Gongol.com Archives: 2012 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Health Alex Karras sues the NFL for head injuries

Broadcasting Cell phones have (almost) killed CB radio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agriculture Chokecherry tree blossoms up-close

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Business and Finance April 2012 EconDirectory

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