Gongol.com Archives: 2012 Second-Quarter Archives
Brian Gongol

Humor and Good News Google Maps does April Fools' Day in 8-bit style

The United States of America Volunteers are transcribing the newly-released 1940 Census details

Business and Finance Angel investors and the Midwestern economy

Computers and the Internet Is it legal to jailbreak an iPod?

Business and Finance How the beef industry should fight back
The perjorative name "pink slime" has been used to malign beef trimmings used in ground beef. It's a really awful slander, considering the stuff they're attacking is just plain old beef. But because the beef industry has failed to market the product in a comprehensible way (calling it "lean finely-textured beef" is fine for the FDA, but nobody is going to the store to pick up a pound of LFTB), they need to give it a sensible, marketable name. It should be called "the cookie dough cut". Everyone's familiar with rolling out a batch of cookie dough and using a cookie cutter to get shapes (like Christmas trees and Santa hats, for instance) -- and then rolling the excess dough back together again to cut more shapes. That's really all that LFTB is -- it's what's leftover from predetermined cuts (like New York strip), recaptured to prevent it from going to waste, and then processed just like the plain old ground beef that it is. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the two-second sound bite ("pink slime") is enough to persuade a lot of people -- even though it would only take about eight seconds longer to recognize that it doesn't deserve such an awful and slanderous name. But if people are going to be lazy, then it's important for the industry to strike back with its own two-second counter-name (like "the cookie-dough cut") and at least demand a fighting chance in the marketplace.

Aviation News Dallas-area tornadoes cause more than 400 American Airlines flight cancellations

News Skyscraper fire in Moscow extinguished by helicopters dropping water
The building is still under construction, and it's supposed to be the tallest building in Europe when it's finished. The fire happened on the 66th and 67th floors. The whole thing is supposed to be 1150' tall when completed, but who's going to want to be inside a building hit by a major fire well before it was completed? It's not a problem to which Americans are immune -- there's still the fight over the Harmon Tower in Las Vegas, which has cost $279 million to build, but which the owner (MGM) wants to implode before it's even finished or ever used because it doesn't meet earthquake codes.

Computers and the Internet Should politicians follow their rivals' kids on Twitter?
Two candidates for the Republican nomination for Senator from Nebraska are in a fight over just that question

Business and Finance Has GE become a worse company?
Moody's has downgraded the company's credit rating, saying it's still a very strong company, but that its financing wing is a major risk to the rest of the company.

Computers and the Internet Yahoo will cut 2000 jobs to try to save $375 million a year
Contrary to what the buzz might be, the company still makes a lot of money -- $1.05 billion in 2011. That's down about $200 million from 2010, which might indicate where those intended cost savings from layoffs are supposed to come from. Total revenues, though, were way down in 2011, so they need to figure out what they want Yahoo to be.

Computers and the Internet Internet Explorer browser use is on the rise, of all things
Firefox and Chrome have both slipped a little bit, and ceded ground to MSIE, which still has a majority share of browsing time

Humor and Good News Sarah Palin on the "Today Show"
(Video) The Daily Show has a pretty good look at the event. Just plain weird.

Threats and Hazards How much oversight should be applied to GPS tracking of criminal suspects?
Quite a lot, really. There's always the question of whether it becomes necessary to wake up a judge in the middle of the night to get a warrant, but isn't that the least we should be able to ask from our criminal-justice system? And what of drone aircraft used by local police authorities?

Computers and the Internet Microsoft is losing share in the smartphone market

Threats and Hazards Data breach at a major credit-card processor

Iowa Hidden Valley wants people to use ranch dressing like it's ketchup
Apparently, they haven't been to Iowa, where people are probably more likely to use ranch dressing than ketchup, anyway. It's practically the state's official food.

Humor and Good News What was Hillary Clinton texting from her BlackBerry?
The Tumblr account with spoof answers is pretty funny -- but it's hard to escape the observation that she could very easily be gearing up for a run for the White House again in 2016. The time she's spent as Secretary of State seems to have been a grade-A performance, and it's quite possible that Democrats will end up looking at the Obama Presidency with a sense of voter's remorse...realizing that Clinton was the better choice in 2008.

Science and Technology Google's "skunk works" lab is working on a next generation in eyeglasses

Health Whooping cough is back

Threats and Hazards Supreme Court says police have a lot of power to order strip searches

Computers and the Internet Smartphone security is the next big challenge for IT

Broadcasting Brian Gongol's show notes from filling in on the afternoon show on WHO Radio - April 4, 2012

Computers and the Internet Nebraska watches candidates for US Senate fight over whether their kids' Twitter accounts are fair political game

Computers and the Internet Google isn't the only digital librarian in town
An online collection of two million digitized books is hitting the Internet next year. They're going to try to digitize books only after the five- to ten-year period during which new books sell most of their copies and make most of their money.

News Chinese power brokers to military: Ignore rumors of a coup

Business and Finance Is your investing style a result of genetics?

News Hugo Chavez looks for sympathy and a religious boost
Venezuela's political strongman has cancer, and he's using some televangelist-type fervor to look for sympathy. He actually has an opponent in the upcoming October elections, and he (Henrique Capriles Radonsky) is using the latest stunt to accuse Chavez of being a perpetual candidate. Worth watching: Whether the military really acknowledges the results of a fair election.

News US Coast Guard sinks Japanese ship floating aimlessly since the 2011 tsunami
The owner didn't want it back, since it was already destined for scrap. And since it was floating around shipping lanes, it was a dangerous piece of debris to leave adrift. Must have been fun to use as target practice.

Weather and Disasters Tornado Alley is on the move, and it's eating up more of Iowa

Business and Finance Warren Buffett's life in a parallel universe

Threats and Hazards April is "Distracted Driving Month"

Computers and the Internet Report claims that more than half a million Macs are victims of a malware attack
Apple is trying to cut off the damage with a security patch

Broadcasting The telegraph transcripts from the night the Titanic sank -- read aloud
Though they're read aloud by synthesized voices -- devoid of any human emotion -- it's absolutely riveting listening. Truly a stellar piece of work by the BBC. We all know how the story ends, and we all know how it's been characterized in movies and in pop culture -- but this is the equivalent of listening to the cockpit voice recorder from an airplane crash.

The United States of America Prepare for a future of higher taxes and fewer government-funded benefits
Ben Bernanke reiterates what should already be widely-understood in America today: We're spending too much and taxing too little (at least, too little for the amount of stuff we seem to want government to do). And if we don't get our act together and undertake some belt-tightening in both directions, we're going to face a very unpleasant moment of reckoning when our creditors decide to stop raising our effective credit limit.

Science and Technology Engineers need to get their PR mojo back
An article from the Sioux City Journal from 125 years ago speaks in glowing terms about civil-works projects with an enthusiasm that news reporters reserve today for covering celebrity gossip on Twitter. One of these things is more important than the other, but we celebrate too much of the wrong one.

Iowa Judicial review is enshrined in American law. Get used to it.
It's called consistency. The judicial branch has just as much right to overturn acts of Congress (like the health-care reform law) as it does to judge same-sex marriage a constitutionally-protected right under state law. The kinds of people who like to position themselves as "against judicial activism" have to realize that they must be consistent about their relationship with the courts: If they want courts to safeguard certain rights, then they have to accept that courts may sometimes protect other, sometimes unpopular, rights. That's what the judicial branch is for.

Iowa Disincorporating an Iowa town
A sad move, nostalgically. But if nobody wants to step up to manage the city's affairs -- or even to bother voting in a municipal election -- then it may not serve a lot of purpose to keep it on the books.

Computers and the Internet More speculation on the end of Google Plus
The service is still struggling to really spark fanatical popularity, but rest assured that Google is going to keep plugging away at trying to build some kind of social-networking site that resonates with users, somehow, some way.

Business and Finance Facebook, really? $1 billion for Instagram? Really?
$1 billion for a company with nine employees and no particularly spectacular new technology? Welcome to Bubble Town.

Aviation News A ride on the solid rocket boosters that carried the Space Shuttle
(Video) A unique video.

Iowa Cedar Rapids Gazette company buys stake in local cable TV and Internet provider
The Gazette Co. is an unusual organization -- it's not part of one of those highly-leveraged firms that bought up everything in sight using lots of debt. It's an ESOP company under local ownership. ESOP companies aren't perfect -- notably, they can get into trouble when lots of old employees want to sell out and there aren't enough willing young employees looking to buy-in. But without the debt albatross that's sinking a lot of other media companies, they can do creative things like buying into other media organizations, and experimenting with things like online delivery with a more forward-thinking approach.

Business and Finance Article 18: Why Italy's economy is hard to jump-start
The law makes it nearly impossible to fire employees -- which naturally makes them extremely reluctant to hire people in the first place

Socialism Doesn't Work Press bus makes wrong turn in North Korea
And they ended up getting a better view of what really goes on inside the Stalinist state

News North Korean rocket launch failure
Was it a tool of space exploration or just a thinly-veiled weapons experiment?

Humor and Good News Why there's not a big market for "social media experts"
Lots of people who lack other skills are trying to sell themselves as "professional" users of sites like Facebook. The reality is that no amount of publicity can make up for a lack of good content.

Computers and the Internet Google announces stock split

Iowa Western Iowa groups hope to speed up the widening of Highway 20

Computers and the Internet Historical images overlaid on modern Google Street View shots
Really fascinating

Weather and Disasters Huge risk of big tornadoes and large hail across Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas today
As well as Oklahoma, Texas, and Missouri

The United States of America The United States needs to put more diplomatic and trade attention on Latin America
The President is there for speeches and meetings now, but the region really needs to be much more than an occasional area of focus. Too often our worldview breaks down into the equivalent of "Us (yay!), China (scary!), and Europe (buddies in trouble!)." There's a lot more nuance deserved than that.

News God bless the memory of Jackie Robinson
(Video) Even some of his friends in baseball still held stupid prejudices about people like him, years after he broke the color barrier in baseball

Business and Finance What recruiters see in a resume
Heat maps show what people are seeing when they spend a few seconds on a resume

Computers and the Internet Google tries redesigning Google Plus to get people to come back

Computers and the Internet Sergey Brin: "Very powerful forces" are "lined up against the open Internet"
Google's in a precarious spot: It thrives on open access to the Internet -- sites walled-off behind password protection, like Facebook, get in the way of their access to the information that's out there. But at the same time, Google remains the 800-lb. gorilla of the "open" Internet, without any serious rivals -- so it looks and behaves sometimes like a monopolist. Users are correct to be skeptical of Google at all turns -- even if the company is simultaneously stepping out as a (self-interested) defender of openness on the Internet (which is a good thing).

