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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Suspicions of a wind farm near a Navy base

News Fascinating pictures from Detroit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Venezuela goes to the polls: Will Chavez stay?

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

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

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

Computers and the Internet A useful guide to Facebook photo dimensions

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

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

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

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

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

Science and Technology Neil deGrasse Tyson on the magic of science

Science and Technology A watch that reads your phone for you

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

News Winston Churchill's archives are now online

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iowa Sioux City wants to become a little Hard Rock

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

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

Business and Finance Economic Freedom of the World, 2012 edition

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

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

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

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

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

Science and Technology 3D printing delivers a complete acoustic guitar

News Should the EU have won the Nobel Peace Prize?

Computers and the Internet Unmasking a notorious online troll

Business and Finance Applebee's as late-night club

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

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

News Your Simpsons Myers-Briggs analogue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Cubans have new freedom to leave for longer than before

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business and Finance Student loan debt in perspective

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

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

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

Broadcasting Old CBS News videos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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News Russian opposition movement turns to the Internet to band together

Business and Finance Times are tough at Radio Shack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The United States of America Pew survey: Likely voters are exactly split between Obama and Romney
As for the actual vote, the superstorm really upended things on the East Coast.

Science and Technology Why it's ethical to eat the meat that got derided as "pink slime"
It's meat, just like any other. The process by which it was collected is a technological advancement that means less of each animal goes to waste. If we're going to have animal agriculture, shouldn't we be as efficient about it as we can?

Business and Finance Gallup survey says 20% of American workers are actively poisoning the work environment

Threats and Hazards An awful story of a pointless murder in Omaha
Two young women were shot -- and one died. And over in northeastern Iowa, a couple of bank robbers shot two police officers before they were caught.

Iowa What's the lifespan of a local landmark?
Sioux City, Iowa, has a set of concrete arches installed in 1980. They were installed to establish a local landmark, but now the site is going to be removed so Interstate 29 can be widened. So, do they try to move the arches, or just consign them to history?

Science and Technology Nuclear power in the UK may have new life as it dies in Japan
Hitachi is going to start managing nuclear plants in the UK

Iowa High-end state salaries in Iowa belong entirely to university employees
According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, "The first non-university employee in the state salary database coming in at 163 is Som Lerd, a physician supervisor for the Department of Human Services."

News Vladimir Putin's new presidential ride
It's a new domestically-built (to Russia) limousine. It may come as a surprise just how many countries have domestically-built limousines for their heads of state.

Business and Finance The good news: American companies are managed better (on average) than companies elsewhere in the world
The bad news: Only 15% score well on objective tests of management quality

Computers and the Internet Gmail will add extra composition windows

Computers and the Internet How to create mock-engraved type

Iowa Nostalgia makes us do curious things
Like spending $110,000 to move an old house

Iowa What's with the violent crime lately?
Two men were arrested for robbing a credit union in Marshalltown, and one of them shot a police officer in the process.

Business and Finance A great introductory lecture on economics
It's from a University of Chicago professor, so it's already starting out on a good footing. But the added graphics and the enthusiastic style with which it is presented make this a real winner.

Weather and Disasters How chaotic are things in New York?
Reports of a frightening breakdown in ordinary law and order after Hurricane Sandy. There appears to be an awful lot of damage.

Business and Finance "[T]he truth is that U.S. manufacturing has never been stronger" -- but...
..."The catch is that the number of American workers needed to create all that value has dropped steadily."

Computers and the Internet Tech tip: Protect your computer in winter weather

News An extremely expensive public-transit project

News Image matters
A small newspaper in North Sioux City has a profoundly bland flag (the thing most people incorrectly call the masthead). So, while the publisher certainly is within rights to be upset that a political party put out a publication that had some similarities in look to his own paper, he really doesn't have much of a leg to stand on, given that the fonts used in his own publication are the most generic of all: Arial and Times New Roman. Regardless of whether the similarity was intentional or not, a more distinctive look to the regular news publication is definitely in order.

Threats and Hazards New police chief in Cedar Rapids wants license-plate scanners
They're a very disconcerting tool -- particularly if used without a massive amount of civilian oversight and extraordinary safeguards.

Business and Finance What you should know about the "fiscal cliff"

Business and Finance Foxconn might open up TV manufacturing plants in the US

News UK will stop sending official aid to India in three years

Threats and Hazards We should value the occasional offense
The only way to have freedom of speech is to have the right to say things that bother others. That doesn't mean we should go about abusing the right and making awful nuisances of ourselves, but we have to expect the right to say things that might offend others -- and the responsibility to accept a bit of offense once in a while from what others say. That, sadly, appears to be a condition that is eroding badly in Britain today...and what happens in Britain quite often influences people in the corridors of power in the United States.

