Gongol.com Archives: October 2012
Brian Gongol

October 2012
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October 2, 2012

Computers and the Internet The market now thinks Google is worth more than Microsoft
Price is what you pay, but value is what you get. The market is probably a little too pessimistic about Microsoft for reality.

Agriculture Meat prices are going to be high for the next two years, at least
But warnings that you won't be able to find bacon are...well, they're badly overblown

Computers and the Internet Google continues "spring cleaning" of little-used services
Apparently, they're going to wind down the service that had inserted ads into RSS feeds, among others

Business and Finance Ikea admits that airbrushing women out of a catalog for Saudi Arabia was probably a little too much accommodation

Science and Technology Why residential fires are becoming more dangerous than ever

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October 3, 2012

Business and Finance Fearing a Post-It Note monopoly
The Justice Department has shot down 3M's planned purchase of Avery's consumer-products business

Science and Technology The hype cycle
A look at where many technologies are at their current stage on what Gartner calls "the hype cycle"

News Suspicions of a wind farm near a Navy base

News Fascinating pictures from Detroit

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October 4, 2012

The United States of America A thought on endowments
What if, instead of giving Social Security benefits to Americans as they retired (to the tune of up to $2,500 a month for high-earning individuals), we instead endowed every 18-year-old with an amount of money similar to what they would have otherwise received (on average) from Social Security after retirement? ($2,500 a month for someone who lives for 20 years would be $600,000.) Certainly, there would be many objections. One would be that "they might lose it". Which is true. But that would certainly focus needed attention on better financial education, wouldn't it? A sizeable endowment for all would take away many excuses about not having a fair start in life. It would allow some to go to school, some to start businesses, and some to blow it on fast cars and liquor. Let's be clear: This is only a thought experiment, not a policy recommendation. But it does highlight some of the shortcomings in how we address money (and educational) issues today. And it may perhaps shed some light on how we should address old-age savings in America by shedding light on how we do things today through the lens of inversion.

The United States of America A third party looks at the Presidential debate
One thing can be said for the debate: It was unusually wonkish.

The United States of America Shifting social attitudes mean more than what politicians say

Computers and the Internet Facebook claims to have one billion active users

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October 5, 2012

Science and Technology Are "megacities" really inevitable?
Megacities and giant skyscrapers really don't serve a purpose like they used to. Not in a world of 4G mobile connectivity and decentralized manufacturing.

Computers and the Internet Simulating college football games
Something's clinically bonkers about ESPN sharing "simulations" by EA Sports (the games manufacturer) of upcoming college football games

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October 6, 2012

The United States of America What George Will would have asked during the Presidential debate
A critical one for President Obama: "Your deep-blue Illinois like another essentially one-party Democratic state, California is buckling under the weight of its portion of the estimated $2.5 trillion in unfunded state pension obligations. Will you promise to oppose attempts to force the taxpayers to bail out badly governed states?"

Agriculture Test-tube meat...coming soon to a plate near you?

Humor and Good News 80,000 fans of "Gagnam Style"

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October 7, 2012

Computers and the Internet The case for upgrading old computers to Windows 8

Computers and the Internet Look what happens when someone tries spam-texting others

Business and Finance Trading skills
Or...as it's done elsewhere...using money

The United States of America The youthful scribblings of the two men running for President today

Aviation News Israel says it's shot down a drone in its airspace

News Venezuela goes to the polls: Will Chavez stay?

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October 8, 2012

News There's so much wrong with this, it cannot be fully fathomed
A collegiate athlete declares he's not at school to go to school

The United States of America Debate success appears to have propelled Mitt Romney's poll standings
He's way ahead amont military voters

Broadcasting Notes from the "Brian Gongol Show" on WHO Radio - October 7, 2012

Computers and the Internet A useful guide to Facebook photo dimensions

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October 9, 2012

Broadcasting Radio show notes from September 30, 2012
Instead of politics or current events...a look at future events

Broadcasting Radio show notes from October 7, 2012
Listen to the second segment, a discussion about what would happen if we inverted Social Security and instead gave it to young people in a lump sum

Threats and Hazards A sad anniversary for America
On this date in 2002, the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments in Eldred v. Ashcroft, a case challenging the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act, which preposterously extends the length of copyright terms. The court upheld the law, which inhibits the production of good ideas.

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October 10, 2012

Business and Finance Interesting: Despite all the monetary expansion by the Federal Reserve, the money supply isn't changing radically
The "missing link" here seems to be explained by people slowing down the velocity of money.

Aviation News Why the intercom voice at the Des Moines airport has a British accent
But it certainly sounds out of place. The same voice at O'Hare has a vestigal Chicago accent, as it probably should.

