Gongol.com Archives: February 2012
Brian Gongol

February 2012
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February 2, 2012

Business and Finance Facebook wants to raise $5 billion in an IPO
Among the most interesting take-aways from the filing is that Mark Zuckerberg will have enough voting power to do whatever he wants with the company. The filing says, "As a result of voting agreements with certain stockholders, together with the shares he holds, Mark Zuckerberg, our founder, Chairman, and CEO, will be able to exercise voting rights with respect to [...] a majority of the voting power of our outstanding capital stock following our initial public offering. As a result, Mr. Zuckerberg has the ability to control the outcome of matters submitted to our stockholders for approval". So if you have questions about his judgment -- and there is good reason to have those -- you might want to think twice about becoming what is, essentially, a limited partner in his company. Also amusing was this warning: "Likewise, we have a number of current employees whose equity awards are fully vested and shortly after the completion of our initial public offering will be entitled to receive substantial amounts of our capital stock. As a result, it may be difficult for us to continue to retain and motivate these employees, and this wealth could affect their decisions about whether or not they continue to work for us." True, and a little foreboding. Now, one can't blame Zuckerberg for structuring the company the way he has -- retaining a huge share of the Class B stock, each share of which has ten times the voting power of the Class A stock that will be sold in the market -- nor would it be fair to deny that Facebook has become a very popular tool that brings a lot of happiness to people all over the world. But as an investment, it's extraordinarily risky. All of the meaningful control in the company is vested in one person, who then has to get lots of decisions right -- because there's no environment in which competition is more nimble and more fierce than in online services. The stock will probably be very hot upon its IPO, but at some point it will cool, and any bets on how it will perform can only be categorized as speculation, not investment.

News Would Wales try to leave the UK?
With Scotland likely to vote in the next two years on a plan to divorce itself from England, there's a chance Wales could do the same thing. This raises an interesting question: If one were to re-draw the world's political maps based upon what made sense, rather than on historical precedent, what would change? There is, for instance, no really good reason why the United States hasn't added new territory in the last half-century. Not through force, mind you, but through voluntary accession. We should have a giant "Welcome" sign hanging out to say that any city, province, state, region, or country that meets a certain set of eligibility requirements is welcome to accede into the USA. Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution says it: "New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union". Aren't there likely some places around the world where the locals would rather have the protection of the American military, the stability of the American government, and free-trade access to the entire American economy, rather than what they presently have? And as long as they're entering debt-free, with a commitment to the rule of law, republican government, and free enterprise, wouldn't new states be even better than the same number of new individual immigrants? In the UK and the United States alike, we're already bending the rules to make it easier for wealthy people to move in -- why not extend the principle a bit and welcome entire territories?

News Iran's government misinterprets the Arab Spring...badly

News The top five regrets of the dying

Weather and Disasters Ferry sinks off Papua New Guinea
The number of missing is unknown -- and quite unknown, at that. It could be smaller than a dozen, and it could be greater than 100.

News Michigan tests the next generation of police cruisers
With old stand-by choices like the Chevy Caprice and the Ford Crown Victoria gone, they're having to look to a whole new range of vehicles

Iowa Traffic deaths in Iowa hit more than half-century low

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February 3, 2012

Business and Finance Household net worth in the United States
The Census Bureau keeps tabs on a lot of wealth and poverty statistics. Among them, how much families have as their net worth.

The United States of America Grassley motion in Senate intends to cut down on "political intelligence operatives" who collect DC inside information for investors

Business and Finance Sioux City organization holds out $5,000 grants for entrepreneurs

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February 5, 2012

Threats and Hazards President Obama: "We're going to do everything we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon"

The United States of America Is Newt Gingrich in the Presidential race just to pay himself?
There's a lot of reimbursement going on between his campaign and his own companies

Computers and the Internet Should you manage your bills online?
A two-minute introduction to the subject in plain English

Computers and the Internet Parents: You're probably sharing too much about your kids on Facebook.
Please stop.


February 7, 2012

Business and Finance About that Chrysler Super Bowl ad...
The Chrysler ad voiced by Clint Eastwood was good television, no doubt. It's a powerful and emotional spot. But something about it still doesn't sit well, even after a few days of consideration. Yes, the bailouts of GM and Chrysler have turned out pretty well for those two companies. More than $60 billion in government cash infusions will do that sort of thing.

