Gongol.com Archives: April 2019

Brian Gongol


April 2019
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30





April 3, 2019

The United States of America What's another $2 trillion in deficit spending over 10 years?

That's the path laid out in the forecasts based on the House Budget Commitee's plan. Once again, the rules should be (1) Decide what you want from government; (2) Limit those wants, aggressively; and (3) Pay for it all. We seem to be stuck on step 1, with no intentions of ever reaching step 3.

Humor and Good News Paper towels could be making us terrible at math

4 is 8! 8 is 12! 2 is 5! 6 is 9!

The United States of America An alternative to DC statehood: Return most of the district to Maryland

Not an idea ready for prime time all on its own, but certainly a better choice than making DC (with the Capitol included) a brand-new state. The precedent? Parts of DC were returned to Virginia long ago. Let's not pretend like we're the only country with a special set of rules that apply to our capitol.

Health 5-month-old needs living liver donor to survive

"Possible candidates must have O blood type, weigh less than 150 pounds, younger than 40, in good health, and not recently pregnant. Doctors only need 25 percent of the liver and said it will grow back within six months."

Weather and Disasters When thunder roars, go indoors

Radar detects lightning striking 50 miles away from the center of a thunderstorm in Oklahoma


@briangongol on Twitter


April 4, 2019

Threats and Hazards NATO needs a refreshed mission

Resisting tyranny everywhere? That could be it. Writes Hal Brands: "[T]hese efforts would have greater impact if the world's foremost democracy did not seem so ambivalent about leading the democratic world."

The United States of America Don't expect a revival of the draft to create better voters

Good citizen-voters should have informed opinions on defense and diplomacy as a matter of civic duty, period. It shouldn't hinge on whether you spent any time in uniform, either by choice or by draft.

Science and Technology Parking on a 30-degree incline

Certainly a way to pack more vehicles into the same space. But also a way to ruin a lot of transmissions.

Humor and Good News National Hug a Newsperson Day? Think again.

If you meet a cuddly newsperson, odds are good that you've actually found a PR person instead. Most journalists are hard-working, decent people -- but they're not usually a soft and fuzzy crew.

News Now we're back to debating the gold standard?

When Margaret Thatcher said, "Each generation has to fight for its own liberties, in whatever way is appropriate," she should have warned us that the fight would routinely involve the stupidest, stubbornest possible counterparties.

Iowa "Heartland Visas": Should Midwestern states get special access to additional skilled immigration?

A big-picture idea well worth considering here in Iowa. We're not losing net population on a state level, but increasing urbanization means we're depopulating rural areas, and it may be stoking a negative feedback loop. This might help.

Iowa 10% jump in real-estate assessments in Polk County

That's a very, very big increase for a biennial adjustment

News University of Nebraska officials meet with Sen. Ben Sasse

Officially, it was just a routine visit to Washington. But the university has an opening for president, and it would be professional malpractice if the regents didn't at least raise the prospect with him. And as someone with a well-publicized interest in the nature of how future generations are formed (beyond by the law, which is where he operates today), he'd be crazy not to at least consider it. If he's considered as a candidate, what he does will say a lot about whether his experience as a Federal elected official tells him that current politics are salvageable.

Humor and Good News Nurse adopts baby who went five months without a visitor

Affirm your sense of human decency with the help of this story. Every life has value. Every individual is worthy of dignity. And how we commit ourselves to those beliefs determines the course of civilization.

News Ten leading contenders for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2020

Jonathan Last ranks them: Sanders, Biden, O'Rourke, Harris, Buttigieg, Warren, Klobuchar, Booker, Gillibrand, and Yang. Nary a governor is found in Last's top ten, which (strictly from a functional standpoint) is unnerving, particularly if he's right. Governors and (very) big-city mayors should form America's #1 development league for Presidents.


mail@gongol.com


April 5, 2019

The United States of America The President thinks about a post-office memoir

Instead of the score-settling "tell-all" memoirs of the present, Americans ought to spend a little more time with the thoughtful reflections of Presidents on whom history has had some time to decide.

Business and Finance More work to be done before there's a China-US trade deal

It could be negotiated by the ghost of Milton Friedman himself and it would still fall short, for one simple reason: Multilateral agreements are nearly always better than bilateral ones.

The United States of America Whay might a future American consensus look like?

If we could re-converge the American political consensus around anything, it might just be Ike.

