Gongol.com Archives: 2016 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol


June 25, 2016

Aviation News FAA issues new rules on commercial drones

Computers and the Internet The Chicago Tribune has been Tronc'ed

No longer the Tribune Company, it's now "tronc", for "Tribune Online Content". A ridiculous brand name. In the long run, what will be interesting to see is how much they depend upon algorithms to generate news stories for coverage, in the same style as Netflix comes up with new programming based upon known user interests.



June 24, 2016

Computers and the Internet Pebble promotes its new "Core" as an Amazon Alexa device

The Core is set to retail for $99, but the company is using a Kickstarter campaign to pre-fund, and will sell the miniature device to early backers for $79

News Is the British vote to depart the EU a signal of a less-open world?

Quite possibly. There are many reasons that may have led to people voting either way on the referendum -- thoughtful Euroskeptics who voted to leave probably don't share a lot in common with nativists, and the people who voted to stay because the EU subsidizes their incomes probably don't have a lot in common with those who want to welcome more immigrants. But on balance, even though the EU is a bureaucratic juggernaut with structural flaws that probably doom it in the long run anyway, its diminishment does tend to push in the direction of a less-open world, and that does not portend well for the future.

Computers and the Internet Digital publisher says that Twitter engagement rates continue to decline

The co-founder of widely-read site The Next Web says they're seeing less and less click-through from links shared on Twitter, even when people are re-sharing their articles more than ever. The conclusion: People breeze past a headline, share it because they think it's supposed to be interesting, and then move on without actually reading it. That could certainly be trouble for Twitter, but it also suggests that social media is becoming a monster that eats itself. If the purpose is to show that you're sharing things (rather than experiencing or learning from them), then it's not a productive utility. And Twitter isn't the only site where this is happening. There is clearly sharing-for-show taking place on other platforms, like Facebook. That only tends to exacerbate tribalism (in the sociological sense) and identity politics, rather than making us better off.



June 23, 2016

Business and Finance Tesla to buy SolarCity

One Elon Musk venture acquires another. It probably makes abstract sense without making practical sense: They may very well fit together, but they both struggle to make a profit.

Threats and Hazards Social Security Trustees issue annual report

The Social Security program is officially going to begin running deficits by the end of the decade. And "the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund will be depleted in 2028, two years earlier than projected in last year's report". We're in a world of trouble.

Business and Finance Airbnb confronts problems of discrimination

As more freedom and laissez-faire finds its way into some markets (like lodging), it reveals that discrimination persists -- and reiterates how hard it is to legislate decency and respect into people. On a related note, the New York state legislature has gone on the attack against home-sharing.

News Britain's clear ballots

Nobody voting on the EU referendum will be able to argue that they misunderstood how they were voting. No hanging chads there.

Computers and the Internet Pew survey: 71% of US adults think it would be a career disadvantage not to have broadband at home

The Internet has more or less reached the status of public utility -- like water or electricity. Those without it are missing a fundamental, core piece of infrastructure of modern life.



June 22, 2016

News Three critical traits of a good elected official: Curiosity, competence, and humility

And if a candidate for office never leaves a bubble of self-reinforcing messages and ventures out to learn more (or even acknowledges that there is more to be learned), then that candidate is dangerously unqualified for just about any job in the public trust.

News Chicago passes new regulations on Airbnb

A local community has the right to a considerable amount of self-determination, but it should also be considered whether regulations are actually being used to preserve the health and safety of the public, or if they're just being used as a blunt instrument because some people don't like some things. The opponents of short-term home rentals in Chicago include some people who say that it's dragging down their neighborhoods by creating transient communities. Some supporters, though, come from among those who need to make income off their homes when not in use just in order to make the payments. In theory, home-sharing should be a social good -- if it's putting homes to use that otherwise would have been unoccupied for a day, a weekend, or even a month, then it's highly efficient to put those properties to use. That doesn't mean that abuses and other externalities couldn't become a factor; they could. But we have to be hesitant to use the blunt instruments of regulation.

Business and Finance More regulations and higher minimum wages appear to be reducing options for young workers

The less fluid the labor market becomes, the harder it is to enter. That may seem like a luxury to people who are already up the food chain, but when you keep young people out of the labor market at ages 16 through 25, you keep them from getting on a track to upward mobility. Soft skills matter!

News A single father -- in his 60s

His wife died suddenly just after giving birth to twins. A remarkable situation and story.

Science and Technology Drowsy driving summit

The Iowa Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau is holding a summit on drowsy driving on June 29. While often overlooked in the shadow of its nasty counterpart drunk driving, drowsy driving (and other forms of distracted or impaired driving) remains a major public-health problem. The sooner assistive technologies can be widely applied to vehicles, the better off we all will be.



June 21, 2016

Business and Finance How much does it cost to break even on drilling for oil in America?

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas finds that producers say anywhere from $9 a barrel to $60 a barrel, but averaging from $29 to $43, depending on location

Iowa Des Moines and Omaha trounce other cities at total livability

Affordability, family-friendliness, modest prosperity -- it's a full-package deal

Business and Finance Global Risk Institute worries that debt is reaching chokepoint levels

One executive says "There's debt being piled upon debt being piled upon debt." At some point, rates must rise.

Business and Finance One highly anxious economic analysis

There are too many uncertainties and lingering problems for it to be anything like a boom. The question is whether it's destined to become a bust -- and that's not clear.

News The Trump campaign isn't behaving like a campaign

Probably because it's just a perpetuation of what began as an exercise in shameless self-promotion and has never grown more serious than that. They're funneling 20% of their spending back into Trump interests and circling the wagons against any outside influence.



June 20, 2016

Business and Finance Book review: "The Ten Commandments for Business Failure", by Donald Keough

A book that ought to be used in business schools to offer a capstone perspective on leadership.

News Book review: "Between Worlds", by Bill Richardson

An interesting political time capsule left behind by a politician whose ideology has largely gone missing

The United States of America How would America look with a multi-party electoral system?

The Economist comes up with a model suggesting how we might look as a "parliamentary" democracy. It's only a hypothetical model, but it's a clever illustration.

Business and Finance St. Louis Federal Reserve rethinks macroeconomic forecasting

No more forecasts of some future long-run steady state. Just a guess at different periods that could emerge.

Computers and the Internet Toyota calls automotive artificial intelligence "guardian angel" technology

This is how the self-driving car becomes a permanent reality. It won't happen in one giant leap (like the Google model), but rather via incrementalism -- culminating in a broad public acceptance that the technology has eclipsed human capacities to drive safely. Autonomous-vehicle technology has to prove that it makes us safer in steps -- if it is measured by the lives it saves from human error, it will be seen as an advancement; if it is measured from an assumption that self-driving cars are perfectly safe, then it will be doomed in the court of public opinion because some accidents will be inevitable.