Gongol.com Archives: January 2014
Happy New Year 2014!
Get the lighting right
A quick demonstration of just how important the right lighting can be in a photograph
The scourge of deferred maintenance
Public sector, private sector, non-profit sector...it doesn't matter: Nobody likes to perform or pay for maintenance. But deferring it can be catastrophic and enormously expensive.
Snapchat gets bitten hard in security test
A team of hackers got to their user database
He's Vin Scully, and you're not
Don't anticipate hearing announcers like him ever again -- they system isn't built to produce them
Fiat will buy out the rest of Chrysler
And thus one of the Detroit Three becomes fully Italian
How family firms respond to recessions
When structured for long-term decision-making, family firms can weather tough times better than public firms (on average)
Innovation doesn't stop
Innovation doesn't always happen in huge leaps -- it also progresses in tiny incremental steps
Better helmets won't save football
The sport is wildly popular today, but many of us will live to see it relegated to lower status. The risks of play are just too high, and the rule changes necessary to make it safer will diminish the excitement of spectating.
Great examples of foreshadowing
Just start with a unique identity in the first place
The Okoboji schools have started a migration away from a school logo that was deemed an infringement on the University of Oregon's logo. Why didn't someone just come up with an original identity for the schools the first time around?
We are woefully unprepared for space rocks
Asteroid strikes are a low-probability but high-impact event, and we've only ever accurately forecasted two of them
Meeting the voters where they are
The political left has been far more clever at applying media outreach than the political right
Socializing costs doesn't make them go away
Changing who foots the bill for health care isn't the same thing as reducing the costs themselves
The NSA is working on quantum computing...
...but it has been (as have others) for quite a while
Antibacterial soap: Not helpful, and probably harmful
Why Bill Gates is optimistic about 2014
Progress on important human-development issues is being made, with more to come
Valuable information sheets on nutrition and health
Including one that analyzes what's inside energy drinks
The best times of year to make particular purchases
Different things are cheap at different times of year, so knowing when the best deals are available can be a money-saver for those who have the luxury of putting off their purchases
No new monsignors
Is the NSA spying on Congress?
More specifically, are they spying on Congress any more or less than on the rest of the American public? Mum's the word. Incidentally, the NSA isn't the only agency in question: Some local police departments seem to be practicing a lot of extraordinary data collection, too.
Winter weather local-news bingo
WHO Radio Wise Guys: January 4, 2014
Trends, tips, and technology
Back to the (very recent) past in savings
A 2005 analysis of savings in the United States noted that the household savings rate was nearly zero, and that the US economy was depending mightily on business "savings" and inflows of foreign investment to make up for that terribly low rate. The personal savings rate has recovered a bit since then, but it's still not very impressive. Ultimately, too, if we depend heavily on foreign purchases of American stocks and bonds to support the economy, we may be effectively giving away our assets in exchange for short-term gratification. How we go about solving that is a real challenge, but it's a debate we really must have post-haste. The more we become dependent upon government programs (like Federally-subsidized health care), the more it will become tempting to vote ourselves into poverty by giving ourselves "benefits" which can only be paid-for by borrowing from abroad.
If we fall for the straw-man arguments, we'll never get better as a country
Today, it's the left wing mocking small-government types by equating snowplows with socialism (tongues sarcastically in cheek). Yesterday, it was people on the right who claimed that Phil Robertson (of "Duck Dynasty") was being denied his First Amendment rights in being suspended from television by his cable network. Let's be clear: No sane person thinks that a basic public infrastructure is socialism, nor is it a violation of the First Amendment for a cable network to suspend a TV personality for saying things that reflect badly on the network. We should call out otherwise-reasonable people for echoing straw-man arguments and false representations of their opponents. All but 1% of us mean well and want things to get better for everyone -- even if we sometimes pull in different directions to get there.
News outlets: For crying out loud, stop giving credence to crop circle "alien" theories
If you see a crop circle, it was done by people. Period.
The lungs have a sense of smell
Sometimes, charity isn't helpful
Be thoughtful about your charity -- think about what good and harm you may be doing, and give deliberately rather than haphazardly.
Dozens of tricks to make life a little easier
These so-called lifehacks vary from the stupid to the inspired, but they do highlight how helpful the Internet has become as a tool for disseminating ideas universally at zero cost. A good lifehack with suitable applicability can be spread around the world in a matter of days, when by comparison it took thousands of years for humans to learn to use written language.
Quantitative analysis won't solve everything
It's really only of late that we as a species have figured out how to crunch numbers in a really big way, and that's causing quantitative analysis to come into its own as a tool for decision-making. Just like anything involving humans, maturity with this tool involves synthesis and well-roundedness. Know your weaknesses and compensate for them. Understand how quantitative analysis can help, and know the boundaries of its usefulness. Know your own strengths and enhance them, using quantitative analysis as an aid, not a substitute.
Jelly: The new social network designed to network your other social networks
Now you know the playbook for goverment's efforts to hide information from the public
Either our government agencies and departments are (and should be) transparent, or they are not. And if they should be, then manipulative and sneaky behavior by bureaucrats should not be tolerated. The taxpayers, after all, should be the boss.