Threats and Hazards The rule of law matters

Vladimir Putin may remain in office past 2024 if the power brokers around him think it's the only way they'll survive. When security (whether financial, physical, or otherwise) becomes dependent upon who is in charge rather than what rules apply, then the corrupt have every incentive to perpetuate corruption. The rule of law matters.

Weather and Disasters China's carbon-dioxide emissions are mind-blowing

An intriguing litmus test would be to ask people if "Country X" should be expected to reduce its emissions, even if doing so would be politically unpopular. Then let people take the Pepsi Challenge of Climate-Related Emissions.

Weather and Disasters Almost 600 Nebraska homes rendered uninhabitable by floods

Imagine your own home getting "red-tagged" as uninhabitable. Then multiply that by everyone on your entire Facebook friends list.

News Is the UK going to figure out Brexit?

It's hard for an outsider to see how the Brexit debacle has done anything but make independence look more attractive to the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Threats and Hazards It truly is idiotic to say that wind turbines cause cancer

Every unsubstantiated, wildly speculative claim that "X causes cancer" is a real insult to those of us who have had cancer, who conduct research on cancer, or who have lost loved ones to cancer. We're not your punchline and not your prop.

Threats and Hazards American universities wise up to the threat of China's stateside public-diplomacy campaign

It's unwise to be xenophobic. It's also unwise to turn a blind eye to projects that use "culture" as a thin veneer over an overtly hostile political endeavor.

News "Impact" is not a verb

Perhaps worse than anything, "impact" is utterly ambiguous as a (non-)verb. It suggests anything from crashing ("he was killed on impact") to leaving a hazy impression ("the lingering impact of her words...").

Computers and the Internet What dead celebrity should have had a Twitter account?

The correct answer is Benjamin Franklin, the original American master of pith. Of course, it's possible to offer an approximation of a Franklinesque account, by capturing Franklin's voluminous writings and programming them to run in a bot account. But obviously, there's something missing since it's not really him. In the future, though, personality engines will permit artificial intelligence to synthesize responses to new and novel questions with answers drawn from the past statements of great thinkers like Franklin.

Threats and Hazards Russia may send even more troops to Venezuela

Clearly not an act indicating support for the right to self-determination by the Venezuelan people


@briangongol on Twitter





April 9, 2019

News Book review: "The New Urban Crisis"

Not the final word on the future of cities, but definitely a contribution that shouldn't be left out of the conversation


mail@gongol.com



April 11, 2019

News The US armed forces don't "get a little rough" like the President wants

One of the virtues of an all-volunteer force seems to be that you can select for adherence to a professional code of conduct. Officers and enlisted members alike are supposed to not only observe the Law of Armed Conflict, but they're also told to study professional reading lists. That's because we don't employ tribes of unfettered barbarians to do violence against others just for fun.

Humor and Good News "'Paw Patrol' is a threat to democracy"

Hilarious material: "Watching him try to one-up Goodway is like watching Mr. Bean from the villainís perspective, except Mr. Bean is somehow the smartest person in his universe."

Weather and Disasters Lightning strikes the runway at Offutt

Offutt's runway may not be cursed, but God sure seems to be exacting a vendetta against it. This follows a 2017 tornado and colossal flooding earlier this year.

News Brexit gets an October reschedule

Perhaps Britain will get its act together on leaving the EU before the extended October deadline. Or maybe not: "The timetable facing [Theresa] May is tight, however. By May 22nd she must say if the UK will hold European Parliament elections. If not, it is out by June 1st, with no deal."

Aviation News Rockets landing right-side up don't even look real

The SpaceX technology that permits their rockets to land themselves on a platform is really quite mind-boggling. It looks almost like reality, but it seems to violate all of the rules we know about nature and physics -- like a CGI character in the uncanny valley.

Business and Finance International trade has changed a lot in just 10 or 15 years

Cheap labor is disappearing as a competitive advantage (and as a driver of trade). Time to market has adjusted advantages considerably. China is consuming much more of what it produces than it used to. And services matter far more than they did in international trade not very many years ago. Among other things, this makes regional trade more important while making long-haul transoceanic trade less valuable.

Computers and the Internet Alexa recordings are being checked by humans

Amazon, of course, assures users that the identifying information is being scrubbed before humans review the recordings. And furthermore, on one hand, it's pretty obvious that they have to do away least some human checking, just for quality control. Yet on the other hand, this still has a creepy Mechanical-Turk-meets-George-Orwell quality to it.

