Gongol.com Archives: November 2015

Brian Gongol

November 2015
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November 9, 2015

Computers and the Internet Google and Tag Heuer roll out a $1,500 smartwatch
Get a smartwatch, but get a cheap one, then beat the crap out of it as most people do to their regular watches. Then replace it in a couple of years with one from the next generation. Unless there's something you simply cannot live without in the smartwatch you've been craving, everyone should start with the Pebble. For $100 (less when on sale, as they frequently are), you can test whether you get any real utility out of a smartwatch without committing hundreds and hundreds of dollars to a piece of vanity jewelry.

Agriculture The problem(s) with a record harvest
Iowa farmers are bringing in so much corn there's no place to put it all. And that's not going to put any upward pressure on low prices.

Computers and the Internet Samsung's $600 "Galaxy View" tablet has an 18.4" screen

Health Russia "sabotaged" London 2012 Olympics with doped athletes

Computers and the Internet "Uber angst": The fear of getting "disrupted" right out of business

Recent radio podcasts

November 10, 2015

News Why people are so desperate to get into Europe

Business and Finance Oh dear: Large companies have over-extended their borrowing again
The duration of near-zero interest rates should have been a signal it would come to this. The real peculiarity, though, is that all this borrowing seems not to have driven real investment in tangible things that will improve long-term business prospects. So where in the blazes has all the cheap money gone?

News The right is "peaceably to assemble", not to call in "some muscle" to bounce journalists from a public space
Fortunately, faculty members at the University of Missouri seem eager to punish the titular faculty member who demonstrated some serious misunderstanding of the First Amendment.

Business and Finance Saul Bass and the importance of a company logo that matches its image

Humor and Good News Why Dave from "Alvin and the Chipmunks" always sounded a little unhinged

@briangongol on Twitter

November 11, 2015

News The shocking human tragedy in northern Africa
People are risking everything -- and often losing their lives -- trying to escape war, terrorism, deprivation, and other horrors. And the heartlessness with which people like Mike Huckabee try to say "That's not my problem; they're too far from home" is revolting. No sensible person thinks we should grant entry to every refugee without the slightest effort at screening out the inevitable bad apples, but it is pure hackery to malign the refugees by mockingly asking, "[A]re they really just coming because we've got cable TV?"

Business and Finance AB Inbev lands the SABMiller purchase
Sale price: $107 billion

Business and Finance Negative interest rates, long thought imaginary, are now very real
It's one way to try to get people to spend money

Aviation News Mitsubishi officially enters the regional-jet market
Test flights are underway

Broadcasting Chicago Cubs broadcast moves again: From WBBM to WSCR
WSCR was formerly the renowned WMAQ

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November 12, 2015

Threats and Hazards Russia is using "hybrid warfare" in Syria

Health Memorial Sloan Kettering says women shouldn't change their mammography schedules
Despite new recommendations from the American Cancer Society, MSKCC says women at normal risk should stick with a target age of 40 to start screenings

News Puerto Rico is edging towards full-blown fiscal crisis
This is going to test our understanding of bailouts

Business and Finance Female economists don't get the respect they deserve
Tacit demotions of their contributions seem to be a problem in the (already minimal) coverage their work receives in the mass media

Computers and the Internet Apple's new iPad Pro is 12.9" in diameter
...blurring the lines altogether between "tablet" and "laptop" sizes

Recent radio podcasts

November 13, 2015

Business and Finance China's dependence on captive government enterprises
That dependence will keep Chinese industry from developing the kind of quality improvements that Japan and Korea have used to their respective advantages. Honda, Toyota, and Samsung are all examples of companies that learned to get better at their industries because the pressures of the marketplace forced them to do so in one way or another. Toyota developed kaizen methods because they didn't have enough cash to purchase lots of raw materials inventory. Honda overcame strong government objection in Japan to even enter the auto market, and crushed the major automakers at meeting new emissions regulations using new technology in the 1970s, when its cars were entirely unknown in the US. Samsung has fought pitched battles in semiconductors, smartphones, and all manner of consumer electronics. To build a company for long-term success, it's crazy to try to insulate the company from competition with a captive market. Success is forged in the heat of competition.

