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




Business and Finance 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.

The United States of America Where to find the nation's baseball allegiances
Facebook has been collecting and analyzing the data

Computers and the Internet 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.

Computers and the Internet How Google celebrated April Fool's Day
Seems like it's pretty much a company holiday

Humor and Good News How to lose a wing-eating contest
(Video) If you're up against a ringer, you probably don't have a chance




News Poland is asking for troops
Russian activity of late is making them nervous, and they want NATO's help

Broadcasting Ron Howard and Discovery are spinning up a production company focused on online products

Business and Finance Google stock is splitting in a way that forces the S&P index to have 501


Computers and the Internet Microsoft announces a new Windows Phone
One that appears to take some cues from Apple's Siri

Aviation News Malaysian investigators say airline passengers have been cleared
They say that none of the passengers are suspects in any foul play

Business and Finance Can the President really be used as an advertising prop?
Certainly not in good taste. Poor form, David Ortiz and Samsung.

News Book review: "Impatient Optimist: Bill Gates in His Own Words"




News 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.

News Newspapers continue struggling -- hard -- with the transition to a post-paper era

Computers and the Internet What's changing under Microsoft's new CEO

Health When humans become computer-enhanced, it'll be because of DARPA

Broadcasting David Letterman announces retirement (coming in 2015)




The United States of America What Americans think are the biggest threats

The United States of America Is it hard for international students to make friends on American college campuses?

Computers and the Internet Amazon rolls out "Fire TV"

News Skydiver and meteorite nearly collide
(Video)

Iowa Iowans land in middle of state/local tax rankings
9.3% of income goes to state and local taxes, says the Tax Foundation

Comments Subscribe Podcasts Twitter



Computers and the Internet Studies nobody needed to perform
Researchers conclude that users of Twitter are more narcissistic than users of Facebook

Broadcasting WHO Radio show notes: Wise Guys - April 5, 2014

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



Broadcasting WHO Radio show notes: Brian Gongol Show - April 6, 2014





News "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.

Business and Finance 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.

News 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.

Aviation News 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.

Humor and Good News "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




Computers and the Internet "Heartbleed explained"
Why everyone's going to need to reset their passwords soon

News 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

Threats and Hazards 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"

Computers and the Internet The ideal length of almost everything online
A guide to shamelessly manipulating your audience...because someone else will try to do it anyway

Computers and the Internet Anchorage Daily News surrenders to online competitor

News 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.




Computers and the Internet 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?

Business and Finance 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.

Broadcasting Hazards to the EAS
How broadcasters might be vulnerable to exploitation of the nation's emergency-broadcasting system

Threats and Hazards Russia starts threatening Europe over Ukraine and natural gas

The United States of America Chief Justice John Roberts and the leadership of conservative thought

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



Computers and the Internet Fixing distracted driving with better fonts


News 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.

Threats and Hazards Russia withheld information on the Boston bombers

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



Threats and Hazards Trouble in Ukraine is far from over
Gunmen have taken over police buildings. The smart money is on Russian involvement.

Health 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




Computers and the Internet 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.

Business and Finance Which Americans have been paying down credit-card debt?

Broadcasting Show notes: The Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - April 13, 2014
What is "news", and why does a serious definition matter?

Comments Subscribe Podcasts Twitter



Business and Finance "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.

Computers and the Internet It's time to give serious thought to signing up for two-step verifications online


Aviation News How to super-pack: 10 days' worth into a carry-on
No surprise: A flight attendant knows best

Humor and Good News A statistical analysis of Bob Ross paintings
Totally unnecessary, but then there are those happy little clouds...

The United States of America 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




Science and Technology 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

News 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.

Science and Technology Transparent, conductive, flexible, and cheap: Graphene could be the wonder material


Science and Technology 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

Business and Finance Which prices are inflated and which aren't
It's quite lumpy -- not evenly distributed

Business and Finance 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

Comments Subscribe Podcasts Twitter



News NATO asks Russia to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine

Business and Finance Chinese GDP growth rate now 7.4%
Very high when compared to the rest of the world, but the slowest in 24 years

Iowa Waukee plans a 1500-acre development


Humor and Good News Amy Schumer nicks Aaron Sorkin's style in "The Foodroom"
(Video) Funny, as is the supercut of Aaron Sorkin's self-plagiarization

Business and Finance 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




Business and Finance Labor shortages return


Computers and the Internet Microsoft moves Bing in the direction of Google Plus/Google Now


Computers and the Internet When a Facebook "like' signs away your right to a trial


Iowa No casino for Cedar Rapids


Computers and the Internet 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.




News Tamping down Omaha gang violence by sending in the voice of experience


Iowa Gallup survey finds Des Moines residents wildly enthusiastic about home


Computers and the Internet A reminder: Change your passwords to protect from Heartbleed


Science and Technology PicoBrew: Making beer like using a Mr. Coffee


News Devastating story about child tormented by her peers





Broadcasting Show notes for the WHO Radio Wise Guys - April 19, 2014
Live on WHO Radio at 1:00 Central

Threats and Hazards 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.