The United States of America Unsettling, indeed
The Omaha World-Herald's staff cartoonist asks, "Why do I have this unsettling feeling we're going to learn more about the Petraeus affair than we will Benghazi?" He is absolutely right.

Science and Technology "Idiocracy" today
A Stanford geneticist posits the idea that civilization does such a good job of keeping natural selection from weeding out the stupid that we might be a lot dumber than the average person who lived a few thousand years ago.

Science and Technology Relatively low gas prices keep depressing the market for electric cars
Until the payback period on electric cars reaches something less than the length of time most people tend to keep their cars, EVs aren't going to take up much market share. Also, there's a big difference in value to an electric or hybrid car whether one is in a crowded metro area like Los Angeles (where stop-and-start traffic is the norm) or in a place like western Nebraska, where an uninterrupted 50-mile drive at 60 mph or more is downright routine.

The United States of America US could be self-sufficient in petroleum within a decade
But is that entirely a good thing?

Business and Finance Economists think the low-hanging fruit from cheap labor in the BRIC group is mostly gone

Health MRI tests may show that people in apparent vegetative states are really still conscious

The United States of America Washington's fear of making real decisions is going to cost us dearly
Eaton's CEO says "Until we solve the fiscal issues (in the United States and Europe), you're not going to get back to normal GDP growth"

News 80 people want to become superintendent of schools in Omaha
That's a pretty big talent pool

Iowa Widening the last 42 miles of Highway 20 could take another 10 years
It's important for northern Iowa to finally get a full four-lane expressway from one end of the state to the other. The longer this highway takes, the more disconnected many of the communities will remain from economic development.

Computers and the Internet Windows division president leaves Microsoft
The move seems to have taken a lot of people by surprise

Agriculture Hidden economic news in a pork report
Page 16 of the November "Iowa Pork Producer" magazine includes this nugget: "While pork exports to the China/Hong Kong region were higher through August [...] they are not likely to match last year's pace in coming months. For August only, exports to China/Hong Kong were down 31 percent in volume to 30,450 metric tons and 34 percent in value to $60.5 million." There may very well be another reason for the decline, but it's hard to see a drop-off like that happening without a larger slowdown taking place in the Chinese economy.

Science and Technology There's a giant planet floating in space with no star to orbit
Imagine living there...plants (as we know them) would have to grow without photosynthesis. There would be no sunrise or sunset. Come to think of it, things would be pretty wickedly dark. But the planet is huge -- four to seven times the size of Jupiter. And it's hot. But we know of extremophile organisms on Earth, so maybe they exist elsewhere.

Computers and the Internet Facebook couples pages...
...for those times syrup of ipecac just isn't powerful enough. In reality, you can see a "relationship" page for anyone with whom you are a Facebook friend. It's just that the idea of Facebook pages for couples is so especially nauseating.

Humor and Good News Psy and Madonna mash-up...on stage

News China meets the new boss
Pretty much the same as the old boss?

Computers and the Internet Google invests in Iowa wind farm
It's not really anything new -- it was noted here in 2007 that investment in renewable energy might be a strategic move for Google, and in 2008 that it was not necessarily an altruistic move at all. Which, by the way, isn't necessarily a bad thing. Companies have no obligation to be charitable. And Google's position is such that diversifying away from search results alone is a very wise move, especially since the day may come when the company finds itself regulated like the phone company used to be. It actually meets many of the qualifications for a "public utility" already. Curious, perhaps -- maybe even ironic -- that they might be able to make more money in the future from an economic sector that has traditionally been a regulated sector (energy) than from its currently unregulated Internet business.

Threats and Hazards Traffic cameras are about money, not safety

Business and Finance Federal Reserve demands stress tests by 30 large banks
They want to know whether the banks could handle a recession with 12% unemployment and a 5% decline in GDP

Humor and Good News Drunk but determined
Drunk man in a suit seems not to realize he's going the wrong way on an escalator, despite the aid of really insistent passers-by

Business and Finance Hostess is shutting down
Untenable union pay and pension demands (and management's decision-making) have killed the maker of Twinkies. Don't worry too much, though: Someone will buy the Twinkies brand name and recipe. That's what's supposed to happen when a company goes bankrupt. Ideally, of course, companies shouldn't get to the point where they go bankrupt in the first place, since nobody really wins from a bankruptcy. The owners are out hundreds of millions. Workers are out of their jobs. Suppliers are screwed. Consumers will end up getting their Twinkies somewhere else (the brand still has value), but everyone else is going home a loser.

