Gongol.com Archives: June 2013
Brian Gongol


June 2013
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June 2, 2013

News Chicago Sun-Times lays off entire photography staff
Freelancers and reporters will be expected to pick up the slack

Iowa And you thought your mail was lost...
...one letter mailed in 1943 was just delivered in Sioux City

Broadcasting Larry King returning to TV with show on Russian-based cable network

Broadcasting This week in "making money and having fun"

WHO Radio Wise Guys on Facebook


June 3, 2013

Iowa An old editor reminisces about the Des Moines Register
Michael Gartner clearly wishes the Des Moines Register were something closer to what it used to be.

Computers and the Internet Who wants to buy Hulu?
News Corp. and Disney are trying to sell it, and it's reported that DirecTV, Time Warner, KKR, Yahoo, and others are all in the running as potential buyers

Computers and the Internet Public pressure sends Facebook after pages featuring hate speech
The number of chuckleheads who think they're being funny when they joke about domestic violence is far too many

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June 4, 2013

Business and Finance Lessons from Zynga's troubles
The online-game maker is in trouble, with plans to lay off 20% of its employees soon. What lessons can be taken away from their experience? (1) All bubbles eventually burst; desktop gaming was just another of many. (2) The best way to stay in business is to try to put yourself out of business; Zynga apparently didn't try hard enough to get mobile platforms right, and stayed too long with desktop games. (3) Overspending may be fun, but it's not good business; buying office buildings and overpriced subsidiaries doesn't seem to have helped Zynga's fortunes.

News "Functional obsolescence" and our bridges
When a bridge is called "functionally obsolete", that means it still works -- but we wouldn't design a replacement in the same way. Unfortunately, even though "roads and bridges" are a popular refrain for infrastructure spending right now (and there are many bridges, for sure, that need it), infrastructure is about much, much more than just roads and bridges. We are generally ignoring dams and water plants and the power grid and many other things, to our peril.

Socialism Doesn't Work 24 years ago: Tiananmen Square
Watch the Frontline special on "The Tank Man"

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June 6, 2013

The United States of America Never trust yourself with power you wouldn't trust your opponents to use wisely
The uproar over the revelations of telephone and Internet surveillance conducted by the Federal government that may very well have encroached on the privacy of a very substantial number of American citizens is clouded in all kinds of mystery and crosstalk. But it does highlight the great danger in any group asserting powers when in office that they wouldn't entrust to their opponents. Everyone thinks their own motives are pure...but the whole idea of the "rule of law" is that we aren't subject to the whims of transitory things like motives, but rather are bounded by a sense of self-restraint that supersedes the stories we tell ourselves about our own purity.

The United States of America Better enforcement of exclusion orders? Yes, please.
They're a tool the government can use to block the importation of products that infringe on intellectual property rights

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June 10, 2013

The United States of America The left may be regretting the choice for President Obama
The administration's approach to national security and other policies doesn't seem to be living up to the promises of openness and freedom that were made in 2008 and in 2012. The NSA promises that its data-sniffing system is operated carefully and that they correct errors, but who can really know whether that's the truth when everything is conducted under cloaks of secrecy with no meaningful civilian oversight?

Iowa Iowa is already well ahead of 2012's year-end totals for precipitation

Aviation News US Airways is really taking over American Airlines
They announced plans for most of the new management team to come from US Air. American Airlines will emerge from bankruptcy with its old name but under new management.

Computers and the Internet Unnamed company plans $140 million data center for West Des Moines

Computers and the Internet Twitter finally expands list options
Any user can now have 1,000 lists (as opposed to the previous limit of 20), with 5,000 members of each list (previously capped at 500). This is long overdue and a major improvement to Twitter's functionality.

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June 11, 2013

Computers and the Internet Apple overhauls the iOS for iPhones
Version 7 is a lot less cluttered, at least on first appearances

Business and Finance Incredibly low interest rates may be fueling bad behavior on Wall Street again
The easier it is to access something as addictive as cheap money, the greater the danger that it leads to addiction.