Business and Finance Student loan defaults are "a necessary market correction"
It's an unpleasant reality, but it's true. People have been obtaining degrees with little or no real value in the marketplace, and they've been financing those educational experiments with debt. Dr. David Hakes of UNI puts it like this: "The fact is if you have to explain your major in a job interview, that is not a good sign." Sure, in an ideal world, we would all get to study whatever interests us most, deep down in our souls. But the reality is that we're not so advanced that we can all live lives of recreation. The cold, hard truth is that we still need a lot of people to do a lot of work to keep society functioning, and people need to know how to do useful things in order to do their part. The market cannot reward what the market does not need. And the educational industry has been subsidizing those low-value degree programs for quite some time, without acknowledging that we need to be a little bit tougher in order to ensure that society really continues to progress.

Weather and Disasters How thunderstorms prevented an even worse tornado outbreak this weekend
It was a bad outbreak -- but it could have been catastrophic, had more tornadoes formed, or if the ones that did develop had been closer to heavily-populated areas. As it was, there was a flood of mud, rain, and hail that did a lot of damage to an emergency room in Norfolk, Nebraska, and there was a lot of very serious damage at Creston, Iowa. And poor little Thurman, Iowa got hit hard -- and it's a community that was immediately adjacent to the path of last year's Missouri River flooding.

The United States of America Jewish temple, Islamic mosque, and Episcopal church to share common campus in Omaha
Now, that's American.

Humor and Good News The Sinatra Group
(Video) One of the best "Saturday Night Live" sketches of all time. "Sinbad O'Connor!"

Humor and Good News Who's your (child's) daddy?
A Craigslist ad details an anything-but-immaculate conception

Humor and Good News And now, a public service announcement from former child celebrities
(Video) Kirk Cameron, himself a former child celebrity, says of homosexuality: "I think that it's detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization". Some of the other child stars of his generation beg to differ.

Health Alex Karras sues the NFL for head injuries

Broadcasting Cell phones have (almost) killed CB radio

Business and Finance Why we need better personal-finance education in America
Young people are seeing offers for credit cards on websites like Facebook -- and they may not know enough to ask the right questions before committing in response to what look like very attractive offers.

Computers and the Internet Social-media sites are turning prom invitations into absurdly elaborate performances
It's just prom. Not everything needs to be a spectacle. And since you're not likely to marry your prom date, you might want to cut back on the digital trail you're leaving behind that may cause a future spouse to become jealous.

Weather and Disasters Creston incident shows why we need more weather-radar installations
The tornado sirens in Creston weren't activated prior to the tornado touchdown there, even though lots of people were on the lookout for a tornado -- including the National Weather Service. But Creston is around 70 miles away from the nearest National Weather Service radar installation, at Johnston. At that distance, the radar can only see to about 5,000 feet above the surface. Anything below that 5,000' level can be invisible to radar (this depends on the precise pattern that's chosen, but the curvature of the earth can't be overcome -- at a distance of 70 miles, the horizon is about 3300' above the ground. (Conversely, by the way, the orientation of the radar scans means that radar can't see things immediately above it.) Considering the dramatic improvement in the quality and speed of tornado warnings that occurred after the current generation of Nexrad radar sites were installed, it seems like the next logical extension is to increase the density of coverage by those radar installations, to improve warnings and forecasts even further. The coverage map for Nexrad installations still shows a lot of completely empty regions and others with very sparse coverage, including stretches of northern and southern Iowa. Considering that the initial installation cost of the original WSR-88D (Nexrad) installations was about $5 million each, it would seem that a reasonable cost-benefit argument could be made for installing a lot more of these radar sites in the interest of public safety.

Computers and the Internet US and China play cyber-war games
It was a test to see if the two could get along without coming to a shooting war, even if they suspected the other of attacking them via the Internet. The results? Not particularly reassuring.

Computers and the Internet Anyone who's squeaky-clean enough to run for office in 20 years will have to be a borderline-psychopath
(Video) The Onion jokes about it, but it's true. Kids generally lack judgment -- and in the past, that made little difference. Mistakes were made, and the worst that could happen was generally that an embarrasing photo showed up in the school newspaper or in the yearbook. But tools like Facebook and Twitter are (a) arming them with the tools to do really colossally-stupid things in front of a global audience, (b) recording those errors for all time, and (c) encouraging them to say and do stupid things in the hopes of obtaining just a tiny sliver of passing notoriety. Whether the mistakes are small or large, it seems hard to imagine that anyone is going to be able to leave behind any kind of digital footprint that lasts from age 13 to age 35 without leaving behind a few regrettable patches. And anyone who is so good at avoiding those mistakes from such a young age and for so long is likely the kind of person who's so focused on being "perfect" that they lose touch with reality. As a society, we're going to have to (a) adjust to the new reality and become more forgiving of people's past errors, and (b) do a better job of helping kids understand that they shouldn't make unforced errors online.

Business and Finance Japan offers IMF $60 billion to keep the wheels from falling off the world economy
Meanwhile, the US nominee to head the World Bank has gotten the job, even if Brazil doesn't like the decision

Socialism Doesn't Work Sometimes, it's good to get out of the family business
The new heir to power in North Korea must have signed off on the failed rocket launch the other day that cost his country nearly a billion dollars in actual expense, plus massive amounts of diplomatic goodwill worldwide. Someone needs to find a way to make the case to Kim Jong Un that belligerence isn't going to be in his own personal interests. He clearly doesn't care about the best interests of the people of his country -- and that kind of abuse of his own people, unfortunately, has been his family's legacy.

Science and Technology Shingles that double as solar-power collectors now on the market
They're being sold in California, Colorado, and Texas to start

Business and Finance Shareholders give big rejection notice to Citigroup executive-pay plan
It was only an advisory vote, but when 55% of shares cast say "no" to the CEO's pay plan, it's hard not to notice

News New York Times cuts free-article access to ten per month
Stupid, stupid, stupid. The problem here is that they offer no digital-only option for subscriptions. Anyone who wants more than ten articles a month will have to pay for a print subscription. Lunacy. The print product is the costly part of the affair -- production and distribution cost money. But once an article has been written -- for print or for the Internet -- distributing it to every additional reader via the Internet is practically free. So if they were smart, they'd offer a low-cost digital-only subscription option and get thousands of users to sign up for $5 a month. But instead, they're just telling folks that it's either $4 to $7 a week or nothing at all. Totally dinosaur-like thinking. The New York Times is good reading...but it's not essential to most people's lives. If your cost of distribution to the next marginal customer is practically zero, then for the love of Milton Friedman, charge a low but reasonable price for it and maximize the potential revenues! Netflix charges $8 a month for unlimited access to television and movies. The price point for "all-you-can-eat" content on the New York Times -- for most users -- is going to be something less than that. But if they're too caught up in their own sense of self-importance to realize that, then they're not going to last very long.

Aviation News Delta considers buying a refinery
They say that jet fuel is a little over a third of their operating costs, so perhaps some vertical integration will help ease that pain. If true, it's an interesting move.

News Once I was the King of Spain...
The Moxy Fruvous song may have been an absurdity, but so is the real King of Spain. First of all, it's bizarre that Spain still has a king. The point of having any kind of monarchy in any advanced nation in this day and age is utterly beyond reasonable comprehension. But even further, this genius has gone off and hurt himself while hunting on an African safari. This is particularly embarrassing, considering that Spain's economy is a lot weaker than it really ought to be. And for an institution that gets an 8.4 billion Euro subsidy from the country, one would think that his time would be better spent doing things like conferring patronage on private businesses, instead of going around shooting elephants in Africa.

Business and Finance Will natural-gas prices stay artificially low?
One analyst thinks that natural gas prices are absurdly low -- perhaps just 1/6th or 1/7th of what they ought to be. That's going to reduce the incentive (in the short term) for anyone to invest either in efficiency projects (like improved insulation, where natural gas is used for winter heating), or in alternative-energy projects (where natural gas is used to fire up electrical generators to meet peak demand). But while the news is bad in the short term, it may be an signal that those investments that are presently depressed by very low natural-gas prices could be available at discount prices. After all, it's most attractive to buy things when nobody wants them -- if it's highly likely that they'll want them at much higher prices in the future.

The United States of America US DOT secretary: "America's one big pothole right now"
That's a bit of an overstatement. But there is something to be said for putting some investment to work in the nation's civil infrastructure. The problem is that quick-fix items -- like repaving a bunch of roads -- isn't necessarily the investment we need most right now. The nation's water and wastewater infrastructure is in dire need of upgrades, just as badly as the roads need help. But sewers are a lot less sexy than superhighways, so politicians can be counted upon to divert funding to those projects that offer the best opportunities for ribbon-cutting and immediate gratification, rather than where the money really ought to be spent for the maximum public good. On a related note: The New York Times tells of new developments in rapid bridge replacement using prefabricated structures that can simply be lowered into place.

Threats and Hazards Chicago will add speed cameras
This kind of automated enforcement of traffic laws is easy to sell as a "for the children" kind of proposition -- but the insidious part of it is that it conditions people to expect to be watched by Big Brother. And when people tire of being watched all the time, they start to get subversive. It's a natural thing to want to rebel against an overzealous authority figure. Automated traffic-enforcement cameras are, rather by definition, that kind of overzealous figure.

Business and Finance How the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska turned gambling profits into a non-casino company

Health Caffeine is a drug, after all
College students in Sioux City were sent to the hospital after overdosing on caffeine during a physiology experiment. Caffeine is a funny drug -- it's legal and available virtually anywhere. It's also (for most consumers) a performance-enhancing drug, whether it makes it possible to wake up more easily or to get more done -- or, in some cases, to improve the ability to focus. But it's still a drug that can have hazardous side effects in excessive doses.

Threats and Hazards Heartbreaking story of Iowa teen suicide
A 14-year-old appears to have been harassed -- literally to death -- after coming out of the closet. Kids shouldn't be driven to that kind of despair by their peers or by anyone else.

News Stadium plan falls apart, so the Vikings could leave Minnesota
Not that it would be a good idea for taxpayers to have to ante up $550 million to fund half of a new stadium

Agriculture Chokecherry tree blossoms up-close

Business and Finance April 2012 EconDirectory

The United States of America Voting habits by what you drink, what you drive, and what TV shows you watch
The campaigns know this information. Also, by where you eat and what you do on the Internet.