Science and Technology Neil deGrasse Tyson on the magic of science

Science and Technology A watch that reads your phone for you

Threats and Hazards Why didn't the State Department do more to protect the Benghazi consulate?

News Winston Churchill's archives are now online

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October 11, 2012

The United States of America Tonight's Vice Presidential debate features the largest age gap ever

The United States of America Why is there no Libertarian in the Presidential debates?
It's quite simple: America's electoral system is based on who can get the most votes, period -- not assigning representation in proportion to the total vote. The "first past the post" method means that our political factions have to assemble their coalitions before election day, not after. To get what you want in American politics, you have to choose a party to influence, establish a foothold there, and then get that party to victory on election day -- accepting the fact that, along the way, you're going to have to compromise with others within your own party in order to get their support so that you can win the election. More than anything, it's actually a system that will tend towards moderation (even if that seems out of place today), since the largest number of votes to be obtained is generally in the middle of the political spectrum -- so neither party can win in the natural duopoly by being particularly radical. But it has also tended to reward those who show up with something they want -- which is why many party activists sound a whole lot more "out there" than the average voter, and hence why all of the talking heads refer to how candidates have to run to the right or left in order to get the party nomination, then back to the center to win the election. We will only see a third party become a major force in America if and when one or both of the parties completely abandon the "big tent" philosophy in the name of purity (which could happen), or if a third party executes a brilliant campaign of starting at the very local level (city and county elections) and establishes a record strong enough to win state-level elections before going national. It's just not going to happen any other way. If Ross Perot couldn't get the Reform Party off the ground as one of the 20 richest people in America, and if Teddy Roosevelt couldn't do it as a wildly popular former President, it's not going to happen today just because the Green Party or Libertarian Party wants it. They either need to start winning elections on the local scale and prove that they're better in actual practice than the Republicans and Democrats, or they have to accept their place as interest groups within the two major parties. It just isn't going to happen any other way.

Threats and Hazards CBS News reporter Lara Logan says things in the Middle East are much, much worse than we think

Threats and Hazards An employee of the US embassy to Yemen has been assassinated

The United States of America So that's what's on those American flag pins
There's been something noticeably odd about the flag pins that Mitt Romney has been wearing for some time. Turns out, it's a Secret Service thing.

Broadcasting Transforming the WHO-TV news studio
A fun little time-lapse recording

Iowa Sioux City wants to become a little Hard Rock

Business and Finance What's the future of Jewel stores in Chicagoland?

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October 12, 2012

Business and Finance Should we abandon "too big to fail"?

Business and Finance Economic Freedom of the World, 2012 edition

Agriculture USDA reiterates estimate: 140 bushels per acre of corn in Iowa
For a terrible drought year, that's not a bad output

Aviation News What's been learned from deliberately crashing an airplane

The United States of America Who's going to stop the national madness?
A 34-year-old writer builds the case against his 63-year-old father's generation for failures of many types -- especially economic ones. But who's going to bite the bullet and fix things?

News The Cubs chairman explains the team's long-term strategy
Looking at the long term sometimes causes discomfort in the short run

Business and Finance Nothing makes today look better than how bad yesterday looked
(Video) A compilation of local television commercials from the 1980s gives a glimpse into how much things have improved since then

Science and Technology 3D printing delivers a complete acoustic guitar

News Should the EU have won the Nobel Peace Prize?

Computers and the Internet Unmasking a notorious online troll

Business and Finance Applebee's as late-night club

Broadcasting "Eminence Front" by The Who was once used as a TV news intro song

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October 13, 2012

Agriculture Thank technology for good crop yields
Despite a terrible drought, the Midwest is still going to have an acceptable harvest this year. Not great by a long shot, but not a calamity.

News Your Simpsons Myers-Briggs analogue

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October 14, 2012

Business and Finance IMF communique warns the US and EU to get their debts under control

Humor and Good News About that new iPhone...
(Video) "Saturday Night Live" skewers the seriousness of people's complaints about their new smartphones. On a related note, an Inc. columnist thinks entrepreneurs have it easy, at least compared with their predecessors of a century ago.

Iowa What gets measured gets done
Schools in Iowa are reporting cases of bullying to the state, and some are (wisely) analyzing the data on their own to look for ways to combat it. In general, a good idea. But they do need to be cautious about making the reporting requirements so onerous that it's viewed as a burden, rather than as a useful too. They also need to be certain that they take great care with any data they use that involves or records the actions of children. We need to be vigilant about the Big Brother risks of big data collection.

Threats and Hazards There is a ton of gang-related violence in Chicago right now

Weather and Disasters A bad drought year also meant a low-tornado year
We're looking for any silver linings we can find, aren't we?

