Gongol.com Archives: 2014 First-Quarter Archives
Brian Gongol




Humor and Good News Happy New Year 2014!

Science and Technology Get the lighting right
A quick demonstration of just how important the right lighting can be in a photograph

Business and Finance 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.

Computers and the Internet Snapchat gets bitten hard in security test
A team of hackers got to their user database

Broadcasting 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

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Business and Finance Fiat will buy out the rest of Chrysler
And thus one of the Detroit Three becomes fully Italian

Business and Finance 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)

Science and Technology Innovation doesn't stop
Innovation doesn't always happen in huge leaps -- it also progresses in tiny incremental steps

Health 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.

Broadcasting Great examples of foreshadowing




Iowa 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?

Threats and Hazards 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

Computers and the Internet Meeting the voters where they are
The political left has been far more clever at applying media outreach than the political right

Health 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

Computers and the Internet The NSA is working on quantum computing...
...but it has been (as have others) for quite a while

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Health Antibacterial soap: Not helpful, and probably harmful

News Why Bill Gates is optimistic about 2014
Progress on important human-development issues is being made, with more to come

Health Valuable information sheets on nutrition and health
Including one that analyzes what's inside energy drinks

Business and Finance 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

News No new monsignors

Threats and Hazards 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.

Humor and Good News Winter weather local-news bingo

Business and Finance WHO Radio Wise Guys: January 4, 2014
Trends, tips, and technology

Business and Finance 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.

The United States of America 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.

Science and Technology 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.

Health The lungs have a sense of smell

Business and Finance 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.

Computers and the Internet 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.






Business and Finance 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.

Computers and the Internet Jelly: The new social network designed to network your other social networks

Threats and Hazards 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.

Computers and the Internet Recognizing people in the reflections of others' eyes
Now possible thanks to ever-improving digital photograph resolution

Business and Finance When innocuous comments on Twitter evolve into advertising





Computers and the Internet 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

Threats and Hazards 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.

Computers and the Internet Unfortunately, many of your worst fears about cyberstalking aren't even as bad as reality
Greater access means greater potential for mischief

Aviation News Progress visualized
How far one could travel in a day, by year

Aviation News Ah, flying: Such unmet potential for glamour.

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Science and Technology Ford exec suggests that the automakers track your driving
Then he tried to take it back

Broadcasting Basement renovation in a Star Trek style
Nuts but strangely impressive

Weather and Disasters 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.

Iowa 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.

News Democracy or stability in Egypt: The pro-democracy case

Business and Finance Generally: The fewer words in your title, the more impressive it is

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Threats and Hazards Target says it wasn't just credit-card numbers that got stolen


Weather and Disasters America's coldest large cities
The list is arbitrary, but gives some towns a set of dubious bragging rights

Computers and the Internet If your carmaker (or the car itself) collects data on your driving habits, who can have it?


Computers and the Internet 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

Computers and the Internet Google nudges Google Plus into an open-messaging service


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Broadcasting 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.

Business and Finance 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.

Business and Finance Why investors should be taking action over executive compensation
CEO pay is going up, and it's completely uncoupled from performance for investors

Agriculture 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

Broadcasting 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).

Broadcasting 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.




Broadcasting Show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - January 12, 2014
Live on WHO Radio and iHeartRadio at 9:00 pm CT




News Vigilantes or drug lords?
Perhaps put another way: Tyrannical order or chaotic self-determination?

Computers and the Internet For about $7000, you can become "Internet famous"
But to what end and purpose?

News Trouble for the financing of the Minnesota Vikings stadium

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Business and Finance Exiting "Quantitative Easing" will be a huge challenge for the Federal Reserve

Health Science Magazine calls cancer immunotherapy the breakthrough of 2013

Business and Finance 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).

Iowa The Condition of the State (of Iowa)
Per Governor Terry Branstad

Humor and Good News Mrs. Doubtfire as horror film
(Video)




Threats and Hazards One week in cyber vulnerabilities
You might be unpleasantly surprised by the length of the list

Threats and Hazards North Korea makes new threats
Just bluster, or actual threats? Hard to know.

Health 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

News 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.

Computers and the Internet A big blow to "Net neutrality"




Computers and the Internet 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

Threats and Hazards Many state budgets are in serious trouble
Unfunded mandates and under-funded retirement obligations

The United States of America More than 30 Republicans who might end up running for President


Threats and Hazards 200 million texts a day
The NSA is reviewing them

Computers and the Internet 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.