But what about everybody else? What about the erosion of the wall between the government and private industry that lingered with the government's continued ownership of minority stakes in both GM and Chrysler? What about the bondholders who were sent straight to third-class treatment behind the government and the UAW when the government and GM agreed to restructure ownership of the company in bankruptcy? What about the shareholders and workers of Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and other companies that also build their cars in America, but without bailout funds? Why should Ford have to compete with massive subsidies backing the other two of the Big Detroit Three? What makes Toyota's plant in Indiana, Honda's plant in Ohio, or Hyundai's plant in Alabama any less "American" than similar facilities in Detroit?

Subsidizing the poor choices that built up at GM and Chrysler only served to punish the companies that had gotten by on their own. And, to take it a step beyond, why should people in any other American industry have to subsidize just a handful of participants in the automotive industry -- just because it's well-known and politically important? It's not as though a non-bailout world would have meant the end of the automotive industry in Michigan: Had a more natural process taken place, the valuable assets of the companies would have been acquired by others. One thing about what that would have meant: The acquiring companies would, most likely, have been better-managed than the bankrupt companies, and would have been better at putting those resources to work than the management of the bankrupt companies.

Don't misinterpret this, of course: Nobody should revel in bankruptices. They hurt a lot of people, and they should be avoided whenever possible. But if they're inevitable -- as they apparently were at GM and Chrysler -- an intervention like the one the Federal government undertook on our behalf can create very visible results, but it hid the damage done to others. It's easy to wave a flag and say "Look at how well Chrysler and GM have done since the bailouts!" It's harder (but no less important) to ask what sacrifices were made by others to make it happen.

Computers and the Internet This is why you always register your electronics with the manufacturer
A series of security cameras from Trendnet contain a firmware bug that could allow anyone to see live streams from those cameras (including ones inside bedrooms and other parts of private homes) over the Internet without any kind of password protection. The company says that 95% of users haven't ever registered their cameras, which means they aren't getting contacted by the company with instructions on how to fix the problem. Always register your software and hardware alike.

Business and Finance We need to stop handcuffing ourselves to temporary tax breaks
Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke is worried that uncertainty over tax rates is a threat to the economy -- and that increases in tax rates, if they occur as scheduled now, could be enough to stifle economic growth at a very precarious time. We've been using tax policy as a means of stimulating the economy for too long, and now that behavior is really coming home to roost.

News Should journalists be certified, accredited, or even licensed?
A newspaper editor in the UK is arguing for a system to accredit journalists there, so as to prevent the un-accredited from attending newsworthy events in a reporting capacity. On the surface, it might sound like he's calling for journalists to be more professional. But what he's really calling for is a means of limiting his competition. That's almost always what certifications, licenses, and other accreditations are all about -- keeping competition out, and protecting the guild within.

Science and Technology Soldiers of the future might use mind controls
That is to say, they might both control their weapons using their minds, and use weapons against their adversaries' minds

Computers and the Internet A cleaner Facebook user interface would be nice, but...
...sometimes the site goes through a hiccup and nothing appears at all

Computers and the Internet Pen and paper still have a place in the digital world

Threats and Hazards Why everyone should know self-defense: Case study #10
A man in Chicago punched a woman repeatedly on a street in broad daylight because she looked at him in a way he didn't like. It's unfortunate that she wasn't equipped with the tools to lay out a punk like that and teach him a life lesson.

News Everyone should know how to stop a runaway car
One person survived a ride in which a Chicago driver chased a death wish by going the wrong way down the Interstate. Three other people inside the car (including the driver), and a driver in another vehicle died. It's a low-probability thing that anyone's going to be caught in such an extraordinary situation (or any other, like a kidnapping or carjacking), but it takes about ten seconds to learn how to stop a moving car when it's out of control.