Iowa You had me at couscous

A native of Morocco wants to open a restaurant...in Marshalltown, Iowa. Don't fall for the false arguments that immigration makes American culture weaker.

Iowa I-29 still isn't fully ready for traffic in southwestern Iowa

Flood damage is significant and widespread, and the requisite inspections haven't been completed yet

Socialism Doesn't Work "Redistribution for thee, but not for me!"

The money Sen. Bernie Sanders got as an advance on a book deal reveals a certain hypocrisy to the old Socialist's words


mail@gongol.com


April 12, 2019

Threats and Hazards Did the President really offer to pardon officials for breaking the law?

CNN's report quotes "senior administration officials" as saying that "President Donald Trump told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan he would grant McAleenan a pardon if he were sent to jail for having border agents block asylum seekers from entering the US in defiance of US law". If true, it's a remarkable violation of the notions of checks and balances. In Margaret Thatcher's words: "The rule of law is the basis of a civilized society. It must not be bent and twisted for political ends."

Business and Finance "No nation was ever ruined by trade"

Benjamin Franklin's words seem to need repetition more than ever these days

Threats and Hazards Congress hasn't passed a required budget

Oh, so you say you don't want to talk about the Federal budget? Apparently, neither does Congress: "The deadline for Congress to complete action on a budget is April 15, and Congress has only hit that mark four times" Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away.

Iowa Rep. Dave Loebsack won't seek re-election

He will leave the office after seven terms. Sen. Chuck Grassley, a member of the opposing party within the same delegation, shared words of goodwill, living up to the standard that people who disagree with us aren't our enemies.

News "Nominations of individuals to key administration posts"

The White House publicizes the nominations of a Deputy Secretary of the VA and an Undersecretary of Commerce. But we have been without a Senate-confirmed Secretary of Defense for more than 100 days. That's a "key administration post", if ever there was one. One might think the UN Ambassador -- also a position that has remained unfilled since January 1st -- would also be considered a priority role for speedy replacement, whether or not it remains in the Cabinet.

Weather and Disasters Financial markets signal belief in anthropogenic climate change

Don't believe what people say; believe the revealed preferences of where they put their money. The framing of this issue has gone completely sideways: It has become less a debate and more a battleground between two warring cults. Meanwhile, there should be some easy consensus wins to be found around basic ideas of conservation and community- and state-level resilience. Too many people have invested too much identity in the topic for a wholesale conversion of a lot of hearts and minds. It's instead a case where change will come about through people making small commitments at the outset and reinforcing their commitment in escalating fashion over time.

The United States of America An unusually satisfying accidental Twitter roundtable

In which a set of people who generally really aren't all that far apart from one another go around and around on a pretty high-impact question: Are improvements to the American standard of living enough to make up for highly tangible intergenerational economic rivalries? One can do much worse than to get competing perspectives from Megan McArdle, Will Wilkinson, Tom Nichols, and Michael Brendan Dougherty on a single topic.

Computers and the Internet When machines learn what the Federal Reserve Board is thinking

Highly interesting: A student uses machine learning to examine Federal Reserve statements, figuring out what connection the language in the statements might have reflected or predicted in actual policy. It's like Alexa "learning" your buying preferences...if you're the Fed.

News 11-year-old child ordered into deportation without her family

Words matter: Some would dismiss her case instantly as "illegal", but the sensible person reading her account would find good reason to see her as a refugee. From the Houston Chronicle: "Her home in a rural area of El Salvador's La Paz region became a death trap when a relative testified against a local gang member, Alvarado said. Uncles, nephews, classmates and others have been kidnapped or murdered in retaliation, she added."

News "Placing illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities only..."

The President threatens it on Twitter, but nobody ever knows when to take him seriously on such matters. There may quite well be places that wouldn't object to an influx of immigrants, regardless of status: Perhaps we should allocate state-based visas that could be exchanged among states, cap-and-trade style. It ought to be recalled that anyone who seeks to profit politically by turning Americans against one another needs to answer to Publius: "Had the Greeks [...] been as wise as they were courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the necessity of a closer union [...]" (Federalist Paper 18).

The United States of America A more equitable society is likely a more productive one

It definitely improves the odds of answering tough questions if we commit to using all of our brainpower -- instead of neglecting or ignoring their contributors because of indefensible prejudices.