Business and Finance April is Iowa's Financial Literacy Awareness Month


Computers and the Internet Crooks used Heartbleed to hack at least two big sites
A UK site called "Mumsnet" and the Canada Revenue Agency both got hit

Humor and Good News "Star Wars" posters in a vintage WWII style
Others have tried travel posters in the same vein, too.

The United States of America Domino's thinks you look a little gaunt
There's no other reason for launching a pizza with a "crust" made of breaded chicken

News 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

Broadcasting Sign of the times: Television weather forecaster hasn't heard of Huey Lewis and the News
(Video)





Business and Finance 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.

Computers and the Internet 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

Business and Finance 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.

News 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.

Science and Technology 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

Comments Subscribe Podcasts Twitter





News 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

Computers and the Internet Digital Warhols discovered
He dinked around with painting on an Amiga, and the files have been found

Humor and Good News Where the baseball fans are
Very clever data visualization by the New York Times shows where to find the fans of specific teams

Computers and the Internet Lyft, defiant, will launch in Omaha

The United States of America When America's work day begins

Comments Subscribe Podcasts Twitter



Computers and the Internet 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

Business and Finance Warren Buffett on protecting yourself from inflation
(Video) What's worth a lot more than gold bars? Skills...and a growing set of them.

News Publicly-funded buildings shouldn't be named after living people
Wasn't that always the old principle?

Humor and Good News Using yeast to prevent a hangover

Iowa How much leeway do Iowa speeders get?
Officially, not much at all

Comments Subscribe Podcasts Twitter



Business and Finance Microsoft finishes purchase of Nokia's phone business
For $7.5 billion. Microsoft can afford to take the risk, and Nokia wanted out.

The United States of America 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

Business and Finance Texas: Don't blow this oil boom
Any natural-resources bonanza is destined to end some day.

News Taxi substitutes turn Nebraska's public services commission into a competitive election

Computers and the Internet Atari-game graveyard excavated
An "E.T."-themed game was such a flop, they buried the cartridges

Follow briangongol on Twitter







News Better designs for daily reports



Weather and Disasters Meteorologist orders his own tornado evacuation on live TV


Business and Finance US personal savings rate drops to 3.8%


Computers and the Internet Microsoft Internet Explorer susceptible to a zero-day security hole


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



Weather and Disasters Forecasters are getting much better at predicting severe weather many days in advance
Perhaps we're not far from a time of having school cancellations for severe weather

Business and Finance Construction companies don't last forever
The companies that built the I-35W bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis aren't in business anymore. Not atypical.

Business and Finance Seattle's mayor says they'll enforce a $15 minimum wage


News Seattle Police: "Officers moving in to break up a moving fight between superheroes and anarchists"


Business and Finance Unemployment rate reportedly drops to 6.3%





Health High-school kids build prosthetic hand with 3D printer


Business and Finance Are value investors "perpetually optimistic"?


News More violence in Ukraine


Health MERS case reported in Indiana affecting a health-care worker who flew through Chicago


Business and Finance Notes from the 2014 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting






Computers and the Internet Just for fun, Sony tweaked a cassette tape to hold 185 terabytes


Business and Finance Target CEO resigns over data breach





Computers and the Internet Stephen Hawking thinks we aren't taking artificial intelligence seriously enough...as a threat


Humor and Good News The Onion plans satirical site targeting Buzzfeed
Clickhole is coming next month

Computers and the Internet Skype announces free group video calls for up to 10 people
They must be feeling the pinch from Google Hangouts...?




Science and Technology Computer model of the universe looks a lot like the real thing
One of the problems is balancing dark matter with visible matter

Weather and Disasters Omaha recalls a $300 million tornado from 1975


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



Health Using nanoparticles to find cancer cells with incredible precision





Computers and the Internet Bigger than the Facebook IPO?
Alibaba wants to go public (the total amount isn't set yet, but it could be $20 billion, according to some speculation) -- and that would put a windfall of cash in Yahoo's bank account when it happens.

Computers and the Internet Police won't aggressively enforce rules on Lyft and Uber in Omaha...yet


Business and Finance The Pope is not an economist
His call for "legitimate redistribution" of wealth may be a statement of moral longing, but not really one of actionable economics. The poor only really become less so when opportunities to capitalize upon their knowledge, skills, and motivation are made possible by rational systems of law. Less valuable than "redistribution" is making sure that legitimate public services like education and sanitation are delivered well, and that property rights are respected (which they are not in many parts of the world). We're not going to get far when a billion people lack basic sanitation.

Business and Finance Cultural differences kill a huge merger of ad firms
Omnicom and Publicis were going to merge in a $35 billion deal. Then nobody could get along on the details.