Health We are tantalizingly close to eradicating polio
But anti-vaccination holdouts are keeping the virus alive in southern Asia and Africa

Computers and the Internet The European Commission is " considering whether Google's Android mobile operating system needs to be regulated"
Meanwhile, the US Federal Trade Commission is looking into ways to manage Google's search-engine dominance. As noted here only yesterday, Google has a tough road ahead. Regulators can't help themselves from trying to influence any firm as successful as Google. (Maybe they should offer to fix the major airlines' computer systems. They seem to need it.)

News Grad students think they're under-valued

Business and Finance Mind-blowing economic figures from the Treasury Department
Mainly this: The average 30-year mortgage now costs just 3.38%. For real? This cannot last.

Agriculture Farmers are already gambling on a reversal in the drought
One might have thought that the skyrocketing prices for corn and soybeans of the last year, driven by drought, would have caused more farmers to sell off their cattle. But that doesn't seem to have happened. Inventories in Iowa are almost exactly where they were last year at this very same time.

Health Don't overdose on energy drinks

News Minnesota family thinks son was denied Catholic Confirmation over a Facebook photo
He protested against a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage

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Science and Technology Some fascinating optical illusions

Computers and the Internet Google announces third phase of data center in Council Bluffs
The $200 million third phase brings the total investment to about $1.1 billion.

Agriculture "Agriculture has become a knowledge-based industry"
Anyone who looks down their nose at farmers is a fool; farming is an increasingly sophisticated sector of the economy. But it's also one of many jobs in which a college education (in the form of a two- or four-year degree) is increasingly important if not necessary component for new entrants to be competitive. That should signal something to the people who think there are or should be lots of high-pay jobs for low-skill workers; they simply don't exist anymore. There are lots of good jobs to be had in agriculture, manufacturing, and the service sectors -- but virtually all of them are or will soon require some form of post-secondary education.

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.

Aviation News Why you shouldn't recline your airline seat

Health Humans aren't the only primates to suffer midlife crises
Chimps and orangutans feel it, too

Iowa Complicated land swap in downtown Des Moines might fix problems for YMCA, Polk County, and private sector

Threats and Hazards Sleepwalking into a surveillance society
A Senate bill under consideration would basically give Big Brother (in the form of 22 different Federal agencies) the right to look at your e-mail, Twitter direct messages, and Google Docs without a warrant. Outrageous.

Weather and Disasters Winter climate outlook

The United States of America Thanksgiving, American Indian style: Buffalo stew recipe

Business and Finance Why the Big Ten now has 14
It's all about bringing in television revenues

Business and Finance How much are you allowed to save for retirement in 2013?
The IRS has released the income and contribution limitations for tax-advantaged savings plans for next year. Isn't it a little odd how tax policy discourages savings beyond an arbitrary maximum?

Weather and Disasters Fog causes 100-car wreck on Thanksgiving in Texas
Crashes like these just reinforce the case for bringing self-piloted cars to the market as soon as possible. People are prone to over-estimate their own capacities to drive safely under bad conditions, like fog. We need machines to override our overconfidence.

Computers and the Internet Number of Windows 8 applications grows past 20,000
They're not all available everywhere, but many are, and the vast majority are free

Agriculture Milk prices could get rocky around January 1st
On a related note, Iowa farmers brought in half a billion dollars in payments for corn and soybean crop losses to this summer's drought

Broadcasting The best way to stay in business is to look for ways to put yourself out of business
Incentives fall on the side of innovation. In other words, there is a great deal of money to be made from disrupting the status quo. So if a company intends to stay in business for the long term, it needs to anticipate that disruptive innovations will come along, and that it's better to be the innovator than the victim of that innovation.

Iowa A lake of fire in north-central Iowa
Eagle Lake is completely dry due to drought, so it's expected that a grass fire there will keep the lakebed (which is a peat bog) smoldering for weeks.

Business and Finance Hostess bankruptcy judge says he has "serious questions as to the logic behind the decision" for the unions to go on strike
Most of the brands will end up being sold to other companies, but that doesn't mean the jobs will transfer there

Science and Technology Researchers discover that an island doesn't exist
It's shown up on maps for a long time, but Sandy Island in the Coral Sea apparently doesn't exist at all

Computers and the Internet A mostly predictable list of popular technology gifts for 2012
Microsoft Surface, Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad Mini, and the Samsung Galaxy S-III. Nothing really revelatory.

Broadcasting Today at 1:00 Central: The WHO Radio Wise Guys return to the air
The show is streamed live on WHORadio.com. Send questions via text message to 515-989-1040.