Recent radio podcasts


April 13, 2019

Threats and Hazards Serial killer with a bag of fentanyl

A Minnesota man has been charged with selling drugs that killed 11 people. Had the victims been targeted, it would have been a serial killing spree.

News Refugees aren't helpless

Three-quarters of a million Rohingya refugees are sheltering in Bangladesh, and the monsoon season is coming. So some of them are getting trained to help prepare people and their temporary shelters for the weather conditions. The worst thing we can do is to assume that refugees anywhere (in Bangladesh or at the southern border to the United States) are helpless or out to take away from others. They are no less than people, and basic human dignity calls for treating them as capable and self-determining.

Threats and Hazards 5-year-old child attacked and thrown off balcony at Mall of America

The suspected perpetrator was arrested and charged with attempted homicide, but this is an extraordinarily disturbing story, and something still just doesn't seem complete about the narrative.

Humor and Good News "Paw Patrol is a threat to democracy"

"The Paw Patrol is privatized power and profit and socialized funding, unaccountable to public oversight, ungoverned by elected officials and acting only when it consents to let its interests coincide with panicked public needs. They must be brought to heel."

Iowa Maybe I-29 will reopen in June

For an Interstate highway to be closed for months really illustrates just how bad the flooding was in March. And it could get bad again before the road is repaired.

Health Fisher-Price recalls all "Rock 'n Play Sleepers"

With a warning that more than 30 infants have died in their use. That estimate grew in just a couple of days with a new review of the data.

News The First Amendment ends where the freeway ramp begins

A few dozen truckers conducted a "slow roll" protest on Chicago freeways to put attention on their quarrels with driver-safety rules. Regardless of the merits of their complaints, the First Amendment secures the right "peaceably to assemble", but that's a far cry from creating a rolling barricade that could cause others to crash behind you.


Feedback link











April 23, 2019

The United States of America A debate well worth taking in

Jonah Goldberg and Rich Lowry debate the virtues and vices of nationalism, particularly as it is distinguished from patriotism. The difference between nationalism and patriotism is that nationalism is usually a justification unto itself for doing things we want, while patriotism routinely acts as a sort of conscience for doing things we should. Something done in the name of nationalism may very well (and often does) come at the expense of others -- usually outsiders. Something done out of patriotism is more likely to involve self-sacrifice.

News You can barely conceive of apartments this cramped

Japan has complete apartments that cover just 100 square feet of space. Art is in the constraints, so there is something deeply impressive about fitting an entire apartment into a 10' x 10' space. But still...it's crazy. Americans have backyard tool sheds that are bigger.

Humor and Good News Wisconsin: The most on-brand state in the Upper Midwest

The governor is appearing at a news conference about beer

The United States of America Buttigieg campaign adopts a message-first strategy

A Presidential campaign built around an attitude (told through stories) is far more the norm than one built around policy. "Keep Cool and Keep Coolidge". "I Like Ike". "A Time for Greatness". "It's Morning in America". In other words, Buttigieg has adopted a feature, not a bug.

Health 27 years in a coma...then awake

An incredible recovery for a woman from the UAE. One must imagine the conversations taking place: "Welcome back, ma'am. First, the good news: We didn't have any new world wars while you were out. But I'm going to have to explain this thing called 'the Internet' before we let you out of here..."

Computers and the Internet "Trump accused Twitter of [...] tampering with his nearly 60 million followers"

"They who have nothing to trouble them, will be troubled at nothing." - Benjamin Franklin


@briangongolbot on Twitter


April 24, 2019

Computers and the Internet 80% of tweets come from 10% of users

According to Pew research into the American online public. Pareto would be so disappointed in us: Every business book in the world says it's the 80/20 Principle, not the 80/10.

Iowa Running (legally) blind

A great feature story in the Cedar Rapids Gazette about a high-school track standout who can barely see at all. Parents everywhere should strive to raise our kids with the kind of resilience Erin Kerkhoff puts on display. A valuable role model.

News Three-year-old children are being found migrating without their parents

Would you let a 3-year-old so much as cross a busy street on their own? The answer is "Of course not!" And that ought to give all of us some measure of the desperation that some parents and children face. These harrowing journeys must somehow, some way, appear less risky than staying where they are. And that is truly heartbreaking, and ought to serve as a call to action to do something to ease their plight.

Threats and Hazards Things are looking bad in Afghanistan

The Defense Department's Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says "If the economy collapses or if they are not paid, if we withdraw the funding, you have 500,000-some troops and police who are trained and have weapons...what are they going to do?" Afghanistan is a nation of 34 million people, just behind Canada in the population rankings and just a little ahead of Venezuela. It has more people than Texas. The reader ought to consider words like "collapse" with sufficient gravity.