Computers and the Internet Email goes back to the future
US military networks are going to strip incoming messages of HTML and turn them into plain text, just to thwart cyberattacks

Aviation News Dubai is (supposedly) buying jetpacks for high-rise firefighters

Humor and Good News Canada and Denmark are engaged in the most polite border dispute in history
Their respective militaries keep leaving bottles of liquor for one another

Weather and Disasters Des Moines got a tornado and then snow the other day
An exceptionally rare phenomenon

@briangongol on Twitter

November 14, 2015

Computers and the Internet Facebook never intended to get into fights it cannot now avoid
Some British parents are fighting to get the service to remove a photo of juveniles from the page of a far-right-wing group -- so far, to no avail

Computers and the Internet Google launches "YouTube Music" app for phones
People already use YouTube heavily for listening to music (whether or not they watch the videos), so this is hardly a groundbreaking step -- other than admitting that's what people use YouTube for

Computers and the Internet Microsoft starts major updates to Windows 10
It always takes Microsoft a little while to dial it in after launching a new operating system

Computers and the Internet Twitter's stock price is below IPO price
The service has certainly found its place, but growth remains elusive and so do profits. Who would want to compete with them if even from a position of dominance they still don't bring in buckets of cash?

Science and Technology Google self-piloted car pulled over for driving too slowly

Computers and the Internet Microsoft locates some data centers to avoid US legal authority
Probably a sensible thing to do if you have customers who want to avoid certain regulatory oversight

Computers and the Internet Amazon will start distributing NEXRAD data
The government collects the data via the National Weather Service, but until now has found the distribution of that data to be beyond its capacity.

Threats and Hazards Russia wants to build a nuclear doomsday machine
No, really. A doomsday machine, like in "Dr. Strangelove".

Aviation News Mitsubishi claims starting from scratch helps it build a super-efficient regional jet

Computers and the Internet Google is getting into the manufacture of computer chips
Not content to make the software, they're venturing into the deepest heart of hardware

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - November 14, 2015

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November 15, 2015

Threats and Hazards Keeping perspective after the Paris attacks

Business and Finance China wants to buy Syngenta
China has lots of available capital to invest, and lots of American companies are prospectively for sale. If you don't want to lose control, don't sell out.

Business and Finance Japan's GDP fell in Q2 and Q3
That officially makes for a recession. Business investment is slipping, and that most likely has a contributing effect.

Business and Finance Tough times for the South Korean chaebol
It may be necessary for government to protect certain firms or industries for countries without a lot of natural resources to develop rapidly. South Korea, Japan, Singapore, and others have gone the route of high intervention in exchage for quick development. But eventually the protections have to go away, and that transition isn't easy.

Threats and Hazards "[T]his is a war about a vision of history"
"State-sponsored slavery seemed like a thing of the past, but now ISIS is an unapologetic slave state."

@briangongolbot on Twitter

November 16, 2015

Threats and Hazards Will terrorists try to exploit the refugee crisis? Of course.
That should not make us treat the refugees badly. They are victims, too.

The United States of America Good for Shepard Smith
Fox News Channel host editorializes against the knee-jerk reaction against refugees

News Germany orders its flags to half-mast in honor of Paris
A lot can change in the course of a few decades. It matters whether our civic and political leaders have a vision for the future.

Business and Finance Going public made Cabela's vulnerable
If you don't want to lose control, don't give up ownership

Business and Finance Chicago restauranteur thinks tipping is about go extinct
Instead? A flat 20% service charge added to every bill.

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November 17, 2015

Threats and Hazards What's the root cause of radicalization in Europe? Look at youth unemployment.
The most dangerous thing in the world may very well be lots of young people (especially young men) with lots of free time and nothing to do. It can be especially dangerous when they don't think they have any prospects for improvement to their own material well-being. Always beware the well-intended steps that are supposed to make things better for the poor but that present new barriers to entry into the workforce for those with no experience and no skills.

Computers and the Internet Asus introduces the Chromebit
An $85 computer running the Google Chrome operating system. Attach to a monitor, add a keyboard, and you have computer functionality.

Broadcasting Pandora buys out Rdio
Consolidation in the broadcasting industry continues, even when there's no actual broadcasting taking place.

Business and Finance The price of steel is in freefall
Really bad news for extraction economies. This needs to be on the radar of the people who look after foreign affairs and geopolitics: The extractive economies are generally the lesser-developed ones. If they suddenly have less income, they're going to become less stable.

Threats and Hazards Unintended consequences of a larger air war over Syria: More refugees
We can't just look at the millions of displaced people as simple "collateral damage". There needs to be a vision for what is to be done for and about them. The air war may very well be necessary -- but it cannot be conducted as though in isolation from any other circumstances or consequences.


November 18, 2015

Business and Finance China won't save the world's economy
President Xi Jinping: "China's economy is still coping with the complicated internal and external environment, considerable downward pressure, and the temporary pain of deep reforms". Don't imagine them to be quite so temporary. The political environment is going to put a permanent damper on the economic environment. It's too bad we ceased to call it "political economy" as a branch of study a long time ago -- the two are intertwined.

