Gongol.com Archives: April 2014
High-frequency trading gets the spotlight
High-frequency traders aren't doing anything of net value to society. It doesn't mean their activity should be illegal, but it does mean they're parasites. And when challenged, watch how emotions escalate.
Where to find the nation's baseball allegiances
Facebook has been collecting and analyzing the data
COO Sheryl Sandberg cuts her stake in Facebook
Conventional executive pay at Facebook dropped last year, but the real concern is how they've been launching enormous bags of cash at acquisitions. One gets the sense that some of the shine has worn off as the company has tried to remain both socially relevant and profitable.
How Google celebrated April Fool's Day
Seems like it's pretty much a company holiday
How to lose a wing-eating contest
(Video) If you're up against a ringer, you probably don't have a chance
Poland is asking for troops
Russian activity of late is making them nervous, and they want NATO's help
Ron Howard and Discovery are spinning up a production company focused on online products
Google stock is splitting in a way that forces the S&P index to have 501
Microsoft announces a new Windows Phone
One that appears to take some cues from Apple's Siri
Malaysian investigators say airline passengers have been cleared
They say that none of the passengers are suspects in any foul play
Can the President really be used as an advertising prop?
Certainly not in good taste. Poor form, David Ortiz and Samsung.
Book review: "Impatient Optimist: Bill Gates in His Own Words"
NATO looks to protect Ukraine
It's being said that Russia could invade at any moment, and there's no question that the mainstream of Europe would be opposed to an invasion on their doorstep. Meanwhile, the former president of Ukraine is backtracking on his embrace of the Russian incursion into Crimea. This whole affair is turning into a real test of just what "Western" values really are and how much those values are capable of overcoming the enticements of power.
Newspapers continue struggling -- hard -- with the transition to a post-paper era
What's changing under Microsoft's new CEO
When humans become computer-enhanced, it'll be because of DARPA
David Letterman announces retirement (coming in 2015)
What Americans think are the biggest threats
Is it hard for international students to make friends on American college campuses?
Amazon rolls out "Fire TV"
Skydiver and meteorite nearly collide
Iowans land in middle of state/local tax rankings
9.3% of income goes to state and local taxes, says the Tax Foundation
Studies nobody needed to perform
Researchers conclude that users of Twitter are more narcissistic than users of Facebook
WHO Radio show notes: Wise Guys - April 5, 2014
WHO Radio show notes: Brian Gongol Show - April 6, 2014
"A contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea"
Secretary of State Kerry tries to call out the Russian government for making a mess in Ukraine -- quite literally by fomenting insurrection. So, here's the question: Why does this all appear to be happening while the White House scrambles to patch together some kind of response? How did we get here? Why didn't we see this coming, and wasn't there something that we could have done to prevent it? Is there a systemic failure we need to address? Are there individuals who should be fired for gross incompetence? Wagging fingers at Russia now seems like a response that isn't anywhere close to getting the right outcome.
Think through the consequences
A Cityview story on gang problems in Des Moines (yes, Des Moines) notes the widely-acknowledged correlation between youth unemployment and gang trouble: "No kid that has a legitimate opportunity elsewhere is joining a gang". This relationship should always enter the conversation when people talk about doing anything that restricts entry into the labor force -- including raising the minimum wage. Barriers to entry mean more young people with no better alternatives, and that enhances the risk that some of them will get caught up in criminal activity. 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds with low-wage but legitimate jobs are a far better thing to have than 21-year-olds who still haven't gotten into the labor force. And the higher the barriers to entry, the worse the effects down the road, since the longer a person goes without establishing some kind of a working history (no matter how menial it may appear), the harder it becomes for them to get moving up the economic ladder.
Chicago and the state of Illinois struggle to fix pensions
Too many promises made for too long and not enough set aside to keep them. Chicago's not alone -- this is a very widespread problem.
The suspected depth of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
We tend to lack both perspective and basic knowledge of the depths of the oceans, or of their topography.
"Like sharing a waterbed with a baboon that's just been doused in itching powder"
(Video) Jeremy Clarkson's take on the worst of giant American sedans
Why everyone's going to need to reset their passwords soon
China declares: We will not be contained
Saying that the Pacific is big enough for two great powers, they're certainly signaling that America's military-industrial complex will have work for plenty of years to come
Don't let down your guard, Los Angeles
The right earthquake in the right spot could be catastrophic, because "downtown L.A. and Hollywood are packed with old, vulnerable buildings, including those made of concrete"
The ideal length of almost everything online
A guide to shamelessly manipulating your audience...because someone else will try to do it anyway
Anchorage Daily News surrenders to online competitor
The oil tanker that was just too super
An oil tanker that was too large to safely navigate the English Channel ultimately proved no match for economics. It was too big for its own good.