Threats and Hazards The 2020 elections will be targeted by hackers -- so what comes next?

CNN phrases the headline "Hackers could target the 2020 presidential election. How will newsrooms respond?" But one would have to be absolutely as high as a satellite in geosynchronous orbit to think it's merely a hypothetical. It's not even a question. It's a certainty. Now, what matters is what newsrooms are going to do about it when they are fed stolen items.

Humor and Good News Salaries aren't the only thing that matters, the MLB edition

Ryne Sandberg cites the improved Cubs dugout facility as a tool for attracting talented players

Business and Finance A dark look at a major diamond retailer

Worth pondering: "Mandatory arbitration is a good idea only if people can be trusted to do the right thing when the consequences are minimal and don't include the threat of prison or public shame."

News Will Scotland hold another independence vote?

The Financial Times reports: Nicola Sturgeon "insisted the country must be ready to hold a second independence referendum by 2021 if Brexit goes ahead". Given the incompetence of the management of Brexit, a "yes" vote wouldn't be surprising at all.

News A new Godwin's Law

Is someone ready to name the phenomenon where someone is the first to compare themselves to the Messiah, as Rep. Steve King just did?

Computers and the Internet Recommendation algorithms: They're everywhere, and not always doing good

In theory, computers ought to be helping us to make better decisions, and for the moment, the best sandbox to practice that is in retail. But the problem is that sometimes they do what they're supposed to do (but the assumptions are wrong), and other times they do everything they shouldn't. On the most innocent extreme, one of those silly recommendation algorithms might suggest the song "Blurred Lines" to a listener twice in the span of 30 minutes. Such foibles look positively charming by comparison with the dark side of algorithmic dependency, when bad actors hijack the algorithm or when antisocial (or even sociopathic) feedback loops are created.


@briangongol on Twitter


April 25, 2019

News Headlines that only repeat name-calling aren't useful

The President had some insults to lob at Joe Biden after Biden's campaign announcement this morning. Repeating those insults as headlines is not productive journalism. It's lazy amplification of the voices most willing to say the most outrageous things. Journalism isn't stenography.

Broadcasting Filming begins on the last Bond film starring Daniel Craig

It's the 25th of the genre, and planned for release in April 2020. Sean Connery will always be the iconic Bond, but Daniel Craig turned 007 into a human character with real depth. That utterly transformed the franchise for the better. It makes the movies more interesting and less kitschy.

News Wherefore art thou, copy editors?

Glaring errors now make it past the "draft" stage and straight into subscriber inboxes

Science and Technology Do tax credits for electric vehicles really save the planet?

The evidence suggests that the kinds of people who are going to buy electric vehicles would have bought high-efficiency vehicles anyway, so the marginal difference may be limited. And that probably makes sense: Efficiency-sensitive drivers probably form a class unto themselves anyway.

Humor and Good News A poor review for Joe Biden's campaign logo

Few things about 2019 are as amusing as the degree to which Jonathan Last takes his feelings about these candidate logos.

Weather and Disasters Super-tall thunderstorm complexes may be damaging the ozone layer

When a storm top overshoots, it may be funneling ozone-depleting conditions up into the stratosphere

Health Get your immunizations

The CDC says there have been more than 600 cases of measles in the United States since the start of the year. And it's the fault of people choosing not to vaccinate.


@briangongolbot on Twitter


April 26, 2019

Business and Finance Bring back the classic United Airlines logo

A logo that is distinctive from (literally) a mile away, polished by a legend like Bass, and yet still elegantly simple enough that kids will try to draw it from memory? Only a madman would discard it. And yet they did, and now United is already respawning the replacement livery. If you're sitting on the rights to an unused corporate identity designed by Saul Bass, Paul Rand, or Chermayeff and Geismar, kindly do get in touch. They're like the paintings of the Dutch masters and could be redeployed if the present owners are too dumb to use them still.

Humor and Good News Why the "more cowbell" sketch is so funny

A legitimate breakdown of the laughs

News Boy thrown from Mall of America balcony is out of critical condition

A welcome update to a harrowing story. Architects need to rethink open atrium spaces where such falls are even possible. A world that grows ever more crowded -- and contains bad actors who are under the influence of psychoses, drugs, or pathological ideologies -- is a world that needs more built-in safeguards that prevent really bad things from happening.

