a well-known company. That doesn't make it a good investment.

Business and Finance State budgets may be in huge trouble

Computers and the Internet Why you can't believe everything you see
Most really attractive women in magazines have been digitally retouched...a lot

Science and Technology The gadgets in everyday life that don't tell you the truth

News A most interesting response to the question "Where are you from?"

Business and Finance Bankruptcy for the parent company of American Airlines

Business and Finance British banks told to be ready for the Euro to fall apart
If there's one thing we should have learned in the last ten years, it's that it's imperative to think not only of the obvious risks, but also of the low-probability, high-impact events that can change our world as well. One can argue at length about whether the European Union will fail, and whether it may have even been doomed from the start, but the obvious takeaway from it all is that people need to anticipate even the unpleasant and improbable, as long as it's still possible. With the EU turning to the IMF for help, it should be clear that really bad things can happen, whether or not we anticipate them and act to protect ourselves.

Humor and Good News Entitlement
Someone at The Onion really doesn't like nitwits with a sense of entitlement

Computers and the Internet FTC muscles Facebook into a deal for better privacy protection

Computers and the Internet Oracle turns over the keys to OpenOffice to the Apache Software Foundation

Computers and the Internet Google keeps changing its user interface
One wonders how much they intend to get away with changing before aggravating too many users?

Business and Finance Berkshire Hathaway to purchase Omaha World-Herald for $200 million
The deal is for $150 million in cash, $50 million in debt. It capitalizes the newspaper's operations and brings the paper under the umbrella of Warren Buffett's benevolent protectorate, but it sure looks like it's mainly a nostalgic move by Buffett. It's a much smaller purchase than what he's usually entertained (he's talked a lot about looking for something in the $5 billion to $10 billion range, and this purchase is just 4% of that target amount), but it's the kind of purchase he probably regrets not trying to make 20 years ago. Of course, newspapers have economics a lot like railroads (the Burlington Northern railroad being another recent high-profile Buffett purchase) -- with high capital costs, a natural-monopoly state, and low marginal costs per unit sold -- so as long as one doesn't finance the purchase with debt, newspapers can be a very good, stable investment. It's definitely in keeping with his strategy of staying within a circle of competence and looking for businesses that don't lose money. [Full disclosure: Site owner is a Berkshire shareholder at the time of writing]

Iowa Long-term accounting for IPERS needs a lot of buttressing
Iowa's pension system for public-sector employees has a very large shortfall of assets to what it's going to need to pay off future obligations. It's disconcerting news that we've actually known about for quite some time -- but layered upon the growing problem of towns finding themselves short on pension funds as well, it's part of a one-two punch that should give Iowa taxpayers some reason for concern.

Humor and Good News Unemployed? Might be that face tattoo.
(Video) Hilarious spoof from The Onion that's almost too close to reality

Business and Finance $25 billion for a full buyout of Yahoo?
Supposedly, that's what's being discussed among private-equity firms. It's pretty hard to stomach a buyout that big being justified by the economics of the company. In Yahoo's favor is a balance sheet with $12.6 billion in net equity, but that assumes $3.8 billion in goodwill. Net income is in the range of $200 to $300 million a quarter, but the big-picture problem is that there's no good way to know what the online environment is going to look like more than a few months down the road. There's so little predictability -- and it's so easy for consumers to change their minds and go elsewhere -- that it's really hard to imagine that sinking lots of money into a technology company today will be rewarding tomorrow.

Business and Finance Big discounts are driving lots of consumers to buy new TVs
46-inch flat-screen televisions selling for $300 mean the cost per diagonal inch is well under $10, which used to be the price point at which tube televisions were sold. That's a pretty remarkable example of price deflation...on a product that's much better than what was available in the past.

News Kurt Warner to Tim Tebow: Lay off the evangelization, buddy
Words are less demonstrative than deeds

Iowa Some people hate the new Subway sign near the western gateway sculpture park
Can signs for stores like Subway be a little over-the-top? Yes. But, come on: Big advertising signs are the American way. People love the Citgo sign in Boston, and anyone who takes a look at old Des Moines skyline photos from 1901, 1907, 1914, or especially 1919, will see that much larger, more garish signs have been around practically forever. The complaints about this particular sign are unfair, especially considering that the new restaurant is a hundred times better than the dumpy buildings that used to sit in the same area (including, if memory serves, a porn shop).

The United States of America Minnesota's state budget is unexpectedly $876 million in the black
Perhaps it's an indicator that the economy is picking up, despite the negative messages out there

Science and Technology US air pollution from coal power plants is declining measurably

Computers and the Internet "It's as if people think there isn't a real person at the other end"
Charlie Brooker on the way people berate one another online. Brooker has some related comments on how strange it is that we're now having conversations with machines. There is good reason to believe that in the not-so-distant future, we'll find computers being used as surrogates for advice and guidance from people who have passed away. These personality engines are the logical consequence of a range of converging technologies and human wants.

Threats and Hazards Mugabe cronies chase spoof commercial from TV
"Last dictator standing" theme didn't go over well with his supporters. That's, of course, exactly why satire is a well-protected right of free speech in countries where human rights are respected -- people have every right to lampoon their government and the people who work in it.

Iowa Mitt Romney gets significant endorsement from Robert Ray
Ray remains an influence-maker decades after leaving office. Meantime, it comes out that Newt Gingrich has really only been out to sell books, not really to get elected President.

Threats and Hazards Fukushima nuclear disaster was probably worse than originally thought
And it's going to take 30 years to bring the plant to a complete stop

Broadcasting KGO-AM overhauls almost everything on the air
One can tell from the three-letter call sign that KGO is a historic station, so when it makes a big change (like it's doing now), it's worth noting

Broadcasting Iowa sports broadcaster Mike Newell dies of heart attack
He was a pleasant co-worker