Water News A picture from pump school

@briangongolbot on Twitter

February 8, 2012

Business and Finance There are plenty of jobs available, but not enough skilled workers to fill them
A whole lot of the chatter we hear about the "decline of manufacturing" in America is utterly wrong. Total manufacturing output is huge, both in volume and dollar terms. But we're producing more with fewer people, because machines are doing more work, and more of the work is technically sophisticated. The idea of being a dummy turning a wrench and taking home a fat paycheck was illusory at best, and the day of high pay for low-skilled work is gone. But a lot of commentators (and probably a lot of parents, too) are far too dismissive of blue-collar work. Modern manufacturing work isn't for idiots, and not for the lazy.

Business and Finance Cities as economic catalysts

Computers and the Internet Des Moines gets a special Foursquare badge
Foursquare is a novelty, but people really shouldn't be in the habit of giving away their location in real time online, no matter how good the offers for so doing might be.

News Winning entry in design contest for Chicago parking stickers might've contained gang symbols
...so it's not going to be the winning entry anymore. There's something to be said for having aware, alert people involved in every stage of anything that's going to be seen widely by the public. It's like the rule that the person with the dirtiest mind at a newspaper should be the copy editor who writes headlines. That person will see the double entendres that others will miss.

Humor and Good News When people take "The Onion" literally

Humor and Good News Carjacking punks get the beat-down they deserve
...from a guy who's 75 years old

Weather and Disasters Des Moines-area river flood stages are rising

Recent radio podcasts

February 10, 2012

News Should semi-trailer loads be 21% heavier than they are now?
Congress is debating whether to raise the limits on Interstate highway loads from 80,000 lbs. to 97,000 lbs. That would represent a lot more weight -- and thus a lot more momentum behind every truck. It could make shipping more efficient, but would it also make driving more dangerous for others on the road?

Business and Finance It's well past time to retire the "star" mutual fund manager
Fidelity, long known for "star" investment managers like Peter Lynch, is starting to have its mutual fund managers team-up, rather than go it alone. Here's the thing: Actively-managed mutual funds are, with a very small number of exceptions, a losing proposition for investors. Most people would be better off putting most of their retirement investments into broad-based index funds, like the Schwab Total Stock Market Index fund, which has tiny fees and is invested in almost all of the widely-available publicly-traded stocks in America. The idea? Pretty boring. The results, though, are going to reflect the overall performance of the American private-sector economy, which over the long term is going to be pretty good. Most people go after actively-managed mutual funds because they're hoping to get something better than average. So, for that reason, the best advice for most people is to put the lion's share of stock-type investments into a very-low-fee index fund (like the Schwab fund) -- something like 75% to 90% -- and then invest the balance in a smaller number of individual stocks than you could count on both hands. That keeps a touch of excitement in the game, but ensures that, for the most part, you'll get the same performance you could expect from the market as a whole. Low fees are a key, though: The Schwab fund currently charges less than 0.1% a year. Most actively-managed funds take 1% to 2%, and some take even more. Using the low-fee fund means handing over 90% less to Wall Street, and that's not an insignificant amount of savings.

Iowa Iowa gas taxes could rise
We have to pay for our road infrastructure somehow, and the number of deficiencies seems to suggest we haven't been paying enough. But there are better alternatives to the gas tax.

Recent radio podcasts

February 11, 2012

Iowa University of Iowa professor surprised people didn't like his rant about living in the state
Here's a hint to Stephen Bloom: If you submit an article to 40 different publications, you're probably trying pretty hard to get it published. And if you're being a low-class clown about how you paint your neighbors with unflattering stereotypes, then you're probably pretty well-aware that you're being a jerk. Don't act surprised when people take offense. You knew exactly what you were doing.

Iowa New ISU president says economic development is "dear to my heart"
Universities can play a great role in economic development, as long as they're focused on creating useful knowledge and disseminating that to the community. Some universities have been competitors with their local private-sector counterparts, and that's not an appropriate role for a state-funded institution. One of the best things that ISU (and Iowa's other state schools) could do is expand access to bachelor's degree programs outside the traditional bounds of the four-year residential experience. What happens to the person living in Rock Rapids or Chariton or Decorah who wants to get a BA or BS but who has a full-time job? The state has a strong economic interest in making sure they have access to four-year degrees, even if it takes them eight or ten years, taking classes via the Internet or attending evening courses at a nearby high school.