Computers and the Internet Online advertising volume rose by 22% last year
The Interactive Advertising Bureau says it totaled $31 billion in 2011, including about $15 billion on search-engine-related advertising, and a little under $2 billion for both advertising on mobile devices and on video.

Socialism Doesn't Work Socialist comes in first in French voting for president
The socialist candidate got 28% of the vote, followed by the center-right incumbent (Nicolas Sarkozy).

Computers and the Internet Parents should talk with their kids about smartphone safety
Location-sharing applications and photos can get kids into a lot more trouble than the corded phones on the wall of 20 years ago used to allow.

Business and Finance Have young people gotten the financial education they need?

Computers and the Internet Google plans second data center in Council Bluffs
It's a $300 million project, and will supposedly employ 50 people when finished

Business and Finance Intellectual-property theft and industrial espionage aren't getting any less serious

The United States of America Homestead Act to be displayed in the most-homesteaded state
45% of Nebraska was claimed by homesteaders

Computers and the Internet Texting, faster for so many other things, is still a slow way to deliver 911 reports

Iowa West Des Moines wants plans for a "Grand Technology Gateway"
The city wants to put in a stretch of, presumably, tech-heavy businesses along the south side of town along the river

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Agriculture Department of Energy study says Corn Belt faces more pressure from climate change than from government energy policy
Cited is an increase in heat waves that can do a lot of damage to corn as it's growing, rather than as the effect of a degree or two of additional heat evenly applied throughout the summer

Business and Finance West Des Moines "business incubator" expands
Business incubators are interesting: They highlight some of the problems for startup businesses (access to affordable office space, the need for support services like IT, and the need for capital) -- but they don't really solve them on a large scale. And if those problems exist on a large scale, shouldn't they be addressed in a way tha tdoesn't favor particular businesses over one another? Obviously, private firms are welcome to manage their own incubators (usually in return for a cut of the ownership and future profits of the startups), but when incubators are government-run or -subsidized, that makes them a little harder to accept.

Business and Finance Anti-counterfeiting packaging rules planned for EU
Is it a tax on generic drugmakers in favor of brand-name manufacturers? Or is it a legitimate method of preventing crooks from profiting off of the hard work of drug development done by legitimate research?

Humor and Good News Orderly thought
A great line from Charles Krauthammer, regarding a man who helped him finish med school after a paralyzing accident: "He was a man of orderly habits and orderly mind, but he never flinched from challenging the orderly"

Science and Technology Watches used to be a necessity; now they're almost strictly for show
Technology has put a clock on every phone -- and one that's more accurate than any wristwatch. So what used to be a necessity is now just a luxury good -- and one that can be used for a signaling effect.

Iowa And that's why you use the One-Call notification service before digging
The sight of a huge fireball in the middle of an empty Iowa farm field is pretty surreal

Business and Finance Who owns IKEA? The answer isn't all that clear.
The legendary furniture company is privately-held, and definitely profitable. But its ownership structure is positively bizarre, and though it's doing a great job of growing, it's really not clear where all of the profits for that growth are going to go. One's first hint that something is bizarre about the company is that even though it's notoriously Swedish in heritage (and design), the company is registered in the Netherlands.

Business and Finance First-quarter economic growth: 2.2% annualized rate
At least, that's the first estimate from the government. It's subject to change. It's an acceptable number, but nothing exciting. It's much better than the 0.2% contraction in the UK, but much slower than the 8.1% growth rate in China. Now, there's no way for the US to grow at the same rate as China -- the gigantic US economy simply can't grow as quickly as a smaller economy, just like a car going 100 mph can't speed up (in percentage terms) as quickly as a car going 25. As Warren Buffett put it, "A fat wallet, however, is the enemy of superior investment results." Of course, he wrote that in 1995, when his company had $11.9 billion in shareholder equity. Today, it's worth $168 billion. What's been true for Berkshire Hathaway can be quite easily true for America: The rate of growth may not be astonishing, but it can be good and can still compound over time to produce really amazing long-term results. The key to take away from investing that applies to the broader American economy is this: Keep growing, try to raise that rate of growth, and don't suffer losses. Losses are a perverse thing, in both finance and macroeconomics: When something (a stock price or a GDP figure) falls by half, it has to double in order to recover. Put another way: The first rule in making money is to not lose money.

Computers and the Internet Tech tip: Could China launch a cyberwar against us?

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Business and Finance Notes from the 2012 Berkshire Hathaway shareholders' meeting
Notes attempting to capture the essence of what Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger said on May 5, 2012

News "It's a mistake to stop doing business with China. Just as it's a mistake to think this is business as usual."
An analysis in Bloomberg Businessweek cites the theory that "China's economic miracle will fade because the security-obsessed government will continue to resist the creative destruction that is crucial to innovation".

Science and Technology Dinosaur gas may have killed Jurassic Park

Computers and the Internet Microsoft is going to kibosh "Windows Live" and just start integrating cloud services anyway
They're going to keep on providing the same services, like e-mail, online storage, and messaging, but they're going to start just calling it "Microsoft Account" and using it as the basis for Windows 8.

Business and Finance The plague of inflated job titles

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Iowa Police and DOT think stayed-cable median barriers are working well

Computers and the Internet Technology advice for moms on Mother's Day

Computers and the Internet A Facebook rival?
Diaspora is intended as essentially an open-source rival to Facebook and Google Plus, in which users own the data they post (as opposed to Facebook's we-claim-everything rule). They're wisely integrating the service with the existing competition.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft claims it will be carbon-neutral by July

Business and Finance Israel passes law prohibiting undisclosed Photoshopping of models
If he or she has been airbrushed to look skinnier, they have to disclose it

Computers and the Internet Google commences offering integrated ads with its Maps service
They're already starting to offer indoor walking directions for some notable buildings

Business and Finance Goldman Sachs has 5,400 people with titles at or above vice president

Computers and the Internet WiFi-blocking wallpaper
It's been developed, and better yet, it only blocks the frequencies used by WiFi, and doesn't mess with cell phone

Science and Technology Architect wants to build tall buildings out of wood

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Iowa The Walmart effect is now mostly stabilized in Iowa towns
Sales declines in surrounding communities have supposedly stabilized, according to new research from ISU. The stores are bad for in-town direct competition, but specialty stores nearby actually appear to do a little better, since the Walmart acts like a magnet for shoppers from nearby.

News The really bad idiom: "He has hate in his heart"
Nobody has hate in their heart. They have it in their heads. And then they choose not to think hard enough to overcome that hate.

Business and Finance "Errors, sloppiness, and bad judgment" cost JP Morgan billions
A $2 billion loss isn't going to sink the company. But it's getting to be almost impossible to think that investment bankers (as a class) have really cleaned up their act.

Iowa Iowa's worst rollover spot could be fixed...in 15 years
A redesign for the really awful I-80/I-380 interchange is up for a vote later this month. But it's still going to be long before anything actually happens.

Business and Finance Iowa kids win prize for video about financial literacy

Business and Finance A checklist for keeping bad CEOs out of the executive suite
Managing the managers is the chief job of company boards. But too many directors have been too complacent when it comes to acting in the shareholders' interest.

Broadcasting Upcoming movie will probe the private side of Johnny Carson

Agriculture US could have a big corn surplus this year
That's going to hurt prices

Science and Technology Robots may reach out better to some autistic kids than people can

Socialism Doesn't Work A "week without capitalism"? Go ahead and try.
Groups that apparently have little to no actual contact with reality are talking about spending this as a "week without capitalism", which one might also take as a week without any sort of market activity whatsoever. Good luck with that. The inescapable fact is that the entire world -- human and natural -- is a perpetual cycle of inputs and outputs, trade-offs, production, and consumption. Just look at the activity inside a forest: The sun provides energy, which is captured by green plants. Those plants become food for herbivores, which in turn become food for carnivores. And when anything dies, it becomes food for the fungi, which recycle it into something useful for everything else. If any one part of that cycle becomes unbalanced -- say, if the deer become too populous -- then the market forces of supply and demand make a correction. ■ We may be more sophisticated than the deer and the squirrels, but to think that market forces are anything but massive, natural, and irrevocable is to ignore the basic rules of the universe. We can (and should) be aware of natural corrections that have to be made to the market system to try to corral some of those natural forces so that they don't harm us -- but in general, efforts to force human authority over the system results in poverty and misery for all. ■ Capitalism is simply an acknowledgment that some resources can be stored and that they will tend to seek their highest level of reward -- just like a plant will lean towards the sun. The plant doesn't "think" about it, and money doesn't either. But over time, people will save and then invest their money where it will create more money, whether they are farmers who choose to invest in land and tractors and seeds, or whether they're investors who look for the most profitable companies to own. It's not that it's philosophically good or bad -- it's just the natural order of things. And anyone who tries to push against that natural order for very long will find that nature wins out every time. Just ask the folks who starved under China's Great Leap Forward.

Humor and Good News The State of the Web: Spring 2012
Satirical/comedic site The Oatmeal pretty well nails the state of things. This is the same site, it should be noted, that recently rose to the defense of the honor of Nikola Tesla, because that's what geeks (a term of endearment, here) like to do.

Humor and Good News Thank goodness for Taiwan-imation
(Video) How else would we be able to fully grasp the magnitude of the grandmother-cheerleader tryout story?

Business and Finance Estimate: People pulled $2.3 billion out of the S&P 500 last week
Um...why? American companies are bringing in record-level earnings, and yet stock prices as a multiple of those earnings are well below historical norms. This is hardly a formula for pulling money out of equities. In other words, if you can buy companies that are more profitable than ever, and you are paying less per dollar of profits than normal, why in the world wouldn't you be eager to buy more pieces of those companies (that is, shares of their stocks)?