Recognizing people in the reflections of others' eyes
Now possible thanks to ever-improving digital photograph resolution
When innocuous comments on Twitter evolve into advertising
AT&T is expanding 4G service in Iowa
Data service is clearly racing far ahead of voice quality in the list of attributes demanded by customers
A total system failure
If terrible things happen (like the release of an inmate into society, who subsequently goes on a murder spree), then someone needs to take a serious look at the system that created the awful result. There's no excuse for not fixing the system now.
Unfortunately, many of your worst fears about cyberstalking aren't even as bad as reality
Greater access means greater potential for mischief
How far one could travel in a day, by year
Ah, flying: Such unmet potential for glamour.
Ford exec suggests that the automakers track your driving
Then he tried to take it back
Basement renovation in a Star Trek style
Nuts but strangely impressive
Should rain storms have something like a Richter scale?
It's a compelling idea. Saying that something is a "once-in-100-year" storm doesn't really tell us how severe the impact will really be. It just makes it sound like a rarity, and one for which preparation is not really necessary. Converting to a report on the severity of the storm would actually offer useful information.
The Iowa State Fair won't end up being cashless after all
If people knew how dirty their cash really is, they'd welcome a change to clean, unused tickets with open arms.
Democracy or stability in Egypt: The pro-democracy case
Generally: The fewer words in your title, the more impressive it is
Target says it wasn't just credit-card numbers that got stolen
America's coldest large cities
The list is arbitrary, but gives some towns a set of dubious bragging rights
If your carmaker (or the car itself) collects data on your driving habits, who can have it?
Barnes and Noble sees Nook sales drop 66%
The competition among other e-readers (mainly the Kindle) is too fierce, and prices for full-featured tablets have fallen too much for the Nook to have much staying power
Google nudges Google Plus into an open-messaging service
Show notes: WHO Radio Wise Guys - January 11, 2014
The show is broadcast live on 1040 WHO Radio in Des Moines and can be streamed or replayed on iHeartRadio.
Reminder: Social Security and Medicare cost 15.3% of your salary/wage income
Yet they're still badly underfunded. Something's being done very badly.
Why investors should be taking action over executive compensation
CEO pay is going up, and it's completely uncoupled from performance for investors
Farmers plan a big shift from corn to soybeans this year
The invisible hand is making the push: Corn prices are way down, but beans haven't fallen as much
Watch an interviewer ruin a perfectly excellent interview
(Video - note strong language) Charlie Brooker is a very smart and very interesting guy. But he is positively smothered in a 2012 interview in Edinburgh. Watch that interviewer ruin the opportunity to let him freely say interesting things, then watch any old episode of Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. He's clearly capable of handling an entire monologue all by himself. But he's sufficiently confident in himself that he doesn't need to step all over his companions. The difference between the two styles is like night and day, and should be mandatory viewing for anyone who interviews anyone else (ever).
Jay Leno on CNN?
One can see why the rumor would gain traction -- Leno probably wants something to do upon retiring from the Tonight Show (again), and CNN is looking for some kind of magnet for viewers. But what a dull and uninspired proposal. Leno's humor depends upon a sort of bland condescension that isn't far from Piers Morgan's openly hostile condescension. But it's nothing really original or attractive.
Show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - January 12, 2014
Live on WHO Radio and iHeartRadio at 9:00 pm CT
Vigilantes or drug lords?
Perhaps put another way: Tyrannical order or chaotic self-determination?
For about $7000, you can become "Internet famous"
But to what end and purpose?
Trouble for the financing of the Minnesota Vikings stadium
Exiting "Quantitative Easing" will be a huge challenge for the Federal Reserve
Science Magazine calls cancer immunotherapy the breakthrough of 2013
What's the economic value of real skills?
A study finds on one hand that union membership isn't very positive for people with job skills...but also notes that it could simply be that people with skills are extracting economic rents from everybody else (that is, they're charging more but not actually creating more value).
The Condition of the State (of Iowa)
Per Governor Terry Branstad
Mrs. Doubtfire as horror film
One week in cyber vulnerabilities
You might be unpleasantly surprised by the length of the list
North Korea makes new threats
Just bluster, or actual threats? Hard to know.
Teenagers from poorer families are at higher risk of obesity than richer counterparts
It probably has to do with a lot of factors, including food deserts, limited time availability, and access to cheap calories
Judging by the content of a person's character
A study suggests that Americans subconsciously assume that black men with light-colored skin are smarter than their darker-skinned counterparts. There's still a long way to go to eliminate bias.
A big blow to "Net neutrality"
How an old Radio Shack ad makes your smartphone look even better
These kinds of improvements don't easily show up in conventional GDP data, but getting everything from a full-page ad in the shape of a single smartphone really does make things better
Many state budgets are in serious trouble
Unfunded mandates and under-funded retirement obligations
More than 30 Republicans who might end up running for President
200 million texts a day
The NSA is reviewing them
Google buys Nest
For $3 billion, they're trying to get a foot inside the front door of all the houses in the world. They could become a next-generation GE...or they could flame out by overreaching. Time will tell.
President Obama muses that the "kids" aren't on Facebook anymore
A complete human genome is about to hit the $1,000 price mark
LinkedIn moves to support volunteerism
Here's what a gigapixel photo looks like
ISU's Hilton Coliseum in high-definition
An honest movie trailer for "Skyfall"