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






Computers and the Internet How many people don't understand the rules about what shouldn't be shared online?
Apparently, many. So many that a site like We Know What You're Doing can document dozens of people admitting to hating their bosses, doing drugs, being hungover, or giving away private information for all the world to see. Stop the over-sharing!




Weather and Disasters It's hot on the 4th of July, and we can't blame the fireworks
100 degrees and hotter in lots of places, and some people still don't have power due to a storm last Friday

The United States of America In a free society, it's essential that the public retain the right to document police behavior
Transparency is essential when it comes to enforcement of the law. Hence the response to the Attorney General over the "Fast and Furious" program.

Computers and the Internet Facebook's e-mail system: A magnet for spammers?


Computers and the Internet Google wants a stake in the tablet computer market
They're having Asus build the 7" tablet for them, and it'll run (naturally) on the Android operating system










Business and Finance New TD Ameritrade headquarters is supposed to look like old-school ticker tape
In a world increasingly filled with dull, unimaginative, and just plain ugly architecture, at least it's something new

Business and Finance The gap between what businesses need and what job-seekers can offer is too large
A survey of hiring managers by CareerBuilder suggests that it's costing the economy. Meanwhile, college graduates are saying (out loud), "I think I just should have majored in business." No kidding? Liberal-arts degrees are fine (especially as second majors), but we need more math and science majors. A lot more.

Iowa Electricity prices went to 17 times normal last Thursday
The heat wave sent demand through the roof, while some power plants were offline and couldn't produce

News Even the Taliban hates Al Qaeda


Iowa Iowa City's attempt to replace panhandlers with donation meters


Computers and the Internet Military theorist says the US should be recruiting hackers to fight cyberwars for us






Computers and the Internet Single piece of malware attacks Windows, Mac, and Linux at the same time
That's a pretty unusual combination

Computers and the Internet Digg sells for $500,000
The social news site was once valued by some investors at $175,000,000. Now it's been sold for scrap parts, in essence.

Business and Finance Economy continues to grow, but at a slower pace
It's shameful how badly the economy is covered in the news. There's the rate of economic growth, and then there's the rate of change in that rate of growth. It's not good that the economy's rate of growth is starting to slow down -- but at least it's still growing. That's not quite the same as "flatlining". Imprecision of language leads to imprecision of thought in things like this, and if there's one subject about which people should be smarter (and eager to become smarter), it's economics.

Iowa Prairie Meadows has biggest-ever year for casino revenues
How should people really feel, though, about the fact that it's on rented public land and is operated by a nonprofit group? At the very least, it's an uncomfortable arrangement in which the county government gets subsidized by gamblers. It's been suggested (only a little bit tongue-in-cheek) that the profits from casinos should be funneled directly to the teaching of math, probability, and statistics in schools.

Business and Finance Will municipal bankruptcies become more common?
Warren Buffett thinks so. There's no question, though, that people have gone a little bit daft: As Buffett also points out, people are accepting zero and even negative rates of return on Federal bonds -- for periods out to 20 years. That's just plain nuts.

Iowa State senate candidate takes a leave of absence from the real world


Health Inducing hypothermia can save some babies' lives


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Computers and the Internet Google wants its self-driving cars to become "predominant" in our lifetimes
The first mass audiences for self-piloted vehicles will probably be the trucking industry (if they can get convoys of trucks to line up with one another, they could potentially get away with far more truckloads being driven by far fewer drivers) and outside salespeople (for whom the ability to do more useful tasks as they go from place to place would be immediately monetizable). The road-weary salesperson of the past, plunking down at a desk in a hotel room late at night to catch up on paperwork and filling out orders, could be replaced by one who gets his or her work done from the road and whose car delivers him or her home safely at 1:00 in the morning. ■ Of course, there's always the problem of bugs -- like the ones that make it "difficult" to fix errors in Google Maps, apparently:

A Google Maps error that should be recognizable to Iowans


Computers and the Internet At last, people are starting to grumble about ad-supported websites being "the only way"


Computers and the Internet Some very ambitious thoughts about what should come next in technology
Among the (probably correct) observations: Google could be supplanted by a good search engine that satisfies a very specific audience. You don't have to win over the entire Internet-user audience to make a meaningful step forward.

Business and Finance Investors: Beware technology stocks
Not because they're bad companies...but because many of them are being built so that no matter how many shares of the company you own, the founder still has control.

News End the swoosh!


News How old are Olympic athletes?
And how old have they been throughout the history of the modern games? Graphing enthusiasts have sought to answer that question.

Science and Technology Robots attempting to express emotion
Obviously, robots don't have emotions. But as we should expect to encounter them more in the future, technicians are working on ways of making them seem more humane so that we can use them more naturally. But it's going to take a while to get this right.

Threats and Hazards Should the police automatically scan the license plates of every passing car?
They're already doing it in some places. On the positive side, the technology certainly could be useful for catching fugitives. But is it really worth the cost in the erosion of the privacy of ordinary people? The argument that "If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear" is too simplistic: Few of us are doing anything wrong when we go home at night, but we still draw the blinds shut. Not many people choose to live in all-glass houses on busy streets. Yet if we're letting the police automatically track, measure, and store data on where we are, even when we're not doing anything wrong, then we're asking for trouble.

Computers and the Internet Ten reasons people are already trying to heap dirt on RIM/BlackBerry's grave
It's premature to bury the company just yet. But there's no doubt they have an uphill battle, and it's only a reminder of just how awful it must be to operate a company in the lightning-fast consumer technology industry. The changes are so swift that it's almost impossible to be sane and remain afloat.

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Iowa Iowa's public-sector pension plan is only 80% funded
It was almost fully-funded at the start of the century, so something has to be done. Opinions differ -- the state treasurer, for instance, wants to put a cap on the amount that can be paid out to people who were high-income members of the program. But that may have the effect of discouraging people from taking those public-sector jobs if they can get cushier benefits in the private sector instead. At the same time, taxpayers probably aren't going to be very happy if they're asked to foot the bill for the shortfall...particularly if they're among the majority who have defined-contribution retirement plans instead of defined-benefit pensions. People are living longer than ever and we're in a very low-return investment environment. Something's going to have to change, because the devil-may-care habits of yesterday aren't suitable anymore.

Computers and the Internet Big password breach at Yahoo
Half a million passwords were stolen and posted on the Internet. The company was storing them -- irresponsibly -- in a non-encrypted database. Most people won't be affected, but it would be wise for anyone using any Yahoo services -- especially the email service -- to change their passwords.

Science and Technology Will the auto problem of the future be emissions or gridlock?
Bill Ford thinks (and is pushing his company to act upon the notion) that emissions will be reduced to practically zero within the foreseeable future. But he thinks the world's number of autos on the road will quadruple in the next 40 years, and that it will cause chaos in heavily-populated areas worldwide.

Business and Finance How 25 famous logos evolved into their current states
Not all are even any good -- but it's hard not to have a soft spot for the Shell logo. Something about it seems just outrageously friendly for a major oil company.

Broadcasting Show notes from the WHO Radio Wise Guys - July 14, 2012





Threats and Hazards The Federal government is taking time-stamped photos of license plates in four states
...and saving the records for two years. The data recorded is being shared among agencies, too. The argument is that it's a tool for catching drug smugglers and illegal immigrants. But what about the completely innocent people whose behavior and patterns are now being recorded and aggregated by the Federal government? There's too much surveillance creeping into our daily lives, and though it gives us dramatic videos to watch, that doesn't justify the creeping Big Brotherism.

Business and Finance Kids need simple tasks and basic job training
Straight from the mouth of one participant in a summer-jobs program in Omaha: "Summer Works has helped me a lot, because I would be doing bad stuff right now, so instead of getting into trouble, I work."

Broadcasting They're taking the "MS" out of "MSNBC"
NBC's parent company is going to buy out Microsoft's share of their online partnership (Microsoft got out of the television partnership a few years ago), and they're each going to pursue their own online outlets. Microsoft will stick with MSN.com, and NBC will start pushing NBCNews.com for their news services, and MSNBC.com for their opinion-driven programming. It's surprising that Microsoft hasn't asked them to divorce the "MS" out of the "MSNBC" name to avoid having the reputation of the cable network's left-leaning opinion shows look like they're associated with Microsoft.





News What kind of numbskull pulls the plug on a Springsteen/McCartney concert?
Someone who was more interested in following the letter of the law than in using some common sense, that's who.

Computers and the Internet Yahoo hires (yet another) new CEO
This one -- Marissa Mayer -- is the third in a year. But she comes from Google, where she was one of the first two dozen people on staff. She's young -- only 37 -- and (refreshingly) has her own presence on the Internet, with @marissamayer on Twitter and a Google Plus account that hasn't quite yet been updated to reflect her new job role.

Humor and Good News Thought baby names couldn't get worse? Wrong.
Some people are bound and determined to make their children permanently miserable.

Threats and Hazards Woman pleads guilty to pimping her underage sister in Coralville
Revolting. Just revolting. What kind of human could do that to her own sister?

Threats and Hazards Terrorism suspects are getting through Britain's immigration checkpoints
They've tried to accommodate the rush of Olympics-related travelers by increasing staff levels at places like Heathrow, but the newbies seem to be missing lots of suspicious types




Business and Finance Is manufacturing the future?
The White House is trumpeting a report released by an advisory council talking about the future of "advanced" manufacturing in the US. Some of the comments are sensible, and recognize that manufacturing isn't just about the Dow 30 Industrials ("While some of the largest U.S. firms have the depth and resources to be ready for this challenge, a significant number of small and medium-sized U.S. firms operate largely outside the present innovation system." -- page ix). But on the other side of things, there's already supposed to be an existing framework in place for academia to deliver information and advanced technological knowledge to the public -- the extension systems around the nation's land-grant colleges. And there's reason in general to be skeptical of any plan that talks about using the government "in partnership with" the private sector. When government policy and spending become involved, there's a very serious and inherent risk that only those who are well-connected with government will benefit.