Science and Technology This is why America will survive anything
Some goofball at MIT has built his own real-life Mario Kart. It's preposterous, it's silly, it's a complete frivolity. But it's hilarious and ingenious as well. And it's an example of what happens when someone wants something -- even if it's just for fun -- and has the resources, knowledge, and freedom to create it. Command economies scoff at things like this, instead taking resources from all of the individuals in the land and turning them over the the authorities, who build their own preposterous monuments -- but do so in the name "of the people". ■ The truth is that exotic and ridiculous Stalinist projects like the Ryugyong Hotel are really just meant to glorify the state and the people who run it. Sure, the Moscow Metro has some magnificently beautiful stations, but did the people of Moscow need a fabulous subway station in 1938, or did they really just need an opportunity to keep more of their own resources in the middle of the Great Purge? ■ Even non-Stalinist states are often too quick to turn over profits to governments which then use them in pursuit of ego trips...the colossal Burj Khalifa/Burj Dubai was heavily funded by government spending. Free economies have their excesses, too -- any trip down the Las Vegas Strip will tell a person that. But what's most important is that individuals have the opportunity to make their own decisions about what to create and how to invest their time. ■ There will be plenty of people who chose to fritter away their lives in front of dull television programming every night. But there will be others who will tinker and experiment and create, and reap the rewards -- whether those are financial or just visceral (like riding a real Mario Kart). And as long as that occasional genius is rewarded and allowed to flourish, everyone else gets a free ride on the results.

Socialism Doesn't Work Taxpayers will contribute $498 million to the new Vikings stadium
The team will pay $477 million. But the team's finances will remain a secret to their partners, the general public.

Science and Technology Honda's new motorized wheelchair looks nothing like what's been built before
Further proof that life keeps getting better -- whether or not people recognize that fact

The American Way Charlie Munger: "I think civilized people don't buy gold. They invest in productive businesses."
Also: "Take the rapid trading by the computer geniuses with the computer algorithms. Those people have the social utility of a bunch of rats admitted to a granary."

Business and Finance "JPMorgan Chase has a big hedge fund inside a commercial bank"
And that's an unnerving situation. According to the New York Times, "[T]he complex position assembled by the bank included a bullish bet on an index of investment-grade corporate debt, later paired with a bearish bet on high-yield securities, achieved by selling insurance contracts known as credit-default swaps. A big move in the interest rate spread between the investment grade securities and risk-free government bonds in recent months hurt the first part of the bet, and was not offset by equally large moves in the price of the insurance on the high yield bonds." Get all that in one take? Of course not. ■ The problem with excessive complexity inside financial markets is that the feedback loop is human-driven and not very easy to feel. Surgery can be complex...flying an airplane can be complex...forecasting the weather can be complex. But in each of these cases, the natural world is a large part of what initiates the complexity -- and we learn every day about how better to manage that complexity. Moreover, we get real and immediate feedback -- an artery bleeds, a rising column of air causes turbulence, or a mesocyclone starts to spin. These things are observable. ■ But financial markets remain the complex results of millions of individuals, many of whom can easily panic at once for no rational reason. We should be apprehensive about making our financial system more susceptible to the herd mentality than is really necessary: It only takes 5% of people going crazy to set an entire group into a panic. ■ If heavily-leveraged, complex, and large financial instruments can be susceptible to the panic of just 5%, then those instruments probably have no real place right next to the deposits that Grandma makes in her passbook savings account. We should give serious thought to reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act.

Computers and the Internet Good idea: Taking lots of pictures and videos of your kid
Bad idea: Putting all of those pictures and videos on the Internet. The advent of digital photography and video make the cost of recording family memories virtually zero. But there's an implicit cost to sharing everything on the Internet: It causes the child's digital identity to become something the parent forms, whether deliberately or inadvertently. If employers are asking for Facebook passwords today, and burglars are targeting the homes of people who post on Facebook that they're away, and all of that is happening today (when the Internet is, after all, still pretty young), then parents really shouldn't be sharing much -- if anything -- about their kids online. ■ Register the child's name as a domain name, yes. That will help them later. But don't pile on the content in the child's name. The kid will need as much of a blank slate as possible by the time they actually need to use the Internet to apply to college or to a job. And parents should really think twice about the security risks involved in sharing pictures and videos of their children on the Internet -- where you simply don't know what kinds of creeps might be looking for them. ■ There are already too many chances for a young person to screw up on his or her own, and to do a virtual face-plant in front of the world via the Internet. Lots of them don't have adequate discretion to be sharing things in front of a global audience without making serious errors of judgment. Parents shouldn't stack the deck against them by also sharing pictures and videos that may someday turn out to be embarrassing. Sure, Jessica's daily affirmation is hilarious and charming, but she and David of the dentist's strong anesthesia are both going to be defined for a lifetime by their childhood YouTube fame, no matter whatever else they do. (Make no mistake: There's still nothing funnier in the universe than the laughing baby. But a lot of parents seem to think it's a good idea to publicly document everything about their children, as though they're auditioning for some life-changing theatrical role. But are we quite sure that growing up in the public eye was the best thing for the Olsen twins?

Business and Finance Berkshire Hathaway becomes an overnight newspaper empire
Warren Buffett's company just paid $142 million for a group of 63 newspapers. It helps pull the selling company out of a serious financial hole, and it adds what Buffett called "keepers" to the company's roster of subsidiaries. What's amusing about this is how minor the acquisition is for Berkshire: The company brought in $3.245 billion in net earnings in the first quarter, or about $35 million a day. So the entire newspaper chain cost about 4 days' worth of profits from elsewhere in the Berkshire empire. What a bizarre sense of scale. (Full disclosure: Written by a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder.)

Iowa 200 buffalo now roam free across northwestern Iowa
They escaped from a ranch near Sibley.

News Debt is relatively on the rise again in Africa
Borrowing by governments is growing faster than the economies of those countries

Humor and Good News Cubs versus White Sox
(Video) Credit is due to whomever put together the New Era Cap ads featuring Nick Offerman and Craig Robinson. "Would you go skinny-dipping in Lake Michigan in December?" "Again?"

The United States of America A milestone in demography
Canada and the United States are both places defined by ideas and ideals, not the color of a person's skin. And that's a good thing.

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Computers and the Internet On the Facebook IPO
A lot of people who were early investors are getting rich. But: Suppose I own a small business. Five years ago, it lost $13,800. Four years ago, it lost $5,600. Then it started to turn a profit. In the next three years, it made $22,900, then $60,600, and then $100,000. ■ If I told you today that I'd be happy to sell you half of that business for $5 million, but that you would have no say in its management, would you buy it? No? Then don't buy Facebook stock today.

Socialism Doesn't Work With Hollande on the scene, is President Obama no longer the "last Keynesian standing"?
For one to dismiss everything about Keynesianism out-of-hand would be unfair and short-sighted. The key is to understand that Keynesianism makes a lot of promises on the backs of the people of the future. Even if "in the long run, we are all dead", the long run is still made up of lots of short runs, all chained together. And if our decisions are made largely on the basis only of short-run thinking (which is what Keynesianism tends to use), then sooner or later, the consequences of short-run thinking start to catch up with us. ■ Consider it like this: If a business person is known as a ruthless negotiator, then he or she may do very well on some early deals. But after a while, that reputation for ruthlessness may start to make people wary of working with them. Vendors may start to go into negotiations with inflated starting figures, in the expectation of being beaten over the head for discounts. What works once or a few times early on for that "tough negotiator" may turn out to adjust the expectations of other parties, who start to implicitly account for those expectations. ■ The same goes for an economy. If people start to anticipate that governments will intervene in "stimulating" ways to support the economy when things get slow, then the effect of that stimulation may be so widely-anticipated that it no longer counts for anything. Look at the last few years: We've had Cash for Clunkers, housing bailouts, bank bailouts, student-loan bailouts, and even government subsidies for the replacement of old appliances. At some point or another, people start to assume that they'll get government support when things go bad...which in turn may only encourage more of the behavior that leads to trouble in the first place. ■ The solution isn't for the government to do nothing at all. That may be what the Austrian School wants, but the modern Austrian movement has to be careful about going too far. There is a valuable recognition of reality and practicality that is offered by the Chicago School that pulls Austrianism's extreme libertarianism back from the brink just enough to keep it from giving people complete economic indigestion. But if there is any rationality at all to how economies behave, then the Keynesians need to realize that, like a junkie for whom only ever-escalating hits of a drug deliver the same high, the people who make up an economy also get used to anticipating intervention. And if they're too inoculated by intervention to take responsibility for their own personal and household and business behavior, then trouble is most certainly ahead.

Business and Finance Survey says college students are infatuated with the idea of going to work for Google
Business majors...computer majors...even liberal-arts majors want to work there. For all the loudmouths who constantly bemoan "corporate America", there sure are a lot of people looking to work for big corporations. It would be interesting to know what proportion of students think seriously about working for much smaller companies, where their impact on results is much more direct.

Aviation News First private-sector delivery to International Space Station scheduled for Saturday
NASA is outsourcing deliveries to the ISS to contractors -- SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. SpaceX is planning to make their first launch this weekend.

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.

Broadcasting Shareholders need to start voting "No"...a lot
Transcript from a 16-minute segment from the "Brian Gongol Show" on WHO Radio last Sunday.

Computers and the Internet A change to Google search results
They're calling it the "knowledge graph", a riff of sorts on Facebook's "social graph". The idea is that Google will start delivering summaries of information about a topic, rather than just a series of links. They're trying to answer the "next question" people are likely to ask about a given topic. This isn't anything new -- WolframAlpha has been serving up these kinds of results for a long time. But it's definitely a change of pace by Google.

Computers and the Internet Court order blocks access to lots of mainstream file-sharing sites in India
A court ruled in favor of the producers of some films being made in India, who argued that sites like Vimeo were allowing people to share their work and cut into their profits. But legitimate content on those sites is being blocked, too.

Computers and the Internet Facebook versus Google by the numbers

Computers and the Internet How your friends may be undermining your online security
Even innocuous things like untagged photos on Facebook or Twitter may still give away clues about your identity that you might want to think twice about letting out

Computers and the Internet American parents are some of the world's snoopiest
A survey for antivirus company AVG says that 61% of American parents access their teenagers' Facebook accounts without the kids knowing. Ideally, there would be more openness and transparency about what happens online -- but there are likely a lot of kids who wouldn't willingly let their parents supervise their Facebook habits. Let it be noted, of course, that now that Facebook is entirely mainstream and known by everyone, that there is a tremendous market opportunity for an "anti-Facebook" alternative where kids could go about their social networking with less notice and supervision...while still being able to technically tell their parents the truth when asked, "Can I see what's on your Facebook page?" Youthful rebellion will always present lucrative opportunities to those who are paying attention.

