Gongol.com Archives: 2015 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

May 25, 2015

Health "[T]he best way to automate a new habit is to set the bar incredibly low"
And the best way to be happier in general is, apparently, to build lots of good habits since life is so heavily governed by them.

The United States of America For perspective...
How much US land area would it take to equal the same population as that of the entire UK?

Humor and Good News Australian police issue tongue-in-cheek "most-wanted" for Nickelback
The charge? Musical crimes.

Weather and Disasters Why do thunderstorms pop up at night without daytime heating?
NOAA's looking into it

Computers and the Internet The appearance of genius
Thanks to a new font, you can borrow Albert Einstein's handwriting for your computer, but that won't make your thoughts as deep as his. Ironically, what makes Einstein endure in pop culture is that he was a decent writer of words that communicated with the general public -- not that he was a great calligrapher.

May 26, 2015

Business and Finance Six European countries have youth unemployment rates of at least 30%
Put them on a watchlist now for short-term future volatility and long-term stagnant growth. Unemployed young people with nothing to lose tend to do more than their fair share of stupid things, including crime and riots. And if they don't get a start on their job histories now, they're going to pay a penalty later on.

Computers and the Internet The Office of Dissent Management is at it again
"Critics worry that governance by social media will cheapen the power of the presidency by substituting hashtag activism for serious policymaking." Moreover, there is a serious risk that "engagement" by the White House via tools like Twitter only serves to encourage the cranks and wackos of the opposition and the Hallelujah Chorus among the President's supporters. In reality, the executive branch must engage with the public and should do so thoughtfully and with dignity. It's not entirely clear that appearing on "Between Two Ferns" achieves that. The Presidency is an office and an institution, not a consumer brand.

Computers and the Internet Smartphones are a massive security vulnerability

Weather and Disasters How the ozone hole got plugged

News Corruption in the world's most popular sport? You don't say.

May 27, 2015

Threats and Hazards Russian cyberthieves file for $50 million in fake tax refunds
They used available information to steal 200,000 identities and apparently got away with it about 50% of the time. The IRS suggests the criminals got SSNs, birthdates, street addresses, and filing statuses from outside sources before conducting the attempted thefts. All the more reason to watch carefully what you share and with whom on social media and everywhere else online.

Aviation News Electric airplanes exist and could have a future
Their biggest advantage may be in reducing maintenance costs (and, potentially, both noise and air pollution). It's possible to imagine a future in which autonomously-piloted electric aircraft ferry passengers in small numbers like a skybus service. Not soon, but it could make sense and make air travel cheaper, more accessible, and more convenient for those who don't live near major hubs

Aviation News SpaceX gets approval to launch satellites for the military
That puts them into competition with a Lockheed/Boeing joint venture

News Birth certificates as an anti-human-trafficking device

Computers and the Internet Some thoughts on the Internet trends of 2015

May 28, 2015

Computers and the Internet Google's new "Now On Tap" brings a new layer to smartphone applications
Google wants it to reside more or less between the user and the applications the user employs, and for it to link the different applications together in ways that they aren't permitted to do on their own. Adoption may largely depend upon how users perceive the cost-benefit equation between more of Google's intrusion into their worlds and the potential benefits the seamless integration could bring.

News The state of the print media summarized in one story
The Tribune Publishing Co. just bought the San Diego Union Tribune...and promptly laid off 178 employees, mostly at the printing plant. Newspapers may involve the word "paper" in name alone more often than not in the coming years, particularly as many of them move to a digital-first or digital-only model.

Computers and the Internet The White House says @potus will be a legacy Twitter account
They also say that the account is to be nothing but "Tweets exclusively from" the President. Which is kind of funny, considering there's already an @barackobama account that doesn't really belong to him. Guess he'll have to be something like @barackobama44 after he leaves office.

Business and Finance CEOs in the media sector are disproportionately represented among the highest-paid

News A summary of personality types
Using the popular Myers-Briggs format

May 29, 2015

Computers and the Internet Google promotes its latest new technologies
The company's work is fantastic for consumers, not so much for investors

Business and Finance First-quarter GDP shrank by 0.7%
That's the second contraction in five quarters. They're not consecutive, so it doesn't count as a recession...but contractions aren't good.

Science and Technology Roads? Where we're going, we don't need...drivers.
Iowa City, North Liberty, and Coralville area could get a road exclusively for autonomous vehicles

Threats and Hazards "Enemy plots thwarted almost everyday"
The news inside Iran paints a picture of paranoia...and the US and Israel are the supposed culprits. Of course, it's actually Saudi Arabia causing the most immediate and direct pain to Iran right now by taking the air out of oil prices.

Humor and Good News If Albert Einstein had gotten a performance review

May 30, 2015

Business and Finance Who's setting up new businesses?
Wunderkinds get all the good press, but entrepreneurs are pretty evenly distributed across age groups -- and workers over age 50 are better-represented than in the past. But women are much harder to find among the ranks.

Business and Finance Look to the revealed preferences for the news before the news
Demand for supertankers has gotten suddenly hot again, and that's a pretty good sign that the oil producers aren't looking to cut back

The United States of America The value of Latino voters to the Republican Party

Business and Finance One graph that illustrates two sea-change economic factors
The big, big decline in the number of people in the American workforce and the sustained zeroing-out of the Federal funds rate over the last ten years are a pair of massive forces bearing on the US economy. One signals a generation leaving the workforce, and the other heralds an unprecedented era of effectively free money for the borrowing.

Business and Finance Art forgery: The only crime where it might actually pay to report yourself

Business and Finance The state of Subway
The Washington Post calls a 3% decline in sales "the fall of Subway". That's an exaggeration. The real takeaways: Average sales per store are under $450,000 and a franchise can be started for under $125,000. And Subway's main challenge seems to be that American consumers' tastes have migrated upscale, even if we still seem to want things healthy and cheap. ■ On a related note: The Post has also heat-mapped the nation's fast-food sandwich chains.

May 31, 2015

Threats and Hazards They say, "If you see something, say something" -- but what about when it's the government being creepy?
The ordinary person, behaving legally, should have no expectation -- none -- of being pulled over by an unmarked police vehicle or of being surveilled by airborne cameras or other detection equipment. Those activities lend themselves to abuse (like the police imposter reported in the Des Moines area recently), intimidation, and a lack of attention to real threats which cannot be distinguished from their secret government counterparts (like the suspicious unmarked aircraft recently doing circles over the Twin Cities). "If you see something, say something" is totally meaningless if the most suspicious behavior of all is associated with the activities of government itself. Police conducting ordinary patrols should be in uniform and in marked vehicles, be they cars, motorcycles, trucks, or aircraft, and the only exceptions should be for defined and limited purposes, like raids or investigative work against a specific target. We should expect that Sky Marshals go undercover because the element of surprise is essential to their mission. But on the roads or in the general public, we should know exactly who's enforcing the law.

News There are a lot more Republicans now, thanks to the French
The UMP just re-named itself

Aviation News Trouble in the skies: Green lasers and drones both creating problems in the last few days
To a large extent, we're going to have to evaluate whether it's going to be better to try to prevent people from misusing those tools or to find ways to mitigate the trouble they cause. Since terrorists aren't likely to be deterred by laws, we probably have to focus on hazard-mitigation adaptations for the aircraft already in the skies.

News Harvard surveys its seniors
The Crimson published results of its senior survey, and at least two lines are worrisome. First, a third of males in the elite social crowd are going into finance. Second, of the 14% of seniors going into engineering, half hope to be out of the sector in ten years.