Iowa A late-April snowstorm for northern Iowa?

Unusual, but far from unprecedented

News Promises undermine unity

We are awash in a sea of promises that aren't just empty -- they're beyond reasonable belief. And the compounding toxicity of those bad promises sweeps well beyond a problem of differences between left and right.

Threats and Hazards Ask the follow-up question

The President today offered an empty but loud defense of his pathetic response to the Charlottesville attack, saying not only that his own response was "perfect", but that "many generals" had told him that Robert E. Lee was their "favorite". It's overdue for journalists to ask follow-up questions to pierce the willing suspension of disbelief that is permitted by the President's reliance upon vague nonsense and empty superlatives. To wit: (1.) How many generals have told you Lee was their favorite? (2.) Name them. (3.) Name two specific strategies or tactics that made Lee "great".

Business and Finance The clock's really ticking on Social Security

The trust fund is going to be depleted by 2035 (along current projections). If that seems like a long time away, bear in mind that the high school graduating class of 2035 is now 2 years old. We're not really talking about the future here...we're talking about a time horizon now measurable by the lives of today's preschoolers. When facing any compounding problem, the time to take up serious action is as soon as possible. Reforms to Social Security could have both public and private benefits, but if no one in politics feels the pressure to do anything about it, then the status quo will prevail. The problem, as Milton and Rose Friedman put it, is that "Any assurance [of Social Security payments] derives solely from the willingness of future taxpayers to impose taxes on themselves to pay for benefits that present taxpayers are promising themselves." The system works only because everyone expects it to continue working. But the system itself contains structural flaws that aren't going to disappear on their own. And in the words of Theodore Roosevelt, "Americans learn only from catastrophes and not from experience."


Recent radio podcasts




April 29, 2019

News The problem with utopianism -- in all its forms

Always believe in the process of trying to make things better. Never believe that there is a perfect end state to be achieved.

Business and Finance What's "affordable" housing, anyway?

Data research finds that a person making $100,000 a year can't afford to live within an hour of San Francisco. And even an hour's drive doesn't afford many additional options. At this point, it's unclear why people aren't anchoring giant cruise ships off the coast, renting out the cabins, and offering shuttle service into the Bay Area.

News Know the real risks (of anything)

When majorities of people in rich and powerful countries don't even understand the basic difference between a nuclear power plant and a coal-fired plant, it's really hard to have legitimate debates about risks and consequences. Facts are stubborn things. But even though we're in the age of "Just Google It" (or maybe exactly because we are), the utterly wrong preconceived notions held by voters may in fact be even more stubborn.

News "What will I do with my borrowed time?"

The rabbi who survived the terrorist attack near San Diego poses a thought-provoking sentiment. People should not have to fear terrorism in their peaceful houses of worship. Not here, and not anywhere.

News What buildings do you love?

The question -- posed on social media -- goes to show just how much architecture has a meaningful human effect. Buildings like the Sears Tower and Chrysler Building communicate impressions on young and old alike, but there are a million other, smaller, less-renowned buildings that still have an effect on the people who see them and use them.

Aviation News The O'Hare Event Horizon

Every air traveler from Iowa is familiar with the O'Hare Event Horizon, even if they don't know it. It's the point at which any flight delays would have made it better to have just gotten a rental car and just driven home. O'Hare is notorious for cascading delays that end up wrecking travel and turning an 8:30 pm connection into a 1:30 am drag.

News New and unimproved signage

The message boards at Grand Central Station are changing away from the classic look (though not the mechanical frailty) of the Solari board (a/k/a "split-flap display"). The "old-time look" of the split-flap style proves that less is more; there's far more visual clutter to the new look, and it serves no self-evident purpose.

Weather and Disasters Sometimes a camera is in exactly the right place at exactly the right time

...to capture a car taking a corner much too fast for conditions


Recent radio podcasts


April 30, 2019

Threats and Hazards Venezuelan forces turn violence on demonstrators

Margaret Thatcher once said, "Choice is the essence of ethics: if there were no choice, there would be no ethics, no good, no evil; good and evil have meaning only insofar as man is free to choose." Maduro makes a choice. So do his backers. Violence denies the people of that choice.

Weather and Disasters Floodwaters spill into Davenport

After a whole lot of flooding in western Iowa, now the Mississippi is attacking eastern Iowa


@briangongolbot on Twitter