Gongol.com Archives: April 2016
High-income, high-education people turn to the Internet for lifelong learning. People with lower incomes and less education don't as much.
A lot of fields reject self-taught" authorities on a subject. Computer programming does not.
Man stops to film tornado from his attic. It turns and obliterates his home before he can make it downstairs.
A sad prospect -- Nebraska is one of the only states to allocate electors by Congressional district, which is actually a sensible practice that more states should follow. Let the overall state winner take the two statewide electors.
Tracking the minimum wage to some kind of inflation-related index? Probably reasonable. But large jumps do run the serious risk of causing employers to take drastic measures, like automating or leaving the affected jurisdictions.
It all boils down to the need for critical supplies and a shortage of safe and reliable transportation options. One may recall the scene from the late "West Wing" episode in which the retiring CJ Cregg responds as follows to an offer of a $10 billion philanthropic grant: "Highways [...] It's not sexy. No one will ever raise money for it. But nine out of ten African aid projects fail because the medicine or the personnel can't get to the people in need. Blanket the continent with highways and then maybe get started on plumbing."
Businesses are using artificial intelligence to provide customer service without the human customer-service reps
The Internet is now just the internet
Several key methods of meeting seem to be missing from the data (like "mutual interests"), so the graph itself is suspect. But it still seems to strike a lot of people as true.
Once again raising the question: Do we need a dedicated military branch or agency dedicated to cyberwarfare?
There's a point at which people substitute a lot of dignity for impressions of status. Some tech startups exploit that.
A customer of a home-automation product acquired by Google is mad because the product -- acquired by Alphabet subsidiary Nest -- is being bricked on May 15th. Is it Google/Alphabet's prerogative to do so? Yes. Does it reflect badly on the company? Yes. Does it undermine the company's reputation for customer support? Yes.
It's one thing to bring in a "guest editor" to put together a special edition of a magazine. But it's quite another thing to let someone apart from an editorial staff take over the Twitter account of a publication. The New Republic just learned that the hard way.
Senator Bernie Sanders knows how to whip up a movement, but he's not showing an adequate grasp of his own policies to be able to implement them. That lack of seriousness is not trivial.
Not a huge amount, but not zero, either
Who's voting where, for whom, for what reasons -- in a very bizarre Presidential campaign
A bunch of staffers at Mashable just got laid off abruptly. They work in the public eye, and reports have it their e-mail accounts were shut down as part of the sudden layoffs. People who are (or might be) in the public view need control over their public-facing image, and it doesn't get more public-facing than the Internet.
But the White House doesn't want him (or people like him) saying anything out loud
In theory, a fiduciary rule should apply -- but whether the government should be the party imposing the rule (instead of consumers simply have the requisite knowledge to know what to demand of their service providers) isn't an open-and-shut case. Among other things, it's not enough just to require that the adviser have good intentions -- consumers also need to be able to discern when they're getting bad advice from well-meaning people.
A Boston Globe editor asks his associates to ponder: "If a wealthy individual was to give us funding to launch a news organization designed to take on The Boston Globe, what would it look like?" And that's exactly the right question. All sympathies and sentimentality aside, the value of a company is what it's going to be able to produce in the future. From that perspective, what exists today isn't as important as what an organization would build if starting from a blank sheet of paper.
Google may be considering a bid, too
People who are invested -- even just a little bit -- in their local civic institutions are probably less likely to fall for the siren song of a candidate who wants to blow up everything about civic society.
This is why we need technologically literate adults everywhere, but especially in the halls of Congress
When you see freight shipments declining at the biggest railroads (as they are now), you need to question whether all is well in the economy at large
Seems like a bargain, and the NFL says it wasn't the highest bid. But it does put the NFL in the middle of the preeminent real-time events service on the Internet, while giving Twitter something new entirely to attract new users. An interesting gamble all around.
They managed to launch and then land a rocket, vertically, on a floating platform in the ocean. It was the fifth try and its success means this has been a very, very good week to be Elon Musk. The landing as viewed from the chase plane is downright surreal.
Telling signs about the world economy at large -- if shipping costs (as tracked by the index) are very low, then that's a symptom that goods aren't moving on the high seas
Video circulates showing people being attacked in hotels in China as bystanders just let it happen
Someone needs to be the hawk at the table -- even if, on balance, the Fed still probably needs to be dovish
A bunch of people grandfathered into cheap streaming plans are going to have to pay a couple of extra dollars a month
Google has gotten pretty good at creating products, demonstrating market demand, and then pulling the plug. Yahoo should try harder to be a fast follower.
It's not a non-profit, and it's not a charity. Users would be wise to keep that in mind.