Humor and Good News A "Star Wars" version of "Call Me Maybe"
(Video)

Humor and Good News "New ad urges hipsters to go to Applebee's ironically"
(Video) "The Onion" and "South Park" might as well be designated as extensions of the National Archives today, since they're probably the two best records of popular culture in this entire era. The only thing more ridiculous than a hipster is a hipster in running gear.

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.




Science and Technology Natural gas overtakes coal as the #1 source of US electrical power
On the bright side, natural gas is insanely cheap right now, and it leaves behind a smaller greenhouse-gas footprint than burnt coal. But on the other hand, as Charlie Munger pointed out at this year's Berkshire Hathaway shareholders' meeting, the United States has an enormous natural resource "in the bank" with all of that natural gas sitting in the ground, and using it now in large volumes just because it's temporarily cheap may prove to be a very, very regrettable decision in the future.

Business and Finance Man retires after a 58-year career at just one store
Jack Diamond sold furniture at the Nebraska Furniture Mart from 1954 until this week. He moved to Nebraska after being a member of the Polish Resistance against the Nazis in WWII. Remarkable.

Iowa Automated traffic enforcement hits a new record in Des Moines
Cameras (speed or red-light) were responsible for 4,762 citations in June -- or more than 158 per day. Nobody needs to excuse anyone else for breaking the law, but there is neither the evidence that 158 daily tickets are preventing a meaningful number of traffic accidents, nor that the automated enforcement of the law justifies giving people the sense that they are perpetually under surveillance.

Science and Technology Are scientists working too hard at the wrong tasks?
And is it causing burnout? One columnist thinks so.




Science and Technology Even scientists don't like reading science articles with lots of equations
According to a study by a couple of British authors, "The density of equations in an article has a significant negative impact on citation rates, with papers receiving 28% fewer citations overall for each additional equation per page in the main text." But when authors moved their equations to the appendix rather than the main text, the effect went away.

Science and Technology China now emits almost as much carbon dioxide per person as Europe
The country has been the world's biggest single-nation source of carbon dioxide for half a decade now, and it's rapidly closing in on European levels of per-person production. If current trends continue, it won't be long before it eclipses US production per person. So, here's a question: Are there people who up until now have argued against controls on CO2 emissions, but upon learning that China's production rates are enormous and rising rapidly might change opinions and think that controls may be wise? The problem with greenhouse gases and global warming is that much of what we think is cloaked either in unknowables or in pre-conceived notions? There are some on the anti-controls side who will argue against any kinds of controls (no matter what the evidence) -- up until the point when the problem can be blamed more on somebody else (in this case, the Chinese). And there are others who are quite certain that no matter what the consequences, draconian limits must be imposed -- even if an argument can be made that it would be smarter to spend the same amount of money on a range of other life-saving programs than on global-warming projects.




Aviation News Er...that plane doesn't go here
Someone landed a C-17 (one whale of a plane) at a dinky general-aviation airport near Tampa. They probably meant to land at a nearby Air Force Base, where the runway is three times as long. Not the kind of error that results in people keeping their flying careers, no matter how impressive it was that they were able to stop the plane before it went off the runway. (Also pretty impressive: The video of the Air Force managing to get it to take off from the same under-sized runway.)

Humor and Good News "More discarded good habits than a swimming pool at a convent"
The Irish comedian Colm O'Regan describes his efforts at self-improvement as generally futile. But that one-liner makes up for them all.

Computers and the Internet On the hazards of using social media without understanding the language
A site called "Celeb Boutique" was forced to backtrack like nobody's backtracked in years after their Twitter account managers posted comments about an "Aurora dress" in response to a spike in comments about "Aurora" on Twitter. Of course, the spike in "Aurora" mentions was in response to the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The company had to backpedal, saying "Our PR is NOT US based and had not checked the reason for the trend." US-based or not, someone should've used better judgment and at least checked for a reason or two why the word might've appeared in the news before putting something stupid on Twitter. But that the public relations service is "NOT US-based" hints that Celeb Boutique needs to re-think whether they outsource something as vital as the company's external image.

Computers and the Internet When to use GPS tracking on your workouts





Business and Finance Smaller paychecks at Goldman Sachs
By "smaller", the Wall Street Journal means an average of $225,697 for six months. There's a long way for that number to decline further before it sounds even remotely rational

Aviation News 30,000 domestic drones by the end of the decade?
We shouldn't let that just happen without some serious consideration

Health Some think salt intake creates a stomach-cancer risk

Weather and Disasters Lightning sets off huge wildfire in north-central Nebraska




Computers and the Internet We need digital wills to manage our online legacies after death


Humor and Good News This man really cares about his classical music
(Video - coarse language) The political diatribe and the coarse language aren't really necessary, but the analysis of Beethoven's 9th Symphony is rather enlightening




Computers and the Internet Apple releases its newest Mac operating system


Broadcasting It's morning in America
(Video) Say what you will about Ronald Reagan as a President, the man was a skilled broadcaster, pulling off a four-minute campaign script without a stumble. Most broadcasters are happy to get through a 60-second recording in one take.

Computers and the Internet Some common user complaints about websites


Business and Finance Ouch: UK gets hit with a sharp new recession


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Business and Finance Judging job candidates by their grammar
Interesting hypothesis: If you don't know the rules for "its" vs. "it's" by age 20, your learning curve is too flat for you to be qualified for other work.

Science and Technology What woods you should avoid using to smoke meat


Humor and Good News The Onion: "Horrible couple really wants wedding to reflect their personalities"


Humor and Good News Tomorrow will be Ron Santo Day at Wrigley Field


Business and Finance Chicago lures 3,000 jobs at Motorola away from a neighboring suburb
The jobs will move from Libertyville to the Merchandise Mart -- a distance of about 40 miles (but no real migration out of the Chicagoland area). This begs the question: What's the point? Didn't Chicago just steal a few jobs from a neighbor without really creating anything new? This is exactly what's wrong with economic-development projects: Nothing new is really being created. We're just shuffling the deck.

Business and Finance On a quest to eradicate poverty around the world


News A pitched battle is being fought over Britain's economy
Things have turned south for the economy, but the government is way out of fiscal balance

Business and Finance America's factories are filling up, and mortgage rates keep falling down





The United States of America As the Olympics begin...
USA! USA! USA!

Computers and the Internet Temporary outages at both Google and Twitter
Always have a backup strategy for services like email

Agriculture Drought has really been a catastrophe for Midwestern corn


The United States of America Is Cuba really open to talks with the US?
Fidel Castro's brother (who is the country's president, after all) says so. But isn't the reality that the island will someday end up being absorbed into the United States -- probably voluntarily -- after the Communist regime dies out?

Computers and the Internet Anonymous accounts on Twitter? Maybe not.
The company is likely to hand over the details of an account-holder who thought he was conducting an anonymous parody of a newspaper executive.

Weather and Disasters Those creepy rolling clouds


Computers and the Internet Kansas City gets Google Fiber


Aviation News Delta is shutting down Comair


The United States of America The lesser-known other side of the Lincoln Memorial





Threats and Hazards Speed cameras and automated road monitors everywhere, but the police still can't catch a drunk driver


Computers and the Internet The President as cyber-commander-in-chief
The President turns to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal in an effort to push in favor of a bill about cybersecurity

Business and Finance Seen on CNBC the other day: The obvious







Computers and the Internet Twitter suspension of journalist looks fishy
Was it because of the ostensible violation of terms (that he posted the email address of an NBC executive), or because he was so sharply critical of NBC's Olympics coverage and NBC somehow put the pressure on Twitter to block him? Either way, it looks odd -- it's not exactly difficult to reverse-engineer the email addresses of most people at major corporations, once their particular version of [firstname].[lastname]@[corporation].com can be worked out. ■ Twitter took a few days to reverse its decision, so the journalist in question has his account back. But some real damage has been done -- including the revelation that Twitter was actively watching out for NBC when it alerted them to the comments that led to the suspension. That undoubtedly will resonate badly with many users who would prefer not to think that their comments were being watched carefully (or even automatically) for criticisms of organizations like NBC. ■ It should also be a reminder to people that you should never rely upon an outside service to deliver your primary "face" to the digital world. Today, Twitter and Facebook make it easy for celebrities and non-celebrities alike to park their digital selves on those sites. But Facebook and Twitter should always -- always -- be secondary to a stand-alone website under your direct control, no matter whether you're Joe Sixpack or the United Nations. Intermediaries (whether they're Facebook or Twitter or Wordpress or Blogger or Google Plus or any of a hundred other choices) can be fickle. They can fail. They can change policies. They can pull the plug on you. And if you're dependent upon them for your primary digital presence, you're at their mercy. Buy your own domain name and have a site hosted by a trusted webhosting provider. If you always have a backup of the content on that account (which you should), you can move to another webhost in a matter of minutes should any need ever exist. Use Twitter and Facebook to interact with people and to point people to that website -- of course. But don't rely upon them as your primary interface with the digital world.

