Gongol.com Archives: 2012 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol



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



Science and Technology Some fascinating optical illusions
(Video)

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.