Humor and Good News Photographer somehow turns traffic into a great short film

Humor and Good News When the history of the fall of Western Civ is written, this video will play a role
(Video) A "dancing queen" that will leave you with nightmares

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June 12, 2013

Science and Technology Should cars get Gorilla Glass?
The material that has shown itself to be enormously popular for smartphone screens might also have a place in the windshield

Computers and the Internet An avalanche of information about the state of Internet use today
Operating systems, what's being shared, who's online...all of it in one entirely overwhelming presentation

Health Vaccinations save lives
There's no escaping the facts: People who feed on paranoia about vaccines are putting themselves and others at risk, including innocent children. It's unconscionable, when the science is clearly in favor of vaccination.

Weather and Disasters Wildfire destroys homes near Colorado Springs
It's big

The United States of America Was government surveillance unconstitutional?
A semi-secret court will allow the release of a ruling on some of the data-gathering activities that hadn't been previously disclosed to the public

Computers and the Internet Microsoft, Facebook, and Google want to report on what they're sharing with the NSA
One would think that's a good first step towards greater transparency in the process

Agriculture Who owns Iowa's farmland?
"62 percent of Iowa farmland was owned by non-farmers last year, up from 60 percent in 2007". That number undoubtedly includes both disinterested investors as well as family members who inherited a piece of the family farm but who moved to the city.

Iowa Des Moines/West Des Moines has nation's best outlook for jobs in coming months
Says a survey by Manpower, reported in Forbes.

Computers and the Internet A big load of updates in Microsoft's Patch Tuesday this month
Of high importance: The ones that refer to "remote code execution", since that's how other people can hijack your machine.

Business and Finance News Corp. divides itself in two

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June 13, 2013

Business and Finance The President's Council of Economic Advisers is an all-Harvard team
There are some fine economists from there -- but isn't a little more heterogeneity in order?

Business and Finance How much do cities owe their growth to the industries already there?
According to one research paper, not as much as we'd likely think. The argument for what are called "agglomeration economies" is that a town with a specialty in one industry should try to attract other businesses from the same industry because that will enhance the economic growth of the city. Des Moines, for instance, is an insurance town. Agglomeration economics suggests that trying to get more insurance companies to reside here would make the city grow, attracting more insurance companies, in a virtuous feedback loop. But, aside from a few outlier cases like Los Angeles, it turns out that the feedback loop is only one of many factors, and not the most important one.

Computers and the Internet Facebook adopts the hashtag
Hashtags got their legs through use on Twitter, but all kinds of other services are starting to adopt them. While occasionally useful, they mostly just make things difficult to read.

Humor and Good News Recording a three-overtime Stanley Cup game...not so easy with a DVR

Computers and the Internet Apple's new iOS looks almost...Microsoft-ish
Yet nobody's really gotten on the Windows Phone bandwagon

Humor and Good News A prize for terrible art
The "Turnip Prize" rewards terrible art that doesn't try too hard

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June 14, 2013

Threats and Hazards Having nothing to hide
Some people say "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide." Those people need to explain why they still have window blinds and curtains.

News Australian army chief lays down the law about sexual abuse
(Video) Worth watching to see what happens when a leader gets unequivocal

Aviation News How to make airships practical for carrying cargo
Variable buoyancy might be just the trick

Business and Finance Angela Merkel thinks labor should get more mobile
Europe has a problem with unemployed youth; some of them undoubtedly could do better by moving.

Weather and Disasters Tornadoes in Belmond, Iowa, on June 12
(Video) Very clear footage

Weather and Disasters Live updates on the fires in Colorado Springs
A helicopter pilot shot some aerial footage of the damage. Containment of the fire is still quite minimal, at least officially -- just 5%.