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October 15, 2012

Business and Finance A radical thought experiment: What if we abandoned Social Security and gave the money to teenagers?

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October 16, 2012

Business and Finance Government-employee pension programs are $1.2 trillion underfunded

News Cubans have new freedom to leave for longer than before

Weather and Disasters "Our four-day forecasts today are as accurate as our one-day forecasts were in 1987"

News "It is not democratic to cover up [Prince Charles's] interventions" in British politics
Why, again, does an advanced nation like Great Britain still have a monarchy, other than the personal popularity of Queen Elizabeth?

The United States of America The buck stops...with Hillary Clinton?
The Secretary of State claims that she, not the White House, is responsible for the security shortcomings at US diplomatic facilities abroad. There was a time when Harry Truman made it clear that "The buck stops here." It's really a let-down that the White House now says, "You can't change Washington from the inside."

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October 17, 2012

Computers and the Internet Microsoft releases pricing for the Surface tablet
32 Gb for $500, the same with the "Touch" cover (a specialty keyboard) for $600, or 64 Gb with the Touch cover for $700. The whole thing runs Windows RT, which is an offshoot of the new Windows 8.

Computers and the Internet Apple teases a product launch on October 23rd
The general expectation is that they'll introduce a miniature iPad. But the consensus expectation has been wrong before.

Humor and Good News The Red Bull supersonic freefall jump...in Lego
Now that still and video cameras are preposterously cheap, people have taken the volume of video-making to a whole new level. Some are ridiculous, and some are fantastic, and many are somewhere in between. But with YouTube claiming 72 hours of video being uploaded every minute, that means a ratio of 4320-to-1 of time being recorded and shared to time passing. In other words, if you were to try to watch all of the videos uploaded in 2012, it would take you until the year 6332. That's as far from now in the future as the year 2308 BC is in the past. That's about the time when the Egyptians started beekeeping and the first stones were laid on Stonehenge.

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October 18, 2012

Business and Finance After adjusting for inflation, American workers are making less than before

Business and Finance China's economy grew at a 7.4% annual rate last quarter
Which is much faster than the growth rate in the United States, but the growth rate in China has been slowing down for seven straight quarters. While that's probably good news for individual firms and industries that have to compete with Chinese companies, it could be very destabilizing for the world -- China's growing economy has been especially important to the global economy during the slowdown, and a China in which the economy doesn't grow fast enough is one in which the people will have time to think more about their limited political freedoms. Economic liberalization without political liberalization simply cannot go on forever.

Business and Finance Student loan debt in perspective

The United States of America Pimp my bulldozer
A response to: "If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." (President Barack Obama, July 13, 2012)

The United States of America A contrarian's guide to electoral precedent

Computers and the Internet Newsweek will be going all-digital at the end of the year
US News and the Christian Science Monitor have also pretty well abandoned print, too. This trend will continue.

Broadcasting Old CBS News videos

Weather and Disasters NOAA's winter outlook forecasts a dry winter for the Upper Midwest
When, unfortunately, that's exactly the opposite of what we need

Weather and Disasters Dust storms over southern Nebraska today
High winds shut down Interstate 80 out in the western part of the state

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.
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October 20, 2012

Computers and the Internet Less than a week until Windows 8 launches
It's a big change to the look and feel of the operating system, and it will undoubtedly confuse many users. But it may be essential for Microsoft to make the change so they can adapt to "lighter" computing -- mobile phones, tablets, and netbooks. The official release will be on October 26th.

Business and Finance Unemployment figures look lowest in the Midwest
Nobody should make the mistake of thinking the US economy is monolithic. We're all affected by many of the same factors -- but not in the same ways. On a related note, culture matters, too -- Iowans, for instance, are relatively stingy tippers. But then again, some servers in New York City think they're entitled to 25% tips. If 20% is the norm, then what are they doing to earn a 25% bonus?

Business and Finance Toyota pickup tows the Space Shuttle Endeavour
Publicity stunt? Sure. But it's worth noting that the Tundra is the second-most American-built truck.

Computers and the Internet Google rolls out a $249 Chromebook on Monday
Built by Samsung and running the Chrome operating system, they're going to give other computers a run for their money. It's going to be heavily cloud-centric, so people may want to pay more to get the $329 version with 3G wireless.

Business and Finance A summary of just how bad America's retirement-savings crisis really is

Business and Finance Someone goofed and let out Google's business results too early
And the company had a lot less profit in the third quarter of this year than they had brought in since the first quarter of 2011. So the stock tanked as traders (not investors, traders) panicked. But Google still has $45.7 billion in cash, so they have a great deal of capacity to decide what to do with themselves. They're still bringing in lots of ad revenues at YouTube and from their search results, but the growth rates are slowing, so unless they keep expenses from growin faster or find other sources of growth, they're going to see some leveling-off. Is all of that enough to justify an 8% drop in the market price of the company?

