Gongol.com Archives: January 2013
Brian Gongol

January 2013
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January 2, 2013

Broadcasting Some far-out questions for your consideration
Why do we give free health care to the elderly instead of to children and young adults? Why don't we fire Congress for not balancing the budget? Why are Congressional districts ten times larger than in the early days of the nation, and why don't we go back? Why don't people get a tax credit for being good citizens? Why do we baffle ourselves with huge numbers instead of talking about budgets in per-person terms?

Broadcasting Al Jazeera buys Current TV

News What happens if Russia shuts down adoptions by American families?

Computers and the Internet Why are we so slow to get high-speed Internet access all over the country?

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January 3, 2013

Agriculture Founding father of the anti-GMO movement recants
If we don't take some scientific steps to make our agriculture more effective, we aren't going to be able to feed the world

Broadcasting The value of a good brand name
How much is a good brand name worth? And why doesn't Congress do something about the economic war between the states?

Humor and Good News What "social-media experts" really are

Weather and Disasters A time-lapse of severe-weather warnings in 2012
(Video) There were at least two "Tornado Alleys" this past year

The United States of America A great visualization of the debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff
Newspaper cartoonist Tom Toles nails it. Jeff Koterba got it right, too.

The United States of America John F. Kennedy wasn't quite the speedy talker people think he was

Health What happens when faces are made artificially symmetrical
Making a person's face symmetrical (with the help of Photoshop) can make them look like a totally new person

Science and Technology Some great industrial designs from 2012

News What people mean by "spiritual, but not religious"

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January 4, 2013

Business and Finance Why deflation hurts
As well as some thoughts on the importance of making America 2100 a better place than America today

Computers and the Internet Hulu CEO resigns
It's still owned by Fox, Disney, and NBC

News Why is Eric Schmidt going to North Korea?
Google's executive chairman says he's going on a "personal humanitarian mission", but there's also a lot of cheap labor available there.

Computers and the Internet Twitter may plan to go public in 2014
Going public is a curious choice for a firm that's making money. It -- somewhat obliquely -- telegraphs the moment when a company's owners think the prospects are at their peak.

Iowa A truce in the war between the cities
Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty may agree to stop trying to snipe one another's business. But what's really needed is a national prohibition on trying to steal other places' stuff.

Socialism Doesn't Work Chinese newspaper journalists sign letter against a propaganda official
The tension between China's controls on personal freedoms and their exploitation of some market forces simply cannot go on forever.

Business and Finance Some reasons to be positive about 2013
Not everything must be doom and gloom

Aviation News Return of the airship
A rigid-bodied airship for military and cargo use is ready for some test flights soon

Computers and the Internet Does Rosetta Stone really work as a language teacher?
A credible reviewer says yes, as long as you're curious enough to conduct some additional study of the details

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January 5, 2013

The American Way Time for a national attitude adjustment
A USA Today poll suggests that there's a vast surplus of pessimism in America, particularly about economic issues. And while there is considerable reason for disappointment -- a President who won't acknowledge the imperative need to control spending among them -- the long-term engines of prosperity in America remain in place and can be brought to full throttle if we will let them. ■ Our primary obstacles seem to come back to dependency. Do we await another bailout or another "stimulus" package or another "economic-development" offer before getting to work? We shouldn't. Nor should we hope that the government will sensibly allocate things like "green" tax credits or job-creation funds. The Federal government has shown no reasonable capacity to even balance its own budget, much less to make sensible real-world, private-sector investments that pay off. ■ Over the intermediate and long terms, things will get better in America. Sustainably. Persistently. And they must, if we are to even pretend to fix some of our great structural problems -- the need to fund our vast entitlement complex, or the need to bring our infrastructure up to the kind of first-class standards we expect.

News Can Chavez remain Venezuela's president if he's too sick to take the oath of office?
It's hard to rule a country by remote

Science and Technology More self-piloted cars: Now one from Toyota
Google's been putting self-driving cars on the road for a short while, and now Toyota appears to be doing the same thing. Self-piloted cars should be a huge benefit to society when we get them -- saving energy (by driving more efficiently than people), saving lives (since they should be considerably safer than human-piloted vehicles), and saving lots of valuable time (allowing people to make use of the many hours we spend behind the wheel -- especially in America -- doing something other than developing road rage at the other drivers around us). This is a can't-wait-for-it technology.

The United States of America Party control by state, 2013
Many, many states are essentially under single-party control, which gives those parties the opportunity to show that they can actually govern effectively. And if they don't, the voters in those states should punish them severely at the ballot box.

