Gongol.com Archives: August 2013
Brian Gongol

August 2013
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August 1, 2013

Business and Finance An economy growing at 1.7% a year isn't growing fast enough
It's growth, yes. But if we're not getting substantially better per-person at what we're doing, then we're doing something wrong.

Iowa Iowa makes Amber Alerts just a little easier to issue

Computers and the Internet Video-game compulsion isn't "family time"

News The speech they would have heard in Britain in case World War III had brokenout
It's hard to conceive of just how close we pushed ourselves towards extinction back in the Cold War

Threats and Hazards The photos from Syria are depressing


August 2, 2013

Computers and the Internet "Project Oasis" rumors suggest a $200-million data center is looking at Iowa and Nebraska sites

Computers and the Internet Google wants into the local-news business
Some people are taking hints from Google that the company is shifting focus. News aggregation on an ultra-local basis wouldn't exactly be a change of focus -- but it would certainly be different from organizing the information locked inside the world's printed libraries, for instance.

Computers and the Internet Idiots turn to Twitter with threats against journalists
There have always been stupid people. What's new is that stupid people have access to worldwide platforms to share their stupidity. We trade-off this exposure to stupidity for access to the world's great ideas, which are now available faster and more broadly than at any point in human history. For instance: Guacamole deviled eggs, which apparently have existed for at least six months. That is altogether too long for such a great idea not to have been brought to one's attention.

Computers and the Internet Searching the wrong things could get you visited by police
It was initially reported that a Long Island couple got a visit from police because of what they'd been searching on the Internet from home. It was later clarified that suspicion was aroused because of what one of them had searched about from work, at a job from which he had been released. Either way, it has a dreary overtone to it. Is merely searching for a topic from a work computer enough to give the police probable cause for a visit to one's home? Can one be curious how, for instance, a nuclear weapon might be built, without arousing suspicion that one is thinking of building said weapon?

Business and Finance One employee, 80 years at Goldman Sachs

Science and Technology Europe's largest construction project
They're digging a tunnel from west to east across London. It's huge.

Humor and Good News "Blurred Lines" on classroom instruments
(Video) The Jimmy Fallon/Roots stunt remains funny, even after several iterations

News Did Chinese election observers really ensure the fairness of Zimbabwean elections?
That's a tough sell

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August 3, 2013

Computers and the Internet Google's Motorola division releases "Moto X" smartphone
Notable: It has a 10-megapixel camera

Business and Finance Personal savings rate: 4.4%
Which means that many Americans pay more in sales taxes than they save for the future

Business and Finance Does raising the minimum wage really solve problems of poverty?
What's likely needed for many people is a better shot at climbing the economic ladder. That requires good educational and training opportunities (which is a community problem) and personal motivation (which is an individual one). Pandering on the minimum wage may be funny, but it eludes the sober reflection required to make sense of the issue.

Computers and the Internet Research report claims 80% of smartphones shipped last quarter ran Android
Apple's iOS is still #2, with little falling to any otehr systems. That means there's still a decent place for a #3 competitor, if commonplace patterns hold true.

Humor and Good News Satirical logos

News Sale price for the Boston Globe: $70 million in cash
The principal owner of the Red Sox is buying the paper and its associated properties for a tiny fraction of what the New York Times Co. paid for it in 1993. Note that people paying high prices for Facebook stock need to take notice: Major media properties can plummet in value over time.


August 4, 2013

Broadcasting This week in trends, tips, and technology

Broadcasting This week in making money and having fun


August 5, 2013

Agriculture Lab-grown hamburger served for the first time
The idea of lab-grown meat is going to take a while for most people to digest (psychologically), but in the long run, it's an idea that we should do our best to get right. The more we can do to satisfy the world's food needs, the safer human civilization itself will be...and if that requires some novel, innovative, and mind-bending experiments along the way, then so be it.

