Gongol.com Archives: October 2014

Brian Gongol

October 2014
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October 1, 2014

Business and Finance Bill Clinton sees that it's time to reform corporate taxes
Clinton came from a business-friendly wing of the Democratic party that the current administration has aggressively sent into exile, so we're wasting time blathering about "inversions" instead of fixing the real problem. That's not the way they would fix a faulty car design at a place like Honda, and it's not the way we should fix a faulty economic system. Ask why things you don't like are happening, and keep asking "Why?" until you get to an ultimate cause...then fix it.

Business and Finance August's personal-savings rate: 5.4%
Could have been higher, but at least it's above zero. Bodes well for the future if we can be consistent about it.

Humor and Good News 49ers wide receiver drafts a "Fantasy You" team via Twitter
A hilarious gag, really

Computers and the Internet Steve Ballmer doesn't want the LA Clippers using Apple products
Can you blame him? He's the largest individual shareholder in Microsoft.

Computers and the Internet Google's watching you from above
Or at least, they're floating balloons to provide broadband Internet serve

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October 2, 2014

Computers and the Internet Forgotten archive of speeches re-discovered
There is so much material that hasn't been digitized (and may never be), and it is at enormous risk of being lost to history if we don't catalog and digitize it

Computers and the Internet Parenting as a member of Generation X

Agriculture Iowa's corn and soybeans are behind schedule

News Why everyone should know self-defense: Case study #12
Two kids got into a fight at a Council Bluffs high school. The aggressor ended up dead after a single blow from the other student. It's tragic, and it never should have happened. But everyone really must know how to defend themselves against punches, kicks, and weapons -- especially if learned within a context that increases the odds that you will de-escalate any confrontation you enter.

News Pre-revolutionary Russia in color photographs

Recent radio podcasts

October 3, 2014

News Keep a close eye on Hong Kong
The tensions boiling to the surface there are most likely not that far removed from the tensions we'll see in other parts of China someday if the Communist Party doesn't ease up on personal liberties

Computers and the Internet Nashville Marriott busted for jamming personal WiFi hotspots
Internet access may not be a fundamental human right, but it's also nobody's arbitrary right to block your access to it

Iowa Homeowners in the Quad Cities want guns for protection from coyotes
There are places where other protection isn't readily available and where a gun is the only reasonable tool of defense. Circumstances vary, but that's why universal gun bans don't make sense in America.

Iowa Spoof video brings attention to pull-over/slow-down rules
Police officers face too many hazards already; bad drivers shouldn't add to the risk. West Des Moines police officers deserve credit for having some fun bringing light to the issue.

Humor and Good News Parenting in the advertising parallel universe

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October 4, 2014

News One-paragraph book review: "Honda: An American Success Story"
Toss out the hideously outdated dustjacket, and you have one of the very best books on management to be found anywhere.

News One-paragraph book review: "The Outsiders"
An appealing take on rationality in capital allocation, or "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Investors Instead".

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October 5, 2014

The American Way What's on the mind of Bill Gates
One of the world's smartest people has an unlimited budget to do what he wants, and he's using it to make the world a better place. That hasn't happened a lot in human history. He is the perfect technocrat and he doesn't have to work inside a bureaucracy -- it's a very special event in history, really. Broadly speaking, people really just want things to work. And who can blame them? We're paying for the system, whether it works or not, so we ought to get our money's worth.

Threats and Hazards The Chinese military is targeting US military contractors
If you thought we were all going to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya", you would be mistaken

Iowa "[D]o we really want to tell them we tore down an historic building to put up a glitzy highrise?"
Yes. Yes we do. The decision not to grant historic-preservation status to the downtown Des Moines YMCA building is a perfectly fine one, especially if it moves the space from a lower value to a higher value. There's nothing wrong with being nostalgic unless you're trying to do it on someone else's dime.

News Mistakes of the 1970s: Open floor plans in schools
Classrooms need doors, it turns out. The plans to wall up some classrooms around Omaha is an example of how decisions often have long-lingering consequences (35 to 45 years, in the case of schools from the 70s), and how knowledge isn't the same as judgment. Anyone can learn how to design a classroom, but deciding what layout to use takes judgment.