The effect it has on the incarcerated students tells us some important things about education -- and about what we should seriously consider doing to fix our criminal-justice system
When the Treasury Department issues a special statement announcing that they weren't targeting anyone in particular with a brand-new set of rules (that happen to have a serious impact on a high-profile event), it doesn't take all that much cynicism to suspect that the lady doth protest too much.
The product is "sticky" enough that it's hard to imagine a lot of people quitting their subscriptions over $2 a month
Some of the best strategies for saving the gorillas may also be very good ways of helping human beings, too
We leave way too much human potential unfulfilled
They would use private-equity money to form a new company, but the essence of the deal would still be the same: An old-media company buying a new-media company to give both a shot at survival.
A very clever metaphor for the technologies that will eventually accumulate and lead to self-piloted cars for everybody -- but that in the shorter term will at least ensure higher levels of safety by overriding the stupid decisions and slow reactions of human drivers.
The rail industry is already pretty well-consolidated, so further consolidation may be hard to achieve.
It's a sign that an economy is healthy if people who leave the workforce need to catch up a bit when they return. That means things are changing and improving. Thus it's smart to have ways to help people rejoin the workforce quickly, and "returnships" may be part of the answer.
The over-the-road freight trucks of the future won't always have individual drivers. Testing is taking place right now in the EU, where trucks use automation to communicate with one another to drive in closely-packed series that move more efficiently and use less road space than individual trucks. It's also supposed to save fuel. Pilot testing is underway in Europe.
Tim Miller has a very clever way of looking at things and framing the politics around them. His take on the Presidential race right now is worth a solid 45-minute listen.
The Boston Globe looked into its crystal ball to see a Trump Presidency and they saw something awful
It's a practice that shouldn't have been threatened in the first place -- more states should follow Nebraska's lead on this and divide their Electoral College votes by Congressional district, with the statewide winner getting the two remaining votes
He's putting his foot down on the idea of being named as some kind of unity candidate. He's needed in Congress now, and almost certainly to an even greater degree after the results of this coming November. The primacy of the Executive Branch needs to be reeled in a bit, and Speaker Ryan is the right person for the job on the Legislative Branch's side of things.
They are at long last changing the format of most of their reports to conventional sentence case, rather than the ALL CAPS format that had been in place since the teletype days. The practice was a technological artifact -- it was necessary when there wasn't sufficient means to send mixed-case messages. But now there is, and since sentence-case messages are easier to read and comprehend, this is a good change.
For those times when it's not just enough to feel like you're there, but also to get serious motion sickness in the process
They want more artificial intelligence and more artificial reality
Not that today's seats aren't absurdly small and uncomfortable, but legislation isn't the way to fix it -- especially not if people are given the option to pay for bigger seats (and don't)
Fundamentally indistinguishable from organic diamonds, they don't come with any of the ethical baggage and offer creative cutters options they didn't have before
Crooks are trying to break into Netflix accounts not because they want to mess with your ratings, but because they want login information. They can get enough information to trick people using social engineering into giving away credit-card info, and it's also likely that any passwords people use on Netflix are in use elsewhere, too.
Another hit from The Onion
Public debt is now at nearly unsustainable levels -- and when that triggers a reaction, things could get ugly in a hurry
It would be a good thing if all citizens thought about science more often, but "citizen scientists" is a clever title to offer people for participating in an NYU study of baby sleep patterns. The study asks parents to record their baby's sleeping patterns in a widely-used smartphone app -- something many parents were doing with the app already, but by aggregating the data, they can turn it from micro-information (used by the parents) into a macro-study with far more data points than the researchers were ever going to get by handing out paper surveys.
In the long run, a chip-and-PIN system ought to be highly secure for in-person transactions. But in the short run, the inconsistencies in their rollout and use are driving people crazy at the cash register.
It's one thing to show off, and it's another to provoke. This behavior teeters dangerously close to the latter.
We think of social-engineering attacks as a modern online phenomenon, but they've been around forever. And it helps nothing at all when IT people use techniques that are indistinguishable from those of the attackers.
Technology alone doesn't and can't fix problems with education, but viewed as a useful tool, technology may be able to help. The less teachers have to be IT people and the more they can simply use their tools, the better.
They expect to get there by the end of the decade, putting Iowa light-years ahead of everywhere else
We're looking at you, Iran and North Korea
New competition has tightened the rocket-launch market
A radio play-by-play announcer quits with an online posting. There are so many mistakes made here: The announcement includes misspellings and takes place in a public forum while burning all bridges along the way. These things persist, you know. Something like this becomes the #1 search result in your next job interview. To anyone who doesn't know the back story, this looks like sabotage is your M.O.