Weather and Disasters Americans are woefully inclined to ignore weather warnings
About five years ago, the National Weather Service refined its system for issuing warnings -- changing from the old county-based system to an approach that confines warnings to just the areas expected to be hit by storms. Unfortunately, they chose the clunky (though accurate) name of threat-based polygon warnings. So even though the new warning system (also called "storm-based warnings") has resulted in far, far fewer unnecessary warnings, that point still hasn't gotten across to many people. ■ The reality is that the new warnings should be taken substantially more seriously than they were five years ago; if you're under a warning now, it's much more likely that there's a real threat nearby than under the old rules. But in practice, half of people say they aren't likely to act even if they receive notice of a warning, and a quarter of the general public are so stubborn (and stupid) that they insist on seeing some actual action (like a funnel cloud) before taking action. ■ Rather than letting natural selection take its course on these people, it may as well be acknowledged that no amount of public education is going to be enough to get these people to heed warnings and think ahead. So perhaps it's time to think about funding a project to give National Weather Service volunteers access to video-enabled autonomous aircraft -- call them "weather drones". ■ There's plenty of reason to be skeptical of the use of drones by law enforcement and government agencies, but this may be a role they could play without endangering civil liberties. In fact, one might imagine that a live video stream of a tornado would provide (a) valuable information to the National Weather Service, and (b) the kind of confirmation that the weather-warning skeptics might actually heed for their own good. They can be built for minimal cost -- around $1,000 -- and it's rapidly becoming easier to stream live video via cell-phone towers, thanks to the rapid deployment of 3G and 4G networks. It's obvious there are legions of people who already want to be storm chasers and tornado hunters, so it likely wouldn't even be all that difficult to enlist volunteers to do the work.

News Power outage in India affects population twice the size of the US
We frequently lack the kind of perspective we need to really understand the news

Broadcasting British government committee wants all TV to move to the Internet
They want to use the leftover radio spectrum space for mobile phones. That would/will require putting a heaping helping of brand-new fiber-optic cable into the ground, because the world's network just aren't ready yet to carry that much data.

Science and Technology The new Nobel Prizes are the Milner Awards


Threats and Hazards Where is the data going?
Des Moines and Sioux City are about to start using license-plate scanners to hunt down lawbreakers automatically. But what are they going to do with the data on the thousands of law-abiding citizens they pass? It's an epic threat to civil liberties.

Humor and Good News A small collection of mainly house-themed musicians





Aviation News Is it worth $30 not to stand at the luggage claim in the airport?
For some people, definitely. American Airlines is going to offer a bag-delivery service starting Monday at 200 airports in the US.

Broadcasting One set of stupid television ads won't break a company, but...
Apple's new advertising campaign is about as lifeless and colorless as seems possible. Not a good way to define a company that built its entire brand upon "Think Different".

Computers and the Internet Windows 8 has been released to production
The upgrade price will be $40 for current users. Upgrades and fresh installations (right out of the box) will be released on October 26th.

Computers and the Internet If even three idiots are using a hand-sign for "hashtag", that's too many

Computers and the Internet Smartphones keep getting better
So what is Apple to do with the next iPhone? If every other manufacturer is going large, should Apple break the old mold (literally) and go with an iPhone 5 that's bigger than the iPhone 4? If they don't, is that going to leave them at a serious competitive disadvantage? On a related note, it's being reported that 2/3rds of applications in Apple's App Store never get downloaded.

Computers and the Internet Clock's ticking for those still using the old Facebook profile
They're going to force everyone onto their "timeline" design by the end of the year

News Is women's beach volleyball a feminist success?

Business and Finance Concentrated costs and diffuse benefits
One of the most challenging aspects to public budgeting of any sort is that there two different ways to split the bill for expenses -- concentrate them or spread them out -- and the things government spends money on can have benefits that are again either concentrated or diffused throughout the population. Things like the Air Force have both diffuse benefits and diffuse costs -- everyone benefits relatively equally, and everyone pitches in via income taxes. There isn't a lot of debate about those issues. Then there are things with concentrated benefits, which cause a huge number of our problems, especially when they have diffuse costs: There's always a good reason for the people who benefit to lobby heavily for everyone else to pay for the things they want, and that's why we get earmarks. (It's also why we get things like the National Endowment for the Arts -- the people who want it most are the artists it supports [a really concentrated benefit], and they argue that by spreading out the cost among everyone, the per-capita cost is next to nothing. Sure, there are lots of talking points about why the spending benefits everyone, but the reality is that the benefits are extremely concentrated among the actual recipients.) But things get really challenging when a situation arises like the one going on in Omaha right now, where the city faces a huge bill ($3 billion, perhaps) to separate its stormwater sewers from its sanitary sewers. It's a project with no real lobby -- the benefits are about as diffuse as they could possibly be, and nobody really notices their sewers unless they're fighting backups. The project has been mandated by the Federal government, so Omaha doesn't have a choice whether or when to do it. They have to spend money, starting now. But there are certain industries that use more water (and thus produce more sewage) than others, and a group of 19 of those companies is fighting a plan to make them pay 5% of the overall bill. Their argument in response is that there's no way to absorb those costs without cuts elsewhere -- or even, possibly, closures. There's no way to escape the fact that the project is going to be expensive and that someone will have to foot the bill. And, unfortuantely, it's not the kind of project that counts as "sexy" in any way, shape, or form, so there's really not even a way for anyone to find a political solution that will look good when re-election time comes around.




Science and Technology Electric blackouts are on the rise
Blackouts are most uncommon in the Upper Midwest, but if you're in or near New York, the lights go out for an average of 214 minutes per year. In Japan, that number would be 4 minutes. And it's probably more than they'd like. One researcher says we can fix the problem with a "smart grid". Maybe. But something really needs to be done -- the 10-day outages in some places along the East Coast last month after a derecho blew through were just not acceptable in the 21st Century.

Computers and the Internet 83 million Facebook accounts are fake, bogus, or duplicated

Computers and the Internet Zynga wants so badly for you to spend all of your time playing games
But when will we really get around to productive games?

Aviation News Is Reagan National Airport just too close to trouble too much of the time?
The airport is a stone's throw from the White House, the Washington Monument, and the US Capitol -- not to mention the Pentagon. As a result, pilots have to follow some crazy instructions to get in and out of the airport. And an incident this week hints that there might just be a little too much going on in too tight a space for everyone's real safety.

News Lech Walesa endorses Mitt Romney

Humor and Good News Shameless plug: Help kickstart "Crocodile Life is Hard...and other observations"




Business and Finance Stock-trading company causes its own miniature "flash crash"
One can see exactly how we got ourselves into the situation we're in today -- where a handful of companies with privilege and access are able to use computers to conduct instantaneous automated stock trades. And though none of the individual steps seems to have been wrong, the result is a real mess. And it's one in which those privileged firms try to convince themselves and the world that they're doing something of value by making stock markets more liquid. But liquidity itself isn't necessarily a good thing. If a plane crashed on a deserted island with 100 survivors, would anyone think it would serve any useful purpose to have ten of those survivors spend all day running back and forth, trading coconuts for seashells in order to ensure a "liquid market" for each? ■ The whole notion of high-frequency trading is based upon the notion of making lots of money by trading huge volumes of stock shares for very small profits. Hence algorithmic trading accounts for more than 60% of stock-market activity. But the whole notion is a total fallacy. Warren Buffett didn't get wealthy by swapping shares of stock all day for pennies a share. Real investing calls for discovering the real value (the so-called "intrinsic value") of a company, in terms of what it possesses and what it has the potential to create, and then acquiring a portion of ownership in that company when someone else is willing to sell it for a price below that intrinsic value. And because intrinsic value can only be estimated in very rough figures -- particularly because it involves making estimates ten years into the future -- one can only do it right by being extremely conservative and taking action only when the gap between the intrinsic value and the market price is big. It's practically the polar opposite of high-frequency trading.

Computers and the Internet How could Apple use its $117 billion in cash?
New York Times business reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin suggests acquisitions from Nuance (makers of voice-recognition software) to Twitter to RIM to Sprint. There's no doubt the company is on a profitable roll right now -- bringing in $9 billion from the start of April to the end of June. Interestingly, with $112 billion in shareholders' equity, the company already has $89 billion in "long-term marketable securities". In other words, Apple is behaving like a gigantic mutual fund that happens to have a $3-billion-a-month inflow. (Sorkin's $117 billion figure is the sum of the company's cash, short-term marketable securities, and long-term marketable securities.)

Computers and the Internet Senate takes summer break without approving cybersecurity bill
That may be a good thing -- the Federal government has already made it clear it demands broad powers in case of a meaningful cyber-attack, and there are reasonable concerns that the bill as proposed would violate our expectations of privacy. The bill, called the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, does address an important matter -- cyber-attacks could be dreadful if carried out by an effective and motivated party. But we're talking about the same Federal government that failed to anticipate the means and methods of the 9/11 attacks, and couldn't respond quickly enough on that day to scramble armed fighters to protect the White House. In other words, their ability to anticipate threats and prepare appropriately is doubtful. Considering the speed at which Internet technologies change and evolve, it's hard to believe that a great deal of codification will make us safer. What might, on the other hand, is if insurance carriers were to start imposing real dollars-and-cents costs on companies that need coverage but that haven't initiated adequate cybersecurity protections.

Business and Finance We need a word other than "rich"
A Tumblr account re-posts pictures posted on Instagram of young people flaunting their spending. The name of the blog is "Rich Kids of Instagram", and that's probably the name most people would give it anyway. But there's something a little wrong about that title. "Rich" is one thing..."spoiled" is another. But then again, there are children in families with little or no money that are still spoiled rotten. "Overprivileged" just sounds whiny, but "wealthy" isn't the right word, either -- especially because the people who really get and stay rich from generation to generation aren't out blowing money on Ferraris for their children or $14,000 bar tabs. And they definitely aren't bragging about it on Twitter and Instagram. That's just short-term conspicuous consumption.

Health New evidence: Some cancers may come from rogue stem cells
That's as opposed to the theory that they come from mutations to already-differentiated cells.

