Gongol.com Archives: March 2014

Brian Gongol

March 2014
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March 8, 2014

Business and Finance Do you feel 0.5% more productive than in 2012?
If we want the economy to grow, we have to see faster gains than that

Broadcasting BBC will move one broadcast television network to online-only
In the times of YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu, why not? Purists will be upset, but lots of viewing is already time-shifted.

Business and Finance Taking some personal productivity tips from Toyota

Computers and the Internet Computer viruses spreading via WiFi -- like human colds

Science and Technology Kids discover a rotary phone

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March 9, 2014

Computers and the Internet Visa and MasterCard want you to get a next-generation credit card
Instead of magnetic strips, they want your cards to use the EMV chip

Business and Finance Newsweek is trying to return to print
And they're trying to make a splash by claiming to have discovered the creator of Bitcoin. In the long run, does Bitcoin really matter? No.

Health Time to change smoke-detector batteries
And the ones in carbon-monoxide monitors, too

News Omaha may have a coming glut of office space
They might have the equivalent of 15 years of overcapacity to fill, if all the talked-about projects come to fruition

Computers and the Internet Iowa DHS victimized by 2,000-name data breach

Broadcasting Show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - March 9, 2014
Listen live at 9:00 pm Central


March 10, 2014

The United States of America America's electoral system means we form our coalitions before the general election
In many other representative democracies -- especially those with proportional-vote systems and weak executives -- they wait to form governing coalitions until after the general election, in which it's every party for itself. Our first-past-the-post approach and strong executive branch naturally wedge us into a two-party system -- so we get factions within two mainstream parties, rather than lots of highly-differentiated parties that form temporary governing coalitions. Is it better for America's Republican Party to have primary fights between "Tea Party" types and "Main Street" types than to face a chaotic German-style vote in which direct votes and proportional votes are mixed, with 34 individual parties in the chase? We just form our coalitions earlier than our more parliamentary counterparts.

Computers and the Internet What might make Google worry about smartphones
In general, Google will have to make an incredible number of right decisions over the next ten to fifteen years if it wants to match any of the success of its first decade and a half. That's going to be a really, really tall order...and the chances of them making it without major pain aren't great.

Computers and the Internet Experian may have let loose an incredible amount of consumer data to a crook

Humor and Good News A word about 80s awareness
(Video) Kevin Bacon shows up with an important public-service announcement

Humor and Good News "We left the keys in it..."

@briangongolbot on Twitter

March 11, 2014

Business and Finance Omaha Hilton shows the risks of municipally-funded private-sector projects
The city financed the hotel to help spur convention business...but now it's in danger of losing money

Business and Finance "Sometimes being a fast-follower is better than being a leader"
Analyst commenting on how Lexus may have stolen some of Acura's thunder

Health Why we have (and need) safe-haven laws
A woman is looking for the mother who left her as a newborn in the bathroom of a Pennsylvania Burger King. It is absolutely essential that people know that every state has a safe-haven law allowing mothers to relinquish their infants unharmed, no questions asked. The window of time available and the acceptable locations vary by state, but the fact that protection is universal should be known...universally.

Science and Technology The solar system, to scale
Plus some amusing commentary in the spaces between the planets

Health HPV-related cancers have increased in Iowa in recent decades
All the more reason to treasure the HPV vaccine as a real advance


March 12, 2014

Computers and the Internet Speed-reading for everyone
Some technology developers think they've cracked the code to speed-reading for everyone, without training, using a method of identifying the place where the eye should land on a word for maximum comprehension. Quite interesting. Possibly promising. The name ("Spritz") may leave a bit to be desired.

News The trouble with special tax breaks

Computers and the Internet What troubles Google about smartphones
Too many people using games and apps and not browsing the Internet (and using Google to search it)

Broadcasting Accounting jargon watch: "COROA"
"Cash operating return on assets"

The United States of America Where is the real Mason-Dixon line?