Threats and Hazards Fukushima was an immediate disaster, but the ongoing radioactivity appears minimal





Socialism Doesn't Work Hipsters on food stamps
Everyone gets to where they are in life through a blend of luck (good and bad) and choices (good and bad). Nobody should want to take good luck away from others, and we're not civilized if we don't recognize that bad luck just happens to some people (who may consequently need a helping hand to recover). But to the extent that we fail to build systems that reward and encourage good decisions (and discourage the bad ones), we're just knocking down the kind of standards that have taken centuries of human progress to achieve. We have romanticized certain notions -- like the value of doing only what you love and the myth built up around "creative" workers -- to the point of fetishization, when what we really need are smart people who are willing to do hard work because that's what's really rewarding in the long run. Hipsters using food stamps because they can't find full-time work as bloggers are making bad choices, not falling victim to bad luck.

Business and Finance "Like so many tech startups, Silvercar seems desperate to claim that it is 'disrupting' an incumbent industry"
Would someone please take the word "disruption" and hit it on the back of the head with a shovel? Most progress is from evolution, not revolution -- and when revolutions do happen, they rarely need to self-promote quite as much as "disrupters" like to announce themselves. Better goods and services? Yes, please...but stop trying to make them out to be bigger leaps than they are.

Broadcasting Show notes: WHO Radio Wise Guys - May 10, 2014
Official show page for the tech-news show and an on-demand podcast

Business and Finance How to set fees as a public speaker

Broadcasting Little-known facts about "The Cosby Show"




Computers and the Internet Twitter co-founder says he's in it for the long run
That's fair, and quite probably a sincere belief. But the company still isn't making money, and the stock market isn't looking too kindly upon that loss-making (now entering its fifth straight year. One thing everyone should know about investing is that Nobody schedules an IPO to be good for buyers. IPOs are timed for maximum benefit to the sellers. People usually pursue an IPO for one of three reasons: (1) They're forced to do so upon reaching a legally-defined number of shareholders (Microsoft, for instance, had to go public because of the number of employees who owned shares); (2) they need to raise cash for expansion plans (which, in today's unprecedented environment of near-zero interest rates, is a rare thing); or (3) the insiders believe the company has reached its point of maximum hype relative to potential. And that's why nobody should rush to buy shares of Alibaba in its forthcoming IPO.

Computers and the Internet "Jet" is going all-digital
Times are tough for publications that go with words printed on a physical page, but that's no reason for the institutions themselves to die off. Jet is moving to a digital model.

The United States of America The Vice President wants to position himself as a leftist
He's probably running for the White House (again) in 2016, and it looks like he wants to do so as a left-wing populist

Broadcasting Barbara Walters is retiring this week

Weather and Disasters Fake, overstated, and overused weather pictures

Computers and the Internet Cybersecurity goes far beyond just antivirus protection
The worst thing that computer users can do is become complacent...and that's a major reason to worry about Mac enthusiasts who think they're impervious to attack because of the platform they use. Today's threats (and those of the future) are going to approach from directions that antivirus doesn't protect and that the Mac OS doesn't defend. Everyone who wishes to continue using technology needs to consider understanding the threats about as well as they should understand medicine: You should know how to perform first aid, and be at least informed enough that you can engage your doctor in decision-making. That's a tall order, but in the modern world, it's inescapable.

Broadcasting Show notes: The Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - May 11, 2014
This week: Why we should at least think about giving everyone $250,000 when they turn 20. Listen live to the show at 9pm CDT.




Health Polio is on the rise
It's an emergency of global consequence, since herd immunity is essential to keeping us all safe

The United States of America A Rorschach test for party platforms
The left prefers to talk about "fairness" and "equality"; the right, more about "freedom" and "liberty"

Broadcasting CBS will be worse-off without Craig Ferguson around
He managed to show that late-night television could be funny and silly, but also (when needed) quite thoughtful

News AP to reporters: Keep it under 500 words
It would seem that Reuters has issued the same guidelines. Anyone who's ever written for broadcast knows that 500 words is quite enough to tell a decent story. That's not to deny that some stories demand more, but when reporting the news, there's no reason to go for a John Galt monologue.

Broadcasting How they animate "Archer"





Computers and the Internet EU court orders Google to change results in "right" to be forgotten


News Mexico is now a net importer of petroleum products from the United States


Computers and the Internet Washington Post adds staffers with new focus on digital presence


Weather and Disasters How Japan bombed the United States during WWII
Balloons and the jet stream

Weather and Disasters Tornado videos from Nebraska

Comments Subscribe Podcasts Twitter



Computers and the Internet The law-makers need to know technology
It is inevitable that technological issues will find their way into legal matters, so it's important that the people who make law (and who adjudicate it) have some familiarity with technology. The same goes for voters. Unfortunately, some remarks made during recent oral arguments before the Supreme Court have some observers worried that the Justices may need some serious "Consumer Technology 101" education. The same, though, should go for voters.