Science and Technology The "fiscal cliff" bill was signed by autopen

Broadcasting Funny-man Hassel departs Des Moines television

Computers and the Internet The majority of Americans with cell phones now have smartphones
Nielsen says 56% of mobile-phone users were on smartphones by the third quarter.

Business and Finance Some unofficial new looks for old brands
It's funny what non-commissioned redesigns tell us: People really do care about their brands, and are disappointed when they feel like those brands aren't living up to the users' expectations.

Computers and the Internet A majority of adults around the world think people over-share online

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January 6, 2013

Business and Finance An adversarial labor relationship won't keep a company around for the long term

The United States of America Former Sen. Chuck Hagel could be the next Secretary of Defense

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January 7, 2013

Broadcasting Are we using enough prizes in this country?

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January 8, 2013

Computers and the Internet The relentless forward march of Google Plus
It's hardly an active, widespread social-networking site...for now. But the company just isn't going to give up on the project. Guaranteed.

Business and Finance Towards a future of many more companies...but not many more employees
The more it becomes possible -- and even rewarding -- to have employee-free businesses, the more they're going to show up. Technology enables this. It's bad for people who just want to punch a clock or who aren't interested in making their own skill sets more valuable.

Computers and the Internet Target says it'll start price-matching online competitors
That includes Amazon.com. The Internet is great for consumers, but it can definitely be painful to the people who own the companies whose markets it undercuts.

Computers and the Internet A positive spin on classroom rumors
A team of kids in Iowa City is using Twitter to say nice things about other people

Science and Technology Some interesting (and important) risk-related questions for 2013
Not all of them will be effectively asked in Washington, but they should be

Recent radio podcasts

January 9, 2013

Science and Technology What's on display at the Consumer Electronics Show

Iowa Making electric-car drivers pay the same registration fees as everyone else
The Iowa DOT is looking to lawmakers for help matching the registration fee to that paid by other drivers. And it still won't cover their share of wear and tear on the roadways that isn't recouped by the gasoline tax.

Iowa Does a pretty building require an ugly tax subsidy?
A 20-story tower planned for Iowa City might get $13 million in tax subsidies towards its $54 million price tag

Broadcasting Why a debt jubilee isn't going to do any good

News Baseball Hall of Fame elects no one
After how they treated Ron Santo over the years, it should be no surprise they let down everyone this year

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January 10, 2013

Business and Finance Americans aren't the only chronic under-savers
South Korea has a household debt level of 89% of GDP. That doesn't make it good for either country -- but it does signal that we perhaps have a common problem.

Computers and the Internet What really is the impact of "Tosh.0" on society?
Or, put another way: "What happens if we spend all day exposed to the extremes of life, to a steady stream of the most improbable events, and try to run ordinary lives in a background hum of superlatives?" It's a good question. Maybe even a great one.

Science and Technology Some long-missing images from Benoit Mandelbrot's collection

Humor and Good News "Man has alarming level of pride in institution that left him $50,000 in debt"
And yet again, The Onion satirizes a painful truth

Business and Finance A conversation with Charlie Munger
(Video) A most interesting two-hour Q-and-A session with the Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman

Broadcasting WGN shuts down "Extension 720"
Milt Rosenberg's nightly program was unique: It was public-radio highbrow without being public-radio boring. Sometimes he had his mind already made up on a topic, but more often than not, it was enlightening listening.


January 11, 2013

Computers and the Internet Message Mark Zuckerberg for $100
What message could you really have for the guy that would be really so important?

Socialism Doesn't Work Socialism gets you a quick path to scarcity
Just ask Venezuela

Business and Finance Underfunding of public pensions: The iceberg nobody sees yet
We're in for a world of hurt. Cities, counties, school districts, and states have all been badly underfunding their pension systems. It's going to be a disaster when the reality hits.

Aviation News Problems with the 787 shake faith in Boeing
It's been a bad week for Boeing

Aviation News How to survive a plane crash
The chances of being in a crash are infinitely low. But if the cost of reading and internalizing the information is sufficiently low, it might be a worthwhile exercise.

News How much subsidy will the new Metrodome need?

Humor and Good News "What?"
(Video) News anchor finds himself surprised by the camera

Humor and Good News "We've got a truckin' convoy..."
Where that nutty song came from

Business and Finance Many factory jobs that have gone away aren't coming back
ISU economist says: "Manufacturing remains a huge part of our economy, but itís relying on less and less labor over time." True.