Iowa Better business environment in South Dakota lures factory that had considered Iowa
Iowa still plays too many games with economic-development "incentives" rather than just creating a low-tax, thoughtfully-regulated climate for businesses of all sizes

Computers and the Internet Iowa State Patrol will switch from VHS to digital for dashboard cameras
The VHS tape is careening towards total obsolescence

@briangongol on Twitter

February 12, 2012

Business and Finance Why gold is a lousy investment, by Warren Buffett
The adaptation from Buffett's upcoming letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway delves into the problem with thinking of gold as either (a) a stable investment, or (b) a productive investment. Buffett touches on two themes noted here earlier this year -- that gold's value is constantly being eroded by the fact it's being mined constantly around the world, no matter how much the gold bugs seek to convince others that it's rock-solid, and that it's a truly capricious choice for stability -- no more sensible than coal or uranium (suggested here) or seashells or shark teeth (suggested by Buffett).

Computers and the Internet How to make email management a lot easier for about $10 a year

Business and Finance A video tour of Warren Buffett's office
(Video) It's a bit contrived, but as much as anything, it's good to see a very successful executive working in an office that doesn't look like some kind of lavish imperial chamber. It's a nice office, but it doesn't look like the kind of place that has a gold-plated toilet or an $87,000 area rug.

@briangongol on Twitter

February 14, 2012

Broadcasting Chinese government clamps down on foreign TV shows
Nobody in America has to put limits on how much foreign television content is available here...

Business and Finance Mortgage rates are still falling, and T-bills are interest-free
The Treasury Department says that the national average for a 30-year mortgage rate is 3.92%, and that a three-month Treasury bill is paying 0.02%. That's less than inflation, which means that people are effectively paying the government to take their money.

Broadcasting Does a more mainstream Fox News Channel alienate the right?

Business and Finance Principal Financial looks to China's potential as a market for retirement-investing plans

Threats and Hazards Israel says Iranians are behind coordinated terrorist attacks in three countries this week

Recent radio podcasts

February 15, 2012

Business and Finance Who's entitled to the proceeds of the automotive bailout?

Agriculture Bringing broadband Internet access to rural areas: Good.
Interfering with GPS-driven tractors: Very, very bad.

Iowa Seriously! Stop it with the incentives!

Humor and Good News Miss Piggy as red-carpet reporter

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February 16, 2012

Business and Finance A $10 minimum wage? Not now.
A subcommittee in the Iowa Senate (that is, three people) approved a bill to raise Iowa's minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2013. The parties involved seem to acknowledge that the proposal really isn't going anywhere, but it's important to ask what the real goal is. Wages and salaries should, generally, represent a return on the amount of economic value that the individual's work creates. People who are more productive are generally paid more than those who are less so. Those who are at the lowest end of the pay scale are presumably there because they don't create a great amount of value per hour worked. Thus the real question is whether the problem is that some people aren't being paid very much, or that some people aren't able to create much value with their labor. If the problem is really the latter (and it is), then what we should be doing is looking for ways to help people increase the amount of value they create per hour worked. (This only makes sense: If you were a farmer a hundred years ago, and you saw that your neighbor consistently brought in half of the yield in crops that you did, you would be doing far more good to help him come up with ways to rise to your level of production than to try to force the grain buyer at the elevator to pay the neighbor twice as much per bushel as he paid everyone else for the same grain.) Some people (like teenagers) don't earn much because they don't have any work experience, which means they don't know yet how to add much value to the work they do. Raising the minimum wage makes entry-level jobs harder to create and find, which only makes it harder for people without job experience to gain it. Other people earn low wages because they lack the job skills to create much value and thus command higher pay. Over the long run, the just thing to do is to help them find ways to become more economically productive -- which in turn will be reflected in higher market rates of pay for their work.

Computers and the Internet Are social networks too big?
The website/app called Path seeks to limit "social networking" to one's 50 closest friends. The argument has it that nobody can really cognitively maintain more than that number of active friendships. One might wonder, though: Is that true for everyone equally? Some people are introverts; others are extroverts. Isn't it likely that one's degree of extroversion is positively correlated with the number of relationships one wants (or even needs) to maintain, and can?