Humor and Good News Dinosaurs playing Scrabble
Better than dogs playing poker

Business and Finance The New York Yankees get a terrible return on their player-salary investments
They aren't getting the kind of hits per dollar that the market returns for most every other team

Aviation News The future of regional jets
If your home airport isn't a major hub, here are the airplanes that are coming soon to a terminal near you

News Why more choice isn't always a good thing
Chuck Klosterman's 2005 column still resonates -- even though we don't want anyone to take away our choices, sometimes it's satisfying not to have to decide

News The situation in Detroit didn't have to come to bankruptcy
But the choices that would have prevented it needed to have been made long ago and weren't. George Will argues that those calling for a Federal bailout of the city claim to bow to forces as great as a hurricane -- but that those forces are nothing more than the result of irresponsible popular choice. It's very difficult to see a durable solution to the city's problems when many adults aren't even literate to an 8th-grade level. That's a problem so deep that no quick fix is going to work. The state of decay in the physical infrastructure of the city is haunting.

Computers and the Internet Google goes public with "Project Loon"
That's the plan to provide WiFi Internet access over huge geographical areas with the help of high-altitude balloons. Great for consumers, but Google investors will probably come to regret some of the company's (literally and figuratively) lofty ambitions someday.

Business and Finance To get a bead on the economy, check with the machine shops
The people who make the pieces behind the scenes that become the products that other companies assemble can give a decent reading of the tea leaves as to the health of the real economy

News How do you define "fair"?
Alex Rodriguez is going to challenge his suspension from Major League Baseball, and that challenge means an appeal before an independent arbitrator. Consider the number of individual things that weigh on whether the outcome of the process is "fair": The independence and conscientiousness of the arbitrator, the process for revealing and reviewing evidence, the weighing of the rules applied, the circumstances -- including the law -- under which the rules were instituted, the length of the suspension, the cost of the suspension (to the suspended and to his team), the potential deterrent effect of the judgment, the benefits to be gained by breaking the rules, the implicit costs of not breaking the rules, the toll of a rules violation on the integrity of the sport, and the impact on fans of the sport...among many other factors. How does one measure "fairness" in terms of the damage done to the careers of pitchers, for instance, who played by the rules when certain batters did not? (It certainly could have conferred an advantage to pitchers had the roles been reversed.) Can anything be done to compensate them now? What about the potential deterrent effect of a punishment? Does that "make whole" the damage done to players who may already have retired from the game? The point is that "fairness" is an enormously difficult ideal to achieve.

Computers and the Internet At long last, Netflix will allow multiple profiles on the same account
Parents don't want their recommendations contaminated with kids' choices, and vice-versa, and the quality of the Netflix recommendation engine is best used on an individual basis. Letting people share the cost of an account while still getting individualized recommendations is a wonderful feature.

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August 6, 2013

Business and Finance Sen. Tom Harkin calls for higher payouts from Social Security

Science and Technology A look at "America's most dangerous bridges"
Bridges are just physical manifestations of human knowledge

News Americans are driving older cars than ever

Business and Finance A novel form of campaign contribution
Senate candidate Cory Booker got equity in a startup firm

@briangongolbot on Twitter

August 7, 2013

Iowa Forbes names Des Moines best place for business and careers in America
No boom, no bust

Business and Finance The UK struggles with a strange form of intergenerational transfer
In order to buy things (like houses) from their seniors, younger people in the UK have to borrow. They're borrowing the cash...in essence...from the people selling the homes. That makes for a glut of cash available for supposedly low-risk investments (like houses), and thus low returns for the savers.

Business and Finance Quitting with fanfare just makes you an attention hound
A LinkedIn columnist praises big, brassy, over-the-top ways to quit one's job. Talk about a pointless exercise in self-absorption. What is the point of making a scene, filming it, and then posting it for the world to see? It's just a tantrum.

Iowa Iowa City Press-Citizen guts its sports staff

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August 8, 2013

Business and Finance Speculation runs rampant about Jeff Bezos's plans for the Washington Post
One thing is clear: If the newspaper (and its small group of affiliates) is losing $100 million a year with no clear end to the freefall in sight, then paying $250 million in cash to buy it signals that Bezos thinks the cachet associated with the name itself is worth at least $1.5 billion to $2 billion. A handsome sum for a trophy, but he can certainly afford it and may very well have brilliant plans for turning the tide.