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March 13, 2014

Health Measles outbreak in New York City: Blame the anti-vaccinators
It's happening in Manhattan and the Bronx, and some people have been hopitalized as a result. Two of the cases were in people whose parents chose not to vaccinate them. Contagious diseases like this can be transmitted most easily to the vulnerable -- like people who are already sick and in the doctor's office for other reasons. There is really no legitimate dispute about the costs versus the benefits of vaccination. It is unconscionable that people use excuses based upon completely rejected claims of side effects to justify the decision to put their own children and others at high risk of harm. People who don't understand the importance of herd immunity do not have the right to put others at risk based upon their ignorance.

Iowa The cost of tax breaks
Coralville gave a big tax break to Von Maur to get the retailer to build a store there. This year, the store is getting more than 50% off its tax bill.

Business and Finance Who's got offshore profits banked up

Business and Finance Why small businesses may not always be open
We still have a strong strain of proprietor-capitalism in America, and that means a lot of people devote countless hours to their small businesses -- hours that never really get counted or noticed by others.

Science and Technology Sponges may be the key to explaining jump from no-animal Earth to animal-populated Earth
Their ability to live on very little oxygen may signal the bridge

Broadcasting Movie-trailer voice icon Hal Douglas has died
Without question, one of the best voices of all time

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March 14, 2014

Computers and the Internet Amazon delivers a big test in demand elasticity
By hiking the price of Amazon Prime from $79 a year to $99 a year -- and doing it with a week's notice -- they're really going to test whether consumers care a lot about that $20. Bold move. But Amazon isn't a very profitable company -- they lost money in 2012, and shares currently sell for more than 600 times last year's profits per share. Remember: A sky-high stock price can be totally disconnected from profits. Perhaps this is an effort to jolt some profit-making into the bottom line.

Weather and Disasters We've been underestimating the risk of a giant earthquake in northern California

Business and Finance Business planning for the long term
A BBC report observes that the lack of quarterly reporting by Chinese companies may free their managers to concentrate on the long term. But the decision whether to build ultra-long-term business plans isn't really shackled by whether the SEC requires the filing of paperwork on a regular basis.

News Violent flare-up in Venezuela is a reminder we've ignored Latin America for too long

Northwestern seeks to raise $3.75 billion
In part for a lakefront football practice facility "likely to exceed $220 million"

Computers and the Internet Is online education actually still being stigmatized?
If so, then we're idiots. Obsessing over how an education is physically delivered is like caring whether your milk comes in a carton or a jug. It simply doesn't matter.

Science and Technology The world's power companies are considering 1200 new coal-fired electric plants

Threats and Hazards China crackdown on social messaging
A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have

Science and Technology California starts work on driverless-car regulations
Smart move; they're coming soon, and governments rarely act quickly

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March 15, 2014

Business and Finance What holds back South Africa
It's one of many nations that could find itself hurt when the Federal Reserve backs off on an easy-money policy. The important thing for all of these vulnerable nation is to get good at things other than pure extraction economies (like diamonds, oil, gold, or other things that come out of the ground). Skilled work forces producing goods and services -- and getting better at doing those things all the time -- mark the path to durable economic growth.

Health Vaccinate your children. Celebrities can be idiots.

Computers and the Internet How science puts (believable) curly hair on computer-animated characters

Business and Finance Costs and benefits of running background checks on employees' social media accounts

Broadcasting "Seinfeld" when nothing really does happen

Broadcasting Show notes: WHO Radio Wise Guys for March 15, 2014

@briangongolbot on Twitter

March 16, 2014

Computers and the Internet China's Twitter plans a US stock-market listing
Interestingly, so does China's Google

News The case for Putin-as-rational-strategist
Rather than Putin-as-barely-contained-madman, which is a more convenient way to paint him, but probably not as accurate

Computers and the Internet Google has stopped underlining hyperlinks in search results
It's probably assumed that the value of the visual cue no longer exceeds the cost of the visual clutter

News Canada is still at risk of a breakup
The political party that wants Quebec to separate from the rest of the country is in very healthy shape right now. Americans should not ignore the prospect.

Aviation News A pretty comprehensive recap of what's known on the missing Malaysian Airlines flight

Broadcasting How the THX "deep note" was invented


March 18, 2014

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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March 19, 2014

Business and Finance Public pension overpromises are going to hurt -- a lot
There is some needless over-alarmism in Michael Moritz's commentary on the subject, but the truth is that people lived through the 1980s and 1990s gaining the impression that investment rates of return could always be assumed at 8% to 10%, and that's just not reality. Unfortunately, the longer we ignore that fact, the harsher the consequences.