Are we giving up too much by giving up ICANN?
The United States has managed much of the Internet's structure with a sort of benign dictatorialism. But turning it over to the world at large? What guarantee have we that it will work?
How different generations can work together
Supposedly advice for family businesses, but widely applicable. Generational labels are often over-done, but there are definitely lessons to be learned across age groups.
Hazards to the EAS
How broadcasters might be vulnerable to exploitation of the nation's emergency-broadcasting system
Russia starts threatening Europe over Ukraine and natural gas
Chief Justice John Roberts and the leadership of conservative thought
Fixing distracted driving with better fonts
Will Chicago get a George Lucas museum?
Lucas has a huge collection of art and memorabilia, and he wants to make a museum of it. His first choice is San Francisco, but they're not opening up the space he wanted, so Chicago is gunning to be the backup location.
Russia withheld information on the Boston bombers
Trouble in Ukraine is far from over
Gunmen have taken over police buildings. The smart money is on Russian involvement.
Lab-grown organs are already a reality
A Lancet study says that four women in the US have had vaginal transplants from lab-grown tissue
College newspapers move to a digital-first model
The biggest problem will probably be whether the lack of a highly specific nightly deadline causes journalists (collegiate or otherwise) to take the foot off the gas. Conversely, by releasing journalists from form-dependent work (that is, laying out a physical newspaper), perhaps a digital-first model will encourage more meaningful storytelling.
Which Americans have been paying down credit-card debt?
Show notes: The Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - April 13, 2014
What is "news", and why does a serious definition matter?
"The corporate meritocrat has become a new class of aristocrat"
It's a problem for shareholders, who are basically getting extorted by executives. It's hard to imagine paying one person $13.9 million a year (per the "Equilar 100 CEO Pay Study" of the 100 highest-paid American CEOs of publicly-traded companies) and thinking you're getting more value than you would from the ideas and work of 70 people, each being paid a cool $200,000 each.
It's time to give serious thought to signing up for two-step verifications online
How to super-pack: 10 days' worth into a carry-on
No surprise: A flight attendant knows best
A statistical analysis of Bob Ross paintings
Totally unnecessary, but then there are those happy little clouds...
That's not Omaha
Proving once again that we really are nothing more than "flyover country" to some people on the coasts, a CBS graphic shows Omaha where Kansas City...or Topeka, maybe?...should be
Toyota promises more than a dozen cars to use the Atkinson-cycle engine by 2015
It's expected to be 30% more fuel-efficient than conventional engine designs
Are college adjunct instructors badly underpaid?
Students pay rapidly-rising prices for education. The instructors say they're wildly underpaid. There's a market failure at work here, and someone's going to get rich for resolving it. A consultant calls it "alarming" that 70% of faculty are adjuncts. The current tenure system looks like a serious roadblock to fixing the problem.
Transparent, conductive, flexible, and cheap: Graphene could be the wonder material
Early outreach to get girls into science and engineering
We're not doing ourselves any favors as a society if the culture discourages 50% from using their natural abilities
Which prices are inflated and which aren't
It's quite lumpy -- not evenly distributed
So far, Volvo hasn't fallen apart under Chinese ownership
One wonders whether that is more or less scary to many people than the prospect of a quick failure. If China manages not to squander the spoils of its successes, then it might really be "here to stay" on the top tier of economies
NATO asks Russia to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine
Chinese GDP growth rate now 7.4%
Very high when compared to the rest of the world, but the slowest in 24 years
Waukee plans a 1500-acre development
Amy Schumer nicks Aaron Sorkin's style in "The Foodroom"
(Video) Funny, as is the supercut of Aaron Sorkin's self-plagiarization
Put your money where your "green" attitudes are
Toyota is offering investors the opportunity to buy "green" bonds, funding those consumers who want to buy cars like the Prius using dealer financing
Labor shortages return
Microsoft moves Bing in the direction of Google Plus/Google Now
When a Facebook "like' signs away your right to a trial
No casino for Cedar Rapids
Police raid over Twitter account impersonating the mayor of Peoria
If you're a public figure and you don't want to risk being mocked or impersonated, get there first. Establish a presence that people will recognize and believe.