Humor and Good News Motorcyclists traveling side-by-side: What could possibly go wrong?
The Onion lampoons, but the point is thoroughly true

Business and Finance Who knew an SEC filing could be hilarious?
Berkshire Hathaway -- the conglomerate controlled by Warren Buffett -- is going to issue bonds priced so that the buyers will be lending the company $600 million at an interest rate of 0.95% for three years. That rate is so low that inflation will undoubtedly exceed the cost of the interest itself -- meaning that the lenders, in real terms, will actually be paying Berkshire for the privilege of lending the money. Truly an extraordinary set of circumstances.

Humor and Good News What did the merger of two advertising giants create?

News Designer of glass buildings fought her own glass ceilings
Interesting obituary profile of a woman who broke into architecture before many others

Health Small-scale US test of malaria vaccine has great results
People who got five doses of the vaccine appear to have developed immunity. But it was a small trial, and it's hard to get anyone to want to suffer through five doses of a vaccine requiring injection into a vein, so it's some distance between this and a practical vaccine. But it's a good sign.

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August 9, 2013

Threats and Hazards Sen. Ron Wyden says secret NSA rules allow for warrant-free searches of phone calls and e-mails
The Senator was responding to The Guardian and its request for information based upon documents leaked to it by Edward Snowden. President Obama seems to be reacting to some of the public outcry on these issues with some limited steps towards greater civilian oversight.

Computers and the Internet "When was the last time that Patch was relevant to your local life?"
TechCrunch asks a good question, particularly in light of AOL's plans to cut staffing at the online local-news source. The route ahead for local news is for established institutions (small community newspapers) to learn how to use the Internet effectively. Trying to start up a network with a national footprint and a national template (as Patch has done) really doesn't quite do the trick. But, unfortunately, many newspapers don't understand how to make the leap to digital.

Science and Technology Checklists matter: Spanish-skyscraper-without-an-adequate-working-elevator edition

Computers and the Internet Child commits suicide after photos of her sexual assault hit the Internet
Truly heartbreaking. Parents absolutely must help their kids navigate the hazards of the Internet age, even if much of what's happening and changing seems fuzzy.

Computers and the Internet How much will Google Glass cost on the open market?
They've been charging beta testers $1,500 -- but there's published speculation that the retail price will be more like $300 -- or 80% off. If true, that would make the gadget much more likely to attract a widespread following, though there's still a great deal to be done to reconcile both law and cultural norms with the possibility of always-on video recording. The difference between the beta-tester price and the supposed retail price also suggests that this may have been the most cunningly-funded R&D project ever.

Computers and the Internet Is Facebook becoming more deliberate about its changes?
Wired Magazine calls it "an end to the Hacker Way". But given the number of times Facebook has changed things without much notice to its users (and the frustration users have felt as a result), an end to the perpetual change might be of merit.

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August 10, 2013

Broadcasting This week in trends, tips, and technology


August 11, 2013

Broadcasting This week in making money and having fun

Broadcasting This week in sports

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August 12, 2013

Business and Finance The Federal Reserve is trying to get back to 2% inflation
Important to know if you invest. Or earn a paycheck. Or draw a pension. Or take in Social Security. Or buy things. Or borrow money.

Computers and the Internet Facebook's new algorithm will create an echo chamber
Their approach to sorting your news feed includes a change to the algorithm, which gives higher priority to news from people with whom you've recently interacted. Which means the more you hear from certain people, the more you will hear from and about them -- and the less from others. Not necessarily a good thing.

Business and Finance More education means less unemployment

Computers and the Internet Twitter's usefulness as an election-prediction tool

Threats and Hazards Idiots vandalize the Iowa State Fair Butter Cow


August 13, 2013

Agriculture USDA predicts Iowa will harvest 17% more corn than in 2012

Iowa Iowa City picks a strange time to close Dubuque Street
Dubuque Street is one of the very few thoroughfares from I-80 to the university campus. Work needs to be done on the interchange with the Interstate, but couldn't they have scheduled that work for some time other than the start of the fall semester?