Broadcasting Show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - October 5, 2014
Streamed live at 9:00 pm on WHORadio.com and heard on AM 1040

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October 6, 2014

Business and Finance Warren Buffett's answer to a stock-market dip: Buy!

Computers and the Internet Microsoft will skip Windows 9 and jump straight to Windows 10

News The problem with funding a low-value degree

News Dialogue between the two Koreas?
It can't happen soon enough.

News Onetime Haitian dictator Duvalier dies


October 7, 2014

News Things aren't getting better in Hong Kong

Threats and Hazards Chicagoland man arrested for trying to join the Al-Qaeda-Land fight

Threats and Hazards Police confiscations are like highway robbery

Computers and the Internet HP is getting broken up after all

News The job market for academics isn't friendly


October 8, 2014

Computers and the Internet Assignment for Bill Gates: Make Microsoft Office better

Business and Finance Nestle CEO blames corporate debt troubles on shortage of values
"[S]hort-termism eroded much of the trust between companies and society and rebuilding this needs to be a priority for business leaders."

Computers and the Internet How the Washington Post and the Amazon Kindle are coming together

Weather and Disasters The SPC is bringing out severe weather models with greater detail

Computers and the Internet Nobody stays on top in tech forever
Slower smartphone sales are hurting Samsung's bottom line, so the company is looking for new products to make to revive its profits. Great news for consumers; terrible news for investors.

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October 9, 2014

Business and Finance Demand falling, production rising: Recipe for lower oil prices is coming together
And there's no doubt it's having a positive effect on the US economy. We're getting lucky right now, and there's no guarantee the luck will last indefinitely. It should also be noted that corn is cheap right now, and ethanol production is high.

Business and Finance Marchionne thinks the auto industry needs a carmaker bigger than Toyota
And he sees mergers as the way to get there. Given the enormous debt that Fiat undertook to swallow Chrysler, they're going to have to be both good and lucky to survive...so perhaps we should temper our enthusiasm for megamergers.

Iowa When to see the peak in fall colors in Iowa

Computers and the Internet Construction continues on Apple's new world headquarters

Iowa An old tradition returns to the University of Iowa
A tower decorated with corn


October 10, 2014

The United States of America The Republican Party wins when it's the party of good government
Going into November, Republican candidates have a lot of government failures to which they can point as evidence that it's time for the Democrats to be removed from power. That's when the GOP has historically been at its best -- when it's the party of getting the job of government done efficiently and effectively. But there's also a serious risk to the party if its candidates indulge in overstatement.

News Conclusive proof that red-light cameras aren't used to improve public safety
Chicago authorities gave out tickets for drivers at intersections with short-cycled yellow lights. It's quite simple: If you want to cut down on red-light running and consequent crashes, you lengthen yellow lights and increase the gap between the red in one direction and the onset of green in the other. At least, that's what you'd do if safety were your priority.

Agriculture Turning flies into food
Via the conduit of livestock feed

News UKIP gets its first elected seat in British Parliament
The anti-EU party now has a toehold in domestic lawmaking in the UK

Health Real diseases that are scarier than ebola

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October 11, 2014

News A completely ridiculous building
A Park Avenue building in New York will be the second-tallest tower in the city (second only to the new One World Trade Center), but its highest occupied floor will actually be the tallest. It's to be 1,396 feet tall and Crain's New York Business says the apartments inside are selling for $4,000 per square foot. So if you're looking to blow upwards of $75 million on your "home", operators are standing by. The ultra-thin, ultra-tall blueprint seems terribly disproportionate, but the time-lapse video of construction is worth a look.

Computers and the Internet Instagram and Twitter overtake Facebook among teen users
According to research by Piper Jaffray

Broadcasting Unsolicited endorsement: "Key and Peele" is better than ever
It's brilliant sketch comedy, and the most satisfying part is that there's some kind of incredibly satisfying word play somewhere in each sketch. The brilliant "gay wedding advice" sketch, for instance, involves lines about couscous and Camel Cash that nobody could reasonably see coming.