Computers and the Internet Surveillance in the news ought to heighten awareness of ransomware


Broadcasting Gannett buys Belo television stations

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June 16, 2013

Broadcasting This week in making money and having fun
Notes forthe Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio for June 16, 2013

News This week in sports

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June 18, 2013

Computers and the Internet Why don't we see more Internet-related gains in economic productivity?
A decent question at a time when real earnings are relatively flat

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.

@briangongol on Twitter


June 19, 2013

Computers and the Internet Your best bet for antivirus software right now
When given the choice, go with Kaspersky. For now, it appears to have the best overall record at capturing malware and preventing problems early.

Computers and the Internet Facebook wants you to give real gifts to your online friends
Now they're trying to push real-life gifts, including Amazon gift cards, along with those birthday greetings people leave one another

Computers and the Internet Faster computing changes almost everything
Ideas that might have seemed outlandish just five or ten years ago are rapidly approaching plausibility due to the rate of increase in computing power available to all kinds of users. That means people are looking at ways of screening schools for handguns without forcing everyone through a lumbering metal detector -- and they have a good shot at getting it to work.

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June 20, 2013

Science and Technology Mergers in the 3D printing universe
Widely-known Makerbot is merging with Stratasys, but will probably remain a separate subsidiary

Computers and the Internet Not Auto-Tune, but automatic tunes
Please note that (a) IBM's Watson won "Jeopardy"; (b) music is, fundamentally, mathematical in nature; and (c) Watson won't die of a drug overdose. Long after individual artists burn out (or die much too young), the patterns that made them great can be replicated. Some day soon, a computer will learn to "think" musically like Jimi Hendrix or John Lennon. It won't be exactly the same, but it will be very close, very good, and much better than whatever One Direction is recording.

Health Half of babies born at 25 weeks of gestation can survive with modern medicine

Science and Technology Nature's pretty good at photosynthesis already
(Video) But figuring out how to replicate it mechanically turns out to be a little more tricky. But if we get it right, we'll do quite well by ourselves. If we can achieve ready supplies of super-cheap and abundant energy, then more or less every other problem facing humanity becomes easy to overcome.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft and Apple team up to challenge Google
It's not an Earth-shattering arrangement, but Apple's Siri program will now use Microsoft's Bing search engine to find results when they're outside the normal realm of what Siri can find

Computers and the Internet When's the next edition of Android coming? Nobody seems to know.

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June 21, 2013

Computers and the Internet Instagram ventures into 15-second videos
With Instagram-characteristic filters. One wonders whether the 15-second limit isn't a subtle nod to Warhol's 15 minutes of fame, but compressed into seconds for a media-drenched world. Is there really a reason to become obsessed with the differences between Instagram video and Vine's 6-second videos, or should everyone just calm down? Probably the latter.

Computers and the Internet Are the Apple iOS 7 graphics too gaudy?

Business and Finance Google decides that brain teasers are a pointless way to hire
Google's approach to hiring and interviews always sounded a bit gimmick-heavy, and they've apparently determined that giving people brain teasers as an interview test doesn't really tell them anything useful about how those people will perform as employees.

Business and Finance Dish gives up on pursuit of Sprint
This makes it a lot more likely that Softbank will successful in its attempt to buy out Sprint. But it also highlights the possibility that Dish may just be regrouping and thinking of buying T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom.

Computers and the Internet The market for used games
Microsoft apparently announced, then reversed, a policy to make it more costly for people to buy and sell used Xbox games. But as major software makers are taking things out of the physical world of game cartridges and discs and making them Internet-based (like Adobe's new cloud-based Creative Suite), used games may already be an endangered species, even without a policy.

