Gongol.com Archives: October 2019

Brian Gongol

October 2019
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October 18, 2019

Threats and Hazards People who are homeless in Los Angeles have come under attack

The Los Angeles Times reports that "In at least eight different incidents, flammable liquids or makeshift explosives have been lobbed at homeless people or their tents". People don't do this to other people. People do this to others whom they see as less than human. That's why it matters to think of others as individuals. Each person is just that -- a person, not a thing, and not just an item in a group that we might choose to treat differently because we have opinions of the group. And this is also why it matters that we don't use dehumanizing language -- language like the President uses all too often. Little things matter.

Computers and the Internet Is WhatsApp about to trigger a revolution?

American audiences are largely unfamiliar with the tool, but it has considerable reach overseas

News The burn of the spotlight

A great reminder that even when the world is watching someone far more than is healthy (as the world does with Britain's royal family), they still need people who can quietly ask "How are you doing?". Probably a good practice for all of us to ask others that question more often -- and to listen for the answers.

News Understatement of the week

Washington Post: "The 41-page report, which followed a seven-month investigation, concluded that pushing a suspect off a roof went against departmental policies governing the use of force and was generally a bad idea." This story, like so many others, is one of people pursuing ends as though they justify any cost.

Threats and Hazards The Enlightenment needs defenders

It's almost impossible to believe, but there's actual pushback against it today. In 2019.

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October 21, 2019

Threats and Hazards "Pulling out" of the Middle East is an incomplete plan

The most important question that we as a country have been terrible at asking: "And then what happens next?" Things don't always get better just because we leave -- and there may be problems with no intuitively satisfying answers on the short-term horizon. We need to be adults and see the world as it really is.

Business and Finance Retrogressive "leadership" training for women

A firm that subscribes as a matter of policy to the kind of pseudoscientific nonsense that says women and men neatly fit into "feminine" and "masculine" columns of behavior well and rightly deserves to be pushed out of business by competitors that value their employees as individuals, not as antiquated archetypes.

Computers and the Internet Of course Sen. Mitt Romney has a burner account

Look, if you're in office in 2019 and you're not running at least one burner account, are you really even on Twitter?

News Construction crane demolition in New Orleans

(Video) That they were even able to do this on such a compressed timeline is quite something

Computers and the Internet Extortion spam still has a way to go

We'll know that extortion spam has really come of age when it starts threatening "Send us $500 in bitcoin, or we'll tell all your friends that you click on the Outbrain links at the bottom of news stories."

Broadcasting That's how you return a kickoff

(Video) As broadcasting, this is just pure cotton candy

News How are monarchs still a thing?

Bizarre (and slightly creepy) intrigue in the Thai royal house

Agriculture The new "Cosmic Crisp" apple is coming

Any new variety of apple seems like a gain for society at large. Especially if it trains consumers to enjoy flavors other than Red Delicious, which is complete garbage. There are so many varieties that taste better.

News Canada votes

Note that their representation in the lower house of Parliament is about one member for every 100,000 people. If the United States observed the same ratio as Canada, we would have nearly 3,000 people in the House of Representatives. That might not be a bad thing.

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October 22, 2019

The American Way Money comes after human well-being

Margaret Thatcher: "[T]he better moral philosophy of the free society underlies its economic performance". Is there a blimp with a giant messageboard that we could rent to hover indefinitely over Washington, DC, with these words?

News Newer cop cars may be easier to break

With the Crown Victoria gone, Iowa State Patrol cars sustain more damage than they used to: "'The thing with the Dodge Charger, it runs low in the front end,' Pierce said. 'If you sneeze on the front end of a Dodge Charger, you'll cause at least $1,500 of damage.'"

Computers and the Internet Sometimes a feature is really just a bug in disguise

Free listening devices -- er, "smart speakers" -- may not be the incentive people really wanted

Science and Technology You don't want this new cell-phone case

An experimental cover that feels like (and "feels", just like) skin. Ew. It's unclear why anyone would want to pinch their phone.

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October 23, 2019

Socialism Doesn't Work Authoritarianism is a waste

Workers at some Chinese state-owned enterprises are expected to spend a third of their working hours studying "Xi Jinping Thought". This is truly bizarre, profoundly dystopian, and phenomenally wasteful.

Science and Technology Honda to go all-electric in Europe by 2022

Once a technology really starts to get a foothold, the pace of change can accelerate a whole lot faster than you might expect.

News Give light and let the people find their own way

Three cheers for the editors of the Harvard Crimson, who have come out strongly against efforts by some of their peers to keep them from asking for comment from the subjects of news stories

Broadcasting Baseball and radio: Perfect complements

Baseball is a personal game (every at-bat starts as a contest between pitcher and batter), the action is linear and perfectly paced ("This ball's got a chaaaaaance...gone!"), and the season is built for companionship. This makes for the perfect subject for radio coverage. Unlike other media, radio is intensely personal, conversational, and intimate (in a non-romantic sense, of course). You can't reasonably ask people to watch 162+ games a year on their screens, but fans will always listen to the play-by-play. And you can't replace baseball on the radio as a companion for a long drive. The medium and the game are unique complements in those ways, with no good substitutes. Not to put too fine a point on it, but: The Internet is for "HEY, LOOK AT ME!", TV is for "Hey, you guys!", and radio is for "Hi. How are you?"