@briangongol on Twitter

August 14, 2013

News More violence in Egypt
And the President is having his dog airlifted in for vacation. Whatever the reality is, this imagery doesn't look like the administration is attending to a serious situation. Oh, but they definitely have time to try to block the US Airways/American Airlines merger.

Science and Technology It's tough to get good STEM teachers into rural schools

Iowa Where more wind turbines will be built across Iowa

Computers and the Internet "Package file invalid"
A warning many have been seeing on their Android smartphones recently; Google seems to think the problem has been cured

Business and Finance Europe creeps out of recession with tiny growth rate

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August 15, 2013

Health The accelerating evolution of pathogens

Computers and the Internet Are power companies prepared for cyber-attacks on the grid?

Business and Finance Texas tries to be not quite so gullible with this boom
The bust after the last oil boom really tweaked the state

Science and Technology Bill Gates on the connection between standardization and his charitable work
He notes similarities between the contribution that shipping containers have made to the modern world and the missing components he think would make the biggest contributions to fixing problems like malaria in poor countries and low educational standards in the US.

Iowa "[W]hen do we hold the parents responsible?"
A police officer in Cedar Rapids asks

Iowa A day at the Iowa State Fair with Chuck Grassley


August 16, 2013

Threats and Hazards More chaos in Egypt
The world's 15th-largest country is in a state of emergency. That puts 85 million people under martial law. Oh, and 8% of world trade, including 3% of the world's oil supply, passes through Egypt's Suez Canal. That seems to demand something more than waffling by the State Department.

Business and Finance Process matters
A Facebook posting laments, "If the USA can't afford to provide basic medical care, feed the poor, protect the environment, maintain our infrastructure, or teach our children anymore, then what exactly is our bloated [sic] military budget defending?" Putting aside the implication that the military budget is "bloated" (which it may be or not), the sentiment in theory is fine -- but the implicit assumption behind the post (and its admonition to "Go left") ignores the process. We can wish for many good things to happen, but environmental protection and infrastructure investments don't just happen because someone in government authority wills them. They can only be funded by a healthy and free economy. The poor are fed by high-yielding crops (brought to you by research and development by seed and fertilizer companies). The public infrastructure must be maintained by a great deal of tax money, but it's generally built by private contractors -- and the investment in plant and equipment by private companies (like Toyota's $2 billion in plant expansions and MidAmerican Energy's $1.9 billion in wind-power generation and the plans by BNSF to spend $4.1 billion on railroads and equipment) can't be overlooked, either. And don't even bring up the environmental records of socialist economies: Market economics are the best thing to happen to environmental quality. The lazy and ill-informed assumption that what we need is a leftward tilt -- away from market forces and towards greater government control over the economy -- assumes too much about the desirable goals and thinks too little about the process of achieving them.

Science and Technology 3D scanners plus 3D printers equals a nightmare for intellectual property

Health New record-holder for the world's oldest person?
Maybe he's really 123 years old; maybe he's not. But it's still astonishing that there isn't a more deliberate push by us -- as a species -- to push the boundaries of what we think our lifespans should be. Two root causes are likely at play: First, people confuse growing old with a decline in their quality of life. That's absolutely unnecessary; George Burns and Norman Borlaug were happy, engaged, and active well into their 90s, so we need to separate the notion of "aging" from the notion of "feebleness". Second, we culturally resist acknowleding that death even exists, which in turn makes it hard to take seriously the idea of prolonging a viable, healthy life. Death really is Public Enemy #1, and we should treat it as such. Other living organisms routinely live into multiple hundreds of years, and we are rapidly developing the technology to replace our own failed organs with new ones from our own cells. That means we should, in theory, be approaching a stage in which we can do an end-run around nature and perpetuate ourselves well beyond what might have been our otherwise natural expiration dates. And if we truly think that age can beget wisdom, and that wisdom is a good thing to be used and applied, then we should quite reasonably think of prolonging healthy lives as a means of increasing the world's human potential (an economist would say "human capital") at an exponentially-increasing rate. Had people like Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin lived to be 150 or 200 years old, wouldn't we all be better off? Capitalism in liberal democracies works because it nudges us all to work hard and (more importantly) helps reward and encourage the occasional genius who can truly leverage big improvements in the quality of life for us all. Anything we can do to perpetuate some of our real geniuses would be a good thing.