January 12, 2013

News Would Jack Lew be a business-savvy Treasury Secretary?

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January 13, 2013

The United States of America Remember when the "Anglosphere" was the buzzword of the day?
The phrase was highly prominent in 2005 and 2006, but it's hardly used today. And the UK (which probably depends more upon the idea than the United States) may be getting signals from the Obama administration that the notion of shared principles and objectives -- creating a strong bond of common interest -- may be eroding. Writes one columnist: "The US is turning its face towards the Pacific while Britain counts for less." It's all a result of some talk from a State Department official who seems to have suggested that we value the UK relationship mostly because the UK is part of the European Union, not for its own right. It's being seen as a meddlesome bit of interference by the US. The UK could be putting its membership in the EU up for a vote, as the amount of skepticism about the EU seems to be rising along with frustrations over the finances of some of the member countries.

Iowa Smartphones are now severely displacing old-style cell phones
Google's Android operating system is capturing the largest number of sales and activations by a significant margin

Computers and the Internet Tech tip: Should you use the integrated calendar on your smartphone?

Broadcasting The problem with private equity is that most people don't really understand it

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January 15, 2013

Broadcasting Why Google needs to look beyond the search engine

Water News Using sliding rates rather than mandatory restrictions to conserve water in a drought

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January 16, 2013

Aviation News Boeing has had better weeks
Battery fires aboard the new Dreamliners have spooked the FAA enough that is has grounded every US-based 787. Japan's big airlines voluntarily grounded their 787s already.

Business and Finance Russian saber-rattling over Japan's currency
Russia doesn't want Japan to weaken its currency. If your currency is weak, that means foreigners get more for their money when they buy your stuff, so a weak-money policy can be very good for exports. Russia doesn't want to see Japan benefit from that at Russia's expense. Heaven help us if the world gets embroiled in a currency-manipulation bloodbath.

Business and Finance Goldman Sachs will pay an average of $400,000 per employee in 2012
Investment bankers would make less money if the rest of us stopped being willfully ignorant about finance

Computers and the Internet Kaspersky bags the target in the hunt for "Red October"
The antivirus and online security firm reports that it discovered a massive cyber-espionage campaign that's been going on since 2007 and continues to this day. Nobody has made a firm identification yet of the perpetrators, but Russian criminals and Chinese government agents are on the shortlist.

Computers and the Internet Coming soon: A new way to search through Facebook
It was announced to great fanfare, but whether it's anything great or revolutionary is yet to be seen. The upgraded search tool in Facebook may allow people to conduct somewhat natural-language searches of the people in their social networks. The beta test will take a while.

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January 17, 2013

Business and Finance JP Morgan board cuts CEO's pay
It's a signal that they're punishing him for a big trading loss last year. Boards are altogether too often so much in bed with upper management that it's uncommon to see something like this happen. Perhaps it should more often.

News Ricketts family plans hotel next to Wrigley Field


January 18, 2013

Health Energy-drink overdoses send lots of people to the hospital
A government report says that almost 21,000 people went to emergency rooms in 2011 with symptoms of caffeine overdosage. The report says men are almost three times as likely as women to overdo caffeine in such a big way. But it should be noted: a lot of coffee blends are even more turbocharged than off-the-shelf energy drinks. While overdosing is a bad thing to do, our relationship with caffeine is a funny thing: It's a performance-enhancing drug that is almost universally consumed. Except for people who observe real or imagined religious prohibitions on its consumption, it's hard to find people who don't caffeinate somehow -- through pop, coffee, tea, or chocolate. And, if it has useful effects (like improved powers of concentration) when consumed at moderate rates throughout the day, then it's probably a very useful performance-enhancing drug indeed. But if you're a know-it-all politician, why not just propose to ban high-caffeine products altogether? Egads.

Iowa "Hey, Dad, why don't you become a Catholic priest?"
And other things that haven't been said out loud by more than a handful of people alive

Computers and the Internet All the world's Tweets are being captured by the Library of Congress
We've known that for quite some time, but it bears repeating -- particularly in the era of the judgment economy. And when James Gleick weighs in, it's worth re-considering.

Broadcasting How suggestible are some people?
(Video) One has to wonder how many people are swayed by television ads for medication. If you can be influenced to buy Prilosec because it's endorsed by Larry the Cable Guy, you probably shouldn't be allowed to self-medicate.