Business and Finance First the boom, now the purge
China's government is arresting and prosecuting people inside financial firms. It's a very modern form of purge.

Business and Finance Skilled workers tend to retire at 65: Beware the consequential workforce shortage
North America could soon be short by almost a million skilled industrial workers

Computers and the Internet Digital exhibitionism puts us at risk
It's hard to resist the lure to share too much personal information and leave behind a big digital footprint. These are uncharted waters.

Broadcasting Cumulus Broadcasting is moving into the prettiest building in Chicago
The Art Deco-inspired but 1989-built NBC Tower is really quite gorgeous

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November 19, 2015

News Where Syrian children sleep
A powerful documentation of the refugee condition

Threats and Hazards ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh keeps a round-the-clock computer help desk
It does not do us any good to caricature them as some kind of medieval enemy. They are very much a product of the modern world and are not afraid to exploit modern tools. It is a modern machine of monstrosity.

Business and Finance US ranks second in index of global charitability
Seven of the top ten are among the world's most advanced economies. Two (Sri Lanka and Myanmar/Burma) are very much developing. One (Malaysia) is middle-class. It's certainly an endorsement for promoting prosperity.

Computers and the Internet What's new in the Windows 10 update?
It's a large update -- perhaps on a scale near that of the big service packs that came with Windows XP.

Business and Finance Proposed Canadian Pacific-Norfolk Southern merger would be huge
CP thinks it can cut operating costs at Norfolk Southern by 10 percentage points

@briangongolbot on Twitter

November 20, 2015

Business and Finance Jobs aren't the only thing
"Job creation" is a popular theme for politicians, but jobs alone aren't the only thing that matters. The national unemployment rate is estimated around 5.0%, which is generally thought to be in the neighborhood of the natural rate of unemployment. Yet lots of reasonable people would say the economy is substantially underperforming its potential. Jobs matter, but they're not the only thing that matters. And politicians need to show some humility about what they're capable of doing.

Threats and Hazards Why we shouldn't laugh at the (admittedly preposterous) North Korean dictatorship
It's now in its third generation of unimaginable absurdity, but it's no less murderous

News What's going on inside the minds of Trump supporters

Business and Finance Chinese government goes after $64 billion in "underground" money movement
It's no surprise that people inside China are looking for ways to get their money outside the country, for reasons of both returns and security

Broadcasting "Branded content" looks like a new thing -- but it's as old as broadcasting itself
Companies like Marriott are spending money on original content (like 15-minute YouTube movies) that are intended to promote their brands. It's actually quite a back-to-the-future thing, considering that many commercial radio stations started as in-house "branded content" vehicles: WLS stood for "World's Largest Store" (Sears). WHO started out as a tool for Bankers Life (now Principal Financial). KMA was a department of the Earl May seed company.

@briangongol on Twitter

November 21, 2015

Computers and the Internet Is software programming really "engineering"?
On one hand, engineers of the civil/structural/environmental variety shouldn't let other people cheapen the title since certain types of engineering are (literally) a profession. On the other hand, engineering has long been much broader than what is defined strictly by those professions -- and we could use a lot more engineering-think from people outside the engineering professions (as strictly defined).

Iowa Rural bankers in the Midwest aren't very optimistic

News Steve Jobs and the drowned toddler can't be the only images of the Syrian refugee crisis
They both belong in the discussion, but our understanding of the situation must go deeper

News Japan asks Australia to stand up to "self-righteous assertions" by China
China says it's going to continue expanding its man-made island chain (in a transparent attempt to create maritime claims where none ought to exist). Now the question is whether anyone else can counterclaim or present a rejection of the claims that will stand up. China clearly doesn't want to lose face after putting in this investment.

News Fire in Chicago's Hancock Building on the 50th floor
It happened in a residential part of the building

@briangongol on Twitter

November 22, 2015

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - November 22, 2015

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November 23, 2015

Threats and Hazards "We lose the war against ISIS if we don't get serious about our presidential candidates"

News Oil below $40 a barrel -- a real possibility
Mixed with good and bad, of course. Cheap gas feels good, to be sure. But it also undermines efforts to find more sustainable energy sources. We should use a portion of the energy bonanza to make a serious investment in the future.

Business and Finance Financial literacy is an essential form of literacy
Along with basic technological literacy and basic numeracy, these are just as important as being able to simply read in the conventional sense

Computers and the Internet Surprise! Apps for viewing porn are also data thieves.

News DC police chief: If you can, shoot an active shooter

@briangongolbot on Twitter

November 24, 2015

News A candidate who threatens to sue a rival for damaging his brand name isn't a serious candidate
That's the behavior of a self-promoter

News Terrorists aren't really going to mosques

News Look into the eyes of displaced children

News Wealthy Russians are planning to leave -- in huge numbers

The United States of America What will the US labor force look like in 25 years?