Computers and the Internet Almost everything that Snapchat said it did...it didn't
Many of the privacy claims made by the app renowned for its supposedly "disappearing" messages were in fact totally wrong. That should embarrass Facebook, which tried opening its wallet wide to buy out Snapchat last year. Facebook seems to have been far more lucky than smart so far, and seeing how it got taken for a positively asinine amount in exchange for WhatsApp, nobody should be surprised when Facebook crashes and burns.

News Surprise! Chicago's red-light camera program looks pretty corrupt.
The relationship between the city authorities overseeing the program and the private company providing the service looks like it got a little too cozy, with kickbacks and everything else you might expect.

News Illinois has a $100 billion public-pension debt
But a judge just ruled that any changes to the program would be unconstitutional if they change benefits or retirement ages

Computers and the Internet New LA Times website wants to pre-write readers' Twitter updates


Comments Subscribe Podcasts Twitter



Iowa Debate over funding Iowa's state universities
It's a debate over academics, but also one involving the "keeping kids in Iowa" problem. "Keeping" shouldn't be the focus -- people move away from home all the time, wherever home is. But attracting the right workforce (no matter where they were raise) is a much more legitimate concern.

Business and Finance The longer young investors remain averse to stocks, the less wealthy they're going to be
But many appear to have been spooked badly by the 2008/2009 downturn

Business and Finance Flat incomes plus a little bit of inflation mean lower real incomes


News If only all rival candidates could stand politely next to one another


Science and Technology Tesla Motors foresees building hundreds of battery factories


Follow briangongol on Twitter



Computers and the Internet Detente between Apple and Google?
They're not in love or anything, but it appears they've come to an agreement to resolve almost two dozen lawsuits over who's using whose technology.

Weather and Disasters Damage survey from the May 11th tornadoes in Iowa


Business and Finance Are millions of 20-somethings unemployed, or are they just contractors and freelancers?


Business and Finance Nebraska supreme court says customer lists aren't always trade secrets
If they can be gathered from public sources or recited from memory, then the court doesn't think they're entitled to special legal protection

The United States of America US Air Force will have special time-off program for young parents


Science and Technology Stoneware that is grown rather than cut


Computers and the Internet Do we think and talk too slowly for future robots to want to bother conversing with us?











Computers and the Internet Any company that has to scramble for the future like Google does faces huge extremes ahead
If they effectively apply computing technology to real-world problems, they'll have a real future. But the amount of way-outside-the-box thinking they will have to do just to stay competitive in the digital realm is truly daunting. They might just succeed, but one shouldn't bet the farm on it.

The United States of America President Obama: "The Superhero of Excuses"

Threats and Hazards 31 killed by bombing in China
It grows ever harder to believe that China as we know it will have the same borders in a decade or two

Business and Finance Negotiation tactics it can't hurt to learn

Humor and Good News Vocal ranges of pop singers, illustrated

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




News In America, we form our coalitions before the general election
Which is why there are so many factions and wings within the Republican and Democratic parties. But it's also why a candidate who drops his affiliation with his own party in order to run as a rival independent is really running as a spoiler, whether or not he wants to admit it.

Business and Finance How Ben Bernanke is making a fortune off the dinner-speaker circuit
People seem to think he's going to give them special insight into what's happening next at the Federal Reserve. He seems to have no trouble cashing in on the notion.

Business and Finance It's time to fix the annual shareholder meeting
Almost all of them are rubber-stamp affairs. Too bad for capitalism -- we need some checks and balances.

Computers and the Internet Why Omaha is getting 1-gigabit Internet service from two different providers

Follow briangongol on Twitter



News Results of European elections don't offer much cause for optimism
Elections for the EU parliament appear to be sending lots of farther-left and farther-right representatives to Brussels. Just one example: Britain's anti-EU party won the most seats reserved for the UK. But if you ask the incomparably smug Paul Krugman, everything's just ducky in the Old World.

Threats and Hazards White House outs CIA station chief in Afghanistan
A pretty rotten failure of internal security. Time to review the system in place that allowed it to happen.

Computers and the Internet NYT innovation report is "like a bunch of people got together to envision 2010 from 2005"
Not everyone thinks they got the lay of the land right. Getting digital publishing right poses quite the challenge.

Iowa Iowans: High on patriotism, but low on unemployment
The combo means that there aren't a whole lot of people looking for opportunities in the military strictly for career options...but the recruits who walk in the door tend to be already quite eager to join

Aviation News Clubbing with Jay-Z at Atlanta Hartsfield




Business and Finance Alibaba wants to go public in the US -- but fakes are an unsettled problem
It's one thing to follow a competitor's lead and to try to improve upon what's already out in the market. It's quite another to try to rip off the look and feel of another good -- the trade dress, as it were -- and try to pass off a copycat item as if it were the original. It is that shameless ripping off of the originals that makes so much of the ongoing Chinese intellectual-property theft into such a terrible thing.

