Gongol.com Archives: 2013 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

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

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

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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Humor and Good News Most people really are good at heart
A bunch of Omaha 5th-graders who got a snow day off of school used part of it to cheer up a classmate hospitalized with cancer

Science and Technology "Peak jobs?"
Is technology going to lead to a permanent class of people employed at low levels

Computers and the Internet If you're on Twitter, change your password
The company says there's been a sophisticated attack that stole 250,000 passwords from their servers. The stolen data was at least somewhat encrypted, but it's time to update those passwords anyway. And be savvy about it: Crooks have gone wild lately, breaking into computer systems in a lot of high-profile places. We're not doing enough to harden our defenses. Not nearly enough.

Threats and Hazards Shootings in Chicago seem to be getting more brazen
Broad-daylight shootings on Lake Shore Drive

Business and Finance The Dow Jones Industrial Average exceeds 14,000
Remember: The DJIA is a pretty much meaningless figure. And nominal thresholds like even thousands may be pretty, but they, too, mean nothing.

Computers and the Internet Norton says 2/3rds of mobile-phone users don't have security on their phones

Computers and the Internet Applebee's server fired for posting picture of rude receipt online
The restaurant patron who wrote the sanctimonious note should be ashamed of herself, but the waitress was dumb to photograph and share something that included a private individual's name and credit-card information. Just a lot of stupidity going on in this story.

The United States of America The White House jobs council is out of work
The "Council on Jobs and Competitiveness" has reached the end of its charter, and the President isn't renewing it. Councils like these are hard to take seriously -- even more so with an administration that is so frequently hostile to business interests -- and it seems not to have been taken very seriously by the President, either, who spent little or no time with them. The persistent problem is that the professional political class in Washington is so badly disjointed from knowing how their policies affect the rest of the country that when they do make a token gesture like forming a "council on jobs", they form it so badly that it doesn't really tell them anything. The President of the United States should probably already have the CEO of General Electric on speed dial (as well as the CEOs of many other large companies). Those people should probably be feeding back observations and news to the White House on a regular basis anyway, for the good of the country. But the people from whom Washington is outrageously disjointed are the people who own and run small and medium-sized businesses. Sure, they get a lot of lip service, but Washington is (generally speaking) so far removed from knowing what's happening with them that the country pays the consequences while nobody in power to do things about it notices. On a related note, it doesn't help when headline-writers skip essential parts of major stories. CBS reported that "Economy adds 157K jobs, unemployment hits 7.9%" -- skipping the essential word "but". Unemployment has risen even though jobs were created because more people entered the job market than the number of new jobs. But the more bad writing obfuscates a simple matter of numerators and denominators, the less the general public feels that it can understand the important work of economics.

Computers and the Internet One of the largest Internet vulnerabilities ever
It's been discovered that some 40 to 50 million routers and other Internet-enabled devices are vulnerable to hijacking by crooks because they use code that was never intended to be used online (and thus isn't secured). The official report probably couldn't be more jargon-o-riffic if it tried, but the bottom line is that people can run a quick online test, and if necessary, update the vulnerable program.

Business and Finance What gets measured gets done
Bill Gates is out with a column in the Wall Street Journal and his latest annual report from the Gates Foundation, both of which focus on the importance of measuring progress towards the objectives of foundations like his. It's really quite fascinating to live in a time when one of the two or three richest people in the world is also a person who is also a highly-driven "fieldmarshal" (in the psychological sense) who, with a lot of time left in his life, has decided to put everything he's got into solving the world's biggest problems. And, if the psychological assessment is correct, this brings him vastly greater joy than spending his money like a playboy ever would.

Business and Finance Stock-market "technician" cranks are out in force
One trader writes for Marketwatch with a column asking, "Is this the biggest triple top ever?" The people who think the stock market is a predictable universe of patterns in the price graphs miss the most important fact of all: Shares of stock are just slices of ownership in a business, and it all comes down to how those businesses are performing at making a profit. That's all that truly matters, and it's the only thing that really drives stock prices in the long term.

Computers and the Internet Is Twitter the "Hotel California" for journalists?
An interesting opinion, at least

News If you're in Egypt and you're free to leave, you probably should
Right now.