Science and Technology Human knowledge is constructive and additive
Take a look at the 1887 newspaper coverage of the construction of a railroad bridge across the Missouri River at Sioux City, Iowa. The pictures alone should cause one to step back and think, "Would I even volunteer to try to build a bridge across a river today, using modern tools and all of the safety equipment available?" No? Then imagine what kind of guts it took to build things like that before most cities had electric streetlights. What's perhaps more remarkable is that some bridges from that era are still in use today. ■ It just goes to show that human knowledge is additive -- that is, we build upon what the knowledge of the people who came before us (as long as they have the courtesy to write it down and pass it along). The awful counter-examples -- like the destruction of the Library of Alexandria -- are the kinds of human failures we should fear and avoid most of all. Pity us for going through a Great Recession, perhaps, but it's not as though we as a species forgot everything we learned before 2007. As long as we continue to add to the knowledge base -- and document it! -- life will continue to get better for our descendants. And maybe for us, if we find ways to live longer.

Humor and Good News David Mitchell colorfully explains investment banking failures

Humor and Good News An elaborate tour of San Francisco
(Video) It's a mystery what kind of brain-wiring it takes to inspire one to create a toothpick sculpture with multiple "marble runs" embedded within it -- but the result is certainly bewildering and amusing at the same time.

Water News Some things you should know about heavy rainfall

Business and Finance Possibly the single most ridiculous stock analysis ever
A Forbes contributor analyzes stock purchases made by Warren Buffett, but uses so-called "technical analysis". Technical analysis, plain and simple, is bunk. Hogwash. Bullhockey. It's the use of stock charts, looking at past results, to predict future results. Can people make money doing it? Sure. Just like they could make money flipping a coin or shaking a Magic 8 Ball. ■ The only reason to buy a stock is that one thinks he or she will get more in return from the purchase than he or she gives up. Further refined, one should also seek to be getting more in return for putting up that capital (i.e., buying the stock with cash) than one could obtain by investing in what is called a "riskless" asset, like a US Treasury Bill. ■ The only sane way to evaluate whether such a return is likely is to make a calculation of intrinsic value -- determining three things: What the company's net assets are worth today, what the company can be conservatively estimated to produce in net earnings over a reasonable time period (usually ten years), and how much that is worth per share of stock. If by that test a stock's price is higher than its intrinsic value, then it's not a good investment. ■ Technical analysis is nothing more than a wager on the sanity, insanity, and moods of millions of other people. The same people who get whipped up over voting on "American Idol" and buying hipster glasses. Using technical analysis to pass comment or judgment on investments -- especially those made by the world's most famous fundamental-analysis investor -- is just plain ridiculous.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft opens So.cl to the general public
So.cl looks a great deal like Google Plus (though, suspiciously, it doesn't always want to show up on the Mozilla Firefox browser). It's supposedly geared more towards encouraging collaborative research by folks like college students than towards getting people to share minute-by-minute updates on their experiences in the fast-food line, like other social-networking sites. Worth dipping a toe in the water? Maybe.

The United States of America China's central bank has unique direct access to lending to the US Treasury
The opportunities to lend aren't going away anytime soon: The Congressional Budget Office says that if we go ahead with higher taxes and spending cuts in the start of 2013, we could go right into a new recession. No politician wants to preside over one of those, so undoubtedly we'll find that the Federal spending leviathan will continue to borrow from China to spend in the USA.

Business and Finance "Risks are large and tilted clearly to the downside."
That's what the IMF says about the UK's economy thanks to trouble in the Euro zone, and the risks back and forth among them. The US should care because the UK is our #6 trading partner overall (year-to-date), and our fifth-biggest importer. If they stop buying, that means we stop selling.

Aviation News Airport lines for the Olympics could be four hours long
Which, in and of itself, creates a whole new type of security hazard. It's one risk to let people through and onto planes unscreened or poorly-screened. It's another to have large groups of people queued up in long lines, waiting to go through security checkpoints.

Business and Finance A surprising number of people seem to have seen through the Facebook stock bubble

Humor and Good News "[R]oyalty is a confidence trick and that requires confidence"
David Mitchell's column takes a paragraph or two to get rolling, but the payoff later is worth it. His best line: "What seems unpleasantly vulgar in a tycoon is appropriately headstrong in a king."

The United States of America Handicapping the race for Treasury Secretary 2013
Timothy Geithner says he expects to leave the job, even if President Obama wins a second term in office, so there will likely be a new Treasury Secretary next year, one way or another.

Health Skin cells from 61-year-old man become brand-new baby heart cells
If this research doesn't blow your mind, you're not going to be amazed by anything. But if it's up your alley, then you might also want to see what's happened at MIT, where a team has developed a non-toxic coating that lets ketchup spill right out of the bottle.

Health A cheaper, faster, more accurate test for pancreatic cancer
Can we please do whatever is earthly necessary to expedite this test's rush to the market?

Business and Finance Facebook and its bank underwriters face lawsuits
Some stock traders -- it's hard to call them "investors" for paying the hugely-inflated Facebook IPO price -- are suing, saying that some of the underwriting banks told selected investors about some disappointing forecasts but withheld that information from others.

Computers and the Internet The browser wars are close to a three-way global tie
Among Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox

Science and Technology Change your light bulbs, Texas!
The state, among its many other peculiarities, is pretty much on its own when it comes to electricity -- it's largely on its own independent grid. And the operator of that grid says they're going to start cutting it really close between maximum supply and demand over the next few years. Time to switch to LED bulbs, folks!

Science and Technology Neil deGrasse Tyson deserves a pat on the back
"Fast Company" recognizes him as one of the "100 most creative people in business". The important thing, really, is that he's taken up the job of popularizing science -- making sure it's something for which people see a need in their daily lives, and in ways that aren't just way-out-in-the-cosmos abstract.

News "I'm not really sure I want to be part of a government any more [...] that behaves this way"
The Minneapolis City Council voted 7-6 to give a total subsidy of $306 million to build a new stadium for the Vikings, but not everybody agrees it's the right thing to do. Many an argument will be made about how a stadium helps the local economy. But has anyone considered that this project -- which obligates the city, apparently, to subsidize the project through 2046 -- may outlast the popularity of football itself? A lot could happen in the next 34 years. They may so drastically change the rules of football in order to avoid concussions, for instance, that the game no longer appeals to people. Or tastes may simply change. Remember how baseball -- America's pastime -- was thought to have one foot already in the grave until the McGwire-Sosa home run era? It may sound like heresy, but the same thing could happen to football.

Humor and Good News This campaign ad...
...is too goofy to be serious, but not funny enough to be satirical. It's like there were three people involved -- one who wanted to make a funny ad (hoping it would go viral), one who's a true believer in what the candidate is saying, and the candidate himself (who seems to be half off his rocker). It sounds as though he's a long-shot candidate anyway. Thank goodness. (Incidentally, one should avoid wearing hats with the name "Barth" in order to avoid an unfortunate 80s reference.)

Computers and the Internet Google gets a million requests a month to remove copyright infringements from search results

Business and Finance Google closes on purchase of Motorola Mobility
But, right out of the gate, they're making big mistakes. The old CEO is out, and a Google transplant is in. And Google CEO Larry Page says "he's already off to great start with some very strong new hires for the Motorola team". Rule of thumb for businesses: If you like the way a company is working well enough to buy it, keep the management in place. Truly good managers are hard to find. On the other hand, if you don't like the management, why would you buy the company in the first place? For its physical assets? ■ Google is doing something that could very well turn out to be smart -- having vertical integration from the phone people use to access the Internet up through the services that they use while there. And Motorola has been making some good phones lately -- the Droid Razr Maxx is a really good smartphone. Really good. But this is a big gamble for Google -- $12.9 billion big -- and they're paying $64.3 million to get rid of the CEO they decided not to keep around. So, in essence, they're saying that the replacement CEO is worth $130 million to the company...the amount they're paying to get rid of the proven guy who's leaving Motorola Mobility, plus the amount they'll have to compensate the new guy (which has to be at least as much over the next few years as the value of the "golden parachute" they're giving the guy who's leaving. ■ It's decisions like these that should give Google shareholders heartburn and give the rest of us pause to consider whether Google can really remain a juggernaut in its second decade.

Health Injections without the needle
MIT researchers have developed it -- and it could improve delivery of vaccines to the developing world as well as reduce the risk of infections by contaminated needles.

Computers and the Internet Someone attacked a University of Nebraska database with data on 654,000 people
Social Security numbers, addresses, grades, financial-aid information, even bank account details for some people. It's a big attack -- though it's unclear what information they were able to download, if any.

Weather and Disasters "[C]uriosity got the best of us and we watched it for a few seconds"
A family watched two tornadoes merge together on their farm before they decided to go to the basement, whereupon the tornado destroyed the house above them. It's possible we sometimes get a little too casual about tornadoes in the Midwest.

Weather and Disasters Beryl is a strange little storm
It's a subtropical storm (bringing about regular tropical-storm warnings), and it's moving to the southwest, which is an odd direction for a storm on the Atlantic coast to go

Computers and the Internet How the FBI plans to snoop on the Internet in the future
A unit based in Virginia will be working on ways to conduct surveillance on phone calls, Internet activity, voice-over-IP calls, and other communications

Science and Technology The Golden Gate Bridge turns 75

Computers and the Internet Google will warn users with infected computers to get the DNSChanger Trojan removed

News If you decide to go skydiving, do not -- DO NOT! -- chicken out at the last minute
It could cause you to slip out of the tandem harness. Yikes.

Science and Technology A motorcycle that never tips off of two wheels
It's a "self-stabilizing two-wheeler" with an electric powertrain and it has two doors and a steering wheel. It's not a car, nor a motorcycle. It stays upright using two high-RPM gyroscopes. But it looks just about as likely to get a driver killed in a wreck as a Smart Car.

Computers and the Internet New Microsoft user agreements would prevent class-action lawsuits
They've been a major nuisance for Microsoft for a long time, so blocking them entirely would mean a lot of added certainty for their projections and operations

Computers and the Internet So, what's really happening with the team that developed WebOS for Palm?
They got absorbed into HP, but then HP cancelled the enterprise. Now, rumors abound that some of them will move to Google. Officially, the ecosystem around it is now "sponsored by HP", but is supposed to become an open-source affair.