Broadcasting No-nonsense writing advice from Trey Parker and Matt Stone
No sympathy for people who let writer's block or pretention get in the way

Iowa MidAmerican Energy adds another $280 million in wind turbines to its plans
Adams County will get a bunch of new turbines

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October 12, 2014

Broadcasting Show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - October 12, 2014

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October 13, 2014

Computers and the Internet Third-party apps hack Snapchat
It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that something like this happened

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October 14, 2014

Business and Finance How the Dutch fixed retirement savings
It looks like it works, but it isn't pretty. That's the tough reality.

Business and Finance What happens if you raise the minimum wage?

Threats and Hazards The continued threat in Syria and Iraq

News The UK Independence Party could turn European politics upside-down

News Fight out the details however, but every community needs a public library
Equality of opportunity to learn

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October 15, 2014

Computers and the Internet Dropbox had a little problem with a bug that led to file deletion
Cloud storage can't be your only option

News "That is not dignity."
Resolving poverty in the right way can bring a lot of dignity to the people of the world

The United States of America Sec. Hagel wants the US Army to be a "coastal defense force"

Computers and the Internet And now it's "voiceprint" time
Is the adult voice as unique as a baby's cry?

Computers and the Internet Slot machines for the 21st Century

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October 16, 2014

Computers and the Internet Blackmail photography ring busted in Boone
More than 100 users had access to a collection of illegal photos of their own underage peers

Computers and the Internet Spoofed phone numbers: How crooks make you think you're calling yourself

Health A baby's first hour in the world

Aviation News Japan is getting back into the airliner-manufacturing business
Also, keep an eye on the HondaJet

Iowa Moving to Des Moines: More hipsterish than Brooklyn?
Let's avoid the hipster thing, shall we? But, yes, there's a lot of good happening right now in Central Iowa.


October 17, 2014

Threats and Hazards More friction in Hong Kong
Sooner or later, this will be much more important than ebola. Or maybe it already is.

Business and Finance The people freaking out about stocks aren't really investors
Responding to some passing bad news is just negative speculation, not investment

Computers and the Internet Idiot uses anonymous website to threaten Drake University
But he overestimated his anonymity

Threats and Hazards Now we don't even bother with the War Powers Resolution
What's the point of the rule of law if nobody ever respects the rule?

Aviation News Two years in space?


October 22, 2014

Health Getting kids to try is the best thing

Business and Finance Cheap energy prices are helping restrain inflation

Humor and Good News One of the best outbound voicemail greetings ever

Iowa Banking time in Cedar Rapids
People are using it as a substitute for cash transactions, and there's nothing wrong with it -- but people should realize that cash is just a relatively frictionless way of "banking" one's efforts already. A "time bank" is really a lot less novel than it may seem.

Business and Finance No more Nokia smartphones
Microsoft is killing the name and replacing it with its own

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October 23, 2014

Science and Technology Robotic companions are promising, but there are risks
They could provide a fantastic means of providing surrogate sentient conact for people who are isolated, lonely, sick, or mentally debilitated. But that also means they may be used unethically to steal information from unwitting victims.

News Canadian police responded swiftly to the shooter at Parliament Hill
The Sergeant-at-Arms got a standing ovation for stopping the shooter

Iowa Iowa is #2 in wind energy nationwide

News When journalists turn to second jobs to make ends meet

News Have we overestimated China's ability to strategize?
Like a lot of things that are "foreign", Americans have widely ascribed certain virtues to Chinese culture -- like the propensity to strategize over the long term. At least one Japanese editorial voice thinks that's more hype than reality.

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October 24, 2014

Computers and the Internet Alibaba's profits make Amazon's non-profitability look worse
A lot of companies get by on investor cash while they try to kick-start their business model. But Amazon has gone on basically making no meaningful profits ever since its launch. The company managed to lose money on $21 billion in sales. Now that investors can choose to invest in Alibaba instead (which is making money), their patience with Amazon's strategy may wear thin.