Aviation News Swiss design satellite to clean up space junk
Thank you, Switzerland. This is needed more than most people could possibly know.

Science and Technology One word, son: Plastics
Finding ways to build plastics from renewable resources is a really good idea

The United States of America Ronald Reagan's coat of arms

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February 17, 2012

The United States of America We will live to rue the day we kept avoiding the inevitable payroll-tax increase
Congress approved extending the payroll-tax cuts today. Does a payroll-tax cut probably improve the employment situation? Yes. Is it nice for workers to have more take-home pay? Absolutely. Does a payroll-tax cut probably have a mildly stimulative effect on the economy in the short run? Most likely. But the fact of the matter is that payroll taxes are there to fund the Social Security and Medicare programs, and the longer we under-fund them (which was already a problem before we made it worse by cutting those payroll taxes), the more painful it's going to be in the future when the bills come due.

Business and Finance China's government continues to disregard intellectual property rights
The legal system is set up to reward "trademark squatters" -- people who file applications for ownership of product and company names that belong to others. That's not the way to ensure honest trade. Proper respect for intellectual property -- including trademarks as well as patents -- is absolutely necessary to ensuring honest business and fair competition.

Socialism Doesn't Work Are the Vikings worth a $1 billion stadium?
Some people love their sports too much -- like the guy who has a mascot or icon tattoo for every team in Major League Baseball. State and local government could be on the hook for half a billion dollars to build a replacement for the Metrodome in Minneapolis, if early reports are true.

Science and Technology Using religious arguments to justify politics
Stanford study says that, basically, liberals justify some of their arguments by convincing themselves that a modern-day Jesus would be even farther to the left than they are, and conservatives do the same justification dance by arguing that he'd be even farther right.

Iowa A look at the symbols behind China's vice-presidential visit to Iowa
There are deeper meanings to some of the things that were done and said

Iowa UNI faces more budget cuts

News Is it really appropriate to make flippant jokes about birth control?
When people who seek to influence national life -- including a very prominent backer of a Presidential candidate -- make absurdly out-of-touch comments dismissing serious issues like reproductive health, it's a very bad sign of things to come. We can't just reduce national political conversations to stupid one-liners and exaggerations.

Computers and the Internet People remember better what they read off a printed page than from a computer screen
The difference is estimated at 20% to 30% better recall from the printed page

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February 18, 2012

Health 20% of antibiotics are being prescribed for common colds
And it turns out those antibiotics don't do any good for relieving that cold, anyway. If we want antibiotics to keep on working when we need them, we need to stop over-using them.

Humor and Good News Grandma Courtney

Humor and Good News A real-life Eric Cartman

Business and Finance Why do perfectly intelligent people hire consultants who don't know anything?

Health Take two minutes for a self-exam today
Take a minute or two and conduct some basic self-screenings for cancer. Early detection saves lives. There's lots of misinformation about cancer that finds its way around the Internet, largely because we've been trained to wait expectantly for some sort of magic-bullet solution to cancer. But cancer risks can be significantly reduced through a balanced diet, exercise, and early detection and treatment. Meanwhile, science is making great progress towards improving genetic detection, which holds great promise for some types of cancer. Instead of forwarding hoax-ridden e-mails about "cancer cures" and false threats, people should instead remind their friends and family to assess their health once a month.

@briangongolbot on Twitter

February 19, 2012

News "The Cubs Way" is finally being written down
Every organization has a "way" of doing things. The smart ones write it down so new people can learn it quickly. That's how institutional memory can be documented and used efficiently inside any organization -- from baseball teams to Fortune 500 companies to governments.

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February 20, 2012

Agriculture The first lab-grown hamburger will be eaten in October

Weather and Disasters Where to see the auroras

News Latvia still not interested in Russia, 20 years after independence
The country voted 75% against making Russian the country's second language

Business and Finance Mortgage-backed securities...are back

Humor and Good News Miniature libraries

News Swedish man claims to have survived two months trapped in his snowbound car

Humor and Good News New mothers and their blogs

Threats and Hazards Scientology labor camp

Recent radio podcasts

February 21, 2012

Business and Finance Foxconn, the company assembling many Apple products, raises wages by 25%
Bad publicity for low wages and long hours have come back around against Apple and its contractor, so wages are going up. But at the same time, the company's (wisely) trying to automate more of the assembly process, which in turn will simply put some workers out of jobs entirely. This is how things work -- higher wages create pressure to automate. But it's also a signal that the "cheap labor" advantage that China has had for a long time is not destined to last forever.