Business and Finance Do we require too many licenses, and are they too hard to get?
A rather wide swath of jobs require some sort of professional licensure or certification from the government. Some of those are for good reason -- but others are nothing more than relics of a guild system. That is, sometimes people who are already in an occupation try to keep other people from joining that same occupation and do so by raising barriers like licensure requirements. ■ There can be legitimate arguments made for licensure -- especially where the health and safety of others are involved. But licensure isn't the only way to ensure the protection of others. The private sector does it: The Michelin guides are renowned for giving people insight about hotels and restaurants -- which can be invaluable information for someone from out of town. Consumer Reports is another prime example. ■ Insurance companies and banks also perform this role, though they do so without most consumers noticing. Insurance companies (if they're smart) invest in active risk management, seeking to limit their losses on policy claims. And banks that do their due diligence when lending money aren't going to hand over cash to borrowers if they expect those borrowers to run a shoddy operation. Nor will they usually lend money for real estate without requiring an inspection for health and safety. ■ When government intervention is required, it can often be done just as well through reactive enforcement as by imposing preemptive licensure requirements. Most Americans handle their taxes quite well on the honor system, knowing that the consequences of crossing the IRS are pretty grave. Besides, preemptive licensure can give people a false sense of security: Just because someone has been licensed to practice medicine is no guarantee that they're actually a good doctor. ■ Licenses, of course, can make sense. But it's important to weigh whether we require too many or whether their requirements are needlessly burdensome -- because a lot of jobs that could offer people a good opportunity to earn a living in a skilled occupation can also require burdensome costs and efforts to obtain licensure. That can artificially allow people already in the occupation to become rent seekers (in the economic sense), keeping potential competitors from gaining entry into a market where they could make money for themselves and provide a competitive price for consumers.

Computers and the Internet Your computer should know why you're smiling
The MIT Media Lab has been working on a project to make computers more responsive to the emotions of their users -- and one of the discoveries they've made is that 90% of people smile (briefly) when they're frustrated. But it's not the same smile as the one we give when watching a funny movie. So they're learning how to program the computers to know the difference, so that someday in the not-so-distant future, Siri won't think you're laughing along with her when in fact you're getting ready to chuck her against a wall. ■ But don't try using Siri if you're working at IBM, where management has decided that Siri and Apple's dictation features are to be turned off...because Apple isn't very clear about what it does with the information it captures from voice queries and transcriptions. IBM, being reasonably cautious, figures that it probably does't want people leaving a trail of IBM research and internal details on the servers of a potential rival.

News Illinois House of Representatives votes for $1-a-pack cigarette tax increase
The plan is to use the money to fund health-care expenses for the poor. The hazard is that such a large increase will give incentives to tobacco bootleggers.

Threats and Hazards Counterfeit parts found 1800 times in US military aircraft
And the total number of parts was over a million. 70% of the fakes came from China. The world has to start getting a grip on counterfeit products coming from China. The problem is huge and growing.

Business and Finance Worst headline of the day: "The week ahead: Should you be buying or selling?"
It's an example of a widespread but painful error in thinking within the financial universe. Nobody should be making decisions to buy or sell on a week-ot-week basis. There are really only two legitimate things to do in the market over time: Either just patiently invest on a dollar-cost-average basis using market index funds (and then withdraw those same funds slowly upon retirement), or invest very deliberately in a very concentrated way with a handful of companies which you take the time to understand well. If people think the stock market is to be "bought" and "sold" from week to week depending upon the sentiments of millions of other people, then they should really step away from the market altogether -- for their own safety.

Business and Finance Today's extremely low-return investing environment

Computers and the Internet Words that will get you flagged by the Department of Homeland Security

Health Shawn Johnson talks about having a healthy body image

Iowa This is what passes for crime news in Iowa
Why a man would have taken his zebra and macaw into a bar, nobody will likely ever know

Broadcasting Show notes from the WHO Radio Wise Guys - May 26, 2012

News It's not the OJ Simpson trial, that's for sure
Rajat Gupta is on trial to determine whether he cheated the stock market by using insider information. The judge in the case is worried that the lawyers on both sides are boring the jury to death, saying, "We need to find a way to sharpen the presentation on both sides and get it more focused." Unfortunately, this is why Warren Buffett noted in his year 2000 letter to shareholders that "More money, it has been noted, has been stolen with the point of a pen than at the point of a gun." People are neither well-versed in things financial, nor are most people easily excited about or interested in those things. In a very real way, theft by insider trading or accounting fraud is made easier by the fact that so many people find it just so infernally inscrutable. Because financial crimes don't involve gunfire or stabbings, they just don't seem as viscerally exciting as violent crimes. But they can be enormously harmful, and on a much larger scale than a single armed robbery.

Computers and the Internet Another view on the future of Facebook
The site simply won't last in predominance forever. It probably has about three really good years left. At some point or another, people will decide that too much sharing is just too much. And there's no shortage of potential rivals who have already arrived on the scene -- or that may appear later.

Iowa Iowa's supreme court isn't "radical", and political candidates have an obligation to be honest
A state senate candidate in central Iowa is accusing the Iowa State Bar Association of creating a "radical" supreme court for the state. He's referring to the court's decision in Varnum v. Brien, which was the correct decision -- even if he doesn't like it. The decision -- which had the effect of making gay marriage a legal right in Iowa -- was not "radical". It was, in fact, a fair decision under the state's constitution, which is all we can ask of our courts to deliver.

America's labor force participation rate

Business and Finance Fewer people are doing all the work
That's America's labor-force participation rate, measured from quarter to quarter. It measures the number of people who are working out of the total adult population (ages 16 and up). The number hasn't been this low since the early 1980s (when the trend was on the way up, thanks to Baby Boomers still joining the workforce). This graph undoubtedly shows the start of the retirement wave and just how quickly things are already changing. So...for those people still working, if you feel like there's nobody left around the office or the shop, it's not just in your head. And, by the way, it's happening much faster than the forecasts predicted. Just a decade or so ago, government forecasters expected the rate to remain above 63% until at least 2025. We could very easily drop below that number this year.

The United States of America Fisher House: A great charity for the week of Memorial Day
The Fisher House Foundation ensures that military families have someplace to stay when their loved ones in the armed services are hospitalized. Given the solemnity of Memorial Day, it's a highly worthwhile charity. Also worth considering for your charitable dollars: The USO, which provides entertainment and other relief services to active-duty members of the military. Both are outstanding charities.

Humor and Good News "What would George do?"

Personal savings rate

Business and Finance Are you on track to save at least $1,289 this year?
If so, then you're doing better than the average American. The personal savings rate in April was 3.4%, or about $1,288 per person per year. The problem? That number just isn't going to cut it. And worse yet, it's clearly trending downwards -- towards the dismal 2% rate that prevailed in 2006 and 2007. ■ Personal savings forms the basis for a number of very useful things. First, it gives people at least some cushion against bad times...the classic "saving for a rainy day" that everyone should do. Companies have to do this by depreciating their assets, knowing that things wear out over time. Households need to do the same thing, since cars break down and furnaces give out and kids get sick. ■ By further extension, we need savings so that people can have something to live on when they retire. Americans, generally speaking, probably need about $1 million in savings and net assets of some sort or another at age 65 in order to afford a comfortable retirement without a lot of worry. Social Security is not a retirement plan. It's just not. It's a backup insurance policy against being destitute in old age. And there's no way that saving $1,288 a year is enough to get to $1 million. ■ The third leg of this stool is that personal savings equals wealth. You can't have wealth if you don't ensure that you consume less than you produce. A personal savings rate this low -- and 3.4% is far too low -- means that we're essentially eating our seed corn. Read Warren Buffett's 2003 essay on the US trade deficit: All told, we've sold off more than $2 trillion in American assets to the rest of the world to pay for our consumption of more than we produce. That's $2,470,989,000,000 at last count -- or about $8,000 for every man, woman, and child in this country. Many Americans don't even have $8,000 in their own net assets -- much less realize that the rest of the world owns that much more of our country, per person, than we own of anything anywhere else. If there's one iron rule of capitalism, it's that the one who owns the capital is the one who actually gains the wealth. And there are really only two kinds of capital: The things that are counted in that negative $2.5 trillion balance we have with the rest of the world...and human capital. And, while we're still pretty good at what we do here, our human capital is basically the output of what we put into our educational system. So unless we decide to make our schools phenomenally better and/or start investing more and consuming less, we're in deep trouble in the long term. ■ Bottom line: It's possible to become a nation of over-savers. Japan once had a personal savings rate of 15% -- which may be saving too much and spending (and enjoying life) too little. But a good rule of thumb has always been to target a savings rate of about 10%. Some of that will be lost to inflation over time, but as long as its invested with some shred of wisdom, that 10% amount generally produces enough for a comfortable household nest egg. 3.4% just isn't enough. Not nearly enough. ■ (As an aside...households that are putting money into education and training that actually stand a good prospect of earning a higher return in the future should consider their tuition spending to be the same thing as "savings", even if it technically doesn't look like that. If you're going to earn a meaningfully higher level of income as a result of that education, then it's a lot like putting money into savings -- as long as you follow the rule of saving a high percentage of your future [higher] earnings later on. But if you're burning those tuition dollars on a low-return degree program, then it's really just consumption, because it feels good but doesn't really make you wealthier in the future.)

News Where do these awful people come from?
Iowa's supreme court has ruled that it's a man's right to sue for fraud and be paid back for damages if a woman falsely claims a child is his. This begs two questions: How in the world was this not the law before? And, where do these awful people come from, who would knowingly lie about the paternity of a child, just to extract money out of someone who wasn't the child's father? In related awful-person news, a man is accused of killing his pregnant wife because he wanted to continue having an affair.

Iowa Sioux Center manufacturing plant will close
They make furnishings for the medical industry, and the company's owners say they just don't know how medical-care reform will affect the industry with enough certainty to keep the plant open.

Computers and the Internet Judgment matters more than knowledge
We were told a lot in the 1990s that the "new economy" brought about by the Internet would be the "knowledge economy", in which "knowledge workers" would be paid highly for, well, knowing things. But that's turned out to be a bit off the mark. What we really live in is the era of the judgment economy. Knowledge and information are abundant, and they're not particularly hard to obtain. If one wants to earn a PhD, one can even do that through online classes. But no amount of knowledge will adequately substitute for the judgment to know better than to send sexually-explicit emails from a work account, as the now-former superintendent of the Des Moines Public Schools did. That's just awful judgment. Work accounts at a school district are a part of the public record. Everyone makes mistakes, but it takes a person with really, really bad judgment to be in a management position like a superintendency and not realize that certain conversations are best had anywhere but on a school-district server.