Business and Finance 0.9% productivity growth: That's not good enough
America's economy only got more productive at a sub-1% annualized rate over the last few months. That's just not good enough.

Aviation News Area 51 exists. So what?
That the government has acknowledged the existence of Area 51 as a test area for aircraft isn't quite the step towards more transparent government that we should all be demanding. Area 51 conspiracy theories are for the tin-foil-hat crowd. Meanwhile, we're really not doing enough about government surveillance.

Broadcasting This week in trends, tips, and technology
Program notes for the WHO Radio Wise Guys, airing Saturday at 1:00

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August 18, 2013

Broadcasting This week in making money and having fun

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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August 20, 2013

Iowa Des Moines Register promotes editor to publisher
The Register's own story on the promotion includes this unusual line: "[T]he Register has accelerated its transformation from a traditional newspaper operation to a multimedia company, reaching readers and serving customers in print and the digital space". One would think that a copy editor (were there any left) would be aghast at the use of language like "the digital space".

News What parents should say to their kids about sports

Broadcasting WGN Radio finds its identity again
The reign of the crazy people seems to be dead and buried at an important heritage station

News Rural couple taken hostage by prison escapee kills the captor
An inmate escaped from the Clarinda Correctional Facility, shot a sheriff's deputy, and took a couple hostage in the middle of the night at their farm house. After a few hours, the homeowner got his shotgun and killed the escapee. This kind of story is exactly why debates over guns in America sound totally different to people living in urban areas than they do to people living in sparsely-populated areas. There are places in America where there simply isn't going to be a police officer patrolling nearby for many hours, or even days. In those places, gun ownership is a lot less about "clinging" to something out of some kind of romantic notion of the Second Amendment than it is simply a matter of having a tool. That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of gun nuts in rural and urban places alike -- just that the rules, expectations, and needs are very different in rural America than they are in big cities.

Humor and Good News Sears stores as inspiration for a series of paintings

Computers and the Internet FCC says about a third of robberies in the US involve smartphones
Lock your phone using a pass code, and use a smartphone antivirus program that allows you to wipe the phone by remote if necessary

News "Indian Country Today" moves from print to all-digital

Computers and the Internet China has 591 million Internet users
That's nearly twice the entire population of the United States. And none of them get to use Yahoo anymore.


August 21, 2013

Business and Finance Bill Ackman calls out Herbalife
He's quite right about his analysis of the company, but he's taking a serious risk by shorting the stock. Markets can remain irrational much longer than you can remain solvent. Timing the moment when people wake up to reality is incredibly tough to do.

News Des Moines just got 15 minutes closer to Chicago
Illinois is getting a 70-mph speed limit on rural Interstates

Business and Finance Essential reading for investors
Warren Buffett's 1975 letter to Katharine Graham (of the Washington Post) about pension investments is brilliant stuff

The United States of America When an American comes home
The British "suspect that our surface friendly optimism might possibly be fake"

Business and Finance Immigrants who come to the US to attend college tend to do very well economically
A 2009 study by a Canadian author concludes that the immigrants who come to the US at college age tend to be the ones who do the best by immigrating. Coming over at a younger age appears to make them very comparable to native-born Americans, and those who come later tend to have to play more catch-up in the job market.