News Sen. John McCain's plan for Ukraine
What we've done so far seems not to be doing much good

Computers and the Internet Google wins fight to keep e-mail privacy lawsuits separate
Had the plaintiffs been able to aggregate their cases, they probably would have stood a better shot in court. Of course, if you don't want to run the risk of Google scanning your e-mail to help target their advertising, you can always use another service or build your own e-mail system.

Computers and the Internet Remember: Windows XP will no longer be supported by Microsoft after April 8th
An upgrade to Windows 7 is probably the path of least resistance for most users. Of course, there's also the huge number of hidden XP computers, like 95% of the world's ATMs. That could be a bigger problem.

Business and Finance Who gets journalistic privilege when everyone's a publisher?
A hedge-fund manager wants to know who wrote things on Seeking Alpha that may have hurt his business. Trade secrets or legitimate reporting?

@briangongol on Twitter

March 20, 2014

Computers and the Internet Why every smartphone should have antivirus protection
To be discussed on WHO Radio at 5:00 CT. Also available as a slideshow for those who don't like reading.

Aviation News The argument for an electrical fire on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
There's still a mystery to be examined and resolved, but this explanation passes some of the initial tests for making some intuitive sense

Computers and the Internet How LinkedIn keeps chugging along
By getting users to create the long-form content (via the "Influencers" section) that gets people to stick around, LinkedIn aligns its interests as a business with the interests of users who want to be discovered for their talents. It's a more durable model for profit than many others on the Internet -- like the kind of incentive that alumni have to keep up the good name of their alma mater, long after graduation.

Computers and the Internet Another Facebook news-feed redesign is pending
Because why not continue to change things on users?

Broadcasting Welcome to the mist tunnel

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March 21, 2014

Science and Technology Bill Gates: "Silly" startups an acceptable price for needed innovation
Maybe the problem isn't so much that people are being attracted to ridiculous projects, like pointless smartphone apps, but that there isn't adequate incentive to put useful brainpower to use solving really important problems. Innovation prizes might be a way to help with that. There also could be a case made for improving the social status of real scientific and technical problems (as opposed to the sex appeal of working for something vaguely related to "Silicon Valley").

Computers and the Internet LinkedIn is cutting the "products and services" tab from company pages
If you don't want to fall victim to the whims of an outside vendor, you have to figure out how to do things for yourself...especially on the Internet.

Humor and Good News The Sinatra Group
(Video) Still one of the best SNL sketches of all time

Business and Finance President Obama still concentrating on a minimum-wage hike
Very thoughtful people have made strong arguments in favor of expanding the EITC and other means of helping the poor without distorting entry into the labor market -- which is a very serious consequence for young people. If there isn't a path upward to economic mobility, then we all suffer.

Agriculture No state produces more eggs than Iowa
It's not even close

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March 22, 2014

Computers and the Internet Turkey faces global backlash for blocking Twitter
Turkish users can still use the SMS-to-Twitter approach, and the rest of the world is amplifying the outrage

Business and Finance There are no brackets left in the running for $1 billion
March Madness: The one month a year when Americans try to understand statistics

Computers and the Internet How to clean up the cache in a Motorola Droid Razr Maxx
One of the problems with Android phones is that they need cache dumps on occasion for both the apps and the browsers

Computers and the Internet Don't overpay for Internet consulting services
There's certainly a lot to learn, but there's no reason to get ripped off by "social media experts" and their ilk

Humor and Good News Rabbits' uprising


March 25, 2014

Computers and the Internet Facebook keeps on making it rain for startups
After spending more than the company's net worth on WhatsApp, another $2 billion now for a virtual-reality product maker. If it's just a ploy to get some news headlines, it's an incredibly expensive vanity move. Buzzfeed calls it a "moonshot".