Computers and the Internet President Obama muses that the "kids" aren't on Facebook anymore

Health A complete human genome is about to hit the $1,000 price mark

Computers and the Internet LinkedIn moves to support volunteerism

Computers and the Internet Here's what a gigapixel photo looks like
ISU's Hilton Coliseum in high-definition

Humor and Good News An honest movie trailer for "Skyfall"
(Video)




















Computers and the Internet Google sells Motorola Mobility to Lenovo
Not a great investment on Google's part, it turns out. And the company needs to avoid big mistakes in order to survive into the future.

Business and Finance US personal income rose 2.8% in 2013
But we saved a lot less (in total) in 2013 than in 2012. By $126 billion.

Computers and the Internet CNN to automatically mine Twitter for news tips

Weather and Disasters Cedar Rapids bounces back from disastrous flood, largely by its own bootstraps

Business and Finance What not to buy at "dollar" stores
(Other than anything you would put in or on your body)




Business and Finance It's time for the next generation in credit cards
The huge Target security breach hammers home that point

Science and Technology NHTSA wants cars to transmit location data to one another
If we can effectively enable inter-vehicle communication in a way that mimics the swarming behavior of ants (for instance), we could all end up much safer on the roads

Computers and the Internet Microsoft names its next CEO
Interesting: They're putting their cloud-services chief in charge of the whole company and (supposedly) increasing Bill Gates's role once again

Weather and Disasters NOAA's looking for better ways to issue weather warnings to the public

Broadcasting Why Maria Bartiromo quit CNBC
Ambitious people who don't see anyone seeking to help them advance can't be blamed for looking around for other options




Science and Technology Inventor James Dyson says there's a shortage of engineering skill in the West

Computers and the Internet Emergency update to Adobe Flash

Humor and Good News Delta takes its in-flight safety video back to the 80s
(Video) Some of the gags are superficial...but others are sublime

Humor and Good News A world-class fair in Omaha in 1898
It's deeply revealing to take an occasional look back at the things we considered the state of the art in the past

News Could the British royal family get any more ridiculous?
The queen is sending her "personal dresser" to help put Duchess Kate in longer skirts. Really?




Business and Finance BLS claims a 3.2% annualized increase in US labor productivity
If true and accurate, it's great news. Economic growth (per capita) is necessarily the result of increased productivity. More productivity means faster growth.

Computers and the Internet Now the computer crooks have turned to fake funeral announcements
They'll clearly do anything to get you to let down your guard and click on a malicious link

News The attempt to legalize targeted killings of American citizens in the "War on Terror"
Do we demand security at any cost?

Computers and the Internet The hacking threat to Sochi Olympics visitors and participants

Science and Technology Impressive visualizations of science

Humor and Good News A response to Russia's "gay propaganda" ban
Video

Humor and Good News Drink Leninade!




Iowa Envy isn't an economic policy
Richard Doak used to edit the opinion pages of the Des Moines Register. Now he's just opining on his own, saying that Iowa needs a Minnesota-style economic policy (which he characterizes as being part of their "more progressive politics"). Not everything he suggests is wrong -- we'd be better off finding an escape route from the free-for-all of economic-development incentives. But suggesting that we need a "more progressive state income tax" is boneheaded. The state's tax system is already too complex and riddled with special deductions. Flatten the rate and simplify the system. And don't think Iowa needs to become more "progressive" (code language for "more inclined to spend") in order to succeed.

Weather and Disasters Putting knowledge of user experience to work alongside weather forecasting
The science of weather forecasting has improved a lot over recent decades. Now it's time to improve the communication of that science to a public that doesn't seem especially interested in specialized information.

Business and Finance What would it really take to unionize college football players?
They're trying to do it at Northwestern

Weather and Disasters How much snow has to fall before school gets cancelled?

Humor and Good News There's a perfect way to hold your hamburger
But you'll look pretty silly doing it




Computers and the Internet Upworthy is winning the "curiosity gap" for now
But the site's formula for successful leverage on Facebook won't last forever

Business and Finance So...Porsche owns half of Volkswagen
...but Volkswagen owns the Porsche brand name. Interesting corporate structure.

Weather and Disasters Recent temperatures established a new record for frost depth in Iowa
29" down from the ground level. The measurements are still relatively new, but that's pretty deep.