News There is, without a doubt, such a thing as too much instant gratification
That said, it seems likely that the Zimbardo hypothesis that video games and porn are creating a nation of males who are addicted to high-intensity arousal and action and who can't otherwise control themselves or focus on the big picture. It's quite likely that they're describing a specific, finite segment of the male population -- just to make up a number for it, let's say 15% -- who then make it look like there's a total epidemic happening. But plenty of males of all ages can still find self-discipline and set aside time to think and mature. Blaming video games and porn for some others' inability to do so isn't really a fair way to characterize what happens in a population the size of America's.

The United States of America How the economy will determine the outcome of the Presidential election
Presidents take too much credit for the economy when it's doing well and too much of the blame when it's going badly. But the Obama Administration has been doing everything possible to take credit for whatever turnaround has been happening while doing lots of things to make growth difficult, so the punishment may be justified.

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Business and Finance China's central bank cuts interest rates
As when it's done in the United States and elsewhere, the hope is that lower rates will encourage businesses to borrow and in turn use that borrowing to create more goods and services. Lower interest rates also punish people who prefer to save their money, so it encourages them to consume instead. Savers will now get 3.25% on their deposits, while a one-year loan will cost 6.31%. But don't bother commenting about it online behind the Great Firewall -- the government is proposing even tighter controls on the Internet.

Health Fetal genome sequencing is now possible
But are we ready for it, ethically and legally?

Business and Finance Spain is now the financial scapegoat of Europe

Agriculture So, it's a mite carrying a virus that's been killing off the bees
A huge problem for agriculture

Computers and the Internet Facebook is launching its own app store
Oh dear. Another way for old people to get confused.

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Humor and Good News You're probably not hearing "O Fortuna" right

Humor and Good News A new take on some old Mister Rogers clips

The United States of America Cubs vs. Giants, 1912-style

News Did the NFL really do enough to treat players fairly?
Were players warned enough about the possibility of brain injuries?

Business and Finance California voters decide to put brakes on public-sector pensions

The United States of America Bill Clinton may have an ego, but he's also from the badly-depleted pro-business wing of the Democratic Party
The Democrats need a pro-business wing, and the Republican need a wing full of social moderates. Period. Without those groups, the parties just lapse into cartoonish editions of themselves.

Computers and the Internet Google buys QuickOffice
Any business that requires the pace of innovations that Internet services seem to require is a business that's too hard to evaluate reasonably as an investor

Computers and the Internet 6.5 million LinkedIn passwords stolen
That's why everyone should use different passwords across different websites -- because you don't want to lose all of your password security just because one site had a security lapse or breach.

News The market for talent doesn't always have to be national
Institutions of all stripes need to do a better job of developing their talent pools from within. National searches for people to do things like running school districts are just pushing salaries up and reducing reasonable accountability.

Humor and Good News Was the Ford Fairmont the worst police car ever?
One would have to suspect it was at least in the running

Computers and the Internet Twitter updates its logo
Better? Yes. Permanent-looking? No.

Socialism Doesn't Work Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nudges North Korea towards change
Her statement was clearly a nod to South Korea, a free ally of the United States, but it's also a point well-taken: North Korea simply can't go on being an authoritarian Communist state. As Stein's Law rules, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." Authoritarian Communism simply cannot go on forever. It leaves people literally starving -- and that's untenable when neighboring nations have plenty. So the question is: How long will it take the North Korean leadership to see that there's a bigger payoff to ending the madness than to keeping themselves barricaded away from the reality of the destruction and poverty they cause? They need to see, somehow, that peaceful reunification with South Korea is the only viable strategy. Here's the question: Does it take some kind of direct payoff? That may be the only option -- somehow literally buying-off the elite to get them to step aside. Perhaps if you play civilization as a video game for long enough, totalitarianism becomes the rule. But there's no reason that we, as human beings conscious of what's happening to us and around us, cannot deliberately fight back against the tide of chaos and build a better way of life for ourselves and our offspring.

Weather and Disasters A big leap forward for safety comes on Monday
The National Weather Service is about to start pushing the highest-severity warnings (tornado, tsunami, flash flood, and the like) to cell phones starting Monday. It's obviously only going to be available on newer devices, but it's a great step forward. People need those alerts most when they're away from home, and most especially when they're out of town and may not recognize the early warning signs of danger. Iowans probably don't know much about tsunamis, and Hawaiians aren't well-versed in tornadoes. It's a very sensible collaboration between the authorities tasked with keeping people safe and the wireless telephone companies.

Business and Finance Bank of England and UK Treasury plan to drop mountains of cash into banks for lending
They're talking about adding £5 billion a month to the banks so they can lend out to businesses. That's $7.7 billion a month at current exchange rates. It's a huge amount of money -- on top of additional huge piles that have been shoveled into the economic system already. Here's something worth consideration: With lending rates at impossibly low levels (seriously -- some 15-year mortgage rates are being offered at 2.75% -- that's bonkers low), financial institutions are lending long at very low rates. That's going to hurt them a lot -- a whole lot -- when rates eventually come back up. There's no question that the cost of money will be higher than 2.75% at some point in the next 15 years. But if the banks are locked into lending at those ultra-low rates for very long stretches of time, they're going to find themselves in a world of hurt when their depositors are expecting far more. All this cheap money being dumped into the economic system is going to put severe downward pressure on the returns that people are going to be able to earn from "safe" investments like CDs for quite some time to come. That, in turn, is going to cause huge problems for retirement funding, since people tend to move their money into those "safe" instruments (like bonds and CDs) as they approach retirement -- which is something that people will be doing in very large numbers as the Baby Boomers retire. The next 15 or even 30 years look like terrible times to be in banking.

The United States of America How the mayor of London -- yes, that London -- could be come President of the United States
Boris Johnson was born in New York City and holds an American passport. Interesting.

Science and Technology Can we place a numerical value on art?
Of course we can. It might be difficult to do so, but a price tag can most definitely be put on the value of the aesthetic. It may actually be surprisingly low, on balance. We've spent far too long permitting the uglification of America. Maybe a little more style and class are worth it.

Iowa Group forms to say "no" to special tax breaks for Iowa City tower

News Who could say no to this cute little face?
It may belong to a baby gorilla, but it sure looks innocent and worthy of protection. The African Wildlife Foundation is a great charity working to protect mountain gorillas, among other African species.

News Vatican report turns against American nuns
The Vatican conducted a review of a group called the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which claims to represent 80% of American nuns. The resulting report concludes that there are "three major areas of concern" about American Catholic religious communities, one of which was termed "radical feminism". Now, the group says it's going to hold regional meetings and a full-scale assembly in August to decide what to do about the accusations. The news raises an interesting question for the Catholic Church: Is it better off with greater doctrinal uniformity or with a big tent?

News Socialist Party wins big in France
They have a majority in the national assembly and in the senate, plus the presidency. Are they full-blooded red Communists? No. But it's strange to see a party that's socialist-in-name take over a Western nation's politics. The Green Party did well, too. ■ Party politics are a funny thing. They involve lots of horse-jockeying and realpolitik, but there's still an element of philosophy behind it all. For instance, for what the world's Green Parties get right about thinking for the long term environmentally, they usually get things completely wrong about economics and incentives and private property. France's socialist party may be completely backwards in philosophy, but they seem to understand that government spending has to be reduced. ■ In an ideal world, we'd have something like a Century Party: One that's dedicated to a philosophy of making the best decision not just for today, but for the next hundred years. A Century Party would have to consider ethical, environmental, economic, and other consequences of every decision with a longer time horizon than what's just around the corner. On the surface, it sounds like a totally pie-in-the-sky idea. But short-term thinking has been just killing us in recent years: Short-term thinking about housing and banking gave us the mortgage crisis. Short-term thinking about government spending has given us a $15.7 trillion Federal debt. Short-term thinking about energy gave us the 1970s oil crisis. Short-term thinking about foreign policy gave us Al Qaeda. ■ And it's not as if people never looked to the long term in the past. Much of the infrastructure we use today was built or at least started 50 or 100 years ago. Airport terminals like Reagan National and structures like the Brooklyn Bridge have been around for many decades -- and what would the Golden Gate Bridge be without its Art Deco look? We need to think not just about the immediate, but also about the future.

News Monarchies are ridiculous
The next-in-line to become king of Saudi Arabia just died unexpectedly. But he was 78 and the king is 89. It's not like this system is designed to deliver thoughtful, progressive leadership to the country. Monarchies -- especially ones that retain any kind of political power whatsoever -- are patently ridiculous. David Mitchell put it quite well when he called the idea of monarchy a "confidence trick". They're nothing more than people telling other people that because some long-ago ancestor whipped everyone else into order, then God must will it that the offspring of the long-dead victor should still tell everyone else what to do. Ludicrous. Republics all around.

Business and Finance China says it won't re-stimulate like it did in 2008
They're going to continue putting government spending out there to stimulate the Chinese economy, but supposedly at a much lower rate than what was going on before. Premier Wen Jiabao essentially told the G20 that the rest of the world is on its own if the global economy re-slows. Apparently, American officials have been pressing them to apply more stimulus spending. Officials from India seem worried that a slowdown could really cramp their style.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft plans to have a tablet computer for Christmas
They're calling it "Surface", and it's going to run on Windows 8, which by many accounts is a pretty decent operating system for phones and tablets. They're being coy about the price point, only suggesting vaguely that it'll probably be in the $400 to $600 range. That's really still too high for tablets -- the real breakthrough price point for those is the $200 range, where one finds the Amazon Kindle Fire. But if Microsoft can make the case that their tablet -- with a keyboard built into the cover, but not apparently necessary for the operation of the tablet strictly as a tablet -- can be easily integrated with existing business IT infrastructures, then they might have something good going. Tablets remain good for getting low-concentration work done -- scanning emails, checking the Internet, and the like. These are things that many companies would be happy to have their employees doing at home and off the clock, or while traveling on airplanes and trains. And if they're (understandably) skittish about trying to integrate Apple's iPad products into a Windows-heavy IT world, then a Microsoft-built alternative just might work. It's probably going to be a much tougher sell for ordinary consumers. Wisely, they're including tools like SD and USB ports. Apple makes data transfer a premium option, which just adds a slight but noticeable nuisance factor.

News China's grown notorious for selling fake stuff, but this is ridiculous
One fraudster in China is in trouble now for making up an entire bank in the United States, then telling everyone he bought it. He apparently lied in order to gain social status.