The United States of America America, land of the free, becomes the land of the one-party state
A New York Times report holds that 37 states will have a single party in power, controlling the governor's office as well as both legislative chambers. A University of Minnesota professor says, "If you wondered what Washington would look like under single-party rule, the states are a laboratory for that now." One can hope that this might mark the peak of mindless partisanship -- in which people affiliate with one party or another based solely on hot-button issues -- and might give way to an era of performance-based voting, in which voters take a serious look at the actual performance of their elected officials and vote accordingly. It is certain that the only way any of the many "third parties" out there would ever work their way into prominence is by taking advantage of these completely un-balanced times, getting themselves elected as the "alternative" party on a local basis in places where a single party has absolute control (like the Democrats do in Chicago and greater Illinois, for instance), and then using that performance-based record to get themselves elected more broadly. But they have to prove themselves in a practical way, not in an ideological way -- and that's what the "third party" adherents seem not to realize.

The United States of America We can't go on building in disaster-prone areas forever
And we definitely can't go on believing that this behavior is cost-free. It is one of the major threats to the American economy.

Broadcasting Live radio tonight at 9:00 Central
Live on WHO Radio

News Garment-factory fire in Bangladesh kills more than 100 people

News Stronger governments don't necessarily mean less corruption
A New York Times report on China hints at what really tends to happen when governments become all-mighty: People closely connected to the political elite become wealthy in ways that aren't accessible to the rest of the people. So, the next time someone says that the government should be given (or take) greater powers to intervene in the private-sector economy, ask whether that greater power could be used by the well-connected to line their pockets at the expense of the broader public. More often than not, it seems, that's what's likely to happen.

Science and Technology A collection of some pretty remarkable bridges
It's easy to overlook seeing bridges for what they really are: Very large and tangible collections of knowledge. The engineering skill required to design and build a bridge is the product of hundreds of years of trial and error and documentation. It's too easy to forget that human knowledge is accumulative -- that is, we gather more of it as we go along, and if we're wise, we document it so that the people who follow us can skip over the mistakes and go straight to the right answers. New questions will never be in short supply.

Science and Technology
The text message turns 20
SMS is a simple, elegant solution to the need to communicate asynchronously in small bursts. Seems almost silly that it took so long to develop.

Science and Technology Beautiful new views of Earth at night
They're the product of satellite data from 312 orbits of the planet, assembled by NASA

Business and Finance Warren Buffett and Carol Loomis on "Charlie Rose"
(Video) Really, the whole thing is worthwhile, but the final ten minutes or so are quite illuminating. Start at 44:30 if you must skip ahead, and listen to this gem: "Capitalism and market systems work. It's been working since 1776 here, and it wasn't because we had stimulus programs in 1794. It's because our system unleashes people's potential...human potential is still untapped to a big degree." (As an aside, it's worth noting that people in many parts of the world still face fundamentally existential threats like unsafe drinking water, and nobody's ever going to grow a vibrant, wealthy society in those places until those problems are permanently solved.) And he frets elsewhere about a very serious problem: People are being buffaloed by an investment industry that tries to muddle sound principles with flashy offerings and endlessly complicated jargon.

Computers and the Internet Computer program update checklist
If you haven't updated some of the programs on your Windows computer lately -- not the operating system, but the programs themselves -- you should run through this list and make sure you're up to speed.

News Detroit city councilmember demands "quid pro quo" from President Obama
JoAnn Watson says the President owes her city a bailout in return for the votes they gave him

Business and Finance Consumer confidence numbers up for lower incomes
And down among those with higher incomes

Weather and Disasters Analysis of lightning strikes may help predict tornadoes
We'll take every forecasting advantage we can grasp.

Iowa Saylorville Lake is at its second-lowest level of all time

Science and Technology Card counting and the privacy of your thoughts
Paper examines whether it's just to prohibit the use of cognitive enhancement to help count cards at the blackjack table. Our thoughts are our own...but the law may have to start making some accommodations for the fact that not all of our thoughts have to reside permanently inside our heads (literally, if certain cognitive tools come to fruition).

Computers and the Internet Apple announces plans to assemble computers in the United States

Computers and the Internet Google isn't giving up on Google Plus
Now, they seek to replace message boards with the "Communities" feature. The company is going for broke with Google Plus, even if it's not a hot commodity. They appear to fear getting trounced by the "social" competition so much that they're going to shoe-horn Google Plus every place it could possibly fit until the public finally just starts using it.

Business and Finance Facing retirement by seeing your own face in retirement

Computers and the Internet Contractor sues former customer for Yelp and Angie's List reviews
She says he did bad work and stole from her. He says she's welcome to have an opinion on the quality of his work, but not to call him a criminal. This is what libel and slander are all about -- you have the right to an opinion, but not to disparage someone else falsely in such a way that they are deprived of the means to earn a living. Watch what you say on the Internet.