Computers and the Internet Life Flight helicopter pilot wants his own first-responder app to take off

Computers and the Internet The latest on the Java security hole
Norton says its antivirus programs are protecting against exploitation of the security hole, and Kaspersky says they're protecting against exploits, too. Supposedly, Oracle (which makes Java) has patched the problem, so (hypothetically) one should be OK if they both keep Java updated (not just JavaScript -- which is separate from Java, but should also be kept up-to-date in its own right) and run a reputable antivirus and anti-malware suite. But the advice being doled out is inconsistent and often confusing. And it's not helped by Oracle, which instead of saying something clearly and unequivocally in a place any dummy could find it (and keeping people updated daily on the progress toward a solution), just buries some commentary under a mountain of jargon in a "security alert" deep within their "Technology Network" site. Not even a press release. Oh, there was a half-explanation somewhere on a "Software Security Assurance Blog" that could have been found if one had been watching their Twitter feed carefully. But that announcement was made only once -- so unless you happened to look for and find that one particular Tweet (and then happened to follow the link, read the update, and somehow translate it from geek-speak into English), then you probably haven't gotten any kind of assurance. Someone at Oracle needs to learn a thing or two about communication.

Business and Finance Do not call yourself a "guru", a "wizard", a "master", or anything else superlative
Bill Gates doesn't need a fluffy title on his business card. Nor does Warren Buffett. Nor Hillary Clinton. If you're superlatively good at what you do, you don't have to tell everyone.

The United States of America There's no reason for everyone to vote
George Will makes a fine point: "A small voting requirement such as registration, which calls for the individual voterís initiative, acts to filter potential voters with the weakest motivations." Same-day voter registration and other full-throttle efforts to get everyone in the universe to the polls are troublesome in that way: Voting is a duty, to be sure, but it's one that should be undertaken with some degree of understanding of what the vote really means. It's not just about choosing Coke versus Pepsi. It's a matter of rather significant historical anomaly that we have the right to vote freely without fear of violence or reprisal. Or the right to vote at all. Lots of us are descended from people who were told what to do by their kings and other potentates. If that sense of historical obligation is not enough to motivate a person to do so much (or so little, really) as to register to vote sometime in advance of an election, then that person probably isn't going to invest a lot of effort in the process of considering the issues, values, or people involved.

Computers and the Internet Very good advice for families on preventing teen sexting

Business and Finance Who gets the essence of oil-boom money right, Canada or Norway?
Norway's government has captured a lot of the nation's oil wealth and socked it away in a sovereign-wealth fund. Canada's approach has been much more privately-oriented. On one hand, it's easy for a nation to go broke after the boom turns to bust (which booms always do). But on the other hand, it takes a profoundly enlightened government and a massively cohesive society to channel the lion's share of the profits from a boom in a way that ends up truly benefitting the people in a socially-optimal way. There's probably a middle ground to be had.

Health Take two minutes for a self-exam today
Take a minute or two and conduct some basic self-screenings for cancer. Early detection saves lives. There's lots of misinformation about cancer that finds its way around the Internet, largely because we've been trained to wait expectantly for some sort of magic-bullet solution to cancer. But cancer risks can be significantly reduced through a balanced diet, exercise, and early detection and treatment. Meanwhile, science is making great progress towards improving genetic detection, which holds great promise for some types of cancer. Instead of forwarding hoax-ridden e-mails about "cancer cures" and false threats, people should instead remind their friends and family to assess their health once a month.
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January 20, 2013

Computers and the Internet What is cloud computing, and is it safe to use?
A plain-English guide for the ordinary person

Business and Finance The people who pay a tax aren't always the people who give the money to the government
Companies that make medical devices are paying a 2.3% excise tax to help fund the Federal health-care program. A lot of people undoubtedly think that means the 2.3% will come straight out of the company's profits (and this in turn can lead to strongly populist instincts about sticking it to the people making a profit in health care). But the people who pay for a tax aren't always the ones who cut the checks to the IRS. Every tax (just like every other kind of cost increase) is paid in part by the seller and in part by the buyer. The split is mysterious and varies from exchange to exchange, but it all comes down to a cost split. And if we're trying to cut the cost of medical care, do we really accomplish that by taxing medical products more?

Science and Technology Technology making life safer on the roads
Volvo is showing off its technology for forcing trucks to brake automatically before they collide with slow-moving or stopped vehicles on the road

News Angst and the graphic designer

The United States of America "Immigration is still an entrepreneurial act"

Business and Finance Great time to be a long-term stock buyer
Short-term worries about earnings are just going to make good companies cheaper to buy -- and it might last for a while to come

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January 22, 2013

Computers and the Internet Wealth and good-looking websites are uncorrelated

Business and Finance Why Wall Street ends up with so much undeserved cash
They just have to stand there as the gatekeepers while Americans buy or sell the equivalent of every single share of stock in the entire country TWICE every year. We're just giving them the money because we're stupid and impatient about money.