Humor and Good News A different "duck" dynasty

@briangongolbot on Twitter

August 22, 2013

Threats and Hazards "[T]he government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program"
So writes a judge on the FISA court, which is assigned to watch the NSA

News That might ruin your day at the beach
(Video) A giant Russian hovercraft landed rather unexpectedly on a packed beach

Science and Technology Where the nukes were
(Video) An exceptionally simple but powerful visualization of where the world's nuclear weapons have been used and tested

Computers and the Internet One (non-recommended) way to get a point across to Facebook
While you can do as one hacker did and break into Mark Zuckerberg's own Facebook wall, the company seems to prefer that people follow their pre-approved method for demonstrating security exploits.

Computers and the Internet Trucking efficiency
Watch how closely the trucking industry responds to changes in fuel prices, and how much they're willing to invest in order to manage that cost. Expect to see the same kind of intense interest when it becomes possible to use vehicle navigation and control systems -- that is, semi- or fully-autonomous trucks -- to cut down on the cost of paying drivers. It'll probably start with systems that allow a driver to go longer without actively managing the vehicle (thus potentially reducing the requirements for crew rest) -- but don't be surprised if it quickly leads to small convoys with one or two human drivers and one or two "drone" trucks.

@briangongolbot on Twitter

August 26, 2013

The United States of America If the government can abridge the First Amendment, there is no functional First Amendment
The whole point of the amendment is to ensure that the sovereign public can keep their government in check. Once that power is thrown into question, the nation is in serious trouble. Not irreversible trouble, but serious trouble nonetheless.

Threats and Hazards Syria's government almost certainly used chemical weapons last week
Here's one way to look at the question of "What's next?": Is the situation such that, if given the choice, you would make a financial contribution to a mercenary armed force in order to intervene and attempt to halt the warfare there? ■ If yes, then what would distinguish that act from funneling money to the rebel groups in Syria (no matter what their motivations might be)? How would one morally distinguish that act from funneling money to what the rest of the world may see as a terrorist group? ■ If no, then is there a financial, moral, or other difference between that act and sending in armed forces under the UN banner or some other alliance? Are costs and choices like that somehow subject to a different kind of scrutiny when public funding is involved, rather than private spending?

Business and Finance Where to live frugally
Kiplinger's analysis (and the Omaha World-Herald's story on the report, which named Omaha #1) called it a list of "Best cities for cheapskates". The Register (of #3-ranked Des Moines) took the more tactful route: "Iowa and Midwest dominate Kiplinger list of affordable cities".

Business and Finance People who grew up poor tend to have adult impulses that (perversely) may keep them poor
A University of Minnesota study indicates that people who grew up poor, when exposed to stressful economic conditions as adults, tend to make shorter-term, higher-risk choices than people who grew up with more financial security. That impulsivity and risk-affinity, perversely, puts them at higher risk of ending up poor as adults, too.

Computers and the Internet Should Interstate highway message boards be used for adult kidnappings?
Present rules seem to generally limit their use to Amber Alerts for child-endangerment cases. But what about abductions of adults? It would seem that the failure to use them for cases in which a person is known to be at serious risk of bodily harm would be a missed opportunity to do good.

Health Introverted, or just narcissistic?

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August 27, 2013

Business and Finance It's hard to do business without the rule of law and a functioning infrastructure
It's way too easy to think that people in poor countries are poor because they lack skills or motivation. The truth is that the only real difference between many of them and many of the people in wealthy countries is that some people happened to grow up in places with the right environment (free markets under the rule of law, with a well-developed infrastructure) for their skills to prosper. Warren Buffett, for instance, acknowledges that he was lucky to have been born in the right place at the right time for his natural talents to be useful. Want to see the world prosper? Get the right processes and systems in place for as many people as possible.

