Gongol.com Archives: 2018 Weekly Archives

Brian Gongol


September 21, 2018

Aviation News A final reunion of B-47 pilots

One of the mainstays of the Strategic Air Command was an airframe that was notoriously dangerous to its crews. Those veterans have assembled for a final reunion in Omaha.

News Teachers, check your test questions once in a while

Teachers in the social sciences especially might take heed to occasionally check their tests for wildly outdated ideas that represent expired versions of the received wisdom. For instance: A test question on a Canadian exam that sought a multiple-choice answer to naming a positive effect of Canada's "aggressive assimilation" of First Nations children in boarding schools.

News "A man in south Florida..."

Either Florida is a magnet for weirdos or local news outlets there have an uncanny knack for picking up and reporting on the most bizarre behavior imaginable. No other cause seems to adequately explain why we see so many stories like the one about a man who does all of his outdoor work in the nude.

News Texas faces some novel questions

Can a place be a "brothel" if its services are rendered by robots? Does such a place substitute for activity that may have taken place in the shadows before, or does it stimulate interest in taboos? What kinds of regulations should apply: Is it more like an arcade than a house of ill repute?

News Words matter

The use of the rotten phrase "fake news" to describe coverage one doesn't like (rather than actual fake coverage) has a corrosive effect on the culture, even if it's being used tongue-in-cheek. Soon enough, what was once hyperbole becomes ordinary.

September 20, 2018

Broadcasting Local tragedies shouldn't become national clickbait

The practice of sharing awful crime stories from the national wire as though they're local stories is an abhorrent one. At the very least, audiences deserve a simple dateline identification within any summary or social-media post. There are terrible things happening all the time -- like a 16-month-old toddler being shot in Chicago's South Loop -- but people deserve to know whether their local news outlets are truly relaying local stories.

Threats and Hazards What's chasing people out of Latin America?

Per the Wall Street Journal: "The strongest factor in predicting whether someone emigrates from Honduras and El Salvador isnít age, gender or economic situation, but whether they had been victimized by crime multiple times in the past year." It's hard to imagine that this is ordinary life for so many people -- but one has to hope that if more Americans could understand what these people are trying to flee, then maybe we could think of our own border situation in humanitarian terms.

News "Would the quality of, say, Harvard's education go down if it became a for-profit?"

A rather good question. We haven't gotten very good yet at brokering an answer to the problem of bringing adult education into the 21st Century. In the United States, higher education is dominated by public-sector and non-profit institutions. There are for-profit schools, of course, but they tend to occupy certain niches and have really never become dominant in the industry in the way that one would normally expect from the example of other industries. A major experiment related to this question is underway as Purdue University absorbs and re-brands the for-profit Kaplan University system. Ultimately, as a matter of economic necessity, America needs to take some strong medicine and begin delivering a lot more high-quality continuing education to adults. This will probably be driven at the state scale, but it needs to happen nationwide. Whether the incumbents are going to be capable of the necessary adaptation (scaling up, improving quality, and mastering distribution) is a great question.

News The Lake Wobegon Effect

With Paul Krugman protesting that he doesn't "spend a lot of time with wealthy and/or powerful people", one has to wonder: Everyone thinks they're above-average in (a) driving, (b) looks, and (c) intelligence, so why are people so quick to insist that they're in the 3rd or 4th quintile for income?

Business and Finance One solution to the San Francisco housing crunch

Why isn't anyone converting old cruise ships into apartment-style housing and anchoring just a bit offshore from San Francisco? Does the Coast Guard or some Federal regulation prohibit this? It has been noted by some that houseboats are competitive with the city's wildly unaffordable residential housing market.

Business and Finance Wells Fargo to reduce workforce by up to 10%

It's one of the most substantial employers in Central Iowa. Whether the cuts will be felt mostly in the retail banking outlets around the country or more heavily in the back office will determine just how significant the news is to Iowa.

The United States of America Firefighters joined by Marines in race into burning building

A senior residence in DC caught fire, and Marines who happened to be stationed nearby came (literally) running to the rescue to evacuate the residents

Weather and Disasters A textbook outflow boundary

When a cool breeze shows up on radar

News Should the 31-year-old recording artist have a 14-year-old texting buddy?

Stories of the friendship between Drake and young actress Millie Bobby Brown carry a clear undertone of disapproval. And yet: Everyone should have inter-generational friendships as a normal and healthy part of human existence. The main thing about that is, simply, don't be creepy about it. If the two of them don't cross any reasonable lines that draw normal boundaries for age and intent, then it's really not fair to cast aspersions on the existence of the friendship itself.



September 19, 2018

Iowa Iowa dropped straight-ticket voting last year

Only eight states still offer it.

Threats and Hazards They're just kids. Where they were born isn't their choice.

Per the Voice of America: "Save the Children said a million more children in Yemen now risked falling into famine, taking the total number to 5.2 million." That is, for perspective, about the same as the combined populations of Iowa and Nebraska. Innocent children who have no choice in the matter.

Threats and Hazards "They don't know whose boat that is...Maybe it becomes theirs"

When below-average intelligence and a total absence of empathy collide.

Socialism Doesn't Work Shining a light on the corruption of the Belt and Road

China's 120,000-person China Communications Construction Co. is taking some heat as people start to pay attention to the corruption that's inevitable from combining practically unlimited (debt) funding with an urgent need to "do something".

Science and Technology The greenhouse as an actual home for living

A cool concept in theory that most people would never tolerate in actual practice.



September 18, 2018

Science and Technology Disruptions ahoy

There are plenty of people who find their occupations disrupted by new technologies, but you have to feel pretty bad for the aerial photographer who spent $250,000 on a Cessna and 35mm film cameras only to be nudged out by any ol' kid with a $250 drone.

Humor and Good News "In Bloom" with extra energy

And wind instruments