Iowa Iowa's Civil War monument at the State Capitol

Humor and Good News Movie prequels we'd like to see




Broadcasting Jay Leno moves out, and Jimmy Fallon gets ready to move in
Leno may have been hard-working and successful in attracting (and keeping) an audience, but he never really used his five hours a week in the world spotlight to do much of anything to elevate the human condition. He had a tremendous soapbox on which to stand, and never really said anything really sincere or deeply thoughtful. It doesn't have to be a Charlie Rose kind of show every night, but you don't have to look any farther than Craig Ferguson to see occasional examples of moments that are both entertaining and thoughtful. Instead, Leno's usual routine was bland and lowest-common-denominator, based largely upon pointing and laughing at someone else for being stupid (see "Jaywalking").

Business and Finance GDP is just one among many useful measurements
It's roughly like the measurement of airspeed in an airplane: Absolutely essential, but not the only thing that matters. So, those who would jettison GDP as a measurement of well-being are just being blinded by some ulterior distaste for economic growth (or an unhealthy obsession with equalizing outcomes), but anyone who cartoonishly ignores every other measure for sake of GDP alone is also missing the point. It's an imperfect measurement, but it's also one of the most important, by far.

News Former "McGruff the Crime Dog" actor is going to prison for 16 years

Business and Finance Railcar graffiti: If it isn't yours, don't paint it
But at a cost of $1,000 to repaint a car, owners sometimes don't want to bother. One could wonder whether there's a way to channel the work of the frustrated artists who are just looking for a canvas (as opposed to the gang members and criminally-oriented taggers).

Business and Finance Burlington Northern will spend $5 billion on capital improvements in 2014
A huge amount of America's infrastructure is actually privately-funded and privately-maintained. But if one railroad can spend $5 billion in a year, are we doing enough to keep up with our public-sector infrastructre spending -- or are we just deferring much-needed maintenance and hoping it fails after we're gone?

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Business and Finance Mexico is about to become the #2 exporter of cars to the US
It's overtaking Japan and could soon beat out Canada, too

Weather and Disasters Atlanta's snow catastrophe: It was forecast...but the people who should've listened didn't

Iowa Robber picks the wrong Casey's store
An Iowa DCI agent was in the parking lot

Computers and the Internet The US power grid needs better cybersecurity

Business and Finance One-paragraph review of "Damn Right! Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger"





Computers and the Internet How Facebook is putting people inside dangerous echo chambers

Business and Finance Everything's a trade-off
For the cost of the Sochi Olympic Games, Russia could have just bought every team in the NFL and the NHL

Broadcasting The risks to radio as it ignores personality development

Iowa A $15 million mansion at Okoboji




Business and Finance Comcast announces plans to buy Time Warner for $45 billion
That's a premium of 50% over the intrinsic value of Time Warner, but the compulsion to get bigger can compel a lot of bizarre decisions. If Comcast were actually seeking to spend $45 billion in optimal ways, buying Time Warner for such a premium price would not be the way. As usual, there's talk of savings from synergies, but here's how to tell something about this is a raw deal: it's an all-stock deal. Those only make sense when the acquiring company thinks its own stock is wildly over-priced by the market and the target company is unreasonably cheap. That can hardly be the analysis here -- in fact, while Time Warner is overpriced, Comcast is quite fairly priced. That's like going into a store and not only paying full retail price, but paying a premium on top of the retail price, and doing it on a credit card that doesn't even offer rewards points. (And, again, someone used the word "synergies" in the press release. That's usually a huge red flag.)

Business and Finance Slowing down high-frequency traders by delaying press releases
It might be a sensible first step

The United States of America Natural-gas production is through the roof, but storage and distribution are choke points

Humor and Good News Betty White is everywhere
(Video) Including in-flight safety briefings

Humor and Good News Does your candy match your politics?




Business and Finance Interpreting stock charts the wrong way
Someone pointed out to CNBC that a chart of the stock market in 1929 looks a lot like the chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from 2012 until today. There are so many things wrong with this interpretation: First, there will be uncanny similarities and eerie patterns in stock charts all the time -- because they are fractal in nature. They can be self-similar at wide ranges of scale (that is, a minute-by-minute chart, stripped of the time scale, can look a lot like a month-to-month chart with the same number of data points). The prices mean nothing in isolation -- prices matter only in relation to fundamental matters of value (and, by the way, the DJIA of 2014 has virtually nothing in common with that of 1929 other than its name and the highly arbitrary way in which it is calculated). And, above all else, it is not really the "price" of the market in aggregate that counts, but rather the individual prices of many different companies, each in relation to its intrinsic value. People who look to charts like some magical set of tea leaves are only asking to be buffaloed by self-proclaimed wizards who know nothing but their own chart alchemy. The truth of the matter is that there are many over-priced companies in the US stock market right now, at a ratio of perhaps 2:1 over the number of under-priced or fairly-priced securities. But that's something far different from a market on the brink of a crash.