Computers and the Internet New Illinois law says companies can't ask for employee passwords on social-networking sites

Science and Technology Is sports photography a dying art?
Great photos will continue to be produced, no doubt. But one has to wonder whether there will long be a point to having photographers even bother to try capturing still images. As HD video recording becomes easier to perform with ever-smaller cameras, won't we likely reach a point -- soon -- when someone can simply carry a camera, set it to snap pictures at a rate approaching that of video, and simply go back and take still frames from the video? Naturally, there will be matters of exposure time and shutter time to adjust and tweak, but photographers already routinely set their cameras to take multiple shots in a "machine-gun"/continuous/burst mode. Aren't we getting quite close to the time when that burst mode becomes virtually continuous...all the time? The point here being that perhaps in the next era, what matters won't be the ability to take the perfect action shot, so much as to be able to pick it out.





Business and Finance Wishing just doesn't make it so
Economist Greg Mankiw points out that in the White House's latest review of the Federal budget, some assumptions are made about the future growth of the economy. That's fine -- we all have to make assumptions about the future. But those assumptions presently being made are pretty astonishingly rosy -- including guesses at 4.0% real economic growth in 2014, 4.2% in 2015, 3.9% in 2016, and 3.8% in 2017, before apparently settling into a long-term stable rate of 2.5%. But Mankiw notes that those estimates for 2014 through 2016 are each about a percentage point higher than what private-sector economists are anticipating. But that's not like being 1% different -- it's like being 25% different. ■ The government has a reason to hope for those higher rates of growth, since they mean Americans will pay more in income taxes, which in turn makes long-term estimates of Federal deficits look smaller. But the private-sector economists don't have the same incentive to guess high. For many of them, getting their estimates wrong means giving bad advice to businesses and investors, who can then punish them for being wrong by firing them. ■ For an idea of just how rosy the White House estimates really are, the history of GDP growth in America shows that the last time we could expect average growth rates to top 4% was back in the 1960s. Growth rates are much milder than that today. (In fact, they've been between -3.1% and +2.4% over the last four years. Nowhere close to 4%.) No doubt we'd love to see them go back up to 4% or even 5%, if we could make that happen consistently...but wishing just doesn't make it so. ■ Real growth is going to come from much higher labor productivity and much better technology -- and given that labor productivity growth seems to be stuck around 2%, that's about as fast as we should expect to see the economy grow, barring a sudden explosion of cheap robots.

The United States of America Promises of transparency go up in smoke
The much-vaunted promises of government transparency and openness under an Obama administration have turned out to be false, says a Washington Post analysis. They conclude that 10 out of 15 Cabinet-level departments are even less likely to hand over requested information now than they were two years ago.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft rolls out Outlook.com to replace Hotmail
People can continue to use their old Hotmail addresses, change them, or tack-on new Outlook.com accounts as additional addresses. The new user interface is a lot cleaner than Hotmail ever was (in fact, it's almost too clean -- it's such a blank slate that it takes a moment to get oriented), and they've built in a very useful editor for Microsoft Office documents. It's really quite good.

Computers and the Internet Amazon sells more e-books than printed copies
It's a global pheonomenon -- in Britain, the ratio of e-books to printed books sold on Amazon is now 114 to 100. In the US, e-book sales eclipsed printed copies last May. Young children may very well grow up to have peculiar understandings of what "books" are and do and look like, especially if they grow up in households that have gone all-digital.

Water News The heat has been causing fish to suffocate

Business and Finance The latest flash crash shows why investors need limit orders
...and they need to watch those limit orders like hawks

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Business and Finance American workers keep getting more productive...slowly
Basically, a rate of 1% to 1.5%. Not enough to deliver the 4% GDP growth rate assumed by the White House in its fanciful budget projections.

Iowa The website for corndoggers-on-the-go
A mobile-enhanced site for the Iowa State Fair

Threats and Hazards Why would people want to live where the police can conduct pat-downs at random?


Computers and the Internet Typo-squatters chase people looking for the Olympics...imprecisely
And it's more reinforcement for the need for anyone who might even remotely...possibly...in even the slightest chance....come into the public eye to establish and maintain their own domain name.

Science and Technology Pictures from the new Mars rover


Aviation News FAA wants to fine American Airlines for maintenance shortcomings


Computers and the Internet Google isn't afraid to spin-off its acquisitions
It happened in April, but Google sold off its SketchUp 3D modeling service -- which it had only acquired a few years before, in 2006.

Computers and the Internet The personal risks of cloud computing


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Iowa Cedar River falls to 3' near the Palo nuclear power plant
The Catch-22 to the situation is that power plants need more water when it's hot outside, because that's when people use more energy (for air conditioning). But the same hot weather has reduced the supply of essential cooling water available in the rivers.

Science and Technology NOAA says nature is absorbing half of humanity's production of excess carbon dioxide
But they don't understand the processes well enough to anticipate whether that will continue

Agriculture Drought's impact on the price of food may be exacerbated by panic buying on an international scale

Iowa DOT to Windsor Heights: How about a new merging lane instead of speed cameras?
Engineered solutions are better than surveillance

The American Way Why didn't we celebrate July 31st?
July 31st should have been an international holiday to celebrate the centennial of the birth of Milton Friedman. His influence on economics -- really, the establishment of the Chicago School of economic thought -- and of the public's understanding of economics should not be understated. In short, the Chicago School can be said to assume that liberty has value unto itself and that government should be powerful where needed but aggressively limited in its reach. Metaphorically, a powerful referee is needed to ensure that games are played according to the mutually-agreed rules, but the referee shouldn't himself be a player.

Computers and the Internet FTC hits Google with $22.5 million fine for tracking Safari users

Science and Technology Evolution: It's still happening
Apes are getting smarter, for instance: They're figuring out how to dismantle traps set by human hunters

Health On hitting the sweet spot between over-parenting and under-parenting

Business and Finance Despite massive government intervention, the economy hasn't really kicked it up a notch
Has the government intervention smoothed out what would have been a much lower trough, or is it creating so much fear and uncertainty that it's limiting anyone's appetite for risk?

Weather and Disasters There's never been a hotter month than July 2012
(At least, not in the United States)

Broadcasting There really will be a revival of "Arrested Development"

Health Fighting back against antibiotic resistance -- with viral proteins




Computers and the Internet Google keeps pushing to make its search engine results more natural
It's an enormous uphill climb -- and a risky one, since people have grown accustomed to the way things are done

Computers and the Internet Lenovo wants the ThinkPad 2 to compete with the iPad
But how much will it cost?

Business and Finance The rise of the "renovator" and the decline of the "builder"
A look at CEO styles

Science and Technology Why some people should doodle at work
Depending on your brain's hard-wiring, you might be of the type who learns best when converting information actively into a visual context.

Business and Finance The price of a logo

Business and Finance Depending on who's doing the estimating, America has a shortfall of 20,000 to 200,000 truck drivers
If the shortage persists, it's going to cause transportation costs to rise. Couple that with the inevitable impact on food prices that will result from this year's drought, 2013 could be an expensive year. The shortfall in drivers is one reason why one should expect trucking companies to be among the very first in line to demand the technology for self-driving vehicles. If one driver could operate more than one truck (operating in a semi-automated convoy), the trucking companies are going to be interested in making that investment.

Agriculture USDA expects Iowa corn production to be 141 bushels per acre this year
It was 172 bushels per acre last year -- so the USDA's estimate looks pretty optimistic, given just how awful Iowa's weather has been this year. The output will almost certainly be the worst in about twenty years -- if not more.

Computers and the Internet Always read your contracts first
A woman is suing because a breast-feeding video in which she appeared has led to some pornographic manipulation -- and her name has gotten involved. The release she signed included the use of her name, so though it's unfortunate, she did in fact give away permission for its use. And her daughter's name, too. The problem is that people are far too casual about giving away their rights -- witness how Facebook's terms and conditions claim a worldwide, royalty-free right to any pictures or videos you post.

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Computers and the Internet How hackers took down a "Wired" editor's entire digital universe
It wasn't through sophisticated techniques...they just tricked the right people. You should protect yourself from cascading failures in digital security and do so without delay.

News The right way to fix a messy bathroom
More facilities (especially restaurants, gas stations, and retail stores) should use the "If this bathroom needs attention, flip the switch" technique

News Architectural criticism: Platte Valley State Bank

Computers and the Internet Who owns the digital legacy of the dead?
A thoughtful bit of commentary during a radio program from Australia




News Architectural criticism: National Guard armory
A good Art Deco building keeps looking good

News The value of quick comprehension
Bad signs don't do travelers any justice




News I ain't saying she's a gold-digger...
...but 40-year-olds are not routinely attracted to 82-year-olds

Humor and Good News The greatest collection of reaction shots ever
(Video) One way to get natural reactions out of people is to show up on ChatRoulette dressed as a man in a bikini singing "Call Me Maybe". Yeah, that would work.

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Business and Finance Which way to go with Federal spending?
Here's the problem in a nutshell: We are currently deficit-spending to the tune of $1.2 trillion a year, or around $3.3 billion per day. Again, that's just the amount of deficit spending -- the amount we have to borrow as a country each and every day. It's more than George Lucas's net worth. Or, in more meaningful terms, more than the market price for all of Manpower, Tupperware, Hillshire Farms, Six Flags, or The Washington Post Company. We are, in essence, borrowing the entire value of one of these companies every day. Which means that we would/will have to create a company of that size every single day in order to pay back those debts. That's no small order.

Business and Finance Jack Bogle says "the outlook for bonds over the next decade is really terrible"

Computers and the Internet Hi, Motorola. Welcome to Google. 4,000 of you are fired.
Google took over Motorola Mobility (the cell-phone maker) less than a year ago, and now they've laid off 20% of the staff.