Threats and Hazards The United States is falling far behind in digital-warfare capabilities
Among other things, the Department of Defense buys things on such a slow timescale that they're only able to purchase technology that's more than a generation out of date

Computers and the Internet Google shows off its progress with the self-driving car
This is exactly the kind of thing that Google should be building its internal systems to promote -- applications for technology that fall well outside the company's standard lines of business (like search engines), but that could stand a massive dose of new computing power and programmatic thinking. The value of a truly self-piloted automobile would be enormous to society -- freeing up millions of person-hours every day for more useful purposes, preventing thousands of deaths and injuries annually, and providing means of independence to people who can't currently get from place to place on their own.

News Your tax dollars at work

Broadcasting A perfect walk through the history of local-television news openings
(Video) Through the lens of WBZ-TV in Boston





The United States of America Uncle Sam versus the Chinese cyberarmy

Computers and the Internet Time to change eBay passwords

Broadcasting John Williams returns to WGN Radio
He left for a gig at WCCO in Minneapolis after previous management at WGN turned the station into a train wreck. Williams will now host shows for both stations every day, which is a lot to ask of a broadcaster...but he's really, really good.

Humor and Good News Musicians of the World: Less mopey crap, more power ballads. Please.
(Video) The Wilson Sisters could totally beat Justin Bieber in a street fight.




Computers and the Internet Google, Europe, and the "right to be forgotten"


Computers and the Internet Why you should consider using two-step verification for Google access


Science and Technology Engineer suggests "printing" ourselves on another planet instead of traveling there


Computers and the Internet Why did Apple pay $3 billion for Beats?


Business and Finance Higher minimum wages will mean more automation
Companies don't hire people for the feel-good nature of putting people to work. They do it to achieve specific ends. And if a machine can achieve those ends cheaper than a person, then a machine will get the job.

Computers and the Internet Google's lack of employee diversity might surprise people


Threats and Hazards Mass murder in Syria


Humor and Good News Bureaucracy


Weather and Disasters Better radar for tornado detection


News Incoming college freshman wants to go to the West Virginia state legislature
That might be starting a bit too early

Computers and the Internet Microsoft is developing a smartwatch





Business and Finance When Harvard grads flock to Wall Street, the market might be getting overheated

Aviation News Volcanic eruption in Indonesia shuts down flights in northern Australia

Humor and Good News Are Disney villains going soft?

Humor and Good News Super Mario's new "kart" is a Mercedes


Business and Finance A math-heavy way of debunking the work of most (but not quite all) stock-pickers
Most of them add very little value at all when managing other people's money...but they're still paid dearly for it, because most people don't understand that they're getting screwed

Computers and the Internet Google intends to shame ISPs into faster service with YouTube video-quality index

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






Socialism Doesn't Work 25 years ago: Tiananmen Square
Watch the Frontline special on "The Tank Man", if you haven't before





Threats and Hazards Vodafone basically says there's no such thing as un-surveilled cellphone use
It's not just the NSA wiretapping phones in America -- Vodafone says six countries don't even bother to get wiretaps before getting access to phone records

Comments Subscribe Podcasts Twitter



Iowa Most cities in Iowa are shrinking
There's a very clear migration from the small towns to a small number of large ones

News Why the Cubs should be outstanding in about 2019

Humor and Good News The creator of "Calvin and Hobbes" returns -- ever so fleetingly -- to the comics pages

Science and Technology The value of handwriting in the digital age
The brain processes things differently when thoughts are typed as opposed to when they are written by hand. And the hand-writing is good for the brain.

Computers and the Internet The CIA debuts on Twitter
Maybe that's the sign Twitter has become irreversably mainstream

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



News The new emissions rules aren't going to come without costs
Two things to know about every new regulation: One, they're never free. Regulations have the same effect as an explicit tax, but just through a more circuitous route. Two, every cost imposed (via tax or regulation) has an implicit cost, too, in that it diverts resources from something else. Sometimes, the tradeoff is justified -- but not always.

Computers and the Internet Researchers think Microsoft is patching Windows 8 in places it's leaving Windows 7 vulnerable

Business and Finance One-paragraph book review: The Science of Success by Charles Koch

Follow briangongol on Twitter



Aviation News Mark Gongol - news coverage of 2013 flight incident

Business and Finance One-paragraph book review: "The Elegant Solution: Toyota's formula for mastering innovation"




Computers and the Internet European taxi drivers protest (massively) against Uber
Nobody can blame the cab drivers for trying to protect their livelihood -- but to the extent that regulations protecting their cartel only raise rates (as opposed to protecting public safety), the public is under no obligation to extend the protections indefinitely

Computers and the Internet Hackers break into electronic highway signs
Mischief for now, but a warning sign of the threat to public infrastructure that depends upon Internet access. Very little of it is adequately secured.

Business and Finance A better credit card is coming soon
It's called EMV (Europay/Mastercard/Visa), and it should substantially reduce fraud in physical stores. Online? Perhaps not so much.