Tamping down Omaha gang violence by sending in the voice of experience
Gallup survey finds Des Moines residents wildly enthusiastic about home
A reminder: Change your passwords to protect from Heartbleed
PicoBrew: Making beer like using a Mr. Coffee
Devastating story about child tormented by her peers
Show notes for the WHO Radio Wise Guys - April 19, 2014
Live on WHO Radio at 1:00 Central
Senate report says the CIA went way beyond the pale with use of torture, and that it didn't work
The report remains classified, so the fact we're hearing about it means there was a leak. And that outrages Senator Dianne Feinstein. Not the content of the still-classified report; the leak is what makes her angry.
April is Iowa's Financial Literacy Awareness Month
Crooks used Heartbleed to hack at least two big sites
A UK site called "Mumsnet" and the Canada Revenue Agency both got hit
"Star Wars" posters in a vintage WWII style
Others have tried travel posters in the same vein, too.
Domino's thinks you look a little gaunt
There's no other reason for launching a pizza with a "crust" made of breaded chicken
State Department puts Keystone XL on ice until at least November
Whether the pipeline is ultimately approved or not, this has the distinct odor of a politically-corrupted process
Sign of the times: Television weather forecaster hasn't heard of Huey Lewis and the News
The CEO pay gap: A matter of returns more than fairness
It's incredibly hard to say what is a "fair" ratio of CEO pay to middle-class-worker pay, but it does seem odd that the average CEO in the S&P 500 made $11.7 million in 2013, if only because that same amount could (instead of paying one executive) hire a whole team of great people for $250,000 a year each, which one might expect to produce a lot more value for the shareholders.
How Bill Gates might have stuck a rock in the gears of Google Glass
He's named in a patent that appears to be intended to block people from being recorded with Google Glass against their will
Social Security to resume sending benefits statements to some workers
Workers ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 will be treated to a work of fiction as they are told something between a myth and an outright fabrication about what they can expect to receive from Social Security. There's absolutely no way to pay the bills incurred without cuts to benefits and higher taxes on workers. It's just not possible. And the longer we wait to initiate a program change allowing private accounts for individual workers to manage at their own discretion, the longer we starve the private sector of potentially useful investment capital that could be used to increase the growth rate of the economy, which in turn might help to ease the impact of the government's over-spending, under-taxing problem.
Will small private colleges survive the changing higher-education landscape?
Large public schools have enough troubles, even when they're supported by tax dollars and have enormous alumni networks to draw upon. What will come of the small schools with enrollments of 1,000 or 2,000 and not enough endowment money to keep them afloat in times of pressure? There will undoubtedly always be a sort of mystique to the tightly-knit small campus, but at a time when lots of people are having difficulty justifying the cost of higher education for its long-term return on investment (the ROI is usually there, no doubt, but it's being squeezed between rising tuition costs and wage pressures on graduates), it will be worth watching whether lots of schools go the way of Westmar as students seek lower-cost alternatives like online programs. Some character may be sacrificed in the experience, but as a business proposition, it may be unavoidable.
How the Citicorp Tower could have fallen down
The designer of the odd stilt-mounted tower failed to account for certain wind conditions that could have knocked over the building
Xi Jinping: If he doesn't get his job right, we'll all pay for it
China has a complex future ahead of it, and not one that will probably result in a soft landing for Communism
Digital Warhols discovered
He dinked around with painting on an Amiga, and the files have been found
Where the baseball fans are
Very clever data visualization by the New York Times shows where to find the fans of specific teams
Lyft, defiant, will launch in Omaha
When America's work day begins
If the FCC doesn't codify Net neutrality, it could sucker-punch Internet startups
And it looks like we're heading away from neutrality-as-status-quo
Warren Buffett on protecting yourself from inflation
(Video) What's worth a lot more than gold bars? Skills...and a growing set of them.
Publicly-funded buildings shouldn't be named after living people
Wasn't that always the old principle?
Using yeast to prevent a hangover
How much leeway do Iowa speeders get?
Officially, not much at all
Microsoft finishes purchase of Nokia's phone business
For $7.5 billion. Microsoft can afford to take the risk, and Nokia wanted out.
George Will on the origins of rights
He is right about the primacy of natural rights before the mechanisms of self-government. But one might take issue with characterizing it as a difference over process -- acknowledging the boundaries of a process is just as important as the execution of it
Texas: Don't blow this oil boom
Any natural-resources bonanza is destined to end some day.
Taxi substitutes turn Nebraska's public services commission into a competitive election
Atari-game graveyard excavated
An "E.T."-themed game was such a flop, they buried the cartridges