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Business and Finance Investment dollars are leaving China, fast
That signals a couple of things at once: First, that people within China see greater opportunities outside their country than within it. But it's also a sign of what happens when other countries spend too much of their money buying other countries' stuff: Eventually, the net-exporter nations end up trading that cash back to the net-importer nations, in exchange for the property the net-importers own. It's a curious kind of takeover. ■ More evidence that investment money from developing markets is going to come towards the West: High dividend yields from stocks in "emerging markets". This condition is a sign that the companies in those countries can't find enough promising investments of their own at home in order to justify hanging on to those profits. Business value always comes back to earnings: If a company is making money, it can either reinvest in itself or send the cash back to the shareholders in the form of dividends. ■ A company that sees limitless potential for positive returns ahead might retain all of its earnings -- as does Berkshire Hathaway. In the hands of a truly gifted investor like Warren Buffett, that's good for all of the owners. (In his words, "Unrestricted earnings should be retained only when there is a reasonable prospect ... that for every dollar retained by the corporation, at least one dollar of market value will be created for owners.") Other companies retain lots of earnings and then spend those retained earnings stupidly on foolish acquisitions and capital expansions. Other companies send the money back to shareholders through dividends, or indirectly through share repurchases. There's a time and a place for each of these strategies -- retention/reinvestment, dividends, and buybacks. ■ But high dividend yields tend to be a sign that management can't find much better to do with the profits. It's an intriguing notion that emerging-markets companies don't see enough opportunities ahead to merit retaining those earnings. And it means more cash in the hands of their investors to pursue companies in the United States and elsewhere.

The United States of America A quick quiz about the US Armed Forces
Some surprising answers

Agriculture Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam...
The drought has made it too difficult for a Nebraska nature preserve to maintain their wild buffalo herds, so they've sold off 126 bison to a South Dakota rancher.

Computers and the Internet Google tweaks search formula to punish copyright abusers
Hypothetically, the lower a site appears in the search results, the less money it can make from advertising. And since most of the copyright abuse out there is done to attract pageviews strictly for the purposes of gaining ad dollars.

Computers and the Internet Google rolls out less-complicated custom URLs for some Google Plus users
Why it's taken so long is beyond any reasonable comprehension.

Computers and the Internet Chartwell
A font developed specifically for creating charts inside of text. Interesting.

Business and Finance How much longer can college costs keep rising faster than everything else?
Not forever, that's for certain.

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Computers and the Internet Facebook will start dropping ads into users' news feeds
And not just from the brands that the users have "liked".

Business and Finance "They don't have much of a way to do that. They’re used to thinking more on a day-to-day basis."
A photographer observes how poverty prevents some people from being able to plan ahead. Fixing that poverty is really one of the most important issues people could be called upon to think about.

Iowa Iowa gets about 20% of its electricity from wind
The Department of Energy says that South Dakota could produce 22% of its electricity demand through wind generation. The only state to produce more watts of wind power than Iowa is Texas.

Computers and the Internet The beginning of the end for Flash?
If it's already on your Android-based smartphone, you're in the clear. But it's being removed from the Google Play store.

Science and Technology It's not a laser, it's a maser
Microwaves, not light, can be concentrated and used for purposes where light cannot pass. That could include body scanners -- which could mean a lot of early detection of health problems. The maser has been around for over half a century, but a recent development has put it back in the news, because it could be going from high-specialty item to widespread application and use.

Agriculture Midwestern bankers are pessimistic about farm incomes
The serious hit to crop and livestock production caused by the enormous and severe drought all over the Midwest this year has bankers expecting much lower farm incomes, which in turn is going to do some damage to economies on a local scale. If farmers aren't effectively importing lots of cash from elsewhere in exchange for their crops and animals, there simply isn't going to be as much cash to exchange around the communities where they live. Credit unions are worried that the harm done to farm incomes might offset the improvement that had been seen among other parts of the private sector.





Science and Technology KPMG forecasts self-driving cars on showroom floors by 2019
Yes, please. Think of all the time that Americans waste behind the wheel that could be used for other things.

Computers and the Internet Nine items in August's Microsoft Patch Tuesday
Five were rated "critical". The worst involve "remote code execution" -- or hijacking. Run your computer on a limited-access account to help reduce the risk.

Computers and the Internet How you browse -- not what -- may signal your emotional health


Computers and the Internet Amazon starts rolling out same-day delivery in ten major metro areas
Meanwhile, eBay is trying the same thing on a very limited basis. Some people think this could end up being terrible news for newspapers.

News Zimbabwe's dictator says, "We want more children, give us more children you women"
Declining birthrates are generally seen as a reflection of rising standards of living. Dictators trying to tell people how many children to have should generally be seen as people who should be removed from power.

News The Strategic Petroleum Reserve shouldn't be used as a political tool
We need to find some way to put the Strategic Petroleum Reserve under the control of some non-political management. The rumor that the White House is considering a release from the SPR at a time when oil prices are a little higher than in the last few months, but not extraordinarily high just makes it clear that no politician (Democratic or Republican) should be trusted with the levers. Either the reserves are there for legitimate strategic use (like, for the military) or they are just being used as a tool of political theater.

News Things get hot when heated
A woman is suing the Dallas Cowboys because she got third-degree burns from sitting on a black-colored bench in the sun. Burns which she apparently didn't discover until she stood up after some time parked on bench. Anyone who's too dumb to anticipate that a bench like that might get hot, and who then fails to notice third-degree burns for some extended period of time, is apparently someone who shouldn't be allowed outside a bubble without supervision.

Business and Finance High-frequency trading in a nutshell
As Ben Franklin said, "Never confuse motion with action."

Iowa RAGBRAI events run a $25,000 deficit in Cedar Rapids

News Factory-direct furniture (when the factory is a prison)
Prison industries may count as a necessary evil: It's probably far better for society as a whole for inmates to have jobs while they're locked up, since that helps them develop job skills and gives them something positive to do and focus upon while on the inside. That certainly has to make the guards happier and safer, too. But it certainly seems like prison industries would have to be watched extremely closely to prevent their abuse by people in authority. And who would want to be a private-sector manufacturer paying market wages in competition with a prison industry?

Agriculture Rescue tubes for people trapped in grain elevators
It's not widely known outside of highly-agricultural communities, but people are injured and killed far too often when they get caught in flowing grain. Fortunately, small-town fire departments seem to be getting their hands on engulfment-rescue tubes to help avert tragedy.

News Might China's internal politics cause America heartburn in the near future?


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.





Iowa Despite drought, Iowa farmland prices are still shooting higher
The average increase has been 24% over the last 12 months. That's decidedly unsustainable. Short-term, it's going to make farmers feel wealthier. Long-term, it could not only be an obstacle to young people becoming farmers, but could also threaten a serious hangover when the prices come back down again.

Computers and the Internet Tour of a Facebook data center

Computers and the Internet Pew survey finds more than half of Americans over age 65 are regular Internet users
The only sad part of that is that the figure isn't much higher

Science and Technology Garbage disposal, 100 years ago
"The city executive favors use of barges on which refuse could be floated to the middle of the Missouri River and dumped in the stream. This plan is in force in Omaha."

Threats and Hazards Tensions rising between China and Japan


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Broadcasting Good advice for young people looking to get into radio
"Learn everything you can, and don't say 'no' ... If you want to have a high personal 'stock price' then you should be able to do anything." - Chad Rufer

Aviation News The bird-in-a-circle motif
How to tell if something's an airline logo from 50 paces. Unless it's the new logo for Fiji Airways.




Humor and Good News "Area man regrets investing in Facebook"
The Onion's spoof has Mark Zuckerberg saying, "[T]here’s not a whole lot of room for long-term growth there, or any real solid plan for the future". It's funny because it's true.

Health Electronic medical records with a real purpose
IBM's Watson supercomputer is being used to analyze patient records and improve medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. This is exactly the kind of thing for which better computing power should be used. IBM has obviously found a partnership from which to start. It would seem obvious that companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft -- all drowning in cash and packed to the gills with smart people and high technology -- should be looking for problems like these, where they have competitive advantages and can establish profitable new divisions that don't depend upon advertising revenues for their success.

Business and Finance A Federal deficit of 7.3% of the entire economy
Look: We can deficit-spend from year to year, but only at something less than the rate at which the economy is growing. If you know you're going to make $50,000 this year and $55,000 next year, then if you can borrow the money at something close to a 0% interest rate (which the Federal government can do right now), then spending $52,000 isn't really a crisis -- the deficit is more than made-up by a rising income. But the economy isn't growing at 7.3% a year -- not even close to it. And every year we overspend at a rate that much more than how fast we grow, we just make the future pain many times worse.

Threats and Hazards At least four dozen people killed in Kenya over cattle-grazing rights
A tragedy of property rights and tribalism. A government that cannot maintain the rule of law needs to be replaced.

The United States of America American manufacturing is not -- and never has been -- dead
Particularly for sophisticated work where high quality is essential

News When the collective memory will forget things
In ten years, the Reagan years will be nothing more than history lessons to half the population

Humor and Good News Pale skin as a sign of high status
Full-body beachwear -- in the form of the "facekini" -- is finding its way to popularity in China, where a lack of pigment suggests one has risen above field work. Of course, in the US, a tan suggests that the person has enough money to afford leisure time to sit in the sun. Unless it's a farmer tan.

Iowa 60% of college-bound high school graduates aren't ready for college
A report from the makers of the ACT test say that only 40% of the students taking their test met more than half of the benchmarks on the test for college-preparedness. And that's among the young people who are signaling their intent to go to college. Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin have the highest overall scores on the test, yet even those students are performing only marginally better on those preparedness standards than the rest of the country. Schools and school districts should pay careful attention to trends in the numbers -- after all, benchmarks are important, and what gets measured gets managed.