@briangongolbot on Twitter

November 25, 2015

News "Why you should have a messy desk"
Like many similar clickbait articles on the Internet, this one is profoundly silly and reductionist. It could be counterweighted easily by articles about "Why you should always start with a blank sheet of paper" or "Always go to a blank drawing board". What matters is figuring out quickly what works most effectively for your own method of thinking and then sticking to whatever enhances it.

Business and Finance When China's currency reconciles with reality, the results are going to hurt

Computers and the Internet A deep-down security issue has been found in Dell computers

Socialism Doesn't Work When the company president goes AWOL
It comes as no surprise that prominent business managers are vanishing without explanation -- totalitarian regimes can be threatened by economic power as well as political power

Computers and the Internet New chipped credit cards are going to slow down holiday shopping

@briangongolbot on Twitter

November 26, 2015

Computers and the Internet Candidates should be asked about their plans for cyberwarfare
It could be an enormously powerful tool for "asymmetric" warfare by groups much too small to threaten our national security with tanks and airplanes. We sorely need a national cyberdefense strategy with a clear identity.

Threats and Hazards "Suddenly, all Syrian refugees are viewed as potential terrorists -- just as IS had hoped."
The terrorists behind ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh are looking several steps ahead, and terrorist attacks serve to further their agenda. Dismissing them as the "JV squad" or thinking that they will collapse without a deliberate strategy on our part is just wishfulness.

Business and Finance Forecasting where the stock market will end 2017 is a lavishly silly exercise

Aviation News Team backed by Jeff Bezos lands a reusable rocket

News Is owning the tapes to some long-lost Beatles recordings the same as owning the intellectual property?

@briangongol on Twitter

November 27, 2015

Computers and the Internet IBM says smartphones dominated online shopping this Thanksgiving
Their analysis says smartphones were used for 46.7% of online shopping on Thanksgiving day

Business and Finance China's big industrial companies are making less money than a year ago
Total profits have fallen by almost 5% from last October -- and have decreased for five consecutive months

Computers and the Internet Domain registrar increases the price of a .uk domain
It's not by much, and the resulting cost still isn't high (about $6 a year), but it's rare to see prices like this increase rather than decrease

Computers and the Internet Punching through the Great Firewall of China
The browser plugin, called CacheBrowser, uses the "content delivery networks" so widely employed by many major websites to reconstruct the pages of sites whose URLs are blocked by Chinese censorship

Humor and Good News Seth Meyers gives Donald Trump the skewering he deserves

@briangongol on Twitter

November 28, 2015

News Of course Donald Trump has no scruples about running as a third-party candidate
But he's really just "campaigning" as a vanity publicity stunt. It has to be viewed as a commercial endeavor, not a political one: He's getting endless free media coverage, which only serves to advance his interests as a marketer who vomits his name atop lots of gaudy real estate. He stands to lose very, very little, even by saying profoundly offensive things.

Threats and Hazards Our enemies are playing the long game on the Internet
ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh has a long view of its presence online as a tool of both recruitment and terror. Meanwhile, the United States seems to perpetually cutting back, mismanage, and under-fund its own tools of international public diplomacy, especially those under the Broadcasting Board of Governors. It's penny-wise pound-foolishness. International broadcasting costs us next to nothing, but unfortunately there's been a lot of displacement of conventional broadcasting methods (like shortwave radio) in favor of Internet services -- when they represent two different products for very different audience purposes and should have been treated as additive, not substitutional.

Science and Technology Bioengineering is starting to venture past some remarkable (and possibly irreversible) lines

Humor and Good News Science proves Americans' smiles have grown over the last century

Computers and the Internet Sophisticated point-of-sale malware could exploit holiday shopping

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November 29, 2015

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - November 29, 2015

Business and Finance How to play the long game, Toyota-in-Nascar edition
By getting a foot in the door in a highly "American" sport and persisting in showing that their products are just as American as their Detroit competitors, Toyota made an investment in its brand equity with a real payoff

Aviation News Southwest is turning St. Louis Lambert Field into something of a hub
With 39 destinations, it's not quite how things used to be when TWA served St. Louis as a hub (back then it had more than 100 destination cities), but it certainly serves to fill some of the excess capacity built up before TWA was acquired by American. TWA had 76% of the airport's travelers back before it was swallowed up.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft fixes big Dell security bug

Aviation News JetBlue wants to train some pilots from scratch

Computers and the Internet Microsoft halts Windows 10 updates for a moment

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