Business and Finance Interest rates remain extremely low by historical standards
And a bunch of investment banks made the wrong bet by anticipating (perhaps rationally) that rates had to rise. They haven't, and now the banks are getting scorched.

Health Conjoined twins, separated, 18 years later
Just one of many areas of medicine that have gotten a lot better in recent decades without much fanfare




Business and Finance Manufacturing jobs aren't for dummies anymore
There's a popular romantic notion that people should be able to earn incomes in the $80,000 or $90,000 a year range for mindlessly turning a wrench in a factory every day. The reality is that high-income jobs are absolutely available in manufacturing, but they require technical skills and knowledge. The manufacturing industry is growing frustrated by the gap between the skills they need and the ones many workers have, so now there's a $500,000 campaign underway to promote those skills (and their required training programs) in Iowa. Labor demand is strong, but we're probably creating all kinds of counter-incentives at the national level by doing even more to subsidize the cost of college for people who don't earn anything extra for their degrees. If your college degree (undergraduate or graduate) doesn't leave you with enough added income to pay back your student loans, that's not a burden for everyone else to bear. Nothing should stop anyone from studying the things they love, but it's a perverse incentive to make some people pay more in taxes because other people want to pursue uneconomical coursework. Go to the library. Take courses on a pay-as-you-go basis. Be an autodidact. But the Obama administration's latest effort to defer and reduce loan repayments for high-cost graduate school programs rewards going to school for the sake of going to school -- which is emphatically not necessarily the same thing as learning, particularly not learning anything productive for the rest of society. And the scorecard on whether it's useful for the rest of society is a pretty easy one -- if the market doesn't reward the extra education enough for the student to pay for the education, then it was (speaking strictly economically) waste. The problem comes when it's waste that someone else (who didn't get to enjoy the time on campus, or the other psychic benefits of the degree) is being forced to pay for. Not every bit of education has to be strictly practical, but there's also no shame in telling people they should learn something practical alongside what things they enjoy learning. We'd be a much better society if we equally welcomed plumbers who know about classical literature and accountants who know how a combustion engine works. The practical, the technical, the professional, and the liberal arts ought to live in some harmony.

Health Doctor sees first-hand how the ER system needs reform
It's easy to get locked into our silos and to fail to see how systems ought to come together to work best -- in medicine and everywhere else. We don't do much to incentivize systems thinking.

Computers and the Internet Google drops half a billion dollars on Skybox Imaging
The company has a satellite for taking pictures of the ground below. The company says straight-out that it's an acquisition to benefit Google Maps, but they certainly have other uses for the imagery in mind as well, including but not limited to the data needed for self-driving cars.

Science and Technology Solar flares expected

News The NFL team in Washington needs a new name
(Video)




Science and Technology Tesla says it won't sue others for using its patents
The company has gotten a lot of praise for the quality of its electric cars, so they probably expect to stay in a premier position for brand perception. By allowing others to use the patents, they're almost certainly trying to instigate new interest in the electric-car market overall (probably a sensible move, given that there's a lot of infrastructure required to make them work, and the only way to get the infrastruture built is to get a critical mass of users on the roads). And, if Tesla's people are really smart, they'll push themselves to behave in a Toyota-like fashion and keep up a mission for continuous improvement, which could render old patents less valuable to the company over time anyway.

Computers and the Internet Sharper satellite imagery coming soon
DigitalGlobe had to get government approval first. Right away, they'll get to sell resolutions of 40 cm rather than 50 cm, but they're planning to take new pictures down to 31-cm resolution soon.

Business and Finance How to have meetings with more productivity
Limit the attendance, keep the meeting short, and circulate documents instead of convening a meeting (when possible)

News Barriers to employment create bored teens who get into trouble
Two middle-school-aged girls burned down a playground at a Des Moines elementary school in March because they were bored. The new playground is almost finished, but the incident should be a reminder that the things we do that make it harder for young people to get jobs (even if we're doing them out of good intentions) can have negative consequences. It's not good for any society to have a bunch of teenagers bumming around with nothing useful to do.

News California judge strikes down teacher tenure
Some of the hardest-working people in the country are teachers. So are some of the laziest. We would be wise to find systems and incentive mechanisms to encourage more of the former and less of the latter, since a system that protects the lazy ones implicitly punishes the hard-working ones. Education is far too important to leave in the hands of people who don't care.




Threats and Hazards Russian bombers skirt America's coasts off Alaska and California
It's time to re-inject a little of the old Reagan-style twitchy eye into our foreign policy stance. An America that telegraphs all of its plans well ahead of time, boxes itself into a corner at every diplomatic turn, and never threatens to reach for its (metaphorical) six-shooter once in a while is no use on the global stage. From a diplomatic standpoint, the worst thing a country can become is too predictable. For the good of the good nations of the world, we have to look just a little trigger-happy once in a while so that the world's bad guys think twice about getting too bold. The world is not completely full of rational actors, and some of the most irrational occasionally become heads of state. These are not people who respond to long lectures about "red lines", and in implicitly giving them latitude to do whatever they want by standing by wagging fingers and backtracking on threats, we harm the rest of the world that (reluctantly or not) acknowledges our unique role as a benevolent superpower.

