Gongol.com Archives: 2016 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

January 3, 2016

Threats and Hazards Taking over a Federal building is terrorism

If demonstrators in some foreign country had overrun our embassy, we would consider it a massive act of provocation. It is the same for the self-appointed "militia" that has taken over the headquarters of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon. It doesn't need to come to a shootout with them (nobody wins when that happens), but they've stepped outside the boundaries of political expression into outlaw behavior.

Threats and Hazards There really needs to be a better policy for dealing with people whose lives are threatened

A young mother from Omaha and her 2-year-old daughter were killed, apparently by a boyfriend she feared, shortly after police showed up to check on her welfare. Something better needs to be done.

News Bill Gates reads 50 books a year

And his reviews can give a decent bump to book sales. If you're not reading 50 books a year (and most of us probably aren't), it's worth considering that Gates probably has a lot more on his plate than most of us do, and a lot less to gain financially from learning new skills. Also worth noting: He prefers print to digital.

Iowa Cornices atop Des Moines's renovated Hotel Randolph

Cornices are a beautiful architectural element, and so rarely acknowledged as such

News Things didn't go so well at Motley Crue's farewell show

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January 2, 2016

News Refugees are real people

They are people just like any of us. Just people. Anyone who would diminish their humanity to score cheap political points ought to be ashamed.

Computers and the Internet West Liberty and West Branch (Iowa) get gigabit broadband

Launched by the local independent ISP on Christmas Day to a pair of communities with a total of about 6000 people

Computers and the Internet Iowa City claims one of nation's top rates of broadband adoption

Computers and the Internet Microsoft says it will advise users it thinks are being hacked by governments

Reuters may have triggered the announcement by pursuing a story that suggested that the Chinese government had intercepted the data of some users, though Microsoft says it doesn't have firm evidence that it was, in fact, a Chinese government incident. But they do say that "We will now notify you if we believe your account has been targeted or compromised by an individual or group working on behalf of a nation state." Here's an interesting corollary question: What about groups like ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh, that have many of the trappings of nation-statehood but no formal recognition? As always, the use of strong passwords and two-factor authentication is recommended practice for anyone.

Computers and the Internet A fair and mostly positive appraisal of Microsoft in 2015

Health A possible substitute for knee replacement

Ohio State University is testing a "meniscal implant" that could offer a substitute for knee surgery in patients who have damaged the meniscus of the knee

Iowa Black Velvet is the most popular liquor in Iowa

It certainly has its adherents among seniors

Computers and the Internet Why Facebook accidentally showed "46 years of friendship"

The bug definitely caused its share of confusion going into the end of 2015. It was probably due to a Unix date calculation bug.

Computers and the Internet A reminder: What you share with Facebook, you share with all its advertisers and "partners"

And what a lot of people share with Facebook is...a whole lot.

Computers and the Internet Why it's called "human intelligence"

Twitter shut down an account belonging to the wrong person -- thinking it was a terrorist they were blocking, they actually shut down a reform activist. And it's probably because someone just didn't read the names correctly.

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - January 2, 2016

January 1, 2016

News Trump supporters aren't really Republicans

It's not conservatism he's selling; it's a lowbrow populism. And it's really just a vanity exercise intended to give him free publicity -- a marketing scheme in which the news media have been utterly complicit. The excuse that he's a serious candidate because people are talking about him is nonsense; even a modestly intelligent and informed interviewer with even the slightest determination to hold him to a Presidential standard could take him down like an Olympic wrestler. That no examples of that come to mind suggests that there aren't enough good interviewers in circulation, and that's a problem for the public good.

News Instead of highly ambitious resolutions, try committing to a small improvement instead

Science and Technology A few technology-related predictions for 2016

News Arlington National Cemetery is running out of space

That, unfortunately, is causing the government to do things like revoking eligibility for the remains of women who served in a paramilitary role during WWII. That just doesn't sit well.

Humor and Good News A year-end summary from "Acrylics and Dinosaurs"

December 31, 2015

News Recommended charities for your giving

December 30, 2015

Business and Finance 2015: The year investors didn't make any money

News Bill Cosby charged with assault
The case is from 2004

News George Pataki drops out of 2016 race

Aviation News Russia views SpaceX as a competitor

Computers and the Internet Twitter imposes new rules to cut off hate speech, intimidation, and harassment
There's simply no perfect solution for companies like Twitter. The new language codifies a philosophy that intimidation is as rivalrous to free speech as explicit censorship. And yet there's the ironic condition that letting hateful people use platforms like Twitter for speech makes them easier to find, call out, and counteract. Sometimes, it's even useful to let terrorists tweet (it can help identify where to drop bombs, just for example). The problem is that services like Twitter and Facebook land on a nebulous boundary between "open" and "closed" societies and ways of thinking. The evildoers who wants closedness also want to take advantage of the tools of openness.

Weather and Disasters El Nino to really screw up our weather in 2016

December 29, 2015

Computers and the Internet MasterCard says online sales rose 20% this holiday season
Who knew there was still upside to be gained?

News "Wave of regulation looms in 2016"
Alternate title: "America about to give itself yet another graduate course in the Law of Unintended Consequences".

Computers and the Internet A new generation of Google Glass is coming
The FCC leaked pictures

Business and Finance Saudi Arabia tightens budget in anticipation of continued low oil prices
A resource bonanza is a lot of fun while it lasts, but it takes serious discretion and foresight to reinvest bonanza profits in long-term growth

Humor and Good News Priest rides "hoverboard" during Christmas Eve Mass
At least he wasn't wearing Heelys?

Business and Finance Mature savings bonds aren't much fun to keep around
Once they stop earning interest, they need to be converted to something productive

Science and Technology Spider silk plus carbon nanotubes equals incredible strength

Computers and the Internet Facebook's "Free Basics" app: Game-changing public utility or violation of net neutrality?
Or maybe both?

The United States of America House Speaker Paul Ryan has exactly the right vision for government
"Then the people will know that we stand for a more prosperous, a more secure, a more confident America. And the rest? Well, the rest will be up to the people -- as it should be."

News Truck driver crosses 6-ton bridge with 30-ton load -- bridge collapses
The driver was pretty dumb here, saying she didn't know how many pounds were in a ton (If you don't know how much a ton is, Google it.). But what's the point of letting nostalgia get in the way of modern infrastructure needs? A "historic bridge" is usually just another way of saying "something we should have replaced a long time ago, but now have 'the feels' about and refuse to pay for the proper maintenance thereof." The pictures show a rusty old pile of iron.

News Collapse of oil prices crushes the Alaskan state budget

News Lifeguards from Spain try to save refugee lives in Greece

Computers and the Internet Don't click "Like" on Facebook pictures
Doing so only encourages "like farming"

Threats and Hazards ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh issues rules for treatment of slaves
Slaves! In 2015! The word "outrage" isn't close to being enough. We also need to clean up our own domestic problem with sex trafficking, which really ought to be known as enslavement rape.

December 28, 2015

Computers and the Internet Mozilla to kill Firefox OS, spin off Thunderbird, and focus on the browser
The potential orphaning of Thunderbird is sad

Threats and Hazards Chinese government uses anti-terrorism cover for anti-liberty lawmaking
Never give power to yourself that you wouldn't want your opponents to have available to use against you

News The most popular baby name in Israel? Muhammad.

News Cheap oil is causing the shale-oil business to collapse
Very bad news for Canada and for North Dakota, indeed.

The United States of America What 50 states of equal population might look like
Nothing more than an artistic experiment, but interesting nonetheless