Computers and the Internet Instagram and Twitter go to war
Previously well-integrated, now they're parting ways. Not amicably, either.

Aviation News Former NASA managers say they can do a Moon mission for $1.5 billion
And the company, Golden Spike, wants to do it by 2020. They think the first trip would cost more, but after they get the first expenses out of the way, they'll do two-person missions for $750 million a person.

Computers and the Internet YouTube gets a serious interface face-lift

Business and Finance Household net worth rises in America
That's good -- it's up to $64.8 trillion. But if the national GDP is $13.6 trillion a year, then we only have a national price-to-earnings ratio of 4.8. On Wall Street, that would be abominably low. Something here suggests that we're not pricing our work correctly, not pricing our net worth correctly, or doing an absolutely abysmal job of managing our household balance sheets. Or perhaps there's some other explanation to be found.

Computers and the Internet Why you should check monthly for computer-program updates

Iowa Iowa DOT starts implementing a process for deciding where to put traffic-enforcement cameras
Some kind of rulemaking process is better than none. There are too many of the cameras and they don't really appear to be in place to make the public actually safer. In an odd coincidence, Cedar Rapids doesn't have working cameras in all of its police cars.

News Rising above
A story that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming about how a couple of strangers helped a girl overcome childhood sexual assault

Computers and the Internet CNN anchor says "The tenor of Twitter has become so un-American"

Health Comes now the Tricorder
The tool monitors vital signs, but it's part of a movement towards handheld diagnostic tools that could make the practice of medicine vastly more effective. Personalized data can make a real difference.

The United States of America Paul Krugman has gone too far
He seems to have made the leap into believing his own hype. And that's the worst thing that can happen to a public thinker.

The United States of America Unionized government employees protest cuts...by going on strike

The United States of America Press goes ape over the threat of a private Oath of Office ceremony
That absolutely, positively cannot be accepted. The Obama Administration's promises of transparency haven't been met by acts.

News Vikings will break ground on $1 billion stadium in October 2013
The state of Minnesota is on the hook for $348 million, at a time when the state has a projected $1.1 billion (that is, $1,100 million) deficit. The city of Minneapolis appears to be on the hook for another $150 million of the project. Is public funding of stadiums such a good idea?

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The United States of America And so begins the 2016 Presidential campaign...
If the Politico analysis of the race is right, we should expect to hear some good things from Rep. Paul Ryan -- who seems to "get it" that the traditional center-right understanding of economic freedom actually benefits everyone, but is actually most useful to the poor and the middle class. And in four years, the situation is going to be even worse than it is today, if the Treasury Secretary's "fuzzy math" holds out. On a related note, campaign law still hasn't gotten in touch with technological reality, meaning that Paul Ryan's Twitter account for the Romney Presidential campaign is in limbo.

Socialism Doesn't Work "If you do better in school, you threaten the income of the parents. It's a terrible incentive."
People respond to incentives. It's a fundamental rule of economics. On a related note: We're having trouble paying for Medicaid, too. And then there are the parents who willfully expose their children and others to communicable diseases by skipping immunization shots.

The United States of America US will be "first among equals" by 2030...no longer a sole superpower
That's the conclusion of a report on intelligence policy for the coming years. And don't imagine that 2030 is so far away...it's when today's newborns will become voting adults.

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The United States of America Outgoing Rep. Barney Frank: "[L]iberals should say, 'We think government's a good thing, done right, and we're for expanding it"

Aviation News Delta buys 49% of Virgin Atlantic
It was only four years ago that Delta bought Northwest, which made Delta the world's largest airline.

Business and Finance Vigorous protests outside Michigan state capitol as legislature votes for "right to work"
Michigan's workforce is 17.5% unionized (higher than most states, but lower than Hawaii and New York), and the decision covers both public- and private-sector workers. The national average is 11.8% union membership among current workers. An op-ed by a pro-right-to-work union member argues that unions are chasing jobs out of the state rather than protecting them. Whatever the opinions, it's important to remember that the First Amendment right is "to peaceably assemble" -- not to riot. It's disheartening to see violent protests in Northern Ireland -- not over union membership, but over membership in the United Kingdom.

Business and Finance Federal government will sell off most of remaining stake in AIG
Total profit so far: $22.7 billion, after this sale is completed. It should make us all very, very uncomfortable that the government took the action it did, and we shouldn't be too pleased about the profits, either. Obviously, it's better than losing money, but we run the risk of learning the wrong lesson from the whole affair -- government shouldn't be an owner of private-sector businesses, either for profit or for loss.