News Former Pakistani ambassador to the US says we should all stop fooling ourselves
He suggests that if we stop pretending like there's a real partnership going on between the US and Pakistan, then we can start getting around to setting real terms and conditions for working together.




Computers and the Internet Rule #1: Don't get caught in stupid photographs or videos
In case Prince Harry and others haven't noticed, this is the Internet age, which means a photo can be disseminated all over the world faster than most of us can find a postage stamp. This means two things: One, we're all going to find ourselves in compromising or unflattering pictures once in a while, and as a result, we're all going to have to become a little more forgiving and a little less judgmental about the mistakes of others if we expect the same for ourselves. Two, anyone with a reasonable endowment of brainpower will avoid getting into stupid situations when cameras are in the immediate vicinity. Getting naked during a game of pool is probably a bad idea for anyone, but most especially for one of the most recognizable celebrities in all of Britain.

The United States of America US borrowing at this pace cannot go on forever
We don't technically have to balance the budget completely -- a deficit of less than the rate of economic growth would be fine. But that means getting to something like 21% of GDP in spending and 19% of GDP in taxes and other government revenues. We're nowhere close to that kind of balance, and we're on a fast track to making it much worse. The gap is a cavernous 8.5% in 2012. Mitt Romney is asking the right question: Is today's spending worth borrowing more from China?

Business and Finance "At the very least China is building a global portfolio"
"At the most this is the start of a new empire."

The United States of America The Onion: "College newspaper endorses Barack Obama"
Sure, it's funny because it's practically a foregone conclusion on campuses across the nation. But we really ought to ask an important question: What major achievements of the present administration can be accounted-for without transfer payments? In other words, what can the Obama administration really say it has done that hasn't come back to taking money from one set of taxpayers and giving that money to a different class of voters? Certainly, the White House is not without some credits: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seems to have been doing a stellar job of managing American diplomacy, and it was probably time to get rid of "Don't ask, don't tell" in the military. But the health-care "reform" act remains a mystery even to many of the people who voted for it in Congress, and there's really no way to justify proposals like aggressive forgiveness for student debts without acknowledging that such proposals either explicitly or implicitly punish some people in order to offer a "freebie" to others. The same goes for the huge breaks given to first-time homebuyers. And it would be perfectly rational for a person to take these free things, and there's a natural human instinct to want to reciprocate the apparent generosity (that is, to vote for the candidate who "gave" the voter something). But it's a misplaced reciprocity, since the government has no money of its own -- just the money it collects from taxpayers and then uses.

Weather and Disasters NOAA thinks hurricane season could be worse than normal
And one of them is on track to hit Tampa while the Republican national convention is in town next week

Computers and the Internet Google moves its email-security tool to Google Apps





Computers and the Internet A new logo for Microsoft
It's still recognizable. The old one lasted 25 years. They're spinning the new look as a way to herald a bunch of new products that are coming soon, like the Surface tablet (the price of which we still don't know).

Computers and the Internet South Korean court rules that Apple and Samsung have been stealing from each other







Broadcasting Jimmy Kimmel gets the "Nightline" timeslot in January
Kimmel is funnier than Leno and Letterman, so it'll make for a decent bout of competition, but Jimmy Fallon and Craig Ferguson are really the two to watch. Note, though, to the Washington Post: Saying that Conan O'Brien was "too young and too hip for flyover country" is pretty offensive. It's rude to call the rest of the nation "flyover country" to begin with, and to suggest that a bunch of rubes out in the sticks brought down Conan O'Brien is absurd. First off, NBC treated him unfairly. Second off, to blame the rest of the country for a show's failure is mathematically ignorant. The top ten television markets in the US contain 34,253,110 "TV homes" out of 115,905,450 in the entire country. That's 29.6% of the total. Nobody can blame Davenport, Iowa, (market #99, with 309,800 TV households) for bringing down an entire show. Being a regional snob may be self-satisfying, but it's not adequate journalism.

The United States of America Ross Perot is back, and he's still mad about Federal spending

Business and Finance The world's biggest companies, over the years

Business and Finance A dull stock market isn't necessarily a bad thing

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Computers and the Internet When social media, religious strife, and the law collide

The United States of America Good news: The 2011 earthquake didn't move the Washington Monument
It still appears to have been damaged by the quake, but at least it didn't experience liquefaction

Computers and the Internet E-Week calls Windows 8 "a tablet-friendly Windows 7 with tiles"

Computers and the Internet Reality check: Google Maps was only introduced in 2005
The rather astonishing level of detail it has added since then is nothing we've really fully digested from a social or legal standpoint

Science and Technology Ocean-bound floating cities
Practical or even plausible? Generally not. But they're fun eye candy. Humanity will definitely need to come to better terms with the oceans and how to live on and with them than we do today, but the major conceit to most "floating city ideas" is that there are millions of people aching to live in highly communal, closed societies. There just aren't. The incredibly few people who choose today to live aboard residential cruise ships are a strange breed indeed.

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Weather and Disasters Live coverage of Hurricane Isaac from New Orleans


Iowa Sure...gigantic video boards just off an urban Interstate highway won't distract anybody
Especially not when they're on I-380 in Cedar Rapids, at a notoriously dangerous S-curve. What could possibly go wrong?




News British Green Party looks for a new boss


Business and Finance Good idea: Personal, portable savings accounts for old-age use
The sooner we all realize (a) that the government isn't any better at managing people's long-term savings than individuals are, (b) that people aren't likely to save enough for old age without some kind of mandatory savings requirement, and (c) that the Social Security system is anything but an adequate system for old-age savings (considering that it's underfunded, over-extended, and doesn't allow the individual to pass along anything to his or her heirs), the sooner we'll start to get on-board with some plans that are realistic for the future. America's personal savings rate is just 4.2% right now. That's not even close to what it should be.




The United States of America The decline of fraternal organizations in America
This is a profoundly important story that gets practically zero attention

News Iranian government forbids women from studying nuclear physics and petroleum engineering
No reasonable society can exclude half its population from scientific and technical fields and hope to compete in the modern world

Business and Finance Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke wants more economic stimulus

Agriculture How and why cucumber tendrils turn into springy coils

Weather and Disasters Isaac's rain is needed here, but probably won't fall in most of Iowa
The drought remains extreme without a great deal of relief. The 20.08" of rain that Isaac dropped on New Orleans is more rain than has fallen on Des Moines all year -- which means we're nearly 10" short of where we should normally be by the start of September.

News Drunk motorcyclist killed after exceeding 120 mph near Cedar Rapids
He left behind a 17-month-old daughter

Aviation News US Airways and American Airlines examine merger prospects

Health Whooping cough cases are on the rise
Dramatically so. And almost undoubtedly due to the fact that there are too many people who consciously avoid vaccinations. They put their own lives at risk and threaten others by doing so. Not every vaccine creates immunity -- just like not every aspirin cures a headache. But we all benefit from herd immunity. The more of us who are vaccinated, the fewer of us are exposed to the risk of contagious diseases.

Weather and Disasters Big wildfire spreads in western Nebraska

Humor and Good News TV commentator learns first-hand not to make fun of Tae Kwon-Do

The United States of America "The Libertarian Party is a great concept [...] but it got too far off the deep end, and so I dropped out"
David Koch's comments on the GOP and the Libertarian Party show that he isn't the one-dimensional money machine that his political opponents make him out to be. The sooner America's left wing makes peace with the idea that markets are natural forces (with which we must work constructively) and the sooner America's right wing makes peace with the fact that social standards have opened up on a large number of issues (and that as moves the society, so must move the laws), the better off we'll all be.





Weather and Disasters One woman loses five houses to five hurricanes
That's just incredibly bad luck

Iowa Iowa faces high fire danger this harvest season
There's already an enormous problem with huge wildfires in western Nebraska

News What to do with Afghan security forces?

The United States of America Political parties need a little internal dissent
Particularly in America, there's room for a lot of different ideas under the two main party umbrellas, and it's good (and healthy) for each to have some internal dissent. It keeps them honest. But it would be nice if the Democrats could have a strong pro-business wing and the Republicans could have a strong socially-moderate wing, like each once did. One of the serious problems with the very loud Ron Paul wing of the Republican party is that they're cantankerous mainly for the sake of so being. Some of their strongest demands (like for an end to the Federal Reserve and a resumption of the gold standard) are just so far outside the realm of reasonability that they lose credibility on other issues for which they may in fact have a sensible voice. There's no good in being disputative just for the sake of picking a fight.

News Catholic cardinal goes out with a critical bang




Agriculture Subsidies may cover much of the farming loss from this year's drought
It still would have been a much better year had it rained and had there not been such an extraordinary drought. In some places, the conditions are worse than in the Dust Bowl.

Computers and the Internet Apple could launch the iPad Mini in October
A tablet in the 7" size range would compete with the Amazon Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7, which both go for $199.

Iowa There's lots of work being done -- and to be done -- in the Midwest
Labor-force participation rates are high, unemployment is low, and people aren't retiring as quickly as elsewhere -- which is interesting, considering the signs already showing that there are serious worker shortages in a number of skilled work fields

News 100 years ago, private clubs marked the roads

Computers and the Internet Do architects draw enough?
That is, do they freehand enough, or do they rely too much on CAD? Michael Graves thinks they're too quick to abandon pen and paper.

Humor and Good News Quotes from The Simpsons
"You can't treat the working man this way! One day, we'll form a union and get the fair and equitable treatment we deserve. Then we'll go too far and get corrupt and shiftless, and the Japanese will eat us alive!"

Computers and the Internet Should you get an all-in-one computer?