Agriculture Iowa suffered a big drop in farm income from 2012 to 2013

Business and Finance The importance of manufacturing to Africa's future

Business and Finance The danger of out-of-touch business executives

Computers and the Internet Wearable computing: Still finding its way in the world
Lots of users lose interest and stop using them after just a matter of months

News Time for "Le Selfie"
Nobody seems impressed by the decorum of the French press corps along for the ride to Washington this week




Weather and Disasters There has to be a better strategy than praying we don't get obliterated by space rocks
Any strategy to protect our fragile existence on this planet has to include a plan to prevent a catastrophe caused by the arrival of a large asteroid. That plan would have to include surveillance (knowing where the threats are and when we might face them), prevention (some approach for deflecting, destroying, or otherwise reducing the impact thereof), and mitigation (figuring out what our greatest vulnerabilities are and how to buttress them). And whatever goes for space rocks goes double for threats like volcanic eruptions and earthquakes -- things that are also bound to happen that we (unfortunately) still don't understand well.

Computers and the Internet Security breach at Kickstarter
Another case that should remind people of the importance of having different passwords across different websites

Iowa The cultural importance of the Midwest

The United States of America How Presidents judge other Presidents

Humor and Good News Gnarles Barkley recorded "Crazy" in one take




Iowa Abandoned school buildings in Iowa
There are many. And many of them were constructed solidly, so the bones and the shells of the buildings are still in fine shape. But lots of them were constructed using means and materials (like asbestos insulation) that make them hazardous and expensive to return to good use (perhaps repurposed as apartments or office buildings). It's a good example of why we should think about requiring demolition bonds to accompany new construction. ■ We can't perfectly match the lifespan of a building to its useful life, so instead of leaving abandoned buildings standing where they can become health and safety hazards or diminish the value of their surrounding neighborhoods, why not pre-pay a small amount at the time of construction to ensure that there's a set-aside fund available when it's time to tear down the structure? ■ It's not just an American problem, either: Japan faces enormous costs to remove old buildings that are abandoned and unsafe -- including some, for instance, that don't meet earthquake safety standards. Given how hard it is to get people to pay for maintenance and upkeep without deferring some of those costs out of convenience, responsible societies should think about forcing pre-payment of those costs so that they don't accumulate needlessly and burden later generations with the cost of cleaning up old buildings they never used in the first place.

Broadcasting Revealed preferences on Facebook: Who's in a relationship?
There's a pretty predictable pattern -- people's patterns of posting with their counterpart change dramatically (on average) as a relationship begins

Business and Finance "[W]hat does a good boss do better than a poor one? In a word, teach."
A Stanford study measures the productivity of teams at a large company and finds that replacing a bad boss with a good one does more to improve productivity on a team than adding a whole new worker.

News An argument for academic relevance
Not relativism, but relevance to the real world. Nicholas Kristof makes a strong argument in a New York Times column that the highest stratum of academia "glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience" and needs to spend more time on Twitter.

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Socialism Doesn't Work "[W]e elect governments that are happy to be extorted"
...by companies with enough cachet that politicians don't want them to leave

Socialism Doesn't Work UN commission wants North Korean regime brought to trial for crimes against humanity
On that point, they are right. But the commission muffled the criticism with this erroneous line: "These are not mere excesses of the State; they are essential components of a political system that has moved far from the ideals on which it claims to be founded." There is no such thing as an "ideal" in a Communist state. Communism is an exercise in putting a "people's movement" face on a naked power-grab by the leaders of the Communist Party. It has never been anything but. The fact there are 200,000 people in the North Korean gulag system for political "crimes" is proof enough of that.

Business and Finance Peugot is about to become one-third Chinese-owned
It's another example of the sale of Western assets to China, which is a trend that will continue and accelerate as long as Western countries continue to borrow more than they save and import more than they export. France has a large trade deficit, and that means, on net, they're exporting Euros...which are finding their way back to Europe in exchange for ownership stakes in European companies. ■ If that's a bad thing (and it may be or not, depending on whether you prefer consumption or ownership), then thoughtful people should do some thinking about how to change course. (It should be noted, by the way, that some net-exporter countries, like Germany and [sometimes] Japan, have themselves made big investments in the US, which is why Volkswagen has plants in Tennessee and Toyota has plants in Indiana. ■ Foreign ownership isn't necessarily a bad thing, at least not by definition. And it's a bad move to play politics with the export success of our allies, as the Obama Treasury Department has done with Germany.)