Computers and the Internet There's not enough radio spectrum space for all of our smartphones
Mobile access to the Internet is a huge perk. But it's such a wonderful thing that we're saturating the available radio signals for using it.

Business and Finance The failures of business schools
"[W]e've fostered a segment of the population that thinks they're entitled to a high-paying job by virtue of the fact they have a college degree and can fog a cold mirror"

Aviation News Southwest Airlines subsidiary AirTran will soon offer service from Des Moines to Chicago Midway
It's pretty close to what Des Moines-area travelers have been hoping would happen for a long time -- it's not exactly direct service from Southwest to other destinations, but it'll certainly open up a lot of access to Southwest routes out of Midway

Humor and Good News Animated diagram of the Polo Grounds
It has to have been one of the strangest-shaped baseball fields in history

Science and Technology Clone of a 30,000-year-old plant comes back to life

News Good for society: More wind power. Bad for society: Hiding the costs through tax breaks.
Nobody can blame the companies taking advantage of the tax breaks for doing so -- it's just a smart business move. But at one point or another, society has to decide that our lawmakers need to stop trying to pick winners and losers via the tax code. It's just not healthy. If they were that good at picking good businesses, they'd be private-sector investors themselves, rather than eelcted officials.

Broadcasting Show notes from the WHO Radio Wise Guys - February 18, 2012

@briangongol on Twitter

February 22, 2012

Threats and Hazards "Sleepwalking into a surveillance society"
London may have cameras everywhere, but they don't appear to be lowering the crime rate. And when the people defending the cameras lean on phrases like "“We try and strike a balance with civil liberties but a lot of the time we are reacting to what people are wanting", that's when one should become alarmed. Civil liberties are not a popularity contest.

News 8-year-old hit by stray bullet shows more composure than many un-shot adults
Some poor second-grader got hit by some stray gunfire in the Bronx, but still managed to keep his composure -- and his manners. All of which causes one to think that this kid deserves to grow up someplace where bullets don't hit second-graders.

Computers and the Internet Google's plans for an antenna farm in Council Bluffs

Business and Finance White House plans push for simpler corporate tax rates
More often than not, a simpler tax code is a smarter tax code. Fewer loopholes, exceptions, and tricks mean less wasted effort shuffling paper rather than just doing business.

Weather and Disasters AccuWeather predicts a worse-than-normal tornado season
It's warm in the Gulf of Mexico, and that's the fuel that powers major storms

Computers and the Internet Facebook's content rules
They're trying to navigate the sensibilities (and laws) of countries all over the world. There's no way to do that without looking ridiculous from time to time.

Humor and Good News Rick Santorum's Gmail inbox
It may be a parody, but it's not that far removed from some of the outlandish things Santorum says

Humor and Good News When your neighbor's Christmas lights outshine yours...

@briangongol on Twitter

February 23, 2012

The United States of America The Onion: Captive breeding program for moderate Republicans
It's a spoof that really isn't all that far removed from reality. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, has been alienating moderate voters by letting its own far-left activists run the show. Mathematically, there's really only room in a first-past-the-post political system (like America's) for two major parties -- if the parties are each seeking to win over the votes of the largest number of people, who will tend to be in the middle of a left-right spectrum. But if both parties are hijacked by activists from the extremes -- particularly if those activists are more interested in ideological purity than in winning elections (and don't think that there aren't plenty of people in both parties who would rather lose an election than cede any ground within their own narrow bands of "purity") -- then there may be a very unusual opening for a moderate party to emerge between the two.

Health How culpable is the NFL for head injuries?
The family of a former player for the Chicago Bears is suing the NFL over his suicide, since he suffered a large number of concussions while he was playing.