News A list of attempts at saying "he/she" in a less-clunky fashion

Business and Finance If Greece gets kicked out of the Euro...
...some banks might actually send trucks full of cash across the border, just to keep businesses afloat

Weather and Disasters September is Family Preparedness Month

Business and Finance Americans have an estimated $6.8 trillion in investments around the world
The surprise, perhaps, is that the number isn't larger.

The United States of America For the protocol buffs
The United States' order of precedence -- who gets introduced ahead of whom




Threats and Hazards Xinhua: "The United States should stop its role as a sneaky troublemaker"





Iowa Egyptian firm buys one of Iowa's oldest general contractors
A local instance of the great asset transfer from the United States to other countries. This asset transfer is no small affair -- the contracting company in this case, Weitz, is one of the nation's top 50 contractors, with half a billion dollars in annual revenues. What we are seeing is the realization of the prediction made almost a decade ago by Warren Buffett: That our persistent deficits, especially in trade, would eventually lead to us selling off American companies to make up the gap.

Business and Finance Bartiromo vs. Trumka: A journalist who knows money challenges a union chief
At about 1:40 into the interview, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka says, "When we took over..." It's an intriguing slip of the tongue. He's referring to the Obama Administration when he says "we", but he's speaking on behalf of the labor unions. CNBC's Maria Bartiromo catches him on that subject -- and several others as well. There is, of course, a place for unions in the economy today. Probably far less of a place than was justified 50 years ago, but a place nonetheless. But unions are like any other group: They have a tendency to rent-seek -- that is, to try to use political leverage and public policy to make other people pay them more without actually creating any extra value. Lots of people and groups of all stripes try to rent-seek, and it's their right to do so. But it's also right for journalists and others to flag these attempts at rent-seeking so that everyone can see what's being done. Clearly, if a labor union sees the White House as an extension of itself, then everyone else should be on the lookout for them to be rent-seeking.

The United States of America Politicians should not be allowed to use the word "fundamentally" to describe their opponents

Agriculture An early harvest in 2012
The drought has weakened corn plants enough this year that Iowa farmers are probably going to be doing a lot of harvesting well ahead of the normal schedule, with wide ranges in their yields per acre

Humor and Good News The difference one letter can make
Movie titles with a letter removed

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Business and Finance On government intervention
Government intervention in the economy should be like surgery: Exceedingly rare, precise, and decisive. Doing lots of things with a vague hope that "something will kick-start the economy" or "this will create a lot of jobs" is just a hopelessly silly way to go about intervening in a system so complex and subject to natural forces and random chance that even a widely-acknowledged financial genius like Warren Buffett tries to make very few decisions each year (in his 1990 letter to shareholders: "Lethargy bordering on sloth remains the cornerstone of our investment style"). Buffett follows this philosophy because he knows it's better to act infrequently but boldly -- only when his confidence in an investment is high -- than to stand around taking a swing at every pitch that crosses the plate. A government that thinks it can do all things and achieve all its desired goals just by acting, acting, and acting all the time is one that's destined to waste a lot of resources that belong to the taxpayers. The best we can (and should) hope for is a government that follows a Hippocratic Oath for the economy: First, do no harm.

Iowa Iowa City police are actually starting to write jaywalking tickets
It's understandable that there are serious concerns about pedestrian safety in Iowa City, where a university and a traditional storefront-type downtown overlap with a very high population density (at least, one that's very high for Iowa). But jaywalking itself is kind of a silly thing to prohibit -- unless a pedestrian is deliberately walking in a way that obstructs traffic or shows willful neglect, then jaywalking is simply a way of making efficient use of street space. If it's not in use by vehicular traffic, then there's really no good reason to prohibit its use by pedestrians. Moreover, if jaywalking is a chronic problem, that's probably a signal that an area should simply be made off-limits to vehicular traffic and turned over to pedestrians alone. Places that are so congested that jaywalking is actually routinely hazardous are probably places that should be designed better and turned over to people on foot. Besides, there's more than just a little hint of nanny-statism in assigning police to actually ticket otherwise law-abiding people for choosing to cross the street at someplace other than a designated crosswalk.

Business and Finance It might not be possible for Americans to be any less-informed about finances than we already are
An SEC report just says it outright: " Studies reviewed by the Library of Congress indicate that U.S. retail investors lack basic financial literacy. The studies demonstrate that investors have a weak grasp of elementary financial concepts and lack critical knowledge of ways to avoid investment fraud." We're not going to be any good at making laws or even voting for the people who do so unless we understand the basic matters required to make an economy tick.

Computers and the Internet Amazon drops the price of the Kindle Fire to $159
That's to accommodate the new Kindle Fire HD at the $199 price point. Tablet computers are going to very rapidly approach essentially a "throwaway" price. Amazon is also rolling out a $119 "Kindle Paperwhite", which is intended to look more like a clean sheet of paper than any prior e-ink reader. Someone certainly must have decided that the reference to a sheet of white paper was worth risking that people will call it the "Paperweight" if it flops.

Computers and the Internet Our attention spans are shrinking at a breakneck pace
Electronic publishers are finding themselves racing to produce pictures where words previously were enough, because people are basically losing the patience to even read 140-character posts on Twitter. Ye gods.

The United States of America Why Bill Clinton's speech to the Democratic convention went so long
He ad-libbed. A lot.

Business and Finance The power of suggestive selling and marketing
By adopting the slogan "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz", Alka-Seltzer didn't quite double its sales, but they did dramatically increase over the period when they advised only taking one at a time

Computers and the Internet A Pepsi Challenge for search engines
Bing is trying to prove that their search results are better than those from Google by offering people a blind test of the results from each. They claim a 2-to-1 advantage for Bing. Whether or not it's true, it does give people a good reason to re-consider Bing.

Computers and the Internet Apple's new iPhone comes out on September 12th

Computers and the Internet Nokia gets busted misrepresenting cell-phone video
In promoting their video recording quality, they actually used footage from a professional video camera...not the phone




Business and Finance Time to set lower expectations for government
Dreaming of a government-driven manufacturing boom isn't necessarily wise. Policy debates about employment tend to make two overlapping errors: (1) That it is government's job to *do* something, rather than to referee the market according to the rule of law; and (2) that jobs are more important than wealth. Better to work five hours a week and be wealthy than work 80 hours a week and be poor. Intervention is widely-done but it may not be living up to expectations.

Business and Finance China's economy is still growing...but...
...the rate of growth is sharply down. That's really, really important news for the world economy.

The United States of America Fact-checking the Vice President
Also, watching his language in real time. On a related note, should political speeches be more like TED Talks?

Computers and the Internet Cedar Rapids Gazette puts the brakes on online reader comments
One can't blame them. The level of discussion in many comment sections is about as valuable as having a dog try to recite the alphabet.

Business and Finance Should Greece have to go to a 6-day work week in exchange for a bailout?


Computers and the Internet Yahoo wants to continue staking an independent claim to Internet ad revenues


Computers and the Internet New Nokia cell phones charge without wires






Computers and the Internet Attack on GoDaddy by member of "Anonymous" may explain why the Internet is wonky today


News Chinese democracy
The pro-democracy camp has a narrow lead in the vote count in Hong Kong

The United States of America Why young Americans need to get interested -- right away -- in government spending
The site is correct about the hazards we face if we refuse to get our situation ironed out in America, but unfortunately it's neither (a) clear who's behind the site, nor (b) written accessibly enough to make sense to the novice reader. With a little refinement and a little more clarity about who's promoting the message, voteourfuture.com would have a lot going for it.

News A disturbing instant in Aleppo
A photographer captures the moments just before, during, and just after three men were killed by a Syrian government tank attack

News Buying friends
Chinese investment in Egypt may be buying goodwill that the US would like to have, too

Computers and the Internet Survey says majority of Americans are stressed by their computers


Business and Finance Federal government to finally go below majority ownership in AIG with share sale
$18 billion in shares are to be sold. That's a huge, huge number.

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Computers and the Internet A look at the new iPhone 5


Health The things we take for granted
In Nepal, 54% of people arrive at the hospital via taxi because there simply aren't many well-equipped ambulances available.




Computers and the Internet Microsoft says Chinese manufacturers are shipping brand-new computers infected with malware

Agriculture High prices plus crop insurance may balance-out low ag yields in the Midwest

Iowa 600 of Iowa's 947 incorporated towns have no police department
They contract with sheriff's offices for police protection instead

Iowa Iowa's going to get the "REAL ID" drivers' licenses after all

Business and Finance Higher national debt is an anchor on national economic performance

Health Parents may influence children's intelligence more than personality




News USA Today goes through a redesign





Iowa Des Moines Register will be moving next spring


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

The United States of America The campaign for a memorial for the Presidents Adams

Weather and Disasters Hurricane Isaac by moonlight

Computers and the Internet Twitter copies Facebook by going for big cover photos

Business and Finance Jack Bogle: "High costs are as much of a risk for investors" as what's happening in Europe and China

Aviation News HondaJet wins design award
The engines are above the wings

Computers and the Internet Apple is making unforced errors
A consequence of growing huge, fast? Maybe.

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Computers and the Internet Like it or not, the Internet makes us all neighbors
That means we all have to be more considerate of others than may have been necessary before telecommunications put the globe on every laptop, tablet, and smartphone. But it also means we all have to be more tolerant, too, of things that would otherwise make us angry.

Threats and Hazards JP Morgan and Bank of America may have been hit by an Iranian cyberattack
The incentive for a state actor like Iran to conduct cyberattacks is certainly there: Why wage a shooting war (in which you're massively outgunned) when you can punish your adversary financially -- particularly one who is punishing you through economic sanctions already?

Business and Finance How the Chicago Cubs teach economics
"If a dip in attendance comes next season but the team is competitive by 2014 or '15, then it's a trade-off [team president Theo] Epstein is willing to make."