Computers and the Internet Is it too soon for 1Gbps Internet?
While physically available in some places, it's more than a lot of networks are capable of delivering -- and more than much content actually requires

Computers and the Internet Microsoft issues Patch Tuesday updates: 10 critical

Science and Technology Startup wants to make cups that would warn of date-rape drugs

Iowa Shrinking wild deer population crimps donated meat supply
Iowa food banks have taken venison donations from hunters for years, but as the wild-deer population has declined, so have the donations

News Where have all the men gone?
The entire senior class of magazine-journalism majors at Drake University is made up of women. So they made a men's magazine. It's all-digital.

Iowa Is it ever OK to give yourself a nickname?
A Des Moines-area economic-development group has hired ad agency Flynn Wright to come up with a name for the Des Moines metro area, similar to something like the Research Triangle of North Carolina. But don't the really great nicknames emerge organically? Isn't it nearly impossible not to sound a little contrived when giving yourself a nickname, whether you're a person or a business or a community?

Computers and the Internet Minnesota's trying to get 100% broadband access by 2015
But the goal, set in 2010, doesn't look like it's going to be met at the current pace

Business and Finance Think about the long-term
A research paper from the Chicago Federal Reserve says that countries that didn't respect property rights in the late 1800s are poorer today than the ones that did. Makes that whole short-termism thing about the "fiscal cliff" seem a little more real, doesn't it? Kick the can down the road today and your grandkids may curse you for it.

Business and Finance Low mortgage rates now could mean low mobility later
It's possible that today's extremely low mortgage-interest rates might mean that people will find themselves severely dis-incentivized to move in the future when rates rise again. The argument makes at least some intuitive sense.

Broadcasting Radio show notes from December 11, 2012
Afternoon drive on WHO Radio in Des Moines

Threats and Hazards North Korea launches rocket -- says it carried a satellite
The problem is that a rocket that can launch a satellite is the same kind of tool that can be used to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile

News Police in Cheyenne dress up like The Grinch to conduct speed trap

Business and Finance Falling prices: Fun for now, but not for long
Gas prices fell by a lot from October to November, as did prices for several other components of the inflation indices -- so the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the Consumer Price Index fell nationally. In the short run, everyone likes falling prices -- they're the equivalent of getting a bonus in the paycheck. But if falling prices persist and turn into deflation, some bad things can happen. ■ If employers expect price pressure to be persistently downward, they're going to be reluctant to offer raises to employees or to issue bigger dividends to shareholders. We like deflation when we're consumers...but not when we're producers. ■ Persistent deflation discourages people from spending (why spend a dollar today when it'll be worth $1.10 later?), and since consumer spending is a huge component of the national economic ledger (specifically, 70% of GDP), if consumers hold off on spending in the enduring hope of getting more for their money later, they can depress the lion's share of economic activity. ■ And while it would seem that a currency that buys more over time would be a good way to encourage savings, it's not a very good way to encourage useful investment.

News On today's school shooting

Computers and the Internet Nostalgic geeks find ways to recreate the Start button in Windows 8

Computers and the Internet Apple and Google resolve mapping spat...for now
Google Maps is back for the iPhone. But nobody should mistake it for love between the two firms.

Business and Finance A lot of firms want a piece of Hostess
The bankruptcy sale has attracted two dozen bidders, reports Bloomberg News

News Surprising: 2012 turns out to be a great year for the movie industry

Socialism Doesn't Work China adds some bricks to the Great Firewall
The Guardian reports that they are now using technology to cut off anyone who appears to be using a virtual private network (VPN), which is a system for sending encrypted data from one computer to another. VPNs are widely used in the corporate world to ensure security of communications -- and in places like China, they can be used to allow people to browse content without surveillance by the authorities. ■ If you're looking for exactly one reason -- just one -- why the American economy has a durable advantage over many others in the world, it is that we (generally) reject wholesale the notion that government has a right to control what we think. We undoubtedly have problems with painting the right boundaries around privacy and security concerns -- many people are and should be angry about reports of warrantless spying on our communications. But the level of outrage would be double if the government were to pre-emptively block our access to content. And that would be well-placed outrage. ■ Moreover, it's an economically strategic kind of outrage. Good ideas come from all sorts of places, not just a handful of sanitized reports in the business press. For an economy to grow powerfully and durably, it has to do as Warren Buffett says America has done: "[O]ur system unleashes people's potential...human potential is still untapped to a big degree." A system that tells people what they can and cannot think or read or discuss is one that isn't really unleashing human potential -- though it may, as China has done for a while now, take some advantage of natural human instincts to make life better for our families. But it still treats people like cattle...just harder-working cattle.