Business and Finance How to really help low-income workers: Expand the EITC
Minimum-wage hikes don't tend to really put more money in the pockets of low-wage workers. And they have a negative side effect: They reduce the number of options for young people to get after-school jobs, which depresses their future earnings prospects and can run the risk of leaving us with lots of unemployed teenagers hanging around with nothing productive to do (and that doesn't usually end well -- just ask France). Moreover, raising the minimum wage does away with options for people who want supplemental income to their regular jobs. If the point is really to help poor people, we should do what actually works -- and that's consider an expansion of the EITC. Skepticism about the value of a minimum-wage increase doesn't mean the skeptic is against helping the poor -- it may just mean he or she thinks there's a better way.




Business and Finance Americans are back to borrowing a whole lot of money
The reign of good behavior (paying down debt and socking money into savings) may be over. Consumers borrowed a quarter-trillion in the last quarter of 2013.

Humor and Good News The science of a good harmony
Strangely, we don't quite seem to understand why a really good musical harmony can trigger the goosebumps, but sure enough, it's a widely-recognized phenomenon. Odd how there are so many things that are practically universal that we just plain don't understand at all...especially involving the brain.

Computers and the Internet The comparatively poor performance (and price) of US broadband Internet access

Computers and the Internet Facebook goes on the counterattack against Upworthy

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.



Business and Finance Should Apple buy Tesla Motors?
Apple has a massive stockpile of cash, but is this their smartest potential investment? Car companies are a tough, tough business; there may be lower-hanging fruit.

Humor and Good News The trials of women's sports
(Warning: Strong language) The Onion reports on the US women's hockey team like no other source can

Computers and the Internet Are those who delete their past condemned to repeat it?
US News deletes its online archives from before 2007. Apparently, they don't believe in the "long tail" effect.

Aviation News US Airways CEO makes a hefty profit on stock appreciation
The December merger of American and US Airways left him with a big profit on US Airways stock he bought on the open market in 2008.

Business and Finance Good reading on entrepreneurship
Some countries have a lot of small businesses because it's too hard to get big.

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The United States of America Bill Gates: "[P]olitics needs to focus on the problems rather than attacking the other side"
Spoken like a true technocrat -- a type of influencer that has fallen out of favor over time, but that we need to bring back to the table. There aren't many engineers, programmers, or microeconomists who feel comfortable weighing in on public policy from a purely pragmatic perspective...but we could use them. It's not sensible to just occasionally point vaguely in the direction of "scientists" when arguing about subjects like global warming. We have legions of technically-trained people who have helpful ways of analyzing and addressing local, national, and global problems, and we should be eager to get their input.

News Who makes the law for the Keystone XL pipeline?
The degree to which different authorities have their fingers in things makes it tough to cut through

Humor and Good News Brian Williams (unwittingly) performs "Rapper's Delight"
(Video)

Computers and the Internet The dangers of using apps to look for love
Leaving a breadcrumb trail of the places you visit -- especially when signaling that you may be single and unaccompanied -- could be a really bad idea

Health A novel approach to caring for people with dementia
Creating a safe, enclosed space in which they are protected from wandering-off incidents, but can remain surrounded by familiarity




Business and Finance The disruption obsession
USA Today columnist Michael Wolff looks at the return of Bill Gates to a technical role at Microsoft as a case study in "a new kind of business distinction: the super cool and the woefully uncool". That's not quite the problem. What's really going on is that there are plenty of successful, profitable firms that have done a poor job of conveying their 30,000-foot view of the company's mission and the large goals they have along the way (the core of the "Built to Last" thesis), and at the same time, there are lots of popular stories being told about "disruptive" companies and projects that capture too much of the public's imagination. What's really the greater mission: Creating the software that makes modern commerce possible, or blowing through a bunch of venture capital in an effort to disrupt some niche market with no real path to profitability? To be sure, we need both evolutionary progress and revolutionary innovations. But just because someone can cobble together an app doesn't make them smarter than someone who can figure out real-world, hands-on problems that don't get them tweeted-about in the "silicon" tabloid circles.

