Gongol.com Archives: 2016 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

January 24, 2016

Computers and the Internet New algorithm proves 85% effective at detecting sarcasm

That might actually beat the recognition rates of a lot of credulous human beings

Computers and the Internet Google paid Apple $1 billion to get access to the iPhone

That's how badly Google wants to make sure its products stay in front of consumers

Broadcasting Live365 is closing down

Streaming audio still has trouble going up against terrestrial or hybrid terrestrial/streaming competitors

The United States of America Michael Bloomberg sees an opening in the Presidential race

If the two parties put forth crazy people, there may be a third lane available to an independent

Aviation News More people forgot ("forgot"?) they were still armed at TSA checkpoints in 2015

It does seem like the kind of thing that should be acutely at the top of a person's mind before going through security, doesn't it? Isn't it pretty easy to run through a mental checklist (wallet, keys, phone, gun)?

News Why (and how to) read more actual books in 2016

It's not really that hard to increase the volume of one's reading; over the course of a year, even minor incremental increases stack up

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - January 24, 2016

Why governors should get the edge in a Presidential race, all else being equal

January 23, 2016

Science and Technology Volvo wants to make its cars "death-proof" by 2020

Now that's an aggressive vision

Health A little more on the Biden cancer "moon shot"

Roundtable sessions are happening. The big question is whether having the Vice President chase a subject is enough to catalyze real progress that wasn't happening already.

Science and Technology What if extraterrestrial life existed, then went extinct?

It's almost surely happened somewhere -- if such a thing is possible. After it emerged on Earth, life began showing a truly stupendous degree of robustness -- it always finds a way to fight its way into even the most inhospitable environments. Is the notion itself of wiping out all life on any planet even plausible, or will evolution always find a way?

Computers and the Internet Pope Francis says text messaging can be a "gift of God"

In a not-altogether-unfamiliar way, he points out that the medium isn't as important as the people using it

Computers and the Internet Maybe Apple is developing a new iPhone. Maybe.

As usual, everything is rumor when it comes to Apple

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - January 23, 2016

January 22, 2016

Computers and the Internet Police officer unwisely rants against protesters on Facebook

Everyone is of course welcome to have an opinion (preferably one that is well-informed and reasonable), but sharing it publicly makes the situation different. The exercise of free speech is guaranteed, but that's not a guarantee of freedom from consequences. And a police officer in a place with high tensions between the police and members of the local community (due to a police-involved shooting) ought to have the sense to avoid incendiary public speech -- like suggesting that people run down protesters.

Computers and the Internet USA Today: FBI took over and ran child-porn site to catch users

Nobody should have sympathy for the people who were caught -- but was the process right?

Computers and the Internet US customs official questions whether people should have anonymity online

His words: "[S]hould not every individual be required to display a 'license plate' on the digital super-highway?" While it probably wasn't intended as much more than a throwaway thought exercise, it does hint at a lack of understanding of how privacy and technology coexist.

Humor and Good News "Twin Strangers" offers to help you find your doppelganger

For a small fee, of course

Computers and the Internet Are the big five of technology inevitable winners?

That is to ask: Is there any reason to believe that we won't still be talking about Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon ten or twenty years from now as the still-dominant players in consumer technology and the Internet? The honest answer is that they all have big war chests and strong market positions, but they also have to make a lot of right decisions to stay on top -- and long streaks of right decisions in technology aren't often made.

Business and Finance Print subscriptions to newspapers are evaporating

If the figures dredged up by one observer are correct, dead-tree editions of major metro newspapers are becoming a rare find

January 21, 2016

Science and Technology Caltech claims to have found another planet

And it's a big one

Threats and Hazards China continues cyberwar on the United States

There's zero reason to expect the assaults to end

Science and Technology Solving problems of energy moves a lot of people away from poverty

Cheap, storable, clean energy is pretty much the best thing the world could work on right now

Business and Finance China's central bank keeps pouring money into the financial system there

They have huge reserves, but these are huge moves, too.

Broadcasting FCC wants FM chips activated in cell phones

Didn't know they were there? Almost everyone has them -- they're just not activated.

Computers and the Internet Things not looking smooth for Charter/Time Warner merger

The round-and-round nature of communications industry consolidation looks more like a whole lot of horse-trading than real business-building

January 20, 2016

News California's natural-gas pipeline leak is symptomatic of a broader infrastructure problem

Whether we're talking about natural-gas pipelines, airports, levees, dams, water mains, or any other type of infrastruture, there's lots of evidence that we've been underinvesting for too long in maintenance, upkeep, and replacement. We are tremendously fortunate that many of these things were built long ago by people who spent the money and effort to make them last for more than a generation. But we've been on cruise control for a long time -- behaving as though these things represent a free endowment and that no further investment is required. That's a colossal mistake. When we build infrastructure, it typically requires a big up-front cost, followed by a long period of relatively low maintenance cost, followed by a period of rising maintenance/replacement cost until the infrastructure itself reaches a point of failure. We are morally obligated to treat at least the maintenance and upkeep as a pay-as-you-go expense. Just because something was incredibly well-built and then handed to us essentially for free does not give us license to treat it irresponsibly. That's a big cultural problem we need to face -- and it's not just our physical infrastructure that's been on the receiving end of under-investment; the same applies to our public and private retirement investment "infrastructure" as well as much of our educational "infrastructure". Keeping up means paying as you go. It's lazy and freeloading to skimp on upkeep. This is a crucial lesson in our time for both the left (who are too often inclined to think we can just "soak the rich" to pay for things) and the right (who too often resist paying for anything if it means higher taxes). Adults clean up after themselves. We need to behave like adults.