Iowa We're really starting to miss the rain
About 60% of Iowa's cropland is short or very short on moisture. That's bad news going into the warmest part of the summer.

Computers and the Internet It's this kind of language that's going to kill Twitter
The Twitter enthusiasts who use hash tags, jargon, and other shorthand are rendering much of what's shared on the site to be totally meaningless to outsiders. Once the "in group" language becomes more prevalent than, say, just plain language, a website or service is clearly on the decline.

Humor and Good News Who wants a body massage?

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.

Broadcasting Brian Gongol guest-hosting with Bonnie Lucas on WHO Radio this morning

Business and Finance It's like dump trucks are pouring money into the economy
The Federal Reserve is going to continue pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy, hoping to keep borrowing costs low.

Iowa Cityview says the Des Moines Register will leave its home of almost a century
The weekly newspaper has the scoop on the possible move by the heritage daily in town. But that heritage is being burned to the ground as fast as Gannett can make it go.

Science and Technology Pair of planets 1,200 light-years away look like giant moons to one another
Kepler-36b and Kepler-36c apparently orbit profoundly close to one another, which means each "rises" like the Sun or the Moon do here, once every 97 days on the other. That causes them to have big gravitational effects on each other (imagine colossal tidal forces on the one that has water) and to look much, much larger in their respective neighbors' skies than the Moon does here.

Computers and the Internet Russian police bust 22-year-old hacker who stole more than $4 million
He set up a botnet that infected more than 6 million Russian computers and stole people's banking information. This is why everyone needs to run antivirus/antispyware software, use a limited-access Windows account for their Internet browsing, and use a webmail service whenever possible.

Health People don't need "exorcisms", they need mental-health care
A 14-year-old girl in Omaha was nearly killed because her friends and family thought she was being "possessed by a demon". No, she needs clinical attention from someone trained to help people with mental-health issues. There's nothing shameful about seeking out that kind of care -- the only shame is when people come up with excuses instead of helping their loved ones get the treatment they need.

Science and Technology NASA thinks we know the locations of 95% of nearby space objects larger than a kilometer across
We need to know where those things are so that we can anticipate what to do in case one is headed towards us (which could be calamitous)

Business and Finance Parenting and work
Any number of issues are far more complex than the sound bites people put out: "Pay equality", for instance, sounds justified in principle, but there's no way to strike a perfect balance that rewards tenure, productivity, and experience without penalizing parents who take time away from the workforce to raise children. It's like the marriage penalty within income taxes: If we believe that income-tax rates should be progressive, then there's no way to fully escape the fact that a household of two adults totaling $100,000 will pay something more than two individuals each earning $50,000. It's impossible to fully resolve -- so if we're smart, we acknowledge the inherent difficulties and try to find ways to accommodate them as best possible.

Science and Technology Tesla finally introduces its second car -- a sedan for $50,000 to $100,000
It was made available for a very brief set of press test drives, so initial impressions are limited by the very short exposures, but the Wired Magazine driver seemed to find it pretty solidly impressive. Tesla took an interesting gamble, but one that makes sense: Target high-end drivers who are already less price-sensitive than other folks, and use them as the basis for rolling out all-electric cars.

Business and Finance Kudos to McDonald's Canada team
(Video) In a very clever marketing move, they showed exactly how their advertising teams make their burgers look really good in photos and on TV...when they're not so impressive in daily life. Credit deserved for admitting that there's a wizard behind the curtain.

Computers and the Internet Is there a bizarro undertone to Apple's Siri commercials?
Maybe. The fact they feature well-known people sitting at home all alone certainly is...well...unusual.

Business and Finance "An industrial renaissance is happening [in America], and it's underestimated"
So says Russian steel magnate Alexey Mordashov, who has invested billions of dollars in expanding steel-production capacity in the US. And he's totally right when he says, "What you need to keep most in the U.S. is the entrepreneurial spirit." ■ Meanwhile, the prime minister of Italy thinks the Eurozone could fall apart in a week. And here we see exactly what is meant by the differences between the "real economy" and the "financial economy". There is worldwide demand for stuff of all sorts, in bigger volumes than ever before. People do not want fewer cars, televisions, computers, and dinners out than before -- we want more, and there are more of us occupying this planet than ever before. But the problems allowed by fiscal and financial tricks have caused the process of doing business to become much more difficult for anyone doing business in or with Europe. Nobody there has forgotten how to make things or deliver services -- but unless some adults prevail, the system for exchanging those goods and services is going to undergo some dramatic and painful changes.

Computers and the Internet Duke University team produces a 50-gigapixel camera
The amount of digital information captured by the 2.5' x 2.5' camera is enormous -- using 98 individual cameras coordinated to produce a single image. The development team points out that developments like this make the question not so much where to point the camera, but exactly how to get the pictures you want from the data. And we're already able to see examples on our smartphones today -- the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx takes an 8-megapixel photo -- just 1/6250th of the 50-gigapixel camera. But that's enough to take a wide-angle shot of an entire baseball park but still be able to zoom in on the ball en route to the catcher's glove.

Weather and Disasters The abandoned theme park devastated by Hurricane Katrina

Humor and Good News Cattle roundup on an Omaha expressway

Health Surgeons announce successful laser operation to remove tumor from a child in-utero
Curiously, it happened in 2010, and they waited 20 months to announce it to the world. It's really quite uplifting news.

Computers and the Internet Evidence mounts that the US and Israel are behind the Flame malware
It looks like the dirty program was being used to thwart Iran's attempts to build a nuclear weapon. On one hand, it's nice to see them avoid a shooting war. On the other hand, in a cyberwar, we could all become casualties.

Computers and the Internet ICANN releases list of potential new generic top-level domains
There are only 22 right now, in addition to the world's country-code TLDs.

Humor and Good News Don't get into a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel
It's an old idiom, but it's even more appropriate today, when a "barrel of ink" is free, as long as someone publishes their thoughts on the Internet. The fight between the creator of The Oatmeal and a band of people who have pirated his material without attribution (and their lawyers) is a good example of how the party who already has the loyalty of an audience (in this case, The Oatmeal) is going to have more power to mobilize a vigorous lobbying campaign than the idiots who think it's fair to rip-off that material without giving credit where it clearly is due.

Business and Finance What the IRS expects you to do to keep your tax records safe from disaster

Broadcasting WHO Radio Wise Guys - June 23, 2012
A quick summary of the radio show today

Socialism Doesn't Work Rhode Island is going to lose tens of millions because of economic-development incentives
They used the incentives (in the form of a loan guarantee) to get former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling to move his video-game company to Rhode Island from Massachusetts. Private investors make and lose money all the time -- but especially on startup-type ventures, they often lose and lose badly. It still defies all kinds of reason to understand how anyone believes that state employees -- who aren't even taking risks with their own money -- can be any more likely to pick the right winners from all of the possible "investments" out there, when it comes to economic development. Government should be exclusively in the business of creating the right climate for the private sector to succeed generally, then getting out of the way for individual firms to succeed or fail on their own. This absurd socialism-by-incentive-package is no more in keeping with the free market than public ownership of particular companies. In fact, it might even be more corrosive, since no-strings-attached government funding routinely means that governments are on the hook for all liabilities, but are never really compensated for the risks to the people's money they put up. Congress has to step in and stop the economic infighting between the states. No other authority has the power to do so.

News Living like a sharpened sword

Business and Finance Yes, a little borrowing in youth can lead to "income smoothing" over time
But by the same token, if we enjoy the same degree of life satisfaction (particularly material satisfaction) from the start of our careers until the end of retirement, then what psychological gain do we see from our own standards of living rising over time? There must be some differential kind of reward from youth through old age, if only to encourage us to keep working.

Business and Finance China's looking to make foreign investment there just a little bit easier
The country's regulatory agency for stocks is looking at making it easier for some investment companies to get involved in their stock markets. This reflects the efforts they've been undertaking to encourage people to save less (in bank accounts) and borrow more, as a way to stimulate the private-sector economy there. Too much heavy-handed management, though, has never really paid off for any economy. Keep an eye on this.

Computers and the Internet Who wants to join the Kremlin's version of Facebook?
Nobody? Good.

Iowa Clever adaptation to a demographic problem
An eastern Iowa school district has one really large class -- about a quarter larger than normal. So they're offering a hybrid summer school -- some in-class, some online -- to help get all of the students through with the electives they want. Smart move.

Computers and the Internet Google's official greeter-in-chief

Weather and Disasters Before-and-after photos from the Colorado Springs fires
Really sad

Business and Finance High fees are the enemy of good investment returns
Repeat this mantra to yourself three times daily

News Crowds apparently aren't always bad for order
Though it's still quite possible for a crowd of people to turn into a rampaging mob with surprising speed

Health Optimism may be genetic

Computers and the Internet France retires the Minitel
It was their national internet long before there was global access to the Internet we know today

Health Living longer leads to...living even longer
And higher expenses, as a result

Weather and Disasters Live coverage of the Colorado Springs fires from the Denver Post

Business and Finance Personal savings rate in May: Still below 4%
The impact over the long term makes that low a savings rate dangerous

Business and Finance AMC theater chain now belongs to a Chinese firm
AMC claims more than 300 theaters across the country, which were sold for $2.6 billion. The sale -- which happened in late May -- is a case study in the rather large asset transfer that we should expect to see continuing from the United States to those countries with whom we have large trade deficits (like China). There's only so long that others will accept payments on our national "credit card" before they have to start taking hard assets instead. Think of it as though we're now going to a global pawn broker -- since we're not content to live within our means, we're going to have to start selling some of our stuff in order to keep the bill collectors at bay. Though it should be noted that a footnote in the AMC story is perhaps even bigger than the rest of the news -- that DreamWorks SKG is in a partnership a Chinese state-owned media company. Not the kind of financial bedfellows with whom one should be eager to make company.

News Personality makes the difference, even in an institution
A writer discussing how her daily commute is about to change -- rather dramatically -- recounts the things she's going to miss about the trip, and one of the things she'll miss most are the individuals working on the trains she rides who add a little bit of personality and color to the trip. This is probably just a little hint about why people prefer to work with some companies rather than others -- the more dry and institutional the outfit, the less attached customers will feel to it. Better to have a little bit of legitimate (some would say "authentic") personality than to become too bureaucratized and dull. (On a sidenote, the writer has been spending two hours a day going to and from work. Short commute times can make a huge difference to one's quality of life.