Health Next-generation genome sequencing should help improve cancer treatments
By figuring out the genetic state of the tumor, oncologists can figure out how to hit it with the right drugs

Business and Finance Expect the Federal Reserve to keep pumping cash into the economy
The Producer Price Index actually went in reverse in May, by a small amount. Nobody -- nobody! -- wants deflation to take hold.

News Trump plasters name in giant letters across Chicago tower
Two things: First, nobody should take Donald Trump seriously -- he's an exceptional self-promoter, and that's all he ever has been. He doesn't own as much real estate as the public perceives; he puts his name on things and gets other people to front the money, so of course he's going to go to extremes with self-promotion. Second, where are the adults in Chicago's administration? When Mayor Rahm Emanuel waits until long after the sign was approved by his own people to put up a stink about it, one has to wonder whether there's any credibility left in the local municipal management. He's running for re-election, even though the city is riddled with shootings and hundreds of millions of dollars in the hole.

News VOA headline: "China offers to help Iraq"
China is heavily invested in Iraq's oil production, so they have an economic interest in preventing the collapse of the government there. But the Chinese government has also been quite aggressive about establishing relationships with governments around the world in order to preserve access to things like natural resources. What will we think if China sweeps into Iraq militarily -- by invitation or otherwise? If the country falls into disorder only to be re-ordered with the help (or under the thumb) of China, what will have one of the most expensive American military endeavors of the 21st Century have really produced?






Computers and the Internet A formula for success in 2014
Time with books > time with Facebook. Facebook claims that the average user spends almost 20 minutes per day with their site. At an average reading pace of about 300 words per minute, that would equate to reading between 2.1 and 2.2 million words per year. A novel aimed at adults is usually in the neighborhood of 100,000 words. So anyone who spends equal time with books as with Facebook can expect to read 20 books a year or more. Make those the right kinds of books, and you're talking about some serious potential for personal development.

Business and Finance A backwards understanding of "work" isn't helping American workers

Health Self-repairing teeth could be available in three years
Stimulating minerals to aggregate at the site of damage could allow teeth to be rebuilt without fillings

Weather and Disasters We need more weather radar installations
Of all the things on which we could choose to spend Federal tax dollars, additional weather radar sites should be near the top of the list. Tonight's severe weather struck in several places where the nearest Nexrad is 100 miles away, which means there's very little effective coverage anywhere close to the ground...in other words, where the real dangerous action is. In Iowa, Mason City, Waterloo, Storm Lake, and Ottumwa all get peripheral coverage at best. Very few things make better sense for public expenditure than tools to help the National Weather Service detect and warn about severe weather that affects everybody, even in less-densely-populated areas. They're probably too polite at the NWS to ask for the funds, but the need is self-evident.

Health Whooping cough is at "epidemic" proportions in California
Yes, whooping cough. That thoroughly preventable disease. But since there's a vocal and self-encouraging anti-vaccination movement afoot, people's lives are being put at risk. Two infants have already died. Immunization works.

Business and Finance Ikea makes the ill-advised choice to go after its most enthusiastic consumers
People who "hack" Ikea products to do new and unusual things have been told to stop calling themselves "Ikea hackers". It's one thing to protect your brand...it's quite another to slap the people who adore your brand with threats.

News Russia cuts off natural gas to Ukraine
This should surprise exactly nobody. Gazprom says Ukraine is on a cash-and-carry basis, and is rumbling that the EU might not get what it expects if the gas has to travel through Ukraine. The EU gets about 15% of its natural gas via that route, but a marginal 15% in the middle of a cold streak in winter could be back-breaking. Virtually all wars and international disputes come down to matters of resources and how far opposing parties are willing to go to get them. This one doesn't have the makings of a situation that ends well.

Computers and the Internet Digital files can rot
It's called "bitrot" -- the process by which digital files, susceptible to the chance failures of physical components in a computer storage system, become unreadable due to the loss of individual bits and bytes. And it can claim entire files...and does. That's why good backup procedures are a must. (That advice, by the way, applies to Federal agencies like the IRS, which had a faulty system for backing up email and computer files that, coincidentally enough, led to the loss of two years' worth of emails to and from Lois Lerner, who's the subject of a Congressional investigation over whether some groups were scrutinized differently than others when they applied for tax-exempt status.)

Water News When you work across the street from a party-bus company




Threats and Hazards Is China coming after the US in space?