Threats and Hazards Saudi Arabia won't cut back its oil production

And if they don't, then the supply of oil produced by OPEC will continue to push downward on oil prices. That seems like a lot of fun in the short term (yay, $1.60/gallon gas!), but...people are underestimating the enormous geopolitical implications of an oil-price crash: Saudi Arabia can keep going long after everyone else drops like houseflies. That means they can use oil prices as a weapon against Iran, which can't compete with Saudi Arabia's minimal production costs. Destabilizing Iran is already a dangerous game, but you add in a volatile Russia (which also depends on oil money and also has higher production costs than Saudi Arabia), a Nigeria that could of course fall at any moment to pieces, and other already-failed states like Libya and Syria, and this is a brewing catastrophe of epic proportions.

News Bob Dole says Sen. Ted Cruz would be a catastrophe as a Presidential nominee

Cruz is playing up simplistic representations of the world -- particularly one that says there's no room for compromise. And that's -- well, simply -- wrong. Nobody agrees with their own spouse or their own mother 100% of the time, so it's preposterous to think that we can only play brinksmanship games with politics: Compromise is, frankly, a non-negotiable requirement of the job of governing in a democratic society. Cruz seems to actively reject that idea, despite being clearly smart enough to know better. That makes him repellant.

Threats and Hazards China arrests a Swede

He was working for an NGO, promoting "public-interest litigation" in the Communist state

Iowa Des Moines, Omaha, Kansas City, and St. Louis to cooperate on economic development

Some of the most stable micro-economies in the country -- joining forces is probably a good idea

January 19, 2016

Socialism Doesn't Work Exactly nobody believes that China's economy can keep going like it has been

Fun while it lasted, the economic boom in China simply hasn't been designed to remain durable. The government still interferes far too much -- and the costs of failing to provide political freedom alongside (limited) economic freedom have been building. China hasn't been centrally planning its economy in a conventional sense, but with state ownership of enormous shares of the nation's total enterprises, it's a distinction without much of a difference. And when the real costs of holding back on political reform come due (and they will), things are going to get interesting in a hurry. Keep a close eye on developments like the political climate in Taiwan, where economic disappointment seems to have been translated into support for the pro-independence party. The mainland/Taiwanese rift has been a source of friction for a long time, but if the good times are no longer rolling, then that friction may turn into a spark. And Taiwan isn't the only place that it may become politically and economically costly for Beijing.

News Federal spending is growing faster than revenues

It's fine to run a deficit if it's smaller than the rate of growth in the economy. That's not the case here and now.

Threats and Hazards Terrorism that happens in Africa is still terrorism

Too little has been said about the attack by Al Qaeda on a hotel in Burkina Faso, relative to what would have been said had the same attack taken place in Tokyo or Berlin or Cleveland.

Business and Finance Norway looks to a post-oil economy

Blessed with a resource bonanza, Norway was fortunate not to become entirely dependent upon it...which is a good thing, because current oil prices mean there isn't much kick left in the chili.

Computers and the Internet Technology doesn't always make things better for developing countries

If the have/have-not gap is expanded by uneven access to communications technology, then the Internet might inadvertently make things tougher for people in some places

Computers and the Internet Yahoo Mail fixes cross-site scripting bug

An example of a security risk that consumers can't do anything about

January 18, 2016

News YouTube "celebrity" questions didn't really add to the Democratic Presidential debate

Debates undoubtedly play a storied role in our political tradition, and we don't have to do away with them. But they are assuredly not an effective means of really teasing out the information that voters really need in order to make an informed decision about any candidate, particularly not for something as complex as a Presidential race. And the obsession with trying to make use of the "new" in these debates -- via questions from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube -- has to be done in an effort to ask better, broader questions in the debates. Unfortunately, the YouTube "stars" clunkily inserted into the last debate didn't really edify anything. In a far better universe, we would have interesting and thoughtful interviews with the candidates conducted by intelligent interviewers with a solid grasp of the facts and a sense of fearlessness about pursuing lines of inquiry -- not the pandering lap-dog behavior we see all too often today. And in a truly ideal universe, we could put candidates through something like an Oval Office simulator -- though that would probably be impossible to conduct squarely. The next-best thing is probably to give preference to candidates who have served as state governors, which is likely the closest thing.

News Turkey has an estimated 2,000,000 refugees

An astonishing number -- greater than the entire population of Nebraska

News Good question

Why pay $200,000 to hear a canned speech?

Computers and the Internet Whatever his take on the issues, Sen. Cory Booker is largely right about using technology in government

Tools that shine more sunlight are valuable things

Aviation News SpaceX didn't stick the sea landing

Better luck next time. But a really pyrotechnic video survives the latest attempt.