Computers and the Internet Inside Google's data centers
The company has been notoriously secretive up until now about its data centers. But they're aggressively building them -- Council Bluffs already has one finished, with a second one being prepared and more on the drawing boards.

Computers and the Internet Facebook claims 65 million users in India
It's a tremendous potential growth market, just based upon the population. But saturation rates for things like smartphones are extremely low, which means it's going to be a long slog to market maturity.

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October 21, 2012

Business and Finance "The high-wage, medium-skilled job is over"
In an opinion piece, Thomas Friedman quotes Stefanie Sanford of the Gates Foundation and credits her with one of the most accurate statements of our time. Oddly, though, he does it in praise of the Obama administration, which has done great disservice to the nation by treating those mythical medium-skilled jobs as something the wealthy stole from beneath the feet of the middle class. By painting everything in the colors of class warfare and suggesting that business profits and middle-class jobs are outcomes in opposition to one another, the President's re-election campaign has misled people into thinking that if it weren't for a few greedy business owners, all of America's unemployed would be working happily on assembly lines doing medium-skilled work for high pay. America has lots of opportunities for good jobs in the manufacturing sector -- but they aren't jobs for dummies. Factory workers have to be smart and innovative and adaptable in order to bring home good incomes. And in order to make those factories exist, the government can't be in the business of prosecuting capital...which means taxation rates on things like interest, dividends, and capital gains have to be sensible. If they rise too high, those tax rates will discourage people from making the investments in things like equipment and tools that are necessary in order for those "good manufacturing jobs" to exist. But class-warfare, envy-driven language about how the rich should "pay their fair share" in taxes ignores the role that capital plays in a capitalist system. And the simple fact is that American tax rates on capital compete with those all over the rest of the world, and capital can leave just as easily as it can come in. Schools have to be effective, workers have to be motivated, and capital must be available for manufacturing jobs to be available now and in the future.

News What is the most important skill for students to learn?
An argument for learning how to use evidence to reach a reasonable conclusion as skill number one

Iowa Every boom is followed by a bust
The questions are: (1) Is the renewable-fuels industry a boom industry, and (2) if so, how long before the bust?

Iowa Unexpected changes to Iowa's child-welfare demographics
"[S]ome refugee children are misdiagnosed and medicated for attention-deficit disorder when they should be treated for post-traumatic stress"

Aviation News A UAV that wasn't built -- it was printed

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October 23, 2012

News Russian opposition movement turns to the Internet to band together

Business and Finance Times are tough at Radio Shack

Computers and the Internet Why you need antivirus protection for your smartphone

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October 26, 2012

Business and Finance Warren Buffett's simple answer to "diversification"
"Any new company, any new stock I look at, I measure it against the best idea I've got among the present ones." He said it during a longer interview on CNBC the other day.

The United States of America Florida 2000? It could happen again.
Election night may prove to be inconclusive. Then things start to get really interesting.

Weather and Disasters Hurricane Sandy looks like a complete disaster about to happen
It looks as though the entire East Coast is up for trouble, including places like New York City and Washington.

Iowa New Iowa ag land price record: $21,900 an acre
It's up in far northwestern Iowa, which historically has been one of the highest-priced areas of the state

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October 28, 2012

The United States of America Des Moines Register endorses Mitt Romney for President
That's an unusual move for the Register, which has endorsed Democrats exclusively for the White House since the 1970s. But they're not alone: The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Omaha World-Herald, and the Quad-City Times endorsed him, too. And the Sioux City Journal. It's pretty much a run of the table among any of the major Iowa papers that have released an endorsement already.

Computers and the Internet Tech Tip: Thoughts on home network security

The United States of America It could be worse...
Annoyed by political ads? Remember: Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton to death over a political feud...while Burr was in office as the third Vice President of the United States. So you might say things have gotten better.

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October 29, 2012

Weather and Disasters Live coverage of Hurricane Sandy
One thing about the storm hitting the most densely-populated part of the country: Media from Washington to New York to Boston are covering the story with non-stop updates.

Socialism Doesn't Work Dear Socialist Workers Party: You lost the battle of ideas. Give up.
The frightening thing is the prospect that anyone takes real dyed-in-the-wool, hard-core Marxist-type socialism seriously.

News People sometimes see what they want to see in news coverage
The editor of the Des Moines Register deserves credit for talking about a front page that got a lot of attention because people read a lot of different things into the same image.

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