Weather and Disasters Mudslide in Washington kills more than a dozen -- or possibly many more
Warnings of the instability reportedly go back years

Health Nestle opens food-safety institute in China
The more we see imports from China on American grocery shelves, the more we should want to see this kind of private-sector supervision take over where government supervision clearly has not

Science and Technology A scientific look at why many men can't dance

Humor and Good News The most over-the-top Wikipedia entry ever?
Nobody needs that much detail about a novelty song

Computers and the Internet A subtle de-escalation of "@" replies and hashtags might just help Twitter go even more mainstream
The service's ecosystem of hashtags and insider jargon are unquestionably off-putting to new users and non-users

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March 26, 2014

Broadcasting Sign of the times: BBC moves a major channel to online-only
BBC3 went on the air in 2003 and will go off the air (in the conventional sense) once the plan works its way through the bureaucracy. How much will the over-the-air signal actually be missed?

Computers and the Internet Twitter goes beyond the 140 characters
They're letting users put as many as four photos in each update

News NLRB says Northwestern football players are eligible to unionize
Pretty major news for college football

Science and Technology Blame Chicago CTA crash on sleeping operator
Why do we not have more faith in automated control of things like cars and subways? Sure, put people in place as a backup set of eyes and ears, but let's trust the computes and machinery that are clearly good enough to do the job.

Business and Finance Should auto dealers be protected by law?

@briangongol on Twitter

March 27, 2014

Computers and the Internet Microsoft/Nokia deal on hold until April

Computers and the Internet TechCrunch says Google is folding Voice into other products

The United States of America 538 calls out Paul Krugman as a data-provable opportunist

Business and Finance Keeping the natural-gas bonanza to ourselves
Most people probably don't realize it, but the huge bonanza in natural gas -- which has sent prices into the tank -- has been a major competitive advantage for the United States, and if it continues to offer cheap feedstock to the chemicals and plastics industries and subsidizes cheap electricity, it's going to be a major contributor to the US economy for some time to come. But prices are so low that producers are trying to export the gas overseas. Chemical companies like Dow aren't quite so enthused.

Broadcasting Does the world need another video-streaming service?
The Wall Street Journal says that Amazon is about to launch a service like Hulu, with free streaming supported by advertising. Amazon tells CNet that's not true. Regardless, online is undoubtedly where to find more and more users all the time, so we're surely going to see others get into the game.

Recent radio podcasts

March 28, 2014

Business and Finance Income's a bit up; savings are trending downward
The personal savings rate was in the 5% neighborhood in mid-2013; it's down to the low 4% range now

Business and Finance Japanese sales tax rates jumping from 5% to 8%
That's one way to create a surge in sales

Aviation News Delta wants to turn flights into pure networking events
In-flight "mentoring programs" are here

Science and Technology Just how bad would the worst solar storm be?

Iowa UNI needs a different funding structure from Iowa and ISU
A school that serves mostly in-state students isn't going to have the same funding needs as the ones bringing in more out-of-state money

@briangongolbot on Twitter

March 29, 2014

News American colleges have to change. Now.

Socialism Doesn't Work Maryland and "House of Cards" fight over production tax credits
Oh, to live in a world where states stopped giving in to demands for tax breaks -- especially for the "sexy" industries, like high tech and filmmaking. Everyone else ends up footing the bill anyway. Though one might note that an eminent-domain claim against the property of the film company is a violation of ex post facto: You made the deal with "House of Cards", Maryland, and just because they might choose not to continue it gives you no right to go back on the terms of the original agreement.

Broadcasting Vin Scully even narrates earthquakes with aplomb

@briangongolbot on Twitter

March 31, 2014

Weather and Disasters Just a little windy in Iowa today
Peak gust: 57 mph in Stanhope. Des Moines had 49 miles an hour.

Computers and the Internet How Kansas City got Google Fiber

Broadcasting Cadillac and Ford show signs of fight
Ford's out with an ad that spoofs a Cadillac ad. A good rivalry can bevery good for sharpening businesses.

Computers and the Internet Stock market reacted badly to Facebook's latest acquisition
The people who should really be upset are the ones who were suckered into crowdfunding Oculus in the first place. The tech-company acquisition spree shows no sign of petering out. Facebook may just be trying to diversify in anticipation of troubles ahead monetizing their classic marketing options.

Computers and the Internet Backup cameras in all US cars by 2018

News Montreal sure seems to want its baseball back

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