Due to printing problems, the Des Moines Register isn't distributing an April 16th printed edition. As pointed out by a former staffer, printing problems used to activate backup plans -- today, it would appear, the answer is to just tell people to access the online edition for free. But if they're really equivalent substitutes for one another, then why go to the trouble of printing and distributing the print edition at all? And if they are not equivalents, then shouldn't a press failure be important enough that some kind of emergency plan can be rolled out? Either the print copy matters or it does not. This response seems to suggest that, institutionally, the latter belief is in the driver's seat.
The presence of a candidate who has treated the entire Presidential race like a game of Mario Kart has brought out the worst in a lot of people
The appalling consequences of the diffusion of responsibility
It may start in school, but it's a terrible idea to let it end there
Always beware mandates like this one: Ordering everyone to do the same thing in the same way, even on a scale as small as a city, leaves no room for the subtle variances in life that make things that can be seemingly sensible turn into total disasters. Today's solar panels are better than yesterday's, and tomorrow's will almost certainly be better still. Requiring people to install technology that is in the middle of a rapid evolution can backfire: What if all houses in 1990 had been required to include giant satellite dishes, or all cars of the same time required to be equipped with bag phones? And what of flexible circumstances -- like a house that's always in the shade, due to hills, trees, or tall surrounding buildings? It's not like San Francisco is a place of cheap real estate to begin with -- it's already preposterously expensive. Mandates only compound that effect, raising the cost of living for people who already may be finding it hard to get by.
Words like "never" can be costly when you're trying to get people to pay for things you're selling
People watching "The Americans" can be forgiven if they feel a tinge of nostalgia for the Cold War. "Ivan" might have been terrible, but he also didn't have a particular interest in dying. Today's foes aren't always quite so attached to their own skins, and that makes them unsettling in a way that Soviet nuclear weapons never really could be.
The fact it's not unusual to do that in the Midwest is a cultural strength that becomes a business advantage. As noted here in 2010, reputations are highly valuable and much too important to risk in even the largest of Upper Midwestern cities. That keeps people generally on their best behavior.
Gannett, freshly off a split from its electronic-media properties, is right back to the behavior that got it into trouble in the first place: Unbridled acquisition. The deal would include a massive pile of debt over at Tribune. Bloomberg estimates that Gannett 12% of the nation's daily newspaper circulation, and Tribune has 5%.
Literally -- the ruins of buildings that once housed the functions of the British Empire
An interesting perspective on the durability of Donald Trump's following
Beware any government that would shut off the flow of knowledge
And the company is dependent upon iPhone sales, so that shrinks the revenues to the company
Let it not be forgotten that the disaster at Chernobyl was predominantly the result of human error, compounded by a system that couldn't handle mistakes well
Potentially trailing back for 25 years
Another sign of rough roads present and ahead for the agricultural economy
To get it from where it's produced to where it's consumed requires lots of transmission lines -- and there are political costs to overcome
On this issue, at least, he's a supply-sider
Deposits from people who open savings accounts give them financing that makes the regulators happy
When the family business is in trouble, someone in the family either needs to step in or find someone who can. It doesn't look like that's happening at VW.
The one-time dominant phone maker is out of that game entirely, and now looks at wearables as a growth industry
Sure, there are plenty of circumstances under which people might want to use natural language in order to interact with a firm or organization. But there are also plenty of times when the scope of what a person can actually do with such an organization are fairly narrow and the exchange is best conducted with something like an interactive contact form instead.
He wants the US Armed Forces to have "the capability and credibility to assure our allies and partners, deter aggression and overmatch any potential adversary"
Comcast, once just a simple cable company in Tupelo, Mississippi, has gone full-bore for content creation since becoming majority partner in NBCUniversal in 2011. The deal is being spun as a way to get stronger in "family" programming -- though Comcast carefully calls it "the highly competitive kids and family entertainment space". If it weren't "highly competitive", they might face tougher odds gaining regulatory approval. Of course, Disney bought Pixar, and arguments are made that Pixar is the better studio.
Figuring that the preponderance of the world's population lives close to the ocean, they're trying to figure out how to deliver things like cloud computing without taking up valuable landside real estate
Stock markets can be terribly irrational sometimes. The tech industry is a brutal marketplace. Together, it adds up to a highly un-enviable spot for Yahoo.
That's not a recreational trip -- it's a show of force
A true human disaster
Three members of a family got attacked out of the blue in a street in Thailand
DNA is, after all, just a means of biological data storage. Whether it can be used synthetically for the same purpose but on a very large scale? That's what Microsoft wants to figure out.
...so Apple is trying to pivot harder into service businesses
Which makes it intriguing that the Alphabet (that is, Google) team took a pass on so doing this year