Business and Finance Hedge-fund manager: China's like an "emerging-market roach motel"
"Corporate profits are imploding over there," says Jim Chanos, who (it should be clear) is in the business of betting against companies he thinks are priced much too high.

Computers and the Internet Walmart is going to stop selling Amazon products in stores

Iowa Private sponsorship of public assets: Tricky territory
"At the committee's August meeting, members expressed concern about the state granting more naming rights to state resources than it already has, and how far such a trend might go. Members also expressed concern about whether sponsors inappropriate for such a setting might win a bid, and whether there might be free speech implications in denying such bids."




Business and Finance The Great American Asset Transfer continues
An agricultural firm in Ames, Iowa, has been sold to BASF for $1.02 billion. More and more of these sales of American companies and assets to foreign buyers should be expected. America's gargantuan trade deficit has shipped dollars overseas, and the people holding those dollars are looking for useful things to do with them. Meanwhile, American Baby Boomers are in an asset-selling mood as they shift from work to retirement. Meanwhile, with the European economy broadly uncertain, the Chinese market in a slowdown (or worse, depending on who's telling the truth), India in a slow-growth mode, and Russia back under Vladimir Putin (thus putting the future of things like the rule of law and free markets there under considerable doubt), a lot of people are going to look at the United States and decide that this market is the best around. We will look back on this period some day and realize what a mammoth asset transfer took place without a great deal of public notice. ■ This isn't a call for panic or anything -- Americans own about $7 trillion in assets abroad, and the rest of the world has about $12.5 trillion invested here. A full $5 trillion of that is in Federal government debt. But we should get ready to see a flow of $20 billion a month or more in foreign purchases of American companies. Foreign ownership of American securities is at a record high already, and there's no reason to believe that's going to reverse course. Mountains of cash are leaving China, and that's not going to be the only country in an acquisitive mood.

Computers and the Internet The latest on how Google chooses site ranks
The phrase (and very concept) of "search engine optimization" (SEO) is still enough to make a reasonable person want to vomit, but the article itself does highlight some changes in how those search engines behave.

Computers and the Internet Apple's new mapping service has left a lot of people unhappy

News New York Times puts a ban on sources getting to review quotes before a story is published

News The new look of USA Today

Aviation News Space Shuttle Endeavour goes on a California sightseeing tour




Socialism Doesn't Work Communists would be funny if they weren't so stupid -- and harmful
A sample item from the North Korean propaganda agency includes these lines: "They referred to the need for officials and workers to boost the production of fertilizers for socialist rural areas" and "He said that enterprises play very important roles in building an economic power and improving the people's standard of living, calling on the workers to take the lead in the on-going advance for great surge". These are quotes from one of their Central Committee figureheads, and they reveal the massive, gaping hole in Communist thought: Every economy is subject to market forces, whether Communists like it or not. Trying to ignore those forces is like trying to avoid the wind and the tides. You can say they're not there, but they are whether you like it or not. And in any market, prices are the signal that tell producers when to make more and when to make less. Stripping away the role of prices and just walking around a factory, admonishing workers to do more because it's part of a "great surge" is about the stupidest thing a person can do. Prices signal us when and how to act. It's as simple as that.

News Everyone's life is a combination of luck (good and bad) and choices (good and bad)
Unfortunately for the Chicago Tribune, they recently ran a sob story on a longtime substitute teacher and his descent into homelessness, but forgot to look into the records that would have told them he lost $180,000 to gambling. The Des Moines Register runs a sob story of a similar type virtually every alternating Sunday, and it gets tiresome. All too often, those featured had a bout of bad luck, but not without a string of really bad personal choices. We do ourselves no good if we always celebrate/highlight/talk about those stories without doing much more to celebrate those who overcame bad luck by making good choices instead. Especially when people are going to call for government intervention to help those who made the bad decisions (as the Register almost always does).

Business and Finance Federal Reserve promises low interest rates through at least 2015
Great for borrowers, bad for traditional savers. Maybe inflationary for the stock market.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft issues emergency patch for Internet Explorer
Which may explain why your computer wants you to do an update reboot cycle

Humor and Good News 1500 ping-pong balls and a liquid nitrogen bomb
(Video) Awesome and just plain fun science

Aviation News Space Shuttle Endeavour flyover at the Golden Gate Bridge
(Video) Now, if only we as a country would have planned ahead and done something to replace the Space Shuttle long ago...

News Who are the nerds, and who are the geeks?

News Police and protesters storm Libyan militia bases

Computers and the Internet Is HP in the hunt to buy Research In Motion (the BlackBerry makers)?

Computers and the Internet Thinking of the Internet not as an audience, but as neighbors

Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)



Computers and the Internet Iran is building a domestic version of the Internet
The government there may actually intend to block citizens' access to the real, global Internet as soon as March 2013

News Death to long meetings!





The United States of America "Terrified of being rejected by voters who regard temporary help as permanent rights, politicians keep spending."
And with one line, a British columnist nails exactly what's wrong with American fiscal policy. That, and the fact that the President of the United States chooses to profess complete unwittingness about the $16 trillion Federal debt. (Sadly, even when David Letterman hinted to the President that the number was above $10 trillion, he was low by 60%.) Instead, President Obama is cavorting with a bunch of suck-ups on "The View" instead of meeting with other world leaders at the United Nations. ■ It's a plain fact right now that Secretary of State Clinton is behaving more like a President than the President is. It's embarrassing. And if he's going to blow off the most important issue of our day, the Federal debt and its course-to-nowhere, then it's really a cause for great sadness. Our finances were in awful condition when President Bush left office, and they're vastly worse today. ■ One wonders what would happen if Presidents (and other politicians) were to look after the public purse in the same way that Warren Buffett asks the managers of his many companies to do: "Just run your business as if: 1) you own 100% of it; 2) it is the only asset in the world that you and your family have or will ever have; and 3) you can’t sell or merge it for at least a century." They can't "own" the country, of course, but what if they were asked -- or, perhaps, commanded -- to behave according to a 100-year business plan?

News China's first aircraft carrier goes afloat
This news is especially important in light of the story immediately above.

Humor and Good News Cross-country runner stops race to rescue another runner in distress
"We have the concept, from the Talmud, that if you want God to have mercy on you, you have to have mercy on others."

Computers and the Internet Facebook probably isn't posting private messages to people's walls accidentally
It's more likely that people are noticing (via the Facebook Timeline) that many exchanges that used to take place on the public "wall" should have been via private message instead. Yet another reminder, of course, that whatever you put on the Internet can stay there forever.




Broadcasting KCCI-TV is shutting down the Weather Beacon
Just like many other weather beacons around the world, it changes colors to indicate the forecast. It's an anachronism from the days before people could just look up the forecast at any time on a smartphone. But it's charming and adds a bit of character to a skyline. KCCI is removing the lights from its downtown tower that made up the weather beacon out of necessity -- the bulbs aren't made anymore, and they weigh too much for the structure. But it's surprising they haven't chosen to put up some sort of array using LED bulbs instead. Give it a few months and someone downtown will take up the idea. Sioux City has a glowing sphere -- it doesn't have to take up an entire tower.

Science and Technology See the future unfold right before your eyes

Humor and Good News Who wants to subsidize their neighbors?
Charlie Brooker says an idea floated in the UK to use a subsidy from broadband Internet service providers to support printed newspapers is "Like when papers charged extra to subsidise the town crier industry." Which didn't happen, of course.

The United States of America "[S]ome conflicts cannot be wished away. One is between young and old."

Computers and the Internet Stop the abuse of job titles. Oh, please, please stop it.
Someone's actually calling himself an "Alpha dog" as his job title on LinkedIn. It's ridiculous. Inflated and confounding job titles are a scourge.

Science and Technology Here come the autonomous cars
Great on so many levels: They should be safer than cars driven by people. They should allow us to spend our time doing useful (or fun) things instead of mindlessly conducting our cars down the road. They should allow the sick, the elderly, the disabled, and even the inebriated to get places safely. They should even allow cars to travel closer together on the same roadway, meaning less dreaded urban sprawl.

Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)



Computers and the Internet There are real people behind every online personality


Business and Finance "[S]timulus was a fire-and-forget ballistic missile shot into the economic ozone"


Science and Technology No big deal...just another 5,500 galaxies we hadn't seen before


Threats and Hazards Afghan attack on NATO base was historic in its size
Time for us all to pay a little less attention to the NFL and topless photos of a princess, and a little more to the real news. We're just so easily distracted. And yet there are real terrorist attacks being conducted against the United States and our embassies and consulates abroad.

Business and Finance Household spending on smartphones is cutting into clothing and restaurant spending
This is what's called a revealed preference -- clearly, we must think it's better to have the Internet in the palms of our hands than to go out to dinner; otherwise, we'd be spending the money differently. No matter what people say they value, it's how they actually spend that tells the truth.

Business and Finance A little bit of game theory
What happens to the economy, depending upon who wins the White House and who takes Congress

Broadcasting Testing the prime minister
David Letterman quizzed Britain's David Cameron on a mock UK citizenship exam. It didn't go particularly well. But Cameron did have a good line about US-UK relations: "We had a bit of a falling out [in 1776]. I think we’re getting over that."




Science and Technology The Faraday cage
Or, a brief scientific explanation of why it's hard to get radio reception inside a metal building

News Instrumental version of "Regulate" by Warren G
Why? Because sometimes instrumental versions of songs are worth enjoying. It turns out there's a pretty easy trick for removing the lyrics from most songs. The results definitely aren't radio-quality, but they're about as close to instrumental versions as a person can get with about 60 seconds of effort.

Iowa Dallas County wants to move offices to the far east
The far east of Adel city limits, that is -- to Ortonville

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