News Minnesota has some serious problems with underfunded public pensions
Taxpayers will end up on the hook


January 23, 2013

Business and Finance The latest figures on the US economy

News Economic troubles have a real impact on people's lives
An Irish politician committed suicide recently, and his brother blames the public's reaction to some of the budget cuts he had to defend. There are very few things more important than getting economics and public health right.

Weather and Disasters 3D snapshots of falling snowflakes could improve weather forecasting and reporting

Weather and Disasters Why don't we all have portable hail blankets for our cars?

Humor and Good News The Presidential inauguration you saw depends on the network you watched
(Video) The Daily Show took a funny look at how Fox News and MSNBC reported on two totally different networks, while CNN failed to show up thoughtfuly at all.

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January 24, 2013

Business and Finance Lots of people could find their jobs threatened by computers and automation

Iowa Why MidAmerican Energy has been so aggressive about wind energy
Tax credits have made wind energy an affordable option for the utility company, and lawsuits that could shut down coal-burning operations at a major power plant hint that it's going to become more expensive and painful to produce electricity from conventional sources in the future.

Computers and the Internet Conserving cash, Nokia skips dividend for the first time in 143 years
That's the problem with being in the technology business: It's too unpredictable. Nokia wasn't always a tech firm, and though it should be commended for adapting well enough over the years to stay in business, it should be no surprise that morphing into a technology company made it far more susceptible to bad times. It's really, really hard to be resilient when consumers are bombarded constantly with offers of newer, better stuff -- stuff that's expensive to develop and deeply subject to whims in tastes and preferences. On a related note, it's hard to stay profitable in the airline business for different reasons -- mainly an income statement that is deeply price-competitive on the revenue side and highly uncontrollable on the cost side.

Computers and the Internet Twitter takes over the local news
Quite nearly half of the useful information in the initial version of a story about a political operative's car crash in Minnesota was based upon postings on Twitter. Later versions of the story incorporated more original reporting, but it's noteworthy that Twitter -- which probably should have been usurped by now -- has found some surprising durability by entrenching itself among people who like to talk about sports and politics. Those two niche audiences seem to keep it lively while the mass audiences may still be underwhelmed.

Computers and the Internet Bing: Still not quite profitable, but losing less money than before

Computers and the Internet Insurance worries could put the brakes on self-driving cars
But they shouldn't. The ultimate result of self-piloted cars should be a dramatic increase in safety and a much better allocation of human time. Driving may be necessary, but it's rarely a good use of the driver's brain power.

Computers and the Internet Why you see "shva" in the browser address bar when using Gmail
It supposedly refers to "should have valid authentication" -- not The Destroyer or the mourning period after a Jewish death.

News Wisconsin has plans to offer online college degrees
But with a twist: A liberal test-out policy may allow people with the right knowledge to get that degree without ever taking a class. Frankly, it's a long-overdue idea, based mainly upon the premise that about a fifth of adults in that state started college but didn't finish. Making an easier path for them to complete their degrees is a smart thing to do.

News China's time as the world's bulk supplier of cheap labor may be coming to an end
That doesn't mean the country will cease to be the world's greatest exporter of cheap, rip-off, pirated junk. No, "Made in China" may long continue to mean "blatantly copied and stolen from other countries".

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January 25, 2013

Aviation News The new look at American Airlines
It's clean enough for now, but it'll look outdated in less than a decade. It would have been better if they'd made some kind of nod to the Astrojet livery of the 1960s, or even better, the earlier one. The "Flagship" livery was quite stunning, really.

Agriculture Hunger is more often political than natural
Some people in central Asia are going hungry because of a political dispute over borders. And that's more often the case than hunger due to natural causes, like crop failures. It's sad for humanity that we're scientifically capable of producing enough food for billions of people, but we allow avoidable squabbles over human matters to keep that food from getting to the people who need to eat it.

News Why is China investing in Central Asia?
Is it working on projects there as part of a global program of influence-building? Or is there a different motive involved, like keeping the Xinjiang province from splitting away? Rest assured: The map of China in 2030 will look different from the one of 2013.

Aviation News So, what's causing the battery fires aboard the Boeing 787s?