Computers and the Internet Samsung will introduce "Gear" smartwatch on September 4th
Smartwatches will really mark phase 1 in the era of wearable computing

Computers and the Internet Facebook settles with privacy organizations
They'll have to pay some users whose names were used in ads without those users' direct consent

Computers and the Internet Yahoo thinks original comedy will be a traffic booster

Iowa August 15 marks approximate start of fall allergies in Iowa

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August 28, 2013

Threats and Hazards Syria ominously promises a "surprising" defense if attacked

Health Fun fact: Multi-tasking doesn't work
One doesn't have to go to the kinds of extremes that AJ Jacobs does, but focusing on a single task is a much more efficient way to get things done than trying to do too many things at once

Broadcasting Six hours of morning news
WGN-TV is going for a six-hour morning news show. And to think that the "Today" show was just two hours long as recently as the turn of the century.

Business and Finance Comes now another debt-ceiling deadline

Business and Finance Are "created" jobs a good enough reason for tax credits for film production?
Under the "jobs" excuse, virtually any kind of productive (or non-productive) behavior, subsidized heavily enough, can pass political muster. Instead of paying film crews, one could pay people to walk around with bullhorns screaming the name of the city, or smashing streetlights, or turning over garbage cans, and say that "jobs" were "created". Is that good enough reason to do it?

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August 29, 2013

Business and Finance How could we return to high rates of economic growth?

Business and Finance What happens when you have an effective price floor?
A surplus, that's what. A lesson in basic economics for those who are striking for a $15 wage at fast-food restaurants. Most specifically, we would likely see a surplus of youth workers (in other words, high youth unemployment) if we raised the minimum wage dramatically.

@briangongol on Twitter

August 30, 2013

Computers and the Internet Police to public: Please don't report crimes on Facebook. Pick up the phone and call us.
It seems like a ridiculous request to have to place, but it may simply be necessary in the future for police and other emergency agencies to acknowledge that people are going to use whatever tools they want in order to reach them. For now, it's certainly reasonable to expect people to pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1...but in the not-so-distant future, they're going to have to become more like private-sector businesses that have to take customer inquiries in whatever form they're submitted -- phone, fax, e-mail, text message, tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn requests, and so on. There was a time when the police had to adapt to using phones in the first place; we need to act quickly to make sure our public agencies are properly equipped to take reports in whatever form they are submitted tomorrow. (Meantime, the public needs to learn which systems are considered "five-nines" reliable for submitting emergency information, and which are not. Hint: Only the phone makes it to five nines.)

Threats and Hazards UN says a million Syrian children are now refugees
That's greater than the entire population of South Dakota.

Humor and Good News Children around the world with their most-prized possessions
An interesting dip in the sociological pool

Computers and the Internet Gov. Branstad rejects two bids from INS to buy the ICN
The ICN (Iowa Communications Network) is a statewide fiber-optic network, and the state wants to sell it -- but not at the prices offered.

Business and Finance Verizon Communications may pay $130 billion for 45% of Verizon Wireless
That 45% is currently owned by Vodafone

Socialism Doesn't Work Extraordinary means of repression in North Korea
Being an ex-lover of the dictator apparently earns one the death penalty

Computers and the Internet Syrian groups claim responsibility for crashing parts of New York Times and Twitter


August 31, 2013

News What to do about Syria
A dictator has used poison gas to kill well over a thousand people. From a moral standpoint, the world has to view this as an unequivocal case for intervention. As the President said, there's no purpose to having international agreements prohibiting the use of chemical weapons if there's no enforcement. But as The Onion nailed in its inimitable fashion, the morals may be clear but the execution is a Gordian knot. The decision to go to Congress for approval to act looks like a political punt (since the thought of any more military action appears to be deeply unpopular inside the US), but even if it's a punt, it's also about time that Presidents get back to getting authorization from Congress before going to war. And on that note, if someone someday figures out the secret of time travel, they'll want to visit John Kerry in 2004 and see the look on his face when they tell him that as Secretary of State, in less than a decade, he'll advocate military action against a Ba'athist dictator who uses WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) against his own people. Nothing about this is pretty or pleasant, but there's no case to be made for standing aside with massive atrocities taking place.

Health Being poor places stress on the brain

Business and Finance American companies are flush with cash
So what are they going to do to return that money to the business owners?

Science and Technology Will adding a blue light make traffic intersections safer?

Broadcasting What makes child stars go crazy

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