Aviation News FAA may be ready to allow more access to "the cloud" from among the clouds
A final report from a working group working for the FAA won't come out until September, says the New York Times, but they may be thinking of allowing greater use of electronics in-flight

Business and Finance "Jersey is the new Wall Street"
So much of stock trading is electronic that the NYSE may be headed the way of bell bottoms and mood rings

Computers and the Internet Microsoft plans expansion of West Des Moines data center
Iowa is giving the company a tax break to "create 24 high-quality jobs" with a nearly $700 million expansion of the data center

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June 22, 2013

Broadcasting This week in trends, tips, and technology
Notes for the "WHO Radio Wise Guys"

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June 24, 2013

The United States of America The Supreme Court doesn't care about your Tweets


News Donald Trump is a strange choice to speak to a social-conservative group


News Where to find the largest libraries


The United States of America Another attempt to measure American well-being


Iowa Gov. Branstad warns state universities to think before they build


Computers and the Internet What matters about LinkedIn


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June 25, 2013

Science and Technology Smart and not-so-smart action on climate change
President Obama's proposals on climate change include a lot of ideas that could cost a lot of money. Some would be well-spent. Some would be wasted.

Computers and the Internet Malware for mobile devices is out there


Threats and Hazards 75% of young people are ineligible for military service


Computers and the Internet Supercomputing is coming soon to a business near you


Iowa Iowa's top political donors


Recent radio shows on demand



June 27, 2013

Iowa Iowa tries to sell ICN, but gets bids from only one prospect
The commission overseeing the network rejected the two bids it received from INS

Computers and the Internet When Apple's 3D maps go awry

Weather and Disasters Flooding in Calgary damages bridge, causing train derailment
And the train cars appear to be carrying petroleum products, so that's not a great situation for anyone

Computers and the Internet Verizon and US Cellular issue Android update (4.1.2) to Samsung Galaxy S3 phones

Business and Finance Rising interest rates mean higher costs for public-works projects

Business and Finance Should new technology subsidize old technology?
Did newspapers subsidize the town crier?

Computers and the Internet Stop sending naked-baby photos around the Internet
Today's children beg you. And John McIntyre asks for no more than one baby picture (of any sort) per month.

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June 28, 2013

Business and Finance Personal income fell in 49 states in the first quarter
Only South Dakota had growth. But among the 49 declines, Iowa's was the smallest.

News The Supreme Court's judgment on fonts
With high-profile opinions being issued this week, a question: What's the font face they use? Answer: Something from the Century family.

Computers and the Internet BlackBerry is losing money
The company lost $84 million in the last quarter, even as sales rose. They're pretty much the last manufacturer left standing with keyboards built into their smartphones, but is that enough to keep users around? It's still a popular corporate platform, particularly for e-mail security, but that might not be enough. Meanwhile, it looks like plans for Microsoft to buy Nokia's phone line died out. It's been noted that Microsoft's phone business depends upon Nokia, so if Nokia changes strategy and turns to the Android platform instead, Microsoft could be without a real presence in the smartphone market.

Health People aren't short of time -- they're short of thinking time
It's suggested that the problem many frazzled people have today is not so much that they have too much to do, but that they don't reserve adequate amounts of mental and emotional capacity to make decisions

Computers and the Internet It's not perfect, but Feedly is a decent substitute for Google Reader
It's as close to the Google Reader as any of the other RSS readers on the market. Just be sure not to enable the widget to follow you everywhere you go using the Chrome web browser.

Threats and Hazards Reuters: Chinese newspapers threaten "counterstrike" against Philippines
The two countries dispute one another's claims to parts of the South China Sea, and the newspaper's belligerence may or may not reflect official government attitudes...with a bias towards "may". If one were to make a list of "things the United States really doesn't need right now", towards the top of that list would be "a shooting war between China and one of our allies".

Science and Technology Imagining Earth's skies with Saturn's rings

Computers and the Internet Trojan-horse attack wipes out wide range of files
It looks like it's targeting computers in Korea, though that's no real assurance that it won't migrate elsewhere. And that it's hitting Korean computers certainly ought to raise eyebrows and suspicions as to whether the North Korean government and its cyberwarfare squads are involved.

News Cubs and City of Chicago progress towards agreement on Wrigley Field changes

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June 29, 2013

Broadcasting This week in trends, tips, and technology
Show notes for the WHO Radio Wise Guys for June 29, 2013

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