Computers and the Internet Changing your passwords: Necessary but not sufficient
An editor from Fortune points out that even though he carefully maintains great password hygiene, someone still used social programming to trick him into visiting a corrupted website, which in turn gave the crooks a route to hack his Twitter account.

Computers and the Internet And thus begins the panic over Apple
Nobody should wish the company harm; there are lots of investors, employees, and suppliers whose well-being is tied into the company. But Apple got over-hyped, and it's no surprise that the stock price has come down from its lofty heights of not that long ago. The only matter that was up to question was when -- not whether -- reality would take over. And the reality is that calling Apple the world's "most-valuable company" is misleading. It has recently been the highest-priced company in the world -- when the price of the company is taken as the number of shares multiplied by the most recent sale price for one of those shares. But a company's actual value isn't quite so straightforward: It's a subjective assessment of what it has, what it's likely to earn in the future, and what it takes to make those earnings possible. Price is what you pay, but value is what you get.

Computers and the Internet DHS Secretary Napolitano: A massive cyber-attack on America could happen "imminently"
Why, yes, it could. And that's really no change from any moment in the last decade. But because many in Washington are painfully illiterate on technology issues, we can't even begin to have a thoughtful discussion on these matters.

Health The swine flu really was an epidemic

Business and Finance The national debt isn't a new thing
It was essential to keeping the young United States together (read "Hamilton's Blessing" sometime for the full story).

Science and Technology Scientists claim they can turn light into a tractor beam
It only works on a microscopic scale, but even there it may have useful application in areas like medicine

Recent radio podcasts

January 26, 2013

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin is retiring
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could start with a blank slate and ask ourselves (as Iowans): Who is the smartest, most dependable, most thoughtful person we could send to an august body of decision-makers who are challenged with bringing wisdom and sobriety to the decision-making process of government?

Computers and the Internet New coding technology approved by ITU will allow more video with less bandwidth

Iowa Sioux City was once a city of 200,000 people

Threats and Hazards North Korea plans to rattle the nuclear saber again
And when they say they're planning a test directed at the United States, one has to wonder just how the leadership there got the idea that this would be smart. And it's not as if people weren't already quite worried about military clashes in the Pacific Rim.

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January 28, 2013

The United States of America Businesses expect a new wave of regulations
Now that the President is starting his second term with no electoral consequences to himself for what happens next

Aviation News Japan's air-transport regulator says it isn't the battery on the 787 that's causing trouble

Computers and the Internet A new .jpg image file format: Better than the old, but will it be preserved?
The Library of Congress is just the right type of institution to worry about whether old file formats will become unreadable in the future because they aren't widely adopted or go obsolete

@briangongolbot on Twitter

January 29, 2013

News South Korea launches its own civilian rocket into space
They've spent half a billion dollars on the project, which technically gets a research satellite into orbit -- but subtextually gets the message across that North Korea isn't the only country on the small peninsula that's capable of launching things

Business and Finance Do young workers only enter jobs with dreams of retiring young?

Computers and the Internet Facebook tracks where the football fans are

Science and Technology How fractal is your plumage?
The more complex the plumage, the more attractive the bird -- to potential mates


January 30, 2013

Broadcasting Google is thinking of adding paid channels to YouTube

Science and Technology How to get out of quicksand
Plus a lesson in non-Newtonian fluids

Threats and Hazards Egypt's military warns of possible state collapse on its Facebook page
The BBC interprets this as a warning to protesters

News You might've been richer than Zimbabwe last week
The country had $217 in its national bank account at one point last week. A non-trivial number of people carry more than that in their wallets.

Broadcasting What else you could get for the price of a Super Bowl ad
Seems like there may be more effective ways to spend four million advertising dollars

Health Deterrents must be suited to their intended outcomes
A proposal in the Iowa House would create a new criminal offense for mothers who deliver babies who test positive for the presence of drugs. The intention is sound: Pregnant women can endanger their children when they take addictive drugs. But if the child's health is the most paramount issue, and the mothers have already shown sufficient neglect that they are willing to take drugs in the first place, then adding a criminal offense only seems likely to discourage them from getting adequate medical care. As a matter of public health, this seems likely to endanger the children even further. Some sort of evidence must be available to show whether there are more effective means of protecting babies from harm by their mothers. It seems hard to imagine that there isn't a better solution available.

Humor and Good News Most people are fundamentally good at heart
Take the case of the junior-high students -- male and female -- who are knitting scarves for second-graders as a community service gesture

News A flavor chart to woods for smoking meat

Business and Finance How "The Onion" takes advertising to a new level

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