Science and Technology Crossing the brain-to-computer barrier
A 52-year-old woman who is paralyzed from the neck down can control a robotic arm with her thoughts, thanks to a brain-machine interface. This is very much just the beginning for these kinds of devices.

Humor and Good News Famous albums with more honesty

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.

Business and Finance Some intriguing economic charts explaining 2012

Humor and Good News Wait: The world didn't end?

News Bold predictions about the future of newspapers

Health Rising incomes and longer lifespans

Business and Finance Is value investing dead?
Value investors can only hope that the rest of the world thinks so...

News Putin wants to ban US adoptions

Business and Finance There is less international economic connectedness now than five years ago
Not surprising, but disappointing nonetheless. Globalization inevitably takes a hit when the economy contracts. It's too easy for politicians to exploit nativist sentiment, even if that's not what's actually best for the people.

Iowa Iowa's in the bottom third for state population growth
From 2010 to this year, Iowa gained about 27,000 residents. It's not a decrease (Rhode Island and Michigan both shrank), but it's about half the rate of increase as the nation at large. Population growth isn't necessarily a good in its own right, but it's probably important to understand why a state is growing faster or slower than the rest of the nation.

Business and Finance How marriage expectations could affect pay inequality between men and women
Put simply, it's hard to find couples where a woman out-earns a man

Computers and the Internet Sharing and privacy in the Internet era
A thoughtful young writer acknowledges the tension between keeping important things private online and exploring important questions about the self using online tools

Business and Finance The self-repairing economy
An architectural firm in Omaha is experiencing a lot of growth because there's a lot of pent-up demand on the part of growing businesses. An executive at one of the businesses profiled says, "Bids are less because of the competitive climate right now". And that's exactly how the economy recovers: Sellers of goods and services lower their prices as demand falls, opportunistic buyers step in, and things slowly get back to normal. "Stimulus" programs rarely act suitably to manage the need. Likewise, we should be deeply skeptical of "economic-development" incentive packages. The economic war between the states is absurd -- if the companies receiving the incentives (that it seems every state and county and municipality are offering) wouldn't otherwise leave the country, but instead are simply picking and choosing among the states, then, on balance, the taxpayers as a whole are subsidizing a totally unproductive economic activity at their own expense and to the benefit of the private companies that have the connections necessary to get the incentives. It is perfectly rational both for the companies to pursue those incentives (after all, it's often free money), and it is reasonably rational for governments to offer them (because if they don't, some other community will and thus will get the expanded tax base). The system itself is flawed and really requires intervention by the Federal government to stop the madness.

Iowa No more F-16s at the Des Moines International Airport
The Senate has approved a $633 billion defense bill, and it includes a retirement for the F-16 unit at Des Moines. They'll be replaced by a group flying UAVs.

Weather and Disasters About that blizzard the other day...
It was an unusually strong storm to blow through, and the energy in the atmosphere was enough to create thundersnow. And driving in it was no pleasure, either.

Business and Finance Better than branding, and far better than social media
Fast Company takes a brief look at how Patagonia builds itself around the premise of being bigger than just making a profit -- while still making a profit. It's really a subject straight out of the book "Built to Last". Nothing revolutionary, really. Yet it's easily lost in a sea of people who think they're doing the greatest magic in capitalist history by coming up with some way to "monetize social media". ■ Maybe there's something useful to social media, maybe there's not. Maybe there's something wonderful about Patagonia's purpose, maybe there's not. ■ But there are altogether too many people who dismiss the idea that businesses can be purposeful. A whole cadre of onlookers think that government is the only party that can do good, and business can do nothing but act selfishly. They're wrong. It's actually well within the scope of business to be both profitable and purposeful. ■ Suppose, for instance, that we wanted to truly make a dent in unemployment. Government can create lots of big jobs-creation programs, and they may often end up being as useful as hiring ten men to dig a ditch and ten others to fill it back in. But it's also possible for a batch of motivated people to capitalize a business with the sole purpose of employing people. That's not the ordinary purpose of business, but if people wanted to create such a firm, they could. ■ Owners might deliberately sacrifice a portion of their expected profits in the interest of deliberately employing more people than necessary. And if it's a profit-making, private-sector firm dedicated to the purpose of employment, then it's vastly more likely to produce results than haphazard guesswork by the government.

Business and Finance Is this the right message for global development?
The President plans to appoint the co-chief investment officer of Pimco to chair a global development council. Pimco isn't exactly a sunshine-and-lollipops kind of operation. They're the ones who talk about "the new normal", which looks to a future of low returns and high levels of regulation.