Computers and the Internet Google says it wants to bring fiber-optic service to nine more US metro areas
They're in Provo, Kansas City, and Austin already; Portland, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, San Antonio, Nashville, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, and Atlanta are all under consideration

Computers and the Internet Kids in an Omaha neighborhood learn programming early
At a pre-teen age. One parent is teaching the classes. Terrific story.

Business and Finance The cost (in increased unemployment) of a higher minimum wage

Weather and Disasters Ice on the Chicago River
Time-lapse video converts slow motion into something much prettier




Business and Finance Skills gaps in the workplace
Is it the employer's job or the employee's job to fill the gaps?

News DoD puts $70 million into Chicago manufacturing institute

News Head of Mexican drug cartel captured
The sooner Mexico can break the backs of the drug cartels, the better




Broadcasting CNN is dumping Piers Morgan
And not a moment too soon. He lacked any sense of humility. His problem was not that he was a Briton looking at American politics and issues -- it's that he was so utterly and openly contemptuous of so many American ways of doing things.

Broadcasting Radio notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - February 23, 2014
The "And then China takes over" edition




Science and Technology The "word gap" in children's brains
(Video) Research suggests that kids from higher socioeconomic backgrounds get a huge head start over kids from lower-status backgrounds, just based upon the larger vocabularies of their parents. The gap appears incredibly early (before 18 months) and appears to be durable well into older age.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft drops Windows 8.1 cost to $15 for some OEMs
They're hoping a big cut in price might help stave off competition from Apple and Google

News They may actually go ahead and build the Chicago Spire
A 2,000-foot tower in the Windy City. Necessary? Not in the least. But people do like a good symbol.

Computers and the Internet UIowa basketball coach tells players to suspend their Twitter accounts
There's been some unreasonable reaction by "fans" to some recent play. It's the behavior of unreasonable, immature jerks. But those people exist, and the Internet allows them to step up on a very public soapbox. For the time being, it may make sense for the coach to order his players off the virtual field in order to stop the bleeding. But it's really about time for universities to realize that the genie is out of the bottle and focus on training students (including student-athletes) to know what to say and when online. Prohibitions never last forever.




News Are newspapers failing their communities?


Business and Finance Public power district discovers its waste sand is worth a fortune
Someday, America's landfills will be highly treasured for the resources they contain, too.

Business and Finance Income inequality by city
Obsession with inequality for its own sake isn't particularly productive. But if it is a symptom of other concerns, then knowing where it's large or small may be valuable.

Computers and the Internet There's over-sharing, and then there's being over-shared


Health Why smoke to get lung cancer when you can just breathe in China?
Rich democracies have the best environmental protection

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Science and Technology Digital librarians claim science is expanding three times faster than in the mid-20th Century

Science and Technology How journalists drive scientists up the wall
Do remember, dear scientists, that at least the journalists may be trying. And if they stop, woe be unto all of us.

Aviation News Delta turns frequent-flyer program on its head


Threats and Hazards The press may not be all that free in Hong Kong

Computers and the Internet Always have an offsite, offline backup of your most valuable photos





Health Your language affects how you think
Not just superficially -- it turns out, rather deeply

Aviation News For her 100th birthday, a return to the skies
A woman who served as a WAVE during WWII gets another flight

The United States of America Survey says: Majority of Americans are OK with same-sex marriage


Computers and the Internet Yahoo chats may have been snooped-upon by the spooks


Computers and the Internet The mayor who wins Twitter


News Stripping the Ukranian treasury on the way out of town


Humor and Good News Hipster brands, de-hipsterized
And in fact, mightily corporatized

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Iowa Des Moines is firing on all cylinders
A news report by a TV station in Fort Wayne might as well just be the new Convention and Visitors' Bureau ad

News Waking up in a body bag is probably still better than not waking up at all
It just happened to a man in Mississippi

Weather and Disasters No, giant walls across Tornado Alley won't stop tornadoes

Aviation News Astronaut remains calm as his helmet fills with water
A nightmare only barely kept from turning to tragedy

News How the Irish language was lost
Columnist draws an interesting contrast between Irish Gaelic and Hebrew

Weather and Disasters Study suggests that wind farms hamper hurricanes
Seems a little hard to believe; more study definitely needed











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
(Video)




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




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..."
(Video)




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




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?




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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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

News
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




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




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





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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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?

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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




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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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


Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)





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




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?





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.




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

Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)



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





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