News Russia and its neighbors are upgrading their military powers...fast

Weather and Disasters How to read Doppler radar

Computers and the Internet The first Photoshop

Iowa How a governor stays visible
Terry Branstad's travel log of Iowa




Business and Finance Chinese-built Volvos are coming to the United States
Probably within 12 to 24 months

News Union intimidation rubs electronic composer the wrong way
(Video)

Broadcasting "Danger Mouse" is being revived

Health Applying the irrational anti-vaccine rationale to car seats

Humor and Good News The best Brian Williams rap yet
(Video)




Threats and Hazards Social media as terrorist soft power
Or, "Why terrorists tweet about cats". Do you beat them by blocking them? Drowning them out? Outmaneuvering them?

Computers and the Internet Amazon's new Fire smartphone is out...for $200 to $650
The camera takes 13-megapixel shots and 1080p video. The OS is based on Android, and the processor runs at 2.2 GHz with 2 Gb of RAM. Their Siri imitation is called "Firefly", and they claim the phone employs "one-handed" shortcuts (like tilting the phone to navigate on the screen) -- we'll see how well that works in practice.

News Omaha police are getting wearable cameras
The technology is impressive. The implications could be interesting.

Business and Finance Wages aren't rising in Manhattan

Broadcasting Chelsea Handler is moving a talk show to Netflix




Computers and the Internet Court says police need a warrant to get your cell-phone location data
Meanwhile, the Federal government is trying to keep local police from admitting to the surveillance they're doing. What part of "civilian oversight" do these people not understand?

Computers and the Internet Is Google really trying to get 24/7 closed-circuit monitoring of the entire globe?
That would be one way to interpret their recent decision to purchase satellite-imaging company Skybox

Computers and the Internet YouTube is about to close the door to indie artists
The site evolved into a huge source for music. But because Google/YouTube wants licensing deals with the artists, the unsigned ones aren't being invited to play on the same terms as the major-label artists. And many will probably end up off YouTube altogether. SoundCloud may benefit.

Business and Finance GE will probably get most of Alstom for less than Facebook paid for WhatsApp
And there are about 20-to-1 odds that GE made the better deal

Weather and Disasters Mudslide in Minneapolis threatens riverside hospital




Computers and the Internet Backing up your email isn't hard to do
Someone should tell the IRS, which is making excuses for losing administrative emails -- excuses that wouldn't pass muster in an IRS audit







Business and Finance "Real GDP declined 2.9% in the first quarter"
The government's figures went from an advance estimate of 0.1% growth to a 1.0% contraction, now to a 2.9% contraction. That's one serious math error.

News How the IRS attempted to target Senator Chuck Grassley
Bad move. If there's one member of the legislative branch who's itching to bring down hellfire and fury for abuses of power, it's Chuck Grassley.

Threats and Hazards The State Department still has a lot to do in the interest of diplomatic security

Science and Technology Nostalgia for buildings that were pretty but not useful
It happens a lot -- people discover photos of an old building and get a highly romanticized idea of just how wonderful it might be if those buildings were still around. Some should have been preserved, but many outlived their usefulness -- no matter how attractive they might have been. Americans have an advantage over parts of the world with longer histories, and that advantage is that we know when to blow up the old and replace with the new. Las Vegas does it almost compulsively. The rest of us shouldn't get too teary-eyed about doing the same thing from time to time. It's no good to hog-tie yourself so much to the past that you don't replace what needs replacement.

News What in the world is going on at the Denver EPA office?
People are doing the unspeakable in the hallways




Humor and Good News Jon Stewart is right about the Trump sign controversy in Chicago
Donald Trump is unloveable, and yet the city of Chicago seems to have screwed up on its own





Iowa Iowa's Highway 20 no longer has a 72-mile stretch with no services
It's a chicken-and-egg situation, of course. No services means little interest in traveling through...but nobody wants to build a gas station when there aren't going to be customers. A finished, four-lane Highway 20 across northern Iowa will be a very good thing.

News Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova sign "partnership" agreements with the EU
There's a stick in the eye to anyone who wanted to see the USSR (or something like it) resurrected

Computers and the Internet US Air Force bombing practice deliberately staged for social-media benefit
"Time" calls it "Twitter as a force multiplier"

Aviation News FAA: No Amazon.com delivery drones
The law needs to hurry up and get even with the pace of technology

Broadcasting Jeremy Paxman in retirement
Americans don't really know him, but he was the BBC's most fearsome interviewer




Agriculture You probably didn't know: Most popcorn comes from a small stretch of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota

Weather and Disasters Tornado video may show a house being rotated on its own foundation
While there are certainly some meritable results that have come from the scientific analysis of storm-chasing data and videos, it's really getting to be too much. The thrill-seekers (many probably inspired by Reed Timmer and his fervor on the "Storm Chasers" television series and online) are probably now dangerously outnumbering the scientists, and when even the serious scientists can still get caught in deadly situations, it's time to reconsider whether we're rewarding and encouraging the wrong kind of behavior. Jeff Masters is among those who seem to think so.