Socialism Doesn't Work Why is sports welfare so much more widely-accepted than other forms?
The race to see who can throw the most government money at a plan to build a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings is astonishing. It's not unlike the nauseating lengths to which states will go to subsidize the film industry. The favoritism shown to the sports and entertainment industry is both unfair to other firms and inefficient for the economy as a whole.

Computers and the Internet AT&T promises 4G almost everywhere in Iowa by next year

Business and Finance Sears is on sale. No, really. They're selling Sears stores.
Including two in Iowa.

The United States of America Study of kids in Florida suggests K-8 schools are better than separate elementary and middle schools
At least when measured by math and reading test scores

Humor and Good News Twitter comment inspires short-lived breakfast cereal

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February 24, 2012

Iowa Can Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI be marketed under a common banner?
Some of the members of the state Board of Regents think they can, and should, in an effort to attract students from outside the state -- and especially outside the country -- since they pay higher tuition rates than in-state students. It would definitely be a challenge to merge the identities in any meaningful way, given how much the schools have tried to differentiate themselves from one another. It's a distinct contrast from the University of Nebraska system, for instance, which is dominated by the Lincoln campus, but also has "University of Nebraska" campuses in Omaha and Kearney. But the Iowa schools need to do something to shore up their budgets -- programs like the renowned Price Lab School at UNI are being placed on the chopping block.

Business and Finance LinkedIn is nice, but business cards aren't going anywhere

Iowa Many Post Offices slated for closure are in places where there aren't affordable alternatives

Aviation News Fantasy camp for extreme air-travel nerds

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February 27, 2012

Science and Technology Engineering can be beautiful
In fact, it routinely should be

Socialism Doesn't Work Is it possible for Communists not to sound ridiculous?
Undoubtedly something is being lost in the translation of China's language on the one-family, one-child policy -- but the absurdity of what they say and have said is even more extreme than fiction would permit.

Broadcasting Well worth watching: "Spaced"
A really short-lived television series (14 episodes in all) packed with a combination of studied references to film and clever original dialogue. Quite charming. But watch it from the beginning; the episodes build upon one another and wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable without the progressive narrative. Barely more than a dozen episodes, and it still inspired an elaborate fan site that's still being updated more than a decade after the show aired. Besides, it's absolutely essential that one see how a television show manages to turn the "A-Team" theme song into a dance club gag. (It may, quite seriously, be one of the funniest things ever done on television.)

Broadcasting WHO Radio Wise Guys - February 25, 2012
Listen on-demand to segments one, two, three, and four

Broadcasting Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - February 26, 2012
Listen on-demand to segments one, two, three, and four

News Cruise ship loses power and goes adrift between Madagascar and Somalia
Costa -- the same line whose Concordia went aground a few weeks ago -- owns this troubled ship, too

@briangongol on Twitter

February 28, 2012

Business and Finance Microsoft wants the EU to clamp down on Google over Google Plus
At least, that's the report from Reuters, which quotes unnamed sources saying that it's just an informal complaint at this stage. Superficially, it seems like an odd time to be pressing Google over the Plus project -- it's attracting an average of three minutes a month of use per user, compared with six or seven hours on Facebook. And even prominent users are saying they think the site is self-defeatingly popular only with techies. But Google isn't going to give up on Google Plus anytime soon. As the Wall Street Journal notes, "The company's main financial goal of Google+ is to obtain personal data about users to better target ads to them across all of Google." That's worth a fortune to Google, no matter what.

Science and Technology Chicago high schools will offer a 6-year plan -- including an associate's degree
With subsidies from IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Motorola, and Verizon, the district is going to open five high schools to focus on STEM jobs (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). The first class will start next fall.

Business and Finance Stop overpaying executives
People use the "global market for talent" to argue for higher executive pay, but that doesn't mean anyone is actually using the global workforce to pick executives.


February 29, 2012

Broadcasting RIP Western Civilization (758 BC - 2012 AD)
Bristol Palin is getting a reality television show. The network says it's about her moving forward "professionally". That sound you hear is the death rattle of thoughtful inquiry. The penultimate sign of the end was live-Tweeting from a Nascar driver's seat.

The United States of America Santorum attracts spoiler votes from Democrats but still loses to Romney in Michigan

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