Gongol.com Archives: January 2013
Brian Gongol

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.