Business and Finance Savers have missed out on huge stock gains
Fear and panic have chased people out of the stock market for no sensible reason.

Iowa Culver 2014? Please, no.
The former governor of Iowa is thinking of running again for the office. Had he left behind a stellar record, maybe. But it was far from spectacular. Apparently, a lot of Democrats are pondering a run against Terry Branstad, who most certainly ought to run again. Branstad does what any Republican official should concentrate most upon doing: Competently and efficiently managing the things government must do, while resisting the urge to get government into lots of things people may simply want it to do.

Humor and Good News Sometimes, the best thing to leave behind is a cookie recipe

The United States of America How old will you be in 2050? Ready to share the country with 440 million other people?
America's infrastructure -- not just the "roads and bridges" that President Obama is always talking about, but also the dams and water-treatment plants and airports and harbors and power plants and sewers and levees and locks and other non-sexy things that the public needs every day but doesn't always see -- needs a whole lot of investment. Though infrastructure work certainly can create jobs, that's not why we should care about infrastructure investment. We need to care about it because it is a necessary (though not always sufficient) component of civilization and economic growth. ■ Just as it's a bad idea to look at a house as an speculative investment, it's a bad idea to think of infrastructure improvements as a speculation on jobs. A family should buy a house because they need a place to live and because it's suitable to what they need and can afford, not because they hope it'll appreciate 500% in price so they can sell it. Similarly, we shouldn't throw money at paving roads because we hope it'll create jobs and spur the economy, we should do it when it's the best use of a tax dollar for ensuring that we continue to have what we need to live in a civilized way. Obsessing over "roads and bridges" as a jobs plan may actually distract attention (and funding) from the infrastructure priorities we need most. ■ We most certainly need to spend money on infrastructure improvements. The important thing is to be sure we're spending that money wisely and where it's sensibly needed most, not just where it wins votes. The private sector also accounts for a lot of infrastructure spending -- like the billions that railroads spend on tracks and bridges and rolling stock. They have a huge incentive to spend that money wisely. So should the public sector.

Computers and the Internet The Instagram/Twitter feud may be perfectly-timed for Flickr
Flickr, which belongs to Yahoo, may be poised for a bit of a renaissance after updating some of its social-media features (like its iPhone app. That may be a sign Marissa Mayer (who now runs Yahoo) is acting on a smart strategy to boost some of their individual properties.

News Military police chief of Syria quits
He's gone to Turkey, saying the military there is no longer protecting the people

Computers and the Internet UK school (wisely) adds lessons on defamation and social media to the curriculum
It's too easy for the young and naive to say things that are profoundly stupid to a really big audience

Business and Finance A select few charities for your consideration
It's unfortunate that outsiders can't donate to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They're really setting an extremely high standard for effectiveness and accountability.

Computers and the Internet Even the Zuckerberg family doesn't always get Facebook privacy right

Health Using the Myers-Briggs personality type to anticipate responses to stress

Science and Technology Stop giving "chemicals" a bad name
Lecturer says, "Yes they're obscure, get over it, this is life and we are just a big bag of chemicals"

Computers and the Internet 55% of traffic to British newspaper sites comes from outside the UK
A huge chunk comes from the US

News Plan working through Russian government would stop adoptions by Americans
Should children really be kept from caring homes just because of national pride?

Business and Finance Fiscal cliff...not resolved
At this stage, either something last-minute must be resolved, or it's going to be a needlessly rocky January. ■ It's time for some real honesty. The people who make the decisions at the highest level in this republic are either dishonest or utterly economically incompetent if they don't say the following out loud: "We are demanding more out of our government than we can presently afford. We need to pay more, get less, or both." There's no escaping it, just as there is no escaping several other facts. ■ One is that we cannot get richer as a country without getting better at what we do. Part of having things like iPads and Galaxy S-III smartphones is paying for these new things by being better at what we do -- be it sweeping sidewalks or performing brain surgery. It's not right, nor possible in the long term, to be a free-rider on progress. ■ For an economy to grow at 3% or 4% a year per person, then we must produce 3% or 4% more per year per person. And that is substantially more to be produced per worker, since not everyone works, and moreover we have a demographic change in which lots of people are retiring and are not being replaced by new workers. ■ It's also inescapable that workers can't get much better at their work without tools. Someone has to pay for those tools -- and the training necessary to make them useful. That requires capital. No capital means no increase in labor productivity. No increase in labor productivity means no increase in national income. And when policies and political language persecute capital, that hurts workers and national income alike. ■ One more thing: There are lots of free riders, and they're not always poor, as some people might believe. There are too many free riders on Wall Street and Silicon Valley.