Computers and the Internet Cloud services help Microsoft's bottom line
And that's good news for Iowa, since Microsoft has two large server farms in West Des Moines -- one finished, and one under construction

Threats and Hazards Student uses Instagram to threaten his middle school

Threats and Hazards The alliances and disputes in the Middle East are even more complicated than we think
No reasonable observer can really keep all of the rivalries and allegiances straight without help

Broadcasting Streaming music services are starting to compete for speech programming
A French streaming-music service has bought Stitcher, which offers a seamless podcast stream ("stitching" together separate podcasts into a one-click experience).

@briangongolbot on Twitter

October 25, 2014

News How the Toronto Globe and Mail addressed the Parliament Hill attack with grace and class

Humor and Good News Why you should hate Buzzfeed
(Rough language)

The United States of America The best political name ever?
Lacey Merica is running for re-election to the Omaha school board. But with a name like "Merica", she's probably aiming too low. On a related note, how is it possible that in 2014 there are still candidates everywhere for all kinds of offices who don't even bother to have a Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn presence, much less an official campaign website? It's incomprehensible.

News Why everyone should know self-defense: Case study #13
An Air Force lieutenant stops a man from killing his mother and himself in a Walmart store. The airman had a gun on him -- but what if he had not? The perpetrator was carrying a knife.

News Why everyone should know self-defense: Case study #14
The police won't always help you. Even if they're standing right there with guns drawn.

Computers and the Internet Company directors may be abusing the "right to be forgotten"
European law tells Google that it has to take down certain links from its search results upon request when the material becomes "irrelevant" to the subject. Fortune Magazine points out that a lot of British and Spanish company directors have asked that their content be taken down, probably because it would show that their businesses failed. Meanwhile, the BBC is going to start publishing a list of stories that are being pulled from the Google index in order to protect the "right to remember" on behalf of the public.

News And while we're distracted elsewhere...
...China is starting up a development bank for projects in Asia. China's foreign ministry says "China is doing this to promote solidarity". The United States has reason to be apprehensive about this kind of influence-peddling.

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October 27, 2014

News Bad times for executive protection services
After security breaches at the White House and the terrible attack on Parliament Hill in Canada, one would think that Britain's protective services might have a better perimeter defense for the prime minister than appears to be the case. A guy carelessly jogged into David Cameron -- apparently with no ill intent at all -- but how in the world did some random runner get that close without someone body-checking him first? Nobody's saying that elected officials should live in a bubble, but ye gods: It's 2014, and we've had decades of experience in the modern era to see what ought to go into executive protection. This shouldn't look like amateur hour.

Water News Do your part: Keep leaves out of the storm sewers

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October 30, 2014

Business and Finance When it's literally free to borrow
Sweden's central bank has moved its main interest rate to zero

Business and Finance Europe's economy is growing too slowly for a lot of people who want jobs

Science and Technology Nestle brings in robots to sell coffee machines in Japan

News Should colleges have to make it over a "gainful employment" hurdle to get Federal aid dollars?

Health Training pediatric nurses to handle the toughest conversations

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October 31, 2014

Computers and the Internet Former CEO at Apple wants to sell low-cost smartphones in developing countries
Obi Mobiles are already for sale in India and the Middle East

Science and Technology Lowe's is testing robots as customer-service delivery devices
If the robot can show you where to find that random bolt in Aisle 14, do you need a human to lead you there? More bad news for people who are at risk of being displaced by automation.

Threats and Hazards Only about 25% of Illinois students finish high school being ready for college work
College isn't the only goal, of course, but as an indicator, this is a troubling one. If they're not ready for college, are they ready for anything else about adult life?

Computers and the Internet Microsoft rolls out "Microsoft Band"
It's supposed to be a tool for tracking health indicators, but it also connects to smartphones and other devices. Ars Technica calls it "a nice enough entry" into the market, while CNet is downright enthusiastic. Not everyone has need for a smartwatch (or any watch, for that matter), but it's good to see developments making the market more interesting.

Threats and Hazards Russian aircraft have been flying a little close to Europe lately
No violations of sovereign airspace (at least not yet), but it's definite posturing

Weather and Disasters Storm closes part of Chicago's Lake Shore Drive