Humor and Good News The best athlete in the world?

When your first pitch comes with a standing backflip and a twist...


October 24, 2019

Humor and Good News What could we use to denote a cheerful period?

The period seems altogether too plain and droll for exclusive use in emails, but following every sentence with an exclamation mark seems all too much. There must be room for some kind of middle-ground punctuation -- a cheerful period, of sorts. We already have the interrobang to indicate a surprised question (‽), and the wildly underused irony mark (⸮). Another irregular punctuation mark is both possible and in order.

Weather and Disasters Southern California fires break out again

Winds are driving the spread

Threats and Hazards Nobody should toss around "civil war" lightly

An MLB umpire has earned scrutiny for tweeting his anger over the impeachment inquiry, mixed with an aspect of violence. The American Civil War killed more than 600,000 people. Nothing about that merits anything short of the utmost seriousness and solemnity.

News David Ross to skipper the Chicago Cubs

It's not great to have a sentimental attachment to management, but if he's willing to take a chance on the gig, then Eamus Catuli.

News Super 8 hotels to test bunk-bed arrangement

No tie-in with Tinder is reported; this is for friends traveling together

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October 25, 2019

Business and Finance Crass political pressure on trade isn't good for anything

It would be very nice to return political risk to the margins of economic analysis, rather than having it shoved front and center at all times. But, alas, that's where we are.

News A million protesters in Chile

Think of what it takes to assemble a million people for any reason anywhere.

Broadcasting I'm feeling lucky

Why haven't Netflix and Hulu come up with "I'm Feeling Lucky" buttons of their own? Let users preselect 5 or 50 series, click a button, and watch some random episode. We don't always want to commit to rewatching every season of "The West Wing" or "30 Rock" from start to finish, but sometimes it's nice to just let serendipity pick an episode of a beloved program.

Business and Finance "Spreading fear" among investors

A renowned financial columnist says he's been pressured by financial advisors not to point out what could go wrong in the economy. A reasonable person wouldn't trust a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer who didn't address the worst-case scenario and help the patient or client to prepare for it. Why should anyone trust a financial advisor who fears an honest conversation about how things could go wrong?

The American Way Would high-status license plates get more people to drive electric cars?

People might be surprised at just how eager their fellow humans often are to pay for the privilege of adopting some form of status signal. Can pro-social decisions be turned into high-value products for people to buy?

News Don't hope for "the generals" to save us

It's imperative to model -- and recognize -- virtuous behavior in all sectors of leadership. Inside government, in the military, in the nonprofit sector, and (definitely) in business, too. We should resist the casual and cynical indictment of "all-leaders-except-for-those-in-uniform".

News All lives have equal value

Dozens of people died in the back of a truck in England. Indications are that they were migrants from southeast Asia. Their lives were worth no amount of dignity less than any of our own.

The United States of America Putting history to good use

Herbert Hoover earned the nickname "The Great Humanitarian". Instead of heaping scorn on a caricature of the man as President, we ought to give a little more attention to the great and honorable things he did that culminated in his becoming President in the first place. He is far more useful to us as a model for his pre-Presidential behavior than as a foil for the mistakes he made as President.

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October 26, 2019

Threats and Hazards Human rights are universal, whether China's authoritarians belive it or not

A meeting with the EU surfaced an opinion that, as a matter of government policy, China does not believe in the universality of human rights. Nothing about this story is surprising, and yet everything about it is disturbing.

Computers and the Internet 10.5 petabytes

The Internet Archive just got a whole bunch of new storage space, as well as the pictures to prove it. This is storage on a scale that would have baffled the prehistoric residents of ancient Compuserve.

News Brace yourself

Stand by: We are merely a few dozen days away from the onset of a year's worth of insufferable puns about "vision" and "seeing clearly"

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October 27, 2019

News What's a church for?

A neat story about a church that found its center in community more than theology. (But maybe the community itself is the theology.)

Weather and Disasters Giant evacuation orders for northern California

Wildfires north of the Bay Area create a mandatory-evacuation zone that goes from the ocean to some 30 miles inland.

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October 30, 2019

Science and Technology An affordable change

A UN group says it would cost $300 billion to pause global warming for 20 years by implementing a soil-restoration program to capture carbon in biomass. If true, that would be $39.47 per person alive on the planet right now. If you could get assurance that the plan (a) would work as advertised, and (b) would be implemented by people who were accountable for getting results, it would be well worth the price.

Computers and the Internet Twitter announces end to political advertising

The small cadre of politicians who are known to tweet for themselves (e.g. Senators Cory Booker, Ben Sasse, and Chuck Grassley) are about to become gurus to their colleagues. The word "authenticity" is vastly overused, but first-person content becomes much more important if your reach is limited to those who find and follow you organically alone.

News Better than doing doughnuts in the parking lot

High-speed maneuvering trials aboard an aircraft carrier moving at 30 knots


October 31, 2019

Humor and Good News Baseball: Isn't it really just a version of Calvinball?

That's not completely fair; Calvinball's only rule is that rules can never be used twice. But it's the sheer unpredictability of what should be a straightforward game of catch that makes baseball so wonderful.

Humor and Good News What makes a driver a "motorist"

And can it be a "profession"?

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